An Old Lutheran’s Odyssey

When you look at a list titled “Additions in St. Louis” in Zion on the Mississippi,  you find the name of Johann Friedrich Grünhagen.

gruenhagen-in-zion

Today, I will attempt to give you a little glimpse into his life.  He was not one to stay in one place, and his time in Perry County was quite short.  His story has a very unusual beginning.  He was born on the very first day of the 19th century, January 1, 1800.  His birthplace was the province of Pommerania which was in Prussia.  By 1836, Johann was married with three sons. That was the year this family left to come to America.  Their first stop was in New York City.  It is said that Johann was of a noble family and was quite wealthy.  In fact, it is told that he paid for twelve other families to come to America.  Their reason for coming here was very similar to the reason for the immigration to Perry County.  They were upset with what was going on in the church.  The Gruenhagens considered themselves a part of the group that referred to themselves as Old Lutherans and they were opposed to the Prussian Union.

johann-friedrich-gruenhagen
Johann Friedrich Gruenhagen

After arriving in New York, Johann, Fredericke, and his three sons moved to Sandusky, Ohio.  They apparently did not stay there long because by 1839, they were to be found in St. Louis, Missouri.  They joined the Stephanites when that immigration society arrived in St. Louis in the early part of 1839.  As is stated in Zion on the Mississippi, the Gruenhagens were part of a small group of people that joined that immigration as it moved to Perry County.  However, their time in Perry County was short.  In 1843, we see that Johann became a naturalized citizen in St. Louis.

john-gruenhagen-citizenship-paper
John Gruenhagen citizenship paper

In 1844, the Gruenhagens moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Johann had a brother, Joachim, who lived next door to him.  The Gruenhagens were members of the Lutheran church on Chestnut Street that later was named as Trinity Lutheran Church.  One of Trinity’s later pastors was Rev. Christoph Loeber.  By 1846, Johann and Fredericke had five sons.  Records also indicate that in 1847, Johann was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Milwaukee Dragoons.

In 1849, their third son, David Friedrich (Fritz), died at the age of seventeen.  His uncle, Joachim, donated some land for a cemetery, and Fritz was buried there.  For a while, this cemetery was called Gruenhagen Cemetery, but it is no longer there.

In 1850, Johann purchased property in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  He moved the family there and began operating Gruenhagen & Sons Dry Goods Store.  That area of town eventually became known as Gruenhagen’s Point.

gruenhagens-point

Number 2 on the map is where the store was located.

When the Gruenhagens came to Oshkosh, there was no Lutheran church, so Johann began to hold some services at his home.  In 1853 or 1854, a group of Lutherans began Trinity Lutheran Church.  Some people even referred to this church as Gruenhagen Lutheran Church.  Johann was very active in civil affairs in Oshkosh, including being elected to several positions.  He also owned some woolen mills.  Johann died in 1881 and is buried in Riverside Cemetery, as is his wife, Fredericke.

Because there were so many sons in this family, we find that there were plenty of people in Oshkosh by the name of Gruenhagen.


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