Pictured above is a portion of the Trinity Lutheran Church records. It is from a section in the records which documented the deaths which occurred in St. Louis in 1839 before the majority of the immigrants traveled to their new home in Perry County. In the middle of the photo is the last of these death records. It tells of the death of a very young child on April 19th. That child’s name is what is interesting. This baby had been given the name Martin Stephan Palisch. Little Martin was born on April 3, 1839 and baptized the next day. A mere 16 days later, the baby died.
One can surmise that the Palisch parents named this child after the leader of the German immigration, Rev. Martin Stephan. By the time of this baby’s death, his namesake, Rev. Stephan had departed St. Louis and was in Perry County with several other immigrants who were preparing their newly purchased land for the arrival of the rest of the group.
About one month later, on May 31, Rev. Stephan was sent into exile in Illinois in disgrace because the colony determined that he was no longer worthy to be their leader. He had gone from having a baby named after him to being kicked out of his community in about two months. What an amazingly dramatic change this must have been!
Let’s take a moment to think about this from the perspective of Johanna Palisch, the mother of Martin Stephan Palisch. She made the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Johann Georg while being quite pregnant. She arrived in New Orleans on January 5th, boarded the riverboat, Clyde, and traveled up the Mississippi River during what has been described as a very cold winter. She arrived in St. Louis on February 9th, just two months away from giving birth. Most of the newly arrived immigrants had difficulty finding adequate housing during these first few months. We can imagine how miserable this time must have been for Johanna. After the temporary joy of giving birth to Martin Stephan, she must have once again suffered as she watched him became ill and eventually died 16 days later.
Looking back later after the Rev. Stephan debacle, some members of the Palisch family and their friends may have considered this baby’s death as an omen of things to come.
About two years later, during the time interval between the two days of the Altenburg Debate, April 15 and April 20, it is likely that the Palisch family remembered the death of little Martin Stephan during the time that the community was still looking for resolution to the problems that existed after the other Martin Stephan was rowed across the river.