Friday, July 30, 2021

Doris (Tennis) Oehlman, a Derby-area matriarch

This is Doris (Tennis) Oehlman (1822-1908), matriarch of a family that settled during 1858 near what would become Derby in Union Township, Lucas County --- one of several excellent family photographs in a well preserved album given to the Lucas County Historical Society during 1966 by Erma (McMains) Taylor (1891-1974), one of her granddaughters.

Some might argue that Mrs Oehlman looks rather grim, but I've a feeling that's more a reaction to the camera than it was to life in general. It certainly does look as if she were determined, however, as one would need to be during a lifetime that began in Germany and included the loss of a young husband, raising eight children (seven by her second marriage) as well as losing one as an infant, and life on the open prairie in pioneer Lucas County.

Here's her obituary, as published in The Chariton Patriot of Oct. 29, 1908, after she had lived in the south of Iowa for 50 years:


Mrs. Doris Oehlman, wife of the late Charles Oehlman and one of the early settlers of Union township, died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Doris Slater, Sunday noon.

Doris Tennis was born in Hanover, Germany, Dec. 22nd, 1822. She came to the United States as a child. She was married in St. Louis to Henry Burgdorf (or Burghdorf) in 1846. Mr. Burgdorf died in 1847. One son was born to this union, Henry Burgdorf, now living at Custer City, Oklahoma.

In 1850 she was marred in Quincy, Illinois, to Charles Oehlman, who died in 1891. they came to Lucas county, settling on a farm south of Derby in 1858.

They were the parents of eight children, all living except one son, George, who died in infancy. The surviving children are Mrs. Louise Dickinson of Seattle, Wash., Mrs. Frances Morey of Gordon, Neb., Mrs. Emma West of Conway, Iowa, and Mrs. Lydia McMains, Mrs. Doris Slater, Mrs. Maggie Penick and Charles H. Oehlman, of Derby.

During her fifty years residence in Union township, Mrs. Oehlman had won and held the love and esteem of all with whom she came in contact. The deceased had been a member of the Lutheran church in girlhood, later joining the Derby M.E. church. Mrs. Oehlman was an earnest christian, a kind and affectionate mother, and a most excellent friend and neighbor.

Funeral services were held at the M.E. church Tuesday afternoon, conducted by Rev. A.W. Armstrong of St. Charles, a former pastor. Interment was made at Derby cemetery.

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