Saline History: Louisa Rentschler Understood Big German Farm Families

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 04/11/2016 - 00:33

Louisa Rentschler came from large family. She was the seventh of of 14 children, and grew up on a farm in Lodi Township where German was spoken in the home.

She and her husband, George John Feldkamp, both had their portraits taken in a studio in January 1882 about the time of their wedding.  She was 23, and so was her new husband.

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Women at that time usually had very long hair, parted in the middle, and pulled up neatly in back. She is holding on to the fringed, upholstered arm of a chair, to help her hold still long enough for the film to be exposed.

She is wearing a tailored, fitted suit with buttons down the front, and it flatters her figure. It was the style at that time for women to wear corsets, and it is likely that Louisa had one on to make sure her figure looked really nice. Any dry goods store in Saline would have had corsets in stock.

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George Feldkamp’s photo shows him looking stylish, his hair neatly parted, and sporting a suit with wide lapels.

Louisa’s parents must have been successful as farmers. They were able to afford the photos seen here, as well as another wedding photo, which shows her in a dark dress with gathered sleeves and lacy white ruffles around her neck.

Shortly before her wedding, in 1880, the census shows her living in Lodi Township with her parents and nine of her sisters and brothers. An older brother, Matthew, was working as a carpenter next door. He was living with his wife and baby boy; some other brothers and sisters had also left home.

The census refers to the family as “Rentchler,” without the “s.” That was their name until the 1930s, when Louisa’s brother, Emanuel, got the idea to add the “s” to the name.

Emanuel bought 216 acres of farmland in Pittsfield Township just after the turn of the century. His brother Matthew, the carpenter, built a new farmhouse there for Emanuel.

Emanuel’s farm included cattle and sheep, so he took the train to Buffalo, NY to take his livestock for sale out east. While there, he met some people named “Rentschler” with an “s” in their name, and he liked it.

Most of the Rentschler family adopted the new spelling.

Warren Rentschler, an active member of the Saline Area Historical Society, told me he was born in 1924 om the Rentschler farmhouse, now open to the public. He says he got his name changed as a child when his grandfather came back from a trip to Buffalo.

Today, the farm established by Louisa’s brother is known as the Rentschler Farm Museum.

Louisa Rentschler Feldkamp was the mother of at least six children, according to family tree work done by Stacy Burmeister Gingras. The Feldkamps lived on a farm west of Saline and probably kept their children busy trying to keep track of all their aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Martha Churchill's picture
Martha A. Churchill
BA in Journalism and Anthropology at UM in 1973. Law degree at Cooley Law School in 1979. Member of Milan City Council since 2004. Practicing attorney. Genealogist since 2001; local historian since 2006. Free-lance writer.