The first date that I had with my wife consisted of an evening of watching TV. Yes, I am a miserly old German. That evening included my wife making me dinner. I’ve been in love with her ever since. Believe me, there are countless reasons that I love my wife, not just her culinary skills, but I often say that she won my heart through my stomach. I will tell a similar story today that I get to tell in a small way when I give tours at the Log Cabin College when people visit our museum. I often suggest that Johanna von Wurmb won the heart of Theodore Brohm through his stomach.
The story of the marriage of Theodore and Johanna has been mentioned in several other blog posts, but I decided it was time to add some more details to the lives of this couple. I will begin by pointing out a conflict that exists concerning this couple. Did they celebrate their wedding anniversary on April 17th or on April 18th. Two document disagree. Let’s take a look. First, here is the civil record filed in Perry County for this marriage. This document says the marriage took place on April 18, 1843.
Next, we find the church record for this wedding. It was written by Rev. Gotthold Loeber in the books of Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. Toward the bottom of this record, you can see the date, April 17.
I honestly do not know which one is correct. I am publishing this story on April 18th, but it could just as well have been written yesterday.
Let’s take a look at the groom. Theodore Brohm was born on September 12, 1808, the son of George Frederick and Johanna Magdalena (Guenther) Brohm. His birthplace was Oberwinkel, Germany, which is located not far from Niederfrohna and Mittelfrohna where several other members of the Gesellschaft originated. He attended the University of Leipzig, and after his graduation, he became attached to the movement headed by Rev. Martin Stephan. He became a personal assistant to Rev. Stephan during the voyage to America. We find Theodore among the cabin passengers of the Olbers.
Several days ago, I wrote the story of Louise Guenther, who is also on this list of cabin passengers. I do not know if Louise was related to Theodore’s mother, who was also a Guenther. That would be an interesting story to pursue. Theodore Brohm also kept a journal of his trip from Germany to St. Louis which is a valuable source giving an important insight into the events happening during that historic journey.
Now, let’s switch over to the bride. Charlotte Guntherine Johanna Zahn was born on March 19, 1803, the daughter of Johann Gottlieb and Amalie Caroline (Koch) Zahn. I cannot resist showing you these two pictures of Johanna’s parents.
Johanna’s birthplace was Wasserthaleben, Germany. Below is a map showing the relative locations of Theodore and Johanna’s hometowns.
What makes Johanna even more notable is the fact that she and Wilhelmine Loeber, Rev. Gotthold Loeber’s wife, were sisters. She was also a Zahn. In 1828, Johanna married Theobold von Wurmb. Apparently, not long after that marriage, Theobold became a Lutheran missionary to South Africa. Three children were born there. Then, either Rev. von Wurmb died or he abandoned his family, resulting in Johanna returning to Germany not long before the Gesellschaft departed for the United States. We find the von Wurmb’s on the cabin passenger list for the Republik. In front of Johanna’s name you see “Wdw” indicating that she called herself a widow. You can also find the Loeber family on this list.
When the immigrants arrived in Perry County, a few decisions were made that impacted this couple. First, Theodore, along with his friends, Ottomar Fuerbringer and Johann Friedrich Buenger, decided to build the Log Cabin College on the property that Christiane Buenger would own. That school opened in December of 1839, and Theodore was one of its teachers. Meanwhile, it was decided (probably by Rev. and Mrs. Loeber) that a cabin was to be built near the Log Cabin College to house Johanna von Wurmb and her children. She would become more or less the school cook, and her children would be students at the new school.
It was likely the case that when the Log Cabin College opened, Theodore and Ottomar Fuerbringer lived in the loft above the classroom. Therefore, it was also likely that these two young bachelors would have received meals from Johanna’s kitchen. Then, in 1840, Ottomar took a call to Venedy, Illinois, leaving Theodore as the lone resident in the loft. Johann Friedrich Buenger would take a call to St. Louis not long after that. For a while, Theodore and Rev. Loeber taught most of the classes at the college. When the 1840 census was taken, we see the following entry.
The names are difficult to decipher, but the second name from the top is Johanna Wurmb, followed by Theodore Brohm and Christiane Buenger. The numbers behind the names would account for all the residents living on the Buenger land. It totals a dozen individuals.
I cannot help but think that Theodore got used to being fed by Johanna von Wurmb. I assume he not only enjoyed the cooking, but the company. He must have also developed a pretty good relationship with the three children, being not only their teacher, but also their neighbor.
If I have the timeline correct, Theodore received a call to become the pastor at a church in New York City in 1843. He decided to take that call, but he must have also decided to take a wife with him. I figure it must be that call that precipitated Theodore asking Johanna to be his wife. To that proposal, Johanna agreed, and we know that wedding took place in April of that year. This post has already gotten long enough, so I think I will have to tell the rest of the story some other day. Here are photos of Theodore and Johanna taken later in their lives.
My favorite cooking comes out of the Schmidt Kitchen where my wife is the chef. During these days of being more or less restricted to our house, I have been eating even more delicious meals than normal being prepared by my favorite chef.
If you are a faithful reader of this blog, you probably know that I now own the property where the Log Cabin College was built. Theodore may have been the first one on this land to have his heart won through his stomach, but he wasn’t the last.