Especially since today’s main character was such an important contributor to the early years of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, it is surprising to me that his story is so full of documentary holes. By the time we get to the end of this story, we will still be faced with several unanswered questions.
Martin Christian Barthel was born on February 12, 1838 in Germany. His birthday is somewhat debatable. For some unknown reason, several family histories on Ancestry.com state that he was born on February 10th, not February 12th. Our German Family Tree gives his birthday as February 12th, and the information you find on Findagrave.com also gives the February 12th birthday. Martin was the son of Friedrich and Caroline (Streicher) Barthel. Martin came to America as part of the Gesellschaft in 1839 as a youngster not even one year old. We find the Barthel family on the passenger list for the Olbers. It spills over two pages so I have to show it in two images.
Martin’s father was not only the treasurer for the Gesellschaft, but he would later become the first treasurer of the organization that would eventually become known as the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Because of the date of his birth, Martin made it into the discussion of who was the youngest member of the Gesellschaft in the post, Who Was the Youngest? His grandmother, Christiane Sophie Barthel, at the age of 76, was declared the oldest member of the Gesellschaft in the post, The Oldest Immigrant.
We find Martin Barthel, at the young age of 12, in the 1850 census as a student in the educational institution whose mission was to train future full-time church workers for the Synod. The older students would have been considered part of Concordia Seminary while the younger students could have been considered part of what Germans called the gymnasium. Concordia Seminary had previously been located in Altenburg, but late in 1849, it was moved to St. Louis. A new building was constructed in 1850 which housed this school. It would have been in that new building where the students would have been boarded. Here is the portion of that 1850 census which includes Martin Barthel.
Keep in mind that both of Martin’s parents were still alive in 1850, and I am guessing that they probably lived not far from the Seminary, but Martin was apparently not living with them. He was living at the new school. A previous post has been written about the people in this 1850 census which was titled, A Census Hall of Fame. Here is where we find a documentary hole. I could not find Martin’s parents in the 1850 census, even though I think it is almost certain that they lived in St. Louis at the time.
Another few holes are found in the 1860 census. I could not find either Martin or his mother in the 1860 census. His father had died in 1859. Another hole is that his father, who had so many leadership roles in the early years of our Synod, is buried in Concordia Cemetery in St. Louis, but there is no photo of his gravestone on Findagrave.com.
Let’s take some time to look at the early years of Martin’s future bride, Elizabeth Kalbfleisch. She was the daughter of Johann and Catherine (Becker) Kalbfleisch. There were people with the surnames Kalbfleisch and Becker who were members of what would become known as the New York Group that joined the Gesellschaft in Perry County in the spring of 1839. However, Elizabeth and her family did not arrive in America until 1849. I think there is a good chance that the New York Group Kalbfleisch’s and Elizabeth’s Kalbfleisch’s were related, but I have no proof. We find Elizabeth’s family on a passenger list for the ship, Jane Henderson. Elizabeth was 7 years old at the time. She was born on June 12, 1842.
We find this Kalbfleisch family in the 1850 census living in St. Louis. I have to show it in two images. Elizabeth is the 8 year old that is shown as Els. Kalbfleisch.
We find Elizabeth again in the 1860 census.
The year after that census was taken, on October 13, 1861, Martin Barthel married Elizabeth Kalbfleisch at Old Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis.
In an entry in the Christian Cyclopedia written about Martin’s father, it says that Martin became the first agent of the Synod’s publishing company which became known as Concordia Publishing House. It says he took that position in 1860, the year before his marriage.
Here is another real mystery. I found plenty of family histories on Ancestry.com that listed the children of Martin and Elizabeth Barthel, but not one of the histories I looked at had a list of children that completely agreed with the records we have from Old Trinity Lutheran Church. Here is a list of the 8 children that I came up with from the Old Trinity records along with the years of their births.
- 1862 Heinrich Richard Martin Barthel
- 1866 Johannes Christian Eduard Barthel
- 1868 Susannah Maria Elizabeth Barthel
- 1870 Anna Karoline Lydia Barthel
- 1873 Ida Sophie Klara Barthel
- 1874 Alexander Friedrich Barthel
- 1877 Emma Pauline Margaretha Barthel
- 1879 Louise Salome Ella Barthel
I would love to hear from people who have family histories on Ancestry that do not agree with this. I would be interested to find out where they got their lists of children with different years of birth.
There is another hole in the documents in 1870. I once again was unable to find this Barthel family in the census for that year. It was not until the 1880 census that I find them again. Here is that entry.
There is a death record for Louise Salome Ella Barthel for May of 1880 in the Old Trinity records. That explains why we do not see her in this list of children in the 1880 census. The other names on this census and their ages fit with the list of names I found in the Old Trinity baptism records.
Another interesting fact about the 1880 census is that the Barthel family was on a page which includes many names which are shown to be either workers or patients at the Marine Hospital in St. Louis, which had the address of 3640 Marine St. The Barthel family is shown on other documents as living at 3740 Marine St. In 1876, a pictorial atlas was made for the city of St. Louis. The image below shows the Marine Hospital. This location would have probably been in sight of the Mississippi River (toward the bottom of the image).
I figure the Barthel family lived in the same neighborhood shown in the above image. If you are interested in the Marine Hospital of St. Louis, the link below tells of its interesting history.
I found a couple of references to Martin Barthel’s experience at Concordia Publishing House. First, here is a few short sentences from the book, Heart of Missouri.
Another reference can be found in the book, Century of Grace.
Take a look at another image from the pictorial atlas of 1876 which shows the “Lutheran Neighborhood” around Concordia Publishing House.
The red arrow points at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. The blue arrows point at two buildings which were part of the publishing business (Concordia Publishing House). The green arrow points at Concordia Seminary.
Martin Barthel died in 1899 at the age of 61. Another hole in documentation is the fact that Martin’s death is not recorded in the Old Trinity church books. However, we can view a certificate of death from the city of St. Louis.
Elizabeth can still be found in the 1900 census. She is called a notion dealer.
Elizabeth Barthel died in 1904 at the age of 62. Her death record is included in the Old Trinity church books. Both Martin and Elizabeth are buried in the Concordia Cemetery in St. Louis, however they, too, do not have photographs of their gravestones on Findagrave.com. I have to think that there would be gravestones for all these important characters in LCMS history in that cemetery. I suspect it is a matter of not having someone taking photos and publishing them on Findagrave.com yet.
I found a collection of photographs on Ancestry.com that are said to be children of Martin and Elizabeth Barthel. I know that the one labeled as Louise Salome Ella cannot be her because she died as an infant. Perhaps that one is Susannah Marie Elizabeth who is not included here. The oldest son, Heinrich Richard Martin is also not pictured. I also included a photograph of their father, Martin Barthel. All of these can be clicked to enlarge them.