Born Christian Friedrich Ludwig Winkelmaier, in Heilbronn, Wurttemberg, on 22 October 1811, Louis was the son of Johann David Christoph Winkelmaier and Catherine Dorothea Schmid. He was baptized in the Evangelical Church in Heilbronn on 27 October 1811. He had five full siblings and five half-siblings, of whom four came to the U.S. His full siblings were Julius, Ernst, and Louise, who came to St. Louis, and his half-brother, Charles Bernhard, went to Warren County, Missouri. Louis had been a soldier in Germany but left, marrying Eliza Gilbert in Paris in 1837, and immigrating to the United States in about 1839. Their first child, Louisa, was born in St. Louis, in 1840. Other children were William, Julia, Louis, Ernestine, and Julius.

Per military records from 1840, Louis Winkelmaier enlisted in the U. S. Army; his occupation was listed as carpenter. He was assigned to an ordnance regiment. He was discharged in 1841 and his occupation was noted as carriage maker. The 1850 census lists his occupation as engineer. The 1860 federal census lists his occupation as architect.

In the 1854 city directory, Louis Winkelmaier’s occupation was civil engineer. Records from the Bureau of Land Management/Government Land Office, also from 1854, show him and other men acquiring land in St. Charles County. Whether those acquisitions had anything to do with meetings in 1855 “for the purpose of obtaining stock in the Waterloo and Carondelet Turnpike and Ferry,” as reported in the Daily Missouri Republican, is uncertain. Another possibility was that the land could be mined for iron ore.

In 1856, it appears that Louis Winkelmaier became involved in politics and was elected to the Missouri State Legislature that year, again according to a report in the Daily Missouri Republican. He may have served two terms, as he was re-elected in 1858.

In 1857, he was listed in newspaper ads in the Daily Missouri Republican as one of the owners of the McMurray, Winkelmaier and Co. foundry. That business burned to the ground in 1859 and was rebuilt in 1860.

Louis Winkelmaier
Louis Winkelmaier
Photo in the collection of Mary McMillan
Used with permission

When the Civil War broke out, Louis Winkelmaier became a captain of Company K, Fifth Regiment, Missouri Infantry. Unfortunately, his service was short as he was court-martialed and found guilty of drinking while on duty. He returned to civilian life and resumed business with McMurray, Winkelmaier and Co. However, by 1870, the federal census listed his occupation as retired from the foundry. The 1870 city directory listed him as running a saloon.

Louis Winkelmaier died 12 April 1872 in St. Louis. The cause of death is listed as erysipelas, a skin infection that today is usually not fatal. He was buried in Holy Ghost Cemetery. His will left property to his wife, Eliza, in St. Louis City and County, St. Charles, Washington, St. Francois, and Buchanan counties in Missouri, and Clayton County, Iowa.

There is a published biography of Louis Winkelmeyer (an alternate Americanized spelling of his surname) in the Encyclopedia and History of St. Louis, Volume I, edited by Hyde and Conard, 1899. The biography contains some interesting information, which cannot be verified, particularly that he worked with Robert E. Lee when Lee was working to make the Mississippi navigable. No family stories have come down, so this biography is based on church records, census records, city directory listings, tax records, probate records, death records, newspaper articles, and military records.

Written by Mary McMillan
February 2018

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Last Modified: 26-Oct-2018 11:53