Ahner Enigmas

I was having trouble finding a story for December 1st when I ran across a fact in our German Family Tree that led me to write last year’s December 1st story.  While looking at the story I wrote a year ago, I began to ask more questions about it, and since I didn’t have the answers to those questions yet, I decided to dig into that story a little deeper.  First, let’s review some of the main points from last year’s story titled, Born at Sea.

  • There were two August Friedrich Ahners who came to America aboard the Copernicus in 1838.
  • A daughter of the younger Ahner died aboard the Copernicus and had to be buried at sea.
  • A son in this same family was born aboard that same ship on the way to America.  So this family started the voyage and ended the voyage with two children.
  • Both of the Ahners (sometimes spelled Ahnert) remained in St. Louis, at least for a while.  The older Ahner, after a second marriage, moved to Perry County.
  • The two Ahners were from the same city in Germany, so it is likely they were related to each other, but the indication in Zion on the Mississippi that one of them was a Sr. and the other a Jr. is impossible based on their ages.

The Ahner surname is the first one to show up in an alphabetical list of passengers who were part of the original immigration.  Here is how they appear in a list found in Zion on the Mississippi.

Ahner families Zion on the Mississippi

Just a side note.  Around here, the name Ahner is pronounced the same way that you would pronounce the word, honor.

I decided to focus on the oldest son of the younger August Friedrich Ahner today.  That August Friedrich Ahner never did move to Perry County and spent most of his life in St. Louis.  He came to the United States as a weaver, but after getting here, changed to become a saddler.  His oldest son, who was 3 years old when he arrived, was (ready for this?) Friedrich August Ahner.  Friedrich would go on to become a Lutheran pastor.

When I found out that Friedrich became a pastor, I started doing some Math, and I realized there was a possibility that he may have attended Concordia Seminary when it was moved to St. Louis in 1849, so I looked for the 1850 census records that listed the students at that school.  Here is what I found.

Friedrich Ahner 1850 census St. Louis
1850 census – St. Louis, MO

Friedrich was already studying for the ministry when he was 15 years old.  Right above his name is an entry that must have been Gotthilf Loeber, the youngest child of Rev. Gotthold Loeber, who had just died in Altenburg in 1849.  His name is not spelled correctly.  By the way, Friedrich’s mother had also died in July of 1849 during the catastrophic cholera epidemic that hit St. Louis.  Sending Friedrich to the Seminary was probably a real blessing to his father who was now a widower.

Here’s where some real mysteries show up.  In 1850, August Friedrich (the father) was a widower and his son, Friedrich August, was a 15 year old Seminarian.  Now we look at this marriage record from St. Louis that we find during the year 1851.

Ahner Hoffler marriage record St. Louis
Ahner/Hoffler marriage record

August Friedrich Ahner married a widow by the name of Maria Elizabeth Hoffler.  They were married at Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Louis where Rev. J.F. Buenger was the pastor.  It would seem apparent that this was the father remarrying, not his 16 year old son.  However, let’s take a look at some records we have in our German Family Tree for the son.

Friedrich Ahner GFT records

There are numerous problems here.

  • It indicates that young Friedrich married Anna Marie Schreiber in 1857, and it may have been a second marriage.
  • Even though it says he married in 1857, three of the listed children were born before that year.
  • In other later documents, we are told that Friedrich’s wife was Louise Schreiber.
  • There are references above to the mother of the child being Anna Maria Elisabeth nee Schreiber.
  • In two instances, there is a sponsor for the child’s baptism that is Louise Schreiber.

Was Friedrich married twice?  Is there a difference between Anna Marie Elisabeth Schreiber and Anna Maria Louise Schreiber?  If Friedrich was previously married, could he already be having children when he was only 16 years old (and studying for the ministry)?  Were some of these listed actually children of Friedrich’s father after he remarried?  Are there problems with the church records of Old Trinity Lutheran Church?  The only sensible explanation I could come up with is that all these children were actually children of Friedrich’s father, by his second wife, who may have been a widow when she married August Friedrich, and her maiden name may have also been Schreiber.   I do know that in Louise Ahner’s obituary, it states that her oldest child was born in 1858.

Here is the marriage record of Friedrich and Anna M. Louise Schreiber.

Ahner Schreiber marriage record
Ahner/Schreiber marriage record

These two were married by Rev. Schaller at Old Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis in 1857.  The Old Trinity church record states that Friedrich was already a Lutheran minister.  In the 1860 census, the Ahners were living in Grafton, Wisconsin.

Friedrich Ahner 1860 census Grafton WI

Their two children shown here were Emma and Concordia, neither of which are names you see in the GFT records shown above.  Also, both of these children are shown on this census as being born in Wisconsin.

I am going to interject here that Friedrich’s father died in 1887.  The other August Friedrich Ahner that moved to Perry County also died in 1887.  This stuff just gets my head spinning.  I found this FindaGrave.com listing for Friedrich’s burial in Concordia Lutheran Cemetery in St. Louis.  There is no photo of his gravestone, and his name is misspelled.  And, by the way, the other August Friedrich Ahner is also buried in a Concordia Lutheran Cemetery, only it is found in Frohna.

August Friedrich Ahner burial record Concordia St. Louis findagrave

I do know also that Rev. Ahner was the pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Frankentrost, Michigan for 27 years.  That is one of the “Franken” churches around Saginaw, Michigan.  Frankenmuth is probably the most familiar of those Franconian churches up there.  Another pastor with Perry County connections, Rev. Ottomar Fuerbringer, served St. Lorenz Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth for many years.

I found Pastor Ahner in another census in 1900, and that one got my attention.  We find him as a preacher in Beaver Township in Bay County, Michigan.

Friedrich Ahner 1900 census Beaver Township MI
1900 census – Beaver Township, MI

My brother, Dennis Schmidt, is a retired Lutheran educator who served Zion Lutheran Church in Beaver Township and still attends that church after his retirement.  I contacted Dennis, and he checked out their church history, and Rev. Ahner was at his congregation from 1896 until 1905.

Rev. Ahner died in 1907.  His wife, Louise, had died in 1896.  Here is part of Louise’s obituary.

Louisa Schreiber Ahner obituary

I also found this portion of Rev. Friedrich Ahner’s obituary in 1907.

Friedrich Ahner obituary

Both Friedrich and Louis are buried in the Holy Cross Lutheran Cemetery in Saginaw, Michigan.  Here is their gravestone.

Friedrich and Louisa Ahner gravestone Saginaw MI

One thing I do know.  I’m going to have to sit down with Lynn Degenhardt to discuss possible changes to our German Family Tree.


3 thoughts on “Ahner Enigmas

  1. Some other AHNER info:

    The Personal and Family History of The Reverend Pastor G.E. Ahner

    Translated from the original German by Reverend Walter Cook in 1940.

    Reverend Ahner wrote this account when he lived in retirement 1904-1924.

    He was born in Frohna, Perry County, Missouri, a son of August Frederick (or Friedrich) Ahner and his spouse, Maria Rosine, nee Grobe, on May 12, 1845, and was baptized Mar 15, 1845. His given name in full was Gottlob Ehregott. It was customary among the very religious-minded Saxon Lutheran immigrants to choose names appropriate to their faith in God. The literal meaning of the name Gottlob is “Praise God” and Ehregott is “Honor God”. He wrote this account of his life during his retirement at Kirkwood, MO.”

    My Christian parents brought me up in the fear, nurture, and admonition of the Lord. At the age of five years they sent me to the Christian Day School conducted by Pastor Loeber. Besides reading, writing, and arithmetic, my chief studies were devoted to our Christian religion. Of course, it was all in German. The Bible, Luther’s Catechism, and the Hymn Book were the chief text books. Pastor Loeber insisted on a lot of memory work. Dr. Dietrich’s comprehensive explanations with numerous proof texts had to be memorized.

    At the age of 13, I was confirmed in the church at Frohna, by Pastor Loeber. [This would have been Rev. Christian (or Christoph?) H. Loeber, son of Altenburg’s first pastor G.H. Loeber. -Tim]


    The hearts’ desire of my dear parents was that I would become a pastor, and for that reason I decided to study for the holy ministry. At the age of 18 I became a student of theology at the Concordia Practical (short-course) Seminary, then located in St. Louis, Missouri, but moved to Springfield, Illinois after my time. The professors at that time were Dr. Walther, Prof. Craemer, and Prof. Brauer. I was graduated in 1868.


    My first field of labor in the Lord was at Blue Earth, Faribault County, Minnesota. This was at that time the base for mission operations in that region. A number of preaching stations were started, first at Hinnesota Lake – two places – and then at Mapleton, Willow Creek, Fairmont, Skunk Lake, Town Rost, Brewster, Tomfort, Luverne (Iowa), and Blue Earth City. In this extensive field I labored five years as a circuit rider.


    After that I accepted a call of the church at Nicollet, in Nicollet County, Minnesota. There I also served a congregation in the Winnebago Agency, Blue Earth County, and a small preaching station nearby, besides occasionally taking care of some of the above-named stations. That was a large field of labor, some of the places over 100 miles away from home.


    In 1879 I accepted a call to Green Isle, Sibley County, MINN. where I continued my labors in the Lord for about 10 years. There was one great advantage, namely, I did not have to be away from home and the growing family so much any more. And it was indeed necessary, because we were troubled more and more with sickness, especially in the wintertime. I was glad to get a call to Dayton, Iowa, and accepted it. But as for the cold winters and the effect on our health, the difference was slight. Here I also had a small preaching place at Gowrie, Iowa.


    Two years later I received a call from New Haven, Missouri, and accepted it. This congregation proved to be strong enough to support a pastor with a considerable family, but not a teacher of the parish school. I did the best I could to perform the duties at this, my last field of labor in the Lord. I was getting old, and the infirmities were increasing until I suffered a nervous breakdown. It was high time to retire.

    In 1904 I moved to Kirkwood, Missouri at the age of 59 years.

    Looking backwards over the 36 years of strenuous service in the Lord’s harvest fields, I at times wonder what I accomplished in those years. With the exception of Nicollet, I taught the parish school in all other charges. This was my heaviest burden, my joy, my hope. I put my trust and hope in the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. He gave us a precious promise in I Cor. 15:38: ‘Your labors are not in vain in the Lord’. ‘All depends on our possessing God’s abundant grace and blessing.’What I have preached and taught, the saving Gospel of Christ, assures me that my labors have not been in vain in the Lord. In this blessed confidence I pray like Simeon: ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.’ What I have preached to others all these years, that is my hope and comfort. In this blessed faith I hope to depart in peace. Keep me in this saving faith by thy grace for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

    Family Data Translated 7-25-1971 AJC

    On May 13, 1869 I married Johanna Elizabeth John, born May 13, 1851 in the state of Indiana, her parents being F.W. John and his wife, Martha Louise, nee Barth. We were married by our dear honored Papa: Pastor F. W. John, at Eisleben, Scott County, Missouri. (Note: the name of Eisleben was changed to Illmo during World War I) My brother Friederich August Ahner and Gustav Polack served as Witnesses at the wedding. To this marriage 13 children were born.

    From: Fr. Anthony Cook franthonyc@
    Subject: Distant relative
    To: tcschenks@yahoo.com
    Date: Monday, March 24, 2008, 2:19 PM

    Mr. Schenks,

    I found your web blog a few months ago when I was searching for the name of my
    great-great grandfather Walter Cook–not as a research project, but just out of
    curiousity. I was surprised to find your website pop up at the time, and
    intrigued to find that we are, if I am not mistaken, distantly related, as the
    text you were quoting from your great-great-great-grandfather’s brother G.E.
    Ahner was translated by my great-great grandfather, who married G.E. Ahner’s
    daughter Emma, who passed away in the early 1980’s. I thought I would take
    the opportunity to introduce myself to you, simply for the pleasure of doing so.
    It is not often that one encounters a distant relative.

    As I said, Walter Cook was my great-great-grandfather. His son Martin was my
    great-grandfather (also a minister)–he was killed in 1948 in a plane crash in
    southeast Asia. My grandfather is his son Richard, who had three sons, the
    oldest of which, Dan, is my father.

    I know that at least some of Walter Cooks descendants still live in Missouri
    and perhaps some of the nearby states. I remember visiting several of them
    (Paula Cook in particular) in 2002, though as I understand she has passed away
    since then. I wonder if you know any of them.

    I was curious in particular to know whether you had a copy of the text which
    you quoted on your website, translated by Walter Cook from the memoirs of his
    father-in-law. I would be very interested to read the entirety of that if you
    knew where (or whether) it was published, and wondered as well if you knew of
    anything else written by either G.E. Ahner or Walter Cook (or any other mutual
    ancestors or relatives). I am myself recently ordained to the priesthood in the
    Greek Orthodox Church in the Detroit area, and, while it is of course a
    different church than that in which my great, great-great, and great-great-great
    grandfathers served, I am nonetheless very interested to know more about them,
    their ministry, struggles, families, etc. Any information you could give me
    would be greatly appreciated, of course.

    In Christ,

    Fr. Anthony Cook


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