|My Gt Gt Grandmother was Barbara Elizabeth
Meisel Kaesemeyer. The Meisels were a very
prominent family in Port Huron between 1870
It’s the year 1850 in Ortenburg, Kingdom of Bayern (or Bavaria as it is commonly called in the US).
Unemployment is high, there have been numerous crop failures, and there is political and military
unrest among the Germanic states. Emigration to the New World is a hot topic. Gottlieb Christoph
Meisel, a tailor, and his wife Augusta Friederika have heard that times are much better in Michigan
and are considering a move. After Christmas, they make up their minds and on February 26, 1851,
they apply to the Royal County Court for permission to emigrate. Their application is granted around
April 1st and they sail from Bremen in May with their four children: Catherine, age 15; Barbara, 13;
Christian, 10; and Gottlieb, 3. When they arrived at New York during July, however, their family of six had
become a family of seven; Margaret was born “at sea”. The family first settled in Hampton (now Bay City),
Michigan but moved to Port Huron in 1854. While in Hampton, they were joined by the Arnold family,
which also emigrated from Ortenburg (see http://bjmi.us/bay/1he/people/fp-arnold-frederick.html).
Shortly after their arrival in Port Huron, the Meisel family obviously became acquainted with the Kaesemeyer family, which had recently
emigrated from Prussia. On December 4, 1854, a double wedding took place when Catherine Meisel married Theodore Kaesemeyer
and Barbara Meisel married Edward Kaesemeyer. The brothers at that time were partnered in a butcher shop on Huron Ave. Edward
and Barbara would be my Gt-Gt-Grandparents; they remained in the Port Huron area. Theodore and Catherine moved to the Bay City
area during the late 1860s and eventually moved to Unionville, Michigan where they purchased the Unionville Hotel.
Young Christian Meisel turned out to be a real “go-getter” after their arrival. While only 11 years old in Hampton and attending school, he
was working in a general store and post office. After their move, he worked at another general store and liked it so much that he
determined to make it his life’s work. He took a course in mercantile book-keeping in Detroit and, upon graduation, began keeping
books for a variety of businesses in Port Huron. At age 21, he started a dry goods store on Water St, employing his younger brother
Gottlieb as a clerk. This business lasted only a short time as “Christie”, as he came to be called, determined that it would be
advantageous to become a partner with James A. Davidson and James B. Farrand in a larger store on Military St.
During the time that Christian was working with Messrs Davidson and Farrand, a number of significant life-changing events occurred.
First, his father Gottlieb Christoph died on January 26, 1864. He then met and married Cordelia E. “Cora” Chadwick of Philadelphia, New
York on May 15, 1867. They purchased a home on the east side of 7th Street, where Howard Street ends. Next, Clara E. Meisel was born
in February 1868 to Christian and Cora, and his younger sister “at sea” Margaret married Conrad Luz in 1868. And finally, his mother
Augusta Friedericka passed away on November 16, 1869.
The Davidson, Meisel, & Farrand partnership dissolved in 1871 and Christian partnered with his younger brother Gottlieb to start another
dry goods store on the South side of Water Street between Military Street and Customs Alley under the name C. G. Meisel & Brother. For
a while, Gottlieb boarded with his brother and family on 7th Street, but by early 1873, he had moved in with his sister and brother-in-law,
the Kaesemeyers. Having been firmly established in a thriving business, Gottlieb married Anna H. McMorran on May 30, 1873. Anna was
the sister of Henry G. McMorran, the noted Port Huron entrepreneur and politician. Their first home was on the northeast corner of 10th
and Court Streets.
While business was good in the new store, Christian and Cora suffered personal tragedies during those early years. Their second
daughter Lillie Maud was born on July 25, 1871 and died the following May. Then their only son Christian William was born on March 25,
1873 and died just before Christmas that same year.
Gottlieb and Anna also started their family during this timeframe. Frederick Carl Meisel was born May 24, 1875 and Robert McMorran
Meisel was born February 19, 1878.
At Christian’s urgings, their cousin Gottlieb Ernest Meisel immigrated in 1875 at the age of 14 and began working in the dry goods store
as a “package boy”. He boarded with Gottlieb C. and Anna. To avoid confusion, young Meisel usually went by his middle name Ernest.
By 1879, the Meisel dry goods business was booming and the brothers outgrew their little store. They moved the business across Water
Street and west to a much larger building on Water, just opposite the “Customs House”, now called the Federal Building. The grand
opening occurred at 7:00 PM on April 5, 1879; the Port Huron Times carried a full two column story describing the facility, its décor, and
the merchandise and it named several of the employees and their positions.
Christian and Cora decided to move from their home on 7th Street in 1880 and purchased a new home at the corner of Military and Beard
Streets overlooking St. Clair River. A little later, Gottlieb and Anna moved into the 7th Street home.
Annabel Meisel, Gottlieb and Anna’s only daughter was born on June 4, 1883; she passed away the following October of pneumonia.
Again by 1884, business had grown such that the brothers were forced to relocate. This time they move east to the corner of Water and
Military Streets to a new three-story building designed to the Meisels’ specifications. Once again the Port Huron Times ran a two column
story beginning with the byline “Putting on Metropolitan Airs and Energy – The Old Established Firm of C. G. Meisel & Bro. Open Their
New Dry Goods House Under the Most Auspicious Circumstances.”
The dry goods business continued to thrive into the 1890s. However, that decade was not so kind personally to either Christian or
Gottlieb. In 1893, Christian’s wife Cora was traveling in Germany with her daughter Clara and son-in-law Harvey Bush when she was
burned to death on August 17, in Stuttgart. After her death, Christian decided to leave the business and loaned his brother Gottlieb the
money to buy him out. Then on February 27, 1896, a fire started in the basement of the store at about 2:00 AM. The building and all
contents were completely destroyed. Gottlieb was in Kentucky on a buying trip at the time. About a week later, however, he announced
that the business would be reestablished temporarily in a building on the east side of Military Street, but that the old firm name will be
dropped and the new store will be named G. C. Meisel. The business moved back to the site at the northwest corner of Military and
Water Streets when the new three-story building was completed; this building eventually was raised to six-stories and became the
Peoples Bank building. Then in 1895, another tragedy struck Gottleib and Anna; their son Frederick Carl passed away on March 17,
1895 of typhoid fever, just a couple months short of his 20th birthday.
The 1890s weren’t a complete bust for the Meisel families, however. Ernest
married Aline Hugel on February 23, 1893 and Christian married his second
wife Clarinda Hammond (nee Thompson) widow of James Hammond, on
September 28, 1895. Then to close out the decade on a positive note, Amalie
Meisel, daughter of Ernest and Aline was born on September 30, 1899.
On June 1, 1900, Christian announced that he had sold his home on St Clair
River and would take up residence in Dutchess County New York, where his
wife’s family has maintained a home. The Thompson homestead had been
in the family for almost 125 years. Clarinda had in her possession the original
colonial grant, sealed with the King’s arms, by which the land was conveyed to
her ancestor in the fourth generation, Amos Thompson, in 1750. Once again,
the local newspaper, this time the Port Huron Times Herald devoted
considerable space describing “a feeling of sadness and regret that another
tie between the former owner and Port Huron people has been severed, and
plainly indicating that one of the most popular and valued citizens is making
preparations to locate permanently where not very long ago he chose a
companion for his remaining years”. Christian and Clarinda did in fact live out
their remaining years at the Thompson home. Clarinda passed away after a
long illness on Aug 15, 1912. Christian died in 1927.
In the meantime, the G. C. Meisel dry goods business continued to flourish. Then in
1912, Gottlieb decided to retire and sold the business to a Mr. E. C. Knox of Detroit.
However, retirement didn’t suit him, so after a short time, he purchased the
Appenzeller Store at 222 Huron Ave. Although in poor health for his last two years,
Gottlieb was active in this business up until 10 days before passing away on
January 11, 1918. Ironically, the G. C. Meisel store on Huron Ave burned to the
ground about one month later. His wife Anna continued to live in their house on
7th and Howard Streets until her death in 1925. My mother remembered as a
little girl walking up 7th Street with her grandmother Augusta to visit her aunt
(by marriage) Mrs. G. C. Meisel.
In 1908, Aline Meisel, Ernest’s wife made a trip back to her birth place in Memmingen, Germany with their 9 near old daughter Amalie.
Aline had been in ill health for a while, and it was thought that she seemed to be improving while in Germany. Then on February 8, she
suddenly passed away. Amalie remained in Germany with her Grandmother until her death in 1922 and then returned to Port Huron to
live with her father. Sometime after 1930, she moved to Boston, where she was employed with the Massachusetts Horticulture Society.
Her father decided in 1935 that he should be with his daughter so he sold his home on 6th Street and moved to the Boston area, where
he presumably died after not too many years. Amalie remained unmarried and passed away on September 13, 1996.
The only male off-spring from either of the Meisel brothers or their cousin who lived long enough to marry and have a family was Robert
McMorran Meisel. After the fire in 1918, he worked and resided in the Detroit area for many years but apparently moved back to Port
Huron before his death in 1954. He and his wife had one daughter. Thus, the Meisel name from that particular branch of the family tree
has disappeared forever.
|Three-Story Meisel Building
Northwest Corner of Military & Water Streets
Catherine, Margaret, & Barbara
|Anna H. McMorran Meisel
Mrs G. C. Meisel
Christian Gottlieb Meisel & Gottlieb Christopher Meisel