Matthias Hannemann Grave Discovered in Portage County, Wis.

For decades, the records of St. John Lutheran Cemetery in Kellner, Wis., did not include a location for the grave of one of the church’s old settlers, Matthias Hannemann. His funeral and burial in May 1879 were recorded in the church register, but with no indication of burial location.

This more than century old mystery has been solved, however, and we now know where this early Hanneman forebear is laid to rest. As part of a research project for a forthcoming Hanneman history book, we found the grave location at the cemetery just southeast of Wisconsin Rapids.

The grave site of Matthias Hanneman is at left center, indicated by the partially excavated stone.
The grave site of Matthias Hanneman is at left center, indicated by the upturned earth of the partially excavated stone.

Matthias Hannemann (1794-1879) is the earliest known ancestor of the Hanneman families of Wood and Portage counties of Wisconsin. He was the great-grandfather of Carl F. Hanneman of Mauston, Wis. Matthias came to America before June 1870 from Meesow, county Regenwalde, Pomerania, to settle with his children in north central Wisconsin.

During a site visit to St. John cemetery in July 2009, we determined that the earliest burials at the cemetery were physically arranged by date of death. Based on that, we determined Matthias would have been buried between August and Augusta Knoll (April 1878) and Carl Schmidt (October 1878). There was an unmarked grave in this spot, with a small portion of headstone poking above the grass.

Once we found a portion of stone poking above grass level, we pulled the grass back to reveal the headstone.
Once we found a portion of stone poking above grass level, we pulled the grass back to reveal the headstone.

We pulled back the overgrown grass and weeds and a light layer of sand to reveal a 1 foot square remnant of headstone. Some hints of lettering were visible on the badly weathered and corroded stone face. We photographed the stone and applied a variety of filters and effects to the photo file, but could not make out a name.

We asked Sue Alft, head of the St. John Cemetery committee, to visit the site. She agreed that the plot was the burial place of Matthias and his second wife, Caroline (Steffen) Hannemann. Coincidentally, Alft is descended from Matthias Hannemann through his daughter, Friedericke (Hannemann) Kruger (1825-1918).

©The Hanneman Archive

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