The Weihls

Charles George Berthold Weihl was born in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1833 or 1834. Available records provide no information on Weihl’s activities before the late 1850’s, when he settled in Pittsburgh.

Weihl was first listed in the Pittsburgh directory in 1859, as a clerk living at 132 Smithfield Street, Downtown. Weihl was not listed in the 1860 directory, and does not appear to have been enumerated in Pittsburgh in the 1860 census. Weihl, still employed as a clerk, lived at 161 Smithfield Street in 1861.

In about 1862, Charles G.B. Weihl formed a wholesale liquor firm with John Seiferth, who had previously operated a saloon at 87 Third Avenue. The new partnership, John Seifert & Company, began operating in a double commercial-residential building at 27-29 Market Street, Downtown (demolished; at the southwestern comer of Market Street and Boulevard of the Allies). Weihl moved to 27-29 Market Street, also the home of John Seifert.

Charles G.B. Weihl

Charles G.B. Weihl purchased property in Allegheny County for the first time in February 1866, when he and John Seiferth bought the 34′ by 70′ lot that their building occupied for $16,050. Over the next 12 years Weihl and Seiferth acquired other property in East Liberty, Lower Saint Clair Township (now the South Side Slopes area), Mifflin Township (now the West Mifflin area) and the Woods Run area of Allegheny City. Weihl and Seiferth acquired most of these parcels in foreclosure proceedings, and it is possible that the two were settling business debts.

Charles G.B. Weihl and Katharine J. Beisel were married no later than 1870. Katharine J. Beisel, about 15 years younger than Charles G.B. Weihl, was born in Pennsylvania, apparently outside the Pittsburgh area, in September 1848. Her parents were born in Wurtemburg, Germany.

Available records suggest the possibility that Charles G.B. Weihl’s marriage to Kate J. Biesel was his second. Weihl’s will, made in 1883, left his estate to his wife and “to all children of mine born from the body of my present beloved wife, Kate J. Weihl.” Although the censuses of 1870 and 1880 document that Weihl had a daughter, Kate, born in about 1867 (when Kate J. Weihl would have been 18), the younger Kate Weihl did not share in her father’s estate. The younger Kate Weihl was still alive in 1885, two years after her father made his will, as documented by her February 17, 1885 wedding to Edmund H. Brackemeyer of Braddock, reported in the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette.

Local records, including indices of weddings and deaths that were noted in the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette and its successors, provide no information on any earlier marriage of Charles G.B. Weil.

After marrying, Charles G.B. and Kate J. Weihl lived at 27-29 Market Street. The 1870 federal census of population enumerated the Weihl family at this address. Charles G.B. Weihl, 36, was enumerated as a liquor dealer, and Katharine J. Weihl, 21, had no occupation. The Weihls then had one child, Katharine, three.

Ettie Mathilda Weihl as a Girl

In 1870, the Weihl family shared their living quarters with Katharine Weihl’s mother and sister, a boarder, and a servant. Katharine Beisel, 51, was a widow with no occupation, and Louisa Beisel, 17, was a dressmaker. Boarder Emil Walther, 19, worked in a bottling house. He was an immigrant from Darmstadt, Germany. The Weihls’ servant was Barbara Studler, 21, a Bavarian immigrant.

The 1870 manuscript census, the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, reported that Charles G.B. Weihl owned real estate valued at $20,000 and had a personal estate of $15,000. Weihl’s worth of $35,000 was comparable to $1 million or more in the last decade of the twentieth century.

Census records report that Clara L. and Ettie Mathilda, the second and third children of Charles G.B. Weihl, were born at 27-29 Market Street in February 1876 and November 1876 (sic).

Charles G.B. Weihl remained a partner in John Seifert & Company, still at 27-29 Market Street, until 1879. In that year, Weihl left the partnership and founded his own wholesale liquor business at 307 Liberty Avenue, Downtown (on the northern side of Liberty Avenue, halfway between Ninth and Tenth Streets).

At the same time, the Weihl family moved from 27-29 Market Street to a rented house at 31 Federal Street in the lower Hill District (later Fernando Street; on the site of the Civic Arena redevelopment project).

Records of the 1880 census show that the five members of the Weihl family – Charles, 46, Katharine, 31, Katharine, 13, Clara, five, and Ettie, four – lived at 31 Federal Street with Catharine Beisel, 59 (sic), and a servant, Fredericka Weber, 19. Weber was a native of Hesse Cassel, Germany.

Ettie Mathilda Weihl as a Young Woman

The Weihl family moved from Federal Street to 942 Western Avenue after Charles G.B. Weihl purchased the house in June 1881.

Charles G.B. Weihl’s wholesale liquor business moved to 339 Liberty Avenue (at the northwestern comer of Tenth Street and Liberty Avenue) in about 1881. Weihl, however, closed this business by 1883.

The 1883 Pittsburgh directory listed Charles G.B. Weihl as a partner in Weihl & Lippert, which operated a saw factory, the Penn Saw Works, on the present site of the U.S. Steel Building on Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh. Weihl’s partner was E. Theodore Lippert of Shaler. Weihl withdrew from this partnership by the following year, and lived in retirement at 942 Western Avenue.

Clara L Weihl Swindell

An 1886 description of the Penn Saw Works and a 1904 biography of E. Theodore Lippert omitted any mention of Weihl as a partner in the firm.

In 1886, Charles G.B. Weihl acquired a 25′ by 126’ lot on the Temperanceville and Noblestown Plank Road in the West Mansfield section of Robinson Township for $1.

Charles G.B. Weihl died at age 53 on April 23, 1887. His death was not noted in The Alleghenian, a weekly Northside newspaper, and received only brief notices in the daily Pittsburgh newspapers. Allegheny Cemetery records give the cause of Weihl’s death as dropsy.

In his will, Weihl left his estate, including 944 Western Avenue, to his wife and his daughters Clara and Ettie, in equal thirds. Katharine J. Weihl’s interest in the estate required that she not remarry. A widow at 38, she chose not to accept the terms of the will and instead was granted an unconditional one-third interest under Pennsylvania intestate law. In 1898, Clara and Ettie conveyed their interest in the property to their mother.

Ettie Weihl Ridinger with Children

Ettie Weihl Ridinger with Children

Extensive research on the period of construction of 944 Western Avenue does not establish whether construction of the house began before or after Charles G.B. Weihl’s death. Documentation of Weihl’s affluence suggests it is likely that Weihl commissioned the house as a larger residence for himself and his family. It is also possible that Weihl anticipated his death and had the house built as an income-producing property for his wife. Kate J. Weihl may have had the house built after she was widowed for the same reason.

Katharine J. Weihl lived at 942 Western Avenue for over a decade after her husband’s death. In about 1899, she began living with her daughter and son-in-law, Ettie and Charles W. Ridinger, after they moved to a house they purchased or had built at 3418 Perrysville Avenue, Observatory Hill. Charles W. Ridinger, who married Ettie Weihl in 1898, was an electrical engineer.

Edward H Swindell & Charles W Ridinger

Clara Weihl and Edward H. Swindell were also married in 1898. Edward H. Swindell was a partner in a family-owned business, William Swindle & Brothers, which manufactured and installed regenerative gas furnaces. The Swindells boarded in an un-numbered house in Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue at the time of the 1900 census, and moved to 407 South Pacific Avenue in Friendship by the following year. The family lived at 2228 Perrysville Avenue between 1905 and 1910, and at 6334 Forbes Avenue and 5847 Northumberland Street in Squirrel Hill during the following decade.

In about 1908, the Ridinger family and Kate J. Weihl moved to 5830 Marlborough Street in Squirrel Hill. Kate J. Weihl lived with the Ridinger family for about another decade. In her last years she lived with her daughter, Clara Swindell, and her family. She died in the Swindell home at 5888 Marlborough Avenue in Squirrel Hill on October 16, 1921, at age 73.