Minster cemetery receives new marker for well-known native

MINSTER — A dedication ceremony for a new monument for Johann Anton Goehr, architect and builder of many of the churches in “The Land of the Cross Tipped Churches,” is planned for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. Goehr designed and built many of the Catholic churches in Auglaize, Mercer, Shelby, Miami and Darke counties.

In 2019, at the urging of Rich Stein, former president of the Minster Historical Society, Bob Lammers approached the St. Augustine Cemetery Board to study ways to explore options to repair or convert the composition of the Goehr Monument. The board appointed them to be part of a committee to do just that. Lisa Albers, the financial person for the cemetery board, along with historian Nancy Jay, rounded out the committee.

After considerable research with carpenters, meetings and consultation with the committee,St. Augustine Cemetery Board, the St. Augustine Parish Council, and Gary Condon of the monument manufacturer, Edwin F. Nickol, Inc., it was decided to create a permanent black granite monument that would be virtually maintenance free and tell the story of Master Carpenter Anton Goehr. That monument was installed in September 2020.

The story of the life of Anton Goehrm Nubater’s builder of churches

This is a story of a simple, yet passionate and extremely talented master carpenter, architect and builder who spent most of his entire life working on Catholic churches, mostly in midwestern Ohio. We are blessed that many of those churches are still in use as examples of his work. It is a story that is rather mysterious because we do not have any of his actual words to recount. It is a story of a man who experienced many struggles and endured much grief throughout his life.

Johann Anton Goehr, son of Johann Casper Goehr and Anna Maria Elizabeth Lehmkukl was born on April 15, 1823 in Ostbevern, by Munster, Westphalia, Germany. When he was 10 years old, he and his family immigrated to the United States. That trip, lasting several months, went through Baltimore and Cincinnati to Stallostown, now called Minster.

Johann Anton learned the trade of carpentry from his father who was a master carpenter. Anton worked alongside him and others when they built the first log church in Minster in 1835.That structure, made out of local logs, was located on East Fourth street in the northernmost section of Minster Machine Centennial Park. It could accommodate over 300 worshippers.

In 1837, Anton and his father built the first church in nearby Maria Stein. Like Minster’s, this church was also made of logs supplied by local residents.

Following his father’s death in 1838, Anton continued in the carpentry trade and expanded his skills to include architectural design and building.

In 1842 the 21 year-old Johann Anton joined the Ohio Militia unit in Minster. It was a Light Infantry Company, Second Brigade, Twelfth Division. There is no record of his being called to active duty.

Anton married Anna Marie Rathweg in 1848. They were soon the parents of two children, John Bernard and Bernadine. Anton was busy planning and executing the construction of the first brick church in nearby St. John’s (now Maria Stein). That work was completed in 1850.

Meanwhile, Minster was also busy with its own brick church. Goehr was too active in St. Johns to do much in this church. He did sell the parish some oak lumber for $25 and he put his carpentry skills to good use, helping to build some of the pews.

Goehr continued to work on the St. Johns church during the first 5 months of 1849. However, the Asiatic cholera epidemic that began with a fury in June reached its most destructive peak during July and August in Minster. This event was an unbelievable disaster for him. He lost his wife, his son and daughter, his mother and his younger brother, Bernard, to this horrific disease. The cholera deaths were occurring so rapidly in Minster during July and August that bodies were being collected twice a day and buried in four tiers in two trenches, each seven feet wide, on the west portion of St. Augustine cemetery, behind the Steinemann Chapel.

Johann Anton married a second time, to Marie Elizabeth Tumbroegel. She had immigrated with her family from Braegel, Oldenburg, Germany. Johann Anton and Marie Elizbeth’s family included six sons and four daughters, all born and raised in Minster. Five of the sons followed their father in the carpentry/building trades. They also learned their skills from their father and some of them worked alongside him.

The 1982 book “Pilgrims All” by Louis A. Hoying, Rita Hoying, and Fr. David A. Hoying, C.PP.S., lists the following the following churches/buildings built in part or full by Johann Anton Goehr:

• First Church-Stallstown-North Park 1834-35 (log cabin)

• St. John, Maria Stein 1835-37 (log cabin) 1850 (first brick church)

• St. Remy, Russia 1852 and 1858

• Precious Blood, Chickasaw (demolished)

• St. Henry, St. Henry (old church) 1842

• St. Louis, North Star 1836

• St. Joseph Cathedral, Ft. Wayne, Indiana (steeples only)

• Mary Help of Christians, Ft. Recovery

• St. Nicholas, Osgood

• St. Denis, Versailles 1864

• Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, St. Marys 1867

• Sacred Heart, St. Paris

• St. Peter and St. Paul, Ottawa

• St. Patrick, Bellefontaine, 1853

• St. Mary’s, Piqua, 1843

• St. Boniface, Piqua 1864-65

• Holy Angels, Sidney 1845 and 1862

• St. Patrick, Troy

• St. Augustine, Napolean

• Immaculate Conception, Celina 1864

• Sacred Heart, McCartyville 1881

• Immaculate Conception, Botkins 1866

• St. Joseph, Wapakoneta (steeples only)

• St. John the Evangelist, Defiance

• St. John the Evangelist, Delphos

• St. Augustine, Minster 1874 (twin steeples)

• St. Aloysius, Carthagena 1877

• St. Joseph. Egypt 1853 and 1878

• St. Michael’s, Fort Loramie 1881 (last church worked on by Goehr, steeples and loft area only)

Johann Anton Goehr died at age 62 in Minster on Aug. 3, 1885, at the age of 62. He was buried in St. Augustine Cemetery. His wife, Marie Elizabeth, a widow for 29 years, died in Minster at the age of 84.

In a 1950 letter to his niece, Elizabeth Finn, one of Anton’s sons, Joseph Goehr, shared some of his remembrances of his father: “Those churches father built—I don’t know much about them. (Napoleon and Ottawa) I was too young in them days. Your father (Anthony) knew more about them because he worked on some of the jobs. On the Piqua church he built the towers that you can see. They look like the Minster church steeples. I don’t know who built the Minster church, but I do know he built the two steeples and remodeled that church in 1874. I remember when my sister, Lizze, gilded the two crosses when they were laying in front of the church. Your father helped put them back on the steeple and he stood on top of the cross; of course there were scaffolds all around….I remember when they built a small church in Egypt, three miles from Minster, and they moved the old frame church to Minster and made a carpenter shop out of it so they could do all kinds of work in there in the winter months. The bad part about it, three months after my father died, the building burned down and we lost so many things, all the plans. My father made his own plans, painted them with water color, just how the buildings would look. Father built the church in St. Marys, his name is in the steeple. I think in Wapakoneta he built the steeples but I am not quite sure. In Ft. Wayne he built both steeples on the cathedral. In Defiance, Ohio they did some work but I don’t know what. In Napoleon, Ohio he built the whole church… I was in it…so did Tony and Albert. In Fort Loramie he built the whole church. I remember this well. (Actually he only built the steeple and loft area according to the Pilgrims All book) I sat on a horse and hoisted stone on the building. I was about 10 years old. Father lost a lot of money on that job but it is a pretty church. Right behind the church is the grave yard, and there is a Henry Goehr buried there but we could never find out where he came from…they have no record of him in the church rectory. This was the last church that Anton Goehr worked on.”

The third youngest child of Anton, Anthony, designed and built an unusual wooden monument for his father in St. Augustine Cemetery. It was over 11 feet high, simple and elegant at the same time. It was topped with a cross and featured an open bible near the base. It was built well, but over the first hundred years it was repeatedly repaired by local volunteers. In 2005, the Minster Historical Society engaged local craftsmen to replicate the entire structure and mount it on the original foundation. The historical society provided one third of the funding; the remainder by former Minster residents Harold and Nancy Herkenhoff Winch. The original monument is preserved in the society’s museum.

There is another interesting side story about the Goehr family. Anton built his family home at 115 North Ohio street, Minster. His wife, Maria Elizabeth continued to live in that house as a widow for 19 years until she died in 1914. The house was sold after her death. In 1915, the house was turned into offices for the new Cummings Machine Company. The company was successful, expanding and changing its name in the 1920’s to the Industrial Equipment Company. Eventually their offices in the Goehr home needed to be replaced. They decided to build a new office so they put it up for sale. An employee, Vance Fogt bought the home. He wanted it for his family home so he had to get it moved to a lot he owned in Minster. The former Goehr family home is still a family home at 70 S. Lincoln St.