Today’s story begins in the church records of Historic Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis. On May 3, 1849, we find that there was a marriage performed. Herman Brandes was the groom, and Wilhelmina Giesselmann was the bride. This brings to mind how busy the Lutheran pastors must have been in St. Louis during that eventful year. Joyful weddings were taking place in the midst of sorrow.
A couple of tragic events took place in St. Louis during 1849. One was the Great Fire which occurred in May, about two weeks after this wedding. The other was the Cholera Epidemic. The epidemic was hitting its stride in April with 120 deaths being recorded during that month. In May, the number of deaths was six times worse than the previous month. The worst month was July, when 2200 died. In August, the number of deaths declined dramatically. The total number of cholera deaths that year was 4317.
At Trinity Lutheran Church, we find that during May, there were three deaths, all from cholera. During June, the number of cholera deaths went up to 12. Then during July, the largest number of cholera deaths was recorded at 36. Then in August, there were none.
Add to this the fact that during 1849, there were 39 weddings conducted at Old Trinity.
Rev. C.F.W. Walther was the pastor at Trinity. Not long before this time, his assistant pastor, Rev. J.F. Buenger took over the new congregation of Immanuel Lutheran Church just north of Trinity. It could be surmised that Rev. Buenger was busy at his congregation with the cholera epidemic as well. It had to be a very busy time for pastors in St. Louis, considering how on one hand, the churches were growing, as evidenced by the number of marriages. On the other hand, so many people were dying, and this too would require the pastors to be performing many funerals.
Just a side note: Rev. Walther’s mother-in-law, Christiane Buenger, died in July, 1849 of cholera too, but she is not recorded in Trinity’s church records. She may have been a member of Immanuel, her son’s congregation.
Here at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg, we are having four weddings this year. For this church nowadays, that is a bumper crop. This church has also had four funerals this spring, and that is considered a lot. What an incredible year it must have been for the Lutherans in St. Louis in 1849.
Concordia Seminary moved from Altenburg to St. Louis in 1849 also, but that is a story for another day.