Prussian-born John and Henrietta were presumably married in Prussia and sometime in the early 1850s took their family and immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Grand Rapids by 1856. They lived at 729 Second Street in the Fourth Ward, and by 1860 August was still living with his family on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids in the Second Street home and was working as a laborer as was his father (it is also possible that John worked as a shoemaker). August would eventually become employed as a cooper. (Next door lived a German family named Hauser and living with them was a 16-year-old servant girl named Mary Ann Bohr. This may have been the same Emma or Anna Bohr whom August would later marry.)
August stood 5’8” with brown eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion, and was a 19-year-old cooper probably still living with his family in Grand Rapids when he enlisted with the consent of his parents’ as Third Corporal in Company C on May 13, 1861. (Company C was made up largely of German and Dutch immigrants, many of whom lived on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids. This company was the descendant of the old Grand Rapids Rifles, also known as the “German Rifles,” a prewar local militia company composed solely of German troopers.)
He was reported as a Color Guard in July of 1862, and was shot in the right leg on August 29 at Second Bull Run. According to family historian Deb Trinter, “the doctor wanted to amputate August Heyer’s leg but he refused to let the doctor do it. The doctor told him he would probably die if they didn’t amputate it, but he still refused to let the doctor take his leg. Although he walked with a limp the rest of his life, he kept his leg.” In any case, the musket ball entered “on the outside and a little in front about a foot above the knee and [came] out at the back side cutting the cords. . . .” Shortly afterwards he was sent to a hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, spending one night in Washington along the way. August remained hospitalized until he was discharged on December 19, 1862, at Christian Street hospital in Philadelphia for “lameness of right leg resulting from gunshot wound.”
August listed Grand Rapids as his mailing address on his discharge paper, and indeed he returned to his home in Kent County where he married Prussian-born Emma (1843-1925) Bohr on April 5, 1863, and they had at least twelve children: Gustave (1864-1931), George (1865-1931), Charles (1867-1961), Philomena (“Mena,” 1870-1935, Mrs. L. G. Rupprecht), John (1872-1960), Mary (1874-1924, Mrs. Max Miller), Helena (1877-1923, Mrs. Paul Lambrix), Joseph (1879-1959), Clara (1881-1961, Mrs. Alfred Luttig), Rosalia (1882-1941, Mrs. Joseph Rupprecht), Julia (b. 1885, Mrs. Edwin Finckler) and Bertha (b. 1890, Mrs. Leo Herrmann).
For some years August worked as an “assembler.” He was a member of Grand Army of the Republic Custer Post No. 5 Grand Rapids and in religious matters he was early in life a Lutheran (his wife was Catholic) and toward the end of his life he converted to Catholicism.
By 1870 August had settled his family in Westphalia, Clinton County where he worked as a farmer and as a cooper. (His parents were living in Grand Rapids’ Fourth Ward in 1870.) “‘After Westphalia was incorporated in 1882, [August] became Marshal and for many years was chief of the local fire department. This last statement may cause the younger generation to smile but in all fairness it should be stated that the firemen, about 15 in number, in their neat uniforms, together with their chief made a creditable showing whenever they made their appearance on the Streets in fire drills. They usually drilled on Saturday evenings during the summer months’.”
He was still living in Westphalia in 1883 when he was drawing $4.00 per month for a wounded leg (pension no. 124,633), and in September of 1885 when he became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association and in 1888 and 1890. Although he may have returned briefly to Grand Rapids around 1893, he probably lived in Westphalia until about 1906 when he was back residing in Grand Rapids, at 263 Second Street. He was living his old home at 729 Second Street in 1915, 1916 and 1922-25.
August died of angina pectoris and asthma on Thursday night, June 17, 1925, just a week after his wife’s death, the two having been married 63 years. He passed away at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Alfred Luttig, 342 Marion Avenue, northwest, in Grand Rapids. The funeral services were held at 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning at St. Mary’s Church, and he was buried in Mt. Calvary cemetery: section D, lot no. 203.
|Auguste Heyer and his wife Emma and their 12 children (courtesy Jean Kolb)|