Metro-East Living

There’s a story behind every stone at this local, historic cemetery

Pauline Teichmann moved to America in 1852 to escape a scandal.

Her father was Duke Paul Wilhelm of Württemburg, now part of Germany. Her unwed mother was the 15-year-old daughter of the tower bell commander at his castle.

The duke took Pauline away from her mother almost immediately and, when Pauline was a teenager, he brought her to the German community of Mascoutah to live with the family of his former traveling secretary, the Rev. Siegmund Spiess.

“(The duke) thought she would have a better life in America, where she wouldn’t be looked down upon as illegitimate,” said her great-great-great-granddaughter, Cathy Teater, 60, of St. Peters, Missouri.

Once in Mascoutah, Pauline married Henry Teichmann, who worked at a mill, brickyard, lumberyard and brewery and served as assessor, treasurer, school board member and assistant postmaster. The couple reared two sons and went to the 1904 World’s Fair.

Cathy is one of eight people who will portray historical characters — in most cases, their own ancestors — at the first Mascoutah City Cemetery Walk on Sunday.

The public will visit eight graves and hear 10-minute talks by the re-enactors before returning to Espenschied Chapel for food and live music.

“At first, I was nervous about it,” Cathy said. “But at the rehearsal, when I got in a room with all these people who were direct descendants of the people they were portraying, it was incredible.”

Protecting cemetery chapel

The cemetery walk is being sponsored by Mascoutah Historical Society and Mascoutah Heritage Museum to raise money for an addition onto Espenschied Chapel.

The city-owned brick chapel has its own interesting history. It was built in 1928 for funerals, but residents didn’t use it as much as expected.

By the 1990s, the structure had fallen into disrepair. Officials were going to tear it down until a passionate group led by the late LaVern Anderson persuaded them to hold off.

“LaVerne had the deed to her house in her purse, and she was ready to give that up to save it,” said Jeanne Bullard, 64, president of Mascoutah City Chapel Inc.

That non-profit organization formed in 1999 to restore the chapel, which now is used for concerts, weddings and even yoga.

The addition will make it handicap-accessible and provide space for wedding receptions and other private parties, including a dressing room for performers and a catering kitchen.

Jeanne believes the addition will increase rentals, ensuring the chapel’s survival by covering maintenance costs.

“The concerts are a big thing,” she said. “We’ve gotten to be quite well-known among artists and booking agents. They love it. It’s such a great listening room.”

New Mascoutah history book

The cemetery walk was the brainchild of Marilyn Welch, 87, a local historian and retired reading teacher.

She recently published a 207-page book through the historical society called “Remembering Mascoutah: Reflecting on What’s Been Going on in Our Hometown.”

“This is the only (Mascoutah history) book that takes you from the very beginning up until today,” she said.

The coffee-table-size paperback sells for $25 at Dauber Pharmacy; Donna Mae’s Beauty Salon Hair-N-More; Flowers, Balloons, Etc.; Mascoutah Public Library and the museum.

The book was a labor of love for Marilyn, who packed it with colorful stories from her family, neighbors and other local residents.

“I did call people all over the United States who had lived here at one time, and they were anxious to share their stories,” she said.

The book also contains photos, maps and illustrations compiled by Eugene Schnur, fellow historical society member and retired high school business teacher.

Marilyn proposed the cemetery walk not only to raise money but to raise awareness, to get people involved in chapel activities and develop a sense of ownership. Her enthusiasm has been contagious.

“I’ve lived here all my life, and I really didn’t know anything about the cemetery,” said Cathy Klingelhoefer, 63, a committee member who also serves on the Cemetery Board of Managers.

“It’s been a learning experience and an eye-opening experience. It’s so interesting, just thinking about what it was like to come here from another country and start a new life without knowing anyone.”

Ties to Lewis and Clark

Cathy Teater already had done extensive research on her great-great-great-grandmother before the cemetery walk was planned.

She knew the duke of Württemburg was a naturalist who frequently traveled to America to study plants, animals and landscapes. He was friends with explorers Lewis and Clark and their Indian guide, Sacajawea, whose son even lived with him while being educated in Europe.

Cathy’s talk on Sunday will include excerpts from letters the duke wrote to daughter Pauline, often while staying with William Clark in St. Louis, unable to cross the frozen Mississippi to visit her in person.

“It’s an incredible story,” said Cathy, who will wear a brooch that the duke had made for Pauline in New Orleans and sent to her by steamer.

Another re-enactor will be Aaron Lands, 41, of Lebanon. He’ll portray his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Moses Land. (Somehow an “s” got added to the name over time.)

Moses was born in Virginia, fought in the American Revolutionary War and lived in Kentucky before settling in Mascoutah. He was a politically active farmer.

“He was one of the petitioners to have Illinois become a state in 1818,” Aaron said. “He was one of the town’s first settlers. He also petitioned to have some of the roads built connecting Mascoutah to surrounding communities, including what is today Route 4.”

In real life, Aaron is a social studies teacher at Belleville East High School. On Sunday, he plans to wear a replica Revolutionary War uniform that he borrowed. It’s heavy wool, so he hopes the weather is cool.

Aaron’s daughter, Abbie, 8, will portray Moses’ daughter, Nancy, wearing a period-like costume from a school play.

“I think it’s important for people to have knowledge of how the town was founded and where we came from,” he said.

Teri Maddox: 618-239-2473, @BNDwriter

At a glance

  • What: Mascoutah City Cemetery Walk
  • Where: Espenshied Chapel, 331 N. County Road in Mascoutah
  • When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
  • Walk: Visitors will leave chapel at 1 p.m. in eight groups and rotate around graves (program will be held inside in case of rain)
  • Other activities: Food and live music; PowerPoint presentation with re-enactors at 3:30 p.m.
  • Admission: $15 at the door or $10 in advance at Dauber Pharmacy, Donna Mae’s Beauty Salon Hair-N-More, Flowers, Balloons, Etc., Mascoutah Public Library and Mascoutah Heritage Museum
  • Information: Visit the Facebook page or call 618-566-7425

Voices from the past

Historical characters to be portrayed in Mascoutah City Cemetery Walk

  • Moses Land (1764-1847) — American Revolutionary War soldier who campaigned and voted for Illinois statehood in 1818. He will be portrayed by great-great-great-great-great-grandson Aaron Lands.
  • Rev. Siegmund Spiess (1797-1877) — Mascoutah’s first teacher, a highly-educated European who served with the royal family of Württemberg. He will be portrayed by the Rev. High Fitz, pastor of St. John United Church of Christ, which he founded.
  • Philip Postel (1818-1907) — Community leader active in government, religion, politics, finance and charitable causes. He will be portrayed by great-great-grandson David Braswell, speaking in English and German.
  • Pauline Teichmann (1836-1904) — Daughter of Duke Paul Wilhelm of Württemburg, a German naturalist and explorer who was friends with explorers Lewis and Clark. She will be portrayed by great-great-great-granddaughter Cathy Teater.
  • Jacob Espenschied (1841-1920) — Mascoutah man with no descendants who, along with his two sisters, donated their estates to build Espenschied Chapel in 1928. He will be portrayed by his first cousin’s great-grandson, Douglas Clark.
  • Peter W. Lill (1850-1939) — Young man who apprenticed with attorney J. Nicholas Perrin before opening his own law office on Main Street. He will be portrayed by great-great-grandson Kent Schroeder.
  • Fred Schnebelin (1862-1939) — Well-known and talented musician, showman, inventor and professor with a colorful story. He will be portrayed by great-great-nephew Andrew Renth.
  • Angel Babies (after 1866) — Large number of babies buried, not with parents but in a cemetery section filled with small plots and tiny headstones. Grandma Barbara VanAusdale will speak and sing them lullabies.