December 4th – A Seminary Holiday?

Dresden, Germany was the home of Johann Samuel and Friederika Guenther.  On December 4, 1831, a baby was born to this couple by the name of Martin.  Before Martin was born, there were three other siblings…..Louise, born in 1808, Gotthold, born in 1811, and Immanuel, born in 1830.  The fact that Immanuel was born 19 years after Gotthold leads me to believe that Friedericka had to have been the second wife of Johann Samuel.  That and the fact that Friedericka was only five years older than Louise.

In 1838, when Martin was only seven years old, the Guenther family boarded the Olbers and headed for America.  This family decided to remain in St. Louis and not join most of the immigration society that settled in Perry County…..except for Louise.  Louise became quite infamous as being the prominent “maid” involved in the Martin Stephan scandal in 1839.  She came with Rev. Stephan to Perry County and later followed him into Illinois after his exile.

Gotthold, the other much older sibling, returned to Germany not long after arriving in America after being disillusioned by the events which took place here.  When he was back in Germany, he published a journal that he kept of the trip to America.  This journal is a valuable source that documents many stories which are important to the immigration.  There is evidence however, that Gotthold returned to America at a later date.

A few years after coming to this country, Martin was sent to Altenburg to attend the Log Cabin College.  That school was renamed Concordia Seminary, and that institution moved to St. Louis in 1849.  Martin went with it.  He would graduate from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and took a call to be the pastor of congregations in Grafton and Cedarburg, Wisconsin in 1853.

martin-guenther
Rev. Martin Guenther

Now we backtrack a little.  Johanne Harzdorf brought two of her children to America as part of the same German Lutheran immigration in 1838-1839.  A family story is told that her husband had to stay in Germany because of illness.  She and her family made the voyage aboard the Johann George.  One of those children was Theresia, who was only four years old at the time.  Tragically, however, Theresia’s mother died on December 17, 1839, leaving two children who were going to need care.  As it turns out, Theresia would eventually end up living in the home of Rev. Ottomar and Agnes (Buenger)(Walther) Fuerbringer in Venedy, Illinois.  She can be found living with this family in the 1850 census.

ottomar-fuerbringer-venedy-1850-census
1850 census – Venedy, Illinois

It should be noted here that the “John W” listed here as a 10 year old is Johann Walther, the son of Otto Herman Walther when he was married to Agnes.  Otto Herman, who was also the brother of Rev. C.F.W. Walther, died in 1841.

One year later after this census, in 1851, Rev. Fuerbringer took a call to become the pastor in Freistadt and Kirchhayn, Wisconsin.  Theresia went with them.  This move brought Martin Guenther and the Fuerbringers (including Theresia) in close proximity with each other.  In 1854, Martin and Theresia would be united in marriage with the ceremony almost certainly performed by Rev. Fuerbringer.

theresia-guenther
Theresia (Harzdorf) Guenther

In 1860, Rev. Guenther would take a call to Saginaw, Michigan.  His friend, Rev. Fuerbringer had taken a call to Frankenmuth, Michigan in 1858, so these two pastors were once again serving congregations which were not far from each other.  Before they left Wisconsin, the Guenthers had their first child, and they named this girl Agnes.  I am sure she was named after Mrs. Fuerbringer.

Martin took a call to Chicago in 1872, but one year after that, he was called to be a professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.  He took that call.  Martin would serve the rest of his life in St. Louis.  Rev. Guenther would also serve as the pastor of a new congregation which started in Kirkwood, Missouri in 1874.  That congregation was Concordia Lutheran Church.  However, the Guenther family would live in a home very near Concordia Seminary and Holy Cross Lutheran Church.

concordia-seminary-holy-cross-neighborhood
Concordia Seminary/Holy Cross neighborhood

The drawing above depicts the neighborhood where the Guenthers lived.  They probably lived just to the right of where Concordia Seminary is noted in the drawing.

Martin Guenther would die in 1893.  That was the same year that Ottomar Fuerbringer’s son, Ludwig, arrived to become a professor at Concordia.  Theresia would die two years later in 1895.  They are both buried in Concordia Cemetery.

guenther-gravestone
Guenther gravestone

The Guenthers would have eight children, seven of them girls.  Here is a photo of the four oldest girls.

guenther-children
Agnes, Concordia, Renate, and Martha Guenther

There is one other connection that I found between the Fuerbringer and Guenther families.  Ludwig Fuerbringer would later become the godfather of one of Martin and Theresia’s grandsons.

There was a teacher at Lutheran High School North when I attended that school in the 1960’s who was named Iris Guenther.  I have a suspicion that she was a descendant of this Guenther family, but I have not been able to verify it.

Finally, I must tell you the story that is told about the traditions which were in practice at Concordia Seminary back in those days.  On the birthday of one of the professors, students would show up outside the professor’s home and treat them to some singing.  Then classes would be called off for that day.  Could it be that December 4th could have been such a holiday?

 


2 thoughts on “December 4th – A Seminary Holiday?

  1. Do you know what happened to Louise Guenther after Martin Stephan died on February 22, 1846? According to Walter Forster’s Zion on the Mississippi (p. 428), shortly later Louise wrote letters seeking admission to Trinity congregation in St. Louis, where Walther was pastor.

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