Growing Up in the Midst of Change

Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum

Christoph Heinrich Loeber was born on October 11, 1828 in Germany.  During those really formative years before becoming a teenager, the times around his birthday were times of great transition.

Christoph Heinrich Loeber Christoph Heinrich Loeber

In 1838, when Christoph was turning ten years old, his family was about to go through the most drastic change to occur in his lifetime.  That October, his family, which consisted of a father, mother, sister, and brother, were packed up and ready to make a journey halfway around the world to a new home in the United States.  In fact, his father, Rev. Gotthold Loeber, was one of the pastors in a leadership role in guiding about 700 German Lutherans on this pilgrimage.  It must have been both an exciting and frightening experience for this young boy.  That journey involved a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean on a  sailing ship which took several months.


One year…

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Birthday Boys for the Buenger Girls

September 23 was the birthday of two men who were important participants in the early history of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  One of them was Otto Herman Walther who was born in 1803.


Rev. Walther was one of the pastors who came with the German immigration in 1839.  Instead of moving to Perry County, however, Otto Herman remained in St. Louis to be the pastor of the new Lutheran congregation there.  That congregation became Trinity Lutheran Church in what is now the Soulard neighborhood not far from Busch Stadium.

The other birthday boy was Rev. Friedrich Lochner.  He was involved in the early organizational meetings of the synod.  He was born on this day in 1822.


Rev. Friedrich Lochner

These two men had something in common other than their birthdays.  They both married Buenger women.  Otto Herman married Agnes Buenger.


Agnes (Buenger) Walther

Friedrich Lochner married Agnes’s younger sister, Lydia Buenger.

Lydia Buenger

Lydia (Buenger) Lochner

And let’s not forget that Rev. C.F.W. Walther married Emilie Buenger, another of the Buenger sisters.

Mama Buenger must have been proud.

Questions About Mama Buenger’s Death and Burial

My book, “Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod”, ends with the death of Christiane Buenger in 1849.  The day of her death was July 11th, with the cause of death being cholera.  However, a few mysteries surround her death and burial.

First of all, the death of Mama Buenger is not included in the church records of Old Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis.  Below is the portion of those records where you would expect to find her, but she is not there.

Old Trinity death records 1849

Old Trinity death records – 1849

Was she a member of a different congregation?  Perhaps a member of her son, Rev. J.F. Buenger’s relatively new congregation?  She did still live across the street from Trinity Lutheran Church on Lombard Ave however. At which church was she a member?

The other mystery is that family stories indicate that Mama Buenger was buried in a cemetery near the place where Holy Cross Lutheran Church would later be built.  That cemetery no longer exists.  What happened to the bodies that were buried there?  Christiane’s grave is not located in the Concordia Cemetery, which is the cemetery for congregations including both Holy Cross and Trinity.  Where is Mama Buenger buried?

I do not have the answers.  Do you?

A Cooper in Paitzdorf

michael hopfer

Michael Hopfer

Today, May 20, is the day when Michael Hopfer died in 1877.  Michael was a cooper who arrived in Perry County  with the Gruber group in December of 1839 along with his wife and two children.

In my version of the story in “Mama Buenger”, I needed a family that was part of the Gruber group to use for my purposes.  I chose the Hopfer family because they had children of ages which I was looking for.  My plan was to have Rev. Loeber arrange to have the Hopfers stay with the Joachim Schmidt family (my ancestors) for a night before traveling further to Paitzdorf.  Emilie Hopfer (age 3) was about the same age as Gottwerth (age 4).  Also I knew that Maria Schmidt, Joachim’s wife, had lost her infant daughter in St. Louis prior to coming to Perry County, so I thought the 9 month old August Hopfer would be welcomed by a mother who might still be grieving.  That story can be found in Chapter 15 of my book.

I did not know at the time that two of these children would achieve a similar distinction.  Emilie Hopfer became the last of the original immigrants to die in Perry County, and Gottwerth Schmidt was second to the last to die.  Emilie died in 1927, and Gottwerth died in 1926, both at the age of 91.

Here are pictures of Emilie and Gottwerth.

The Great St. Louis Fire of 1849

Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum

Ruins_of_1849_St_Louis_Fire_by_Thomas_Easterly_from_wikipedia Ruins of 1849 fire – St. Louis  Photo: T.M.Easterly

For the congregation at Trinity Lutheran Church and its pastor, Rev. C.F.W. Walther, the cholera epidemic of 1849 first hit home when 15 year old Margaretha Vitter died of that disease on May 9th.  That disease would bring much death and mourning to the city of St. Louis for the next several months.  And if that was not going to be enough, on this day, May 17th of that year, a devastating fire struck the downtown area of that growing city.

The fire started on the riverboat White Cloud and spread to other riverboats.  The fire also jumped onshore and began raging among the many wooden buildings in the area which is now occupied by the Gateway Arch.  By the time it was over, the fire had destroyed 23 steamboats and caused $5 million in property damage.  The firefighters of St…

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Another Character – Herman Buenger

Herman Buenger

Herman Buenger

May 13th is the day when Herman Buenger died in 1899.  Herman was one of the students in the first class at the Log Cabin College and also one of the characters in my book.  After his family moved from Perry County to St. Louis, Herman became a druggist and eventually had his own pharmacy in that city.  Herman married Anna Katharina Windecker shortly after the death of Herman’s mother, Christiane (Mama Buenger).

Unlike many of his siblings, Herman did not go into church work or get married to someone in church work.  However, three of his four daughters (he had no sons) married Lutheran pastors.

Herman Buenger tombstone

Herman and his wife are buried in Concordia Cemetery in St. Louis.

Birthday of a Church

“What a beautiful day!” exclaimed Wilhelmina Loeber as she walked away from her home on the way to the newly built church.  “It certainly is strange for us to have to walk to church instead of having the congregation walk to us.”

Those are some of the words I used in “Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod” to describe an event which took place on May 11, 1845.  It was Pentecost Sunday, a Sunday sometimes referred to as the birthday of the Christian church.  For the people in Altenburg, that particular day was another birthday of a church.  It was the day the members of the congregation dedicated their first permanent church building in their new home in America.

For the first six years, this congregation had conducted their worship services on the second floor of Rev. Gotthold Loeber’s parsonage.  Now they had managed to construct a building of their own.  It was a day to celebrate.

That building went on to be used as their church until 1867 when a new and larger church sanctuary was built.  Then the 1845 church then became a school building for the congregation for over one hundred years.  Now this structure serves as a gallery for the Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum.  It celebrates its 171st anniversary today.

Above in both photos, you can see the 1845 church in the foreground with the 1867 church in the background.