Disease, Death, and Dependence

Today, I am having the feeling that I have been directed to this story by God Himself.  The story I tell today that comes from a document in our local church record books which, by itself, does not appear that noteworthy.  After all, you will find out it is the story of a single woman who died at a rather early age.  Because she was always single, we do not really have that many documents to share.  However, this woman’s story has directed me to discuss some events which have occurred in our past that remind us of the difficulties that are presently being experienced as a result of the COVID virus pandemic.

Agnes Wilhelmine Carolina Poppitz was born on March 29, 1875, making today her 145th birthday.  Agnes was one of eight daughters (and three sons) born into the family of Ehregott and Clara (Mueller) Poppitz.  Agnes was child #2.  All of these Poppitz children were baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg.  Here is the baptism record for Agnes.

Agnes Poppitz baptism record Trinity Altenburg MO
Agnes Poppitz – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

Agnes is found in the 1880 census at the age of 5.  Her father was a carpenter.

Agnes Poppitz 1880 census Brazeau Township MO
1880 census – Brazeau Township, MO

The next document in which we find Agnes was the census taken in 1900.  We find her living as a servant in the Herman Weber family.  Herman’s wife, Emma, was Agnes’s sister.

Agnes Poppitz 1900 census Brazeau Township MO

Agnes Poppitz 1900 census 2 Brazeau Township MO
1900 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Heman Weber’s story was told in the post, As For Me and My House…..  The Herman Weber farmhouse is now an Airbnb that can be found under the Plan a Visit..Lodging tab on this website.

Weber Farm airbnb
Herman Weber farm

The last census in which we find Agnes was the 1910 census.  She was back living in her parents’ household at the age of 35.

Agnes Poppitz 1910 census Brazeau Township MO
1910 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Agnes did not live long enough to be included in the 1920 census.  She died in August of 1918 at the age of 43.  We can look at her death certificate.

Agnes Poppitz death certificate
Agnes Poppitz death certificate

A combination of two facts shown on this death certificate got my attention.  It was a death in 1918, and the cause of death was influenza.  Those facts, in conjunction with each other, led me on another search.  I know I have heard reference to the Spanish flu in the news recently, comparing it to the current COVID virus pandemic.  The Spanish flu pandemic took place in 1918.  There is no reference on the above death certificate to Spanish flu, but it does indicate influenza.

The paragraph below comes from a Wikipedia article on the Spanish flu.

Spanish flu paragraph Wikipedia

Some speculate the Spanish flu may have begun at Camp Funston (now Camp Riley) in Kansas, where many young men were being trained to fight in World War I.  I have run across several cases where Perry County men were sent to Camp Funston to do their training.  I know of at least one case where one of these young men died there.  Here is a photo of a hospital ward at that camp during the pandemic.

CampFunstonKS-InfluenzaHospital
Camp Funston

I also know that it was not long after that war that Rev. G.H. Hilmer accepted a call to Zion Lutheran Church in Pocahontas.  He had previously served a congregation quite near Camp Funston and had experience serving the spiritual needs of the soldiers at that camp.

Although I do not have evidence that they spent time at Camp Funston, I found two men with the name Poppitz who served in the military during World War I.  One of them was Agnes’s brother, Ernst Poppitz.  I suppose it is possible that Agnes may have suffered from the Spanish flu, and may have gotten infected from a soldier who came back to Perry County with it.

Agnes was buried in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg.

Agnes Poppitz gravestone Trinity Altenburg MO
Agnes Poppitz gravestone – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

Another event that occurred which is an important part of early Lutheran history in America was the Cholera Epidemic of 1849.  St. Louis was one of the cities which was hit particularly hard by that disease.  It has been estimated that one out of every eleven citizens of St. Louis perished as a result of that epidemic.  I wrote a post about that event titled, Summer of Death – 170 Years Ago.  In that post, I published an image of church records from Rev. C.F.W. Walther’s congregation, Old Trinity Lutheran Church.

Cholera death Old Trinity St. Louis June and July 1849
Death records – July, 1849 – Old Trinity, St. Louis

According to my reckoning, Rev. Walther must have been performing about a funeral per day during July of 1849.  In the post I wrote about that epidemic, I wrote the following statement.

If one of his sermons during those months was preserved, I would be interested to read it to see how Rev. Walther attempted to minister to his congregation as they suffered through this epidemic.

Here is what I consider another “Act of God”.  Just last night, a gentleman by the name of Lawrence Bade commented on that post about the cholera epidemic.  In his comment, he offered to send us a copy of a Walther sermon from that time period that he has.  His offer, which was greatly appreciated, led me on another search.  I wondered if I could find that sermon online.  I was successful.  It is a lengthy sermon, as most were in those days, so I will not place it here in its entirety.  However, if you would like to read it, you can find it by clicking on the link below:

https://backtoluther.blogspot.com/2014/04/walther-sermons-els-sampler-baseley.html

After opening that site, find the section that looks like this:

Walther sermons page Baseley translation

Click on the link that says Baseley translation pg 82.  This sermon comes from a book of sermons that have been translated by Rev. Joel Baseley, a friend of our museum.

Occasion Sermons and Addresses Joel Baseley

In the margin of the website where the sermon is found, you can find places where you can purchase this book.

Rev. C.F.W. Walther always taught his seminary students that their sermons must contain both Law and Gospel.  I think you will find plenty of Law in this sermon.  But Rev. Walther does not disappoint us.  It closes with some wonderful words that talk about how our dependence on a God who sent His Son to die and rise for us gives us hope even in the times of pandemic.

 


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