By Marilyn Welch
The Mascoutah City Cemetery was filled with well over one hundred people who came together to spend a Sunday afternoon of “Chamber of Commerce weather” to learn about and honor seven early Mascoutans. Those “pioneers” who were committed to making our town succeed and thrive, shared both their public and very intimate stories about their life in our fledgling town.
The opening ceremony led by last year’s honorees, Moses Land (Aaron Lands), Pastor Siegmund Spiess (Hugh Fitz), Jacob Espenschied (Douglas Clark), and Fred Schnebelin (Andrew Renth) preceded the historic walk. Seven patriotically vested docents each led a group of visitors to meet, in rotation, each individual at his gravesite and to hear each heartfelt story. Antique props related to each presenter, his profession, or his personal life were stationed at each site.
Carl Nepomac Bocquet (Joe Zinck) shared his personal story and that of his building of Mascoutah’s first brewery. Carl wished he had a sample of his brew to share with the people there on Sunday and would propose a toast to all who have and are striving to make our town a better place, however, if some had remained, it would have aged now for 167 years, and he couldn’t verify how it would taste.
Pauline Dermuehl Teichmann (Cathy Teater) told intimate details of her life as the daughter of the Duke of Wurttemberg, her rejection by the Royal Family because of her illegitimate birth, and her life in Mascoutah. She shared letters to her written by the Duke and was wearing a jeweled brooch given to Pauline by her father.
Ernst Friedrich Hagist (Bill Milliken) related the story of his family and the development of his business and his house of business into a large department store, whose building still serves our town. He shared intimate glimpses of the private residential area on the upper floor, where family members lived.
Carl Montag (Greg Hoskins) reviewed the life of the Mascoutah Herald which he founded in 1885. He also told “out-of-school” stories about his own personal life in relation to his ambition and drive in the printing business. His constant energy and fervor in his newspaper business, as well as the community, was evident in his spirit-charged presentation.
Judge Henry J. Decker (Larry Wesselman) told his life story and his place in a lot of areas in the life of our town. He owned the three-story Mascoutah House hotel across the street from the City Hall, a blacksmith shop, a carriage house and livery stable (which still stands today). In addition he was active in city and county politics.
Adam Riess (Rob Welch) told about his trip across the Atlantic when he immigrated as a boy of 15. He came to Mechanicsburg which then had three buildings and a population of 11! He told of their adaptations to the new life, their strength of determination to succeed, their strong allegiance to their new country, and their family’s happy-ending story!
Before and after the walk, visitors enjoyed chatting with new and old friends, eating food from the lunch stands, listening to an accordionist playing old familiar tunes, researching gravesites of relatives and friends and learning and sharing stories of Mascoutah.
Monies collected from ticket sales, food purchases, and donations will be used for repair or replacement of early headstones in the cemetery.