I’m going to begin this post by having you pretend you are a bride-to-be who is planning her wedding. Pretend also that you and your husband-to-be desire to have your wedding at Old Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis. Here are some questions for you to consider if you are in that position about picking the date for your wedding. Would you choose to have your wedding on the same day that Trinity would be dedicating their brand new church? Would you choose to have your wedding on the same day that two baptisms would take place at your church? Would you choose to have your wedding on the same day when another wedding will take place at Trinity? The bride and groom in today’s story had their wedding at Old Trinity on a day that had all of these characteristics. That busy day in the history of Old Trinity Lutheran Church has already shown up on this blog. An article was written titled, 12/04/1842 – What a Day! I will just focus on one of the two weddings that took place on that eventful day in 1842. A photo of the first church sanctuary that was dedicated in 1842 is found on the cover of my book, Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod.
This story involves some research challenges I do not often face. First of all, I will not be able to display any actual images of church records in this story. Also, I almost always can find a family history on Ancestry.com that has quite a bit of information about a character I am researching. The marriage I will be describing today has no such thing. There are a few family histories found on that site, but they are extremely limited on information and documentation. I will have to rely mostly on facts which can be found in an Excel spreadsheet that we have of the church records from Old Trinity Lutheran Church. I managed to find a few census records to add to the story as well. So, here we go.
Johanne Christiane Kuehn was born on this day in 1822. Actually, I am not sure she was born on that day. I could even state that the likelihood of June 9th being the day of her birth is not that likely according to the laws of probability. As far as I can tell, the only reason for a birth date of June 9, 1822 comes from her death record in the Old Trinity church books.
This record states that Christiane was 69 years and 10 months old when she died on April 9, 1892. If you backtrack, that gives you the June 9, 1822 date of birth. Even if it might not be her actual birthday, I am using this date as an excuse to write this story on June 9th.
Christiane came to America with her family as part of the Gesellschaft in 1838-1839. Her family came aboard the Copernicus. Christiane was 15 years old when she made the trip.
This Kuehn family settled in the Seelitz community in Perry County. I really have no idea how Christiane ended up in St. Louis in 1842, but I do know a few things about her husband. His name was Wilhelm Happel, who had come to America aboard the Neptune which arrived in New York City in 1837. We see him coming to this country by himself on this passenger list. He is listed as a shoemaker.
Wilhelm was born on June 24, 1814. This was another case where we only find that birth date by looking at a death record. Only this time, the death record was more specific, so we can be more sure of the exact birth.
Wilhelm made the choice to join the New York Group which made the journey to Perry County in 1839. Wilhelm was likely one of that group that did not remain long in Perry County before moving to St. Louis. I suppose it is possible that during his time in Perry County, he got to know Christiane Kuehn.
That leads us up to the marriage of Wilhelm Happel and Christiane Kuehn which took place on December 4, 1842. We find this record of that marriage plus the other one that took place on that day in the Old Trinity Excel spreadsheet. I have to show it in two images. It is record #57. The record definitely says both of those marriages took place in the newly consecrated church.
You can also see a few other interesting marriages in the images above. First, there is the marriage of Ottomar Fuerbringer/Agnes (Buenger) Walther that took place in October. Ottomar was one of the builders of the Log Cabin College, and Agnes had previously been married to Rev. Otto Herman Walther, C.F.W.’s brother. Secondly, the marriage right above the Happel wedding also involved a Kuehn, Gottfried Kuehn. Gottfried was another member of the Gesellschaft. We see Gottfried in the list of passengers shown in Zion on the Mississippi. I do not see any relationship between Gottfried and the other Kuehn family, but that does not mean there is no connection.
Looking through the Old Trinity baptism records, you will find 11 children born to Wilhelm and Christiane Happel.
Now let’s take a look at some census records. I was unable to find this family in the 1850 census, but I was successful with the ones taken in 1860, 1870 and 1880. The 1860 census shows three children, George Wm., Benjamin, and Emilie.
In 1870 we find three children, Emilie, Magdalene, and Dorothea.
Next, we see this household in the 1880 census. The same 3 children are listed as the ones in 1870.
Based on an address we find on the above census, Wilhelm had his shoemaking business and home not far from that church building on Lombard Street that was dedicated in 1842. We can see about where the Happel family lived on this drawing made of St. Louis neighborhoods in 1875. Trinity Lutheran Church was once located where the TLC is shown, and the Happels must have lived about where the blue circle is on Third Street.
Out of the 11 children we find in the church records, apparently only 5 of them made it into a census. Then, when Wilhelm died in 1882, the death record says there were just 4 children as mourners. Perhaps another one had died before he did. If another child died, my money would be on Benjamin because of what we find on Christiane’s death record. When she died in 1892, it says her mourners included 1 son and 3 daughters. I also found a marriage record for George William Happel in 1865.
Wilhelm and Christiane Happel are both said to be buried in the Concordia Cemetery in St. Louis which is the cemetery for Old Trinity. However, no gravestone photos are to be found on Findagrave.
Now we know a bit about those Kuehn children. One married a Mueller and began the clan that we call the Frohna Muellers. Another married a Lutheran pastor. Yet another one married a Poppitz which eventually became connected with the Degenhardt’s, from which came the creator of our German Family Tree, Lynn Degenhardt. And today, we find another one who married a shoemaker on an eventful day in December of 1842.