Rev. Professor Schmidt

Today’s tale does not spend much time in Perry County, Missouri, but it has its beginning here. You will be viewing only one church record and two census records for the main character in today’s story that come from Missouri. This tale gives me the opportunity to discuss two themes that come out of the stories that I tell on this blog.

First, the German Lutheran community that had settled in East Perry County, could easily be stereotyped as a bunch of “hick” farmers living in the backwoods of Missouri. That is not the case. We find that from the very beginning, this has been a very literate community. Top-notch schools have been a part of this culture throughout its history, and continues to this day. These schools have not only produced well-educated people who served this area throughout their lives, but has also produced folks who left this area and became very successful elsewhere.

Secondly, this community has sent many of its products to become full-time church workers that have served a large number of churches and schools throughout this country and even around the world. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that many men and women who were born and raised here in Perry County have become pastors and teachers in Missouri Synod churches and schools over the years.

We are also celebrating one of those special birthdays today. Joseph Martin Schmidt was born 175 years ago on March 25, 1846. His parents were Gottfried and Christiane (Poppitz) Schmidt. Both of Joseph’s parents were original immigrants. Gottfried is listed in his Schmidt family with his mother and several siblings in the list of members of the Gesellschaft in Zion on the Mississippi. Gottfried was a blacksmith.

Maria Schmidt family – Zion on the Mississippi passenger list

When Christiane came to America, she was married to Christian Gottfried Schlimpert. We see that family on this image from Zion on the Mississippi.

Christian Gottfried Schlimpert family – Zion on the Mississippi passenger list

Christiane’s husband died in 1840, and she then married Gottfried Schmidt. Joseph Martin was the last child born to this couple. He was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. That baptism would have taken place in Trinity’s 1845 church which is now part of our museum. Below is an image of his baptism record.

Joseph M. Schmidt baptism record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

Joseph is found in the 1850 census when he was listed as 5 years old. His father was a blacksmith.

1850 census – Brazeau Township, MO

The last document showing Joseph in Perry County was the 1860 census. Joseph was 14 years old.

1860 census – Brazeau Township, MO

There is a bit of a puzzle here. Joseph should have been confirmed in either 1859 or 1860, but he is not included in either of those confirmation classes in the Trinity records. We do not find a confirmation record for him at all. There is a story floating around that says Joseph was identified early on as being a very bright child. His teacher at Trinity Lutheran School, Teacher J.F.F. Winter, may have recognized his abilities and suggested to the family that they send Joseph to St. Louis to be trained to be a Lutheran minister. There were classes available for younger students to begin their pastoral training as part of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. In the above census entry, we see Joseph’s older brother, Jacob, described as a farm laborer, but Joseph is not.

I decided to take a look for Joseph in the St. Louis census for 1860, and I think I found an answer to this puzzle. In a list of students at Concordia Seminary, we find a 14 year-old, J. Schmidt, who is called a student. Just below his name, you see two Walther’s. Those were probably Rev. C.F.W. Walther’s twins sons.

1860 census – St. Louis, MO

I now think that Joseph Schmidt was listed twice in the 1860 census, once in Perry County and once in St. Louis. A later record seems to indicate that Joseph may have attended Concordia College in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. During the Civil War, many students were moved to Ft. Wayne for their schooling because there was fear of the war impacting St. Louis. After the war, they moved back to St. Louis. It is pretty clear that Joseph graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in 1868 and became an ordained Lutheran minister. Rev. Schmidt served a church in Weston, Missouri for one year. After that, he served in Dallas Township, Michigan. He served St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in St. John’s, Michigan. Below is a portion of the history of that congregation that mentions Rev. Schmidt.

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, St. John’s, MI history

I attempted to find him in the 1870 census for that area, but I was unsuccessful. Joseph got married in 1871. Let’s take a look at his bride, Sarah Theisen, who was born on July 14, 1852. Sources on Ancestry.com say she was born in Elyria, Ohio. According to those Ancestry sources, her parents were Peter and Elizabeth (Theiss) Theisen. Peter must have moved his family to Sheboygan, Wisconsin before the 1860 census was taken. Sarah was 8 years old, and her father was a master miller. The surname is spelled as Tyson, and there is some evidence that this family may have changed the Theisen name to Tyson. Phillip Tyson was probably Peter’s brother, and he was a teacher.

1860 census – Sheboygan, WI

Next, we find the Tyson family living in Milwaukee in 1870. Sarah was 18 years old and described as a dress maker. I find it interesting that her older brother was a teacher and another was a cigar maker. They are each said to have been born in Ohio.

1870 census – Milwaukee, WI

On February 19, 1871, Joseph Schmidt married Sarah Theissen. Although I do not know where the marriage took place, I suspect it took place in Milwaukee. I will leave it up to you to speculate how these two met. Then in 1872, Joseph took a call to Saginaw, Michigan. He served Holy Cross Lutheran Church from 1872-1894.

While at Holy Cross, Rev. Schmidt also served as President of the Michigan District. We find the Schmidt family in the 1880 census for Saginaw. There were 5 children in their household, as well as Sarah’s parents, who were back to being called Theisen’s. Most people on Ancestry list 10 children born to Joseph and Sarah.

1880 census – Saginaw, MI

In 1894, Rev. Joseph Schmidt became a professor of Hebrew and History at Concordia College in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. From 1894-1903, he was also director of that college. We find the Schmidt household in the 1900 census for Ft. Wayne. Their last child had been born in Indiana.

1900 census – Ft. Wayne, IN

Next, we find the Schmidt’s in the 1910 census. One more child was on the next page of the census that I did not display. Joseph is called Rev. Prof. at Concordia College in this entry.

1910 census – Ft. Wayne, IN

In 1920, we find this entry for the Schmidt’s. Joseph is said to be retired.

1920 census – Ft. Wayne, IN

The last census in which we find Joseph and Sarah Schmidt was the one taken in 1930.

1930 census – Ft. Wayne, IN

An entry in the Who’s Who gives a summary of the life of Rev. Prof. Joseph M. Schmidt.

Joseph Schmidt died in 1931 at the age of 85. We can view his Indiana death certificate. This document says his birthday was March 24th.

Joseph M. Schmidt Indiana death certificate

Sarah Schmidt died in 1934 at the age of 81. Her death certificate says she died at the Lutheran Hospital.

Sarah Schmidt Indiana death certificate

Joseph and Sarah Schmidt are buried together in the Lindenwood Cemetery in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

Joseph and Sarah Schmidt gravestone – Lindenwood, Ft. Wayne, IN

I know that at least two of the Schmidt sons also became Lutheran pastors, and a few of the daughters became teachers. The life of Joseph M. Schmidt may have begun in Perry County, but his influence as a pastor, professor, and author influenced many people all over the country.


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