Saturday, November 16, 2013

Miss Wintz, The Weber Family Caretaker

Many of us have  memories of someone outside our immediate family who influenced our lives as we were growing up.  Maybe it was a neighbor, a teacher or a Girl Scout leader.  Miss Anna Wintz was such a person for the Weber children, Bob, Rose, Gin, Peg, Dolly and Harry,  growing up on Singleton Street in Indianapolis, Indiana.  In fact, judging from the volume of rhetoric over the years from the Weber siblings, I believe she  was significant in all their lives.  While gathering Weber family history, it seemed appropriate that I also write about the lady they all referred to as “Miss Wintz.”  

In 1931 Harry and Tillie Weber's family came upon a difficult family challenge.  Tillie entered Central State Hospital due to delusions that she was experiencing.  Unfortunately, the doctors were unsuccessful in treating her for many years. At least that is the diagnosis that we have. This story is about one way that the family coped with that tragedy.

When her illness took Tillie away from the family, Harry looked to Sacred Heart Catholic Church for possible assistance in finding someone to help with his six children, ranging from 4 to 17 years old.  He found Miss Anna Wintz seeking employment as a family caretaker.  The story is that she worked as a midwife, delivering some of the Weber children along with many others in the parish. When she delivered a baby she would also stay for a while to assist the new mother.  We don't know how long she was in this line of work or how many babies she was involved with in her midwifery. Her background is definitely a curiosity.
Trying to fill in the blanks about Anna's role and how she took on the family caretaker responsibilities led to some interesting research results.  For instance, the 1920 census indicates Anna  was a boarder with a family living near Sacred Heart Catholic Church, the Weber family parish, and that her occupation was practical nurse.  Aha!  The midwife story receives some validation.  But, by the 1930 census she is living by herself and her occupation is “none.” Therefore, when Harry Weber sought out a family caretaker in 1931-32, she was in her early 40s and was possibly not employed. By that age her midwifery responsibilities would probably have provided her with a good many years of experience in assisting families with children.  Additionally, the custom of using midwives for birthing at home was diminishing.  Most children were born in hospitals.  In fact, the Weber family bears out this fact. After 1920, the children were born in St. Francis Hospital.
The circumstances came together perfectly for the Webers and Miss Wintz.  She became the housekeeper and the children's companion, staying with the family for between ten and fifteen years. She looked after the children while their father, Harry, worked at Fletcher Trust Company.  Memories of Miss Wintz pop up in conversations, photos and records of the six children she helped to raise.  Anna lived in their home on Singleton Street, sleeping in the large front bedroom on the second floor with the girls, Rose, Gin, Peg and Dolly. By the time she moved in with the Weber family Bob was 17 and Rose 15. She would have, I presume, a stronger impact on the lives of the younger children.  Although my mother, Rose, did have memories of Miss Wintz being with them for some time.  
In the photo above Anna proudly poses with Dolly and Harry. Dolly recalled in a family history letter shared by her son, Ron, that “...we grew up with a housekeeper who was very stern, but I guess treated us as well as a mother, except for affection.”  Aunt Peg reflected on the bicycle in this photo of Miss Wintz, saying that it was most likely not hers. Probably she was helping young Harry to put it away.  As far as Peg remembers, Miss Wintz never rode a bike.  Peg recalls, “We all walked everywhere, including to church and to visit the Mappes family, where Miss Wintz had lived before coming to live with us.  She even walked with us downtown for the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday at the World War Memorial.”
Each summer the family went to Lake McCoy in southeastern Indiana  on a two-week vacation. They would fish with their father, Harry, or spend lots of time swimming in the lake. Aunt Gin recalled in our family history conversations that during this time Miss Wintz went to Batesville to visit her family, just a short distance from the lake.  
Miss Anna Wintz, the Weber family caretaker.
She must have also spent time at Lake McCoy with the family as some of the vacation photos include the longtime caretaker as a part of the family group.  Among the many photos of the family's good times at Lake McCoy that I found in Bob's albums, was this one below of Anna in her customary long dress and apron.  
Looking a little further into Miss Wintz' biological family, I found her sister Caroline.  She was also employed with a family in Indianapolis.  The Wintz sisters were both personal or family caretakers, but according to memories of those times, were totally different types of characters.  Peg tells me that Caroline worked for a wealthy, unmarried lady on the north side of Indianapolis – Miss Dice. She remembers that Caroline had many stylish clothes and a car that she would drive to visit her sister, Anna, at the Weber home on Wednesdays. On the other hand, Anna was not known to have ever held a drivers' license and wore only dresses covering her arms and legs completely, such as seen in these photos. Peg recalled that the contrasts in personalities and styles of these two sisters were remarkable.  
Another fond memory of Miss Wintz is her culinary skill. Peg and Gin often wished they had one of her fabulous coffee cakes, a melt-in-your-mouth yeast coffee cake that can’t be duplicated.  She also made excellent jelly from the grapes grown on the vines along the sidewalk in the Weber backyard. My mom, Rose, spoke of her good cooking as well.
The memories of Miss Wintz seem to say she provided motherly support at an important juncture for the Weber family.  I think it could be truly stated that it was fortunate that Miss Anna Wintz was a part of the lives of Bob, Rose, Gin, Peg, Dolly and Harry.    

Note: This family story is from my stash written before this blog existed. I believe these stories need to become a part of our history on Indiana Ties.  Besides, I'm thinking maybe some of you have more information to share. Could we make some improvements?  If  there are family who know additional details to add or corrections, please leave comments below. 

For related stories click on these links in the left column: 
Family: Weber
Ladies In My Line (See Tillie Kuhn Weber)

Copyright 2013 Nancy Niehaus Hurley

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading about Miss Wintz. Just wish I could remember or had written down the stories my dad told over the years about her. She did a great job helping to raise my dad, aunts, and uncle! Makes me wonder why she never married and had children of her own. For whatever reason, I'm glad she was there for the Weber family.


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