Dora Dietz was one tough cookie!

52ancestors-2015Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small gave us a new 52 Ancestors challenge for 2015. Each week, we have a different theme about which to write. It’s quite the challenge, but I love meeting it and reading how everyone interprets each week.


The theme for 52 Ancestors for week 3 is “strong women”. It’s hard for me to pick just one woman in my family … there are many who survived unfathomable experiences. There are women who trekked half-way around the world to begin new lives … sometimes by themselves. 

There are women who lived through natural disaster, wars, disease, the loss of children, the loss of husbands, the loss of nearly everything and still managed to pull themselves back together to keep living. There are women who followed husbands or fathers into unchartered territory and helped build settlements. Many of us … probably all of us … have women like this who dot the leaves on our family trees.

For me, one leaf does sparkle a little brighter, and it belongs to my 3rd great grandmother.

Dorothea (Dora) Sophia Wiedner was but a babe when she arrived in America. She traveled from Germany with her mother and older sister, arriving in New Orleans on June 1, 1846. By 1850, the family was in St. Louis, Missouri.  

When Dora was 21, she married John Jacob Mueller. Together, they had four sons (Jacob Jr is my 2nd great grandfather).

Shortly after the youngest was born in 1873, Jacob caught his leg in a threshing machine and later died from blood poisoning. He was 37 years old. Dora was left with 4 young boys and no means of income.

threshing machine 1873

Sketch of threshing machine from 1872 catalog, Woodbridge Agricultural Works

In that same year, the wife of a man named Frederick Dietz also died.  Although I’m unsure as to the cause, Barbara Dietz, nee Arnold, gave birth just three months prior to her death. Frederick found himself without a wife, and five children were left motherless.

So, here we have a mother with four children and no husband … and a father with five children and no wife.

Tragedy struck the Dietz family again in August of 1873 when baby Catherine was scalded with boiling water, later dying. Then in September, his eldest daughter, Maria, died from Scarlet Fever at age 14.

There was a lot of mourning in 1873, by both families. Dora Mueller and Frederick Dietz needed each other. Seven children needed a whole family.

On May 11, 1974, Dora and Frederick entered into a marriage of convenience.

Fred Dietz Dora Mueller

Courtesy of Ancestry member kwdmr

This happened a lot in my family … and probably yours. Life was too hard to go it alone and, if there was a willing partner, you found yourself another mate. Just imagine it … the love of your life is gone. You’re left with mouths to feed and possibly no way to feed them. Even marrying a friend would cause additional stress … and you still have to be a “proper” wife or husband.  

While it may not have been uncommon to marry someone for convenience in the 19th century, it would still take a strong woman to make it all work and keep moving forward after such a loss. You do what you have to, especially when there are children involved. When it was all said and done, Frederick and Dora Dietz had seven more children … his, hers, and theirs. They were in it together. They made it work. In the end, they each found a new love.



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