The family of Peter and Marie Maertz
A 20th century immigrant family in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and DeFuniak Springs, Florida
I wrote previously that I’m seeking information to help fill in the gaps on an immigrant line in my family
The family name was spelled a few different ways before it settled on Maertz - Martz, Mӓrz, Mertz - and there was a family story about Peter Maertz being adopted. It may or may not be true. The vital records in Russia were destroyed in a fire, so without family Bibles or additional names to go on, I’m at a loss.
Here is what I have been able to piece together about my particular Maertz family.
Peter Maertz (b. December 23, 1893) arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 27, 1913, aboard the Merion from Liverpool, England. The passenger manifest listed his birthplace as Stariza (assumed to be Staritsa, also known as Reinwald), Russia, and his destination as Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. April 11, 1922.
According to his World War I draft card, Peter’s parents remained in Russia. He signed his name as Peter Mӓrz, but the Registrar spelled it Mertz. His mother’s maiden name was given as William on his marriage license and his father’s name as Peter (presumably surname Maertz). On the 1920 U.S. Census, he claimed that both his parents were born in Russia. However, the surname William does not appear in the records of the region. It may be a misspelling of Wilhelm or Wilmann.
Marie Elizabeth Demler (b. April 17, 1897) reportedly arrived in the U.S. from Russia in 1912. Her marriage license lists her father as Peter Demler and her mother’s maiden name as Herman. A Henry Herrmann of Three Oaks, Michigan, served as a witness to her marriage and could possibly be a relative. On the 1920 U.S. Census, she claimed that she and both her parents were born in Laub, Russia (also known as Tarlyk, another Volga colony). Both the Demler and Hermann surnames are found in Laub, Russia, in the 1798 census of the region. Marie Demler does not appear on any available passenger lists or in the digitized naturalization records. The only Marie Maertz in the naturalization records was born in 1868. According to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, prior to 1934, an alien wife and alien dependents were considered naturalized if they appeared in court when the head of their household took the naturalization oath. Based on their responses to the 1930 U.S. Census, Marie was naturalized when Peter was in 1922.
Marie had a brother, Peter Demler, who was born January 7, 1890, in Laub, Russia. He married Katherine Hengenseder (1893-1965) in Three Oaks, Michigan, in 1912. A Peter Demler of the right age from Laub arrived in New York City on the Campania from Liverpool, England, January 26, 1908, with his 19-year-old brother Georg Demler and Georg’s 18-year-old wife Anne. These are presumably Marie’s siblings.
In the 1910 U.S. Census, Peter, George, and Anne Demler lived in Nebraska. In 1917, a WWI draft card for a non-citizen of the same age and name showed Peter Demler to be living in Wisconsin. A draft card for George Henry Demler of the right age and circumstances also shows that brother living in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where Peter and Marie Maertz were living at that time.
In the 1920 U.S. Census, Peter Demler and his wife lived in Michigan, whereas George and Ann still lived in Wisconsin. George and Anne’s family remained in Wisconsin until his death in 1963. They appear to be buried in Pinelawn Memorial Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Peter Demler’s family are consistently found in census and vital records for Berrien Co., Michigan, until his death in 1969 (However, I have not yet checked the 1950 census). Peter and Katherine Demler are buried in Galien Township Cemetery in Galien, Michigan. Peter Demler’s obituary (The News-Palladium, Benton Harbor, Michigan. February 22, 1969. p. 10) states he was visiting his sister Marie Bowman in Florida when he died. However, it claims he was born in 1898, even though though it stated he was 79, and says he was married in 1913 in Nebraska, though it got his wife’s name correct.
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Peter Maertz and Marie Demler were married in Three Oaks, Berrien Co., Michigan, May 2, 1916, by Pastor Louis Kling of St John’s Evangelical Church. They had three children and relocated to Florida by 1935:
1. Edward born in 1917 in Sheboygan. He married into the Rownes family of Iowa but lived in New York until 1985. He died in Kosciusko, Co., Indiana, April 21, 1985, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Warsaw, Indiana.
2. Wilma born May 21, 1919, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. She married (1st) Frederick Harms in DeFuniak Springs, Walton Co., Florida in 1937 and (2nd) Martin Koehler in New York City in 1969. She died July 4, 1995, and is buried as “Wilma Koehler” in Trinity Memorial Gardens, Trinity, Florida.
3. Clara Marie born February 20, 1924, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. She married Carl Young in Walton Co., Florida, in 1948. She died October 21, 1999, and is buried as “Clara M. Young” in Magnolia Cemetery, DeFuniak Springs, Florida.
Peter Maertz died October 7, 1954. He is buried in Magnolia Cemetery in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, next to his wife Marie, though she had married Lloyd Bowman after Peter’s death. She died July 19, 1983. Her obituary appeared in Pensacola area newspapers under Marie Elizabeth Bowman.
Peter Maertz is mentioned in: Ronald J. Ertel. Germans from Russia Who Settled in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Area and Earned Their Citizenship. In: Clues. American Historical Society of Germans from Russia. 1979, pt. 2, p. 44.