Tornado Casualty Dies with Baby in Arms

The surnames of Pfau, Blanken, and Wedig have previously led me to Wentzville, Missouri.  Today we add the surnames of Koenig and Stelling to this list.  In previous posts, we have mentioned the Koenig Lutheran Cemetery in Wentzville.  The fact that these names which are connected to Perry County are also connected to this area around Wentzville has been a puzzle for me.  I still have one major question to be answered, but I think at least now I have a timetable for how these movements from Perry County to St. Charles County happened.

We start with a birth which took place in Frohna, Missouri.  Amalia Martha Pfau was born on November 4, 1885 and baptized at Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna.  She was the daughter of Emil and Amalia Fredericke (Popp) Pfau.  I have seen this girl called Amalia, Martha, and Mollie in different places.  I will use the name Martha.  Below is her baptism record.

Amalia Martha Pfau baptism record Concordia Frohna MO
Amalia Martha Pfau baptism record – Concordia, Frohna, MO

We find Martha (called Mollie) in the 1900 census for Perry County.  She was 14 years old.

Martha Pfau 1900 census Union Township MO
1900 census – Union Township, MO

That is the last time we find Martha’s parents in Perry County.  I found a plat map for St. Charles County that was produced in 1905.  Near Wentzville, Missouri, we find a parcel of land owned by Emil Pfau, Martha’s father.  It is indicated by one of the red boxes.

H.H. Koenig land map 1905 Wentzville MO
St. Charles County plat map – 1905

I will just take a moment to say that I was shocked to see a Buenger (blue arrow) on this map.  I don’t have the time to check into this today, but it certainly has picqued my interest.

Another parcel of land shown by the green arrow on this map was owned by John Wedig.  John Wedig was married to Emil Pfau’s sister, Emilie, whose first husband was Johann Herman Blanken.  The story of the Wedig/Pfau wedding was included in the post titled, Wedig Wedding.  It was that marriage that I think is the first case of a Perry County native moving to the Wentzville area.  The Wedig/Pfau wedding took place in 1886.  However, I still do not know how a farmer from Wentzville got to know a girl from Perry County.

Martha Pfau’s future husband was going to be Harry Koenig.  There is no apparent connection between this Koenig and any of the Koenig’s in the Perry County area.  In this case, it was not Harry coming to Perry County to find his bride.  His bride came to St. Charles County to find him.  Harry was born on October 20, 1886, the son of Herman and Alvina (Busdieker) Koenig.  That family owned the H.H. Koenig property shown by the other red arrow in the map above.  We have this photo of Harry’s parents.

Herman and Alvina Koenig
Herman and Alvina Koenig

Harry’s father, Herman, arrived in America in 1872, traveling aboard the Nemesis.

Henry Koenig family Nemesis passenger list 1872

His father was also married at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Melle, Missouri, one of only two charter member congregations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod that are located in Missouri .  We also know that one of Harry’s uncles was a charter member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wentzville, which was a daughter church of St. Paul’s, New Melle.

Immanuel Lutheran Chruch Wentzville MO

We also have some other early photographs of Harry.  First, here is one which includes two of his other siblings.  Harry was the oldest child in his family.

Lizzie Mamie, and Harry Koenig Wentzville MO

We also have this photo of a rather young Harry Koenig.

Harry Koenig
Harry Koenig

When Harry was about 6 years old, Grover Cleveland made a whistle stop at Wentzville in 1892 during his Presidential campaign.  Since the Koenig land was right next to the railroad, it was likely that the Koenig’s were eyewitnesses to this event.

President Cleveland whistle stop in Wentzville MO 1892

Harry could be found in the 1900 census for Wentzville.

Harry Koenig 1900 census Wentzville MO
1900 census – Wentzville, MO

We find Harry once again in the 1910 census for Wentzville, but I was unable to find Martha in that census.

Harry Koenig 1910 census Wentzville MO
1910 census – Wentzville, MO

The house in which Harry grew up is shown in the photo below.

Henry Koenig home Wentzville MO
Koenig home

Harry Koenig married Martha Pfau on September 29, 1912 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wentzville.  I do not have a document to verify that event.  This couple had two children, Elsie and Alma.  Alma was born on May 21, 1915.  Then on July 7th of that same year, a tornado struck Wentzville.  There were two homes on the Koenig farm, and the tornado completely destroyed one of them.  It was the one in which Martha was located along with her baby, Alma.  The family desperately searched for these two and were able to find them by hearing the baby’s cry.  Martha was clutching Alma in her arms when they were found.  Martha did not survive.  She died hours later, but she had managed to save her baby.  We have Martha’s death certificate.

Martha Koenig death certificate
Martha Koenig death certificate

Whoever filled out this form made sure to point out that Martha “held infant” during this “cyclone”.  I found the paragraph below which tells of Martha’s death in an article online about the Wentzville 1915 tornado.

Martha Koenig tornado death story

There is another family story that says one wall of this house remained standing with an unbroken mirror still attached to it.

On April 29, 1917, Harry remarried.  This time it was Harry who came to Perry County to find his second wife.  He married Lina (Lena) Stelling at Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna.  It took a little nosing around in the German Family Tree to discover that Harry married his first wife’s cousin.  Both Martha’s mother and Lina’s mother were Popp’s and sisters of one another.  Here is the marriage license for Harry and Lina.

Koenig Stelling marriage license
Koenig/Stelling marriage license

We also have the church record for this marriage.

Koenig Stelling marriage record Concordia Frohna MO
Koenig/Stelling marriage record – Concordia, Frohna, MO

The next document I found for Harry was his World War I draft registration.  It stated that he was married with two children.  However, his wife was not the birth mother of those children.

Harry Koenig – WWI draft registration

I just have to include another photograph that was taken in 1918.  It shows a World War I Air Force bi-plane that landed on the Koenig farm to refuel in that year.

WWI bi-plane lands on Koenig farm 1918

Harry was never found in a census with Martha.  The 1920 census shows his family with Lina.

Harry Koenig 1920 census Wentzville MO
1920 census – Wentzville, MO

It does not appear that Harry and Lina had any more children of their own.  A four generation photograph was taken later in Harry’s life.  It included Harry’s mother, Alvina, his daughter, Alma (the one who was in her mother’s arms during the tornado), and one of Alma’s children.

4 Generations in Harry Koenig family

Lina died in 1973 at the age of 91; Harry died in 1974 at the age of 87.  These two, and Harry’s first wife, Martha, are buried in the Koenig Lutheran Cemetery in Wentzville.

I found out that the Koenig Cemetery was begun as a cemetery in which to bury Koenig family members.  Now, however, it is maintained by Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wentzville.

I have come to the conclusion that all of the cases of Perry County natives that I have found near Wentzville are tied to one surname….Pfau.

3 thoughts on “Tornado Casualty Dies with Baby in Arms

  1. Thank you for posting this information. We moved close by this cemetery last year and sometimes passed it while out for a walk. With it being Christmas Eve and us not being able to gather with family this year, my adult son and I took a walk and decided to go in and pay our respects and pray for all the generations that have followed those who were buried here. When we got home we searched for any information about this tiny and very old cemetery. We found your site and it was really neat to read about many of the people who are resting there. The cemetery itself is well maintained and several people who live right by it watched us to double-check that we meant no harm. Thank you for your post.


  2. When I taught at St. Paul Lutheran School in New Melle in 1962-1064, I met some members of this family. I think it was Elsie who was a member at St. Paul. Those memories from almost 60 years ago are a bit hazy.


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