Joseph Geissler: Tragedy in Prairie

In previous posts, we followed the origins of Joseph Geißler from his origins in Baden to his arrival in Franklin County, Ohio. His marriage to Caroline Mack to the birth of a son and becoming a naturalized citizen. I ended the last post with the birth of his second son and a hint that tragedy would soon strike. Today, the eluded to story is revealed.

Sometime between Henry’s birth in May 1859 and Carl’s birth date in November, tragedy struck. According to the obituary recorded in German at the St. James Lutheran Church, the toddler Carl drowned on the family property in Prairie Township.i

“Fresh and in good health he [Carl] arrived a a newly-dug well, about noon, not far from the home. The well had not been encased but just covered with boards. The child slipped between the boards, fell into the well and drowned at noon…

It was a hard blow for the parents but at the same time a good and healing lesson for them and all other parents, that they not only with all their care watch over their children but at the same time not allow the children to be at such dangerous places at their own free will. And that they teach them about God’s watch and protection of the holy angels.

The child brought it’s life to not quite two years. May our dear God be kind and merciful to the bereaved parents and grant them as well as all of us a safe and happy following.”

This obituary isn’t the kindest toward the parents about the tragic drowning of their son. Again, it’s believed this happened after the birth of Henry. Thus, Caroline may have been tending the infant while her older son scampered away. Her husband was apparently working to improve the property by digging a well, thus enabling them to have fresh water closer to their home. As the event happened around noon, perhaps Joseph took a break from the labor and covered up the work. Or perhaps he had dug it in prior days and had covered up the well until he could finish that project. Could he be tending other tasks associating with farming and not know where his son was.

One can only imagine the scene and who made the discovery. One can also imagine the pain and the second-guessing these young parents in their early twenties went through. Then, one can only wonder how that changed their parenting style. Did Caroline become paranoid about her son Henry leaving her sight? How did Joseph respond? And with a public obituary serving as an example to other parents to keep a better watch on their kids, or they’ll drown like the Geizler boy, how could that affect their standing in the community? How would that affect their church participation?

i. St James Lutheran Church. “Lebenslauf.” 5660 Trabue Road, Columbus, Ohio. Transliterated and Transcribed by Else Bügge-Wood. , Obituary 11,  Carl Geissler, died 1859
Devon Noel Lee

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.

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