Building a Haven in Florida

I must admit.  I do not run across many stories like the one I’m writing today.  Like many, it starts in Altenburg, Missouri, but it ends up in Winter Haven, Florida.  The story starts with a marriage that took place here at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg in 1854.   It was the marriage between Gottlieb Jahn and Johanne Geyer.  In the marriage record shown below, Gottlieb is said to be a builder from Niederalbertsdorf, Germany.

Jahn Geyer marriage record Trinity Altenburg
Jahn/Geyer marriage record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

There were both Jahns and Geyers in the list of original immigrants, but neither of these two were in the list.  However, there is the possibility that they were relatives of some sort and followed the ones on the original ships.  In the case of the Jahns, there is a Sarah Jahn who was a daughter in the original Jahn family who became a baptismal sponsor for a child born into today’s Jahn family, so there may have been some relationship between the two families.  The towns they were from in Germany were also only about 10 miles from each other.

The above marriage took place on September 19, 1854.  Their first child was born on December 5, 1854, indicating that Johanne must have been quite pregnant when she was married.  This firstborn child was Louis Julius Jahn, and he was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg.  Here is his baptism record.

Louis Jahn baptism record Trinity Altenburg
Louis Jahn baptism record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

There was another son born into this family in 1858 and baptized at Trinity, but later in the year 1858, Gottlieb died leaving Johanne a widow.  She would get married again in 1862 to J.G. Bodenschatz, who was from New Wells.  That marriage resulted in the two Jahn boys and their mother living in New Wells.  In 1868, Julius was confirmed at Immanuel Lutheran Church in New Wells.  Here is a list of those confirmands.

Immanuel New Wells confirmation records 1868
Immanuel Lutheran confirmands – 1868 – New Wells, MO

On January 24, 1878, Julius married Pauline Gerth at Immanuel, New Wells.  Here is that church record.

Jahn Gerth marriage record Immanuel New Wells MO
Jahn/Gerth marriage record – Immanuel, New Wells, MO

That finally leads us to today’s birthday boy.  His name was Theodore Jahn, who was born on June 10, 1889.  He was the last of six children born to Julius and Pauline in New Wells.  One of them was stillborn, and another died as an infant.  Two more children were born elsewhere, probably in Jackson, Missouri.  Theodore was baptized at Immanuel, New Wells.

Theodore Jahn baptism record Immanuel New Wells MO
Theodore Jahn baptism record – Immanuel, New Wells, MO

The first census in which we find Theodore was the 1900 census where we find the Jahn family living in Jackson, Missouri.

Theodore Jahn 1900 census Jackson MO
1900 census – Jackson, MO

Julius, Theodore’s father, is shown to be a teamster.  The 1910 census showed this family still living in Jackson, but not long after that census, Theodore must have gotten married.  He married Maxine Hutchison, who was born in Kentucky.  Theodore and Maxine had their first child in 1913, and that child was born in Florida.  The 1920 census, which is almost unreadable, shows the Jahn family living in Winter Haven, Florida where Theodore was a building contractor.  In the 1930 census shown below, we see the family with their three children, Robert, Helen, and Paul.

Theodore Jahn 1930 census Winter Haven FL
1930 census – Winter Haven, FL

This census also shows Amanda Hutchison and her son, Glen living next to the Jahns.  Amanda was Maxine’s mother.

Theodore was apparently in the building trade in Florida for the rest of his life.  His two sons both became medical doctors, and his daughter was a public school teacher.  Theodore (Ted) died in 1953; Maxine died in 1980.  Theodore’s parents, Julius and Pauline, died in Florida too.  They are all buried in the Oaklawn Cemetery in Winter Haven.  Here are the gravestones of Theodore and Maxine.

Florida was pretty undeveloped in 1913 when we first see evidence of Theodore Jahn living in that state.  Later, as we now know, Florida became a big tourist center.  Theodore was a builder there during a real boom.  I have located some old photographs which show areas of Winter Haven around the year when the Jahns arrived.  Here is a gallery of thumbnails that can be clicked to enlarge.

And I absolutely cannot resist showing this photograph of some swimmers in Winter Haven.  The date shown on the photo is December 9, 1909.  That would have been the 70th anniversary of the opening of the Log Cabin College in 1839.  For some reason, I don’t think the first students in the College would have been wearing this kind of clothing on opening day here in Perry County on December 9th.

Swimmers Winter Haven FL 1909

Finally, I will leave you with a little Florida Lutheran history.  I am pretty sure that Theodore arrived in Florida before there was any official presence of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod there.  I think the first Lutheran Church was in Orlando.  Trinity Lutheran Church was established there in 1919.  The church in Ft. Lauderdale where I began my teaching career began in 1927.  Grace Lutheran Church in Winter Haven did not get established until 1948.


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