Stories from the Big House

12 March 2012

Camilla Hegeler

Camilla Weisbach Hegeler
 On March 12 we remember Camilla Weisbach Hegeler who was born on this day in 1835.

The Matriarch of the Hegeler Family, it was she and her husband Edward who commissioned W. W. Boyington to design and build the Hegeler Carus Mansion in 1874.

Camilla was the daughter of Julius Weisbach, a Professor for applied mathematics, mining engineering, mineralogy, crystallography, mine surveying and mechanics at Freiberg Bergakademie.  Edward Hegeler was his student in 1853 and became a frequent guest in the Weisbach home. 

It was at the Weisbach home, where Edward met Camilla and the two fell in love, and made secret plans to get married-but only after Edward established an adequate position in America.

Edward left Germany in the fall of 1856 and promised his fiancée that as soon as he established a solid foothold in America he would return to Freiberg and take her "home" to his new country as his wife.

Our archives contain six letters written by Edward from La Salle to Camilla in Germany in the time span from early 1859 to early 1860.  In these letters he reports on work and his ideas. He talks of the work of starting his new company and expresses a concern that Camilla might tire of waiting for him, marry someone else and stay in Germany.  The most exuberant letter of the six was one dated 20 January 1860, in which he told her that the new plant was finally running well and that he had made travel arrangements for the long awaited trip to Freiberg to get married and take her to America, stating "One is on the earth to enjoy life, which matter should not be put off too long-it might get too late."

The wedding took place on 5 April 1860 and the Hegeler's arrived in La Salle in July of the same year.  Their family eventually included 10 children.  She adjusted quite readily to the many roles she was expected to play: as the mistress of a major household; the mother of a large family; and as a helpmate to her husband in his ambitions and aspirations.  She was very practical minded and resourceful.  She died on 28 May 1908.

The information and facts above are taken from the biography of Edward Carl Hegeler, compiled by Arno Reidies in November of 1998 and revised and edited by family members in September of 2001.

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