The Perry County Lutheran Historical Society had its beginning in 1910. Its original mission was to preserve the Log Cabin College which was the birthplace of Concordia Seminary. This cabin was built in 1839, but by the early 1900’s, it was showing its age and in danger of ruin. In 1912, this historic building was moved to its present location by putting it on four wooden rollers, attaching it to two horses that pulled it to its present location in the park across the road from Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. Our museum has a few photographs that were taken of this move. Here is one of them.
Today’s story will highlight the man who is pointed out by the red arrow in this photo. His name was Martin Bellmann.
Martin was the son of Heinrich and Engel (Wichern) Bellmann of Altenburg. He was born on October 6, 1872, so he must have been about 40 years old when the above photo was taken. In 1896, Martin married Emma Heitmann in Jacob, Illinois. Apparently, it was then that Martin lived in the Jacob area for a while. Unfortunately, Emma died in 1899, and it was not long after his first wife’s death that Martin moved back to Altenburg. In 1902, Martin married Martha Lohmann of Altenburg. She would bless Martin with nine children, but then in 1921, she died at 43 years of age of tetanus. In 1926, he married the widow, Concordia (Boehme) Kuehnert. She died of liver cancer just two years later. Martin’s last marriage took place in 1930. He married Martha Grebing. Martha died in 1964; Martin died in 1968 at the age of 95.
Martin was a carpenter by trade. His World War I draft registration shows this.
We have this photo of Martin when he was relatively young.
What really interests me about the life of Martin Bellmann are several photos that we have which include him (like the one above of him helping move the Log Cabin College). Here is one in which Martin is the only one identified among several other men in the photo.
Martin Bellmann is supposed to be the man at the very top of the steeple on the left holding on to the cross. I do not know what year this took place, but some sort of work was being done on the steeple, and Martin Bellmann was reported to be the man in charge of the work. There are ten men shown in this photo. I wish I knew who all of them were. It is also said that at that time, there was a way to open the shutters of one side of the steeple and one could crawl out that opening and have access to the roof. I do know this. The kind of work shown in this photograph is the kind that I would never agree to do.
I also have been told that one of Martin’s sons, Oscar “Ossie” Bellmann, had this photo hanging in his hardware store over the years.
Here is another photo that shows Martin Bellmann.
The men in this photo have all been identified.
Back row, left to right: Joseph Jacob, Ernst Schmidt, Adolf Schmidt, Edward Militzer, John Bellmann (Martin’s younger brother), Martin Kaufmann, and G.S. Meyr.
Front row, left to right: Martin Bellmann, Gotthilf Kaufmann, Leo Lottes, Teacher Henry Fiehler (the band leader), Martin Seibel, Martin Miesner, Albert Hellmuth, and Theodor Mueller.
Martin apparently played the bass drum. I happen to think that it only made sense that a man with hammer skills would also pound the bass drum. Many East Perry County towns had their own bands in those days. It shows that these German Lutherans always enjoyed their music. I would love to hear this band play.
Martin often seemed to be in the midst of men who were working together to get a task accomplished for the church and community. He wielded his hammer in his carpentry work. He helped move and preserve a building. He played in the community band. And what better person would there have been to be in charge of working on the bell tower and steeple of a church than a Bellmann.
Just in closing, I took a picture of Trinity’s steeple on the way into our Sunday service this morning. It is indeed one of many beautiful steeples that adorn the Lutheran churches that can be found in this area. And we were blessed to hear the bell man make the steeple ring this morning, calling God’s people to come and worship.