Justina Dieter Kilian

The Wichita Daily Beacon

Monday, December 28, 1885

“George Dieter Blows out his brains in his brother’s Hayloft”

This front page story in a Kansas newspaper describing my great uncle’s suicide came to my attention only a few years ago. Its frequent references to my great grandmother the deceased’s “sister in law” caught my eye. The events of the article were totally unknown to me. Yet, I immediately realized one salient fact which the article understandably omitted. At the time of this Sunday night tragedy, my great grandmother “Mrs. Dieter” was pregnant with my grandmother who would be born in El Paso, Texas the following May. Long after my grandmother’s death, and well into my adult life, I learned that she had twice experienced the suicide of a loved one. First when she was a newly wed her youngest brother took his life and decades later, her husband of more than 50 years, my grandfather followed this sad pattern. Perhaps because of these earlier realizations, my grandmother relationship through her mother with this particular Kansas suicide was startling.

In a much shorter article which appeared several days later, Mrs. Kilian, a women unknown to me and described as the aunt of the deceased was mentioned as coming from Junction City to attend the funeral. These two women, the deceased’s sister in law and deceased’s aunt are my own distant relatives. Their knowledge of and closeness to the events in Wichita, Kansas on that far away winter evening, draws me unavoidably closer to the facts I do not know.

These women are after all present deeply in my blood and less tangibly we share a vision of the world shaped by our common history. A history much better known to them than it is to me. Their future which comprises my life and my knowledge of the most recent past is something of which they knew nothing. Yet, it is all I have to go on in searching backwards to find them.

Finding their names scattered in minimal documents, I can pick up threads of travel and tragedy; the bare essential of their lives. Trying to find the deeper history of that winter Sunday evening, I search for the lives of these women, mentioned only in passing in the long folded pages of a Kansas newspaper.


A few days after Christmas in 1885, the Wichita Daily Beacon reported that my great grandmother’s brother in law, George Dieter shot himself in her husband’s hayloft after “he attended the rehearsal for the masquerade ball at the opera house in the afternoon, and at the Turner’s hall in the evening. Later in the evening he attended a social gathering at John Weisenfluh’s when it was noticed he refused to take part in the singing, although he is usually very accommodating on such occasions. During the evening his manner was rough towards his sister-in-law…” His manner was rough to my great grandmother, Lenchen Barenz Dieter who was at the time pregnant with my grandmother who would be known as Hattie. Both my great grandmother and her daughter my grandmother shared the same name Helen. However both women were known by its deminuative variants, Lenchen and Hattie. The power of the full name of Helen seems to have eluded them both..

The Daily Beacon went on to report that the deceased brother, my great grandfather has been out of town when the tragedy occurred. His brother “George has been attending to things about home, and in the main made himself agreeable, but he was liable to fits of moodiness when he tried his sister-in-law’s temper severely.” George’s sister in law, my great grandmother, Mrs. Dieter, had been left in Wichita four months pregnant, with three young children, and several family members while her husband scouted out the possibility of opening a business in the El Paso area. The new and rugged city of Wichita, Kansas must have seemed a strange place to my great grandmother coming as she did only a few years before from the centuries old town of Langen, in Hesse Darmstadt..

Lenchen had come to Wichita from the small town of Langen not far from Darmstadt. In August of 1862, she had watched as a child the celebrations in that Duchy to honor Alice, the daughter of Queen Victoria when she arrived as a young bride to Prince Louis. The arrival of Alice in Darmstadt coincides closely with the Battle of Antietam in America, September 17, 1862. This was the first major battle in the war to be fought on Northern soil. The civil war in the USA and the Bismark wars leading to German unification weave a thread of death and destruction which unites Alice, Lenchen and all their contemporaries. Soon Queen Victoria herself came to the region to visit her daughter in the city of Darmstadt. Imagine the festivities around the arrival of Queen victoria. The machinations of Wichita, Kansas, a new rugged city, must have seemed very strange to Lenchen.

On January 1, 1886 a short article describes the funeral of George Dieter and mentions that Mrs. Killian, an aunt of the deceased arrived from Junction City to attend the funeral.

Who was this Mrs. Kilian, I wondered?

The mention of “Mrs Kilian” pointed to the fact that not only was my great grandfather not the first generation to come to America but also that there was a close relationship between the younger generation, my great grandfather and his older relatives.

How had Justina Kilian gotten to Kansas from Germany? or perhaps was she born in America?.

This mysterious woman ” Mrs. Killian” next showed up in my research half way around the world in the church record books of Langen, Germany. I wasn’t even looking for her. I was in fact searching the family of my great grand parents.

Justina Kilian nee Dieter widow of the late George Kilian USA.

On July 10, 1864, she was in Langen for the baptism of Justina Eva Dieter. This little girl was the first girl child born to George Wendal Dieter and his wife Maria Margaretha Daab, Justina’s brother and his wife. They already had six sons. The child’s other god parent was Eva Daab Kafferberger, quite possibly the sister of the child’s mother.

Justina, my Mrs. Kilian, was the sister of the child’s father, George Wendell Dieter. Making her indeed the aunt of George Dieter whose funeral she would attend in Wichita, Kansas, twenty years later.

November 1, 1864 the second daughter of Alice, daughter of Queen Victoria, and Prince Louis of Hesse was born in Darmstadt.

On Dec1, 1864 just five months after the baptism of Justina’s goddaughter’s in Langen, the baby’s father, George Wendal Dieter, Justina’s younger brother died. He died in Darmstadt Hospital. One year before his death, Princess Alice had written home to her mother Queen Victoria that she was ” going to visit the hospital in Darmstadt which is said not to be good or well looked after. I want to be able to succeed for the people have plenty of money but not the will”. Princess Alice was very much involved with hospital work in Hesse-Darmstadt. Her mention of Darmstadt hospital so close to the time of George’s death there attests to the fact that the Dieter family must have been very much aware of the presence of Queen Victoria’s daughter in their land. Surely, Alice and her work was often a topic of conversation in all Hesse-Darmstadt households.

With the early death of George Wendal Dieter in 1864, events were set in motion for his sons the nephews of Justina to begin their journeys to America. They were following their aunt and several uncles who had earlier made the trip.

In August 1863, Queen Victoria visited Darmstadt to meet her new granddaughter, Elizabeth. By then probably Justina was back in America but surely the Dieter family took note of Queen Victoria’s presence in their town.

I found the name Kaffenberger again on a postcard in 1904 sent to August Dieter from Germany. …Kaffengerger and ….Nicklaus had sent a post card together and the address of Nicklas was Baltimore, Maryland. They both signed it “cousin”. So the Kaffenberger connection continued…….with the Dieter connection and supposedly the Nicklas and Killian connection.

Slowly, I discovered more facts about Mrs. Kilian

She was the second daughter of Johan Philip Dieter, a cooper and Anna Maria Range. She was born March 8, 1829 between 4 and 5 o’clock in the morning in Reinheim, Germany.

The following year her brother George Wendell was born. He was my great great grandfather and Justina’s younger brother. In 1841 another son was born, Johann George and another son in 1845, Johan Nicolas. Probably there were more children in the family whose names I have not yet discovered.

In the emigration card index of the State Archives in Darmstadt, there is no mention of Justine of Groß-Bieberau or Reinheim, going to America. There is only mentioned Justine Diether of Geinsheim who went overseas in 1852.

Looking further in GERMANS TO AMERICA, I found Justine Dieter age 22 traveling on the ship Nimrod from La Harve and arriving in NYC on June 28, 1852. Also on board is Johann M Daab who might have been a relative from Geinsheim. Justina’s brother George had married a woman named Daab. However, there is no George Kilian on board this ship.

So this must be her, our Justine coming to America by herself. But where did she go when she arrived in New York in 1852?

The next record of Justine shows up in the US CENSUS of 1860. She is living in Zanesville, Ohio with her husband George. They are both 21 years old and both from Germany. Their one year old son George who was born in New York is also living with them. As is Justina’s brother, George Dieter, 19 years old. Both men are barbers.

Justina Diether

2nd child, 2nd daughter of Johann Philipp Diether, citizen and cooper in Reinheim, and of Anna Maria Ramge

* 08.03.1829 Reinheim, between 4 and 5 o’clock a.m.

≈ 10.03.1829 Reinheim

godmothers: Anna Justine Michel, the sister of the father, and Maria Christine, wife of Wendel Diether, the father’s brother

I did not find the entry of her marriage in the church records of Reinheim and Groß-Bieberau, nor in the family book of Langen.

From a letter written in 1948 by her nephew Frank Henry Dieter, I learned that she traveled to America with her husband and her sister Kate in 1850. This letter also mentions that Frank Henry’s father, Johan Georg Dieter age 17 also went to America in 1850. Justina, Kate and Johan Georg were siblings of George Wendel.

However, the emigration card index of the State Archives in Darmstadt does not mention Justine Diether of Groß-Bieberau or Reinheim, there is only mentioned Justine Diether of Geinsheim who went overseas in 1852.

Johann Georg Dieter of Groß-Bieberau, lutheran, miller, 17 years old, emigrated to America 1858 March 4.

Johann Nicolaus Dieter of Groß-Bieberau, 16 years old, emigrated to America 1861 July 3.

Justina and Georg Wendel Dieter had a brother Johann Georg who was born in 1841 in Reinheim. Johann Nicolaus is perhaps another brother of them (born in Groß-Bieberau?).


A. Mischewski

2) A widow on July 10, 1864 in Germany for the baptism of Justina Eva Christian Dieter the seventh child and first daughter of

Justina Eva Catharina

7th child, 1st daughter

* 25.06.1864 Langen, 4 o’clock p.m.

≈ 10.07.1864 Langen

godparents: Justina Kilian née Dieter, widow of the late Georg Kilian in USA, Eva Catharina Kaffenberger née Daab in Groß-Bieberau, widow of the late Valentin Kaffenberger

( Eva Daab was perhaps a sister of the baby’s mother, Maria Margarethe Daab. Justina was the sister of the baby’s father, George Wendal Dieter.

U 04.07.1865 Langen…This baby girl died just 6 days before her first birthday.

Georg Wendel Dieter

1851 citizen in Groß-Bieberau, owner of the Hartmanns mill in Groß-Bieberau

he came with his family to Langen after 25.09.1859 and before February 1862

citizen and miller in Langen

3rd child 1st son of Johann Philipp Diether, citizen and master cooper in Reinheim, later

citizen and miller in Groß-Bieberau, and of Anna Margaretha Ramge

* 10.12.1830 Reinheim, shortly after 11 o’clock p.m.

≈ 12.12.1830 Reinheim


Anna Maria Margaretha Daab

3rd child 3rd daughter of Johann Nikolaus Daab IV, citizen in Groß-Bieberau, and of Eva Maria Schoenberger

* 15.08.1833 Groß-Bieberau, 5 o’clock a.m.

≈ 25.08.1833 Groß-Bieberau

godmother: Anna Margaretha, daughter of Leonhard Schönberger in Groß-Bieberau

U before 30.01.1881

¥ II. 14.11.1867 Langen

Johann Wilhelm Bär

*02.09.1839 Langen


Justina shows up again at the funeral in 1885 of her nephew,

George Dieter


4th child 4th son

* 12.07.1857 Groß-Bieberau, between 5 and 6 o’clock a.m.

≈ 19.07.1857 Groß-Bieberau

godfathers: Georg Wetteroth, son of Georg Nikolaus Wetteroth, citizen and master miller in Groß-Bieberau, Johann Philipp Ullrich, citizen and master weaver of socks, instead of his son Georg Friedrich

in Wichita, Kansas

December 30, 1885

The Daily Times, El Paso, Texas “Death of George Dieter. On the 28th instant Mr. J. P. and A. C. Dieter, in response to a telegram from Wichita, Kansas, left for that place. The telegram announced the death of their brother George Dieter. The sad occurrence will bring up in the minds of the people of El Paso the many recollections of the wholesouled, generous, openhanded and impulsive friend who has often put himself “in a hole” to relieve the pressing necessities of his friends. George Dieter never in his whole life turned a deaf ear to the cry of distress or the claims of friendship. Whatever his faults may have been (and who of us have none?) these were not found in his vocabulary and when the recording angel comes to balance his accounts we feel assured (for we knew him well) that the deeds of generosity and charity which will go to his credit will more than offset what is on the other side of the balance sheet. His brothers and friends have our sincere sympathies in their affliction. May the sod rest lightly above him and may the perennial flowers of spring bloom as brightly as the memory of his friends in the minds of his friends.”

” You may break, you may shatter the vase

if you will,

But the scent of the rose will cling round

it still.”

January 1, 1886

Friday WDE “Gus and Philip Deiter, brothers of the young man, who in a fit of temporary insanity, put an end to his life, arrived home yesterday morning from Mexico, in time to attend the funeral. Mrs. Killian, an aunt of the deceased, also arrived from Junction City, to attend the funeral”

Justina came to US June 28, 1852…New York from La Harve with Johann Daab age 19

April 3, 1852, George Kilian applied for citizenship, granted July 7 1856, witnessed by H. Schmidt,( Schmiedty ?), 205 Eighth Ave.NY.

Justina Christian Kilian died Sept 8, 1888, 59 years, 6 months and 2 days, name of parents, Ann Margarethe and John Philip Dieter, Housekeeper, widow, white, cause, cancer of the stomach, interred Sept 9, 4 pm (Highland cemetery record, no 728 )

June 8, 1878

In this city on Monday evening the 3rd inst. At 6:30 George Killian Sr. Age 49 years, 7 months and 4 days after a prolonged illness of about 4 months.

The funeral services were conducted in the Presbyterian church on Wednesday afternoon by Rev. I Jacobus, in the presense of a large and sympathizing audience. The remains were followed to the tomb by relatives and a long line of friends in carriages.

The deceased was born in Germany and came to Junction City in 1866. George Kilian, Jun, is the only surviving child. Mrs. Kilian , surviving companion of the deceased has the earnest sympathy of all who know her.


Looking in NYC Directories these George Kil(l)ians were found

1854-5 New York Directory

George Killian at 441 Hudson St.

George Killian at 224 Hudson St.



Also 1859-60

George F. Kilian, barber, 407 Hudson Street


George Killian at 135 west 28th Street (between 7th and 8th Ave.)


George Killian, mason, in the rear of 101 West 31th Street

1860 Census

July 26 the US Census reports in Zanesville, Ohio:

George Kilian born in Germany, 21 years old, Barber ( this age is wrong should be 31)

Justiana Kilian born in Germany, 21 years old ( this age is wrong should be 31)

George Kilian, born in New York, 6 years old

George Dieter born in Germany, 19 years old , Barber

1870 Census

January 26 The US Census reports in Junction City, Davis County, Kansas:

George Kilian, age 42, barber, born in Germany, real estate, $3000, personal property$500.born in Hesse Darmstadt

Justina Kilian, age 41, Hesse Darmstadt

George Dieter, 16, barber apprentice, born in New York

Mary Filber, domestic servant, 16 born in Illinois

Peter Kroens, 26, born in Prussia, barber.

June 22 The US Census in Republican Township county of Clay, Post Office Gatesville, Kansas:

George Dieter, 29 Farmer, Born Hesse Darmstadt, Real Estate value 5000, Personal Property, 1000

Wilhelmina 23, Born Sweden, George born July 10/12 age, Aurelia Suiter, age 13, at home, born Erfurt.

July 25 The US Census reports in Abiline, KS, Dickenson County:

George Dieter, 29 Barber, born in Germany Real Estate, $1000, personal property, $1000.

Johanna 20 years old born in Sweden

George, 1 year old, born in Kansas

Nicholas Dieter, Barber 25 years old, born in Germany, married last May, $1000, real estate, $400 personal property

Lena, 18, born in Ill. married last May

1880 Census

June 3 The US Census, St Louis, Missouri:

Jacob Dieter, age 55,born Hesse Darmstadt, laborer

Flora, age 54, born Baden

Philip, age 14, tabaconist, born Missouir

Maggie, age 10, at school, born Missouri

June 4 The US Census reports in Wichita, Kansas:

Philip Dieter age 29 Barber

Anna D. Dieter age 30 wife

Ida Mae Dieter age 11 daughter born in Wyo. Terr.

August Dieter age 21 Stone mason

Adam Dieter age apprentice barber

Alice Denly age 21 female servant born in PA

Living next door to the Dieter family: George Kayser (29 born in Holstein) and his wife Katie Kayser (17 born in Il).

June 9 US Census, Junction City, Davis County, Kansas

Christina (Justina Dieter) Killian, age 51, born Hesse Darmstadt

George J.W. Killian, age 26, son born New York, Barbar

Christina Killian, age 21, born New York.

June 10 US Census, Oakland Township, Clay County, Kansas

George Dieter, age 39, Grocer, born Hesse Darmstadt

Johanna, 30 years old, born Sweden

George, 10, born Kansas

Anna MM, age 8, born Kansas

Missa W age 7, born Kansas

Katy, age 1, born Kansas


June 20 US Census Oakland, Clay County, Kansas

John G Dieter, age 59, born in Germany, owns farm

Johanna, age 50, born in Sweden

Lillie M, age 28, Bookkeeper, born Kansas

Katy M, age 21, born Kansas

Nicholas, age 18, born Kansas

Charlie A, age 15, born Kansas

Nellie B age 11,born Kansas

Frank age 8,born Kansas

June 22 US Census, Geary County, Junction City, Kansas

add Justina’s grandchildren

Found ” George Wendell Kilian, Auditor in cement co” as a graduate of Junction City, High School in 1898. could this be Justina’s grandson?

Found ” Justina Kilian (Mrs. Bader) R. F. D. 1″ she was a 1904 graduate of Junction City High Schoo.This must be Justina’s granddaugther.

Note: In the fall of 1937, my mother Maxine Elsner was a student at Northwest University in Evanston, Ill.. She was asked by her family to attend a wedding in Chicago. It was the wedding of Louis P. Cain. His mother Lillian Cain was a Dieter. She was the daughter of George Dieter. Lillian’s aunt was Justina Dieter Kilian. Lillian Dieter was born in Kansas in 1872. She undoubtedly knew her Aunt Justina…and she knew my mother. It was at this wedding that my mother met my father William Gretsch.

So Justina had a hand in my parents’ meeting. My search for her was much more meaningful than I imagined when I started looking for her. On this day, March 24, 2006, I made the complete connection between Lillian Cain, my mother and Justina Dieter. Hurrah!

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