Sunday, January 31, 2021

Part 1 Charles Stark and Wilhelmine Catherine Schwarz Stark of Germany and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


     I have spent time researching and writing about my maternal greats.  Great Grandfather, Charles Stark and Great Grandmother, Wilhelmine Catherine Swartz, have been written about in separate blogs; however, I have not yet put the story together in one place.  My Stark cousin, Kent Kretzler has done a enormous amount of research on the family, and in particular on our Great Grandfather's service in the Civil War.  I will do my level best to do justice to the story in my blog.

     Back in the day, when I began my genealogy search, I asked my Mom about her paternal grandfather, Charles Stark.  She knew nothing.  In fact, those who were alive, my Mom's cousins, did not know much about him.  Apparently, he was rarely to never talked about.  To be fair he died in 1895, when his own children were young, except his oldest son, my maternal grandfather and my mother's dad.  Odd, she would have no idea about her dad's dad.    

     Wilhelmine is a different story.  After Charles' death, the family moved to the borough of Avalon, Pennsylvania, just outside Pittsburgh. She lived around and with her children and grandchildren until her death in 1940.  There are plenty of memories and recalled stories about Wilhelmine.  My mother was the youngest of her grandchild generation, having been born in 1921.  She was able to supply memories as were her cousins, Dorothy Cooper Richards and Lorraine Miller Kretzler.  

Charles Stark

     Depending on the Civil War records and census reports for some documentation, my maternal great grandfather, was born about 1845 in Elberfeld, Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Elberfeld is listed as Charles' birthplace on the marriage certificate and some Civil War documents. The Civil War enlistment document lists Dusseldorf, Germany as his birthplace. Two separate places; however, both in Westphalia. 

     This is believed to be my maternal grandfather's immigration record.  His name is also seen as Carl on his marriage document.  Charles physical attributes are listed in his Civil War Pension File.  He was very short, 5 feet 3 inches tall, light complexion, light hair and blue eyes.  

     As mentioned in another blog, it is unknown why Charles Stark traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Did he have friends or relatives living there?  I outlined in a blog the various addresses of Charles Stark, Tracking the Addresses of Charles Stark.  So, rather than going into detail, I will just list them through the years.  Details and maps are in the blog listed above.

     Charles was not in the United States and Pittsburgh very long before he was swept up, as many immigrants were, in to service with the army in the Civil War.  He enrolled as a private, on May 15, 1861 with Company D, 2nd Regiment Virginia Infantry.  He mustered in at Wheeling, Virginia on June14, 1861 for three years.  In April, 1863, Charles was promoted to the rank of Corporeal.  

     On January 4, 1864 Charles mustered out and reenlisted on January 5, 1864 as a veteran volunteer with Company D, 5th Regiment, West Virginia Calvary.  On April 15, 1864, he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, which he held until August 20, 1864.  He was demoted to private until October 15, 1864 and back to Sergeant until October 31, 1864.  

     In 1865, Charles joined New Company H, 6th Regiment, West Virginia Calvary as a Sergeant.  The 6th had a very interesting history.  Following the war they did provost duty in Washington, DC and then were moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and further west to the Dakotas.  Charles was demoted by special order to the rank of private on June 12, 1865.  During the months of July-August 1865, he was in arrest in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  In September, 1865 he was absent enroute from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Laramie and finally he was absent enroute during October, 1865 from Fort Laramie to Fort Casper, Dakota Territory.  From January to April, 1866 he was present for service.  He mustered out at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as a private on May 22, 1866.  

     It is assumed that Charles traveled back to Pittsburgh following his service.  The first document is the 1869 Pittsburgh City Directory and Charles is listed as a clerk living on Penn Avenue in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

     Charles lived and worked as a clerk and representative in a shoe store in the Pittsburgh area from 1869 until he was sent to the City Home in 1890.  There are city directories listing him also as residing in downtown Pittsburgh, Allegheny City as well as Lawrenceville.

      On October 5, 1872, Charles Stark became a naturalized citizen. The paper was filed in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. 

     On April 27, 1874, Charles Stark became a member of the Allegheny Lodge 223, A.Y.M.  This lodge was instituted on September 6, 1847 and approved on June 15, 1866.  I looked up the lodge in the 1874 Pittsburgh City Directory and found it was located in Allegheny City and met in the Masonic Hall on the Allegheny City Diamond on the second Monday of the month.   Interestingly, Andrew Carnegie was also a member of this Lodge.  I did a blog on the Charles Stark's Masonic booklet, which is in my possession.

1871 Pittsburgh City Directory
page 442

     In the 1870's, Charles was living and working as a salesman in downtown Pittsburgh and is listed as living and/or working at 31 Fifth Avenue in the Pittsburgh City Directories from 1870-1876.  This is the address of William E. Schmertz & Company Boot and Shoe Manufactures.  

Wilhelmine Catherine Schwarz

     This is believed to be the 1876 immigration record for Wilhelmine Schwarz, age 24, female, Wurttemberg.   This document was copied from another Stark researcher, it is not my research.  

Wilhelmine Catherine Schwarz
Circa early 1870's
courtesy of Kent Kretzler

    Stories passed down by Wilhelmine's grandchildren tell that she had relatives in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, that she came from Europe because she had a arranged marriage, that her father was a doctor and there were family members overseas that were chocolate makers.  Wilhelmine also told family members that she was from Alsace-Lorraine.  Her grand daughter, Dorothy Cooper Richards told me that Granny Stark spoke French.  My grandfather, Charles Edward Stark, Wilhelmine's oldest child, was the informant for her death certificate and gave her maiden name as Noir and her birth place as Bordeaux, France.  At a minimum, Noir and Schwarz both translate to the word black.

Charles Stark and Wilhelmine Catherine Schwarz
Marriage Document February 6, 1878

     Charles (listed as Carl) and Wilhelmine were married in St. Louis, Missouri by Pastor Ch F. Stark at the Evangelical Bethlehem Church.  So many questions with this document.  Did Charles and Wilhelmine travel from Pittsburgh to St. Louis?  Was Wilhelmine a friend of Pastor Stark, and Charles traveled to St. Louis to meet her and get married?  Was Pastor Stark a relation of my maternal great grandfather, Charles Stark?  I did research Pastor Christopher F. Stark and family and came to no conclusion.

Married Life

1880 Pennsylvania Federal Census
Allegheny City, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
June 14, 1880

Cabinet Card of Wilhelmine circa 1877-1800
Hendricks & Company
68 Federal Street 
Allegheny City, Pennsylvania

     In 1880 Charles and Wilhelmina were living at 58 Taylor Avenue in Allegheny City, across the Allegheny River from the City of Pittsburgh. Today this area is referred to as the North Side.  Charles occupation was a clerk in a shoe store.  Of interest is their one year old son named Charles.  My maternal grandfather, Charles Edward Stark, was not born until September 23, 1880 on Taylor Avenue, Allegheny City, Pennsylvania.   Another Stark story that was passed on was that Charles and Wilhelmina had a son named Theodore who died young from diphtheria.  To date I have found no record of him. Could this one year old son be Theodore Charles? 

Charles Edward Stark
Reproduced from a tin type

Amelia Beatrice Stark
photo courtesy of grandson, Kent Kretzler

     The Starks moved across the river to the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville.  They lived in the 46th block of Butler Avenue from 1881 until 1885 according to the Pittsburgh City Directories.  Two children were born during this time, Amelia (Emily) Beatrice Stark, born July 30, 1882 and Alfred Walter Stark, born May 15, 1884.  Charles is listed as a salesman and clerk on both birth records.

     By 1886 the Stark family moved back to Allegheny City, living at 357 East Street.  Two daughters were born in the house, Lucy Wilma Stark, born  November 2, 1886 and Dora (Dorothy) Maria Stark, born December 14, 1888.  

     On July 7, 1887, Charles Stark joined the Allegheny Arsenal by reenlistment.  I found the Arsenal on a map and it was located in Lawrenceville.

     The 1889 Pittsburgh City Directory lists the Stark family on 250 Howard, a street away from their East Street address.  

     The Stark story is now entering a time period when the family dynamic would change.   Grandchildren of Charles and Wilhelmina have said that Charles wanted a grand lifestyle.  Apparently, Wilhelmina's family would send money and Charles would find it and make bad investments.  The Starks were said to have a nursemaid to take care of the young children.  It is unknown who engaged in wanting the grander life, perhaps both Charles and Wilhelmina.  Looking at her photographs, she is always beautifully dressed.  A photo of the interior of her home is decorated with many photographs and Victorian ornamentation.  

     Charles did have some incidents during his service in the Civil War which caused demotions and arrest.  Was life in the Stark household somewhat bipolar?  According to the 1890 Veterans Census, taken on June, 1890, Charles Stark had been admitted to the City Home a year earlier.  The Civil War pension file provides the information that he was admitted because he was declared a lunatic.  Could this be what is now referred to as post traumatic stress from his service in the war?  Was Charles behavior always erratic?  Family members did not talk about him after his death. 

 Pittsburgh Daily Post
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
 September 15 1890
Page 3

     A family friend, fellow Mason and served with Charles during the civil war, Second Lieutenant Jacob Colmer, filed a Declaration for Children Under Sixteen Years of Age, on September30, 1890.  It appears that he listed himself as guardian of Charles Stark.    

     Wilhelmina was probably forced to move back to a different home at 197 East Street following Charles going to the City Home.  There are city directories of the family living at that address from 1891-1893.

     Charles Stark was a patient in the Allegheny City Home, located up the Allegheny River from Allegheny City at a stop on the the Western Pennsylvania Rail Road called Claremont.  Claremont was located in O'Hara Township.  Frankly, there is a lot of confusing information on the internet regarding the Allegheny City Home.  I did find an asylum in Allegheny City on the 1879 map.  I thought that might be where Charles was sent; however it was not.

Close up of a 1879 O'Hara Township map
Showing Claremont Station and the Poor House (City Home)

     The death record and spending way too much time going through city directories and census reports pointed me in the right direction.  The City Home, sometimes referred to as the Poor House, was established in 1844.  A second site was established in 1877 in Claremont, O'Hara Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. This is where my maternal great grandfather spent five years until his death on April 26, 1895.

1895 Death Record for Charles Stark

Charles Stark, white, male, 51 years old, married, a salesman.
Died on April 26, 1895 from paralysis
Birthplace:  Prussia
Living at the City Home for five years
Body taken by friends on April 26, 1895

Physician:  William N. Marshall, Claremont, Pennsylvania
Superintendent:  W. P. Hunker, Claremont, Pennsylvania

State of Pennsylvania, Allegheny County, City of Allegheny Death Register Volume 7, page 166.

     And because I just could not let the idea that the Allegheny City Home was located somewhere else out of my head.......

1900 Pennsylvania Federal Census
Claremont, O'Hara Township, Allegheny County

     Allegheny City Home enumeration, Claremont, O'Hara Township, Allegheny County with William P. Hunker still the superintendent.  

Pittsburgh Daily Post
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
 April 30, 1895
 Page 2

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
 April 27, 1895
 Page 2

     Here is a good reason to subscribe to ancestry's newspapers.  Finally a biography of my maternal great grandfather.  I checked into the history of William E. Schmertz & Company and found that in 1891, William E. Schmertz, a wealthy and successful Pittsburgh businessman in the shoe business and banking, was brought up on legal charges.  He lost his business, money and died in 1893.  This turn of events in the lucrative shoe business where Charles Stark was employed, could have caused his mental downturn.  Having been an employee of William E. Schmertz for decades, Charles may have also invested in the same stocks as William and lost his money. 

     Charles Stark was buried in Uniondale Cemetery, Allegheny City, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in a single interment section beside Marshall Avenue.  

Children of Charles Stark and Wilhelmine Catherine Schwarz Stark

  1. Theodore Charles Stark  1879-?
  2. Charles Edward Stark  1880-1945 (my maternal grandfather)
  3. Amelia Beatrice Stark  1882-1956
  4. Alfred Walter Stark  1884-1962
  5. Lucy Wilma Stark  1886-1927
  6. Dora Maria Stark  1888-1964

     This portion of the Stark's life has taken so much space, I have decided to have a Part 2--Wilhelmine Catherine Schwarz Stark--Widow.

Other Charles Stark Blogs on Flipside:


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© 2021, copyright Linda Hughes Hiser

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