Several years ago, Gerard Fiehler and I had one of those “Holy Cow!” moments. While looking through an Excel spreadsheet that shows the church marriage records for Old Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis (in the Soulard neighborhood), we saw the following note. It was added to a record for a marriage that took place on this day 180 years ago. The wedding took place on November 15, 1839. The bride and groom for that wedding were Agnes Buenger and Otto Herman Walther. Below is an image of the note in those records that caused such a reaction for a few researchers in Altenburg.
The wedding recorded in this St. Louis church’s books says that the ceremony did not occur there. Instead, it occurred “in public at Luther College in Perry County”. Gerard and I immediately knew that there could be no other place around these here parts this could mean other than the Log Cabin College, and that cabin had been built in my pasture behind my barn.
Keep in mind that the Log Cabin College did not open its door for the first day of school until almost a month later on December 9, 1839. Possibly the cabin was mostly completed at the time, but not deemed ready to begin school classes. What we do know is that in less than a month, we will be celebrating the 180th anniversary of the opening of the Log Cabin College. To commemorate that event, we have a Log Cabin College Christmas tree as part of our museum’s annual Christmas tree exhibit (which also happens to be open for visitors starting today).
There is a reason that this wedding took place on the property that I now own. That is because this 11 acre tract of land was first owned by Christiane Buenger, and Agnes Buenger was one of her daughters. In other words, this is where the bride lived. No church sanctuary had been built anywhere in Perry County yet, so I guess it makes sense that this marriage would take place in a structure that came as close as you could to a place of worship.
A while back, I wrote a post about an artist, Gustav Pfau, who owned an adjacent piece of property. One of his earliest drawings is the one shown below. I happen to think that it is possible that this drawing may have been made of the buildings that once existed on my property. Is this the site of the November 15th wedding? It even appears to be a winter scene.
I devoted a chapter in my book, Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod, to this event. In that book, I worked under the assumption that two of the witnesses for this ceremony would have been Agnes’s brother, J.F. Buenger, and the man who would later become her second husband, Ottomar Fuerbringer. These were two of the builders of the Log Cabin College and two of the first instructors there. However, there is no record that shows who the witnesses were.
A few years later, another special event occurred at this place called the Altenburg Debate. Not long before that debate, Otto Herman Walther, the groom from today’s wedding, died in St. Louis. When the debate occurred, Rev. C.F.W. Walther had already received a call to become the pastor of Old Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis, where his brother had been the pastor. It was just a day or two after that debate that Rev. Walther accepted that call and moved to St. Louis. A few years after that, Rev. Walther would return to Perry County to marry Emilie Buenger. It would be the second Walther/Buenger marriage to take place in Perry County.
In recent years, our barn has been used for special occasion photographs. We have had family reunion photos, graduation photos, and even a few wedding photos taken there. These folks I’m sure do not realize that the first photo-op to occur on my property was a wedding 180 years ago. Of course, at that time, there were no cameras to take photos.
I have gotten into a habit the last few days of going out into the cold weather to take photographs for this blog. While writing this story earlier this morning, we had a very pretty sunrise, so once again I was out there, this time in 27º F temperature. The monument shown in these photos is the one designating the place where the Log Cabin College once stood. The photos are in a gallery, and you can click on them to make them bigger.
If there was any wedding party for that marriage in 1839, it would have taken place at a nearby cabin in which the Buenger family lived, and it probably would not have been much of a party. During that first year in Perry County, most of the inhabitants were in the business of mere survival.