Thursday, December 31, 2015

Treasure Chest Thursday: Narrative of Emma M. Petit (conclusion)

As promised in last week's Treasure Chest Thursday, this week's item from the genealogy "treasure chest" I was given is the remaining four pages of the document titled "In Lorraine, Germany - Narrative of Emma M. Petit, nee Schafer."  Above is the back of the fourth sheet, which simply stops midsentence.  I again have not transcribed Emma's struck-out writing.

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3 /

Emile Petit is a drinking man and gambler when he possesses the means to satisfy these two inclinations, thus the money received and the bakery only lasted a very few years.  With the remaining few hundred dollars we returned to America, in fact to California were [sic], to start, we had a pretty hard time of it, but little by little I took matters in my own hands and we worked ourselves on our feet again.  We did fairly well for a time but Petit could not stand prosperity and he fell back to his former vices, drinking and gambling.  I had to do something to save the situation, for I had three young children, so I asked for and was given a divorce, Petit not entering any defense, not even presenting himself in Court.  This happened in 1917 [actually 1907].

During all this time I never knew what happened in my former home or what was going on in my mothers family –  I was indirectly informed that mother divorced her husband Louis Curdt –  I made several flying calls to her home while in California, after her divorce while she was living with her only unmarried daughter Alvina.  I even sent my oldest daughter to her for a while.  This daughter is now the wife of William H. Schulte, a farmer of Maryland Heights, in this County –

Everything done by mother and her Curdt children, was done in the dark, in hiding; in fact none of their doings leaked outside their own intimate Curdt family circle.

I heard indirectly that mother sold some small lots of my father's estate, but, as I was under the firm impression that one half of the property belonged to mother in full property and the other have for her use during her lifetime, I did not bother about the matter, as, in my mind, she had a perfect right to dispose of her share of the property.  I never consulted a lawyer in the matter, having always had an unshaken confidence in my mother.  I never remained long enough in Missouri to get acquainted and through acquaintance receive advice, even suggestions.

In 1908 I went to Florida and became married again, and in 1909, with my husband, went to Europe and from there to North Africa, Algiers, where my husband was appointed U.S. Vice Consul.  I came back from Algiers in 1917, and came to live in Missouri, to await the end of the war.  My husband left Algeria in 1918, to enter the armed service against Germany; left the service (Marine Corps) in 1919 and came to join me in Missouri.

In April 1919 my mother lost her life, being burned fatally, her clothes catching fire from an open oven outside her home, and no one present.  She died in a few hours, without being able to give any kind of information.  That very day I expected my mother at my house and we were going to speak over succession matters.  Is it not strange that just on the day we were to have met, such an awful accident should occur?  I was at her bedside when she died, inconsolate, almost heartbroken –

4 /

I loved my mother and never doubted her.  I had even Confidence in my half sisters and brother, for I never knew anything of their diabolical proceedings.  Meanwhile my husband received some convincing proofs that I had been robbed in a shameful manner, but would not do anything until after the family meeting which had necessarily to take place within a month, but during this month my husband found out most of the transactions of the well organized conspiration –  He found out that all the property in hands of Schaefer & his wife Louisa Curdt, Fred. Shulte and his wife Alvina Curdt, and August Curdt and his wife, for which I understood they paid a yearly rental, was actually sold to them, although they never paid the price mentioned in the deeds, but instead paid so much per acre per year –

We found out that in 1906, the three Curdt's with the consent of the mother, obtained by fraudulent means, under influence and nefaste (?) moral pressure, divided among themselves all the property left from the John Schafer's Estate, amounting to about one half of the estate.

This was a hard blow to us, as we lost a great deal during the war, on account of the war, and were really in need, living for the present on my husband's retired pay, almost not sufficient to live on, and nothing else in view –

It took my husband a good while to get all the information in the case and quite an amount of money for which we would have had many other uses.

In common with my husband we decided to study the matter for a month or even two, and we took legal advice.  We then considered all the evidence for and against, we foresaw a great deal of expenses and — we were without cash on hand or means to get it.  So we concluded that, should the Curdts

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And that's where the narrative ends, as can be seen in the image at the top.  There's nothing else in what I was given that seems to pick up the story from where this leaves off.

Between this narrative and the typed one, we have a good overview of Emma's life until about 1919–1920, shortly after her mother died.  It's clear in this section that Emma now knows she was swindled out of her inheritance by her mother, stepfather, and half-siblings.  Unfortunately, it appears that she was unable to do anything about the situation, as she and her second husband had no money to pursue a civil case.  Emma also raises the question, albeit subtly, that her mother might have been murdered, or at least that her death might not have been entirely accidental.

After having typed this, I'm leaning slightly more toward Emma being the person who typed the first narrative.  I noticed that "were" was used instead of "where" in both.  I realize it isn't definitive, but it stood out to me.

The word "nefaste" is not one with which I am familiar.  Emma writes clearly, and I'm sure that's the spelling.  I searched for it online and found it is a French word that means "harmful."  I don't know if I have the right word or not.

Emma wrote that her oldest daughter was married to William H. Schulte and living in Maryland Heights, of "this County."  That would be St. Louis County, where the Curdts also lived.

I realized there were some common surnames in the two halves of Emma's family.  Her maiden name was Schafer, and one of the Curdt daughters married a Schaefer, a spelling used for Emma in the typed narrative.  Emma's daughter married a Schulte, and Alvina Curdt, the other half-sister, married a Shulte.  This might have been an insular community which had a lot of intermarraige between families.

Even with just these two documents, I'm beginning to understand why the woman who originally had these materials found the story interesting enough to try to learn more about it.  I'm looking forward to seeing what the other documents tell us!


  1. Could the French "nefaste" be similar to the English "nefarious"?
    Nefarious | Define Nefarious at
    c.1600, from Latin nefarius "wicked, abominable, impious," from nefas "crime, wrong, impiety," from ne- "not" (see un-) + fas "right, lawful, divinely spoken," related to fari "to speak" (see fame (n.)). Related: Nefariously.

    1. That sounds reasonable to me. Thank you for suggesting it! Maybe it's an obselete or regional word.

    2. Even better: In French "nefaste" means harmful.


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