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Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Last Will and Testament of Gottfried Hechtner : Does Eliza Get Snubbed?

Last year I was researching a line in my husband's family tree, The Hechtner Family.  With today's technology, I was able to make a digital copy of the last will of Gottfried Hechtner.  He is the 3rd great grandfather of my husband.

Gottfried was born about the year 1800 in Prussia.  He came to America in the springtime of 1854, with his wife, Mary, and 6 children.  He made his home in Bureau County, Illinois.

Elizabeth Hechtner, fifth child of Gottfried and Mary, married Gottlieb Hessler in Bureau County on May 31, 1860.  Mr. Hessler was a boot and shoe cobbler by trade.  Elizabeth (Eliza on many documents) and Gottlieb became my husband's 2nd great grandparents.  They lived comfortable enough to be listed on several Illinois County Tax Enumeration Lists (1870 and 1880).

Eliza had siblings : Frederick, Mary, Henrietta, Sophia and John.  Their mother, Mary (Kittendorf) Hechtner, passed away in 1862.  Gottfried moved into the home of his son, John Hechtner, in 1861, and lived there until his death.

At the age of 72, Gottfried filed his Last Will and Testament in Bureau County, Illinois. It was dated and filed on May 20. 1872.  He died in June of 1873.

Here is a digital copy of the hand-written will :

State of Illinois, County of Bureau, Illinois State Archives, accessed 2012 5 May.
As I reviewed the document, there appears to be somewhat of a mystery.  Every child, except Eliza Hessler, was to receive one hundred dollars.  Eliza was to receive five dollars.  Why?

Son, John Hechtner, was also to receive whatever worldly goods and belongings were left, due to his kindness in furnishing his father a home in his later years.  

So let's look at what the lives of Eliza and her siblings were like about 1870.  Eliza and her husband, Gottlieb Hessler were living in Sterling, Whiteside County, in Illinois.  As stated before, this couple had an income where they were listed on tax lists, instituted to help pay for the Civil War, which was very costly to the nation.  They had 2 daughters in 1870, Eliza and Emma.

Frederick, oldest of the Hechtner siblings, was living in Muscatine County, Iowa in 1870. He and his wife, Sophia, had 5 children.  He was a farmer and two farm hands were living with the family. According to the US Census data, his land was worth $800 and personal property total estimate was $2000.  He was a Civil War veteran.

Mary, oldest daughter of Godfried, was living in Bureau County, Illinois, with her husband, August Schultz, and their two chilcren, John and Henrietta.  August was a farmer, and his personal property estimate was about $450.  Not doing as well as her brother, Frederick, Mary was still closeby her father's residence.

John, second son of Godfried, was living in Bureau County, Illinois, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their 4 children :  Mary, Emily, John and Eliza.  John was a farmer, and his land was valued at $9,600, with a personal property estimate of $2500.  He seems to be doing quite well for a man of his age. His farm was located 5 miles Northwest of Princeton, IL.

Daughter, Henrietta, was living with her husband, Francis Frank in Bureau County, IL with their three children, according to the 1865 Illinois State Census.  No value of land or personal property was listed on this census.  Francis was a boot and shoe cobbler who worked alongside his brother-in-law, Gottlieb Hessler in Whiteside County, IL in 1860.  His real estate was estimated at $1500 and personal property valued at $500. Gottleib's personal property was worth only $25 in 1860.
Something happens to dissolve the marriage of Henrietta and Francis, as she remarries in 1872 in Rock Island County, Illinois, to Frederick Worth. In 1873, they were living in Iowa for the birth of their son. The Iowa census does make note that Frederick had been out of work for 4 months, due to a physical ailment.  

Sophia, youngest daughter, was married to Frederick Deadrick in 1861 in Bureau County, Illinois.  By 1870, they were living in Iowa. Frederick became a farmer in Poweshiek County, Iowa, with a land value of $2000, and personal property value of $500. They had four children at that time.  

So, with these financial comparisons between the Hechtner siblings, I guess that Eliza and her husband, Gottlieb Hessler were doing a bit better than the others.  Although her brother, John, cared for his father in the latter years of his life, he did have a greater value of property than the rest of the siblings. Eliza and Gottlieb had moved to Otoe, Nebraska before the turn of the century.  Their daughter, Eliza Hessler had married Henry Reif in 1885, son of Georg and Fredricka Reif of Stephenson County, Illinois.  Henry became a baker, and by 1890 they were living in Nebraska.  Eliza and Gottlieb Hessler probably moved that same year with their daughter, son in law and new granddaughter, Hazel Reif.  They lived out the last years of their lives there in Nebraska, Eliza passing away in 1908 and Gottlieb passing away in 1907.  

My guesses as to why Eliza inherited 5 dollars in contrast to the 100 dollars to each of her siblings :

Godfried Hechtner maybe felt that Eliza was well taken care of with Gottlieb's Shoe and Boot business, OR

God forbid....there was a falling out between Eliza/Gottleib and her father for some reason.  Remember that the first husband of Henrietta Hecktner, Francis Frank, was in business with Gottlieb in Sterling, Illinois, in the cobbler trade.  And then there was another marriage for Henrietta, without a reasonable explanation of what happened to Mr. Frank.  Henrietta had those children to take care of.  There could have been something that put a wedge between father and daughter that left hard feelings.  Who knows?  

My next step : browse newspapers, business papers, other records to see what may have occurred in the Frank family that caused a split.  Let's hope there is not a dark side to this story.


  1. I have just started going through old family photos. Interestingly, my great grandmother was a Hechtner. Her first name was Mary. Her father was John Hechtner. He came from Northern Prussia and was a shoemaker by trade. Similar stories. Would love to contact you and get more information about the Hechtners.

  2. Your Mary Hechtner could be a distant cousin of my husband. Her father, John, could be a great uncle of my husband from way, way back. Interesting when you get the paperwork and follow the trail of these people.