Latest edit: Aug 2014
Born 09 Oct 1810 in Herdorf, Prussia, Maria Margaretha Wickel was the fourth of eleven children born to Joannes and Maria Catharina (Klein) Wickel. Maria’s siblings were Christine, Anna Maria, Joannes Jacobus, Charlotta, Clara Elisabetha, Anna Katharina, Wilhelmina, Carolus Johannes Josephus, Wilhelmus, and finally Petrus born over a twenty-five year period.
Note: Click on any image to enlarge
Maria Margaretha (Mary) Wickel married Peter Wisser on February 28, 1838 at St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Herdorf.
A reference to the census of 1860 shows Mary and her daughters Pauline (listed inexplicably as Caroline) and Elizabeth still living in South Whitehall Township, eight years after the death of her husband, Peter.
The census of 1870 shows Mary living in Allentown with her *daughter, Sarah. (See the page on Sarah for a discussion about 1870 being the first record we can find of her, at the age of sixteen).
According to “History of Lehigh County” (HOLC), Peter Wisser “married Mary Wickel, who died about 1892, aged 82 years. She is buried in the Catholic cemetery in Allentown”.
Mary’s obituary appears in the May 6, 1891 edition of the Allentown Democrat. Obituaries of the day were brief. It reads: “On the 1st inst.*, in this city, Maria M. Wisser, aged 80 years, 6 months and 23 days.”
* “inst.”, abbreviation for “instante mense“, meaning a date of the current month, such as “the 5th inst.” (Wikipedia)
We have walked the two oldest Catholic cemeteries in Allentown, both Sacred Heart Cemetery (back then often referred to as the German catholic cemetery) on Fullerton Ave. and the cemetery at Immaculate Conception on Ridge Ave. (often referred to as the English Catholic cemetery), and could not find a marked grave, though many of the stones have been rendered unreadable with age. There is also no record of Mary’s death in the records of either church. There is however plenty of documentation of Mary (Maria, Margaretha) in the form of census records, passenger lists, baptism records, and Allentown city directories.
Though we can only speculate what the lives of our ancestors were like, we do know that Mary endured her share of challenges and hardship. Certainly crossing the Atlantic three times on a wooden sailing vessel of the period was a challenge (especially with children in tow). Adapting to foreign cultures in Mexico and the U. S. while raising a family would present obstacles we can only imagine. But these challenges were nothing compared with what Mary would experience in Guth’s Station beginning in 1852. In August of that year, the Wissers lost their infant son Charles. And just one month later, Peter was killed in a mining accident . Mary must have been stunned. Just four years after reaching the U. S., both her husband and youngest child were dead. For a woman with four surviving children, this must have been almost too much to bear. But fate had not finished with Mary. The tragedy that marked her life in Guth’s Station would be punctuated by the death of her 5-year-old daughter Lovina in 1854. The grief and despair Mary must have experienced mighthave been almost crippling.
Yet the federal census of 1860, lists Mary (Maria) as still residing in South Whitehall township, where Guth’s Station is located, along with Pauline (Caroline) and Elizabeth. By 1864, Mary had relocated to the nearby city of Allentown.
The earliest Allentown directory we have been able to examine (1864-1865), lists Fassio (Bonifacius) and Maria, widow of Peter, occupying the same house on Front Street.
The 1869-1870 directory lists Maria, widow of Peter, as residing and operating a grocery on Ridge Avenue, several blocks from her parish church of Immaculate Conception. The census of 1880 ( Though it is very difficult to read) lists Mary residing in the 1st ward and sharing the place with a school teacher named Kate McClain, which may be the same building.
*Click on the image to enlarge.
Above: Ledger entry for the funeral/burial of Charles, infant son of Peter and Margaretha Wisser at Goshenhoppen.
Above: Ledger entry for the funeral/burial of Lovina, aged 5, daughter of (John) Peter and (Maria) Margaretha Wisser at Goshenhoppen.
Above: The house at 317 Ridge Ave where Mary lived and, for a time, operated a grocery store. The area of Allentown where Maria lived is known as the 1st ward. There is a zoom feature at the bottom of screen. If you do not see it, move the cursor below the screen.