Wolf Family History
From Württemberg to California

by Kenneth Baxter Wolf
(revised December 2009)



Part Two: The Wolf Family in America:
1853-1969


(including the Bremermann, Keyt, Owen, Stuart, and Adams lines)

A follow-up to: Part One: The Wolf Family in Germany: 1740-1853





The Crossing

Late in her life, Amalie Louise Wolf Geister (5/30/1840--1/19/1926), a longtime resident of Pacific, Missouri, recorded on a slip of lined paper a few details about her arrival in America in June, 1854. 33 Her recollection is corroborated by official records from the time. The Württemberg Emigration Index contains an entry for Amalie, as well as for her sister Wilhelmine ("Minna") Wolf (7/18/1832--3/13/1912), indicating that the two applied for permission to leave the then kingdom of Württemberg sometime in 1854 with the intention of going to Missouri.34 Of their three brothers only Eberhard Ludwig Wolf (12/6/1835--c. 1863) is listed in the index, with an application date of July 1853. 35 Fortunately the names of all five of the Wolf siblings appear in the passenger lists of two separate vessels bound for New York from Le Havre, the main port of Normandy. Gustav Friedrich Wolf (6/4/1830--9/1/1860) and Eberhard, ages 23 and 18, were among the 398 passengers of the Trumbell a Brigantine type of sailing ship which arrived in New York harbor on September 5, 1853.36 Nine and a half months later, on June 24, 1854, the rest of the Wolf family--Wilhelm Christian Wolf (5/28/1831--12/10/1876), Wilhelmine ("Minna") Wolf, and Amalie Louise Wolf--ages 23, 21, and 14 respectively, arrived on the Antelope, another Brig, with a total of 370 passengers on board.37 Family momentos reflect this two-stage emigration process. Gustav and Eberhard each wrote farewell cards from Emmingen on July 7, 1853, presumably on the eve of their departure for Le Havre. Gustav's card is signed "Dein treuer Bruder" ("your faithful brother") and so could have been directed at any one of the three siblings that he left behind. Eberhard's note, which begins "Schwester!" ("sister"), had to have been intended either for Wilhelmine or Amalie Louise.38 Three days after Gustav and Eberhard put pen to paper, their aunts Auguste Caroline Baumgarth and Friederike Philippine Baumgarth (sisters of the recently deceased Heinrike Eberhardine Baumgarth Wolf) wrote cards from Emmingen (7/10/1853), each identifying herself as a liebende Tante ("loving aunt"). Given the timing of these notes, they must have been given to Gustav and Eberhard on the eve of their voyage. Finally in a goodbye-card dated April 29, 1854, Heinrike Eberhardine Wolf (the oldest daughter of Johann Jakob Wolf's brother, Christian Friedrich Wolf) bid farewell to her cousine ("female cousin") from her home in Eßlingen. The date on this card--April 29, 1854--is our best guess as to when Wilhelm and his sisters set out for Normandy to meet the Antelope. In any case, it is clear from all of this that Gustav, the oldest in the family, went to America first, taking his younger brother Eberhard with him, with the intention of paving the way for the arrival of their two sisters in Wilhelm's charge.

The timing of the Wolf family's departure placed them squarely in the middle of the most active phase of German migration to the United States. It is estimated that more than a half million Germans immigrated to America between 1850 and 1854, with the single largest burst occurring precisely in 1853-54.39 There were many factors behind the largescale mid-century emigration from Germany, prominent among which were crop failure, political instability, land inheritance problems, and peasant emancipation.40 Of all the U.S. ports of arrival, New York was by far the most active in terms of immigration, handling 74% of the foreign arrivals by sea (which numbered 175,190) in 1853 and 71% (201,580) in 1854. In 1853, 40% of foreign passengers to the United States were German, second only to the Irish (42%).41 In 1854, the percentage of Germans increased to 48% while the Irish, the next largest group, accounted for only 22%. At this point in history, there was no distinct processing center for immigrants in New York. The first such center, Castle Garden (a.k.a. Castle Clinton) in Battery Park opened in 1855 in response to the recent surge of immigrants. Ellis Island would follow in 1890. The ship masters of the Trumbell and Antelope would have simply submitted their lists to the customs official, who would then have processed the passengers and released them into the city.42



When the Trumbell arrived in New York harbor, the two Wolf brothers parted paths for a time. While Gustav seems to have gon directly to St. Louis, Eberhard made his way south to Philadelphia. There he met and married an immigrant named Louisa from Fellbach, Germany and had three children in the space of three years. But by the summer of 1859, Eberhard and family had left Philadelphia and joined the rest of the Wolfs in St. Louis. Naturalization records definitely place Eberhard in St. Louis on August 1, 1859, when he officially renounced his allegiance to the King of Württemberg.43 The 1860 Census taken the following year found Eberhard working there as a 26-year-old cabinet maker and living with his wife Louisa (age 25) and four children: Frederick (age 6), Charles (age 5), Wilhelm (age 3), and Louisa (age 1). While the census entry lists Philadelphia as the birthplace of the three boys, little Louisa is identified as a St. Louis native. 44 There is some confusion about the date of birth of Eberhard's second son, Charles Gustav Wolf. His death certificate records his birth date as June 22, 1854 while his headstone reads June 2, 1855.45 The later date turns out to be a better fit. For one thing, if Charles were born in 1855, he would have been five years old in 1860, just as the census data indicates. A birth year of 1855 also makes more sense in terms of Charles's chronological relationship with his older brother. For if Charles had been born in June of 1854, Frederick could not have been born any later than September, 1853, the very month in which his father arrived from Europe! Since Louisa's name does not appear on the passenger list of the Trumbell,46 it seems most likely that Eberhard met her in Philadelphia and married her shortly thereafter, with Frederick entering the world sometime in the middle of 1854 and Charles following a year later.

The St. Louis that the Wolf family found waiting for them when they arrived was a very German city. Already by 1837, an estimated 6,000 Germans called St. Louis their home.47 and number would grow dramatically over the next two decades, partly in response to exaggerated claims about this new American "Rhineland" that were circulating at that time in Germany. According to Emil Mallincrodt, founder (in 1844) of the German settlement of Bremen, now the Hyde Park neighborhood of St. Louis: "One often imagines he is in Germany when he hears German and the sound of wooden shoes clattering on the streets."48 The influx of German Lutherans also affected the religious topography of the city, with the foundation of Trinity Lutheran church and the establishment of Concordia Seminary in 1849.49 Though the rate of immigration from Germany to St. Louis peaked in the 1850s, large numbers of German immigrants continued to pour into the city for another half century, dominating its cultural identity until the advent of WWI when anti-German sentiments ran high and German Americans began to downplay their "German-ness."

Gustav Friedrich Wolf in St Louis

When Gustav finally surfaces in the records, he does so as someone already well established in St. Louis. The St. Louis Directory of 1859 indicates that one Gustav Wolf ran a hotel and restaurant at 23 Market Street and a saloon at 56 S. 2nd Street. A year later we find "Gustavus Wolf" listed in the 1860 Census as a "keeper of restaurant" from "Wurtemburg." According to this census entry, he was 30 years old at the time and lived with his wife, Mary (also known as "Marie"), age 23; his son of less than a year named Eugene; a 14-year-old "servant" from Bavaria named Clara Kuhn; and two "clerks" (who would have helped run the hotel and restaurant) named Alexander Miller (age 21 from Baden, Germany) and Frederick Bushings (age 27, from Hannover, Germany). Eugene's death certificate indicates that he was born on August 23, 1859 and that his mother's maiden name was Mary Kuebler (1838--3/16/1918).51 Though the same source states that Mary, like Gustav, was from Germany, census records contradict this, claiming that she was born in Missouri but had German parents. A note that "Marie Wolf, born Kuebler" wrote in St. Louis to her "loving sister-in-law"52 on February 19, 1861, bears witness to her fluency in German, in any case.

As chance would have it, Gustav died only eleven months after his son Eugene's birth. The St. Louis Registry of Deaths lists one "Gustav Wolf" of Germany, dying on September 1, 1860 at the age of 30. St. Louis City Death Records, 1850-1902 corroborates the date, adding that he was buried in the Holy Ghost Cemetery (at the corner of Ohio and State Streets in St. Louis).


Probate court records include a petition, written and signed on August 29, 1860, by Mary Wolf, "Widow of Gustav Wolf," asking the court to appoint someone to manage the estate of her dying husband. 53 This task was assigned to one Frederick Steigerwalt who, the very next day, officially accepted responsibility for administering Gustav's estate on behalf of Mary and her young son Eugene. Steigerwalt prepared a careful inventory of all Gustav's assets and debits and spent the next couple of years settling the many outstanding debts of this ambitious young immigrant who had just launched a new hotel and restaurant. Though the probate records are meticulous with regard to cataloguing of Gustav's estate and listing his debtors and creditors, they never mention the cause of his death. Among the many claims made against the estate of Gustav Wolf, however, is an itemized bill from Dr. Philip Weigel covering the costs for Gustav's "last sickness." The invoice lists multiple visits to the Wolf home beginning on March 19, 1860, and culminating on August 23. Dr. Weigel's bill does not name the disease or condition that took Gustav's life nor is it very explicit when it comes to itemizing his treatments, referring only generically to "medicines" and "prescriptions." There are only two exceptions to this rule: the "4 galvanic operations" that were administered on May 2, 3, 5, and 7, and the "visit at Ferzinger's (or Herzinger's) Water Cures." The latter of these two treatments suggests that Gustav died of Tuberculosis. The fact that the Registry of Deaths identifies Gustav's "disease" as "[xxx] of brain," 53a does not preclude tuberculosis as a cause of death.

Tuberculosis--or as it was normally referred to at the time, Consumption--was a veritable scourge of nineteenth and early twentieth-century American cities, responsible for one in five deaths in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century. Though the incidence of the disease declined somewhat in the second half of the century (accounting for one eighth of the deaths in the 1880s), it was still a specter that haunted American society well into the twentieth century. 54 Before Robert Koch's discovery of the Tuberculosis bacillus in 1882, the general medical consensus was that the disease was hereditary and chronic, not contagious. Consistent with these mistaken ideas about the disease was the tendency on the part of nineteenth-century physicians to prescribe little more than changes in routine designed to remove the environmental "irritations" that they imagined might exacerbate the symptoms. Men of Gustav's time who were well-off would have been advised to spend time in what were considered cleaner, more therapeutic environments: the sea, the islands of the Caribbean, or the new lands of the western frontier, including Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and California. Men with more obligations than means--and women of all social ranks--tended to stay home and make the most out of what little could be offered them in the way of treatment. Since it was not uncommon for people who had contracted the disease to live for years or even decades after the symptoms first appeared, most went on with their lives as best they could, marrying, having children, and pursuing their careers. It is likely that Gustav had the disease for sometime before the year in which he died. The doctor's bill only covers treatment from the month of March 1860 until Gustav's death the following August, but there is no reason to believe that previous treatments could not have appeared on bills that had already been paid.

Not surprisingly the extensive documentation related to the settling of Gustav's estate is full of information about his business and home life. The "Inventory of all the Real and Personal Estate of Gustavus Wolf," recorded on September 5, 1860, indicates that Gustav held a three-year lease (at a cost him $1,500 per year) on a three-story brick house "situated on the north side of Market Street between Main and Second streets" on the west side of the alley that ran between Market and Chestnut Streets. Given the location of this structure and what the St. Louis Directory tells us about Gustav's business interests (above), it would seem that Gustav and his family lived in the same building that housed the hotel and restaurant, adjacent to the saloon on Second Street. The inventory also shows that Gustav was the owner of "six lots of ground" along Pennsylvania Avenue, property that he had purchased on May 21, 1858. Gustav's investments were not confined to St. Louis. He also bought a share of stock in the town of Havana, in Shawnee County, Kansas Territory, entitling him to "one eightieth part of the said town." This investment corresponded to the creation (in 1858) of a stage coach stop there, an act which could have made Havana an important stop on the Santa Fe Trail. Havana did attract some fifty German and French families as settlers. But in the end the settlement failed and was abandoned altogether in early 1870s. The remains of the station and hotel are today commemorated by a historical marker on Kansas State Highway 31 not far from Burlingame in Osage County Kansas. Had Gustav lived to see the fate of his investment, he would not have been pleased. Good or bad, all of this investment activity on the part of a man who had only recently arrived in America suggests that he brought considerable capital with him from Germany.

The official inventory of Gustav's moveable property is a remarkable--if banal--piece of social history since it reveals precisely what a hotel owner and restauranteer in St. Louis at that time would have needed to run such a business. Of particular interest is the selection of beverages, including not only the usual whiskeys, brandies, and other hard spirits, but a wide variety of wines by the barrel: Haute Sauterne, Catawba (from Germany as well as Cincinnati), "Rhine wines" (including Hochsteiner, Durchheimer, Feuerberger, Ungsteiner, Forster Rieslinger, Wachenheimer), and two forms of "Neckar wine" that of all his wines must have reminded him most of his youth in Plochingen. No beer is mentioned in the inventory, but the list does include twenty beer mugs. Food items are not as well represented as drink in the inventory, though there are plenty of references to the implements necessary to hold or prepare them, including a pewter cracker box and a "cabbage plane," presumably used to make coleslaw. The fact that Gustav had 1,750 cigars in stock when he died (along with the accumulation of seventy-seven empty cigar boxes) tells us what most of his customers liked to do when they drank. Two chess boards and 2 sets of dominoes rounded out the entertainment options. Whether intended to be used by his clients or simply a part of his own personal property, Gustav's small library reflects his immigrant status as well as the fact that he was the son of a school teacher. Among the German authors, which constitute the majority of the collection, were the works of contemporary authors such as Heinrich Heine (1821-1881) and Friedrich Wilhelm von Hacklander (1816-77), as well as recently deceased ones like Heinrich Zschokke (1771-1848) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). The handful of English titles reflects an immigrant's effort to get a handle on his new home: Brucker's Geography of America, Brownell's Indian Races (1857), Allendorf's English Grammar, and the Constitution of the United States. The total estimated value of all of Gustav's moveable goods: $2227.66.

Gustav Friedrich Wolf's Siblings in St Louis

The Civil war, which began--less that eight months after Gustav's death--with the shelling of Fort Sumter (April 13, 1861) claimed the lives of more than 600,000 Americans, one of whom was Gustav's younger brother Eberhard. Eberhard's pension records 56 indicate that he served in Company F of the 2nd Regiment of the U.S. Reserve Corps (Infantry) and Company D of the 5th Regiment of Missouri (Infantry). Neither the exact date of his enlistment nor that of his death is known, but we do know, from the St. Louis Marriage Index, that his wife Louisa married again on June 16, 1864, this time to a man named Charles Hauser.55 Louisa's remarriage is corroborated by her and her children's appearance as "Hausers" in the 1870 census . Louisa Hauser is indentified in the as a 35-year-old "washwoman," originally from Baden, Germany. "Fred" is listed as a 16-year-old brush maker and Charles, a 15-year-old errand boy. "Will," age 13, and "Louise," age 11, round out the list of Wolf children. Mr. Hauser (who must himself have been dead by the time of this census since his name does not appear in it) had added two children of his own to the family: Dina and Alex, age 9 and 5 respectively. These two, like young Louisa, were born in Missouri; the four older children were--as we have noted--natives of Pennsylvania. Judging from the list of jobs held by Louisa and her two oldest boys, life for the Wolf-Hausers after the war was not easy. Twenty years later, we find Louisa Hauser filing for Eberhard's pension (June 5, 1890). Her death on on February 21, 1891 opened the door for her married daughter, Louisa Wolf Wahl, to claim the pension for herself on June 14, 1891.56a

Wilhelmine "Minna" Wolf, the second oldest of the Wolf immigrants, was 21 when she crossed the Atlantic in June, 1854. In was in St. Louis that she met and married Henry Kuhn in July 1858. We have a loving note in Henry's hand written to his Wiebchen ("little wife") on February 19, 1861. Sometime before 1870, Henry died, but not before giving Minna a baby boy named James . The appropriate entry in the census records of 1870 indicate that James was seven at the time, thus suggesting a birthdate of 1863. But local death records state that a "Henry Kuhn" died in St. Louis on February 18, 1862. 56b If, as seems likely, this is a reference to Minna's husband, then James could not have been born any later than November, 1862, making him eight years old rather than seven at the time of the census. In any case, the census of 1870 finds "Minna Kuhn" (age 38) living in Washington, Missouri (about sixty miles due west of St. Louis) with her son James (7) in the home of Alex Brunner, a Bavarian-born "bar keeper" for whom Minna kept house. It would appear that the widowed Minna and her son had moved in the wake of Henry's death so that they could live near Minna's brother Wilhelm/William (see below). Ten years later, according to the 1880 census, we find Minna back in St. Louis living with her brother Gustav's widow Mary/Marie, who had since remarried a man named John Fehlmann (see below). 56c When the 1900 census was taken, Minna was living in Pacific, Missouri (twenty miles southwest of St. Louis) with her widowed sister, Amalie Louise Geister (age 60, a "nurse") and her unmarried daughter Minnie (age 31). Minna died in Pacific on March 13, 1912, at age 79. On her death certificate she is described as a German-born housekeeper and widow who died of diabetes.

Wilhelm/William Wolf first appears, in the St. Louis Directory of 1859 as a boarder with the same address as Gustav's saloon. About four years later, William married a young widow with Württemberg roots named Mary Seifert Fausel. By that time her first husband, William Fausel, had died (1862) and Mary was the mother of four children--Pauline (b. 1855), Herman (b. 1857), Caroline (b. 1859), and George (b. 1861). After marrying William Wolf, Mary gave birth to five more. By the next census (1870), William and family are living in Washington, Missouri, where William is identified as a 39-year-old "hotel keeper." With him and his wife Mary (age 30), lived not only Mary's four children from her previous marriage (ages 15, 13, 11, and 9), but the three surviving ones of their own: Bertha Wolf (age 6), Mary Wolf(age 4), and William Wolf (age 2). A local newspaper (3/14/1873)58 contains an advertisement for the "Washington Hotel and saloon, Wm Wolf, Proprietor." William and Mary's lives in Washington were marred by personal tragedy. Beyond the two of their own children (Gustav and Heinrich) who died in infancy, a third (Mary) died at age 16 after her dress caught on fire when she was cleaning the hearth. To top it off, William Sr. was only 45 and Mary 36 when, in 1876, they both died of pneumonia. Their two young children, Bertha (age 12) and "Will" (age 8) moved in with their aunt Amalie Louise Wolf Geister (see below) in Pacific, Missouri.59a Both of them would marry and contribute five children to the next generation.59 Will and his wife Betty would actually live to see their golden wedding anniversary, a feat acknowleged by Will's cousin Helen Wolf Ernst, the daughter of Eugene (see below) in a letter dated July 24, 1947.60

Amalie Louise (a.k.a. Louisa) Wolf, the youngest of the Wolf immigrants, married Valentin Geister (d. 9/?/1884), another German immigrant, on May 16, 1864, in St. Louis.61 The two of them moved to Pacific, Missouri a short time later and had their only child, a daughter named Minnie (6/5/1865--8/28/1950). Minnie was eleven when her orphaned cousins Bertha and William came to live with her family. The 1880 census finds Valentine, a 51-year-old farmer in Pacific, living with his wife "Louisa" (age 40), his daughter Minnie (age 15), and his nephew William Wolf (age 12). For some reason there is no mention of Bertha, who would have been 16 years old at the time. Valentine died only four years later, in September 1884. Young William Wolf stayed with his Aunt "Louisa" up to the time of his marriage in 1897. Amalie Louise remained in Pacific until she died on January 19, 1926 at age 85. Minnie Geister, her only child, never married.

The Eugene Wolf Family

As we saw above, Eugene Wolf (8/23/1859--7/30/1901), the only child of Gustav Wolf and Mary ("Marie") Kuebler Wolf, was just eleven months old when his father died. He wasn't yet five when his widowed mother married 61a a Swiss immigrant named John Fehlmann (8/4/1832--11/24/1904). The Fehlmann family turns up in the 1880 census, with John working as a 47-year-old "cigar dealer" in St. Louis, supporting his wife "Marie" (age 43), her son Eugene (age 20), and three new Fehlmann children: Adolf (age 15), Marie Jr. (age 14), and Anna (age 12).By then Eugene, correctly identified as "stepson" in relation to the "head of the household," was working as a bookkeeper for a pulley company. The only other person listed in the Fehlmann household is "Minna Kuhn," identified as a "sister-in-law" of John Fehlmann, although she was actually Mary's sister-in-law (see above). The 1900 census has John and "Marie L." Fehlmann still living in St. Louis, ages 68 and 62 respectively, with John still plying his trade as a "cigar merchant." Four years later, on November 24, 1904, John passed away. According to the entry in the St. Louis Register of Deaths, the death occurred at 927 Morrison Ave. in St Louis, presumably the family home.

In 1884, at age 24, Eugene married a local schoolteacher named Clara Bremermann (8/?/1863--10/15/1916), the 21-year-old daughter of Gerd Bremermann, a prosperous merchant who had immigrated from Bremen, Germany, and his wife Johanna Clara Bruglet.61b

[The Bremermann line]

Eugene and Clara had three children, all of whom were born in St. Louis: Helen Clara Wolf (June 1885--1957), Marie Louise Wolf (2/3/1887--5/16/1964), and Walter Richard Wolf (10/9/1891--1/25/1969). Unfortunately Eugene, like his father, contracted tuberculosis, leading the family to move from St. Louis to Denver in 1893. The hope was that the fresh mountain air of Colorado would help relieve Eugene's symptoms and extend his life. We have a letter that Eugene wrote from his home, at 3060 Josephine Street, to his cousin "Will" Wolf on June 21, 1897, congratulating him on his upcoming marriage to Betty and referring in passing to his own "broken road of health."62 His illness would prevent him from joining his wife Clara on her trip to see the newlyweds the following month.63 The 1900 census takers found the Wolf family still intact in June of that year. But the following summer--on July 30, 1901--Eugene finally succumbed to the disease at age 41 and was buried three days later at Fairmount cemetery in Denver. His wife Clara continued to raise their three children and to work as a teacher in Denver until her own death in 1916. The 1910 census lists her (age 45) as the head of a family that included her daughter Marie (age 22) and her son Walter (age 19); Clara's oldest daughter Helen (age 24) had already married, though she, her husband, and her young son were living right next door. All three members of the Clara Wolf household were working at the time: Clara as a public school teacher, Marie as a stenographer, and Walter as a clerk in a seed company.

Six years later, on October 18, 1916, Clara Bremmerman Wolf died and was buried next to her husband. Less than two years after that, on March 16, 1918, Marie Kuebler Wolf Fehlmann passed away and was laid to rest next to her son and daughter-in-law. 64 Marie's death certificate indicates that she had resided in Colorado for eight and a half years before she died. That means that she moved to Denver from St. Louis in 1909, five years after her husband John Fehlmann's died. His death and her age (72 at the time of the move) no doubt encouraged her to relocate to Denver, where her daughter-in-law and three grandchildren had been living for the last sixteen years. Helen, Marie, and Walter thus got to know their grandmother well, calling her "Grossmama," presumably one of the last vestiges of spoken German in the household. 67 It is likely that Clara was the original source of the Christmas cookie recipes that have made their way down through the succeeding generations of the Wolf family.

Eugene's three children, born in St. Louis, but raised in Denver, ultimately followed very different paths. Helen Wolf married a Texas-born accountant by the name of Louis W. Ernst in 1908. They purchased a $3,200 house at 1233 Elizabeth Street with the help of Helen's share of Marie Fehlmann's estate. There they raised two sons: Louis Eugene ("Gene") Ernst (1909-2006) and Howard Ernst (1912-2005). Gene Ernst remembered his mother as "gifted in all the homemaking arts" and an active member of the Divine Science Church in Denver.68

Helen's younger sister Marie Wolf--who, according to the 1920 Census, moved in with her sister after their mother's death--used her share of the inheritance to go to New York. She returned to Denver in 1929 with her friend Helen Althouse (a.k.a. Trigg) and took a job as an advertising manager at the bank where she had worked before she left for New York. But Helen Althouse, who was originally from California, wanted to return to the "Golden State" and Marie followed her in the very early 1930s, living in Los Angeles for the rest of her life. At one point Marie owned a bookstore in Eagle Rock (at 4121 Eagle Rock Blvd.), which would have catered to the needs of Occidental College students, among others.69 Her California nephews and nieces (Walter's children; see below) got to know Marie well as they were growing up, referring to her affectionately as "Auntie Me."70 Gene Ernst remembered his Aunt Marie as a wonderful story teller, an amateur actress, and an avid sportwoman, who enjoyed mountain climbing and tennis.71

The Walter Richard Wolf Family

Walter Richard Wolf seems to have used his share of his grandmother's estate to finance his young family's relocation to California. By then (that is, the spring of 1918) he had already been married to Helen Cary Keyt (7/24/1894--7/25/1963) for two years. Helen was the daughter of William Baxter Keyt (3/16/1860--8/2/1911) and his second wife, Gertrude Gardner Grubbs (5/29/1860--4/8/1945) and had a younger brother named Thomas ("Tom") Grubbs Keyt (3/24/1902--11/20/1958) 71a.

[The Keyt, Degolyer, and Grubbs lines]

Helen Keyt was actually engaged to a local banker named Kent Whitman when she first met Walter. According to family lore, one day Walter Wolf came to the Keyt house and, upon seeing Helen coming down the stairs, addressed her as "my dear little girl." That bit of gallantry seems to have left a deep impression on Helen, who ultimately called off her engagement to Whitman. Helen's and Walter's wedding took place in Denver at the home of Alex and Betty Ernst72 on April 1, 1916; an unpropitious date. Disappointed with her daughter's choice of husband, Gertrude Grubbs Keyt, did not attend the ceremony. She may well have thought that Helen's former beau was a much better match for the daughter of a dentist. Fourteen months later--on June 5, 1917--Walter Wolf filled out his military registration card . It tells us that Walter, age 25, lived at 4009 Quitman St. in Denver with his wife, Helen, who was pregnant with their first child. It also reveals that he worked as a clerk at the Colorado Seed Company. Walter is described physically as "medium" in height and build, with blue eyes and dark brown hair. Very little additional information from Walter's Denver days has survived. Gene Ernst had fond memories of his "Uncle Walter,"74 dating back to the time when Walter still lived in Denver. Gene remembered the kites, the wooden swords and guns, and the "little cannon and mud bombs" that Walter made for him. He also recalled that his mother Helen and her brother Walter were like children every Halloween and every Fourth of July.

Shortly after the birth of their first son, Baxter Keyt Wolf (11/28/1917--6/16/1973), Walter and Helen moved to Arcadia, California.74a The 1920 census takers found the young family--including two-year-old Baxter--living there, with Walter working as a carpenter. Late that same year, on the day after Christmas, Helen gave birth to twins: Walter Richard Wolf, Jr., (12/26/1920--3/39/2007) and Clara Louise ("Helen") Wolf. Before the family left Arcadia, Robert Eugene ("Bob") Wolf (2/21/1923--4/20/1996) was born, on February 21, 1923. By the time of the 1930 census the family was living in Redondo Beach, with Walter listed as a 38-year-old "independent" commercial artist. Aside from Helen (age 35), the Wolf household included the four children, ranging in age from Baxter (12) to "Bobby" (7), plus a "lodger" named Helen J. Pruner (age 10) from Michigan. Shortly after the census, the family moved to Hermosa Beach, where, on September 7, 1932, Carol Ann Wolf, the youngest of Walter and Helen's children, was born. At that time the family was attending a Christian Science church, so Carol Ann was born with a "practitioner" present. But complications with the birth led to the timely intervention of a conventional doctor.

The family involvement with Christian Science, which seems to have begun with William Baxter Keyt, Jr. (who is remembered as a minister as well as a dentist and a musician), evolved over the years into his daughter Helen's close relationship with Religious Science and especially Unity Church. In July 1939 young Helen (age 18) would make the pilgrimage to Lee Summit, Missouri, the headquarters of Unity Church, to attend a "Youth of Unity" (YOU) conference. She left from Los Angeles' Union Station, which had opened for business only two months before. Carol Ann--who remembers the excitement of seeing her older sister off at the station--also remembers being steeped in such expressions of the "New Thought" movement, thanks to her mother. Many of the poems that Helen wrote and left behind in her "button box" reflect her unwavering faith in the power of positive thinking.

[Helen Cary Keyt Wolf's photo album].

[Helen Cary Keyt Wolf's "Button Box" poems].

Walter Wolf was a "jack-of-all-trades" with an eighth-grade education. Though remembered as a man who could fix or build anything, he never managed to find an economic niche that satisfied him or allowed him to support his large family with any consistency. When he and Helen (and little Baxter) first arrived in California, they raised rabbits while Walter worked for Standard Oil. Passed over for a promotion, Walter quit. At different points after that he turned to carpentry, construction, sign painting, neon-sign designing, and furniture building. At one point he even ran for City Clerk in Hermosa Beach. His son Bob remembered passing out leaflets during his father's unsuccessful campaign. But it was "Walter Wolf's Wonder Waffles" (a.k.a. "Walter Wolf's World-Wide Wonder Waffles," a.k.a. "Walter's Wonderful World of Waffles") in Hermosa Beach that stands out as his most memorable entrepreneurial venture.74b By building this tiny brick diner himself (in the spring of 1931), he avoided much of the overhead normally associated with a new business. He even put his sign-making talents to good use, crafting a big metal waffle for the purpose. But the fact that he financed the building by selling meal cards--cards that entitled the holder to a break on the cost of breakfast--meant that when he finally opened for business, Walter suffered from a cash flow problem. Even after expanding the menu with items made by Helen at home and delivered in the family car (a 1926 Studebaker) by Baxter, who was 13 and 14 at the time, Walter had trouble breaking even. The waffle business lasted only a year and a half. In November 1933 he and his family moved once again, this time to Glendale.

For an inside look at the Wolf family in the 1930s and 1940s, there is no better source that the reminiscences of Walter, Jr., see:
"A Life-long Love Affair with Aviation"
"A Man and his Wheels"
"To My Sister, Carol from Walt"
"Politics and I"
"The Boy Scout and the Vice-President"
"St. Patrick's Day, 1944"
"War's End/Hiroshima"
"Hiroshima"
"Homeward Bound. Osaka to San Francisco, 1946"
"KEYT-TV, an Adventure in Time"

For Carol Ann's reflections on life with her older sister, Helen (written in honor of Helen's 90th birthday in December 2010), see:
"Memories of Helen Clara Louise Wolf Shanteau"

Needless to say, under these economic circumstances, Walter's children remember their youth as a time of "doing without." The family moved many times (Clara Louise "Helen" remembers 28 moves in 25 years!), living in Arcadia, Monrovia, Highland Park, Hermosa Beach (five different homes in this town alone), and Glendale. The Great Depression only added to the family's economic woes and to the straining of relations between Walter and his children, as he insisted from very early on that they take odd-jobs to help support the family. They remember their father leaving them for extended trips to Denver, where he would stay with his sister, Helen Ernst. According to Helen's son Gene, she and her family by no means condoned Walter's periodic abandonment of his family. Nevertheless they felt obliged to assist him when he turned up on their doorstep, confident that Gertrude Grubbs Keyt75--who had followed her daughter to California--would help keep her daughter's family afloat.76 But the real "angel" as far as the Wolfs were concerned was "Cousin Margaret" from Cincinnati.

"Cousin Margaret's" precise blood tie to the family was not entirely clear to the Wolf children who were the grateful beneficiaries of her generosity. All they were told by their mother Helen was that she was "Otie's daughter," without any of them knowing for sure who "Otie" was. In fact "Cousin Margaret" was Margaret Kent Burchenal (11/9/1887--1/15/1973) of Glendale, Ohio, who married a man named Roger Kemp Rogan (5/15/1877--1/28/1947, b. Chicago), who rose through the ranks to became a vice president of Procter and Gamble. Margaret's parents were John Jackson Burchenal and Leota Blanche Grubbs (b. 9/14/1862 in Richmond, Indiana). "Otie" was no doubt a child's version of "Leota" that ultimately stuck as a nickname. Leota was the youngest of four children of John Warren Grubbs (6/6/1820--3/17/1893) of Cynthiana, Kentucky and Mary-Margaret Ramsey (5/8/1823--2/?/1881) of Washington County, Pennsyvania. John Warren Grubbs was the son of William Gardiner Grubbs (11/27/1786--4/20/1850) of Fayette, Kentucky and his second wife, Rebecca Croake (10/26/1796-1872) of Virginia. They had nine children, the oldest of which was John Warren Grubbs, Leota's father. The fourth oldest was Thomas Marshall Grubbs (9/12/1825--4/27/1864; born in Kentucky), the father of Gertrude Gardner Grubbs (5/29/1860--4/8/1945). Because John Warren Grubbs and Thomas Marshall Grubbs were brothers, Leota ("Otie") Grubbs and Gertrude Grubbs were first cousins, making Helen Cary Keyt and Margaret Kent Burchenal Rogan second cousins. Despite the genealogical distance between Margaret Rogan of Glendale, Ohio and Helen Keyt Wolf, of Glendale, California, "Cousin Margaret" took it upon herself to help her struggling west-coast kin. Being in the habit of wintering in Pasadena at the famous Gamble House, Margaret had regular contact with Helen and her family. In 1939, Margaret gave Helen the money she needed to make a down payment on a house on Roberta Street in Glendale.76a Shortly after that house would be sold to purchase the one at 1064 Newby in which Helen and family would stay for many years, thanks to Margaret's regular help with the mortgage payments. The Wolf children's fondest memories of Cousin Margaret centered around Christmas, when she would send huge boxes of gifts to the family. But Margaret's generosity was not confined to the holiday season. She also regularly provided young Helen with formal dresses for her dances and Carol Ann with dolls and ultimately voice lessons. Carol vividly remembers the time in the late 1940s when Margaret came to pick her up from high school in a limousine, taking her to her singing lesson in style. Margaret even offered to pay for Carol to attend the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, but Carol declined, already engaged to be married at the time (1951). In 1952, Carol went by train to visit Margaret in Ohio. The last time that Carol remembers seeing Margaret was in 1962, when she and her four small children went to visit Margaret at the Gamble House.

Getting back to Walter, it was Baxter, as the oldest, who bore the brunt of his father's absenteeism. A promising artist in high school, Baxter was forced to walk away from a scholarship (1935) at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles so that he could work at a service station for trucks to help support his mother and siblings. Baxter also put in time at the the federally-sponsored WPA gardens not far from their house so as to earn a share of the produce. He also worked for Gladding McBean, putting his ceramics experience to work making flower pots. Ultimately Baxter and his brother Walter Jr.--who both towered over their physically slight father--executed something of a "coup d'état," by insisting that their father--who had returned from Colorado after Helen had secured the house on Newby--share more of the burden of supporting the family. Walter, in turn, insisted that his older children contribute 50 percent of their earnings to the household budget. Angry at the insubordination of his sons, Walter made Helen choose between him or her children. When she (with some reluctance; her relationship with her husband was always a passionate one) chose the children, Walter left the family for good, returning to Denver where he worked in a feed store. That was in September, 1940. His youngest child, Carol Ann, remembers her mother saying that out of Carol's first eight years of life, her father was present for only four of them. Though persona non grata in Glendale, Walter did return to California shortly thereafter, meeting a young woman (roughly Baxter's age) named Hazel, who went by the name of Susan. In order to marry her, Walter had to file for divorce. This was challenged by Helen, who counter-filed on the grounds of desertion and won, but never succeeded in collecting alimony or child support. Walter started his new life in close proximity to--but in almost complete isolation from--his ex-wife and children. At one point shortly after his return, he and Susan actually ran into his former brother-in-law, Tom Keyt, who wasn't even aware that Walter and Helen had divorced! Walter's youngest, Carol Ann, remembers writing her father a letter in late 1940 asking him to come home for Christmas, which he thought best not to do. She also remembers that once in 1942, when she was ten years old, he showed up completely unannounced at her grammar school in order to see her. Years later (c. 1950) Carol's boyfriend, Bob Baldwin, asked to meet her father. Carol remembers her mother being quite upset when informed of this wish, which was never realized. The only one of Walter's children with whom he maintained contact was his youngest son Bob, with whom he seems to have enjoyed a special bond. Reminiscing about his father, Bob remembered him as an avid U.S.C. football fan, who loved to listen to the games on the radio while munching popcorn. Bob recalls fondly going with his father to see some of the games in person at the Rose Bowl. Bob's success as a running back for Hoover High was a source of great pride for his father. For his part, Bob was impressed with his father's command of the English language, despite his lack of formal education, and his uncanny ability to fix and build things. "There was nothing that dad couldn't do and do well. He was a perfectionist." But in the end even Bob's connections with his father were severed when Walter took offense at a donation that Bob made in his name to the Heart Association, for which Bob worked at the time; Walter preferred the kind of gift that came wrapped in a box. Walter managed to maintain better ties with his family in Denver. Gene Ernst, Walter's nephew, kept in touch with his uncle, and remembered Walter and Susan as a reasonably happy couple despite their perennial financial problems. Still, after Gene's last trip to California in 1957, Christmas cards and cookies were the only link between uncle and nephew.

Shortly after Carol Ann's marriage to Bob Baldwin in 1951, Helen Keyt Wolf sold her empty house on Newby and went to visit Cousin Margaret in Cincinnati. During the visit, Margaret received a call from the president of a private girl's boarding school, The Master's School, in Dobb's Ferry, New York. A medical emergency had left him in need of a resident house mother and he sought Margaret's recommendation for a suitable substitute. It just so happened that the perfect person for the job was sitting right there in her living room, and so Helen was off to New York to begin a new chapter in her life. Unfortunately she was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1956 and underwent a colostomy. She recovered enough to continue working but when, in 1958, she reached the mandatory retirement age of 65, she left Dobbs Ferry and returned to California, working for a time at another girl's school, The Bishop School in La Jolla. When her cancer returned, she went to live with her son Bob and his family in Ventura, in a room decorated in purple, her favorite color. She died at the age of 69 on July 25, 1963. Exactly five and a half years later (on January 25, 1969), her ex-husband Walter Wolf died in a convalescent hospital in Arcadia, where he suffered from the final stages of lung cancer.78 His death certificate lists his last place of residence as 9522 Giovane St. in South El Monte and his occupation as a vacuum cleaner salesman, working for the Electrolux Company. He was survived by his widow Hazel and five children who had no knowledge of his death.

The Baxter Keyt Wolf Family

Baxter Keyt Wolf, the eldest son of Walter Richard Wolf, married Ruth Elizabeth Stuart Adams, on April 18, 1941. Ruth is the daughter of William Stuart Adams (6/23/1892--12/3/1930) and Ruth Lillian Owen (7/25/1894--10/18/1974), both of Brooklyn.

[The Stuart and Adams lines]

[The Owen line]

[A Trip Down Memory Lane: Ruth Adams Wolf Reflects on the Glendale Years (1927-1954)]

The ceremony took place at the Church of the Lighted Window in La Caņada. Shortly thereafter, Baxter and Ruth left for their honeymoon on Catalina Island, and then set up their new home in one of the units of a court on Justin Avenue in Glendale, not far from the Wolf family home on Newby. Later they moved to a house on Stocker Street, where they lived when Linda Jean Wolf was born on July 27, 1942, right when the United States was mobilizing for war in Europe and the Pacific. Ruth's pregnancy entitled Baxter to the first of two deferrals when it came to the draft. The second followed from his work at Lockheed building warplanes. While Linda was just a toddler, the couple bought their first home in Roscoe (now called Sun Valley) in the San Fernando Valley, but soon decided that it was not for them. So they bought land in Altadena, near the corner of Foothill (now Altadena Drive) and Glenrose, and Baxter began building his own house, while he and his young family lived with his mother on Newby. Baxter worked on the house in his "spare time," after putting in long hours at Lockheed. Baxter and Ruth's first son, William ("Bill") Baxter Wolf--born three days after the Japanese surrender on August 18, 1945--was six months old when the family moved into their new home. Baxter's plan had been to build a garage first and then use it, in modified form, as a home while he finished the house proper. In the end, the provisional garage-home was deemed sufficient--with one later addition--and no separate house was ever built. Baxter, Ruth, Linda, and Billy, lived there from the beginning of 1946 until August 1954, when the family moved to Santa Barbara. Baxter's uncle, Tom Keyt, had moved there in the late 1940s or early 1950s, making it a natural focus of visits for Baxter and family. Baxter's love of the sea, stemming from the time he spent growing up in Hermosa Beach, and the increasing smog levels in Altadena led him to follow Tom's example and relocate to Santa Barbara. The family rented a house on Grove Lane, in the middle of the lemon orchards just south of Foothill. There, on September 17, 1954--just a month after the move--Ruth gave birth to Richard ("Rick") Baxter Wolf. Less than three years later--on June 1, 1957--came Kenneth ("Ken") Baxter Wolf, the last of the Wolf children. In the spring of 1961, after seven years on Grove Lane, Baxter and family moved to a brand-new house in the "Mesa" area of Santa Barbara. A year later, Baxter decided to take a job in Campbell, California (near San Jose), but it was only a matter of months before he and Ruth decided to move back, occupying the same house on Linda Road.

Though Baxter's work career was nowhere near as checkered as his father Walter's, he was still hampered by his lack of formal education beyond high school. Like his father, he was a natural artist, he could do anything with his hands, and he innately understood how all things mechanical worked. When he married Ruth in 1941, he was working for Vega, a subsidiary of Lockheed in Burbank. Then he worked for Lockheed itself. After the move to Santa Barbara, he worked, among other places, at Smith-Nelson, a machine shop, and Astro Research, a company that supplied parts for the nascent space program. But he was always drawn to the sea. For a time he ran a barge in Santa Barbara harbor and made a living securing and maintaining permanent moorings. His son Bill remembers long hours as a young teen working on the barge. Later Baxter decided to apply his Lockheed-honed talents as a draftsman to boat design. After apprenticing to John Leuschen, a local naval architect with an office at the harbor, Baxter ultimately bought the business and entered into the most fulfilling phase of his work career, as a naval architect and a marine surveyor. His sons Rick and Ken remember spending lots of time down at the harbor, sometimes helping in the office, but mostly fishing with drop lines purchased at Carter's Bait and Tackle or renting rowboats from Otto Fisk. One of the other fringe benefits of Baxter's job was the fresh swordfish that grateful clients would send his way. A master of the backyard barbeque, Baxter's swordfish came to be as legendary as his chicken. Baxter worked at the harbor for a number of years, witnessing first hand the famous oil spill of 1969. But ultimately he could not make a consistent living so he accepted a position as an engineer at Rolair Corporation in nearby Goleta. The family thrived on the regular paychecks.

Baxter was passionate about his interests and he threw himself fully to each of them, one at a time. While Baxter was still living in Altadena, he and Ruth became avid square dancers. At one point they were part of a group of dancers that called themselves the "Buzzin' Boots," with little leather boot-shaped badges pinned to their outfits. Ruth, who knew her way around the sewing machine, made cowboy shirts for Baxter that matched her own western-style dance dresses. Soon Baxter was doing his own calling, carting a phonograph, a microphone, and a wooden file box full of records wherever he went. Young Bill, dressed in a matching, equally home-made outfit and boots would accompany Baxter on his gigs. Baxter also loved boating. The garage on Newby in Glendale witnessed his first boat-building effort. After the move to Santa Barbara, he built or refurbished other small boats--including "Los Lobos" and "Lil Toot"--and borrowed many bigger ones, leading to regular expeditions to the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. He became a member in the United States Power Squadron, an organization dedicated to the promotion of safe boating, and rose to the position of District Commander. Once he no longer worked at the harbor, Baxter followed his two youngest sons into scouting, becoming the scoutmaster of Troop 52. Under his leadership, with Jim Davis as his principal assistant, Troop 52 rose to be the flagship troop of Mission Council, with weekend backpack trips into the mountains behind Santa Barbara and Ojai every month and a 50-mile trek in the Sierras every summer.

[Ruth Elizabeth Stuart Adams Wolf's photo album].

Baxter suffered his first heart attack in November, 1969. True to form, he turned his recovery into his newest "mania." Determined to get back in shape, he began each day with an hour's worth of exercises on the living room floor, ending each session with "push-ups." The first time that he tried, he managed to produce only one. Four years later, on the morning of Saturday, June 16, 1973, he proudly performed more than 90. But later that day, on the trail to Haddock campground (off of Highway 33, north of Ojai), Baxter had a second, this time fatal heart attack. His two youngest sons delivered the news to their mother later that evening, the night before the saddest Father's Day in history. To her great credit, Ruth, age 53 at the time, quickly moved beyond this tragedy, thankful that she still had children at home to care for. She found work right away as a baker in the school cafeteria system. Every school morning for the next 22 years, she reported to work, mostly at La Cumbre Junior High and Santa Barbara High. At age 75 she finally retired, not so much because she was tired of the work but because in the "microwave" age the services of a baker were no longer needed. Since then she has continued to keep the house at 333 Linda Road more or less the way it was when Baxter was alive, though with many more pictures on the walls. Every summer since Baxter died (except one), the greater Wolf family has gathered at Ruth's house to celebrate the Wolf family get-together, a tradition that dates back long before Baxter's death, to the time when his mother Helen was the keystone of the family and liked nothing better than hosting her children and grandchildren at her home in Glendale.



Postscript: New Connections

As a result of Walter Wolf's isolation, few of his many grandchildren ever knew him as anything more than a name. Aside from Bob's children, only Helen's ever met him and even that was by accident: Walter just happened to stop by Bob's house in Santa Barbara when Helen and her family were there for a family reunion. Young Helen's oldest son recalled: "When I was young, I remember going to Uncle Bon's and Aunt Jo's for a reunion. there was a great deal of excitement among the adults because Walter Wolf, Sr. was there (by accident) visiting Bob. It was the only time I ever saw him and it was only briefly as he was leaving. As I recall some in the family wanted him to stay. But others wanted nothing to do with him." Walter's separation from the family also contributed to the relative lack of contact between the Colorado and California branches of the Wolf family. Gene Ernst recalls a trip that he made in 1930 to visit his cousins in Hermosa Beach. In July, 1939, Helen (Clara Louise) Wolf, who was eighteen at the time, visited her Denver kin by train, using the city as a link between Lee Summit, Missouri, where she attended the "Youth of Unity" conference, and San Francisco, which was hosting the 1939 World's Fair. While in Denver, Helen stayed with Alex Ernst (one of her uncle Louis Ernst's brothers) and his wife Betty and got to know her cousins Howard and Gene Ernst and their families. In 1959, Helen Keyt Wolf, visited Alex80 and Betty and attended the wedding of Gene Ernst's daughter Gretchen. Sometime in the late 1970s, Helen (Clara Louise) Wolf Shanteau called Gene's brother Howard from the airport in Denver. At about the same time, Alex and Betty Ernst's daughter Ruth (who lived in Tucson) contacted Helen and came to visit her and her husband Bob in Sun Lakes, Arizona a number of times.

This contact, and the efforts (beginning in 1989) of W. John Wolf 81 (a great grandson of William Wolf) of New Jersey to contact the descendents of Gustav Wolf, opened the door to intermittent bursts of intra-familial correspondence. Two other long-lost family connections were forged via this webpage. Gregory Myers of Missouri provided key information about Eberhard Gustav Wolf, his great-great-great-great grandfather. And most recently Tana Salvaggio of Wisconsin added virtually everything that is recorded here about the Baumgarth family.


Part One: The Wolf Family in Germany: 1740-1853


For more information about this branch of the Wolf family, contact:  Ken Wolf (Gustav's great-great grandson): kwolf@pomona.edu

Path of discovery

Special thanks to: 

  • W. John Wolf, for his work on the descendants of Gustav, William, Mina, and Amalia Wolf.
  • Greg Myers, for his work on the descendants of Eberhard Wolf.
  • Walter Wolf, Jr., Helen Wolf Shanteau, Carol Wolf Marshall, L. Eugene Ernst, and the late Bob Wolf, for their memories of Walter Wolf, Sr., and his family.
  • Karen Shanteau Davis, daughter of Jim Shanteau and granddaughter of Helen Wolf Shanteau, who, gathered information on Gertrude Grubbs and Helen Keyt.
  • Tana Salvaggio, for her work on the Baumgarth line.
  • Friederike von Franque, for her indispensable assistance with the German sources.
  • The former German Genealogical Society of America whose library has recently been added to that of the Southern California Genealogical Society in Burbank, CA.
  • Ancestry.com
  • FamilySearch