Watching So Many Children Die

Today’s story is almost too sad to be written, but I feel I must.  The story centers around the family of John Michael and Caroline (Lang) Sandler of the Perryville area.  Both John Michael and Caroline arrived in America in 1840 by coming through Baltimore, Maryland.  Yet they both arrived on different ships on different days.  Here is the passenger list showing Caroline (called Eva Margaretha) who came aboard the Clementine in July of 1840.  She was 22 years old at the time.

Eva Margaretha Caroline Lang passenger list Clementine 1840
Passenger list – Clementine – Baltimore, MD

John Michael was aboard the Minerva which arrived in September of that year.  He was 23 years old and was listed as a baker.

John Michael Sandler passenger list Minerva 1840
Passenger list – Minerva – Baltimore, MD

These two must have made their way to St. Louis, because on October 10, 1842 we find them getting married there.  Here is that marriage record.  They were married by a Justice of the Peace by the name of Ferdinand Kretschmar.

Sandler Lang marriage record St. Louis 1842
Sandler/Lang marriage record – St. Louis, MO

Their first child was born on December 18, 1842, so Caroline must have been quite pregnant when they were married, which could explain why they were married by a Justice of the Peace instead of by a pastor.

Caroline would give birth to children all the way until 1866.  Our German Family Tree has records for ten children, but some sources on indicate there were twelve.  There may have been two that did not make the church records.  These children were baptized at the Friedenberg church, and their records were destroyed in a fire.  We rely on records that have been reconstructed.

The Sandlers are said to have lived in the Bois Brule area where John Michael had become a farmer.  In the early 1860’s, a group of Lutherans from this area decided to start a congregation in Perryville.  The history of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Perryville states that their original members started meeting in the “Sandler home” in 1862.  That congregation was officially begun in 1866 and its first church building was dedicated in 1867.  This congregation recently celebrated their 150th anniversary.

Now on to the sad part of this story.  The 1870’s was a tough decade for the Sandlers.  Out of their twelve children, five of them died during this decade.  We often see where many deaths occurred in families in those days, but in most of those cases, the deaths took place when the children were still infants.  That was not the case for the Sandlers.

First, before we get to the 1870’s, we can imply that a daughter of theirs by the name of Felicite must have died sometime in the 1860’s.  She is listed in the 1860 census as a one-year old child, but does not appear in the 1870 census.  Then in 1870, their son, Thomas Sandler died on February 20th.  No cause of death is listed in the records.  He was 26 years old and was not married.

The worst year occurred in 1873.  On April 22 during that year, Leonard died.  He was 20 years old and died of smallpox.  Then on May 6th, Barbara died.  By this time, she had been married for two years and was living in Chester, Illinois with her husband, Charles Herschbach.  Just twelve days later, two more siblings died on the same day…’s date, May 18th.  Their names were Mary, who was 18 years old, and George, who was 15 years old.  George’s record says he died of smallpox.  Since Mary died on the same day, one could conclude that she died of the same cause.  No cause of death is given for Barbara either, but it is possible that she traveled home to help her mother care for her sick siblings, and maybe she also contracted that disease.

In addition to already having two children die previous to 1873, now John Michael and Caroline had to watch helplessly as four of their children died within a month.  The fact that all of these children had at least made it into their teenage years must have made it even more difficult.  Rev. Charles Demetrio, the first pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church must have had to do plenty of counseling with the Sandler family during those days.

Eight years later, on May 30, 1881, John Michael Sandler died at the age of 63.  He is said to have died of typhoid.  He is buried in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery.

John Michael Sandler gravestone Immanuel Perryville
John Michael Sandler gravestone

According to her obituary, Caroline was doing some sewing on March 6, 1882, not even one year after her husband died.  She said she was ill and went to her bed to rest.  Five minutes later, she was dead.  A member of this family says she is convinced that Caroline died of a broken heart.  Here is her gravestone, also in Immanuel’s Cemetery.

Caroline Sandler gravestone Immanuel Perryville
Caroline Sandler gravestone

On a brighter note, the surviving children in this family provided several other descendants of John Michael and Caroline.  This Sandler family takes up about seven pages in our German Family Tree document.



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