Two passengers aboard ships that traveled across the Atlantic Ocean in 1838-1839 as part of the Gesellschaft were born on the Fourth of July. The first birthday they would celebrate in Perry County in 1839 would also be the 63rd birthday of America. It wouldn’t be until 1870 that the Fourth of July became an official holiday. Both of the individuals who had birthdays on July 4 would spend a very short time in America before they died. I will tell their stories today.
Both of these individuals were women. I will begin with the younger of these two. She was the sister of Rev. C.F.W. Walther and Rev. Otto Herman Walther, two of the Lutheran pastors that were part of the Gesellschaft. Her husband was another one of those Lutheran pastors. When she came to America, her married name was Amalia Ernestine Keyl. Her husband was Rev. E.G.W. Keyl, the first pastor of the church founded in the community called Frohna. She was born in Langenchursdorf, Germany on July 4, 1815, the daughter of Rev. Gottlob Heinrich Willhelm and Johanna Wilhelmina (Zschenderlein) Walther. The three other siblings in her family were girls, and they were not part of the Gesellschaft. Here are drawings of her parents.
Amalia married Rev. E.G.W. Keyl on November 15, 1836 in Germany. Rev. Keyl was the pastor in Niederfrohna, Germany. A modern day map program says Langenchursdorf and Niederfrohna are 4.7 miles from each other. Their first child, Stephanus Keyl, was born in June of 1838, so he was just 5 months old when he boarded the Johann Georg with his parents in November of that year. Later images of her husband, Rev. E.G.W. Keyl (on the left) and her son, Stephanus Keyl (on the right), are shown below. Stephanus also became a Lutheran pastor.
We see the Keyl family on the passenger list of the Copernicus. Amalia’s brother, C.F.W. Walther was also on that ship.
Two daughters were born not long after this couple’s arrival in Perry County. One born in 1840 only lived 2 months; another born in 1841 lived only 9 days. The second one may well have been born and died while Rev. C.F.W. Walther was staying in their home recovering from the illness he was suffering as a result of falling into Apple Creek. It was then that Rev. Walther prepared himself for the Altenburg Debate which would take place in April of that year. Also, in early 1841, her brother, Rev. Otto Herman Walther, who was the pastor of the Lutheran church in St. Louis, also died. Rev. C.F.W. Walther would take his place soon after the debate.
Then, in 1842, Amalia became pregnant again. Because of complications, she would be taken to St. Louis where she gave birth to a son on May 22nd. Amalia died the day after that birth, and the baby died on May 30th. A more complete description of those events in St. Louis can be found in the post titled, Urgent Trip with Deadly Consequences.
The other person in the Gesellschaft born on the Fourth of July was Johanne Elizabeth Kuehn. She was born on July 4, 1793 in Sornzig, Germany. That was her married name. I am not sure what her maiden name was or the names of her parents. She was the wife of Johann Adam Kuehn. The Kuehn family made the voyage to America aboard the Copernicus. The parents came along with 7 children to the United States. All of the children were girls except for the youngest. Their family is found on the passenger list shown below.
Like so many people who came on the Copernicus, the Kuehn family settled in the community known as Seelitz. Like the Keyl’s, the Kuehn family had plenty of tragedy in the early years of settlement in Perry County. Their daughter, Johanne Rosine, died in November of 1839. Then in January of 1840, the only son who could have carried on the Kuehn surname, died.
Meanwhile, their daughter, Amalia Kuehn, married Carl Mueller in July of 1839. That couple would begin the branch of Mueller’s that we call the Frohna Mueller’s.
The tragedies continued. In January of 1842, the father of the Kuehn family, Johann Adam Kuehn died at the age of 49. Three Kuehn’s, including Johann Adam, were buried in the Seelitz Cemetery, but all that is there now to mark the graves is a sign listing those who are buried there.
As if that wasn’t enough, Johanne Elizabeth Kuehn died on January 1, 1843. It was about that time that the Kuehn land in Seelitz was sold, and Carl and Amalia Mueller moved to Frohna. That’s where they and their descendants became known as the Frohna Mueller’s.
By the way, another one of the Kuehn daughters would marry Rev. Ernst Otto Wolff, one of the early pastors in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
The members of the Gesellschaft may not have expected that their migration to America would result in so many deaths in their early years of settlement in Perry County. Despite all those tragic deaths, the future of their settlement would result in an amazing future. The Lutheran church, particularly the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, would eventually spread throughout the United States and even around the world, proclaiming the Gospel to those who needed to hear it.
Today marks what is often referred to as the birthday of America. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed by our Founding Fathers. At the end of that document, the following statement can be found.
“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
The accounts of the lives of so many of those Founding Fathers are documented as part of America’s history. So many of those signers of the Declaration of Independence did lose their fortunes and even their lives. Yet they were part of another very amazing future. A good argument can be made that the United States not only has been a successful country, but also the most compassionate country in the history of the world.
The Lutheran Hour Ministries posted a devotion online for this Fourth of July holiday that gives some of the details of the lives of those Founding Fathers that sacrificed their lives and fortunes for our country’s future. You can read or listen to it by clicking on the link below.