Zordel

Contributed by: William Brackett
brackettwilliam@yahoo.com

According to a descendant of Alvine (Zordel) Henspeter Dombrowsky, Robin Dombrowsky, John and Caroline Zordel along with two of their children, Alvine and August immigrated to America in the summer of 1874. Caroline reportedly died in August of 1874. Their daughter Hulda Zordel had immigrated prior to this with a family she was working for. Another son Albert Zordel immigrated in 1873. Their son William J. Zordel and his family immigrated in 1887. A son, Karl Zordel stayed in “Prussia” and his daughters Bertha, Marie, Ida and Augusta Zordel immigrated later. All those who immigrated lived in Berrien County, Michigan. August Zordel moved on to Kansas and raised a family there. This name is spelled Zordel, Zordell, Zardel, Yordell and even Sordel in Berrien County records.

According to thee records John and Caroline (Neitzel) Zordel had children:

William J. Zordel b. 17 Jan 1847 in Germany

Hulda Zordel b. 26 Apr 1849 in Berlin, Germany

Karl Zordel stayed in “Prussia”

Albert Zordel b. 24 Nov 1850 in Lossin, Pommern

August Helm Zordel b. 06 Jun 1858 in Germany

Alvina Laura Zordel b. 09 Jan 1860 in Sellin, Pommern

August Zordel moved on to Ness County, Kansas. Eight of his children were born in Ransom, Ness County, Kansas, between 1890-1904.

A living relative in Germany, Andreas Zordel, has helped compile these dates and places. Albert Zordel was born in Lossin in the District Stolp, Pommern. Alivina Zordel was born in Sellin in the District of Rummelsburgh, Pommern. Pommern was an old Prussian province in Northern Germany also known as Pomerania. Pommern was located south of the Baltic Sea and West of Poland. In 1815 all of Pomerania came under Prussian control. Andreas also stated that four of Karl Zordel’s daughters came to America. These daughters were Ida who married a man named Kietzerow, Bertha who married Richard Hermann Marutz, Marie who married Max Krause and Augusta who married William Kepschull.

The books Germans To America, edited by Ira A. Galzier and P. William Filby and published in 1996 by Scholarly Resources Inc. of Wilmington, Delaware, volume 31, December 1873-December 1874 contains the following:

On June 23, 1874 the ship “Nevada” arrived in New York last from Liverpool and Oueenstown with German passengers:

Zerdell, Johann who was 52 years of age and was a farmer

Zerdal, Mrs. who was 57 years of age

Zerdal, Alvine who was 13 years of age

Zerdal, August who was 15 years of age and was a laborer

This is John and Caroline Zordel with two of their youngest children. Alvine Zordell married 1st Christoph Henspeter and 2nd Adolph Dombrowsky.

Volume 54, January 1887-June 1887 contains the following:

On May 20, 1887 the ship “Weser” arrived in Baltimore from Bremen, Germany. Aboard this ship were:

Zordel, Emilie who was 41 years of age

Zordel, Elsie who was 9 years of age

Zordel, Anna who was 7 years of age

also

Zardal, Wilhelm who was 40 years of age and was a farmer

Zardal, Emil who was 9 years of age

Zardal, Bertha who was 5 years of age.


This appears to be William J. Zordel as listed above. It is not clear who Emilie Zordel was? William’s wife was named Emelia and this is believed to be the record of one family.


Liber “E” page 181 of the Berrien County Marriage Records shows that Hulda Zadel (Zordel) married Frederick Albert Westphal in St. Joseph, Michigan on 29 Sep 1873. She was 21 years of age. Their witnesses were John Westphal and Mrs. Emily Westphal. Hulda was born in "Zilia Court, Berlin, Germany" and Frederick was born in "Tangin Court Biton, Prussia".

Liber “D” page 376 of the Berrien County Death Records shows that Hattie Hulda (Zordel) Westphal died on 17 Feb 1922 in St. Joseph. She was 72 years, 9 months and 21 days old when she died. According to this record she would have been born 04 May 1849 in "Germany". Her father was listed as John Zordell born in Germany and Caroline Nitzel who was also born in Germany.

An article in the Hearld Press on 10 Feb 1922 describes her fate: “Aged Woman Is Struck By Car Doctors Refuse To Predict On Mrs. Westphal’s Chance Of Recovery While attempting to cross State street at the intersection State and Market about 5:30 yesterday afternoon, Mrs. Huldah Westphal, 70, was seriously injured when John Walsh, a trusty at the county jail, ran her down in a Ford sedan and dragged her for a short distance, breaking three ribs. Westphal was also injured internally and this combined with the shock, naturally sustained by a woman of her years, makes doctors unwilling to state positively today whether or not she will recover. She is in an unconscious condition this afternoon. Mrs. Westphal was in company with her daughter, Mrs. A.G. Marshall. The later was uninjured. Eye witnesses of the occurrence say that Walsh was driving slowly and refuse to fix the blame on any of the participants in the accident. The injured woman was removed to the John Roberts home on State street where Dr. F. M. Gowdy administered first aid. She was then removed to the A.G. Marsahll residence at 609 Wayne street in Dean’s ambulance. Walsh had been sent down town from the jail to have the tires of the Ford car inflated, It is said that he was looking for a garage and realized that he was getting out in the residence district of the city, made a complete turn at State street at the scene of the accident. The accident occurred jus as he was completing his turn, it is reported.”

The Hearld Press carried another article concerning this incident on 17 Feb 1922: “Mrs. Westphal, 72, Struck By Auto, Is Dead Aged Woman Spent Almost Entire Life in St. Joseph Seriously injured a week ago when she was struck by a Ford automobile at the corner of State and Market streets, Mrs. Hulda Westphal passed away this morning at 10 o’clock at the home of her son-in-law, A.G. Marshall, 609 Wayne street. Mrs. Wesphal was born in Germany on April 26, 1849 and came to this country when she was 19 years of age. She has remained in St. Joseph continuously since that time. Her Husband passed away many years ago. She is survived by two daughters, Mrs. John Lange, Sodus and Mrs. A.G. Marshall, St. Joseph; three grandchildren, Helen Marchall, St. Joseph, and Herbert Lange of this city and Arthur Lange, Sodus; one sister, Mrs. Elvina Dombrowsky, Harrison avenue, St. Joseph, and three brothers, Albert Zordel, St. Joseph, August Zordel, Ransom, Kansas, and Carl Zordel, Germany. Funeral services will be held Sunday afternoon at 1:45 at the Marshall residence and at 2 o’clock at the Trinity Lutheran church. Rev. Louis Nuechterlein officiating. Interment will be made in the City cemetery. The Ladies Aid society of the church will attend in a body. Mrs. Westphal met with the accident that contributed to her death while attempting to cross State street late last Friday afternoon. John Walsh, a trusty at the county jail, who has been sent down town with a Ford sedan to procure gasoline, was executing a complete turn on State street and was driving slowly when he struck the aged woman. Eye witnesses of the affair are unwilling to fix the blame.” A family story is that her long skirt got caught in the spokes of the wheels of the vehicle and she was dragged to her death?

Liber “G” page 273 of the Berrien County Marriage Records shows that Emile Zordl (Zordel) married Matilda Ladwig in St. Joseph on 13 Feb 1897. Both were living in St. Joseph and were born in "Germany". His father was William Zordl and his mother was Emila Klau. Matilda's mother was Wilhelmine Ladwig and her father's name was not listed. Their witnesses were Franz Ladwig and Lisce Zordl.

Liber “C” of the Berrien County Death Records includes the death of Wilhelm Zordell. He died on 30 Aug 1910 from a "Ry Accident" (Railway ?). He was 63 years, 7 months and 13 days old at the time of his death. His birth date would have been 17 Jan 1847 according to this record. The record states he was a "farmer" and he was born in Germany. His father was listed as Johona Zordell and his mother as Caroline Nitgte (Neitzel?). This was Alvina's brother. He was the son of John and Caroline Zordel who are buried next to Alvina in the Lakeview Cemetery in St. Joseph.

William (Wilhelm) Zordel filed an intention to become a citizen on 30 Apr 1890 in St. Joseph

William Zordel’s wife was Emelia Klau. Emelia Zordel died in Bainbridge Township as a widow on 14 Sep 1928. She was 83 years, 1month and 12 days old when she died. Her birth date would have been 02 Aug 1845. William and Emeila Zordel are buried in the Crystal Springs Cemetery in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Albert Zordel filed an intention to become a citizen on 19 Apr 1879 in St. Joseph. His citizenship certificate was granted 26 Oct 1890. It says he was about 43 years of age and left Hamburg, Germany for the U.S. in 1873 arriving in Michigan that same year. He would have been born about 1847.

Liber “E” of the Berrien County Death Records includes the death of Albert Zordell. He died on 28 Nov 1924 in St. Joseph. According to this record Albert was born in Germany, he was a harness maker-boots-shoes, his father was John Zordel and his mother was Caroline Knutzel (Nitzel?). Albert was 74 years and four months old when he died. His birth date would have been 28 Jul 1850 according to this record. Some records indicate he had a leather shop in his home.

The Herald Press carried the obituary of Albert Zordell on 29 Nov 1924: Albert Zordell Died Last Eve Was Proprietor Of Shoe And Harness Shop Here For 42 Years Albert Zordell, for 42 years proprietor of a shoe and harness shop at 607 Ship street, and well known throughout the city, died last night about 11:15 o’clock at the home of a niece, Mrs. C.M. Ruggles of Lincoln avenue. Mr. Zordell was born in Germany, November 24, 1850. He came to this country 53 years ago. Mr. Zordell was unmarried. He is survived by two brothers, August living in Kansas, and Carl in Germany, and a sister, Mrs. Adolph Dombrowski of St. Joseph. Funeral services will be held Monday afternoon at two o’clock from Ruggles home. The Rev. F.C. Schmidt will officiate. Burial will be in the city cemetery.” On 10 Dec 1924 the following appeared in the Herald Press: “Funeral Rites Held For Albert Zordell Funeral services were held this afternoon at two o’clock at the home of Mars. C.M. Ruggles of Lincoln avenue, for Albert Zordell resident here for 42 years, who died on Friday. The Rev. F.C. Schmidt officiated. Burial was in the city cemetery. Miss Ella Adler and George Adler sang ‘Beautiful Isle of Somewhere.’ and ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’ The pallbrearers were Charles and Fred Henspeter, Clyde Dombrowski, Albert Wessendorf and August Weik.”

The Hearld Press had a front page article on 10 Dec 1924 which reads: “Relatives Find $15,000 Hidden In Zordel Shop Eccentric Cobbler’s Store Rummaged In Hope Of New Discoveries $200,000 Estate Seen Cash, Bonds, Houses, Lots And Notes Inventoried By Administrator Rummaging in dusty shoe boxes, the innumerable relatives of Albert Zordell, the eccentric cobbler who died here recently, were today busily hunting his hidden wealth, said to be at least $100,000 and possibly $200.000. They were spurred on by the discovery yesterday of $15,275, concealed in thread boxes, cached beneath a counter in the shop at 607 Ship street, where for nearly half a century Zordell toiled long hours and saved every penny. They had high hopes of finding greater wealth before completion of the inventory, unprecedented here. Findings So Far H.W. Banks, assistant cashier of the Commercial National bank and administrator of the Zordel estate, today made public the cobbler’s holdings as disclosed thus far. The list follows: 1. $20,700 in cash in the Commercial National bank. 2. $3,000 in cash in the Union Banking company. 3. $15,275 in cash hidden in Zordel’s shop. 4. $1,750 in liberty bonds in the Commercial bank. 5. The two story building at 607 Ship street. 6. The house and lot at 1709 South State street. 7. Two houses and lots on Pearl street. 8. Mortgages and notes not yet valued. Zordell died on November 28 four days after his seven-fourth birthday. Born in Germany, he had come to St. Joseph 53 years before. For 49 years he has operated the shoe and harness shop on Ship street. He had obtained a reputation for sagacity in business and for saving his earnings. People said his estate would be worth at least $100,000. Relatives Aid Hunt Relatives, therefore, were surprised, when the preliminary examination of his holdings failed to disclose such a sum. The petition for appointment of an administrator of the estate, filed in Probate Judge Frank L. Hammond’s court, showed personal property of by $13,000 and realty of $20,000. So Mr. Banks was appointed a special administrator and given authority to make an inventory. The hunt through the shoe boxes in the dingy shop then was begun. A dozen relatives aided the administrator in the task, which promised to be a tedious one. Yesterday the first discovery was made. In the 12 thread boxes were found wads of bills, carefully hidden, which, when counted, totaled over $15,000. Mr. Banks said today he could not tell exactly how long the inventory would take. ‘We’ve just begun.” He said, ‘and I really don’t know.’ Hearing On Dec. 29 The searchers have plenty of time, however, as the hearing in Judge Hammons court doesn’t come up until December 29. Zordell, it appears, left no will. At least the search thus far has failed to disclose one. So all his relatives and the list is a long one, including residents of several Berrien communities and of Germany may participate in the final division of wealth. The discovery of large sums in the banks surprised some of those acquainted with Zordel. For years he distrusted banks, and wouldn’t put money in them, friends said. Four years ago, however on September 1, 1920 robbers invaded the room upstairs above the shop, where the shoe man slept. They rapped him over the head with a blunt instrument, took a pair of shoes apiece and a watch, and then, scared by Zordel;s cries for help, fled. After that experience Zprdel’s opinion of banks changed; but evidently the shift was not strong enough to induce him to put all his money in them. Lived Alone In Shop Zordell, who was unmarried, lived alone in the room above his shop. Many remarkable stories of Zordel’s wealth were told here, and some of them were amply substantiated. On one occasion a man bought a pair of shoes from Zordel. When the buyer reached home, he found a $50 bill in the box. On another, fire threatened the little shop that to Zordel was not only business but home. Fireman found $800 in the chimney, Zordel packing quickly at the rows of boxes, pulled out certain ones that to bystanders seemed no different from the others. He gave them to a friend and told him to keep them for a while. They were said to contain much of his wealth. The list of relatives is a long one. He had three brothers and two sisters, one of the brothers and one sister being now dead. The Relatives The living brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews are: The children of William Zordell, who is dead, are Emil Zordel, of Baroda; Mrs. Lizzie Villwock, of Millburk; Mrs. Bertha Arent, of Millburg; and Mrs. Anna Arent, of Coloma. William’s widow resides with the Coloma daughter. The children of Mrs. Hilda Westpfahl, a sister who is dead, are Mrs. Clara Lange, of Sodus, and Mrs. Andy Marshall, of St. Joseph. The children of Mrs. Alvina Dombrowski of St. Joseph, a sister, are Mrs. Clara Ruggles, of St. Joseph; Mrs. Laura Wessendorf, of St. Joseph; Mrs. Mary Weik, of St. Joseph; Miss Anna Dombrowski, of Benton Harbor, and by a previous marriage, Charles Henspeter, of St. Joseph; Mrs. Alvina Carpenter, of Galien; Fred Henspeter, of Galien, and William Henspeter, whose address is unknown to relatives here. The children of another brother, Carl Zordel, who lives in Germany, are Mrs. Bertha Marutz, of St. Joseph; Mrs. Eda Kitzrow, of St. Joseph, and Paul, Max, August and Mary Zordel, who resides in Germany. Another brothers, August Zordel, who resides in Ransome, Kans., has several children, but relatives here don’t know their names.” A family story is that Albert Zordell intentionally put money into customer’s shoe boxes to insure repeat business? They also tell that Albert died from being shot in the robbery of his store? His death record indicates he died from “Lobar Pneumonia”.

The Hearld Press ran another article about Albert Zordel on 11 Dec 1924. The article reads: “The Show Box Treasure Trove Testament Of Zordell Still Gone Failing to find more money in the little shop at 607 State street, owned by Albert Zordell, the eccentric and wealthy cobbler who died on November 28, relatives today concentrate their attention on search for a will. Zordell was declared to have said two days before he died that he had a will. The remark was reported to have been made to a friend, to whom Zordell confided his belief that he was in his last illness. No Will Found H.W. Banks, special administrator of the estate, announced today completion of the search of dusty shoe boxes in Zordel’s shop, where $15,275, hidden beneath a counter was discovered on Tuesday. The search a comprehensive one failed to disclose more money in the ‘shoe box treasure trove,’ nor was any will found, either in the shop or in Zordel’s room above. At the probate court today it was declared that in such cases as the Zordel estate the holdings were divided among living brothers and sisters and children of dead brothers and sisters. This means that six nieces and nephews of the wealthy cobbler will not directly participate in the estate, which it is estimated, will run above $100,000. To Valuate Assets The administrator today had not completed his valuation of the Zordel holdings, which at present include $38,975 cash, $1,750 in bonds, three houses and three lots, the building on Ship street, and several Mortgages and notes. This must be done by December 24, when the inventory is to be laid before Probate Judge Frank L. Hammond. Five days later the judge will hold a hearing on the appointment of a general administrator.”

The Hearld Press had another article in the 24 Dec 1924 issue, which reads: “Zordell Estate Valued At $82,339 In Court The estate of Albert Zordell, eccentric cobbler, who died in November, was valued at $82,339.81 in an inventory filed in probate court today by H.W. Banks, special administrator. Many had expected that the estate would be much higher, Mr. Banks announced, however, that after the discovery of $15,275 hidden in dusty thread boxes in Zordell’s shop at 607 Ship street, nothing further was found. The cobbler, who never married but left a number of brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews to share his property, owned realty worth $12,500. His cash holdings were shown in the inventory to be the same as previously published in the Hearld Press. In addition there were several mortgages, land contracts and the stock in the shoe store. A hearing will be held before Judge Frank L. Hammond on December 29 to settle appointment of a permanent administrator of the estate. The law provides, since no will was found, that the estate be divided among living brothers and sisters and children of dead brothers and sisters. Discovery of the hidden money in Zordell’s shop was a sensation here of a few weeks ago, relatives spending several days in a vain hunt for more money.”

The Probate records of Berrien County contain a file for Albert Zordel and it is number 8049. The living heirs are listed as:

Alvina Dombrowsky Sister age 65 St. Joseph

August Zordel Brother age 67 Ransom Kan.

Carl Zordel Brother age 69 Birkhof Ger.

Emil Zordel Nephew age 52 Baroda

Lizzie Filwock Niece Milburg

Anna Arnt Niece Coloma

Bertha Arnt Niece Milburg

Clara Lang Niece Sodus

Emma Marshall Niece St. Joseph

Albert Zordel never married so according to law the living brothers and sister and the living sons and daughters of deceased brothers or sisters were to inherit. Alvina, August, Carl and Emil, in his father’s stead, got one fifth each and the remaining nieces and nephews got one twentieth each or the remaining one fifth. The one-fifth shares ended up at $7520.24. Emil, Lizzie, Anna and Bertha were children of William Zordel who was deceased. Clara and Emma were the children of Hulda (Zordel) Westphal who was also deceased.

Carl Zordel’s last known address in Germany is also identified in this file as Birkhof Starnitz, Post Radsdamnitz, Kr. Stolp, Pr. Pommern as of 26 Jan 1925. He appointed his daughter Bertha Maurtz as his representative.

Emil Zordell died on 11 Aug 1944 in Baroda. He was the son of William and Emelia (Klau) Zordell. His wife Mathilde was still living at the time of his death. The record says he was born in Pommern, Germany. He was 71 years, 11 months and 12 days old when he died. His birth date would have been 31 Sep 1872. Matilda (Mathilde) Zordell died 30 Mar 1947. She was born 03 Mar 1875 in Pommern, Germany. Matilda’s father was Frederick Ladwig and her mother was Wilhelmina Krugel. She died in the St. Joseph Hospital. Some of their children were:

Alfred Zordell married Florence Brown on 03 Jul 1924 in St. Joseph. Alfred was listed as a bank teller from Niles, Michigan. His father was Emil Zordell and his mother was … Ladwig.

Anna Zordell married Herman Tollas on 08 Nov 1924 in Baroda. Anna was the daughter of Emil Zordell and her mother was … Ladwig.

Herbert Zordell married Elsie Geike on 21 May 1921 in Baroda. Herbert was the son of Emil Zordell and his mother was … Ladwig.


William Zordel married Wanda Schadler and lived in St. Joseph.


Edwin Zordel married Elsie Seidenberg and lived in Appleton Wisconsin.

Berrien County marriage records also contain the following:

Bertha E. Zordell married Richard H. H. Marutz on 12 Sep 1914 in St. Joseph. Bertha was the daughter of Carl Zordell and her mother was … Keutschke. Bertha was born in Germany.

Marie Zordell married Max Krause on 14 Jan 1928 in St. Joseph. Marie (Mary) was the daughter of Carl Zordell and her mother was … Zutschke. Marie was born in Germany.

Augusta Zordell married Willie Kebschull on 09 Mar 1928 in St. Joseph. Augusta was the daughter of Karl Zordell and her mother was … Kulschke. Augusta was born in Germany.

Bertha, Marie and Augusta Zordell were the daughters of Karl Zordell, who stayed in Germany and was the son of John and Caroline (Neitzel) Zordell.

The 1900 census of Berrien County includes:

Albert Zordell who was single and living at 607 Ship Street in St. Joseph, Michigan. This record indicates he was born in Dec. 1885 in Germany and that he was 44 years of age at the time of the census.

Amil (Emil?) Zordell who was living at 310 Pine Street in St. Joseph Township, St. Joseph. This record indicates he was born in Aug. 1872 in Germany and that he was 29 years of age at the time of the census. Living with him was his wife, Tillie, who was born in Mar of 1875 in Germany. This is the son of William and Emelia Zordell. Their son was:

Herbert Zordell b. Nov. 1897 in Michigan

William Zordell who was living in Benton Township. This record indicates he was born in Jan. 1847 in Germany and that he was 52 years of age at the time of the census. Living with him was his wife, Amelia (Emelia?), who was born in Aug of 1845 in Germany. Also living with them was a Herman Kloss who was born in May of 1863 in Germany. This may have been Amelia’s brother? Their child was:

Bertha Zordell b. Mar 1882 in Michigan

Z. Annie Zordell who was a boarder in the August Schmidt house at 821 Price Street in St. Joseph. She was born in Aug. 1879 in Germany. This may also have been a daughter of William and Emelia Zordell?

The 1910 census of Berrien County includes:

Albert Zordel living alone in St. Joseph and was 59 years of age. Albert Zordel had a leather business in his home and made harnesses, boots and shoes at 607 Ship Street in St. Joseph.

Amel Zordel who was living in St. Joseph and was 37 years of age. Living with him was his wife, Mathilda, who was 35 years of age. Both were recorded as having been born in Germany. The children were all born in Michigan. Their children were:

Herbert Zordel 12 years of age

William Zordel 9 years of age

Alfred Zordel 8 years of age

Annie Zordel 5 years of age

Edwin Zordel 1 year of age

William Zordel was living alone in Benton Township and was 63 years of age and was born in Germany. This record says he became a citizen in 1897 and that he had been married for 30 years. William Zordel appears to have been living separate from his wife? This census was taken in April of 1910 and William Zordel died in August of 1910. W. J. Zordell owned 40 acres of land in Benton Township in 1903.

Amelia Zordel was living at 715 Church Street in St, Joseph when the 1910 census was taken. She was 65 years of age. This was the wife of William Zordel.

The 1920 census of Berrien County includes:

Albert Zordell living alone at 607 Ship Street in St. Joseph. The record indicates he was born in Lazien, Germany and was 68 years of age when the census was taken.

Ameliah Zordell living alone at 715 Church Street in St. Joseph. The record indicates she was born in Pommern and was 75 years of age when the census was taken. In City Directories she is listed as the widow of William Zordell.

Emil Zordell was 47 years of age and was born in Germany. Living with him was his wife, Mathilda, who was 44 years of age and was also born in Germany. The children were all born in Michigan. Their children were:

Herbert H. Zordell who was 22 years of age

William F. Zordell who was 19 years of age

Alfred E. Zordell who was 17 years of age

Anna M. Zordell who was 14 years of age

Edwin F. Zordell who was 10 years of age

Apparently these were the children and grandchildren of John and Caroline (Nitzel or Knutzel) Zordel. Alvina's marriage states she was born in Pommern (Pommerania). Her sister Hulda was born in Berlin, Germany. No record has been found of John And Caroline Zordel in Berrien County. They do have tombstones near Hulda (Zordel) Westphal, Albert Zordel and Alvina (Zordel) Henspeter Dombrowski in the Lakeview Cemetery in St. Joseph. No dates are on their tombstones?


William J. Zordell met a tragic death in 1910. News articles in the News Palladium on Tuesday 30 Aug 1910 reveal how he died. These articles read, “Engine Hits Rig Farmer Is Killed. Big Four Passenger Train Strikes Henry Zordell At Noon Today. Accident At Crossing. Henry Zordell meets death, and team of horses meets like fate, when victim is caught on tracks in attempt to cross railroad. Henry Zordell, a promnent Benton township farmer, was killed at noon today when his rig was hit by a special Big Four excursion train at Dukescherer’s crossing on Napier Avenue. The rig in which Zordell was riding was knocked to bits and the horses instantly killed. The big locomotive caught the outfit squarely on the tracks. Man and horses were tossed in the air. Crossing An Open One. The crossing is said to be an open one and is not regarded as specially dangerous. The train was due in Benton Harbor at 12:05 and was approaching the city about on time. According to the engineer and firemen the whistle was blown for the crossing as the train approached and to the observers in the cab right of way was clear. Suddenly Zordell and his team appeared in the roadway. It is the claim of the trainmen that he whipped up his horses, believing he had plenty of time to make the crossing. The horses had just stepped on the tracks when the engine hit the rig. The train was stopped and Zordell’s body found lying in front of the engine. The victim was badly cut and many bones were broken. Death had been practically instantaneous. Coroner to hold inquest. The remains were placed in the baggage car and the train continued on it’s way. Coroner Hackley was notified and he and Sheriff Johnson impaneled a coroner’s jury. The remains were viewed by the jury and then removed to Rowe’s undertaking rooms. The jury is composed of Charles Christ, Edward Pullen, S.R. Banyon, will Hubbell, I.S. Heinlen and Joseph Jones. The inquest will be held at 3 o’clock Thursday afternoon. Coroner Hackley subpoenaed members of the train crew to appear before the inquest. The train was in charge of Conductor A. McCoy, Engineer P.E. Carmondy and Fireman A.W. Fletcher. Relatives In St. Joseph. Zordell has relatives in St. Joseph, Albert Zordell, a brother, is engaged in the harness and shoe business on Ship street and a son Emil, is a saloonkeeper in St. Joseph. The victim of the accident was about 57 years of age and had resided in this vicinity for some 25 years.” The Coroner’s jury’s finding were in the paper a few days later. “Jury Finds A Conflict In Accident Story. Witnesses At Yesterday’s Inquest Do Not Agree on Death of Wm. Zordell. Train Crew Was Young. Witness Who Saw Farmer Killed South Of City Says Passenger Never Whistled Until Engine Was Upon Luckless Victim. The jury’s verdict. ‘We, the jury, find that William Zordell came to his death by being struck by a special Big Four excursion train about noon on the 30th of August, 1910; we further find that from the evidence submitted to us that there is a conflict in the testimony concerning the proper sounding of signals at the Napier avenue crossing, on which the accident occurred.’ This was the verdict, which the coroner’s jury in the case of William Zordell, killed Tuesday noon on Napier avenue by a Big Four excursion train returned after listening to a dozen witnesses who had more or less to do with the accident. The jury was out only a few minutes. The verdict was based on the testimony given by the several witnesses; parts of this evidence were directly at variance. The witnesses disagree on one important point, and that was the sounding of the crossing whistles. Summed up, this difference was as follows: One witness emphatically testified that the train gave no notice of an approach until it was on the crossing. The train crew was unanimous that the proper signals were sounded. No warning sounded. According to E.E. Wright, a farmer who saw the accident, no warning was given by the train. Wright had crossed the tracks ahead of Zordell, whom he noticed on the road. The witness said he drove up the hill which leads from the tracks when he heard the train approaching. He looked back and saw Zordell coming on his horses jogging along. ‘I could hear the rumble of the train and wondered why the whistle was not sounded. I saw Zordell approaching, unmindful of the oncoming train, and I listened for the whistle but none came. Then as the engine got on the crossing there was two sharp blasts and I saw the horses go up in the air.’ “Could you have heard the whistle’, was asked of Wright. ‘I certainly could, for I was listening for it’, he said. Didn’t hear warning. Henry Plum, another farmer who lives near the scene of the accident, said he didn’t hear any warning whistle. Plum, from where he stood, could just see the tops of the cars as they went by the crossing. Like Wright he heard two sharp blasts, but no warning signal. E.G. Stacey, working on the Rackliffe farm, testified that about a week ago he came near being caught by a freight train on the same crossing. He said it was impossible for the warning to have been sounded without him hearing it. Train Crew Agree Members of the train crew, however, agreed that the proper whistles were sounded. Conductor McCoy declared the engineer whistled on two separate occasions once when approaching the casions once when approaching the crossing and again when the engine was nearly on the crossing. Engineer Carmondy told of giving the proper signals as the train neared the crossing. ‘I had given two long and two short whistles’, said the engineer, ‘when the fireman said whistle again there’s a fellow that I don’t believe will stop. I whistled again but it was too late. We had hit him.’ Fireman Pletcher testified to the same identical thing. He said he saw Zordell coming toward the train after the first whistle had blown and then told the engineer to whistle again. Brakemen Brock and Miller also heard the whistles, they said. A young train crew. The members of the train crew looked unusually young on the witness stand. Not a one was a veteran in the service, and the majority had only been working for the Big Four for a short time. Witnesses were examined who were in the vicinity and who reside in the neighborhood of the crossing. The general trend of this testimony was that passenger trains usually whistle for the crossing but that sometimes the freight trains go by without giving the proper warning. The other witnesses were E.S. Noe, John Butzbach and Peter Dukescherer. Attorney Gore attended the inquest in behalf of the Big Four.”


It is not clear why William Zordell was identified as “Henry” in the initial article.

Christoph Christian Joseph Heinspeter was born in Mecklenberg, Germany in 1852/53. He married Alvine Laura Zordell. Alvine was the daughter of John and Caroline (Neitzel) Zordel. Alvina Laura Zordel was born 09 Jan 1861 in Sellin, district Rummelsburg, Pommern.

Liber “E” of the Berrien County Michigan Marriage Records includes the marriage of Christoph C. J. Hinzpeter and Alovine Laura Fordell (Zordell) on page 300. Christoph was 25 years of age and Alovina was 17 years of age. They were married in St. Joseph, Michigan on 28 Dec 1877. Christoph was recorded as living in Chicago, Illinois. Alovine was recorded as living in St. Joseph. The record says Christoph was a "teamster" and Alovine as being "at home". This record also states that Christoph Hinzpeter was born in Mecklenberg (Germany) and Alovine Zordell was born in Pommern (Pomerania, Germany). The marriage ceremony was performed by Ed Ch Georgii. (Edward Charles Georgii ?). Their witnesses were Frederick Westfal of St. Joseph and John Rosirtzki also of St. Joseph. The marriage was recorded on 31 Dec 1877.


Christoph Henspeter died on 02 Oct 1889 in Chicago, Illinois. His death certificate states: He was 36 years of age at the time of his death; he died a 7 o’clock P.M. on October 2, 1889. His occupation was “Stationary Engineer”. His nationality was German and he was born in Germany. He had been a resident of Illinois for 12 years. His death occurred at 115 Samuel Street in the 16th ward of Chicago. He was married at the time of his death. He died from complications of Typhoid Fever. His Burial place is listed as Waldheim (Cemetery). This certificate was filed on 04 Oct 1889. This certificate also spells his name “Christian Hinspeter”. In most records I have seen he was called Christ and it is probable that the Dr. extended that into Christian rather than Christoph. Their children were:

Charles H. Henspeter b. May 1881

Alvina Henspeter b. May 1883 d. 1957 who married Amos Carpenter

William Henspeter b. Oct 1886

Frederick Joseph Louis Henspeter b. 15 Oct 1888 who married Clara Angolin


After Christoph’s death Alvina Henspeter returned to Berrien County and remarried. She married second on 27 Jan 1893 Adolph Dombrowsky. Adolph Dombrowsky was born 29 Apr 1841 in Garzigar, district Lauenburg, Pommern and died in 23 Jul 1929 in St. Joseph, Michigan. Alvina died 25 Feb 1927 in St. Joseph, Michigan. She and Adolph are buried in the St. Joseph City Cemetery (Lakeview). Their children were:

Clara Hulda Dombrowsky b. 07 Jun 1893 who married Jim Snyder

Laura Dombrowsky b. 09 Dec 1895 who married Albert Wessendorf

Mary Dombrowsky b. 14 Feb 1897 who married August Wiek

Clyde Carl Dombrowsky b. 04 Jul 1900 who married Tillie Summerfelt

Mabel Dombrowsky b. 03 Sep 1902 d. Jan 1976 who married Clyde Fetke

Liber “E” of the Berrien County Death Records includes the death record of Alvina Dombrowski on page 166. This was Alvina Zordell-Henspeter-Dombrowsky. She died on 25 Feb 1927 in St. Joseph, Michigan. She was 67 years, 1 month and 14 days old at the time of her death. This would make her birth date 11 Jan 1860 according to this record. The record says she was born in Germany and that her father's name was John Yordell. Her mother's name was not listed.

The News Palladium February 28, 1927, pg. 3 contains Alvina’s obituary:

“Services Tuesday for Mrs. Dombrowsky Members of the Trinity Lutheran Ladies Aid society will attend in a body the funeral tomorrow of Mrs. Alvina Dombrowsky wife of Adolph Dombrowsky and a well known resident of this community for many years. Rites will be conducted at the Trinity Lutheran church at 2 o’clock after prayers at the residence at 1:30. Mrs. Dombrowksy was the mother of nine children, all but one of whom reside in Berrien county. They are Fred Henspeter, Galien: Charles Henspeter, St. Joseph: Mrs. Amos Carpenter, Three Oaks: William Henspeter, Kansas, Mo: Mrs. August Weil, Mrs. Clara Ruggles, Mrs. Albert Wesendorf, all of St. Joseph and Clyde Dombrowsky of Benton Harbor. Rev. Louis Nuechterlien, Trinity Lutheran pastor will conduct the funeral for Mrs. Dombrowksy who was one of the leading members of his church.”

The Hearld Press carried her death notice, which reads:

“Death Claims Trinity’s Aid Society Head Mrs. Alvina Dombrowsky, 67, prominent member of the Ladie’s Aid society of the Trinity Lutheran church, died at 11:30 last evening at her home on Harrison avenue, where she had been ill for a year. Born in Germany on January 9, 1860, she came to this country at the age of 11, making her home in St. Joseph since that time. She is survived by nine children, foru of her first marriage to Christ Henspeter, who died a number of years ago, and five born to her union with Adolph Dombrowsky who survives her. Sons and daughters are: Fred Henspeter, Galien; Charles Henspeter, St. Joseph; Mrs. Amos Carpenter, Three Oaks; William Henspeter, Kansas, Mo.; Adolph Dombrowsky, Jr.; Mrs. August Weik and Mrs. Orville Fetke, all of St. Joseph, and Clyde Dombrowsky of Benton Harbor. She also leaves one brother, August Zordel of Ransom, Kansas. Funeral services will be conducted by the Rev. Louis Nuechterlein on Tuesday afternoon, with prayers at the residence at 1:30 and a service at the Trinity Lutheran church at 2 o’clock. Burial will be in the City cemetery. With the exception of a few years in Chicago, Mrs. Dombrowsky had resided in St. Joseph for 56 years.”

Frederick Joseph Louis Henspeter was born on 15 Oct 1888 in Chicago, Illinois. He came to Weesaw Township when he was two years old. He married Clara Angolin on 29 Oct 1910 in New Troy, Michigan. Clara was born in Royalton Township of Berrien County, Michigan on 14 Oct 1890. Clara was the daughter of Charles and Mary (Marie) Angolin. Frederick died in Weesaw Township of Berrien County, Michigan on 21 Jun 1944. Clara died 10 Jan 1954. Both are buried in the Galien Township Cemetery. Their children were:

Henry C. Henspeter b. 18 Sep 1911 d. 20 Sep 1911 in St. Joseph, Michigan

Gertrude Henspeter b. 08 Jul 1913 in St. Joseph, Michigan

Margaret Henspeter b.13 May 1915 in St. Joseph, Michigan

Lillian Alvina Henspeter b. 22 Oct 1918 in St. Joseph, Michigan

William Henspeter b. 1921 d. 1921 in Galien, Michigan

Henry C. Henspeter is buried in the St. Joseph City Cemetery (Lakeview) near his grandmother, Alvine (Zordel) Henspeter Dombrowsky. The stone is not dated but says son of F & C. Henspeter. William Henspeter is buried in the Galien Cemetery as “baby Henspeter”. Gertrude (Henspeter) Herman told me his name was William.


Lillian Alvina Henspeter married John Hauch (II) of New Troy (Weesaw Township) Berrien County on December 21, 1934. They married in South Bend, Indiana. John is the son of John Hauch and Tillie Schlacht who were both reportedly born in Russia. John Hauch (I) was born about 1880 and Tillie was born in 1886. John and Lillian Hauch had eight children:

Lucille Ann Hauch born in 1936

Loretta Lee Hauch born in 1938

John Hauch (III) born in 1940 also called Buck

During World War Two John Hauch (II) served with the Marines and upon his return after the war the following children were born:

James Dean Hauch born in 1946

Jane Rae Hauch born in 1949

Joyce Elaine Hauch born in 1951

Julia Joy Hauch born in 1952

Jerry Joe Hauch born in 1954

Jane Rae Hauch married William Earl Brackett in 1970 in Lakeside, Berrien County, Michigan.

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