Grosse Kirchen – Part 1

We begin today with an April 15th birthday in St. Louis, Missouri.  Frederick Martin Grosse was born on April 15, 1845.  Frederick was the son of Ernst Moritz and Wilhelmina (Hahn) Grosse and baptized at Old Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis.  There were 5 children born to Ernst Moritz and Wilhelmina before Wilhelmina died prior to 1850.  Only two of those 5 children lived to adulthood.  Those two were both boys, one of them Frederick and the other Traugott Johannes, and both of them went on to become Lutheran pastors.

Ernst Moritz Grosse was one of three brothers who came to America along with their recently widowed mother aboard the Johann Georg in 1839.  We find them on this passenger list.  Moritz was 25 years old.

Grosse family passenger list Johann Georg 1839 Jan
Grosse family – passenger list – Johann Georg

As it turns out, these three brothers became scattered in three different directions.  Moritz stayed in St. Louis.  Ferdinand would live his life in Perry County, and Friedrich moved across the river to Collinsville, Illinois to raise his family.  By the way, Ferdinand married Amalie Boehme.  Just yesterday, I wrote a post about some Boehme’s, and in that story, it was mentioned that one of those Boehme’s children married a Grosse.  Amalia Boehme was from a different Boehme family that came as part of the Gesellschaft in 1839.

As for Ernst Moritz Grosse’s first wife, Wilhelmina Hahn, she had a rather inauspicious beginning in this country.  She was part of the Gesellschaft and made the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Olbers.  Here we see her on that passenger list.

Wilhelmina Hahn passenger list Olbers 1839
Wilhelmina Hahn – passenger list – Olbers

The Olbers was the ship upon which Rev. Martin Stephan traveled.  Rev. Stephan would be found guilty of several misdeeds not long after getting to Perry County.  Among his problems was that several young ladies (often referred to a Stephan’s maids) confessed that the immigration’s leader had inappropriate relationships with them.  Wilhelmina was one of those maids.  In fact, Zion on the Mississippi records that Wilhelmina’s occupation was as a maid.  The end result of this scandal was that Rev. Stephan was removed from the community and exiled to Illinois.

Ernst Moritz married Wilhelmina on November 23, 1840 in St. Louis.  The pastor performing this wedding was Rev. Otto Herman Walther, who was Rev. C.F.W. Walther’s brother.  Otto Herman died in January of 1841, and his brother became the next pastor of Old Trinity.  Here is the civil record of the Grosse/Hahn marriage.

Grosse Hahn marriage record St. Louis MO
Grosse/Hahn marriage record – St. Louis, MO

We know Wilhelmina died before 1850 because it was on January 1, 1850 that Ernst Moritz went to Perry County to marry another Wilhelmina.  His second wife was Wilhelmina Schuessler, and that marriage record is found in the Concordia Lutheran, Frohna church records.  Ernst and his second wife are credited with having 10 more children, so altogether, Ernst Moritz fathered 15 children.  In German, the word, grosse, means “big” or “large”.  We could say that this Father Grosse had a grosse family.

We find Ernst Moritz in the 1850 St. Louis census.  Since this census was taken in August of that year, the Wilhelmina listed was his second wife, and not the birth mother of the two sons.  At this point in his life, Ernst Moritz was still a shoemaker.

Ernst Moritz Grosse 1850 census St. Louis MO
1850 census – St. Louis, MO

In 1857, his life changed.  In that year, he became a teacher at Immanuel Lutheran Church in downtown St. Louis where Rev. J.F. Buenger was the pastor.  It is pretty amazing to me that a shoemaker could all of a sudden become a schoolteacher.  I do not know how this happened, but I found a story about another young man who became a teacher in the 1860’s.  It involved Rev. C.F.W. Walther.  You can read the story in the image below.

C.F.W. Walther story about Herman Miessler

I found evidence that Herman Miessler did indeed go to Venedy, Illinois in the1860’s.  In this 1870 census for St. Louis, it notes that one of his children was born in Illinois.  He apparently did not remain as a teacher for very long.  In 1870, he is back to being a book keeper in St. Louis.

Herman Miessler 1870 census St. Louis MO
1870 census – St. Louis, MO

Maybe Rev. Walther used a similar technique to get Ernst Moritz Grosse to become a teacher back in 1857.  Or perhaps Rev. J.F. Buenger used this strategy on him.  We do know that Teacher Grosse’s career lasted from 1857 until his death in 1880.  Ernst Moritz is buried in the Western Lutheran Cemetery, which was the burial ground for members of Immanuel Lutheran Church.  Wilhelmine (Schuessler) Grosse died in 1909 and is buried in the same cemetery.

I have realized that this post has already gotten quite long, and there is still so much to write.  I have decided to make this article into a two-part post.  You will get the second part tomorrow.  Just a sneak-peak:  This “shoemaker turned teacher” had his legacy carried on by two sons by his first wife who went on to be involved in what I call “Grosse Kirchen” in Chicago.  But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear the rest of the story.


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