I'm guessing that until now you had never heard of a missing person named John Henry Poggenburg Jr, I know I hadn't. Poggenburg is not listed in any of the usual missing persons databases and website case files (we have submitted a case to NamUs) and there are few sources regarding him online. Over the years missing persons, unidentified remains and unsolved murders tend to get lost in time. Case files are misplaced, fires and floods damage evidence and invaluable key witnesses are lost. Such is the case of John Henry Poggenburg Jr, the only evidence of his existence - and disappearance - being housed in genealogical record depositories, a few family trees and a small blurb in the United States Tobacco Journal.
The Firstborn Son
On April 28, 1874, John Poggenburg Sr married Johanna Adelhaid Ruebsamen, affectionately known as Jennie, in New York. Two years later, on April 14, 1876, Jennie gave birth to their first child, a boy they named John Henry Poggenburg Junior. John Sr. and Jennie would go on to have a total of six children, five boys and one girl. He was an agent for Louis E. Neuman in New York, eventually becoming a well-known lithographer.
In August, 1898, John Jr. married Amy Burkner in Manhattan, New York. John and Amy took up residence in Connecticut, where John continued his work as a cigar salesman and tobacco dealer. He soon became his own boss, setting himself up as proprietor of a cigar stand in the Mahackemo Hotel. One of John's cousins, Ferdinand Poggenburg, was a prolific amateur billiard player of the time, making the family even more well-known.
The Poggenburg Tragedies
Tragedy struck the family in 1904, when John Jr's brother Gustave (Augustus by some sources) was found dead in the room he rented at 204 Wilson Street, the boarding house of Mrs. Margaret Matthews. While originally considered a suicide by police, his death was ultimately reported to be an accidental death by suffocation, a fact that his father vehemiently defended. Poggenburg Sr. denied that his son had any reason to commit suicide, and a faulty key on one of the stove burners in the room was blamed for the escaped gas that suffocated Gustave to death. This article states that Gustave was despondent over the death of his brother Arthur, which will come into play shortly. A few months later John Henry Poggenburg, whether Junior or Senior is unknown, would be selected to serve as a juror in the infamous Nan Patterson case that gripped the nation.
In December, 1907, John Jr and Amy made the trip from Connecticut to New York to see his family for Christmas, but this is where the simplicity of Poggenburg's tale ends. John celebrated Christmas with his parents, brothers Arthur and Edmund and his sister, then spent the night intending to return home the following day. The family was residing at 2040 7th Avenue in Manhattan at the time. No one knew that it would be the last Christmas that John's family would spend with him. The next day, on December 26, was the last time John Henry Poggenburg Jr was seen alive. Newspapers were quick to cover the family's plight.
Most sources state John was last seen with his mother, and that he may have taken his wife back to Connecticut before returning to New York and attending a theatre with his mother prior to his disappearance. In others, around 5:30 pm on December 26, 1907, John Jr said goodbye to her at the 72nd Street subway station, intending to return home. however a December 29, 1907, article in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle paints a different picture. In this article John's father and brother, Arthur (the same Arthur who Gustave was supposedly despondent over) accompanied John to the subway station. It's here they say he left them with the intention of visiting his personal doctor before returning home.
The Sherman Square Hotel
Dr. Gennerick was located at the Sherman Square Hotel on 71st Street and Broadway, a 12 floor high-rise in what is now the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Manhattan. Upon questioning, Dr. Gennerick stated that John Jr had indeed visited him, but that he had given the young man a clean bill of health. His only recommendation was that Poggenburg visit an oculist (optometrist), although it is not mentioned why the recommendation was made.
He called a friend around 7pm that night and stated that he was at Grand Central Station, waiting for the 7:46pm train to South Norwalk, Connecticut. Whether or not he ever actually boarded that train remains unknown, as do any other clues to his whereabouts or the circumstances surrounding his disappearance. Poggenburg's family and the police searched extensively for the young man, checking every morgue, hospital and institution in and around Manhattan and South Norwalk.
John Henry Poggenburg Jr was 32 years old and approximately 5'10" at the time he went missing. He had a fair complexion and blue eyes, and usually kept his face shaved smooth. When last seen Poggenburg was wearing a dark brown coat and black cravat, striped pants and black button shoes. He may have had his black derby hat with him as well.
John Poggenburg Jr had no known enemies in his business or personal life and was said to be mild-mannered and "temperate in his habits". It was this fact that led John's father to speculate that his son was probably dead, most likely the victim of robbers. At the time of his disappearnace John Jr had on a large diamond ring, gold cuff buttons and was carrying a gold watch and chain. The missing man also had more than $100 in cash on his person at the time, the equivalent of roughly $2,681 by today's value.
John was a member of the Masonic order, who distributed fliers and photographs across the country in an effort to help locate the missing man. Despite the media attention that the missing man's story first garnered, the story quickly died out, the last article about John Jr. being from 1908. John Henry Poggenburg Jr. can be found in a few select family trees on Ancestry.com, but each lists him as missing. His wife, Amy, moved into her brother-in-law's household after his disappearance, and was listed as his widow in city directories after 1907. John Poggenburg Sr. died in 1925, never knowing what became of his eldest son and namesake.
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New York, State Census, 1905
New York, New York, Extracted Marriage Index, 1866 - 1937
Arizona Daily Star
- 09 Jan 1908 - Missing Man Sought For By Masons (Photo)
The New York Times
- 29 Dec 1907 - J.H. Poggenburg, Jr., Missing
The Cincinnati Enquirer
- 18 Nov 1904 - Pretty Actress On Trial
- 18 Nov 1904 - New Nan Patterson Witness
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
- 29 Dec 1907 - John H. Poggenburg Jr., Mysteriously Missing
- 29 Aug 1904 - Gas Killed Poggenburg, Father Scouts Suicide
New York Tribune
- 29 Aug 1904 - Accident Father Says