The year was 1867. Construction on the new church sanctuary in Altenburg was now complete. It was no longer necessary to haul heavy stones from a creek bed near Wittenberg. The furnishings, including the new altar, were finished. The pews had been installed. The time had come to dedicate this beautiful new building. It was going to be a wonderful day. Preparations had even been made for the worship service. After all, it was also the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. A new baptismal font had been made to hold the tray that had been brought to America on the ships with the original immigrants. The communion chalice which had been made in 1707 and used by the immigrants since they had arrived in Perry County was carried into the new church. One other preparation had been made. A guest preacher was invited to preach the first sermon in this new sanctuary.
It was not the guest preacher’s first time to be in Perry County. In fact, he, too, was one of the immigrants who had been part of the Gesellschaft in 1839. His name was Rev. Theodore Brohm. Zion on the Mississippi refers to him as a Candidate of Theology when he came to America. He had plenty of ministerial training in Germany, but had not yet received a call to a congregation.
Theodore joined with two other young Candidates of Theology to build the Log Cabin College in 1839. The other two were Johann Friedrich Buenger and Ottomar Fuerbringer. During the first few years in Perry County, Theodore probably used the loft of the Log Cabin College as his home. That would mean that he lived for a while on property that I now own. Here are photos of these three men taken later in life. Left to right: Brohm, Fuerbringer, and Buenger.
Another cabin had been built near the Log Cabin College. That cabin housed a family that was special for the students and teachers at the Log Cabin College. The head of that family was Johanna von Wurmb, who also happened to be the sister of Rev. Gotthold Loeber’s wife, Wilhelmine. One of the reasons her cabin was built close to the Log Cabin College is that Johanna would become more or less the cook for that new school. She would provide meals for the students, and even more meals to the two men who lived in the cabin, Theodore and Ottomar. Johanna, who was husbandless, had three children who also became students at the Log Cabin College. The 1840 census shows all of these people listed together.
Here is a photo of Johanna taken later in her life.
A romance managed to get started between the two nearby cabins. Johanna caught Theodore Brohm’s eyes……and his stomach. In 1843, after Theodore received and was about to accept a call to a Lutheran church in New York City, he decided to propose to Johanna. She accepted that proposal, and on April 17 (or 18), these two were united in marriage. Since today is Reformation Day, I cannot resist saying that it was the “Diet of Wurmb” that convinced Theodore to ask Johanna to be his bride.
Here is the civil record of this marriage.
The church record from the Trinity books says this marriage took place on April 17, whereas the above civil record indicates it occurring on April 18.
Shortly after the wedding, this couple with the three children moved to New York City. What a drastic change that must have been for them! Rev. Brohm was the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church there until 1858 when he accepted a call to become the pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in St. Louis. He remained at that church until his retirement in 1878. It was while he was there that he made the trip to Altenburg to preach the sermon on October 31, 1867.
This is another photo of Rev. Brohm which shows what he may have looked like when he preached in 1867.
Theodore likely would have traveled to Altenburg by steamboat in 1867. And he likely would have brought his wife, although her sister and brother-in-law had died quite a bit earlier.
As far as we can tell here at the museum, this is the first photograph taken of the 1867 church, and it has been suggested that it was taken around 1870.
I went out to take a picture of the church this morning. I tried to get the same camera angle.
A “stone” which indicates the church as having been built in 1867 was placed on this church building when it was constructed. You can see it right above the front doors.
So 150 years ago, this church was full of worshippers who looked up to this pulpit to see Rev. Theodore Brohm come out the door and deliver this church’s first sermon. I, for one, wish we had a transcript of that sermon, but I do not think one exists.
A new banner has been hung in the church for this Sunday’s special anniversary service to be held here. It was made by Delores Schmidt.
Whenever there is a jubilee celebration of the Lutheran Reformation, Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg has another special anniversary to celebrate. 2017 is once again one of those years.