Once again, today’s post was authored by our friend, Fred Eggers. We are so grateful for his contributions to our museum and to this blog.
Johannes (John) Heinrich Wilhelm Jacob was born on May 24, 1869 to Heinrich and Maria Kramer Jacob. This is the record of his baptism at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg.
John’s father Heinrich was less than a year old when he came to Perry County as part of the Gruber Group in December 1839. Heinrich was a renowned carpenter who had his hand in building many of the Lutheran churches in the area. John did not follow in his father’s footsteps. His biographical record provided by the Concordia Historical Institute tells us that in 1883 he became a student at Concordia College in Fort Wayne, Indiana where he graduated in 1889 and then attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis where he completed his studies for the ministry in 1892. The book Faith to Move Mountains – A History of the Colorado District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod from the earliest mission work 1872-1968 gives us the next chapter in his life:
|“Candidate John Jacob was installed by Missionary William Luessenhop on August 9, 1892, ending a long vacancy. Under his leadership a parochial school was founded in 1892, the same year that the congregation voted to join the Synod, their application being accepted in 1894. In 1895, he founded Zion Congregation at Dix, a railroad station fifteen miles west of Durango….No school building was ever erected in Durango, the church serving a dual purpose with a two room annex used as a parsonage for Pastor Jacob. The Pastor was a busy man, preaching in both English and German, conducting a Sunday School, and teaching in the parochial school, also in both languages. In his spare time he preached in English and German at Dix and at Pine River in English to six other families.”|
Here is a copy of the announcement of his ordination from Der Lutheraner:
Rev. Jacob remained at St. Paul’s in Durango, which is the fourth oldest LCMS congregation in Colorado, until 1899 and sometime during his time there traveled around 240 miles to what is now known as Westcliffe, the location of Hope Lutheran Church which is the oldest LCMS congregation in Colorado founded in 1872. Not only was it 240 miles, but “you could not get there from here.” He most likely traveled by railroad. This is an 1895 map of southern Colorado that shows the rail lines. The red arrow on the right is Westcliffe and the red arrow on the left is Durango. The blue arrow indicates the location of the congregation at Dix.
The history of the Colorado District contains over ten pages telling about the travels of Missionary John Hilgendorf from Omaha, Nebraska to Colorado and the founding of this congregation. In the 1870 U S Federal Census this area was listed as the “German Colony of Wet Mountain Valley”. It was to be a cooperative colony but it failed and some of its members remained to become ranchers and farmers. One reason that Rev. Jacob may have visited this congregation was that its pastor from 1886 to 1894 was a fellow Altenburger named Heinrich Joseph Mueller who the editor of this blog, Warren Schmidt, blogged about in August 2016 under the title, Rocky Mountain Muellers. Mueller was six years older than Jacob but they likely knew each other from childhood and although I could not establish that they were related, Jacob’s father was a sponsor to one of Mueller’s younger sisters. In any event the reason we know that he visited at Westcliffe, which at the time was known to the German settlers as Blumenau (flower meadow), is that in 1897 Jacob married Bertha Ackelbein who was the daughter of one of the original members of the colony and one of fourteen founders of the Hope congregation.
In 1899 Rev. Jacob accepted a call to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Sylvan Grove, Lincoln County, Kansas where he served until 1910. It was reported in Der Lutheraner that he was installed on Jubilate Sunday, which would have been April 23, 1899.
Here is a photo of the Christmas decorations in the Bethlehem church in 1906 during Rev. Jacob’s time there that I found posted on that congregation’s Facebook page.
He later served congregations in Clay Center, Elmdale, and Strong City, Kansas until his death of a heart attack in Elmdale in 1937. He was buried in the church cemetery in Sylvan Grove.
I have known for many years that I have Eggers relatives in Sylvan Grove and I have found nine different Perry County surnames among the graves of Bethlehem Lutheran Cemetery. My thought in recent years after getting into genealogy was that Rev. John Jacob was the first person to move to Sylvan Grove from our area and the rest of the families followed him; however, my recent research into that congregation led me to this statement in its history, “F.J. Meyer was secured as the first teacher for two years. Martin Wunderlich then took charge of the next term, 1886 to 1887”. Thanks to the German Family Tree at the museum in Altenburg compiled by Lynn Degenhardt, I was able to find that this Martin Wunderlich was a descendant of the 1838-1839 Saxon immigration. He was born in New Wells in 1864 and I found that he and his brothers Charles and William were all in the Sylvan Grove area prior to Rev. Jacob’s arrival. Warren Schmidt wrote a blog about Martin in March of this year entitled California Wunder(lich), but it did not include the fact that he taught at Sylvan Grove. Now, here is where the plot thickens. We would say that he and John Jacob were “cousins”, but in pure genealogy terms, his Uncle Johann Christian Wunderlich was married to Christiane Jacob, who was an aunt to Rev. John Jacob. It is possible that the Wunderlich brothers suggested to their congregation that they should call Rev. Jacob to be their pastor. In a future blog I plan to document all of the migrants to Lincoln County, Kansas from Cape Girardeau and Perry counties in Missouri. Interestingly, all the families that I have found thus far are related or connected to each other in one way or another.
A couple of weeks ago we were blessed at the museum to be visited by a young couple and their three young children who were returning home from their vacation in, I believe, South Carolina. When I greeted them at the entrance when and asked where they were from, the man responded “Kansas” and I asked from where in Kansas, and he said “west of Salina”. When I said “Sylvan Grove”? He said, “Near there, I am a great grandson of Emmanuel Eggers.” I had to go the German Family Tree to find exactly how we are related. John Sorensen is my third cousin, twice removed. Emmanuel’s father Arno was a brother to my grandfather Henry. John and Dena his wife and their children are members of Bethlehem in Sylvan Grove where he serves as an Elder and she as Treasurer. You may have noticed that Sorensen is not one of our good old German Lutheran surnames. John’s paternal ancestors emigrated with others from Denmark in the late 1860’s and settled in Lincoln County, Kansas where they named their settlement Denmark after their land of origin. The Sorensen family lives and farms near the town of Denmark.
Once again we experienced the small world of Missouri Synod Lutherans. As Joel Witt, the former Principal of Salem Lutheran School in Farrar, once remarked, “While most people speak of six degrees of separation, I think in the Missouri Synod it is likely two or three.”