Rebecca Martha Estel is today’s birthday girl. She was born on December 31, 1841 and baptized the next day on January 1, 1842. Martha was the sister of Elias Estel, whose story was told on this blog this past December 17th. That post was titled, Elias Estel’s Early End. When her brother died tragically in December of 1851, Martha was about to turn 10 years old. She was the daughter of Andreas and Caroline (Anders) Estel, who were members of the Gesellschaft.
When Martha was baptized on the first day of 1842, the pastor performing the baptism was most likely Rev. Gotthold Loeber. Rev. C.F.W. Walther probably baptized Elias two years earlier, but he had taken a call to Old Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis in April of 1841, right after the Altenburg Debate. Pastor Loeber’s Altenburg congregation did not have a permanent church building in 1842. They were worshiping on the second floor of Rev. Loeber’s parsonage at that time, so it is possible that Martha was baptized there. However, many baptisms in those early days were conducted in people’s homes. Maybe that was the case for Martha. January 1st occurred on a Saturday in 1842. I know we have her baptism record in the museum, but I am not in Altenburg today, so I cannot show it to you.
The big question for today’s post is pointed out by its title. There is no record to be found indicating the time of death for Martha. In her case, the primary reason for that is what we have often referred to on this blog as the “Koestering Hole”. Rev. Koestering either did not keep death and marriage records, or those record were lost at some time. So our first assumption is that Martha probably died during the Koestering years. We do have some civil records to look at, even if we do not have church records. I think those civil records will help us narrow down when Martha died. I will eventually get around to that determination, but first, let me tell you a few things that happened during Martha’s life.
The first census in which we find Martha was the 1850 census. It was shown in the previous post about Elias, but I will show it again here.
I do think that Martha’s age is incorrect here. She should have been 8 years old in 1850 when this census was taken. Another son had been born into this family by the name of Samuel. He was born in December of 1843, so he should have been listed as 6 years old here.
I could not locate Martha in the 1860 census. Her father had died in 1858. We do find a few Estel families living in Altenburg though.
Christian and Emanuel were Martha’s older brothers. Her mother, Caroline, was living with Emanuel. I also included the Beyer family. Rev. Beyer was the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg, so the Estels must have been living quite close to the church. We do find a very interesting fact from this census. Martha’s future husband, Jacob Gerlach, was living in the Christian Estel household. Christian had married Henrietta Gerlach in 1853. Their marriage record can be found in the Old Trinity Lutheran Church books in St. Louis. I do not know how Christian would have met Henrietta and married her in St. Louis. However, since Jacob, Henrietta’s brother, was living in Altenburg, I know how Martha must have gotten to know him.
I think I have located the original Gerlach family, and they have an interesting story. I think the Heinrich Jacob Gerlach buried in the Freivogel Cemetery in Millstadt, Illinois was Jacob’s father. This was the cemetery for Zion Evangelical Church. The first burial in this cemetery was in 1837, two years before the Gesselschaft arrived in America. A short bio for Heinrich Jacob Gerlach can be found on Findagrave.com.
Using this information, I was able to find Jacob Gerlach’s father’s baptism record from Mittelbach, Germany.
I was also able to find this passenger list which shows a large Gerlach family arriving in New Orleans in 1834 aboard the ship, Louisiana.
Jacob Gerlach, who later married Martha Estel, is probably the 8 year old boy on this list.
Martha and Jacob were married on June 9, 1861. That marriage record is likely to be found in the Trinity, Altenburg records, but I am not in Altenburg to take a photo of it. Rev. Beyer was the pastor who performed the ceremony, and it must have taken place in the 1845 church building which is now part of our museum. I do have this image of their Perry County marriage record. Apparently, Rev. Beyer went to record several marriages at the same time, because this marriage is just one of many in a group. Theirs is the first in this group at the top of this image.
Even though I cannot show it, our German Family Tree indicates that the church marriage record states that Jacob was from St. Clair, Illinois, which is where Millstadt is located.
Our German Family Tree indicates that two children were born to Jacob and Martha. Martha Caroline Estel was born in 1862. I figure she was named after her mother and her grandmother. Jacob Heinrich Estel was born in 1863. He may have been named after his father and grandfather.
There is a incredibly tragic story which took place amidst all this. In March of 1863, Martha’s husband died. I wish I could show an image of this record, but our German Family Tree has the following transcription.
[Altenburg-Trinity]: Heinrich Jacob Gerlach, Died 24 Mar 1863, drowned in Apple Creek while taking logs down in high water after going over mill dam, body was found by his wife weeks later and then buried.
Martha would give birth to her son on November 14, 1863, eight months after her husband died. She might not have even known she was pregnant when this tragedy occurred. I might add that if Rev. Koestering had already been at Trinity (he arrived in 1864), we would probably not be aware of this story.
On June 5, 1865, Martha married again. Her second husband was Edward Gerhardt. Edward was living in Brazeau Township in 1860. He is listed as part of the John Hinkelmann household.
Edward had also served in the military during the Civil War. Here is a military record for him. I find it interesting that he is shown as being a bugler.
Below is the Perry County marriage record for Martha and Edward. Rev. Koestering may not have kept church marriage records, but he was required to submit a civil record for the county.
One child was born into this family. His name was Edward Martin Gerhardt, who was born in 1866. Sometime between 1866 and 1870, Edward must have died, but his death record is part of the “Koestering Hole”. The 1870 census shows Martha as a widow with two children.
The Henry shown on this census was really Henry Gerlach, not Henry Gerhardt. I am thinking that the other daughter, Martha Caroline, must have died prior to this census also. Please note that once again, we have some people from the Estel family living near the pastor.
On May 21, 1872, Martha married for a third time. Her third husband was Heinrich Haehnlein.
This marriage record is the last document on which we find Martha. However, we do find another document for Heinrich Haehnlein that is helpful for us narrowing down the death of Martha. Heinrich married again on August 10, 1873. Here is a record for that marriage.
I do not think that it was a divorce that caused Heinrich to marry again. I think it is almost certain that Martha died between her marriage to Heinrich in 1872 and his second marriage in 1873. That also would be smack in the middle of the “Koestering Hole”.
Another later piece of evidence that Martha was no longer alive is found in the 1880 census. Her son, Henry Gerhard was living in the Theodore Estel household and called a nephew. He was 16 years old.
If Martha died in 1872, she was just 31 years old at the time of her death. In that short life, she managed to get married three times. She witnessed her brother die of a wagon accident, a husband drown in the Apple Creek, another husband die, and die herself at a very young age. I wish we had her death record to see the cause.
In closing, I will say that Heinrich Haehnlein had quite an eventful life also, but this post is already too long for me to tell it today.