It was Palm Sunday in East Perry County, Missouri in 1840. One tradition that came to America with the German Lutheran immigrants was that of conducting the rite of confirmation on Palm Sunday. The first few years after the new settlers arrived were mostly dedicated to survival. They were very difficult years, and much death occurred. However, these conditions did not deter these people from continuing the spiritual development of their children. So Palm Sunday of 1840 was indeed the Confirmation Day for several young people.
I must tell you that the Confirmation Class of 1840 was not the first one conducted in Perry County. One was conducted on October 13, 1839. It is said to have been conducted in what was called the “camp”. These people were still scrambling to build themselves houses before the upcoming winter and had absolutely no extra time to devote to building a church. I am just speculating on this, but I suspect that this would have been a group of confirmands who normally would have been confirmed on Palm Sunday of 1839, but the dire circumstances of that year kept them from being confirmed then.
Before I tell you about who was in the Class of 1840, let me speculate on the preparation of these confirmands and where the service may have occurred. Also, you should know that there were actually two classes. One was held in Seelitz, and one was held in Altenburg. The records for both of these confirmations are included in the Trinity Lutheran Church books.
If you assume that these young people went through two years of catechism classes before being confirmed like most do today, then this class of 1840 must have started their classes before leaving Germany. They would have continued that instruction aboard whatever ship on which they traveled. Upon arrival, some of these students would have continued their studies in St. Louis while waiting for the time to move to Perry County. Some of the members of this confirmation class came with the Gruber Group that arrived in Perry County in December of 1839, so they would have continued their studies here.
The members of the Altenburg confirmation class must have had different instructors as they did their catechetical studies. Since they were together the whole way, the confirmands in Seelitz were likely taught by just their own pastor, Rev. Moritz Buerger. For the students confirmed in Altenburg, especially during their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, the instructor depended on which ship they were on. These confirmands may have been put together as a class once they were all in Perry County and given their final classes by one teacher. One possibility is that one of the so-called Candidates, Georg Schieferdecker, may have been involved with the confirmation teaching once the group was in Perry County. The Lutheran Cyclopedia says that he taught school in Perry County for a short time. One thing was the same for all the different groups as they headed to America. They all considered it to be essential to educate their children in the doctrines of the Lutheran church.
Another question that cannot be definitively answered concerns the location of this confirmation. In 1840, no church had been built yet in Perry County. However, in the first six years after their arrival, the congregation in Altenburg conducted their services on the second floor of Rev. Gotthold Loeber’s parsonage. Exactly when this house was completed, I do not know, but it is possible that in the spring of 1840, the confirmation of the Altenburg students could have taken place there. Here is an artist’s rendition of this parsonage.
There was also no church in Seelitz. About all we can say is that the confirmation that took place in Seelitz likely took place wherever they were conducting their regular services.
Now on to the confirmands. After Rev. Buerger left Perry County, Rev. Loeber wrote down some of his records in the Trinity church books. Included in those books is this record of the April 12, 1840 confirmation in Seelitz.
There are three confirmands listed. All of them came to America on the Copernicus, the same ship upon which Rev. Buerger traveled. I will give just a brief account of who these people were and what happened to them.
Julius Schlimpert: Julius was the son of Johann Gottlob and Johanna Sophia (Frentzel) Schlimpert. By the time of this confirmation, his father had already died in Perry County. He died in August of 1839. In 1852, Julius married Johanna Boehme. The wedding was conducted by Rev. Georg Schieferdecker. They were married at Trinity Lutheran Church. By this time, Candidate Schieferdecker had been ordained and later called to be the second pastor of Trinity. Rev. Schieferdecker also came to America on the Copernicus, so he may have been familiar with the Schlimpert family. If you enter Schlimpert in the search function on this page, you should find a few other posts we have put on this blog about Julius and his family. He died in 1879 in Altenburg.
Eleonore Kuehnert: (In other records, she is named Johanne Juliane) I think Rev. Loeber got the name wrong on this record. There was also an Eleonore Kuehn living in Seelitz at about that time, but she would not have been old enough to be confirmed. Johanne was the daughter of Johann Christlieb and Maria Rosine (Ludwig) Kuehnert. In 1845, Johanne married Johann Christian Friedrich Saalfeld. He was a farmer in Perry County. Johanne died in 1904.
Caroline Schlimpert: Caroline was the daughter of Christian Gottfried and Johanna Christiana (Poppitz) Schlimpert. A few months after this confirmation, Caroline’s father died. She married Gustave Guenther, a cooper from St. Louis, in 1848. Caroline lived in St. Louis the rest of her life and was a member of Old Trinity Lutheran Church. She died in 1901.
Here is the Trinity church record of the confirmation that took place as part of the Altenburg congregation.
Carl Christian Bracher: Carl was the son of Johann Peter and Maria Christiana (Krause) Bracher who came to America as part of the Gruber Group. In 1853, Carl married Johanna Braeuner. By 1870, the Brachers were living in Prairie City Township in Bates County, Missouri. Fred Eggers wrote a post about the Brachers moving to Prairie City called An Early Out-Migration of Original Immigrants. Carl died there in 1912. He was the last of the confirmands from 1840 to die. He is also the only one for whom I managed to find a photo.
Johann Gottfried Burkhardt: Johann was the son of Johann Gottlieb and Eva Rosine (Schumann) Burkhardt who came to America in the Gruber Group. Johann died at the age of 18 from epilepsy.
Friedrich Albert Fischer: Albert was the son of Johann Friedrich and Justine (Bode) Fischer who came to America on the Republik. In 1852, he married Emma Marie Palisch. Albert became a merchant in Altenburg. He died in 1881.
Maria Paulina Gruber: Paulina was the daughter of Rev. Carl and Pauline (Brem) Gruber. Rev. Gruber was the first pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown. He led a group of immigrants who arrived in Perry County in December of 1839. I find it interesting that Paulina is getting confirmed in Altenburg. Her father’s church probably hadn’t become very established yet. Also interesting is that Paulina married Rev. Georg Schieferdecker just five years after being confirmed in 1845. I cannot help but ask the question, “Is it possible that Rev. Schieferdecker was once a confirmation teacher for his future bride?” One must wonder about how these two became acquainted. They were married before Rev. Schieferdecker came back to Altenburg to be a pastor in 1850. Paulina died in 1895.
Justine Goehring: Justine was the daughter of George and Rosine Goehring who came to America on the Copernicus. In 1845, she married George Kluegel. She died in 1899.
To sum up, I find this combination of students to be quite interesting. It surprises me that so many in the Altenburg class were from the Gruber Group, including their pastor’s daughter. I wish I had more photographs of these people, but they lived for the most part before the advent of photography into Perry County. I also find very good evidence that all of these confirmands remained a part of the Lutheran church for life. I wish we could say that about confirmands nowadays.