Joseph Geissler: Are Funeral Paper Neighbors Connected

, Joseph Geissler: Are Funeral Paper Neighbors Connected

The mystery of my 3rd great-grandfather has many parts to investigate. Here’s another installment of that investigation.

In 2011, my distant Geiszler cousin theorized that perhaps there is no evidence to corroborate the story that Cousin Margie Geiszler Wasson told William Joseph Geiszler.

Henry’s father* was on horse back and rode into Ft. Hayes. Guard yelled Halt. He only spoke German and as the story went didn’t understand. So the guard shot him and he died.

His widow married a Billman and lived on a farm in Georgesville. As a boy this is where my dad* visited and remembered his grandmother driving her horse.

* Henry is Henry Joseph Geiszler b. 1859 in Columbus, Ohio. His father  is Joseph Geiszler b. abt 1836 in Germany and emigrated to America prior to his marriage in Franklin County, Ohio in 1856. *’My Dad’ is George Joseph Geiszler (b. 1885 in Columbus, Ohio) and ‘his grandmother’ is Caroline (Mack) Geiszler Billman (b. 1838 in Gillersheim, Germany).

My cousin thought he might have a plausible alternative explanation for Joseph Geiszler’s death in 1863.  The theory speculated about a homicide and a quest to find news accounts and court records was begun on his part.

, Joseph Geissler: Are Funeral Paper Neighbors Connected
Funeral Register for the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio from 1863.
The first entry is for Karl Biesner and the second is for a Joseph Kefster (which becomes Joseph Keisler/Geisler
in the transliterated copy of this document discussed in the Catholic Church cemetery book).

It is often said that paper neighbors in census and naturalization records could be clues to family relations. Is the same true for death records? On 8 July 1863, two men’s funerals were recorded in the old Catholic Church of Columbus. The two names are listed as a Latinized German names of Carl Biesener and Joseph Geisler.

The fact that two men had funerals the same day at the same church, prompted the thought that perhaps their deaths were connected.

Columbus Newspapers Reveal Identity of Karl Biesner

My cousin investigated old Columbus newspapers and discovered an article of interest. (I don’t have the citation. I’d love to have it in case anyone is a whiz with Columbus, Ohio newspapers) 

Reported in three Columbus newspapers, an incident occurred early on the morning of July 1, 1863, in the vicinity of the intersection of S. High St. and South St. (which is now Fulton St.), in which three men were stabbed, all of them severely.

The articles tell of Karl Biesener, aged 22, being assaulted by an older man named August Noltemeyer. Apparently Mr. Noltemeyer was in a drunken rage and attacked the younger man, Karl, with a knife. Biesener died of his wounds. Two other men were stabbed but only one was named, Christian Reider, was also stabbed but survived. 

August Noltemeyer and his three companions are reported having been arrested and taken to jail by police. Notlemeyer was bound over for trial on a charge of murder, it is not clear that it ever came to trial.  

The disposition of the three unfortunate victims of the stabbing is not mentioned.  I am supposing they were all three transported to St. Francis Hospital.  Biesener was described as being in critical condition, with a portion of the knife blade lodged in his skull.

According to funeral records of Holy Cross Catholic Church, Karl Biesener died on July 6, and Joseph Geissler on July 7.  Both of them were buried on July 8.  The ultimate fate of Rieder is unknown. 

I believe that Joseph Geissler, aged 27, was one of the unnamed stabbing victims, especially since he is listed as having a funeral the same day as Karl Biesener. I find that a compelling coincidence.

– Cousin D. Geiszler

This stabbing incident occurred in Columbus on 30 June 1863. Both Karl and Joseph’s funerals took place on 8 July 1863. How tragic the stabbing must have been to lead to a slow death. I can’t imagine. My cousin did not find a conclusive piece of evidence that would link his death positively to this incident, admitting that it’s only a hypothesis at this point. What do you think?

My cousin went on to discover a few more interesting pieces of information relating to this mystery.

The Franklin County Court of Common Pleas adjourned for the term on June 22, 1863.  When they resumed sitting in November, there is no record of August Noltemeyer having been indicted.  He is listed in a Columbus city directory in 1864, so he was still living.  The charge must have been dismissed.  

One idea Cousin Geiszler had wanted to review the possibility of a report in the Columbus Capital City Fact, which originally gave the event its most extensive and detailed coverage. He also thought that if there were three stabbing victims, they would have likely been taken to a hospital. Was there a hospital that could have treated them? Did they both die in such a place? Or would they have gone home to their families to receive ministrations and perhaps a visit from a local doctor?

He contacted the Ohio State University Medical Center’s historical records department regarding his theory. The medical records research replied with disappointing news. The archives only had information we have only gone back to the 1920s and recommended investigating the Ohio Historical Society resources.

Possible Alcoholic Family Tradition

The lack of information does not rule out the possibility of a connection. And, if Joseph did go to a hospital, a family story receives one more sad connection.

If Joseph went to a hospital, it’s a spooky beginning to a ‘family tradition’ relating to the deaths of three generations of Geisslers. Joseph could have been killed and died in a hospital following an attack by a drunk (and Joseph could also have been drunk?). Joseph’s son Henry died in the hospital, having been knocked down by a trolley, and was drunk at the time.  Henry’s son William died in the hospital, having been severely bludgeoned by an unknown assailant, and was also probably drunk at the time.  It gets repetitious.  (William was alcoholic)

How truly tragic! Henry’s son William is the brother of my great-grandfather, George Joseph Geiszler. George had a drinking problem when his children were young but may have turned things around when his grandchildren were young.

After checking newspapers, city directories, courthouse records and a hospital records archives, my cousin was so disappointed.

Nine sources checked have yielded some interesting details, but that final, definitive bit of information tying Joseph to the event remains elusive.  I could be chasing a wild goose.

What do I make of this?

I’m not sure what to do with this entire theory. True be told, access to Ohio records is extremely limited given my location and lifestyle. However, this investigation peeks my interest and is now a part of my Future Research list.

I’m left wondering, “Could funeral paper neighbors be connected? Is there enough information to connect Joseph Geissler with Karl Biesner simply because they were buried the same day?”

What do you think?

If you have any recommendations, resources, or theories, please share them in the comments below or using my email form in the sidebar. I’d really like to know what you think. If you know how to find the Biesner articles or what the Columbus Capital City Fact is, I’d also love guidance.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

4 thoughts on “Joseph Geissler: Are Funeral Paper Neighbors Connected

  1. Linda,

    I'm checking the papers but there are not many available for Columbus, Ohio in this time period online. That's the most accessible format for me while home schooling the kiddos. Someday Columbus will have more coverage or I'll have more offline access.

  2. Hi Devon, I'd say the theory that the two funerals might link to the same event is a definite maybe! Are there any other resources – maybe a second newspaper not in the area – that might have picked up this story? I'd try Chronicling America, if you haven't already.

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