Ella Anna Helene Wellhausen was my paternal grandmother, born on November 15, 1896 in Detroit, MI to George Wellhausen and Emilie Schluessler. She was their second daughter and a son followed 10 years later. While the family had originally lived in Sterling Township in Macomb County, Michigan where their first child was born, they had moved temporarily to Detroit to live with Emilie's sister and that is where my grandmother was born.
Interestingly, I don't know if my grandmother was even aware of being born in Detroit as she always swore to me that she was born in Sterling Township and was baptized at St. John's Lutheran Church in Fraser. She sent me on a good number of wild goose chases when I began my genealogy. Quite by accident, while researching my Feucht family and THEIR connection with Trinity Lutheran Church in Detroit, I came upon the baptismal record of my grandmother showing she was indeed born in Detroit and baptized there as well. When I informed her of this she said she was never aware of it. She also told me that she could remember her mother speaking of the brief time the family had lived in Detroit with her mother's sister but she didn't realize that she was actually born there as well.
As young girls, Ella and her sister, Gertrude, took part in a dancing competition and were named the "Dancing Darlings of Macomb County". They certainly did look darling and their sisterly relationship lasted for Gertrude's entire life with Ella assuming caregiver duties when sister, Gertrude's, health declined.
Ella did grow up in Sterling Township with her older sister and younger brother. She attended St. John's Lutheran Church where she was confirmed but I have no idea where she actually went to school. Nor do I know how she met my grandfather, Elmer Schulte, when he was born and grew up in Detroit. I am guessing that it was through her Aunt Lena Herz in Detroit whose sons were friends of Elmer but I don't know that for certain.
Ella and Elmer were married on Christmas Eve, 1917 in Waco, TX before my grandfather shipped out to the War in Europe.
During Elmer's time overseas, Ella lived with her father-in-law, Rudolph Schulte, and his wife, Elizabeth. Funny to see my grandmother doing some type of needlework, whether crocheting or knitting, as I never knew her to do any sewing of any type.
When Elmer returned, several years later, they began their family life in Detroit. Together they had three children - sons, Melbourne and Mylen (my father) and daughter, Marilyn. Their life was rather affluent. Both my grandparents inherited money from their parents and my grandmother never had to work outside her home.
Ella raised her children, belonged to several clubs and activities with other women friends and socialized with family frequently. She and Elmer had several very nice homes in various areas of Detroit
and in their later years they built a home on Springer Avenue in what was East Detroit, MI (now Eastpointe). When Ella's sister, Gertrude, needed assistance due to failing health, Ella and Elmer moved back to Detroit to Gertrude's home on Engleside Drive. While living there, my grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on December 24, 1967.
They were living there when my grandfather passed away on January 21, 1968. Following his death, my grandmother continued to care for her sister until Gertrude had to be placed in a nursing home. At this time, as well, my grandmother rekindled a childhood relationship with a man who had also lost his wife. Within a few years of my grandfather's death, my grandmother married Robert Bloss who she had known when they were both 5 year old children. Their marriage was short lived as Robert was not in the best of health and he passed away soon after their marriage.
Ella continued her independent life in several apartments after the death of Robert. She maintained her own home, did her own cooking and cleaning and continued her activities with family and friends. She lived independently until the age of 90 when her fading memory forced her to enter a nursing home as well. On December 28, 1989, at the age of 93, my grandmother passed away and is buried, with my grandfather, in Gethsemane Cemetery in Detroit. Both her sister, Gertrude, and her much younger brother, George, had predeceased her.
I was fortunate enough to have known all 4 of my grandparents. My grandmother, Ella Schulte, I knew the best as I grew up in East Detroit and she and my grandfather lived there as well. While she was a good Christian person she was not what I would characterize as a loving grandmother. I really think that children annoyed her. She didn't like having children in her home and she complained royally about crumbs or disarray. My grandfather, on the other hand, was a wonderful loving grandfather. Memories of my grandmother are many but they are memories more of a gruff, unsmiling person who my grandfather tried at all times to soften up. I can remember the times he would grab her in a hug and kiss her only to have her gruffly push him away. It was something he never minded and his humor and good nature lasted his whole life. My grandmother's aloof, gruff ways continued through her entire life as well.
The one thing that she did do for me, though, was to initiate my love for genealogy. I can remember in 1977 that she showed me an onyx ring with a small diamond in the center. She told me that she had worn a diamond necklace on her wedding day in 1917 and that necklace had 3 diamonds in it. Over the years the necklace broke and she had the 3 stones set in 3 different black onyx rings. She actually gave me the ring and it started me questioning her about her ancestry, her parents, grandparents, etc. Once I began that, I was off and running on my research. I was fortunate that she remembered not only her parents but her grandparents and great grandparents as well and her memory was sharp. She did share much information with me over the years, though she tempered it with quite a bit of false information, that had me running down false leads. Her comments at those times were "you don't need to know the truth, just let sleeping dogs lie". Luckily I was able to discern the truth from the fiction and when confronted with my facts she would confirm my data. I do have to give her the credit for my love of genealogy and she did give me all my grandfather's war medals as well as the medals of my great-grandfather, funeral home guest books, photos and cemetery burial records. Initially she indicated to me that she was saving all these items for one of her grandsons, but as none of the three of them had any interest, she did finally allow me to take possession of the memorabilia and I am very grateful for that.
When all is said and done, while she was not a loving, affectionate grandmother, she was a good person and she led a very good life wanting for nothing. Her health was good, she had no undue financial problems and she was able to build a life that suited her.
Above photos from personal collection of Cheryl Schulte
Paul Koenig on the S.S. Veendam
10 years ago