It was a Sunday in St. Louis, not too far from where Busch Stadium would later be built. But in 1842, it wasn’t a sports stadium that had been built. It was a church. Old Trinity Lutheran Church had finally been able to finish the construction of their new sanctuary, and they were going to dedicate that facility. The pastor of that congregation at the time was Rev. Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther.
It was already going to be a very special day in the history of that church. For several years, that congregation had held its worship services in the basement of Christ Episcopal Church. I am sure that it was a nuisance for Trinity to have to work around the schedule of the Episcopalians in order to conduct their services. Not only did they have to conduct regular Sunday services at awkward times, but they would also have to get permission to use that church for events such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals. I am sure that many of those special events ended up being held in people’s homes instead of having to work around the schedule of the Episcopal church. Now when they were going to actually have their own church building, those days of inconvenience would be over. It was indeed a day of celebration.
That Sunday was also going to be a very special day for the Walther family. Rev. C.F.W. and Emilie Walther were the proud parents of a newborn child, Christiana Magdalena Walther. She was born on November 22, 1842, and I think the Walthers decided to wait until the day of the church consecration to have their new baby baptized. Not only that, but there would be another baptism performed during that dedication service. Another baby, Heinrich Adolph Michael Drenkhahn, was also baptized along with the Walther child. The Old Trinity records specifically state, “Child baptized at the consecration of our Trinity church.”
Before I tell the rest of the story, let me say that the events of Sunday, December 4, 1842 are told in the book I published a few years ago. It is titled, Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod. It is chapter 67 in that book. In fact, while researching for this story, I found out that there is some incorrect information in my book concerning that day’s events. On the cover of my book, I placed an image of a painting done by Rev. Friedrich Lochner. In that image, you see the new church sanctuary of Old Trinity Lutheran that was dedicated in 1842. In that painting, you can also see the home of Mama Buenger (Christiane Buenger) just across Lombard Street. Christiane was the mother-in-law of Rev. Walther, and that house is also the one in which the pastor lived at that time. His wife’s maiden name was Emilie Buenger. This is just one of the reasons I titled the book the way I did. It is said that the Walthers lived on the bottom floor of that house, and the Buengers lived upstairs. So Mrs. Walther just had to carry her little baby across the street for the baptism.
Rev. Walther’s day would not be over when that special dedication service was over. Sometime during that day, the Old Trinity records tell us that there was yet another baptism that took place and two weddings. Little Magdalena’s father didn’t have much time to celebrate her baptism that day.
First of all, a baby by the name of Friedrich Wilhelm Schmidt was baptized on that same day. I am just guessing that this baby was not baptized during the consecration service because the record in the Old Trinity books does not indicate that it was held there. The records of the other two baptisms, as said before, did indicate they were baptized at that service. In my book, I stated that Friedrich was baptized along with Magdalena in church. That may not have been true, but I also found that the baby Drenkhahn did get baptized during that service. So there were still at least two baptisms in church that day.
One of the two weddings was that of Johann Wilhelm Happel and Johanne Christiane Kuehn. These two are both considered part of the original immigration in 1839. Johann was part of the New York Group, arriving in 1837 in New York aboard the Neptune, and then later traveling to Perry County, and Johanne came over on the Copernicus. Johanne had been living in Perry County before getting married in St. Louis.
The other wedding was that of Johann Carl Gottlieb Schmeisser and Hermine Fredericke Waldemeier. Johann had previously been married. He came to America on the Olbers in 1839 as part of the Gesellschaft. He and his first wife came with several children, but she died in 1840. Hermine was not part of the immigration.
I am going to attempt to tell you a few things about the people who were baptized or married on December 4, 1842. I’ll start with the baptisms.
- Magdalena Walther married Stephanus Keyl, the son of Rev. E.G.W. Keyl, who was the first pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna.
Stephanus also became a Lutheran minister. You might be shocked to know that Magdalena and Stephanus were actually first cousins, since Stephanus’s mother was Rev. C.F.W. Walther’s sister.
- It appears that the Drenkhahn family may have moved across the river and settled in the Collinsville, Illinois area. There are several Drenkhahns in the Holy Cross Lutheran Cemetery in Collinsville. There is also an indication that Henry may have ended up in Altona, Illinois and may have died in 1880.
- I could not find any definitive answer on what happened to Friedrich Schmidt. The Old Trinity records say that his parents were Johann Wilhelm and Catharina Elisabeth (Dickmann) Schmidt.
Next, the weddings.
- Johann Happel was a painter in St. Louis. The Old Trinity records include 11 children who were born and baptized there to the Happel couple.
- Carl Schmeisser was also a painter in St. Louis for a while. Then we find that he must have moved across the river to Illinois. He is buried in Prairietown, Illinois which is not that far east of St. Louis in the Worden/Hamel area.
Just a few more observations:
- I wonder how Emilie Walther felt about her husband spending so much time away from home on the day of their daughter’s baptism. Or how Mama Buenger felt about it?
- During 1842, mostly before the church was built and used, there were 49 baptisms at Old Trinity. That is about one per week. Also during that year, there were 19 marriages……about one every three weeks. That certainly must have kept Rev. Walther busy.
- In 1843, there were 75 baptisms and 27 marriages. That church was busy, but also growing.
Finally, one shameless plug:
- Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod is on sale here at the museum, on our website in our online store, and is also available on Amazon.com. In fact, on Amazon, I lowered the price for Christmas. Don’t you think some of your Lutheran friends would enjoy a book on LCMS history under their Christmas tree this year? (Some of the proceeds from the sale of this book also go to our museum.)