My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Friday, August 26, 2011

FRIDAY'S FAMOUS - Martin Horst - Mayor of Mobile, Alabama 1871

Martin Horst

Martin Horst, my 3rd great-Grandfather, was born in the town of Ober-Ohmen, Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, on January 12, 1830. His parents, my 4th great-grandparents, were John (Johann) Eckhard Horst (1802-1852) and Elizabeth Martin (UNK-before 1842). He was the second child of four, and the oldest son. His mother died before 1842 and his father remarried. His second wife was Elisa Geiss (1817-1852); together they had two daughters.
District of New York - Port of New York Passenger List (August 7, 1846 - Ship Gladiator)
from New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

In early 1846 Martin, just 16, boarded the ship Gladiator with his father, stepmother, older sister Elizabeth, 19, younger brother Carl, 12, and two step-sisters Wilhemina "Mina", 3 and baby Maria, headed for America. [Younger brother Conrad and Martin's grandfather Johann Conrad Horst (1780-UNK) came later to America, in 1860.] They rode in steerage, along with 209 other passengers, below decks. Eleven passengers stayed in cabins, including three whose occupation was listed as "gent". Those in steerage had to bring not only their possessions to start a new life with, but also all of their own food for the trip, mattresses and pillows to use on their bunk bed - each platform large enough for the whole family to share - and the family's eating and cooking supplies Six passengers died on the trip, which was common due to the unhealthy conditions those in steerage endured. Those who died were given a brief service before their bodies were dropped overboard.

Martin and his family arrived in New York Harbor on August 7, 1846. The family soon settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, a favorite choice for German immigrants. In 1852 Martin's father and step-mother contracted Cholera, a bacterial infection of the lower intestine caused by contaminated food and water. At the time they came down with it, the cause and treatment of the illness was still unknown. What was known that when someone got it, it was often a death-sentence for the individual, as well as those who lived with them. Because of this, on the night they got sick, the children were sent outside to sleep in a wagon during the night. Unfortunately, both John Eckhard and Eliza died during the night, within an hour of each other. The date of their death is unknown.

Soon after the death of his father and step-mother, Martin left Ohio and travelled to Mobile, Alabama. There he began working at The City Exchange, a saloon owned and operated by Tobias Berg and his wife Apollonia Weinschenk (1829-1908). In 1853 Tobias died, at the age of 34, leaving his wife and two small daughters. On December 15, 1854, Martin married his boss's widow Apollonia, also a German immigrant, and took over the business. Together they had eight children, including their oldest Charles Frederick (1856-1912), my great-great-Grandfather.

1878 Mobile City Directory
Martin continued to run the City Exchange, as well as Horst Wholesale Grocer. He had at least four slaves in 1860, including two inherited from Tobias Berg's estate. The business was a huge success and soon Martin commissioned a large house to be built, down the road from Mobile's Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception where they had been married. [FYI-The house still stands - check out tomorrow's post for more information.] In a letter to his brother, Martin said the house was costing him $26,000, seven thousand more than he had planned. The house was completed in 1868. At the time of the 1870 U.S. Census, Martin reported that his real estate was worth $100,000 and his personal property totalled $50,000. He was doing very well in his business and was well respected in the city.

Mobile had come under federal control at the end of the Civil War and the northerners had taken over the running of the city. This obviously did not sit well with the citizens of Mobile. A number of Mobile citizens, Democrats, decided to rid the city of its radical government in the 1870 election for Mayor and Alderman. A convention of Democrats was called to nominate candidates in November 1870. It was difficult to name candidates who would be allowed by the Federal government to take office. It was also decided that the candidate for May must win 2/3 of the convention delegates in order to be nominated. After a meeting that lasted  from noon until midnight on the second day of the convention, Martin Horst won the nomination for Mayor. His name was considered to be the only one of the thirty or forty names mentioned who could capture the two-thirds vote necessary.

After his  nomination he said: "I am conscious of my shortcomings and I pray you elect honest boards to sustain me in administering your government."

The Mobile Daily-Register said of Horst: "A quite, firm, reticent man, attending to his own business well and never meddling with the affairs of his neighbors, he has by his own energies been the artificer of  his own fortune. He is a plain, straightforward, honest, self-made man.... It detracts nothing from his character or qualifications that he would not wear the wig and trappings and regalia of office with as much ease as the Lord Mayor of London.... We Democrats care not a button whether or not he (can dance a minuet or a round dance). But if  he cannot point the 'Light fantastic toe,' he can put his honest foot down at the door of the treasury and bid ring-ers and leaches and speculators 'stand back.' He is honest and will have honesty stand about him...."

From the soon to be published Horst Family History:
"On December 6, 1870, the election took place. It was quiet and peaceful. The Republican sheriff did not allow fraudulent voters to vote. Horst won by a majority of 1,646 votes. On the night of the election a huge crowd had gathered in front of Horst's home, fireworks were displayed, and Horst made a short speech, followed by more fireworks. After that the crowd went home.
Martin Horst entered his office with the Daily Register stating: "His integrity is beyond all question, and the public treasury will be as safe in his hands as if it were still in the pockets of the people."
The term of office of Mayor of Mobile was one year. Martin Horst served the year 1871. He presided over the Mayor's Court and apparently served as Mayor well. There was a controversial signing of railroad bonds but Horst, in a statement to the newspaper, reported why he signed the bonds (he had no choice under the law) and the newspaper applauded his act. He did not run for a second term."

Martin Horst contracted Brights' Disease, a debilitating disease that attacks the kidneys. The disease caused him to look much older than his age. He was only 48 when he died at 1:30 PM on October 7, 1878, at his home on Conti Street.  He was survived by his wife, one brother, six children, two step-children and three grandchildren. He was buried at Mobile's Catholic Cemetery.    

1 comment:

  1. Hello Susan, I work for Mobile Bay Magazine in Mobile, Alabama. There's a story we're working on that involves Martin Horst, and I was wondering about that photo of him included in this blog post. Would you mind shooting me an email at We'd love to include that photo of Mr. Horst. Thanks!