January 8, 2011

The Bechstein House Part II: 1865-1875 -- Frederick Bechstein

The advertisement above announces an auction of building lots which were once part of the Godfroy Farm. The auction was held at Michigan Avenue and 14th Street, which was then called Godfroy Avenue. The first owner of my house, Frederick Bechstein, attended the auction, where he purchased lot number 92 (where the house now stands) for $190.00. The following is a sketch of his life up until the time he moved out of the home.

Frederick Bechstein was born on February 6, 1825 to Friedrich Bechstein and Mary Gottlob in the village of Pfaffenhofen in Württemberg, a kingdom that is now part of Germany. Germans had already been coming to the United States in large numbers by the time he was born, and the wave of immigrants further increased after the failed European political revolutions of 1848. Revolutionaries in the German states desired a liberal, democratic government and the unification of one German nation. Although we can't be certain if Bechstein left his homeland as a direct result of the unsuccessful revolution, we do know that in 1849 he applied for permission to leave Württemberg, listing New York as his destination. Bechstein is listed among the passengers of the ship Seine, which sailed from Le Havre, France and landed at the port of New York on September 17, 1849. He indicated that he was a farmer and listed Germany as his country of origin.

It appears that Bechstein returned to Württemberg and then applied for permission to emigrate a second time in 1852. He sailed from Le Havre on the ship Splendid and arrived at New York on August 17 of that year. He listed his occupation this time as carpenter, and his country of origin as Württemberg.

Bechstein came to Detroit soon after his second voyage and married Katharina Margaretta Denk on December 19, 1852 at Trinity Lutheran Church. An 1855 city directory lists "Beckslin [sic], Frederick, carp." at 41 Baker (now Bagley). This house would have been on the south side of Baker in Corktown, just west of Brooklyn Street. An 1864 city directory specified that the home was rented, and that at it was located at the rear of 39 Baker, on the alley between Baker and Labrosse. Although German immigrants in Detroit had primarily settled on the east side south of Gratiot Avenue, working-class Germans began to populate Corktown by the 1850s.

The Bechsteins had at least five children who survived infancy when they lived on Baker Street:

  • William, born March 17, 1855
  • Christopher, born c. 1856
  • Elizabeth, born February 10, 1858
  • Frederick Jr., born January 1863
  • Magdalena, born October 26, 1864

Magdalena was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church on December 4, 1864 as Eva Magdalene. She would one day own the Bechstein house and raise her children there.

As mentioned before, Frederick Bechstein purchased a plot of land on the former Godfroy farm measuring 50' by 141.18' on April 11, 1864. A home was built on the south half of the lot in enough time to be listed as Bechstein's residence in the 1865 city directory. Being a carpenter, it's possible he built the house himself. However, since building permits were not required at the time, there is no known record of exactly when and by whom the house was built.

This entry in the 1865 city directory is the
first known reference to the house's existence.

The address of this property would change several times over the years. The road was originally named Peter Street, after Peter Godfroy. Early directories didn’t even list a house number, only the street name. Peter Street changed to 13½ Street on April 25, 1868 (Farmer 950). An 1869 city directory was the first to reference a house number--195. The name of the street would change again to Wabash on July 3, 1882 (ibid.). On January 1, 1921, Detroit adopted an entirely new address numbering system. From that point on the address was 1733 Wabash, and has remained ever since.

The original home was a four-room cottage measuring just 18 feet wide by 28 feet deep. There were two bedrooms measuring about 7 by 14 feet, a living area about 11 by 14 feet, and a kitchen of the same size. The entrance was on the side of the house into the kitchen. There was a chimney at the back of the house which vented smoke from the kitchen stove. No addition was made to the house for over thirty years.

After moving into their new home, Frederick and Margaret Bechstein would give birth to at least two more children:

  • Margaretha Wilhelmine, born September 7, 1866
  • Catherine, born October 1869

Margaretha Wilhelmine--who went by "Mena"--was baptized on September 1, 1867 at Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, then located on the east side of Trumbull north of Michigan Avenue. This branch of Trinity Lutheran Church was the first Lutheran congregation in the city west of Woodward Avenue. It grew out of a German Lutheran school district founded in 1863 by parents whose children had to walk over a mile and a half across town to Trinity Lutheran School (Erickson 19). The church itself was dedicated on November 5, 1865, and used until a larger brick structure was built at 17th and Pine Streets in 1873.

The Bechsteins attended Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in the 1860s.
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library.

Shortly after the birth of their daughter Catherine, the Bechsteins lost their fourteen-year-old son, William. He died of remittent fever on November 1, 1869, and was buried two days later at Elmwood Cemetery. His death is also documented in the records of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Detail from the 1870 Census showing the Bechstein family living at 195 13½ Street.
Columns indicate name, age, gender, race, occupation, home value, and place of birth.

Around 1876, the Bechstein family moved to a new house built on the north half of their lot, at 197 13½ Street, and rented out their old home. As with the first home, building permits were still not yet required and it's uncertain whether Frederick Bechstein built it himself. The family would live in this new home for 21 years.

While the Bechstein family lived at 197 13½ Street, the following events occurred:

1876 • Elizabeth, 18, died of tuberculosis on March 15.

1883 • Frederick Bechstein's wife, Margaret, died from heart disease on April 4 at the age of 57. She was buried at Woodmere Cemetery two days later in Section A, Lot 174, space number 13. There is no marker on her grave.

1886 • Mina, 19, married Andrew Eiden, 24, a carpenter and a son of German immigrants, on June 6. The directory for the following year indicates that they moved to a home on 17th Street. They went on to have fourteen children, only eight of whom survived infancy.

1888 • On January 12, Frederick Jr., 25, was wed to Esther A. Peacock, a widow of the same age. Esther, whose maiden name was Longley, was born in Canada to English immigrants. The 1888 directory indicated that Frederick was a switchman and that he had moved to 25th Street. They later had a son and adopted two girls. It was noted in the 1880 Census that one of Frederick Jr.'s legs had been amputated.

1889 • Lena, 24, married Henry Eiden, 29, on August 15. Henry was the brother of Andrew Eiden, Mina's husband. Henry worked at various times as a railroad foreman and as a "lather"--one who installed wooden lath boards to which plaster was applied. Henry and Lena did not move to a place of their own but stayed with Mr. Bechstein. While living at this address, they had three children:

  • Dorothy, born December 16, 1890
  • Henry S., born September 19, 1892
  • Rose M., born October 20, 1896

1889 • The city directory lists "Miss Catherine Beckstein" as a domestic servant at 425 16th Street, the home of machine manufacturer George Mead. On September 28, Catherine married August Yach who, like Lena and Mena’s husbands, was a carpenter and the son of German immigrants. Catherine and August moved to Williams Street after marriage. They had at least five children before August died from heart disease in 1901 at the age of 31. Catherine married Andrew Laskowsky, yet another son of German immigrants, the following year. By 1910, Catherine was staying with relatives on Williams Street and Andrew was living at the Wayne County Poor House (also known as the Eloise Asylum), where he died from alcoholism four years later.

1891 • Frederick Bechstein sold 195 Wabash to his daughter Lena for "one dollar and other valuable consideration"--i.e., it wasn't necessary to include the purchase price on the warranty deed, or he simply gave her the house. Lena continued to rent it out until 1896.

Next week:
The Bechstein House Part III: 1876-1896 -- The Renters of 195 13½ Street

•Erickson, Robert. History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Detroit and Vicinity. Detroit: S. N., 1919.
•Farmer, Silas. The History of Detroit and Michigan: Or, The Metropolis Illustrated. Detroit: Silas Farmer and Co., 1884.

No comments:

Post a Comment