Milwaukee County Almshouse And Poor Farm Obituaries




Source: The Milwaukee Sentinel Sept 25, 1918

Wolfgang Aschenbrenner Is Shot Down as a Result of Resisting Arrest


Sergt. Arthur Leeman Who Fired Shot Gives This Explanation of Affair

The body of the man who was shot to death by Police Sergeant Arthur Leeman when he is said to have resisted arrest at Brady street and Warren avenue early Tuesday morning, was identified as that of Wolfgang Aschenbrenner, 32 years old, Menasha, a former attendant at the Milwaukee sanitarium at Wauwatosa.

Identification was established by Charles Vannu, 285 Thirty-fifth street, who was employed at the sanitarium with Aschenbrenner.

Aschenbrenner was employed at the Wauwatosa institution, according to records from Aug. 5. 1912, until April 28, 1913. He also had been employed as an attendant at Dr. Capies' Waukesha Springs sanitarium, from Aug. 15, 1914 until April 24, 1915.

Chief of Police John Schubert of Menasha, said Aschenbrenner was the son of Mrs. Frank Pankratz, 143 Kaukauna street, Menasha.


According to the police, Sergeants Leeman and Harry Quinn stopped Aschenbrenner at Brady street and Farwell avenue, at 5:45 o'clock Tuesday morning. Unable to give a satisfactory account of himself, he was placed under arrest.

While Sergeant Quinn was telephoning for the patrol wagon the man is alleged to have struck at Sergeant Leeman. He succeeded in releasing himself and darted down Brady street with the officer in pursuit.

When he was ordered to stop and failed to do so, Sergeant Leeman shot into the air. A second shot hit Aschenbrenner in the right leg. He kept on running.


As he turned down Warren avenue Sergent Leeman fired again, the bullet entering the man's back, piercing his heart.

The officer said in explanation of the shooting the he believed the man to be one of the Kruegers, who are wanted at Owen, Wis., for evading the draft and resisting arrest.

The date of the inquest will be set by Coroner Frank Luehring on Wednesday.

Aschenbrenner, who arrived in Milwaukee on Sept. 18, registered at the Wells hotel 509 Wells street, as William Ashburn, Waukesha, Wis.




Source: The Milwaukee Journal Aug. 16, 1919

Unless some relative is heard from, John Cameron, 40, the "mystery man," will be buried in Potters' field.

A brother living in Toronto has been reached, but no order as to the disposition of the remains had been received Saturday morning.

Cameron died at the county hospital Friday, where he had been removed from the county jail at Port Washington. He was found half starved on the beach a few miles north of the county line. He was unable to say where he came from, except that he started from Milwaukee to look for work.




Source: The Milwaukee Sentinel - Apr 24, 1912

Father Too Poor to Save Child From Potters' Field.

In response to a message received on Tuesday from James Kitson, New Britain, Conn., the body of Mrs. James Carpenter, who shot herself on Sunday, will be buried in Milwaukee. Kitson, who is the father of the young woman, notified Coroner Nahin that he would be unable to bear the expense of having the body shipped to her former home and asks the authorities to take charge of her remains.




Source: The Milwaukee Journal - Oct. 27, 1914

County Charge Fifteen Years Passes Away

Mrs. Lizzie Herman, 60, Brooded Over Possibility of Her Being Buried in Potters' Field-No Clew to Relatives

Fifteen years an inmate of county poor farm, apparently forgotten by relatives and friends, and without a visitor within the memory of the oldest attache of the institution, Mrs. Lizzie Herman, 60, a cripple, died, Sunday night, of paralysis and injuries suffered in fall, Oct. 15.

She probably will be buried in the potters' field as county employes have been unable to find friends or relatives and there are no funds to pay for a burial elsewhere. For years the woman had lived in the fear that she would be buried a pauper, seemingly unmindful of the fact that living she has been a county charge. To officials of the institution she seldom, if ever, mentioned it. To other inmates she confided her fears and hopes.

"Savings" Prove Worthless

To prevent a county buriall she began years ago, to "save" odds and ends that came into her possession. Seldom, if ever, she got hold of any money, but when the effects were searched in an effort to find a clew to friends or relatives, an odd collection of articles that she hoped to sell were found. The articles were worthless.

Of late years the woman became morose and refused to talk much even to the inmates of the poor farm. Each day she would sit alone in one corner of the room brooding. She was walking across her room, Oct. 15, when se fell to the floor and fractured her collar bone.

No Clew to Relatives

When the dusty records at the institutino were searched it was learned that Mrs. Herman was committed to the institution when 45, and she was divorced. Her home at that time was in South Milwaukee. No record of any children was found. Two sisters lived in Milwaukee at the time she was sent to the institution. The authories have been unable to find them.

The law requires that the body be held forty-eight hours after death. The time has expired, but it will be held an additional day in the hope that someone will claim it.




Source: The Milwaukee Sentinel July 8, 1913

Man Hit by Train Still Remains Unidentified

After a search covering ten days, Coroner Luehring has been unable to find relatives of A.W. Meyers, whose body has been at the morgue since June 26, and the body of the young man was buried on Monday in the potter's field.

Meyers death was peculiar. He was brushed from the Milwaukee railway track near Second street by a passing train and taken to the Emergency hospital. No marks were found on his body and physicians left him for a moment to care for several victims of heat prostration. When they returned to the cot that Meyers had occupied the man had disappeared.

Two hours later Patrolman Thomas Murphy found Meyers in Fourth ward park, apparently seriously ill. The man was removed to Emergency hospital where he died fifteen minutes later.

Nothing regarding the man save his name could be learned. At the place where he boarded-1271 Clybourn street-even his business was not known. He was well dressed and apparently 26 years old.



Clear Up Mystery of Boxcar Suicide; Young Man Rich

Source: The Milwaukee Sentinel - May 23, 1913

The body of Michael Crawford Miller of Pittsburg, Pa., who committed suicide in a boxcar on the Milwaukee road, Fowler street yards, on May 10, was buried in the Potter's field Friday morning by coroner's deputies.

In Pittsburg a large estate, left him by a grandmother, is awaiting settlement. His relatives, with the exception of a brother-in-law, whom Miller has never known, are not aware of the man's death.

Whereas Miller lies in the Potter's field with only a wooden slab to mark his place of burial, his sister, Sylvia, who has been searching for him for four years, believes her brother is employed in Wisconsin and is well and happy.

That the man who was found with a bullet hole in his right temple in a boxcar is Michael Miller was learned from a communication received by Coroner Luehring on Tuesday. It was the man's brother-in-law, Edwin W. Bielstein, 645 California avenue, Avalon, suburb of Pittsburg.

When Miller committed suicide by shooting himself in the head, coroner's deputies found a slip of paper in his coat pocket on which was written, "Joseph Miller, 259 Cambria avenue, Pittsburg." Believing this was the man's name, Coroner Leuhring wrote the Pittsburg police.

The boy's picture, with an account of the suicide, was seen by Bielstein in a Pittsburg paper.

According to Bielstein, Miller who has been missing since October, 1907, is a joint heir with Bielstein's wife, Miller's sister, to an immense fortune willed them by their grandmother, who recently died.

Sylvia Miller Bielstein has been trying unsuccessfully since her brother's disappearance to find some trace of his whereabouts. They last heard from him from a Wisconsin town, and according to Bielstein, they have every reason to believe Miller was living in Milwaukee. The picture of the man forwarded to Milwaukee morgue officials tallies to a detail with the general appearance of Miller.

The name "Joseph Miller," was found in the young man's clothes, is accounted for by Bielstein, who wrote this was the name of the boy's father, a master mechanic in an enameling works.

Miller's sister Sylvia, still believes her brother is alive and will some time return to Pittsburg to claim half of the fortune, whiich by his death, will now be hers.




Source: The Milwaukee Sentinel Dec. 8, 1918

Mrs. Casimir Nickel Leaves FArm Home to Earn Food for Family.


Sad Plight of Survivors Is Told In Letter to Coroner.

A story of a battle against starvation on a little homestead near Mosinee, Wis., after the season's crops had failed, is told in a tear stained letter received by Coroner Frank Luehring from Casimir Nickel, whose wife, and mother of his two children lies cold in death on a slab in the county morgue, awaiting a pauper's burial in Potter's field.

When the season's crops failed because of the worn out condition of the land and seeing the need of her husband remaining on the little farm, Mrs. Nickel, who was 23 years old volunteered to come to Milwaukee and seek work in a factory in order to keep the pangs of hunger from her children, Evelyn, 1 year old and Marie 3 years old.

Undergoes Touching Ordeal

Bearing bravely the ordeal which she was to undergo in breaking the home times, Mrs. Nickel confided in her children that she was going to see Santa Clause about their Christmas presents.

With her eyes filled with tears and almost heartbroken, Mrs. Nickel kissed the babies good-by as she boarded a train for Milwaukee. As the train approached the city Mrs. Nickel, who was a frail woman, was taken ill and removed to Radium hospital for treatment. At the hospital pneumonia developed and after several nights of delirium, during which time she constantly called for her babies, she died.

The body was removed to the morgue and identification established by appers found in her purse.

Heartbroken and Penniless

The contents of the letter received by the coroner from Mr. Nickles in response to his inquiry as to the dispostion of the body follows in part:

"I am heartbroken and penniless. Please bury her the best you can and may the Lord repay you. I don''t now what to tell the children, who are constantly crying for their mother."

Here the tear stained letter ends abruptly as if the grief stricken husband was unable to continue.

Deputy Coroner Henry Gundmann when interviewed about the case, states that an attempt will be made to raise sufficient money to save the woman from a pauper's grave.



Source: The Milwaukee Journal , Mar 9, 1929

Man Identified by Mother's Will

A man killed by an automobile last May remained unidentified despite the efforts of the coroner's office to find relatives and as a result was buried in potter's field.

Friday he was identified and it was revealed that he was heir to a sum of money left him by his mother a month ago. His mother died not knowing that her son, from whom she had not heard for a long time, had been killed.

The son was Joe Roemer, who lived at 314 Juneau av. He formerly worked for Robert L. Reisinger & Co. When his mother died an uncle got in touch with the company and an investigation started. W.P. Reisinger made the identification Friday from a picture of Roemer kept at the coroner's office.

It is expected that the body will be remvoed from potters' field and interred in a cemetery.



Man is Identified by a Post-Mortem Photo Taken Here

Source: The Milwaukee Journal - Feb. 27, 1936

Through a photograph taken after death, a man who died here on July 15 has been identified as John Sell 78, of New Holstein, Wis.

Sell had been found unconscious, suffering from a stroke, at N. Seventh st., and W. Juneau av. on July 1. Taken to the county emergency hospital, he died without regaining consciousness.

Sell's relatives, alarmed at his absence, had forwarded a description of Sell to WTMJ, the Milwaukee Journal station, and also to the police.

The description of Sell tallied with that of the report on file in the coroner's office and a photograph of the dead man was sent to New Holstein, where relatives identified it.

The body of Sell, who was buried in potter's field, will be removed to a New Holstein cemetery.



Brother Claims Body of Drowned Newsboy

The Milwaukee Sentinel - Oct. 10, 1930

The body of Joseph Storm, one armed newsboy of Waterford, Wis., will no longer repose in potter's field, where it was interred last July after a month's inquiry failed to locate relatives.

Taken from its grave at the request of a brother, Henry Storm, 715 Walker street, the body was identified Thursday by the brother, who arranged for reburial in the Waterford cemetery.

The one armed man drowned in the Milwaukee river, and his body was identified by Clarence Whittemore as a George Dahlman. It was buried under that name.



Ex-Wife Identifies Man Found in Lake

Source: The Milwaukee Sentinel Mar 23, 1930

The body of a man found in the lake of North point a week ago unidentified at the county morgue all week and buried in Potter's field on Friday, was identified Saturday by his divorced wife.

The clothing held at the county morgue proved he was Ray J. True, 37, a West Milwaukee shops employee, according to Mrs. True, 146 Fifty-third street. They had been separated a year, she said.

Efforts to identify the man had been made all week. His description was broadcast and Friday night the former wife heard this over the radio. She decided to investigate and told the coroner laundry marks and other characteristics of the clothing enabled her to identify True.



Source: The Milwaukee Journal - Sep 23, 1913

The body of the unidentified man who was killed by a Milwaukee road train at the Oklahoma av crossing Friday was buried in the potter's field. The body was badly mutilated, and there was nothing found in the clothing that would lead to identification. The man was about 45, and was apparently a laborer.



Source: The Milwaukee Sentinel - April 24, 1981

From the Sentinel Files
April 24, 1871
Milwaukee- A stranger at the police station committed suicide by batting his head against the brick wall of the northeast corner of the range of cells. His remains will be held until tomorrow, when they will be interred in the Potter's Field beside those of Mrs. Murty Carroll and Slutke, the suicide victims buried from the station two weeks ago.



Source: The Milwaukee Sentinel - May 3, 1954

From the Sentinel Files
May 3, 1904
Milwaukee - Five human skeletons were unearthed by workmen excavating for a cellar of a new home to be reected at 281 13th Street. Among the skeletons was an old police badge. The skeletons were reinterred at the County Poor Farm.

(Note: A Lutheran church had been in that block in the village days of Milwaukee. The church, abandoned in the 1850s, possibly had a small cemetery.)



Believed Dead by Mother, Son Returns to Her

Source: The Milwaukee Journal Jan. 10, 1931

Herley Durham, 38, returned to his home in Humbird, Wis., Friday after being missing for nine years. His mother, Mrs. George Durham, was positive that her son had been buried in Milwaukee six years ago.

On Jan. 17, 1925, an unconscious man was found in a gulley at State and Forty-seventh sts.,, Milwaukee, with both feet and hands frozen and a bullet wound in the right temple. He died next day and was buried in potters field as an unidentified suicide.

Four weeks later Coroner Henry Grundman received a letter from Mrs. George Durham, inquiring about the body of the man, saying that she had learned of the finding of the body from a story in the Journal and was convinced that the body was that of her son Herly, a war veteran, who hadn't been home since 1921. For six weeks Mrs. Durham continued to write and was never convinced that the Milwaukee body was not that of her son, despite the statement of Coroner Grundman that he believed the two were not the same.

Mrs. Durham had long believed her son lost and Friday he walked in. His father died two years ago and now the son has a claim to a share in his father's estate.



Source: The Milwaukee Journal - Aug 4, 1918


Even the mantle of dignity that death spreads over his victims was too small to cover the 658 pounds of coporeality which has been Mrs. Gertrude West.

Gertrude West was the "fat lady" of the carnival company which showed on the South side a week ago. Her husband, Paul West, is a "barker" outside the show. Her great weight made a snug home, where she could stay unmolested and inactive, seem a haven of refuge, but fate ordained that she should trundle her 658 pounds wearily about the world, gypsy-like, gaining her living by letting unsympathetic stranger pay for the privilege of marveling at her immensity, commenting upon her ungainliness and merrily laughing at her grotesque appearance. Little they dreamed how they wounded her sensitive and much-bruised heart.

Nothing of Grandeur

Then came her death Tuesday night. Nothing of grandeur or poetry attached to it. It too, was the subject of trifling remarks when the newspapers announced the next day that a giantess had succumbed to a mosquito bite.

She was taken to the morgue on Wednesday. Then her husband was reached and a private funeral arranged. The body was removed to a South side undertaking establishment and an enormous coffin made. But after it had appeared that she would be spared the ignominy of a grave in potter's field, a dispute arose over funeral expenses. While the debate was in progress and the husband was trying to borrow money from others to pay for the interment, a noisy crowd outside clamored for admittance to see the dead woman. The surroundings were not conducive to the quiet, peaceful grandeur which should mark the farewell scenes of mortals about to descend to the last lowly resting place, to return to the dust from whence they sprang.

No Money for Burial

Failing to raise a sufficient sum to pay for the cost of burial, the body was again removed to the morgue. Even the statutes worked against the qiet which is due to the dead, for under the state laws a body must be removed from the morgue for burial after a certain number of hours have leapsed. The time expired Saturday. Gertrude WEst went to her grave in potter's field in a casket provided by the county. The big black box at the undertakers will wait a long time before another body large enough to fill it is found.



Source: The Milwaukee Sentinel, Feb 27,

Potter's Field Though Renamed Still is Shadowed With Pathos

The "hearse," a 15 year old bright blue panel truck, pulled to the curb and two workmen lifted out a pine box.

They carried it to the grave and lowered it into the ground.

An 18 inch cedar post with a stainless steel marker at one end was driven into the earth until the marker was flush with the grass. Etched in the stainless stell was the number 1-67.

The scene was the Milwaukee county cemetery, formerly called "potter's field." The burial was the first there this year-hence the number 1-67-and one of the few in recent years.

Operated Since 1892

The cemetery, in operation since 1892, is located on the county institutions grounds in Wauwatosa. It is run by the county infirmary, previously called the alms house, the county poor farm and the county home.

As with the cemetery, the infirmary's name has been changed to protect (or upgrade) the indigent.

When it was known as potter's field (from the biblical reference) the cemetery occupied about 10 acres of ground.

"Hundreds of people were buried here each year," said Walter E. Johnke, assistant superntendent at the infirmary. "But last year there were only three and in 1965 there were about six."

Only Small Plot Used

With the drop in burials the old potter's field has been allowed to grow over and become grassland. Only a small plot about one-fourth the size of a football field, is maintained as the county cemetery.

The reason for the drop in burials: the poor are not so poor any more.

"Anyone eligible for social security or veterans benefits or who has been on welfare rolls can get some sort of funeral allowance," Johnke told a reporter.

The allowance usually ranges from about $100 to $250 and enables even an indigent person to have some sort of private burial.

Recent Case Cited

However, a person buried there last month, a woman, was eligible for none of those benefits. At 46, she was too young for social security. She was not a veteran. And she had never been on welfare.

The woman died at home last Dec 21 and her body laid unclaimed in the county morgue until the burial on Jan. 30.

An investigation disclosed that the husband had moved from the couple's home after her death. He could not be located. The office also reported:

A son, serving as a marine in Vietnam, came home but returned to Vietnam without arranging a funeral. A sister, connected by phone at her home in Minneapolis, Minn., declined to make arrangements.

Burial Unceremonies

So the medical examiner's office prepared the body for burial and notified the county cememtery to dig a grave and send the old panel truck to pick up the body.

The cemetery is kept by infirmary maintenance men.

"They cut the grass, dig the holes, make the pine boxes, and drive the hearse," said Johnke, " The bodies are prepared by either the medical examiner's office or by the morgue at county general hospital.

"Aside from the stainless steel plaques, no grave stones or markers are erected. No religious services are conducted and no flowers are left," he said.

The low cost of operating the cemetery is one reason why the county keeps it going even with so few burials Johnke said.