I really do not think this post will be very long. After all, the main character died at the age of 27. Still, I feel obligated to write the short story of Justina Hopfer because today would have been her bicentennial birthday. Justine was born on December 6, 1820, the 14th child in the family of George Michael and Maria Rosina (Brauer) Hopfer. There is evidence that the Hopfer family lived in Heukewald, Germany. Her baptism record is found in the church records for a parish in Nischwitz, Germany.
The map below displays how close the villages of Heukewald and Nischwitz are to each other. You can also see how those towns are not far from Paitzdorf. Quite a few people from this general area would settle in the village in Perry County that was first named Paitzdorf and had Rev. C.F. Gruber as their pastor. That town is now called Uniontown, and the church located there is Grace Lutheran Church.
Fred Eggers was sent a list of Hopfer siblings by a gentleman named Reinhold Hopfer who lives in Germany that includes Justina. I have indicated her by a blue box and placed a green arrow pointing to her December 6, 1820 birth date. You can see that Justina is noted as being child #14 out of 16 children.
One of the first persons with the name of Eggers to settle in Perry County married Johanna Hopfer, child #16. The other notable Hopfer on this list is Michael Hopfer, who arrived as part of the Gesellschaft in November of 1839 as part of the Gruber Group. A note that we have from Reinhold Hopfer that is included in a Hopfer family binder in our library says that Justina Hopfer came as part of the Gruber Group, but her name is not included on the passenger list of the Johann Georg.
Justina’s first husband was going to be George Hesse. From a church record, we know his father’s name was Gottlieb. He was born on January 7, 1807. George came to America aboard the Johann Georg as part of the Gruber Group. Here we see him as a passenger on that ship.
On January 8, 1843, George Hesse married Justina Hopfer. Their marriage record is found in the books of Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown. This record stretches out over two pages.
A transcription of this record can be seen below. It contains some handwritten notes that I know were written by Ken Craft. The date of the wedding is incorrect. You can read about this translation mistake in a post I wrote a while back called Translator’s Blunder.
We can also view a civil marriage record for this wedding.
On September 27, 1843, a child was born to this couple. That child was named Immanuel Hesse. His baptism record from Grace, Uniontown’s books is shown below in two images.
That child did not live long. Immanuel died on October 21, 1843. Then, in 1846, another child was born. Johann Immanuel Hesse was baptized at Grace Lutheran Church. That baptism record is displayed here.
Before that child was even one year old, his father died. George Hesse died on January 28, 1847. Below is his death record in two images from the books of Grace Lutheran Church.
Justine would marry again. Her second husband would be Heinrich Hellwege. Heinrich was born in Lamstedt, Germany on February 2, 1812. He arrived in America in 1842 with his first wife, but not long after they came, she died. On August 1, 1847, the widow, Justina, would marry the widower, Heinrich. That marriage also took place at Grace, Uniontown. Below is that couple’s church marriage record.
One child was born to this couple in 1848. That child was named after her mother. Justine Hellwege’s baptism record from Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg is shown below.
Sadly, on the same day that the baby was born, her mother died as a result of childbirth. Here is the death record for Justina Hellwege, who died at the age of 27.
The transcription helps us understand this record. Her age is wrong here. She did not quite make it to her 28th birthday.
The daughter, Justine Hellwege, died before she was 2 years old in 1850. Heinrich Hellwege can be found in the 1850 census. Two children from his first marriage are in his household along with Immanuel Hesse, Justina’s son from her first marriage.
Heinrich Hellwege would go on to marry two more times. I think he holds the record for men in East Perry County with 4 wives. A story was written about him in the post, The Fourth Marriage.
Heinrich Hellwege is the only person in this story whose gravestone is listed on Findagrave. The Hesse’s are said to be buried in Grace Lutheran Cemetery in Uniontown, and the Hellwege’s are said to be buried in the Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg.
As it turns out, this story ended up not being so short. I found more documents than I thought I would find. However, it still told the tale of several people that lived rather short lives.