Which of the Original Immigrants Was the Last to Die?

Gottwerth Schmidt
Gottwerth Schmidt
Emilie Hopfer
Emilie Hopfer

The research crew at Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum recently identified a new answer to the above question.  According to an old article found in the Perryville paper, Gottwerth Schmidt who died on April 14, 1926, was the last of the original immigrants to die.  He also happens to be my great grandfather.

We have now determined that there was someone else who lived longer. Emilie Hopfer, who arrived in Perry County as part of the Gruber Group in December of 1839, lived to a later date than Gottwerth.  She died in Uniontown on October 20, 1927.  Both Gottwerth and Emilie lived to be 91 years of age.

I was not made aware of this fact until yesterday.  When I wrote my book, “Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod”, it just so happens that these two are characters in it.  In fact, the Schmidt and Hopfer families are involved in the same story.  As I tell it, when the Gruber group arrive in Perry County, Rev. Loeber arranges to have the newly arrived Hopfers to spend a night with the Schmidt family.  That would have put these two characters in the same home for that event.  But it’s only fiction.

If anyone would find that someone else lived later than Emilie Hopfer, we at the museum would like to know about it.  Contact us if you do find such a person.

Also, if you might be interested in reading “Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod”, you can find it on Amazon.  If you click on the Amazon Smile logo in the right margin, it will take you there.

4 thoughts on “Which of the Original Immigrants Was the Last to Die?

  1. Technically, there were two other participants in the initial voyages who survived a few years later than Emilie Hopfer, though they might warrant an asterisk behind that designation:

    The last known survivor was 𝗛𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝗝𝗮𝗰𝗼𝗯, who died 26 May 1931 in Sylvan Grove, KS, according to an obituary on page 4 of The Perry County Sun (Perryville, MO) from 4 Jun 1931. Heinrich also arrived with the Gruber group on the 2nd voyage of the S.S. Johann Georg. I give him an asterisk because he was born in Germany on 28 March 1839, a few months after the earlier ships had already arrived in New Orleans, and would have had no memory of his own arrival in New Orleans on 27 Nov 1839.

    The second-to-last known survivor was 𝗚𝗼𝘁𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗳 𝗧𝗿𝗮𝘂𝗴𝗼𝘁𝘁 𝗔𝗵𝗻𝗲𝗿, who died 28 Feb 1930 in St. Louis, MO. He was born 1 Dec 1838 aboard the S.S. Copernicus (as recounted in your blog post, Born at Sea), which arrived in New Orleans on 31 Dec 1838, so he also would have had no memory of the voyage. He eventually began going by the name Gustave Ahner around the same time he married catholic Regina Phillips; his name change may have been connected to the presumptive conversion.

    The third-to-last known survivor was 𝗘𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝗼𝗽𝗳𝗲𝗿, who as you noted died 20 Oct 1927 in Uniontown, MO. Since she was born 27 Sep 1836, she would have been the last survivor to have walked around on German soil before heading to America, as she turned 3 years old just days before departure.

    The fourth-to-last known survivor was 𝗚𝗼𝘁𝘁𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗱 𝗙𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗱𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝗚𝗿𝘂𝗯𝗲𝗿, who died 8 Feb 1927 in Seward Co., NE. He was born 17 May 1835 and came with his father, Pastor Gruber, on the second voyage of the S.S. Johann Georg. Since he would have been 4½, he might qualify as the last survivor with real memories of the voyage.

    The fifth-to-last was your great-grandfather, 𝗚𝗼𝘁𝘁𝘄𝗲𝗿𝘁𝗵 𝗙𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗱𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝗦𝗰𝗵𝗺𝗶𝗱𝘁 (7 Sep 1834 – 12 Apr 1926).

    Behind them, there were a handful of other passengers who survived into the late 1910s and early 1920s, but none of them were older than 7 when the first ships departed besides 𝗝𝗼𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗻 𝗙ü𝗿𝗰𝗵𝘁𝗲𝗴𝗼𝘁𝘁 𝗦𝗰𝗵𝘂𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗵𝘁 (22 Jul 1823 – 13 Jun 1917). He would have been about 15 at the time of the voyage, meaning he may have been the last of the original passengers to have been confirmed in Germany (or might that have taken place on the voyage?). His sister, Johanna Rosina Schuricht, was a year younger than him and was confirmed in the 1839 inaugural class at Trinity Lutheran in St. Louis, MO.


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