By Debra Ayers Mertz
The Mertz journey to Chesterfield, Missouri began in April of 1697 with the birth of Hans Heinrich Mertz in Bern County Switzerland. Hans’s eventual marriage to Catharina Pfnner produced six children, but it was the second marriage to Ursula Weiss of Alsace County France that began the line of children that would eventually lead to the birth of Gottfried Mertz in 1816. Hans’s great-grandson took his German wife Magdalene Standt and four children to America in November of 1846.
Excerpt from Gottfried Mertz’s diary
Gottfried’s trip to America was not without hardship. His ship left Le Harve, France in the autumn of 1846. Sixty-two days later the family finally landed in New Orleans on 2 January 1847. Gottfried and family made their way up the iced over Mississippi River only to get stranded at Kaskaskia. It was there that Gottfried would bury the first of his children. Finally on 10 February 1847, Gottfried made it to his brother Phillipp’s home in St. Louis. Unfortunately, during one of the cholera epidemics in 1847, Gottfried would lose his wife and two more children.
Gottfried would eventually marry Christina Klostermann in 1850. To this union four more children were born. He would lose Christina during childbirth in 1856. God’s blessings finally descended on Gottfried with his third and final marriage to one Rosine Matthes. Seven children would be born to the couple. These surviving children of Christina and Rosine (the surviving son of the first marriage died at age 20 in 1859) would marry into the families of other German immigrants – Hoffman, Mueller, Hoethne, Joezkle, Schroeder, Eifert and Wiehage families.
It is these families and their descendants that have populated Creve Coeur, Des Peres, Town and Country and Chesterfield. Many of the birth records for these early descendants of Gottfried are found at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Des Peres. Gottfried and three of his brothers are buried at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and another at Trinity Lutheran Church in Town and Country. Gottfried also had numerous cousins who made the journey from Alsace-Lorraine to the West St. Louis County area during that same time period.
Western St. Louis County’s landscape has changed in the 150 years since the arrival of the Mertz’s in America. However, their legacy continues today. Ernest William Mertz (grandson of Christina and Gottfried) and his wife Hilda Wiehage inherited her father’s farm located roughly at present day 141/Clayton Roads. Prior to his death, Hilda’s father Fred sold and donated part of his farm to Trinity Lutheran Church when it needed a place to build at the turn of the 20th century. Trinity Lutheran is still in the same location one hundred years later, although the cities have changed from Chesterfield to Town and Country.
As progress marched onwards in West County, many of the buildings that these German immigrants and the other settlers built were torn down or destroyed. However, a few of the buildings have been preserved for future generations to enjoy and see a bit of their heritage. In 1988, Marcella Mertz, wife of Marvin Mertz and daughter-in-law of Ernest William Mertz, was able to arrange for a smokehouse from the Mertz/Wiehage Farm to be permanently located in Faust Park’s Historic Village. The smokehouse sits next to the Mertz log cabin that was originally built by one of Gottfried’s immigrant cousins.
Just about anywhere you turn in West St. Louis County; undoubtedly you will encounter one of the Mertz descendants. Marcella Anna Mettz died on 4 September 2016.
Mertz Log Cabin
Mertz Log Cabin in Faust Park Historic Village, taken by Dan Rothwell, Dec. 1997.Taken from A Guide to Chesterfield’s Architectural Treasures by Dan. A Rothwell, 1998.