Happy 200th Birthday, Agnes

Two days ago, I wrote a post about two Buenger siblings who shared the birthday of July 21st.  Another sibling in that family had today as her birthday.  In fact, not only is today her birthday, it’s her 200th birthday.  Her name was Agnes Buenger.  She was born on July 23, 1819 in Germany.

Agnes came to America aboard the Bark Constitution, which contrary to almost everyone else in the Gesellschaft, arrived in New York City, not New Orleans.  Below is the short passenger list that also includes her mother and brother.

Buenger names – Bark Constitution

After traveling with the New York Group to Perry County, Missouri, she met up with the remaining members of her family.  Her mother, Christiane Buenger, was granted 11 acres of property in the Dresden settlement.  Those 11 acres are the same 11 acres that I now own.  It was also on that property that the Log Cabin College was first built.  That parcel of land is indicated by the red arrow in the image below.

Log Cabin location map Buenger land
Christiane Buenger land map

There is an interesting tale told about Agnes.  It is said that two good friends, Otto Herman Walther and Ottomar Fuerbringer, both had a romantic interest in Agnes.  The two decided to both propose marriage to her and let her decide which one she wanted for her husband.  This most likely took place in Germany because the two men and Agnes each came to the United States on three separate ships.  Then when they arrived in America, Otto Herman became the pastor of the congregation made up of people who chose to stay in St. Louis instead of coming to Perry County.  As it turns out, if the story is true, Agnes chose Otto Herman Walther to be her husband.  And also, as it turned out, the man who was spurned ended up being a teacher at the Log Cabin College that was located on the same piece of property upon which the Buenger family lived.

It was not long after the Gesellschaft had arrived that Otto Herman Walther and Agnes Buenger were married.  Otto Herman traveled from St. Louis to Perry County to get married.  They were married on November 15, 1839.  It was in the church books of Old Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis that this marriage was recorded, not in the church books in Perry County.  There are a few interesting notes that we find in that record.  We cannot see the original record, but we do have a transcription and translation.  One note specifically states that this wedding took place at Luther College in Perry County.

Walther Buenger marriage record note Old Trinity St. Louis MO

I cannot think of any other place that could have been other than the Log Cabin College.   That means that this wedding took place right behind where my barn is now located.


It also states that Otto Herman’s brother, Rev. C.F.W. Walther conducted the service.  I might at this point remind you that the Log Cabin College first opened for classes on December 9, 1839.  That means this wedding could be considered the first event that took place in that building, not the first day of school.  Another interesting note in the Old Trinity record is shown below.

Walther Buenger marriage record note 2 Old Trinity St. Louis MO

This states that Agnes was living at the Luther College.  That makes sense if you know that the Log Cabin College was built on the same property that was owned by Agnes’s mother.

Otto Herman and Agnes lived in St. Louis, where they had their first and only child, Johann Gottlob Walther, on October 1, 1840.  Tragedy hit this young family when Otto Herman died on January 21, 1841 leaving Agnes a widow with a young son.  A short biography for Otto Herman can be found in the Christian Cyclopedia.

Otto Herman Walther bio Cyclopedia

Meanwhile, Ottomar Fuerbringer, after teaching a short time at the Log Cabin College, took a call to become the pastor in Venedy, Illinois.  I have no way of telling how the communication took place between Ottomar and Agnes, but we do know that on October 18, 1842, those two were married in St. Louis.  Therefore, if indeed Agnes was asked to decide between Otto Herman and Ottomar at one time, she ended up marrying both of them.  We have a Missouri marriage record for her second wedding.

Fuerbringer Walther marriage record St. Louis MO
Fuerbringer/Walther marriage record – St. Louis, MO

Once again, Rev. C.F.W. Walther performed the wedding, only by that time, he had succeeded his brother as the pastor of Old Trinity Lutheran Church.  We see Ottomar and Agnes living in Venedy, Illinois in the 1850 census.

1850 census – Venedy, IL

A biography for Ottomar Fuerbringer can also be found in the Christian Cyclopedia.

Ottomar Fuerbringer bio Cyclopedia

As it states, Rev. Fuerbringer went on to serve congregations in Wisconsin and Michigan.  He and Agnes had several children of their own.  Ottomar died in 1892, so Agnes once again became a widow.  Not long after his death, his son, Ludwig Fuerbringer, who was also a pastor at St. Lorenz Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth, moved to St. Louis to become a professor at Concordia Seminary.  Agnes went with him and his family.  She and Ludwig are shown in an 1895 St. Louis city directory.

Agnes Fuerbringer 1895 St. Louis city directory
Fuerbringer names – 1895 St. Louis city directory

In the same year when this directory was made, Agnes died in St. Louis.  A death record can be found for her from that city.

Agnes Buenger death notice St. Louis
Agnes Fuerbringer death record – St. Louis, MO

Ottomar and Agnes are buried together in the St. Lorenz Cemetery in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

Ottomar Fuerbringer gravestone
Ottomar and Agnes Fuerbringer gravestone – St. Lorenz, Frankenmuth, MI

Here is a drawing of Otto Herman Walther as well as photos of Ottomar Fuerbringer and Agnes when they were older.

All three of the above people are characters in my book, Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod.  I have taken some liberties in that book to explain the story of how Agnes ended up marrying these two men.  I find it to be an absolutely fascinating set of circumstances.

In closing, let me say “Happy Birthday” to a woman born two centuries ago.  Although she didn’t get the kind of attention her two husbands got, I consider her to be a powerful influence behind the scenes that contributed to making these two the great men they were.


2 thoughts on “Happy 200th Birthday, Agnes

  1. Wonderful and fascinating background on Agnes. Thanks for all the research you do for our Lutheran heritage!


  2. In his book, 80 Eventful Years (Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 1944), Concordia Seminary Professor and President Ludwig Ernest Fuerbringer (1864-1947), stated this about his mother, Agnes, while a teenage girl in Germany:

    “After the death of her father my mother [Agnes] lived in the home of Dr. Edward Vehse, the well-known attorney among the immigrants, who also wrote the story of the Saxon immigration, but on account of the disastrous events in 1839 returned to Germany in the same year and became a well-known historian. I know that he thought very highly of my mother, and, his wife [Emilie] being an invalid, entrusted the education of their only daughter [Matilda] to her.

    In his book (p. 208), Ludwig Fuerbringer also relates the story of his mother, as a 19-year-old, prior to leaving Germany, asking her brother, “Frederick, must we really leave our beautiful country and emigrate to the wilds of America and live among Indians?” Her brother, an assistant to Martin Stephan, answered, “Well, if you want to go down with this country like Sodom and Gomorrah, then stay here.”

    “Agnes came to America aboard the Bark Constitution, which contrary to almost everyone else in the Gesellschaft, arrived in New York City, not New Orleans.”

    Why that happened is a story that her son, in his book, 80 Eventful Years (p. 9), can only allude to: “My mother… came to America in the spring of 1839 with her widowed mother, Christiane, nee Reiz, and several [of her seven!] brothers and sisters, but for certain reasons they did not travel by way of New Orleans, as the great majority of the Saxon emigrants, but via New York.”

    The actual story, which involves the arrest of Agnes’ mother, Christiane Buenger, is related to her part in the Walther brothers’ kidnapping of their young niece and nephew from their legal guardians. That account can be read in Walter O. Forster’s Zion on the Mississippi (pp. 194-98).

    – Rick Strickert


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