The Schubert Orphans

I am going to attempt to tell a story unlike most of the stories I write on this blog.  I am the first person to admit that I am not an expert on places in Germany where our ancestors lived or events that took place there before they voyaged to America.  This story is certainly an intriguing one…..complete with illegal actions, attempts to deceive authorities, involvement of the leadership in perpetrating some wrongdoing, and two young people whose lives were completely full of miserable circumstances.

The reason this story is written on July 19th is the fact that a fairly young girl by the name of Maria Schubert died on this day in 1840. She and her brother Theodore were two of the original immigrants, traveling aboard the Olbers.  Here is a portion of the passenger list from that ship which showed who was aboard when it arrived in New Orleans in 1839.

Marie and Theodore Schubert passenger list Olbers
Passenger List – Olbers

Maria and Theodore were the children of Heinrich and Theresa (Walther) Schubert.   Theresa was a sister of Otto Herman Walther, C.F.W. Walther, and Amalia (Walther) Keyl, so Maria and Theodore were their niece and nephew.  However, both Heinrich and Theresa Schubert both died at a very early age and it left Maria and Theodore as orphans.  A man by the name of Engel had official guardianship of the Schubert children, but it is also said that they were actually staying with some relatives.  This map may help you understand where some of these people lived in Germany.

Langenchursdorf area in Germany map with arrows

The town of Langenchursdorf was the home of the Walther family.  Their father, Rev. Gottlob Walther, and his wife, Johanna, lived there and remained in Germany.  Here are two drawings that are supposedly of the Walther parents.


Niederfrohna was the town where Rev. E.G.W. Keyl and his wife, Amalia (Walther) lived.  Waldenburg is where the Schuberts lived before their parents died.  Their father was the town custodian.  You can see that all these towns were in the same vicinity.

For some unknown reason, the Walther siblings decided that it was very important for their niece and nephew to join them on their trip to America.  This apparently was against the wishes of their guardian.  A decision was made to sneak these two into the company of people who were emigrating.  It was also certain that other leaders of the immigration, such as Rev. Martin Stephan and Rev. Gotthold Loeber, were aware of these plans.  There is even one account that says Rev. Loeber was in charge of these two orphans for a short time.

When the folks were traveling to Bremerhaven where they were going to board the ships for America, the two Schuberts were put under the supervision of Christiane Buenger, a widow who was taking her family of eight children on this trip.  There is a lot of confusion about how the Schubert children got on the Olbers, which was probably not the ship on which they were originally intended to sail.  Authorities sent by Mr. Engel to Bremerhaven to bring back the orphans could not find them.  It is said they did not try very hard.  What they were able to do was to find Christiane Buenger, and they put her into custody until they could find the children.  Meanwhile, the Olbers set sail with Maria and Theodore aboard.  After realizing that the orphans had left the country, and there was no hope for getting them back, the authorities released Mrs. Buenger.  This meant that she was going to have to find passage on a ship that was leaving later, along with two of her children, Johann Friedrich and Agnes Buenger.

The Walthers certainly committed some actions which were not legal.  Deceitfulness was utilized by several other leaders of the Gesellschaft in order to get these youngsters to America.

Along the way to the United States, another passenger, Gotthold Guenther, who also traveled aboard the Olbers, later wrote a journal of his experiences in the immigration.  In it, he mentioned Maria Schubert.  Here is an English translation of that passage.


The bishop mentioned here is Rev. Martin Stephan, who later was accused of inappropriate relationships with young women, especially the Louise Guenther mentioned here.  This was Gotthold Guenther’s sister.  I must say that I have not seen Maria’s name listed among the women who confessed their improper behavior with Rev. Stephan.

When the Schuberts arrived in Perry County, it seems that they did not stay in the same location.  Theodore is likely to have been taken into the Buenger family.  You recall that the widow Buenger had taken charge of the Schuberts on the trip to Bremerhaven.  Also, we know that Theodore was one of the first students to attend the Log Cabin College which was built on her property.

The Log Cabin College opened on December 9, 1839 with eleven students in the first class.  Sadly, that class lost a student not long after that.  Although we have no death record, it is said that Theodore got sick and died early in 1840.  He was probably around eleven years old when he died.  It certainly must have been a sad day for the other students and the teachers at that new school, and especially for the Walther siblings.

Meanwhile, it appears that Maria was staying somewhere in the Frohna area.  She possibly may have been staying with the Keyls.  This is where Rev. Keyl was the pastor, and Maria was their niece.  Maybe she was helping take care of the Keyl’s son, Stephanus, who was a toddler.  Again, sadly, as stated earlier, on July 19, 1840, Maria died.  She is buried in the Concordia Lutheran Cemetery in Frohna.  Here is her grave marker (although I think this marker may have been placed in this cemetery at a later date and may not be the precise place of her burial).  Her death record is in the Concordia records, and they say she died of gallstone fever.

Maria Schubert grave marker

The Schubert children lived such short lives.  Their lives were certainly filled with hardship.  They lost their parents.  They possibly had to experience a guardian who made them unwelcome (there is some mention of them running away).  They experienced a rough voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, and then spent some time under very trying circumstances trying to survive in a wilderness area.  They witnessed the leader of the immigration being unceremoniously rowed across the Mississippi in desgrace.  Then they both suffered the effects of disease which eventually took their lives.  Yet, these two were always around people of great faith who were willing to share that faith.  I have every reason to believe that these two are now experiencing an eternity of bliss in heaven.


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