Orphan Marries Orphan

Today would have been the 130th anniversary of two orphans from Altenburg.  On November 21, 1886, Henry Voerster married Katherine Roenn at Trinity Lutheran.

Henry was the son of Friedrich and Anna Maria (Kaufmann) Voerster.  This couple had been married at Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Louis in 1848.


The pastor who performed the ceremony was Rev. Johann Friedrich Buenger, who earlier had helped build the Log Cabin College in Perry County and had been one of its first teachers.  Their son, Henry, was also born in St. Louis and was baptized at Immanuel in 1856.  Then sometime before 1860, the Voersters moved to Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  The 1860 census shows that Friedrich was a stone mason there.

1870 census – Cape Girardeau, MO

Census takers often mistook the German pronunciation of a “V” as an “F” so you see his name here spell as Forster.  Friedrich died in 1867 as a result of alcoholism.  His wife died of dropsy in 1869, and that left their children as orphans.  We can find Henry in the 1870 census living with the Frederick Jahn family in Altenburg at the age of 13.

Now we move to Katherine Roenn….sometimes recorded as von Roenn.  Katherine was the daughter of Johann and Martha (Thiedemann) von Roenn.  She was born in 1865.  Her father, Johann, died in 1870, and her mother, Martha, died in 1875, making Katherine an orphan.  In the 1880 census, we find Katherine living with Christiane (Poppitz) (Schlimpert) Schmidt.

1880 census – Perry County, MO

Six years after this census, the two orphans, Henry and Katherine, were married and started a family.  Four children were born in Perry County before the family moved away.  They took their growing family to Arkansas County in Arkansas sometime around 1895.  Here is an old map of the area where the Voersters lived for a while.


In the late 1800’s, an effort was made to get German immigrants to move to this part of Arkansas.  As you can see from the map, the city of Stuttgart, Arkansas is not far away.  Stuttgart was a city populated very early by German immigrants.  Not only did Henry move to that area, but he had a brother named Friedrich who also moved there from Perry County.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Gillett, Arkansas, was not far from where Henry and Katherine’s family lived.  It’s possible that they may have attended this church.

Henry’s brother, Friedrich, lived near the city of Ulm (toward the top of the map above and pronounced as Ull-em by folks in Arkansas) and was a member of Zion Lutheran Church in that small town.

Henry moved away from this county right before an important development took place there.  That area started growing rice as a crop around 1905, and that would change that whole area into one of the major rice producing areas in the world.  However, by that time, Henry moved farther west in Arkansas and settled on a farm near Mena, Arkansas.  After renting property previously, when he moved to Mena, Henry was able to buy his own farm.  He and Katherine would spend the rest of their lives there.

Here is a picture of Henry and Katharine with several of their children.


Both Henry and Katharine are buried in the White Oak Cemetery in Mena.


Here is Katherine’s obituary.  Since we have the record of Katherine’s baptism at Trinity in Altenburg, I would dispute the obituary’s mention of Katherine being born in St. Louis.


This is a story of how two orphans overcame early obstacles to live a very productive life which included being active in Lutheran churches wherever they went.  It is also yet another story which tells how the folks in Perry County cared enough to take orphans into their homes when they needed a place to live.






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