An Epidemic Survivor

The summer of 1849 in St. Louis, Missouri, especially the month of July, bears a certain resemblance to the present-day coronavirus pandemic.  A previous post on this blog described what was happening during the Cholera Epidemic that devastated that city and especially the Lutheran church located there, Old Trinity Lutheran Church.  That post was titled, Summer of Death – 170 Years Ago.  The pastor of that congregation during those tragic days was Rev. C.F.W. Walther.  I took some time to look at the church records from that congregation during the month of July, 1849.  Here is what I found:

  • 49 deaths
  • 7 baptisms
  • 3 marriages

I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult that month must have been for Rev. C.F.W. Walther.  Not only that, but there is a death record that doesn’t even show up in those records that hit Rev. Walther’s own family.  On July 11, 1849, Christiane Buenger died of cholera, and for some unknown reason, her death record is not in the church books.  She was the mother-in-law of the pastor and if I have the chronology correct, she lived in the same house with CFW.  Christiane was the person highlighted in the title of my book, Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod.

Despite spending all kinds of time researching for that book, there was an event that happened in Rev. C.F.W. Walther’s life that I did not notice.  I will tell that story today.  On July 27, 1849, Emilie (Buenger) Walther, CFW’s wife, gave birth to a little girl.  So, while all of these devastating events were taking place in St. Louis at that time, Rev. Walther had a wife that was very pregnant.  Plus, the person who would have been so helpful to her, Mama Buenger, had recently died, leaving a grieving family.

That baby’s name, according to the church’s baptism records, was Emma Julie Walther .  There is later evidence that Christine may have been part of her name also.  Below is a portion of the baptism record we find in Excel spreadsheet form for Julie.  She was born on a Friday and baptized on the following Sunday, July 29th.

Emma Julie Walther baptism record Old Trinity St. Louis MO
Julie Walther baptism record – Old Trinity, St. Louis, MO

I checked.  On the day that Julie was born, there were two burials that Rev. Walther must have had to officiate.  I will mention here that Emilie Walther’s brother, Ernst Eduard Buenger, was a medical doctor and living in St. Louis at the time.  He could have been quite a help during his sister’s pregnancy, but it must be said that he must have also been a very busy man with the epidemic, trying to minister to so many sick people.

I admit that my first thought when I saw Julie’s baptism record in our German Family Tree, that I figured she did not live very long.  Her baptism record is the only record to be found in our GFT.  I was wrong.

The 1850 census is an interesting one that not only includes Julie, but also communicates a little bit of early Lutheran history.  Another event that took place toward the end of 1849 was the moving of Concordia Seminary from Altenburg to St. Louis.  Then in 1850, a new building to house that seminary was constructed.  A drawing of that building is shown below.

Concordia Seminary 1850
Concordia Seminary – 1850

Rev. Walther must have moved his family into this building along with the students.  We find the Walther family, including the baby, Julie, in this 1850 census entry.

Julie Walther 1850 census St. Louis MO
1850 census – St. Louis, MO

Julie was the last person on that page.  If you look at the next page, you will find other people, including fifteen Seminary students, that are listed as living in the same household.

C.F.W. Walther 1850 census St. Louis MO Concordia Seminary students
1850 census – St. Louis, MO

The next census in which we find Julie was the one taken in 1860.  She was 10 years old.  This is where we see an indication that she was also called Christine.

Julie Walther 1860 census St. Louis MO
1860 census – St. Louis, MO

Because of difficulties that I had finding future census records for her, the 1870 census was the last one in which I could find Julie, and she was still single at the age of 20.

Julie Walther 1870 census St. Louis MO
1870 census – St. Louis, MO

Although I could find no documentation for it, histories on Ancestry say that Julie got married on October 8, 1872.  Her groom was Rev. Johann Heinrich Niemann.  He had attended Concordia Seminary and had become a pastor in 1869.  According to his biography, in 1872, he was already serving a congregation in Little Rock, Arkansas.

John Niemann was born on April 11, 1848 in Hoyel, Germany which is not far from the city of Melle.  One of the charter member congregations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod was located in New Melle, Missouri, not far from St. Louis.  I was unable to find John in a Little Rock 1870 census.  He served in his first church until 1876 when he took a call to Trinity Lutheran Church in Cleveland, Ohio.  A previous pastor at that congregation was Rev. Friedrich Wyneken, who had moved there after he had served for several years as the second President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  During Rev. Wyneken’s time there, the present-day church for that congregation was dedicated in 1873.  Below are two photos of that church.  One is the exterior.  The other is the interior, which includes a rather famous organ which was not added until after Rev. Niemann’s time there.

I am almost positive that the Niemann’s are in the 1880 census for Cleveland, but I was unable to locate them.  It was that year, 1880, when Rev. Niemann became the President of the Central District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  He served in that position until almost the time of his death in 1910.

I was able to locate photos of both Rev. John Niemann and his wife, Julie.

As near as I can tell, this couple had two children, a girl named Ottilie, and a boy named Walther.  Walther only lived for two years.

Julie Niemann did not live long enough to get into the 1900 census.  She died in 1898 at the age of 49.  Rev. John Niemann can be found living all by himself in that 1900 census.

John Niemann 1900 census Cleveland OH
1900 census – Cleveland, OH

The Christian Cyclopedia contains the following biography for the life of Rev. Johann Heinrich Niemann..

Johann Heinrich Niemann bio Christian Cyclopedia

As you can see in that biography, Rev. Niemann died in 1910.  He was 61 years old at the time of his death.  There is a burial plot for all of the members of this Niemann family located in the Lutheran Cemetery in Cleveland.  I will put a gallery of photos of the gravestone that is found there.  You can click them to enlarge.

Julie Walther was a survivor of the 1849 Cholera Epidemic.  Plenty of prayers must have been answered as her parents’ friends and relatives watched her grow up and get married.  So many children born during that summer did not make it.  As it turns out, not only was her father such an important person in the early history of the LCMS, but so was her husband.


Some concrete is being poured at our museum expansion project today.  This will become the floor for the new gallery.  Here is a collection of clickable thumbnails.

I also took a few videos.  Perhaps, if I remember, I will include one or two of them tomorrow.

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