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Otto Hellwig
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Justus W. Hellwig
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August Wittkopf (1819-1891)
& Eleanor Hellwig (~1827-after 1880)

by Conrad W. Terrill, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it &
Harry Richard Clark III, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
& George James Clark, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

This second version of the story has already been rendered obsolete by the finding of new records, and especially by considerable additional information from the collection of John Parker Clark (1929-1993), great-grandson of August & Eleanor Wittkopf—in particular, by John’s story The Wittkopf Family History.

(Sources for some of the following may be found in our “family sheet” and “records history” for this family.)

Click on an image to open a high-resolution version in a new window


Click here to see our August & Ellen Wittkopf family picture collection


Heinrich August Friedrich Wittkopf, whom we know as “August,” was born 19 Mar. 1819, probably somewhere in Lower Saxony, Germany.  His parents, Friedrich Nicolaus (“Fritz”) Wittkopf and Engel Adelheid (“Adeline”) Gronau, were married almost a year before, on 26 Mar. 1818, in Bülkau, Lower Saxony, six miles from the North Sea coast.  August had two younger brothers, Johann Wilhelm Simon (“Johann”), born 18 Apr. 1821, and Christian Friedrich Nicolaus II (“Fritz Jr.”), born 26 Apr. 1823.  We know that the family lived in Otterndorf as early as the late 1840’s, probably (since August thought they were still there when he wrote in 1865), and perhaps that was where the three sons were born.

All we know of August’s ancestry is by courtesy of John Parker Clark, a great-grandson, who has passed on to us (he died in 1993) five letters written during the period 1865 to 1871, to August in Michigan from his parents in Altenwalde (ten miles east of Otterndorf—August’s parents had moved to Altenwalde some time not long before 1861).  John learned a great deal more about August’s ancestry from Hannelore (Wittkopf) Bauer, a German descendant of Fritz Jr., who had traced some lines several generations back.

Sylvia (Wheeler) Mallonee, a fellow descendant of August, heard from her Aunt Mabel (Gompf) Heacock that August was training to be a doctor in Germany, and was also engaged to be married.  When he came home one time he found that his fiancee had married his brother (we don’t know which one).  Sylvia also heard from Aunt Mabel that August’s surname was “Von Wittkopf” in Germany (the “Von” expresses nobility, or prestige).  August told that he discarded the “Von” in America, saying, “It didn’t do me much good in Germany.  What good would it do me here?”

We’ve found the name “Aug. Wittkopft” on the passenger list of the Magdalene, which arrived at the port of New York on 18 Nov. 1848, having sailed from Bremen.  August was 29 years old (the correct age), a farmer intending to become an inhabitant of the U.S.  His brothers probably came over soon afterwards.  We’ve heard from John P. Clark that they were all in America by 1854.  We don’t know much about the brothers, except from what is mentioned of them in the letters.  Both Johann and Fritz Jr. were married when they came over.  When Johann’s wife came, she brought a bed which Johann’s parents had given to the couple.  Fritz Jr. had a son, named after him, born in Germany in 1847.  Fritz Jr. never sent for his wife and son.  His wife died in 1860, and his parents raised his son from then on.  The parents wrote to their three sons, but did not hear back for long stretches at a time, except for a stretch in the second half of the 1860’s, from August.

Eleanor Hellwig was born around 1826 or 1827, possibly in Hebenshausen, Hesse, Germany.  She was the daughter of Otto Hellwig and his first wife, whose name we do not know, except that her maiden surname may have been Dill or Ziegler.  Eleanor was the first of her family to come to America, arriving at the port of New York in June of 1852 aboard the Charles and Edward, which sailed from Bremen.  Her age was 23 years and four months, and she was a milliner.  If the age was calculated as of her date of arrival then she was born about February of 1829, a date which may well be correct, although it is in conflict with her age as given in three census records.  Eleanor’s brother Justus Wilhelm, born in December of 1835 in Hebenshausen, arrived in America in July of 1854.  Justus settled in Baltimore, MD we’ll have more to say about him below.  Their brother Christopher also came to America (we don’t know when), and settled in Ashland, KY.  We know very little about him.  We don’t think any other siblings came to America (to stay, at least).

August Wittkopf and Eleanor Hellwig were married on 23 Jan. 1853 at the German Evangelical (Lutheran) Church of St. John, on the northeast corner of Monroe Avenue and Farrar Street in Detroit, MI.  (See The 1853 marriage record for August Wittkopf and Eleanors Helwig.)  Rev. Charles Haass started his pastorship at St. John’s in August of the year before, when the church was still a wooden structure.  A brick building soon supplanted it, dedicated on 9 Jan. 1853.  August and Eleanor’s was likely the first wedding celebrated in the new building.  Their first child was born later that year, in Detroit.

Children of August Wittkopf & Eleanor Hellwig

Engel Adelhaid (“Adeline”) Wittkopf, b. 1 Oct. 1853
. . . (“Engel” is German for “Angel.”)
Christina Margaretta Wittkopf, b. 19 Sep. 1857
Johann Frederick Wittkopf, b. ~Jan. 1859
Otto H[ellwig?] Wittkopf, b. July 1862
William J. Wittkopf, b. 13 Oct. 1866
Sophia A. Wittkopf, b. Feb. 1869

1853 letter to Eleanor from father

Eleanor received a letter from her father not long after her marriage.  It was dated 10 May 1853, Melsungen, Hesse, and her father was not aware that Eleanor had married.  Otto Hellwig wrote that they were sending hanks of wool yarn and twelve pieces of goose feathers by Mrs. Martha Andres from Melsungen, obviously assuming that Eleanor had started a millinery store.

Detroit Wittkopf places

Of three Detroit city directories available online (1852-53, 1855-56 and 1861), August’s name shows up in only the 1855-56 directory, as: “Wittnopf [sic], August, butcher, 225 Fort e.”  According to Sylvia Mallonee, August’s daughter Christina was born in Taylor Center, Wayne County, in September of 1857.  In 1860, according to the federal census, August “Wykup,” a farm laborer, and family were living in Dearborn township.  As of 1 June, August was 38, Ellen was 33, Adeline, 6, Christina, 3, and John was one and a half.  In 1862 the Internal Revnue Service was created to collect income tax to pay for war expenses.  August’s name does not show in assessment lists until 1864, perhaps because his income was below the threshold up to then, or perhaps because many returns have been lost.  Three lists for “the week ending 3 Dec. 1864,” the month of December,” and “the period “Nov. 1864 to Jan. 1865” include August Wittkopf of Romulus, Wayne County.  In the last list August was assessed a total tax of $2.80 for seven head of cattle over three months old, which he had slaughtered (the tax rates were 40¢ per head of cattle, 10¢ per hog or swine, and 5¢ per sheep).  The first list mentions “butcher sales from cart.”  We think the third list is inclusive of the first two and supercedes them.

The letters to August from his parents shine light on day-to-day life in the Michigan Wittkopf household in the late 1860’s.  In the first letter, written in June of 1865, his parents rebuked August for not having written in eleven years, prior to the letter to which they are replying.  They had feared that August and his wife were dead.  (So August had written to them in 1854 to tell them that he was married.)  August had written in his recent letter that he had a good farm.  His parents wanted to know more about it.  August’s 17-year-old nephew, Fritz III, told that his mother died five years ago and that his father has abandoned him.  August wrote back in December, telling that he had “a good energetic wife,” who helped him a lot.  His children greeted their grandparents in the letter.  August described his farm—forty acres of land with salt and oil on it—land that he would not sell for $50,000.  In their March 1866 reply his parents told August that he should sell the farm for the $50,000 and return to Germany, where he could lead a rich life.  In fact, (as they reminded him), when August left for America he had promised to return in ten years, a deadline now seven years past.  His parents ended their letter with many regards to August and his dear wife, and to the Little Adelaide and Christina and Johann Frederick and to the Little Otto.

August wrote back in September, telling that Eleanor had been seriously ill over the summer.  In their November reply nephew Fritz wrote that he’d been planning to come to America in the fall, but August’s letter, describing how expensive things were, discouraged him.  The folk in Germany “wait every day” for four-year old Otto to bring them his muley calf (a breed without horns), as he wished to do.  They’d never seen such a calf.  August wrote back in May of 1867, telling his parents of the birth of his son William, and wishing them a happy golden wedding anniversary.  Adeline made a request through her father for “the auerbach book” (perhaps a book on the art of making artificial flowers) and for her grandparents’s flower apparatus.  In their October reply the parents informed August that the book had deteriorated and was unreadable, that they had few flower apparati left, and that there was no money in it anymore anyway, now that people could buy manufactured flowers more cheaply.  They suggested that it would be better if Adelaide learn “the cleaning work.”  Nephew Fritz wrote that he would send August a portrait of himself in the next letter.  August wrote again in June of 1868, and a portrait of Fritz was included in the parents’ reply.  It appears that they offered August the family Bible, among other things.  In the last letter, written in March of 1871, his parents rebuked August for not having written back.  They did not send the Bible because they hadn’t heard from him.  They informed August that young Fritz had married, and had a one-year-old son whom he and his wife named August.  August was told that his mother was failing, and that his parents were hoping that he would visit; moreover, they hoped that he would send a daughter to care for them in their old age.  August received this letter just as his world was crashing—we’ll get to that soon.

Adeline Wittkopf
early 1870's

Christina Wittkopf
early 1880's

Adeline may have taken her grandparents’ October 1867 advice to heart.  Around January of 1869 Eleanor’s brother Justus came up from Baltimore, to visit and to escort 14-year-old “Adelheit” back to Baltimore, to work as a domestic servant in his household.  We learn about this from a letter Justus wrote to his sister and her family in March of 1869, in reply to a letter from Eleanor in February.  On the way back to Baltimore with her uncle, Adeline got the chance “to see everything there was to see” in Detroit, her birthplace, and to take a steam boat ride.  Justus looked up someone he knew, and while they drank beer Adeline drank wine.  You can read in the letter the details of the train trip to Baltimore.  Upon arriving home Justus introduced Adeline to his wife Sophie and three-year-old son Otto (daughter Anna would be born the following August), and everyone hugged and kissed.  Justus took his son in his lap and told him about “the squirrels and cows and his cousins and Little Willie.”  Sophie bought Adeline a new outfit of clothes with a beautiful new shawl, a fancy dress, a modern hat, a pair of stockings, a pair of shoes, an apron, gloves and more.  Justus wrote, “Now there was a big joy and we saw why she had no longing for Michigan.  Even now she does not know what homesick is.  On the trip I tried to amuse her.  Here, she has enough of that and says she wishes never to be back in Michigan.”  (We can only imagine the effect of this news upon Eleanor.)  Adeline soon received a letter from sister Christina, with news of her other siblings, which made her happy.  It was good to hear of Christina’s firm will (on keeping John and Otto in line, perhaps?), but she wanted some facts.  She was convinced that John was doing his best and expected the same from Otto.

Justus & Sophie Hellwig
c. 1870

Sophie and her sons,
Ernest, Charles and Otto,
c. 1877

The 1870 federal census places the August Wittkopf household in Romulus (P. O. Inkster) as of 16 Jun. of that year.  August was 51, a farmer, a citizen of the U.S., with $1500 of real estate and $350 of personal estate.  Eleanor was 41, keeping house; Christina, 13, was attending school, as was John, 10, and Otto, 7.  Willie was 4 and Sophia was 1.  “Adelaide Vittkopf,” 16, a domestic servant, can be found in the household of her Uncle Justus (as “William Henwick”) in Baltimore.  Justus and Sophie had a bakery/confectionery which was at 340 West Pratt Street at that time.  Also in the household were a 22-year-old confectioner and three apprentice confectioners in their late teens.

August Wittkopf also appears on a “nonpopulation” agricultural census record of 1870.  His Romulus holdings were ten acres of improved land and thirty acres of unimproved woodland.  His farm was worth $1500; his farming implements and machinery were worth $100.  He had two horses, two milch (milk) cows and three swine, altogether worth $205.  Unlike most of his neighbors August produced no spring or winter wheat, no rye, no Indian corn, oats, barley, buckwheat, rice or tobacco—no crops of any kind.  It appears that, although he is listed as a farmer, he had a side business as a butcher which wholly supported the family.  He would have been called upon when neighboring farmers wanted their livestock butchered, coming with his butcher’s wagon so that he could haul away the carcasses, and using it again to sell meat from farm to farm.

Click here to read about August Wittkopf in land records.

1871 auction poster

John P. Clark has told us that August Wittkopf also owned 160 acres of land in Lapeer, about sixty miles north of Romulus.  It seems that August must have purchased this after 1 June 1870, since it does not show up in the agricultural census.  To pay for it he must have mortgaged his farm in Romulus (on which he may already have been paying off a first mortgage).  Part of the reason he did not write back to his parents may be that his affairs were soon in turmoil, and he did not want to tell them about it.  John Clark wrote that August’s properties were lost in the depression of 1872, but the timing does not seem quite right.  The Long Depression is supposed to have started in America in 1873 [Wikipedia]; but we have an auction poster (courtesy of Sylvia Mallonee) which dates the auctioning-off of August’s property to 15 Apr. 1871, at his premises in Romulus.  The property auctioned off consisted of one span of horse, two muley cows, one one-year-old muley bull, a lumber wagon, a spring wagon, a new bob sleigh, farming implements and household furniture.  It’s obvious that everything of value that August possessed was being sold.  His creditors were in control.

Baltimore Wittkopf places

With nothing left in Michigan it seems likely that August and family had no other recourse than to accept support, which surely must have been offered from Justus in Baltimore.  Justus must have paid the family’s way.  Adeline, though undoubtedly sorry about her family’s misfortune, was surely thrilled that they were coming to Baltimore.  But all of her income, except for an allowance, probably thenceforth went to her father.  Most likely she had been sending money back to Michigan before then, as would have been expected of an unmarried daughter.

In June of 1875 Adeline married Robert Clark, son of Richard P. (deceased) and Mary (née Slater) of Texas, near Cockeysville, Baltimore County.  Adeline was 21 years old and Robert, a farm laborer, was 27.  They were married at Adeline’s church, Zion Lutheran, at the corner of Holliday and Lexington Streets in Baltimore.  It’s possible that Robert met Adeline at the bakery, but it doesn’t seem very likely. We know where Adeline’s parents were living at this time,
from an 1876 Baltimore city directory entry: “Wittkoff Augustus, provisions, Sweet Air.” From the same city directory, in the street directory section, we find that Sweet Air Village was 3½ miles up Falls Road, from North Avenue (so it was actually 3.5 miles outside the city limits). A provisions merchant bought and sold provisions, such as meat, cereals, fruit and vegetablessome specializing in one area and some in another. August likely specialized in meat.

A report in The Baltimore Sun, 8 Mar. 1878, p. 3, about cases heard in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, in Towsontown, includes the case “August Witkopf vs. Anna B. Kemper; judgment reversed, and judgment for Witkopf for property replevied and one cent damages and costs.”  We haven’t chased this record down, yet.

John Frederick Wittkopf
c. 1880

By June of 1880, according to the federal census, the August Wittkopf (“A. Wittkops”) family was living in Pikesville, four miles west of Sweet Air.  August, 58, was a laborer.  All but Adeline and John are listed.  We don’t have any more records concerning John.  We do have a picture of him, as “Uncle Fred,” which may date from about this time, but we don’t know what became of him.  Most likely, we think, he died.  Adeline was with Robert Clark, of course.  In May of 1877 their first child was born in Arlington, three miles southeast of Pikesville along Reisterstown Turnpike.  This is the last we know of August Wittkopf, before his death.  The 1890 federal census was lost in a fire.

From a death notice in The Baltimore Sun, 10 Mar. 1883: "WITTKOPF.—Departed this life, on March 9, 1883, at Arlington, Baltimore county, after a lingering illness, ELEANORA D., aged 56(?) years 2 months and 9 days, wife of August Wittkopf, and daughter of the late Otto and Eleanora Hellwig, of Millsungen, Germany, Preussen.  [Louisville (Ky.) papers please copy.]

Her sufferings are all over,

Her spirit is at rest;

We loved and prised her for her worth,

Now she is numbered with the blest.



And from a death notice in The Baltimore Sun, 24 Jan. 1891: “WITTKOPF.—After a long and painful illness, on January 21, at 5:30 P. M., AUGUST WITTKOPF, in the 69th year of his age.

Peace is around thee, thy sorrows are past,

Heaven has granted thy freedom at last;

Long hast thou struggled this victory to gain.

Farewell, dear father; fare thee well.


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