-----------------------------------------------------------------------Helena “Lena” Gertrude Niehaus Kleinsmith was my grand aunt. The history I have of her life outlines a generous and loving person with an interesting background. But there are still some missing chapters.
Lena was the seventh child of Joseph and Gertrude (Wilmsen) Niehaus, born in Emsdetten, Westphalia, Germany on 16 June 1883. She and her parents and sisters and brothers emigrated to American in 1886. The growing Niehaus family established themselves in their home on South West Street in Indianapolis, Indiana around 1890, after four years in other residences in the city. I can’t find her yet in the 1940 census, so I’m not sure how long she attended school. When she did, we can assume that she went to Sacred Heart Catholic elementary school, the family parish.
On October 30, 1907, when Helena Niehaus married Frederick A. Kleinsmith in Sacred Heart her mother was already deceased. Her father, Joseph, and seven of her eleven siblings were living in the home at 1117 South West Street. Lena and Fred began their married life with the family on West Street before moving along to their own home a year later.
This family remained close in proximity and continued to help each other in time of need. By the 1920 census the Kleinsmiths owned their home on Habig Lane, south of the Niehaus home and next door to one of her sisters and a brother. The census details provide an example of the caring nature of this lady. Her brother, John Niehaus, and his three children, Charlotte, Robert and Frank are living with them on Habig Lane. These children had lost their mother and brother in 1919 in the flu epidemic. Lena offered some motherly love at this difficult time. The photo above is of Lena with those three children at their home on Habig Lane.
Ten years later, in Decatur County, Washington Township, Indiana, Lena Kleinsmith and her husband are living at the Odd Fellows Home and Hospital. She is 45 years old and working as a laundress. And again, I believe she is demonstrating her caring ways. How?! Another nephew is living with the Kleinsmiths. Eight-year-old Charles Niehaus is listed as their adopted son. From family lore we know that Charles was “adopted” by Lena and Fred because her brother Ben’s family was getting larger than they could handle at the time. Since the Kleinsmiths didn’t have any of their own birth children, Charles came to live with them. This young man went on in later years to explore our family’s origins in Germany and write the first Niehaus family history that was circulated widely within the descendants. I wrote about this story earlier and have posted a link to it at the bottom of this piece. Perhaps Lena influenced Charles to take steps to connect with the family in Germany.
After that census, between 1930 and 1960, I lose track of Lena. Members of the family have recorded her death date as November 5, 1960 on a plaque that lists the dates that the Niehaus siblings passed away. She was 77 years old, having lived in the United States for 74 of those years and married to Fred for 53 years. Where did Lena live and what did she do besides these wonderfully nurturing aspects of her life?
I would like very much to find family, friends or documents that tell us more of this story. For now, this is a family story of a kind and generous lady.
Thanks for reading Indiana Ties. Let’s talk about Lena Niehaus’s history. Leave me comments below.
Related stories and reports:
Our Niehaus History by Charles
Joseph Niehaus Family in 1900
Copyright © Nancy Niehaus Hurley