Postmarked: 12 February 1924
Stamp: 1c Deep Green Ben Franklin #552
To: Gerard C Wagner
St. Cloud –
Minn Box 222
We are on a car going back to Houston. We had a nice boat ride out of Galveston. Hard to write on the Interurban street car.
Riding on the Interurban from Houston to Galveston could be a bit of a rough ride, as this postcard from a Minnesota visitor testifies. He was from Saint Cloud, MN (named for the famous suburb of Paris), which had a population of 16,000 in 1920 when Houston’s population was 120,000. St. Cloud was 60 miles from the far larger metropolitan centers of Minneapolis (380,000) and St. Paul (235,000). Houston and the twin cities were linked by passenger and freight railroads and by river barge shipping, so travel between them was easy.
The recipient of the postcard was Gerard Calistus Wagner, and his parents were John Peter Wagner and Elfrieda Margaretha Huss, both from New Reigel, Seneca County, OH where Gerard was born. His stepbrother, Linus Peter Wagner, 13 years older, was surely the author of the postcard, and another step-brother, Ralph Bernard Wagner, was already professor of rhetoric at St. Bernard’s Theological Seminary in Rochester, NY. The older boys grew up in New Riegel in Seneca County, OH, a community of 11,000 (in 1900) between Toledo and Cleveland. Settled in the 1830’s by immigrants from Germany and France, Carl Wagner (1826-1871) was an early settler there. The Wagner family members were deeply committed Catholics, and two of Carl’s daughters (Margaret “Sister Viola” and Regina) joined Ohio convents, as did Elfrieda’s sister Louise. Ralph was educated in Jesuit schools, and after teaching in Rochester, would soon find a distinguished career at Saint Louis University in Missouri. The boys’ father
John Peter Wagner, was orphaned at the age of 6 by Carl’s death in 1871; his mother Catherine Kirch then married John Zimmer, but when J. P. was not quite 21 his stepfather died as well and his mother, Catherine, a widow twice, headed the family for the next 28 years.
John Peter Wagner married Anna M. Rumschlag in 1889, and J. P. worked as host and bartender at the Palace Hotel in New Riegel. They had just two children, Ralph Bernard Wagner in 1890 and Linus Peter in 1886. The family was in crisis when In 1903 The Palace Hotel burned to the ground, and in 1907 tragedy followed when Anna died. Two years later. J. P. remarried to Elfrieda Margareta Huss and they had Gerard Calistus (1910). When Gerard was a toddler the family moved to St. Cloud where J. P. found work in the burgeoning oil business as the manager of Pure Oil Company.
Linus married Lillian Matzek on 16 September 1919 in Eau Claire, WS; she was the daughter of Joseph Matzek and Alvida “Wilda” Wang. By 1920 Linus was working as a salesman for an oil company in Minneapolis. He and his brother Ralph, also married, had served in the army during WWI, so Gerard was very much the little brother. It seems by the context of the postcard that Linus was in the Houston area with his wife Lillian, possibly on a leisure trip with perhaps some thought into new employment opportunities.
Linus and Lillian bought a gas station in Wayzata on Lake Minnetonka about 15 miles west of Minneapolis, but they moved back to the Minneapolis area by 1940 and remained there through most of the rest of their lives. Linus managed their gas station and Lillian managed a beauty parlor through the early 1950’s. Their ultimate move to California and trips to Honolulu may have had something to do with Yvonne Orchard who is mentioned in obituaries as a daughter. She must have been the child of Lillian from her youth, perhaps relinquished as an infant and reunited later, but she does not appear in census records with Linus and Lillian. Linus died in 1959 in Los Angeles, Lillian died in 1965; they are buried in Live Oak Memorial Park in Monrovia, Los Angeles County, CA. Ralph Bernard Wagner died in 1973, his wife Ellen Cathleen McCormick died in 1972; they are buried in Calvary Cemetery in Toledo, OH. They had no children.
Gerard Calistus Wagner married Mary Viola Cloone in 1935 in Minot, ND where Mary grew up, daughter of William and Elaine Cloone. They raised two sons in St. Cloud: William G. (1937) and John Thomas (1939). The family moved to River Forest, a western suburb of Chicago before 1950 where Gerard and Mary listed their occupation as musicians. In due course the family moved West to Los Angeles, CA. Gerard died in 1990; Mary died in 2011 at the age of 101 and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, Los Angeles County, CA.