Matthias Wukasch died on March 19th in 1925 in St. Louis, Missouri. When he was buried in Frohna, they put a portion of Daniel 12:3 on his tombstone.
Daniel 12:3 reads as follows:
“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”
Matthias had arrived in Perry County in 1873 as a new and inexperienced teacher to take over teaching responsibilities at Concordia Lutheran School in Frohna. There is a story that is told about what young Teacher Wukasch said on his way from Wittenberg to Frohna on that day that he arrived and was seeing Perry County for the first time. He said, “Hier in die wildnis bleib ich nicht.” Translated, that would be, “Here in this wilderness I will not stay.” He was, oh, so wrong. It was not until 1923 that Teacher Wukasch would retire from his position at Concordia, Frohna where he spent half a century “turning many to righteousness” in his classroom.
First, allow me to give a little background on Matthias. He was the third of six children born to Matthes and Anna (Mrosack) Wukasch. He was born in Prussia, and when he was four years old, his family moved to America. They made the voyage across the Atlantic aboard the Ben Nevis, which arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1854.
The Wukasch family was part of an immigration of Wendish Lutherans who settled in Serbin, Texas and established St. Paul Lutheran Church. Here is a photo of the interior of St. Paul as it looks today. I think you will see similarities to a few present-day Perry County churches.
Here is a family photo of the Wukasch family from Texas. Matthias is sitting on the right.
At the age of 23, Matthias graduated from Lutheran Normal School in Addison, Illinois. From there, he traveled to Frohna to begin his teaching career. Four years after his arrival, Matthias married Anna Fischer at Concordia in 1877. This couple had three children, but only one survived infancy. According to Anna’s death record in the Concordia church books, Anna died from pneumonia on the same day that their daughter, Johanna, was born and died. This left Matthias a widower with a two year old son. It would be six years before Teacher Wukasch would remarry in 1883. His second wife was Johanna Schieferdecker, the daughter of Rev. Georg Schieferdecker, who had previously been a preacher in Altenburg.
This couple would have seven children, only one of which did not live to adulthood. Their first children were a set of twin girls, Emma and Clara, born in 1884 on Valentine’s Day. I am thinking there is another blog post to be written about the Wukasch children.
As I said earlier, Matthias Wukasch died on Thursday, March 19, 1925. He had retired from teaching in 1923 as a result of poor health. He was staying with some children in St. Louis at the time of his death. His death occurred one day after the disastrous Tri-State Tornado, The Deadliest Tornado. The family fulfilled his wishes to be buried in the Concordia Cemetery. His body was transported to Perry County, and on Sunday, March 22, a funeral service was held. This newspaper article describes this event.
This article states that Rev. O.R. Hueschen conducted the church service. He was the pastor at Grace Lutheran in Uniontown. Rev. Hafner, Concordia’s pastor, conducted the graveside service. I am thinking that Rev. Hueschen did that service because he had been serving this area since 1892 and would have known Teacher Wukasch better than Rev. Hafner, who had come to Concordia after Matthias had retired.
I can only imagine how many members of Concordia, Frohna who were still suffering from the devastating tornado just days before that took place just north of Frohna. Yet, this beloved teacher drew such a crowd to his funeral that the church could not accommodate them. Concordia Lutheran Church can look back with thanksgiving at having been blessed with a teacher who faithfully served their congregation for so many years. The Wukasch family that attended the funeral must have also been very moved by the children singing as part of this service.
Matthias may have first thought that he would not stay in Perry County, but apparently God had other plans. Now for us so many years later, he shines like a star as part of our history.