Harry Abandoned on the Prairie

Harry Flach WWII registration
Harry Flach’s WWII draft registration 1942

The photo above shows the World War II draft registration for Harry Flach, a clerk for a seed and hardware company in Peoria, Illinois who was born in Minden, Nebraska.  This document does not give any clue to Harry’s connection to the Saxon immigration, but there is one.  Here is how Harry’s story begins (and you can probably see how it attracted our attention for a blog).

“Baby Harry had been abandoned in a basket on the prairie.”

“Baby Harry” was Harry Flach.  He was abandoned in a basket on the Nebraska prairie near the town of Minden.  A young married couple was living in Minden at the time, and it is with this couple that we find a connection to the Lutherans.  Rev. Ernst and Clara (Grosse) Flach adopted this young baby and made it their own in 1885.  He was given the birthday of May 10th.

Next we can connect this couple to the Saxon immigration.  Clara’s father and mother were both members of the 1839 immigration.  Clara’s father was Moritz Ernst Grosse, who came to America aboard the Johann Georg along with his mother and two brothers.  Moritz started out as a shoemaker in St. Louis, but later became a teacher at Immanuel Lutheran Church there.  Moritz had married Christiane Augusta Wilhelmina Hahn at Old Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis in 1840, but she died prior to 1850.  Moritz married again in 1850 to Wilhelmina Schuessler in Frohna, Missouri.  This is really the only connection this story has to Perry County. Wilhelmina was part of the Gruber group that arrived in Perry County at the end of 1839.  Interestingly enough, the Gruber group also came to America aboard the Johann Georg.

Grosse Schuessler marriage
Grosse-Schuessler marriage record – Frohna church books

Just a side note:  In 1850, Rev. Gotthold Loeber, who was covering the Frohna congregation after Rev. Keyl had left, had died recently.  The only other Lutheran pastor in the vicinity at the time was Rev. Carl Gruber in Paitzdorf (now called Uniontown).  You will see his name in the lower right corner of this photo.

Ernst Flach, the son of a cabinet maker in Detroit, MI, probably met his wife, Clara, in St. Louis while Ernst was a student at Concordia Seminary around 1880.  Rev. Flach was apparently involved in several up-and-coming Lutheran churches in that area of Nebraska.  His name appears in records involving a church near Prosser, NE, a church near Juniata, NE, as well as the one in Minden.  Later, Rev. Flach was serving the Lutheran church in Hamel, IL.  Both Rev. Ernst and his wife Clara died and were buried in Peoria, IL.  It could be gathered from this fact that they moved to Peoria later in life to live near their son, Harry.

Ernst Flach tombstone Peoria
Rev. Ernst and Clara Flach’s tombstone – Peoria, IL

Harry’s given name was actually Ernst Theodor Herman Flach.  He and his wife, Caroline, are buried in the same Lutheran Cemetery as his parents in Peoria.

Harry Flach tombstone Peoria
Harry and Caroline Flach’s tombstone – Peoria, IL

Another side note:  When Moritz Grosse was teaching at Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Louis, his pastor was Rev. J.F. Buenger, who was one of the builders of the Log Cabin College in Perry County.  One of Rev. Buenger’s notable accomplishments was to establish a Lutheran orphan’s home in the St. Louis area.  The Research Crew has noticed that there are numerous stories of Lutherans caring for orphans in the early history of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

“Harry on the Prairie” started out life by needing a set of parents.  His adoption into the Flach (pronounced “flock”) family is a wonderful story of a shepherd of God’s people and his wife accepting a child into their flock.  It was yet another story of Lutherans recognizing the needs of an orphaned child and doing something about it.

We Christians too were once orphans in need of a Heavenly Father.  Through baptism, we have become God’s children.


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