It was the year 1933. In many ways, it was a horrible year. That year has been described as the worst year of the Great Depression. The unemployment rate in the United States exceeded 25%. It was the year of the Dust Bowl. In Germany, Adolph Hitler was named Chancellor. At least Prohibition was repealed. Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated as President.
In Perry County, it also had been a miserable time period. The heat and drought that caused the Dust Bowl was also impacting this area. We know that quite a few local residents decided to move elsewhere, some of them all the way to the West Coast.
Yet, on this day, October 1st, in that year, an exciting thing took place at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wittenberg. It was a Sunday morning. The oppressive heat of the summer was probably now a horrible past memory. Cooler temperatures, especially in the morning, were now the case. Windows of the relatively new brick church in the Frogtown area north of Wittenberg were probably open, allowing fresh air into the sanctuary.
During the worship service that morning, Rev. R.J. Deye invited the Berry family up to the baptismal font, along with the sponsors. It must have been quite a gathering because on that morning, five Berry children were welcomed into God’s family through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.
The father of the children was Charlie Berry who was around 50 years old at the time. His wife, Mary (Higgins) Berry was about 41 years old. Mary was probably holding a newborn baby that had been born and baptized a few weeks earlier on July 13th. The other five children ranged in age from 3 years old all the way up to almost 12 years old. I may be wrong about this, but it might have been the case that the newborn baby may have been in danger when he was born in 1933, and Rev. Deye may have heard about it and rushed to have the baby baptized on the day of his birth. It may have been at that time that the pastor discovered that all of the other children had not been baptized. It may also have been the case that Rev. Deye may have re-enacted the baptism of the newborn baby on that Sunday also.
Here is the part of our German Family Tree that attracted me to this story today.
With the exception of the two youngest, the other children had a married couple as their sponsors. The youngest two had a married couple, one for each child, plus the pastor’s wife and his daughter. Here is what these records look like in the St. Paul’s Lutheran church books.
I will attempt to put together a little information about the Berry family’s history. It is quite sketchy, but I did manage to find a few items of interest. First, the St. Paul’s records give a little glimpse of the Berry’s history before the baptisms. Harold and Catherine were born in Zalma, Missouri. That is a village in Bollinger County around the famous Bollinger Mill. The next child was born in Pocahontas, Arkansas which is not far from the Missouri border. The fourth child, Raymond, was once again born in Zalma. Then the last two were born in Wittenberg.
In addition to this timeline, we find that the Berry family was living in Randol Township in Cape Girardeau County in the 1930 census. Charlie was working as a foreman in the timber business there.
Charlie must have moved his family right after this census was taken because Ruby May was born in September of 1930 in Wittenberg. Then, not long after these baptisms, we find the Berry family back in Cape Girardeau County in the 1940 census. This time they lived in the actual city of Cape Girardeau.
The 1940 census did a nice job of enumerating where each of the children were born. Two of the children are placed in Puxico, Missouri instead of Zalma, but those two locations are pretty close to each other.
I was not able to track each of the children, but I was successful with a few. I will show a few of the grave sites for them. First, Raymond died in Jackson, Missouri, and is buried in the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Bloomfield, Missouri because he participated in World War II as part of the U.S. Navy. Here is his marker.
Katheryn and Ruby are both buried in DeKalb County, Indiana, although they are in different cemeteries. Katheryn is buried in the Waterloo Cemetery. Here is her gravestone. She had married Charles Jackson.
Ruby was buried in Cedar Creek Cemetery. She had married William Sherwood. Ruby’s obituary stated that she was a member of the Lutheran church in Auburn, Indiana.
Either the tombstone showing the crosses or the obituary that I found indicates the Christian faith of the Berry children when their lives ended. I take comfort in the fact that there was evidence of their Christianity later in their lives after that faith began in a little country church close to the Mississippi River in Perry County.
I did not point this out in yesterday’s post, but the last residence for Oda (Lueders) Baatz was also in DeKalb County, Indiana. What are the chances that on two straight days, characters that started in Perry County ended their lives in the same county in Indiana?
In fact, even Mary (Higgins) Berry died in DeKalb County. Here is her death certificate. She was probably living with one of her daughters at the time.
Mary was brought back to Cape Girardeau for burial in the New Lorimier Cemetery with her husband, Charles. Here is their gravestone. Charles died in 1969; Mary died in 1976.
Our museum has an exhibit showing many of the artifacts from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wittenberg which closed its doors in 1987. We have the altar, pulpit, and baptismal font from that church sanctuary. We also have a scale model of their 1920 brick church.
The baptismal font shown above would have been the one used to baptize all the Berry children on October 1, 1933.