Our first mystery at the museum came to us literally from the floor above. When our volunteers took down part of the tin ceiling during the remodel on the second floor courtroom, these checks came tumbling down. They were from the Bank of Von Gassy and are dated from the 1880s. Here is the rest of the story on Francis A. Von Gassy.
Here is information from the 1883 History of Effingham County. "Francis A. Von Gassy, banker, Effingham, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, October 4, 1833, son of Alexander N. Von Gassy, also a native of Russia. Our subject received his education in the University of Berlin, Prussia, which he left when 21 years of age, and afterward traveled extensively in Europe and Asia, making a tour through Italy, Greece and Turkey for observation. He came to the United States in 1856, and was married, January 10, 1865, to Lucy I. Catterlin, a native of Frankfort, Indiana. In 1860, our subject joined the Army, and was in the Western Division under General Grant. He was mustered out in 1865, and received a civil appointment in the War Department. He came to Effingham in 1869, and established a grocery store. In 1876, he established the Effingham Bank, of which he is the sole proprietor, and which has since been conducted with good success, and in which business he is at present engaged."
I decided to start looking through old records and see what I could find about Mr. Von Gassy. Apparently things took a turn for the worse for the people who banked at the Bank of Von Gassy. In 1884, I find him being sued by many prominent people in Effingham. It stated that he absconded with their money and was never seen again.
That's when I decided to see what else I could find about Francis A. Von Gassy. I found that his wife divorced him and moved back to Indiana. I then decided to check the Civil War Pensions and that's how I found him. He resurfaced in California going under the name Frederick W. Newman (alias Francis Von Gassy) when he applied for his Civil War pension. He died on Sept. 26, 1899. and his Civil War pension was then issued to his second wife Fronia L. Lauener (remarried) as late as 1930. Fronia Lauener was born in 1853 and died in 1933. She is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Colma, San Mateo County, California. I assume that he is buried in California also but I couldn't find a record of his grave. Those checks gave us an interesting tale after they fell from the floor above but at least we solved the mystery.
The second mystery at the museum came from a Memorial Board we received. The person we received it from didn't know any history on it. I started searching for the names listed on the 1900 and 1910 Census and at Find-A-Grave. I discovered that these men had all owned businesses in Effingham or worked at prominent businesses here. They were very active in trying to secure new businesses to settle in Effingham.
In the 1903 "Fiftieth Anniversary Souvenir of Effingham, Illinois" it stated this, "The Commercial Club, the organization which has done so much to secure the city's industries and to build up Effingham, was organized Sept. 7, 1896. At this first meeting to organize the club, Chas. W. Smith, now a passenger conductor on the Vandalia Line, was chosen chairman, and D.L. Wright, Secretary." "The Effingham Tank Works and the American Milk Condensing Company were secured by this club and are monuments to its memory. The club is always on the lookout for something good and no legitimate industry is allowed to pass by."
I'm still working on locating all of the names listed. When I have it completed, a copy of it will be located next to this memorial board. The names start with those who died in 1915. In the last column, one of the names shown Dr. F.L. Barthelme, was a doctor who moved here from Olney and practiced here. He died in 1946. As near as I can figure out, the last names listed died in the late 1940s. This mystery is partially solved but I will keep at it and find out as much as I can. If any of you can help me, that would be great. This memorial board really reminds me why people should be listed by their full names instead of initials.
The final mystery is that of a wedding gown. This gown is from the 1940s and was found in the attic of a house in Sigel. I hope that many of you will look at the pictures and see if you can figure out the owner of this beautiful gown. It is a heavy satin with lots of buttons up the back and on the sleeves. At the neckline, it has a sheer material with a design on it. There is beautiful ruching at the waist. It may have ties to the Deters family or the Fruchtl family. Dig out those old pictures and see if you can find a match. This mystery is unsolved. Can you help us solve this mystery?
An important event coming up at the museum is our Ladies Tea. This year it is scheduled for July 14 from 2 to 4 p.m. Tickets will be available at Burkland's Florist and Gifts or you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to check on availability. We will be featuring fashions from the 1940s through the 1970s, along with a presentation by Linda Ruholl. We hope to see you there.