Our blog post today was authored by Fred Eggers, one of the members of our Research Crew at the Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum.
On January 13, 1912 Carl Christian Peter Bracher died in Bates County, Missouri and was buried at the Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery in Prairie City.
He had immigrated to the United States with his parents and a brother with Rev. Gruber’s group which has been previously discussed in this blog. The Bracher family came from the city of Gera which is less than ten miles from Rev. Gruber’s village of Reust and Paitzdorf, which was the namesake of that group’s settlement in Perry County. The 1850 census finds this family in the Altenburg area. On February 3, 1853 Carl married Johanne Christiane Sophie Braeuner, fourth daughter of Christian Carl Braeuner from Koestriz by Gera. Both of his parents died in 1855. In the 1860 census he was listed as a farmer living with his family and his brother Traugott in or near Wittenberg.
So how is it that in the 1870 census, we find Carl, his brothers Friedrich Johann Gottlieb and Traugott Abraham, and his brother-in-law August Friedrich Braeuner and their families living in the Prairie City Township of Bates County, Missouri?
On page 18 in dwelling number 120 of the census of Prairie City Township of Bates County, which was enumerated on August 18, 1870, we find Carl (Charles) Bracher with his wife Johanna and their four children.
Farther down that page in dwelling number 124 are Frederick Braeuner (listed as Briner) with his wife Mary, nee Stadelmann, and their five children including Emma, who was born on October 18, 1868 and baptized at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altenburg.
In dwelling number 116 on page 17 are Traugott Bracher with his wife Catherine, nee Stueve, and their son Joseph, who was born on August 27, 1869 and baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. In the next dwelling, number 117, are Fred Bracher with his wife Elizabeth, nee Stueve and a sister of Catherine, with their two children including Clara, who was born October 7, 1869 and baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg.
I included the birth dates of three of the children to assist in estimating when this group moved to Bates County. It was likely after the October 1869 birth of Clara Bracher and obviously before the census date in August of 1870. Why did this group choose Bates County, Missouri?
Bates County is best known in Missouri history for being the only county where the entire civilian population was evacuated in 1863 during the Civil War in order to eliminate sources of support for Confederate insurgents and guerillas. I have learned that most of the former residents did not return to the county following the war and their land was reverted back to the government and sold for unpaid taxes, but how would the German immigrants in Perry County, Missouri completely across the state, know about the land sales?
Just by luck I found a likely answer when I was researching a Pastor that served in one of our area congregations in Der Lutheraner. In the December 15, 1867 edition I found the information I was looking for on that Pastor and at the bottom of that same page I found this “Notice” and saw the words “Prairie City, Bates Co., Mo.”.
This is my interpretation of this notice:
Lutherans who will relocate themselves can, in Prairie City and surrounding Bates County, Missouri, buy cheap prairie for six to ten dollars per acre. The ground is excellent, for in the lowlands the grass is of a man’s height. Also the hills offer high grass and consistent ground for corn and wheat. The nearby Osage River as well as the creeks furnish more wood than can be used. Also much coal to dig in bulk is found. There is also no lack of water because the Creeks are filled and spring water is sometimes found 14 feet deep. Ten Lutheran congregation members are already living there that I, from my residence 60 miles away, provide with Word and Sacrament. And it is only the longing desire of the members there that the number there would increase so that they could call their own Pastor. For further information contact J. Johannes, Prairie City, Bates County, Missouri.
In the name and on behalf of the Lutheran members there. R. Köhler
This notice had been submitted by Rev. Reinhold Köhler who served as Pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Benton County, Missouri from 1867 to 1870.
In the January 15, 1869 edition Pastor Köhler posted another article stating that they then had twenty members but would like to have more and that the railroad was to be located near their settlement. It also offered land in the area of Bear Creek sixteen miles to the east with land priced at from five to eight dollars per acre.
In a third related article in the September 1, 1870 edition, the church news included the ordination and installation on July 31, 1870 of Rev. Heinrich Pröhl, who had studied at the Hermannsburg Mission Seminary in Germany and the Theological Seminary in St. Louis, as the first resident Pastor of the congregation in Prairie City (now Zion, Prairie City-Rockville). Rev. Köhler stated that this congregation and the one at Bear Creek (now Trinity, Appleton City) were formed chiefly by long-standing members of our synod. He once again touted the virtues of the property in the area and that the nearly finished railroad would bring more workers into the area.
There appears to be more than a coincidence between the timing of the articles in Der Lutheraner and the migration of these families to Bates County, Missouri. Perhaps a descendant of that group can remember a family story that would give credence to my theory. Maybe Larry Brauner (Braeuner), a friend of the museum that has attended past Immigration Conferences has some information. It was likely one of the first large out-migrations from the Perry County Lutheran settlements to another part of the United States. Later in the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth century there was a significant number of families from Perry County that moved to other areas and established what I call “colonies” of people with roots in our area. Some of them became large settlements and congregations while others, like the Bates County group, remained small in number. The only other people that I am aware of that joined the Brachers and Braeuners were Carl Stueve and his wife Dorothea, nee Eggers, and their sons who moved to Bates County in around 1883. They later moved to Linn, Kansas in about 1888 and in 1903 migrated to another Perry County “colony” in Sylvan Grove, Kansas. Carl Stueve was a brother of the Stueve sisters that were married to the Bracher brothers.
The Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum has in its research library bound copies of most of the early editions of Der Lutheraner. Although it is not common to find information relative to a specific family, they are a great source of information on the history of a congregation and its Pastors including the consecration of church buildings and the installation of Pastors and their obituaries.