Rudolph Essen, was born the 21st of September 1828 in Osnabrück
Germany and had come to America as an 18 year-old in 1846 on the brig “Michael” with his family. He arrived and continued to live in Philadelphia, and even apprenticed with another German immigrant, working for the shoemaker Frederick Wuepker, also from Germany. By 1860, Rudolph Essen had married an Irish immigrant, Ellen O’Kennedy and had 3 children, John, Rudolph, and Ellen, and his own shoemaker’s shop. He had two young men working for him as shoemakers instead. Essen was listed at home on Lemon Avenue in Philadelphia in June of 1863, when the 1863 lists of all young men eligible for the draft was taken. Another child, a daughter named Katherine was born that same June. Next came son William Friedrick in 1868, who would be the last of their children born in Philadelphia.
Following the Civil War, Missouri was no longer a slave state and with the war over, the economy was booming. The Essen family had saved enough funds, and migrated to Missouri where Rudolph would buy a farm and build a log cabin in a settlement called Melrose, at the edge of St. Louis County, in today’s Wildwood. Their neighbor, George Etherton gave the road they lived on his name. Arriving in 1869, business was good. By 1870, Essen considers himself a shoemaker and a boat maker. Commerce and opportunity had attracted thousands of Germans westward just like Essen.
Another German, Hermann Steines, was the Asst. Marshall, taking the census that hot summer day, the 8th of July, 1870. The first entry on Page 33 of the census for Meramec Township, Township 45 North and Range 3 East, records their conversation, that was probably in German. Essen has built a cabin and lives on Wildhorse Creek, with his pregnant wife and five children. His oldest son John who is now sixteen helps with the farm.
Steines, like the Essen family had come from Germany, was born in Kettwig. He and his brother Friedrick read Gottfried Duden’s Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America, published in 1829 in Germany. Hermann, and his cousin Adolph Greef had come in 1833 in advance to investigate Missouri. Then friends and family, (including his brother Friedrich) followed from Solingen in 1834. Those were difficult years on the Missouri frontier. Hermann Steines lived west of Rudolph Essen and closer to the Franklin County line. He was originally a physician turned pharmacist. Rudolph Essen’s wife Ellen delivered their son Erich Anton just 10 days after that visit by the census taker. Life was good.
The family continued to live there, and bury nearby in the small family graveyard. Eventually the small log cabin was no longer lived in, but it was not forgotten. However the cabin was almost lost, when in late November it was stolen. The cabin thief has been apprehended though and all is right with the world again. We hear plans are even underway to donate and put the cabin up in a place where it can be seen and enjoyed more as well. Allowing another site on the German Heritage Corridor to be preserved for future generations.
Our thanks to the Essen family and others who supplied photos and information for this story.