Urgent Trip with Deadly Consequences

I have another sad story to tell today.  It is one that illustrates the very difficult times that were so often experienced in the early days of the settlements in Perry County.

The year was 1842.  Dr. Ernst Eduard Buenger was about the only person living in the German Lutheran communities in East Perry County with medical training, and he was only twenty-four years old.  He did the best he could, but with all the disease and health issues that arose as these people dealt with their new environment, he just could not keep up.  That is probably a big reason the Keyls in Frohna made the decision they did.

Rev. Ernst Gerhardt Wilhelm Keyl was the pastor of the congregation in Frohna.

Rev. E.G.W. Keyl 2

He was married to Amalia Ernestina Walther, who was the sister of Rev. C.F.W. Walther.  They had arrived in Missouri with one child, Stephanus Keyl, who was discussed in a post a few days ago.  After arriving in Perry County, Mrs. Keyl had given birth to a two girls, one in 1840 and another in 1841.  The first girl died after only 9 weeks, and the second one died after only 9 days.

Now in 1842, Amalia was once again pregnant.  I am sure both Pastor Keyl and his wife were praying for a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby.  However, another complication arose.  A tumor had grown on one of Amalia’s legs.  This tumor probably added much pain to Amalia’s already uncomfortable condition.  It also added to the couple’s concern about the future health of both mother and child.  It is almost certain that Dr. Buenger became an advisor to them.  Amalia’s brother, Rev. Walther had married Dr. Buenger’s sister, Emilie, in the previous fall, so these families were close.  I do not know what Dr. Buenger said to the Keyls, but it is likely that he advised them to travel to St. Louis to pursue better medical attention.

That is exactly what they did.  They traveled to St. Louis, likely on a steamboat.  Since their son, Stephanus, was just four years old, he likely made the trip too.  They stayed in the home of Rev. Walther.  It just so happened that the house in which they lived was also the home of Christiane Buenger, Ernst Eduard’s mother, and several of her children.  This is a drawing of that house.  The Walthers lived on the lower floor, and the Buengers on the second floor.


This piece of art was done by Rev. Friedrich Lochner in 1846.  The Buenger/Walther home is on the right, and the first church building of Old Trinity Lutheran Church is on the left.

We do not know all the details of what went on in St. Louis, but we do know that on May 22nd, Christian Ernst Keyl was born.  He was born at 8:00 am.  A little over one day later, Amalia died at 10:30 am.

Here we have some issues with the church records.  Amalia’s death is recorded in both the Old Trinity and Concordia, Frohna church books.  The Frohna record (which we assume was written by Rev. Keyl) says that Amalia died as a result of childbirth at the home of Rev. Walther.  The Old Trinity record (which we assume was written by Rev. Walther) says that Amalia died from a tumor on the knee.  It also states that she was buried in a city cemetery.

We also have issues with the records for Christian Ernst.  The Old Trinity records say that he was baptized on June 12th, but in the remarks on that same record it also states that he died on May 31st.  That is impossible.  Lutherans do not baptize after death.  The June 12th reference must be wrong.  Meanwhile, the Frohna church record states that the child died on May 30th, not the 31st.  It also states that the baby was buried in his mother’s grave.  It also says that grave was in the Old Trinity Lutheran Cemetery.  I do not think Trinity had a cemetery in 1842.

Christian Ernst had some impressive sponsors at his baptism.  They were Rev. C.F.W. Walther, Agnes (Buenger) Walther, the widow of C.F.W.’s brother, Rev. Otto Herman Walther who later married Rev. Ottomar Fuerbringer, and Johann Friedrich Buenger who was the teacher at Old Trinity and later would become a pastor in St. Louis.

Rev. Keyl would marry again at the beginning of 1843.  His second wife was Catharina Popp.  She blessed him with a girl in 1844, but then in 1845, she died while giving birth to a son who also died.  In 1846, Rev. Keyl married Sophia Vogel.  This couple had one girl in 1847.  Not long after the birth of that child, the Keyls left Perry County.  Rev. Keyl would serve congregations in Wisconsin, Maryland, and Ohio.  He was also the first president of the Eastern District of the Missouri Synod.

Here are a few later images of Rev. Keyl.

Death visited families often back in those days.  However, those trusting people had confidence that regardless of the length of someone’s life on earth, their faith is Jesus would guarantee them an eternal future in heaven.  That knowledge must have helped these people endure the hardships they faced.  And it still gives us hope today.

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