Ernest T. Hunger was born the son of a Lutheran minister, in Pritzie, Germany, on December 18, 1836. Once older, he served seven years in the German Army, fighting in two wars. He fought in the German War against Austria in 1966, and in the Frannco-Prussian war. In the Battle of Metz, he lost a finger on his left hand.
He moved to America around 1871. He settled in Lincoln in 1877, joined the police department, and married Frances. They were together for over thirty years. Frances and Ernest had two children together, Paul and Ella. Their daughter later married a man by the name of Jesse Todd.
The obituary below gives us great insight into the life of Mr. Hunger.
Obituary - The Lincoln Star - February 7, 1925
Headline: Former Chief Hunger Dies at His Home
Byline: Well Known Peace Officer Succumbs Saturday As Result Stroke: Lincoln Resident Since 1877 - Fought in Two Wars As German Soldier
Ernest Theodore Hunger, 88, former Lincoln police chief and resident here for forty-five years, died at his home, 2814 Randolph street, at 5:30 a.m. Saturday as the result of a stroke that he suffered last July and another in December.
Mr. Hunger was well known as a sportsman and also as a constable in local justice courts. He was head of the police department under the administration of Mayor A.H. Armstrong.
Born in Pritzie, Prussia, December 18, 1836, Mr. Hungar was the son of a Lutheran minister. He served seven years in the German army, went through the war with Austria in 1866, and the Frannco-Prussian war. He was with the troops that drove on towards Paris and in the battle of Metz lost a finger of his left hand. Following this struggle he returned home for a time, then accompanied a German nobleman on his travels through Austria, Italy, the Mediterranean countries and Palestine.
In 1874 he came to New York, but soon moved to Philadelphia, then to Yellow Springs and Zenia, O., where he conducted a hotel and baking business and was married to Frances Clarke, March 5, 1877. They moved to Lincoln in 1877.
Was Deputy Game Warden.
Almost immediately he was appointed constable, and under Governor Sheldon was a deputy game warden. He was also a deputy sheriff. While constable he made trips to Utah and Oklahoma for prisoners, and during his service as police chief went to Albany, N.Y., to bring back a man.
Hunting was Mr. Hunger's chief hobby and for many years he journeyed regularly to Montana and other parts of the far west to shoot and fish. For two years, until his health failed him, he was caretaker for a local gun club with headquarters near Ceresco.
Soon after his arrival in this country he took out naturalization papers and during the recent war was a staunch upholder of the American cause. He was a thirty-second degree Mason, a Knight Templar and a member of the Elks.
Though Mr. Hunger partially recovered from the stroke that he suffered, he was never entirely well again and after a second attack, December 24, his condition steadily grew worse. He was last able to be up January 16.
Mrs. Ella M. Todd of Lincoln, a daughter, and one grandchild survive him. Two daughters died in infancy and a son, Paul Clarke, died in 1901. Mrs. Hunger passed away in 1912.
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at the First Baptist church, Fourteenth and K streets. Rev. W.T. Elmore will officiate Burial in Wyuka.
An article, submitted on November 20, 2012, by the Nebraska State Historical Society talks about how Hunger made his own coffin, set it on his porch and would sleep in it at night.
Headline: History of Hunger's coffin
By the start of the 20th century the pain of death had been softened for many Americans. Professional undertakers, rather than family members, laid out and attended the bodies of the deceased, made coffins, dug graves, and directed funeral services.
A few individuals, however, tried to insure that no such attentions would be paid them after death.
In early July of 1914 several Nebraska newspapers published an interview with 97-old Ernst T. Hunger of Lincoln, who had made his own coffin in order to spare his descendants the expense of buying one after his death. Hunger, who kept it on his front porch, also slept in it, pronouncing it "the most comfortable bed I ever got into in my life."
The Kearney Daily Hub on July 8, 1914, published the first paragraphs of the interview with "E.T. Hunger, formerly chief of police of Lincoln [1912-13], [who] sleeps in his coffin. The homemade box stands on the front porch of the Hunger residence, and at night, after the neighbors have gone to bed, 'Old Man' Hunger goes out and climbs into the box. If the weather is cold or if a shower comes up he pulls the top of the coffin over the opening, leaves a crack through which he can get a little fresh air and calmly goes to sleep. Mr. Hunger is now 76 years old, and for many years he has been sleeping in his coffin."
"And I made that coffin myself, too," he says proudly. "Costs too much to die in these days. So I just thought I'd play a joke on the undertakers and make my own coffin while I was well enough to do it. So I got me some inch plank about a foot wide and several pieces of 2 by 4. I put the latter at each corner to make the box stable, and then I nailed it together with eight penny nails. Whole thing cost me less than $5, but it's strong enough to hold a man about my size without any trouble. And won't those undertakers be mad when I die and they can't get any of my money?'
"The Hunger home sits back from the street, and there are trees all around it. In the summer these trees shade the porch and the gruwsome [sic] object cannot be see plainly. But when winter strips the limbs and branches Mr. Hunger's homemade coffin can be seen by all passersby."
Hunger's background was included in an uncut version of the interview published in the Pittsburg (Pennsylvania) Press on July 5, 1914. Born in Germany in 1836, he fought in the Franco-Prussian War and then came into the U.S., where he worked at various positions in a dozen cities, before settling in Lincoln. He served as a constable there, and as Lincoln's chief of police from 1912-1913.
Hunger's dislike of undertakers in 1914 may have arisen from numerous deaths in his family. Two daughters died in infancy, a 23-year-old son in 1901, and his wife in 1912. One daughter survived after his death in 1925. Hunger, his wife, and son are buried in Lincoln's Wyuka Cemetery.