3 Infants, 3 Graves, 10 Days

This will not be a post that follows the same blueprint that is used in most of the stories that I write. Instead of just taking you from cradle to grave of a featured character or couple, I will be leading you to a scenario that took place in a graveyard in Wittenberg in 1904.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are probably aware that I have written a book titled Wittenberg ’03: Coming of a Church and am in the process of writing the next book, Wittenberg ’04: Coming of a Railroad. I have been pondering for quite a while now whether I should include the scenario I will be describing today in the next book. Perhaps you could offer some advice once you hear the story.

I need to set the scene for this post by referring to several previous posts. First of all, one of today’s characters, Concordia (Weinhold) Bundenthal, was the daughter of Joseph and Maria Weinhold, two main characters in each of my Wittenberg books. A story was written a while back about that family titled, Surrounded by Good Lookin’ Women. Below is a slightly different photo of that Weinhold family than the one shown in that previous post. Concordia is standing in the back row on the left.

Joseph Weinhold family

Another post was written about Concordia’s marriage to Rev. Theodore Bundenthal that was titled, Concordia Student Meets Concordia? That story told about how this couple likely met. Joseph Weinhold had the habit of inviting seminary students from St. Louis to his home in Wittenberg over holidays when they might not be able to go home to be with their families. Theodore’s family was probably living in Michigan, and he was probably one of those seminarians who might have enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal at the Weinhold’s and got to know Concordia in the process. After their marriage in 1899, Rev. Bundenthal was the pastor at a Lutheran church in Sedalia, Missouri at the time of today’s scenario.

Rev. Theodore and Concordia Bundenthal

Today’s scenario takes place in St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery in Wittenberg. Yet another post was written that told the story of the first burial that took place at that graveyard. It was titled, First Burial. The first person buried in that cemetery was Luella Petzoldt, who was only 8 months old at the time of her death. I will add here that Luella was the granddaughter of another highlighted couple in the Wittenberg books, Joseph and Mathilda (Tillie) Mueller.

Luella Petzoldt gravestone – St. Paul’s, Wittenberg, MO

The second burial in that cemetery was that of Alma Boehme, the daughter of Ludwig (Louis) and Louisa (Lulu) Boehme. Alma died when she was just 3 months old. The story of Alma’s parents was told in two posts, Twin Twins and The Life of Louis and Lulu. What I find interesting about the Boehme story is that about a year before Alma was born in 1904, there was a set of stillborn twins born to the Boehme couple. Ludwig Boehme was a twin himself. He and his twin sister were married at about the same time and had this wedding photo taken. Louis and Lulu are the couple on the left.

Boehme twins wedding photo

I think that the deaths in 1903 at that congregation may have contributed to that church making the decision to have a cemetery of their own in Wittenberg.

Alma Boehme gravestone – St. Paul’s, Wittenberg, MO

That leads us up to the 3rd burial in the St. Paul’s Cemetery, and it, too, was that of a young child. Raymond Lambert Bundenthal was born on September 19, 1903 in Sedalia. Lambert was a twin, and his was another one of those boy/girl sets of twins. His sister was Edna Irene Bundenthal. There were two older siblings, Carl and Miriam Bundenthal, who were around when today’s scenario took place in 1904. Altogether, there were 6 children born into this family, and only Lambert died at an early age.

In an earlier post, I stated that I did not know why Lambert was in Wittenberg when he died in 1904, but now I know. He and his family were no doubt in Wittenberg to attend the wedding of Otto Lueders and Lydia Weinhold on July 10th. Rev. Bundenthal may have gone back to Sedalia after the wedding, but Concordia likely remained in Wittenberg for a while because several of her sisters and their families had traveled from afar for the wedding also.

It must not have been long after that wedding that Landon became sick. He died on July 26th, about two weeks later, and his death record in the St. Paul’s books says the cause of death was cholera infantum…childhood cholera.

St. Paul’s, Wittenberg – death records – 1904

Another part of the setting for this story is the fact that sometime, probably not long before this July 27 funeral, the Frisco Railroad began operating on tracks that ran through Wittenberg. This river town was also blessed to have one of the train depots for this railroad.

Here is the scenario as I envision it. I think as Landon got sicker, Concordia may have gone to the depot to send her husband a telegram urging him to return to Wittenberg. I like to think that he was in Wittenberg for the death and funeral. After a funeral service at the church, there would have been a procession of the mourners to the cemetery which at that time was about a mile north of the church.

The cemetery had only two graves in it at that time. In fact, the first of those graves had been dug just 10 days earlier for the Petzoldt burial. And it was only two days earlier that the Boehme burial had taken place. Those two burials were so recent that it is highly unlikely that they had gravestones to mark them. Now, a third grave was dug and ready for Landon’s burial on the 27th of July. The Bundenthal couple with their other 3 children would have been in the group at the grave site service which was probably conducted by St. Paul’s pastor, Rev. Frank Albrecht. Concordia may have clutched Edna, Landon’s twin, in her arms.

Not only that, but Joseph and Tillie Mueller were almost certainly present as well. I can just picture Tillie going up to Mary Weinhold, clutching her hand as they both stood at the graves of their grandchildren, Luella and Landon. The two Joe’s, Joseph Weinhold and Joseph Mueller, may have had tears in their eyes as mourning grandpa’s. It is indeed a sad picture that I envision in my head. Below is a photo of the St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery as it appears now. I have placed arrows where the first 3 gravestones are located in the “children’s” section of the graveyard. On the left is Luella Petzoldt, then Alma Boehme, and the arrow on the right points to Landon Bundenthal’s gravestone.

The gravestone of Raymond Landon Bundenthal is not pictured on Findagrave. It is one of those gravestones that is unreadable. However, I am close to 100% sure that it is his. Here is a photo of it.

Landon Bundenthal gravestone – St. Paul’s, Wittenberg, MO

You might ask why I am so sure that it is his gravestone. It is because the next gravestone to the right is for a child simply called “Infant Blechle”. The date of death on that stone in November 24, 1904, so Landon’s gravestone is the only one that could have been located where it is.

I took this photo of the Blechle stone yesterday that may be read more easily.

Here is my book-writing dilemma. I have always thought that I would end the Wittenberg ’04 book not long after two wedding that occurred on July 10th and July 12th. I also have worked hard at keeping all the events which are recorded in church books true to the dates on which they really happened back in 1904. That would mean that way toward the end of the book, would I want to include this tragic story?

I am leaning toward including this scenario in the upcoming book. After all, life is full of both joys and sorrows. If I do, I will have to come up with a way to not end up the book on just a sad note.

In closing, let me share this photo of the Bundenthal family which is said to have been taken in 1913. This photo is found in the wonderful book documenting the Weinhold family put together by Heather Euler and Michael Bardon.

3 thoughts on “3 Infants, 3 Graves, 10 Days

  1. My father, Rev. Louis Theiss, said that when he was a boy the tradition was to have the burial first, then to gather at the church to hear the promises of resurrection. Though of that as I read your story of the three burials with the comment about having the service and then going to the cemetery. I don’t know when the tradition of cemetery first started or ended, but I do know that for my grandmother’s (Clara Theiss) funeral the service at the church was first.


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