Felix Maurath, 1815–1897
Felix Maurath was born on 20 May 1815 in the village of Unzhurst, Baden, Germany, the oldest child of Joseph H. and Rosina Maurath. Felix was baptized at St. Cyriak Catholic Church.
In 1834, the family left Germany and travelled to LeHavre, France, where their ship left for America, later arriving at New York City. From New York they travelled to Cleveland, Ohio, then south to Newark, to Columbus, and eventually settled in Chillicothe, Ross County, Ohio.
Felix and his cousin, Bernhard Maurath, acquired jobs on the Ohio River at Cincinnati. Bernhard went back home to Newark, where he became the owner of Newark’s first baseball team. Another cousin, Michael Maurath, was one of the first beer brewers in the late 1830s in Columbus and then later in Newark. A Civil War letter shows that Union General William Sherman drank Michael Maurath beer and even sent back the empty bottles. Michael changed his surname to Morath and his great-grandson is the famous ragtime piano player, Max Morath, who was alive and ninety-four years old in 2020.
Felix’s job took him to Louisville, Kentucky, where it’s believed he and other rivermen were hired in 1838 by the Army Corps of Engineers under the direction of Robert E. Lee, future Confederate general. The men were brought to St. Louis, where they helped the Corps of Engineers change the course of the Mississippi River back to the St. Louis side of the river. During this time, Felix acquired temporary housing near Ridge Prairie, now O’Fallon, St. Clair County, Illinois.
On 21 May 1839, Felix married Barbara Jacob at the Old Cathedral in St. Louis. Barbara “Barbe” was born in 1818 in the village of Vieux-Lixheim, Lorraine, France, which is near the famous Moselle wine region and is only about fifty miles west of Felix’s hometown. Barbara was the daughter of Jean-Thiebault Jacob and Jeanne Schuler. Her father in died in France before the family migrated to Ohio, then to Illinois in 1838. Felix brought all of Barbara’s family to live with them in Ridge Prairie. Two children were born to Felix and Barbara. The oldest son, Denis, was born in 1840 during a visit back to Germany. After coming back to America, Barbara gave birth to her second child in 1842, but both mother and child died. Denis was later killed during the Civil War as a member of General Fremont’s bodyguard. The Jacob family remained with Felix.
Photo in the collection of Barbara (Maurath) St. Clair
Used with permission
After the Corps of Engineers project, Felix acquired work as a riverman in St. Louis, and in 1842 he bought a home in Soulard, then known as “Frenchtown,” from Benjamin A. and Rosa H. Soulard. It was located right behind St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church on Buel Street, now known as South 10th Street. In 1844, Felix married his deceased wife’s younger sister, Josephine Jacob. Together, they had twelve children, nine of whom lived to adulthood.
In 1864, during the Civil War, Felix moved his family to Millstadt, St. Clair County, Illinois, where he died thirty-three years later on Christmas Day, 1897.
Written by John Louis Maurath, great-great-grandson (Originally written in 2015 for the 200th anniversary of Felix’s birth.)
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Last Modified: 14-Mar-2021 17:57