The year was 1836. It was two years before the Saxon immigrants would leave their German homeland to journey to the United States to establish a new home. Rev. Jakob Buenger lived in the little town of Etzdorf where he was the pastor. Also living with him in the church’s parsonage were his wife, Christiane, nine children, and Jakob’s father, who was a widower.
Then came the week of December 11th. It was a Sunday. The family must have attended a worship service where they lit three candles on their Advent wreath. That Sunday proved to be Jakob’s last day on earth and his entry into his heavenly home. Jakob’s death would bring much grief during a time which would normally be full of joy, and it would make Christiane a widow. By the way, Christiane’s father had been the pastor of the Etzdorf congregation prior to her husband taking over that position after his death.
Jakob’s father, Johann Andreas Buenger had also been a pastor, and he must have been a blessing to that family as they dealt with their grief. However, tragedy would strike again during that same week. On Friday, December 16, Johann Andreas, the grandfather of all those children, would also die. Christmas that year was going to be a very sad one. However, their faith remained strong through all of this. One of the Buenger children was twenty-six year old Johann Friedrich. He was in the midst of his studies to become a Lutheran minister himself, and this series of events would certainly give him a taste of how pastors must minister to grieving families in times of death and sorrow.
Here is a drawing and a photograph that are said to be of Rev. Jakob Buenger and his wife, Christiane (Reiz) Buenger.
I am convinced that these two deaths in 1836 precipitated a later decision by Christiane Buenger to take most of her family to America in 1838 along with about 700 other German Lutherans. After the death of Rev. Jakob Buenger, the congregation in Etzdorf must have had to make the difficult decision to tell the Buenger family that they needed the parsonage for their next pastor, and that the Buengers must have to move out.
We do know that the remainder of the Buenger family, with the exception of Emma Jakobine, the youngest child who was in fragile health, joined the immigration society known as the Gesellschaft and made the voyage to America where they settled in Perry County, Missouri.
I find it amazing how similar the two towns of Etzdorf and Altenburg presently look when you view an aerial map of each of them. The picture on top is Etzdorf, and the bottom one in Altenburg.
Here is a collage of the photos that I have of the Buenger children:
Top row, left to right: Johann Friedrich Buenger, Emilie Buenger, [the blank image represents as many as three Buenger children who died very early], Ernst Eduard Buenger, and Agnes Buenger.
Bottom row, left to right: Theodore Ernst Buenger, Clementine Buenger, Herman Buenger, Lydia Buenger, and Emma Jakobine Buenger (no photo available).
Several of these Buenger children became very involved in the early development of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
- Rev. Johann Friedrich Buenger: pastor at Trinity and Immanuel Lutheran churches in St. Louis. Also founder of the Lutheran hospital and Lutheran orphanage in the St. Louis area.
- Emilie Buenger: wife of Rev. C.F.W. Walther.
- Agnes Buenger: wife of Rev. Otto Herman Walther, and then after his death, the wife of Rev. Ottomar Fuerbringer.
- Theodore Ernst Buenger: teacher in several early Lutheran schools.
- Lydia Buenger: wife of Rev. Friedrich Lochner, another prominent figure in early LCMS history.
- Quite a few Lutheran pastors and teachers also came out of Clementine and Herman’s families in future generations.
These facts led me to affectionately refer Christiane Buenger as “Mama Buenger”. Also, the book that I wrote telling the story of the first ten years of the Buenger family in America became titled as Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod.
Please forgive me for sounding like a salesman, but if you purchase this book, much of the proceeds go to support the Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum. In fact, we have several books on our shelves at the museum’s gift shop from which their sales benefit our museum greatly. Some of the books may also be purchased either here on our website or on Amazon.com. Regardless of where you purchase them, our museum is supported. You might consider these as Christmas gifts for that special person in your life that has an interest in Lutheran church history.