As the Brig. General Heinrich sailed from Port Bremerhaven, Germany, and arrived in New York on October 3, 1836. Joseph Wallendorf and his wife Elizabeth and their six children saw their first sight of America.
The earliest evidence of the Wallendorf family of Mid-Missouri is on an 1838 list of parishioners as members of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph in Westphalia, where Father Helias served.
County records show that on May 3, 1841, Joseph’s son Mathias purchased lots 303 and 304 at the corner of Mulberry and East High, approximately where St. Peter’s Playground is currently located. The lots cost $68 and consisted of 104 feet along East High and 198 feet along Mulberry Street. Before the purchase, a small house had already been built in which the family lived.
During this time, the Catholic Church was not officially organized in the city of Jefferson. Until the construction of the first blockhouse church on the site of today’s St. Peter’s School, mass was said in the various houses. There is evidence that Mathias Wallendorf married Mary Busch on December 26, 1844 in the Catholic Church of St. Peter.
Tragedy was soon to strike the family in the late 1840s when the cholera epidemic swept the city for several years. Two of their children were struck and buried in the old St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery.
Mathias Wallendorf died in 1877 and the bereaved were his wife Mary Josephine and children Catherine, Frank, Jacob, Leo, Herman and Pauline, the youngest. After her mother’s death in 1910, Pauline continued to live in the home. The 1920 and 1930 census lists Pauline in the home, but her death was not until July 19, 1949. She is also buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery.
In 1843, while Mathias and his family lived in the city, his parents Joseph and Elizabeth bought land southwest of the city. This 40 acre, Range-West, Section 15 property was a perfect vantage point from which to view the city of Jefferson. During the Civil War the house was reportedly occupied by Confederate General Sterling Price, where he made his decision not to attack Jefferson City in 1864. Before leaving home, General Price reportedly paid the family $27 in Confederate currency for his stay with the German family.
The application for listing on the National Register indicated where the house’s original location was listed when Elizabeth Walllendorf’s estate was settled in 1854.
Joseph and his sons, skilled in carpentry, built the two-room, two-story cabin in the dog-trot style. The booth featured a 10-foot-wide covered passageway through the middle. Housework could be done protected from the weather, used as storage or rested in the evening after a long day at work. The steps leading to the second floor were inside the dog trot opening. The house was of unusual length and height, and unlike many cottages of the period, was built on a foundation of local stone. Improvements have been made over the years including the closure of the dog trotting area and a front central entrance as well as one for a back door entrance.
Joseph and Elizabeth lived a simple farming life, with gardens and fields planted with vegetables and grain for food for the family and cattle. After Joseph’s death in 1851, the remaining children ran the farm for their mother, as was customary at the time.
After Elizabeth died in 1854, her son Bartholomew bought the property at an auction held at the Cole County Courthouse. It eventually became a rental property before the City of Jefferson decided to sell it due to the expansion and improvement of West Edgewood and Route 179. Rather than being destroyed, the property was purchased in 2004 by the Missouri Farm Bureau, who were in the process of relocating and restoring it a few miles from its original location. This property remained in the Wallendorf family for more than 160 years.
On September 21, 2005, the groundbreaking ceremony for the reconstruction of the house began, shortly afterwards the construction of the foundation and the outer walls took place. The main contractor was Clifford Wagner from Vienna, who specialized in the conversion and renovation of historic log houses. The house is furnished in a simple style, showing the furnishings of the past. Tour groups can be arranged by contacting the Missouri Farm Bureau. It is a particularly interesting project for students studying early American, Missouri, or Cole County culture and history.
Anna Knaebel is a Jefferson City native and freelance writer. She co-wrote Military Memories with Cindy Joannes.