Normally when I see that a child was born to an original immigrant in December of 1838, I think that the baby must have been born aboard one of the ships coming across the Atlantic Ocean. Today’s birthday girl is an exception. She was born in New York City and her parents were already in the United States before any of the five ships left Germany in November of 1838. Christiane Charlotte Elisabeth Grass was born on December 8, 1838, and when she was just about 5 months old, her parents took her on a journey west across the United States to join up with the German Lutherans who were settling in Perry County. Yes, she was part of what we call the New York Group.
Sadly, Christiane’s life would be very short, but I will use her birthday as a springboard for telling the story of her family. In the case of the Grass family, I will start when they were back in Germany. On June 30, 1833, Christian Grass married Anne Elizabeth Sühne in Besse, Hesse, Germany. I don’t often succeed in finding German records, but in this case, I found the marriage record for this couple. I cannot read it, but I found it.
This record also states that Christian’s father was Ernst Grass. Here is a map that shows the location of Besse, Germany. It is not far from the city of Frankfurt.
I am fairly certain that Christian and Anne arrived in New York City aboard the Henriette on August 30, 1836. Here is the portion of the passenger list for that ship which shows a Grass family.
It appears that they came to America with a sister of Christian and a 2 year old boy. Christian is said to be a tailor. Zion on the Mississippi says that Christian was a blacksmith. I think that is wrong. I will point out other documents later which show Christian as a tailor.
After Christiane was born, it was not long before she left with the New York Group on April 22, 1839. They traveled up the Hudson River, across the Erie Canal and Lake Erie, through Ohio on another canal, then down the Ohio River, and up the Mississippi River to finally arrive in Perry County on May 17th. This must have been a challenging trip for Anne and little Christiane. Zion on the Mississippi says that the Grass family consisted of the parents and one child. I figure the child who came with them from Germany must have died in New York.
The Trinity Lutheran Church books have a baptismal record for Christiane Grass which took place on July 7, 1839.
This record is included with several others that were said to have taken place “in camp”. When I see that reference, I assume it means the event took place in the area in Perry County which was named Dresden. It was also one of the congregations that was served by Rev. C.F.W. Walther. I assume it was he who baptized Christiane when she was about 7 months old.
I find the list of her sponsors to be interesting too. They were Mrs. Friedrich Sproede, Christian Körner (a butcher), and Jungfrau (young woman) Christiane Elgen. All three of them were part of the New York Group. Here are a few facts about each of these:
- Mrs. Friedrich Sproede: Rev. C.F.W. Walther once lived in the house of Friedrich Sproede, but Friedrich turned out to be very opposed to Rev. Walther, and he was kicked out of the Sproede home. The Sproedes would later follow Rev. Walther to St. Louis, where it is said that he continued to express his opposition to this pastor.
- Christian Körner: He was a butcher who is believed to have moved to St. Louis not long after moving to Perry County.
- Christiane Elgen: We see this entry in Zion on the Mississippi showing two Elgens in the New York Group.
I believe that the Andreas Elgen, who was a weaver, was the widower, not Christian. I think Christian Elgen is actually Christiane Elgen, the young woman who was the baptism sponsor for Christiane Grass. There was an Andreas Elger in the Old Trinity death records who was said to be a weaver and a widower. It is also possible that Christiane may have been the daughter of Andreas. She probably also moved to St. Louis not long after arriving in Missouri.
As mentioned earlier, Christiane did not live long. On August 26, 1841, she died, but her death record is in the Old Trinity books in St. Louis. The Grass family must have moved to St. Louis very early also. Actually, their second child, who had been born somewhere in 1840, died in July of 1841, and that death is also recorded in the Old Trinity church books. Both of these children were buried in a public cemetery in St. Louis.
After already losing several children to death, another boy was born in 1842, only to die six weeks later. Then on December 13, 1843, a set of twins was born to Christian and Anne. The baptism records for these twins, one boy and one girl, indicate that their father was a tailor in St. Louis, which is another piece of evidence that Christian was not a blacksmith. All indications are that the girl twin did not live long, but the boy did. Two more girls were born into this family, one in 1846 and one in 1848. They were both baptized at Old Trinity. However, it appears that it was also in 1848 that a group of German Lutherans, including Christian Grass, were involved in starting Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Collinsville, Illinois. Here is a portion of a history of that church describing the names of its five founding families.
At least three of those names were part of the Perry County immigration nine years earlier…Grass, Fischer, and Drenkhahn.
The 1850 census for Collinsville shows the Grass family with three children.
Once again, we see Christian shown as a tailor (although it is spelled taylor).
Sophia Grass ended up marrying Immanuel Seibel, a blacksmith in Frohna. So one of the Grass family did find her way back to Perry County. The Seibel name is yet another one we find as originally coming from the New York Group. It is also interesting to note that when Sophia was baptized, the Old Trinity record says that she was the 9th child in this family. There is a good chance that even more children had been born into this family, and, if so, they also died early.
Frederick Grass, the boy twin, ended up living in Nebraska, getting married and having at least 10 children. Most of them are buried in cemeteries across Nebraska.
I could find no information about when Christian Grass died, but it is likely that it was sometime in the 1870’s in Collinsville. His wife, Anne, must have gone to live with the Seibels in Frohna at the end of her life, because she died in 1878 and is buried in the Concordia Lutheran Cemetery in Frohna.
The Grass family certainly had an interesting history. It appears that despite the disappointment they must have felt as a result of so many of their children’s deaths, they made quite an impact here in America, especially being involved with the founding of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Collinsville. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod website states that there are now 1278 baptized members in that church.