In Search of the Lost Gruber

Today’s post was written by our great friend, Fred Eggers. I know he has been working on this research for a long time, and I’m excited to see his results.

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Joseph Immanuel Gruber, the youngest of Pastor Carl Friedrich Theodore Gruber’s eight children, was born on November 19, 1838, but until I started searching the records we knew little about him.  This is all that we have in our German Family Tree compiled by Lynn Degenhardt from the area church records, United States census results, and other documents:

8.GRUBER, “Joseph” (Born ca 1838)

{GG} [ZM]: from Reust, Saxon Duchies, Germany;

[PerryCoMO-1850Census]: Joseph Gruber age 12 born in Germany

I was able to find a record of his birth and baptism on Ancestry.com from the church records of the parish in Reust where his father was the Pastor. 

Birth and Baptism Record

It is interesting to note that his birth date was just one day after the final ships of the Stephan Immigration, the Olbers and the ill-fated Amalia, departed Bremerhaven.  There have been various reasons given for the so-called Gruber Group waiting nearly one year after the departure of the other parties of the Stephan Immigration before leaving Germany.  Perhaps the impending birth of Joseph Immanuel was one of the reasons.

We also have a copy of the passenger list for his immigration along with the rest of the Gruber family on the sailing ship Johann Georg, departing from Bremerhaven Germany on September 14, 1839 and arriving in New Orleans, Louisiana on November 27, 1839. They then traveled by steamboat to Wittenberg, Perry County, Missouri, arriving on December 12, 1839.

Passenger List

The 1850 United States Census includes Joseph, age 12, in the Gruber household along with his parents; his sister Caroline Theresie, listed as Teresa; and a 25 year-old school teacher recorded as Adolph Fritcher.  That teacher name was actually Adolf Gustav Fritzsche, who would later marry Joseph’s sister Anna Mathilde.

1850 Census

While working on my presentation on Der Lutheraner for the Immigration Conference at the Museum in 2018, I was able to locate three records in 1861 for funds contributed for Joseph Gruber, who was likely on his own after his father’s death in September of 1858.

Funds Contributed

Recently, while searching for information on a teacher that served at Salem Lutheran School in Farrar from 1872 to 1888, I came across a document written by August C. Stellhorn who was the Secretary of Schools for the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod for forty years from 1921 to 1960.  (On a personal note, this position evolved into the Director of School Ministry and this position was held for many years by my friend from St. John’s College – William Cochran.)  This document is a list of the early teacher graduates of the various schools of synod prior to the establishment of the Teachers Seminary in Addison, Illinois in 1864.  Joseph Gruber is listed as an 1862 graduate of the Fort Wayne Teachers Seminary.

Early Teachers 1
Early Teachers 2

Following his graduation, Joseph Gruber became at teacher at St. Paul’s Lutheran School in what is now Concordia, Missouri.  The Pastor there was Rev. Julius Biltz who was one of the first graduates of Concordia Seminary in Altenburg in 1848 and had served the congregation in Dissen (now Trinity, Friedheim) from 1848 to 1853.  Biltz would have been very familiar with the Gruber family since Joseph’s father had served the people that formed this congregation from 1840 to 1848.  Pastor Biltz’s diaries of his experiences during the civil war have been written about extensively, but they also include ten notations of correspondence with the Grubers and events that involve Joseph.  The first of these was on August 24, 1862. There is a notation of Joseph Gruber on August 26 about Gruber “aus” (from) Perry County.

Diary August 1862

In October 1862 Biltz wrote to Th. Gruber in Perryville and also commented regarding Joseph Gr., possibly Joseph’s installation at St. Paul’s.  Pastor Theodor Karl Gruber was serving at the Peace, Frankenberg (later Peace, Friedenberg) a couple miles south of Perryville and its new daughter congregation at Salem (now Salem, Farrar).

Diary October 1862

The 125th Anniversary Booklet from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church contains this documentation for the Joseph’s service at their school.

St. Paul’s School History

In November, 1863 Joseph registered for the draft.  In spite of all of the skirmishes in that area during the Civil War, there is no record of him serving in the military.

Draft Registration

On November 20, 1863 Joseph married Rosine Frerking.  There are both a civil record for this marriage from Ancestry.com, with no actual image of the document, and a transcribed record from the St. Paul’s church records found on the “Concordia Memories” website.  Pastor Biltz also recorded the marriage in his diary and noted that Th. Gr. “predigt” (preached or gave the sermon).  Pastor Theodor Karl Gruber was Pastor at California, Missouri, about 75 miles from Concordia, at that time.

Missouri Marriage Record
St. Paul’s Marriage Record
Diary November 1863

Joseph’s wife was born on the Mississippi River in Cape Girardeau as her parents traveled from New Orleans to join other members of the Frerking family in Freedom Township, Lafayette County, Missouri.  George and Louise Frerking had arrived in New Orleans on the Ship General Washington on November 24, 1845. Warren Schmidt was able to provide a transcription of her baptism record from Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis. Obviously, the birth date in the baptism record is in error because it occurs before her parents arrived in New Orleans.  On most other records her birth date is December 21, 1845.  According to one family history on the “Concordia Memories” website, her complete name was likely Georgine Christine Sophie Rosina Frerking. 

Frerking Immigration
Trinity Baptism

Joseph and Rosine were blessed with the birth of a daughter Dorothea Magdalene on November 13, 1864.  She was confirmed on April 14, 1878 and died on October 14, 1881 before she reached the seventeenth birthday. 

Unfortunately, the last diary entries of Pastor Biltz that are available online end in May of 1865.  An entry of May 27 is from the Postmaster General in Washington confirming Biltz as the Postmaster of the Post Office that he named Concordia.

Biltz Postmaster Appointment

The final few records that we have for Joseph Gruber come from Der Lutheraner.  The first is an address change to the new Concordia Post Office in the August 15, 1865 edition. 

August 1865 Address Change

Joseph Gruber, who had received financial support from others while he attended the Teachers Seminary in Fort Wayne, supported that same school with contributions that he made in September 1865 and January 1866.

Gift September 15, 1865
Gift January 1, 1866

There is no record of Joseph Gruber’s death in any records that I could find, but it was very likely in 1866. He was likely only 27 years old when he died.  We do know that a new teacher was at the St. Paul’s school at some time in 1866 and we know that his widow married Dietrich Roepe on October 28, 1866 at St. Paul’s.  There were eleven children born to that marriage and Rosine died on July 6, 1895 and is buried at St. Paul’s in Concordia. We do have a photo that is identified as her from an Ancestry.com Family Tree.

Rosine Frerking Gruber Roepe Photo

After completing my search I am fairly certain that Joseph Immanuel Gruber, the son of Pastor Carl Friedrich Theodore Gruber and Teacher Joseph Gruber who taught at St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Concordia are one and the same.  I enjoy doing the research into these old records and finding additional documentation for the Pastors and Teachers that served the congregations in our area.  My plan is to compile all of the information available on these servants of the church and place them in a binder in the Research Library at the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum in Altenburg.


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