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The Charles G. Reifel &
Elizabeth Strasburger Family

of Franklin County, Indiana

Photo taken before their daughter, who became Sister Conradine, entered the Oldenburg convent of the Franciscans
Family Portrait Taken in 1917 at Brookville, Indiana

Charles G. Reifel and his Family

From The History of Franklin County, Indiana by August J. Reifel
Published 1915 by B. F. Bowen & Company, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana

The members of the Reifel family have been honored residents of Franklin County, Indiana, since 1859, when the parents of Charles G. Reifel located in the county. Mr. Reifel began teaching school before reaching his majority, and, before assuming the office of County Auditor in 1912, taught twenty-seven years in one township. A service of such length is sufficient indication that Mr. Reifel was a successful teacher, and the thousands of pupils who have gone to school to him will heartily attest to his efficiency as an instructor of youth.

There is no higher profession than that of the public school teacher, and he who molds the youth of this country during their plastic years is doing that great work which once caused a great educator to say, "The common schools, the hope of our country."

Charles G. Reifel, the son of Conrad and Louisa (Sommer - birth name)(Koerner - adoptive name) Reifel, was born in Peppertown, Salt Creek Township, Franklin County, Indiana, April 24, 1865. His parents were born in Germany, and came to America in 1859. Ten children were born to Conrad Reifel and wife: Charles G. Reifel of Brookville; Emma Reifel, the wife of John Becky, of Cincinnati, Ohio; Caroline, who is living on the old home place at Peppertown; William J. Reifel of Cleveland, Ohio; August J. Reifel, superintendent of the Brookville schools; Louis H. Riefel of Fowler, Indiana; Herman T. Reifel living in Minnesota; Louise Reifel, the wife of G. W. Hyde, of Brookville; and two who died in infancy.

Charles G. Reifel received his elementary training in the schools at Peppertown, and later was a student in the Normal School at Laurel, Indiana. While still a mere youth he began teaching, and for more than a quarter of a century followed this profession in Butler Township, in this county. He interspersed his teaching with several terms at the State Normal School at Terre Haute, Indiana, attending this excellent school in order to prepare himself the better for his work. During the latter part of his teaching career Mr. Reifel was superintendent of schools at St. Mary's, in this county.

Mr. Reifel was married October 24, 1888, to Elizabeth Strasburger, who was born in Butler Township, and was Commissioner in Franklin County for six years. The mother of Mrs. Reifel is still living. There have been eleven children born to Mr. and Mrs. Reifel, all of whom are still living. They are Matilda Riefel, Mary Reifel, Carrie Reifel, Dora Reifel, Harry Reifel, Emma Reifel, William Reifel, Frances Reifel, Lambert Reifel, and twins Clarissa Riefel and Elizabeth Reifel. All of these children are still single and three of the daughters, Mary, Carrie and Dora, are teachers in the public schools.

Mr. Reifel has always taken an active part in Democratic politics, and was formerly secretary of the township organization in Butler Township. In 1910 he was elected Auditor of Franklin County and took his office January 1, 1912. In 1914 he was renominated and again elected, which means that he will hold the office until 1920. In the administration of the duties connected with this office he has given his fellow citizens conscientious and efficient service, a fact which they recognized by re-electing him after the expiration of his first term. The family are all loyal members of the St. Michael's Catholic church of Brookville. Fraternally, Mr. Reifel is a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of America, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and the Improved Order of Red Men. In 1911 Mr. Reifel moved with his family to Brookville, and now lives at the site of the old home where Gen. Lew Wallace was born. He calls his home "Fort Wallace" and adds, in his whimsical way, the "fort is full of Reifels (rifles)."

--Pages 630 - 631, History

Charles George Reifel &
Elizabeth Sophia Strasburger

From The Reifel Family 1780 - 1982 by Charles W. Niehaus
Published 1982

Charles, my grandfather, was born on April 24, 1865, the oldest of ten children of Conrad George Reifel, Sr., and Louisa Charlotte Sommer Koerner. Charles's father was 25 and his mother 20 at the time of his birth. Charles was raised on the family homestead in rural Peppertown where he got his 8 years of formal public education.

Charles must have decided fairly early that he did not want to continue the family tradition of being a farmer like his father and grandfather. He chose, rather, to enter the teaching profession. After his grade school education, he went to the Normal School at the Laurel Seminary in Laurel, Franklin County, Indiana, near Metamora, for several semesters. As to other education he received, we know that he also studied at State Normal School in Terre Haute for several summers and took numerous in-service educational programs in Brookville.

For a short time, Charles worked in his uncle Jakob Reifel's blacksmith shop. This he did before his definitive decision to go into the teaching profession. Nothing else is known for sure about his early childhood other than the fact he was raised in a family of staunch Lutheran principles. Consequently, religious practice was central to their life in Lutheran Peppertown.

In 1884 at age 19, Charles began to teach for one year at the Kirschbaum school, a rural one-room schoolhouse along the main road between Peppertown and Oldenburg. The following year he taught at the Strasburger School. The Strasburger School was called such because Mr. Conrad Strasburger was a township trustee, and the school was located next to the Strasburger family homestead (4 miles from Oldenburg and 3 miles from St. Mary's).

Charles G. Reifel and his class at the Strasburger School
Charles and his class at the Strasburger School

This school was also a one-room building and was state-supported. Charles taught there for three years (1885-1888), boarding nearby with the Carl George family. It was while teaching at the Strasburger School that he met his future wife, Elizabeth Strasburger. Charles passed her family's house on the way to and from school. Elizabeth was also one of the older students in the school (age 15). Charles was only 20 when he first taught Elizabeth.

Strongly influenced by the Catholic family with whom he lived, and by the community in which he lived, Charles became a convert to Catholicism. He took instructions from the Franciscans at the monastery in nearby Oldenburg. He was received into the Catholic Church on February 4, 1888. We can appreciate the difficulty of religious conversion in those days because it was very unusual for a young adult to join another religion. Charles was brought up a Lutheran in Lutheran Peppertown. Some non-Catholic people in the area thought that the monastery at Oldenburg had guns in the building to defend against those not Catholic.

in 1888, Charles changed to the one-room school in St. Mary's where he continued to teach until 1911. This change was considered a promotion. He got the job because the Catholic people of St. Mary's wanted a Catholic as its school teacher. They didn't like Mr. Schlegel, Charles's predecessor, who was mean and whipped the children.

The school at St. Mary's, Franklin County, Indiana
St. Mary's School, Franklin County, Indiana

Charles also served as school principal at St. Mary's in his later years when a second classroom and teacher were added in 1910. Part of Charles's duties at St. Mary's included playing the organ at Mass, directing the church choir, caring for the servers and altars, and tending the school and church furnaces. Charles also became a member of the Knights of Columbus.

The first house in which Charles and Elizabeth lived in St. Mary's has been torn down to make room for the parish cemetery, but their second one still stands opposite the present cemetery. Both homes were owned by the parish. In 1906, the Catholic Church in St. Mary's was totally gutted by a fire, but the hard-working German Catholics there got to work and rebuilt it.

While Charles and Elizabeth lived in St. Mary's their first child, Matilda, was born to them on March 2, 1890. Elizabeth was but 20 years old. Ten of their 12 children were born while they lived in St. Mary's those 23 years. The twins, Clarissa and Elizabeth, were born to them after their move to Brookville.

Charles loved music. He had learned to play the organ at the St. Nicholas German Lutheran Church in Peppertown, and from the sisters at Oldenburg. He had an organ in the St. Mary's house and he often gathered the family around him after dinner to sing.

Charles must have been a good teacher, judging from his 27 years in the classroom. We know that he was a good story-teller and loved history. He spoke and wrote German quite well. Charles was always interested in poetry, both reading that of others and of writing his own. Charles also loved plants and animals. He planted many of the trees that surround St. Mary's School. One sure source of anger for him came whenever anyone inuring any of his trees in any way. Arbour Day was always a special day in his school.

What was it like around the Reifel family homestead in St. Mary's? Charles was busy with all of his jobs, but never too much so for his family. Life must have been happy. Charles and Elizabeth had a large family, shared many family activities together and witnessed to an active religious faith to see them through hard times. Christmas was a time for gift giving in the Reifel home. Animal cookies were a treasured family tradition at Christmastime as well. They had live cows, chickens, pigs, and one horse. This is the buggy that pulled his buggy to Oldenburg, and served as transportation for the family for many years.

The radio brought much enjoyment to the family. Charles loved to listen to classical music with his earphones, and the whole family listed to the Cincinnati baseball games. Charles knew all the players' names and nicknames by heart, and was well versed in good baseball stories which he often told his children and his students. He took his children to the games in Cincinnati on a rotating basis. The children loved to go, and accordingly kept careful track of whose turn it was to go next. Charles organized local baseball teams to play other area times (like the team in Peppertown).

He loved hunting and fishing, too. Often he took the whole family for an outing to fish together. Elizabeth must have become a specialist in cooking the fish they caught.

Civic interest was also part of Charles's life. He belonged to the Federated Order of Eagles (a civic organization). Since he was a well respected man in the community, people often came to his St. Mary's home to get advice, or to petition for help in drawing up a will, or in finalizing marriage plans. Even from the early part of his life, he was said to have more influence in St. Mary's than the parish priest.

As his family grew, however, finances became an increasing problem. In 1911 he ran for Franklin County Auditor and was elected. Charles certainly disliked giving up teaching, but the needs of his family came first. The Auditor's job brought more money into the family. After his election, Charles and Elizabeth moved their family to nearby Brookville to their new house on High Street. He was 47 years old at the time of the move. Charles taught a number of his own children while they lived in St. Mary's. Once the family moved to Brookville, however, all the children still in primary school went to St. Michael's. Dorothy and Elizabeth remember gypsies passing through the Brookville town square, causing significant problems in the town. The 1920's also brought the frightening cross burnings of the Klu Klux Klan in Brookville.

There was originally no electricity in the Brookville home when they moved in. A big anthracite coal stove with elaborate chrome finish sat in the living room and heated the first floor. The second floor was heated by the stove pipe going up through the ceiling, which radiated heat before it exited through the roof.

Since Brookville itself had not yet had the office of mayor, the Auditor held the most important political job in the Brookville of Charles's time. The terrible flood of 1913 in Franklin County was a big headache for him because many of the bridges were washed out. He put in long 6-day work weeks. Charles served as Franklin County Auditor from 1012 to 1920 -- two terms -- the maximum permitted.

But higher political office was not for him. After his two terms, Charles turned to selling real estate, and kept at it for 2 years beginning in 1920. This must not have been to his liking, because in 1922 he returned to teaching at Cedar Grove. He was a born teacher. At Cedar Grove he taught the upper grades, his daughter Mary taught the middle grades, and his daughter Dorothy taught the lower grades. They traveled the six miles to Cedar Grove in a Model-T Ford, their first Reifel family car, purchased in 1919. Charles taught their for three years until his retirement in 1925 at age 60.

Charles continued to be interested in politics. The presidential campaign of the Catholic, Alfred Smith, in 1928 was of particular interest to him.

Charles's dedication and love of teaching came to be shared by his children. Five of the children -- Mary, Sister Conradine, Dorothy, Emma and William -- were teachers at least part of their lives. In all, I have noted 35 teachers in the Reifel family records. Charles set a far-reaching example of the Reifel family's dedication to education.

Charles was of moderate build and stood 6 feet tall. He loved to eat cherries. On a beautiful spring day in 1923, he bought a whole tree of cherries ready to be picked. While picking, he fell to the ground and punctured his lung. Complications from this accident led to his death in December 1927 at the age of 62.

Elizabeth Strasburger Reifel was a good mother and a faithful homemaker. She received her education at the Strasburger School and later at the Oldenburg Academy, conducted by the Franciscan Sisters in Oldenburg. Elizabeth was particularly skilled at needlework. In 1948, some 21 years after her husband died, she suffered a heart attack. She died from the complications of heart disease on September 23, 1950. She was 80 years old.

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