Old Trinity’s Inaugural Double Wedding

The Lutheran church that began in St. Louis when the Gesellschaft arrived would eventually be known as Trinity Lutheran Church and have Rev. Otto Herman Walther as their first pastor.  It would have its first church building dedicated in 1842, and by then, Rev. Walther died and his brother, Rev. C.F.W. Walther took his place.  Before that building was completed, this congregation met in a basement room of Christ Episcopal Church.  If you look at the marriage records for this congregation, their first two weddings took place on June 16, 1839.  Both grooms and both brides were members of the Gesellschaft, and as it turns out, all four of them came to America aboard the Olbers and all four were from the city of Dresden, Germany.  Here are portions of those two marriage records.

Graeber Reissner marriage record Old Trinity St. Louis MO

Graeber Reissner marriage record 2 Old Trinity St. Louis MO

I will attempt to take a quick look at both of these couples today, and I will begin with the one listed as #2 which involved Friedrich Puerfurst and Carrie Genzsch.  We find these two listed right next to each other on the passenger list of the Olbers.

Fredrick Puerfurst Carrie Gentzsch Olbers passenger list 1839
Fr. Purfurst and Carol. Gentsch – Olbers passenger list 1839

Because they are listed together, one wonders whether these two were a “couple” when they got on the ship, whether they became a “couple” during the voyage, or it was just coincidence that they were listed next to each other.  In Zion on the Mississippi, Caroline Gentzsch (her name is spelled in several different ways), is called a maid.  We find this couple in the 1850 census for St. Louis with 4 of their 7 children.  Two children had been born before this census who had died as youngsters.  I find it interesting that this household comes right after the listing of the students that were attending Concordia Seminary in St. Louis right after it moved from Altenburg to St. Louis at the end of 1849.

Frederich Puerfurst 1850 census St. Louis MO
1850 census – St. Louis, MO

Another child was born in 1853.  Also, one more child died in the next decade.  Not only that, but Fredrick, the father, died in 1855, leaving Carrie as a widow.  We find this Puerfurst family in the 1860 census.  It looks like Carrie is called Friedrich Purfurst’s widow in this entry.  There were four children, all girls, and Carrie is called a needle worker.

Friedricke Puerfurst 1860 census St. Louis MO
1860 census – St. Louis, MO

One of Carrie’s daughters married John Schubert, but when she died, he married another of the Puerfurst daughters.  John Schubert became a carriage maker in St. Charles County, and we find Carrie living in that household in 1900.  By then, his second Puerfurst wife had died also.  Sara Puerfurst never married.

Carrie Puerfurst 1900 census St. Charles MO
1900 census – St. Charles, MO

Carrie Puerfurst died in 1903 at the age of 94.  It is said that she was buried at the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in St. Charles, but Findagrave has no entry for her.  This Puerfurst surname came to an end.  Here is a photo of Carrie when she was older.

Carrie Puerfurst
Carrie Puerfurst

Next, I will discuss the marriage listed as #1 in the Old Trinity books.  Carl August Graeber married Carolina Reissner.  Here are these two individuals listed on the Olbers passenger list.

August Graeber Olbers passenger list 1839
August Graeber – Olbers passenger list 1839
Caroline Reissner Olbers passenger list 1839
Caroline Reissner – Olbers passenger list 1839

Another common characteristic shows up here.  Both of the grooms married on June 16, 1839 were shoemakers.  August and Caroline were not listed together on the passenger like the previous couple, but it is quite likely that the two shoemakers from Dresden were familiar with each other prior to coming to America.  August and Caroline were quite old as couples getting married back in those days go.  Once married, these two had only one child, a boy who took his father’s name, Carl August Graeber.  According to a family history I found on Ancestry, this child was actually Carl August Graeber III.  We find this small family in the 1860 census for St. Louis.  Carl August II was called a sexton.  Perhaps he oversaw the cemetery for the Lutheran churches that became known as Concordia Cemetery.

Carl August Graeber 1860 census St. Louis MO
1860 census – St. Louis, MO

It must have been about this time that Carl III attended Concordia Seminary with the intent of becoming a Lutheran pastor.  Once he graduated, he became the pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Meridan, Connecticut.  Apparently, when he moved to Connecticut, he went with his parents.  He became the pastor of that congregation in 1869 and is found in the 1870 census.  Carl II was listed as a mechanic.  I don’t know what kind of residence this was, but it certainly contained a variety of people as occupants, almost as if it was similar to a hotel or boarding house.

Carl August Graeber 1870 census Meridan CT
1870 census – Meridan, CT

St. John Lutheran Church in Meridan, Connecticut is the oldest LCMS congregation in that state.  It was established in 1865, and Rev. Graeber was their 3rd pastor when he began in 1869.  Here is a list of pastors who have served that congregation.

St. John Meridan CT list of pastors Graeber

Here is a photograph of the church that was used when Rev. Graeber was the pastor of that church.

St. John Meridan CT 1867 church
St. John Lutheran Church – Meridan, CT

I see a rather large building next door to the church.  Perhaps that was a parsonage/boarding house at one time.

Carl August Graeber II died later the same year as the census of 1870.  We have a photograph of him that is said to have been taken in Meridan, CT, so it must have been taken not long before his death.

Carl August Graeber II
Carl August Graeber II

Prior to moving to Connecticut, Rev. Carl August Graeber had gotten married in St. Louis.  His bride was Elizabeth Christine Stoeppler.  They were married on August 7, 1864.  Here is a civil record of that marriage.

Graeber Stoeppler marriage record St. Louis MO
Graeber/Stoeppler marriage record – St. Louis, MO

A family history found on Ancestry says this couple had 13 children, a few of which did not live long.   We find this Graeber household in the 1880 census with 9 children.  His mother was still alive at the age of 78.

Carl August Graeber 1880 census Meridan CT
1880 census – Meridan, CT

Rev. Graeber served St. John Lutheran Church until 1886, but he did not leave Meridan.  He changed professions.  His biography states that he attended Yale and became a medical doctor.  When we find him in the 1900 census, he is called a physician.  In addition to that, one of their sons was a civil engineer, and a daughter was a school teacher.  Caroline Graeber had died in 1883, so she no longer shows up in this household.

Carl August Graeber 1900 census 1 Meridan CT

Carl August Graeber 1900 census 2 Meridan CT
1900 census – Meridan, CT

Next, we find Dr. Graeber in the 1910 census.  His wife, Elizabeth, had died in 1902, and he had married a woman whose name was Crescentia.  I do not know her maiden name, but because there were step-children in this census named Miller, she was previously married to a Miller.

Carl August Graeber 1910 census Meridan CT
1910 census – Meridan, CT

We have these two photographs of Carl August Graeber.

Carl August Graeber died in 1917 at the age of 75.  There is a plot in the East Cemetery in Meridan, Connecticut in which all the members of this Graeber family are buried.  A rather large gravestone marks all their burial sites.

Graeber gravestone East Cemetery Meridan CT
Graeber gravestone – East Cemetery, Meridan, CT

One of Rev. (Dr.) Graeber’s daughters married Theodore Hoffmeister, who also became a Lutheran pastor.  In fact, for a while, he was the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Farnham, New York.  We have a photo of this Hoffmeister/Graeber couple.

Rev. Theodore and Antonia Gaebler Hoffmeister
Rev. Theodore and Antonia Hoffmeister

When we tell the story of the German Lutheran immigration that took place in 1839, we like to point out that the immigrants were very well-educated people, many of which were skilled craftsmen.  The history as we see it played out over the years shows so many people who exhibited much intelligence and ambition.  The story of Carl August Graeber is yet another one of those characters.

Another side note:  When Carl August Graeber III was baptized in 1841, one of his sponsors was J.F. Buenger, who must have just recently moved to St. Louis after helping to build the Log Cabin College in Altenburg.  Rev. Buenger’s second wife was a Reissner.  I guess I am going to have to research whether there is a connection between his second wife and this child’s mother whose maiden name was Reissner.


Here are a few photos I took the past two days.  To add to all the other projects going on around here, our neighbor, Trinity Lutheran Church, has begun a paving job in front of their church that required two trees to be removed this weekend.




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