Acts of God – Part 1

There have been quite a few occasions during my time volunteering at the Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum when events transpire that I cannot explain in any other way than calling them “Acts of God”. The circumstances of my last few days have led me to plan more than one post telling the stories that have come to my attention this weekend.

The stories center around a couple of old friends who visited our house this weekend. Their names are Dave and Diane Guelzow. These two were teachers in Lutheran schools in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida at the same time I was teaching in that city. You are going to discover that both Dave and Diane can connect their families’ histories back to this area. Today, I am going to attempt to track Dave’s family back to this area through his father. Normally, I start from way back in the past and work my way forward in time, but I am going to work in the other direction today. I will start with Dave and work my way back in time.

When I moved to Ft. Lauderdale in 1972 to begin my teaching career, I was assigned to be a member of Grace Lutheran Church. One of the previous pastors of that congregation was Rev. Roy Guelzow, and he had died in 1964 at the age of 47. His widow was Miriam (Mim) Guelzow, and she ended up raising a family of 6 children, five of which were boys. Dave Guelzow was one of them. As time went by, Mim Guelzow and her children became good friends of mine. Little did I know at the time that Dave could trace his family roots back to this place. And in his case, “this place” carries even more meaning.

Roy Guelzow was born on April 1, 1916 in Chicago, Illinois. His parents were Paul and Meta (Sievers) Guelzow. I managed to find the birth certificate for Roy. This document states the Roy’s father was a bridge operator, and his mother had been born in Monitor, Michigan.

Roy Guelzow birth certificate

Let’s track Roy through a few census records. First, we find him in the 1920 census living in Chicago where his father was a foreman in a railroad yard. Roy was 3 years old.

1920 census – Chicago, IL

The 1930 census shows the Guelzow family living in East Peoria, Illinois, and Roy’s father is called a Presbyterian minister. Roy’s mother had died in 1922 at the age of 38. Then his father married Eleonora Andres in 1929. She is the wife we see in this census entry. Roy was 14 years old.

1930 census – East Peoria, IL

Roy’s father died in 1935. We then find Eleonora Guelzow and her household in the 1940 census living in Ironton, Missouri. There is no occupation listed for Roy who was 24 years old, and it says he had lived in St. Louis five years earlier.

1940 census – Ironton, MO

I do know that Roy became a pastor at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Columbus, Indiana in 1940. It makes sense to me that Roy had attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and was about to head to his first call in 1940, but he got recorded as living in Ironton. I do not know why the family moved from Illinois to Ironton. A 1950 city directory for Columbus, Indiana shows him as being an assistant pastor at St. Peter’s. He is also shown as being married to Miriam. I plan to tell Miriam’s story tomorrow.

Roy Guelzow – 1950 city directory – Columbus, IN

I will tell you that the senior pastor at St. Peter’s at that time was Rev. August E. Brauer, Miriam’s father. We see these two pastors in this confirmation photo from that congregation. It was while Rev. Guelzow was in Columbus, Indiana that Roy married Miriam and Dave Guelzow was born.

St. Peter’s, Columbus, IN – confirmation class

I am going to add here that another character from my past history in Ft. Lauderdale can be found serving at St. Peter’s, Columbus as a teacher. His name was Orlyn Schlie. When I started teaching, he was my first principal at Lutheran Central School in Ft. Lauderdale.

Orlyn Schlie – St. Peter’s, Columbus, IN

A 1959 Ft. Lauderdale city directory shows Roy Guelzow as the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church.

Roy Guelzow – 1959 city directory – Ft. Lauderdale, FL

In order to get us back to Perry County, we have to track Roy’s mother, Meta Sievers. Meta was born December 5, 1883, the daughter of Ferdinand and Martha (Buenger) Sievers. She was born in Monitor, Michigan as shown in Roy’s birth certificate. In 1900, Meta was living in Chicago, Illinois where her father was a pastor.

1900 census – Chicago, IL

Meta Sievers married Paul Guelzow in 1909, and that marriage led us to Roy. Next, we must follow Meta’s mother, Martha Buenger, who was born on January 5, 1858 in Chicago. She was the daughter of Theodore Ernst and Martha (Loeber) Buenger. Dave and Diane Guelzow donated a boxful of documents to our museum on his visit this weekend. One of the documents that really excited me was Martha Buenger’s baptism certificate from Immanuel First Lutheran Church in Chicago where her father was a teacher.

Martha Buenger baptism certificate

Here is an enlargement of a portion of that document. Her list of sponsors could be called a Hall of Fame of early American Lutheran names…Fuerbringer, Wunder, Mueller, Lange, and Loeber.

Martha Buenger baptism record enlargement

That list includes four of the five surnames of the graduates of Concordia Seminary when it was still in Altenburg. The only name missing is Biltz. Here is an enlargement of the signature that is on this document. Rev. J.A.F.W. Mueller (a.k.a. Alphabet Mueller) was the first graduate of the Log Cabin College.

I had difficulty finding the Buenger family in census records from Chicago. Martha Buenger married Ferdinand Sievers in 1881. That marriage eventually led to Roy Guelzow.

Finally, Martha Buenger’s parents bring us back to Altenburg. Both Theodore Ernst Buenger and Martha Loeber were part of the Gesellschaft that arrived in Perry County in 1839. Theodore Ernst was the son of Christiane Buenger, the widow who brought 8 children to America, and whose story I have told in the book, Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod“. Martha Loeber was the daughter of Rev. Gotthold Loeber, the first pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. Here are photos of Martha and Theodore Ernst.

Martha and Theodore Buenger

We now come to one of the Acts of God. I have told this story before in a post titled, A Loeber-Buenger Wedding. Theodore Ernst Buenger married Martha Loeber on May 23, 1848, making today their 173rd wedding anniversary. They were married in Trinity’s first church which was dedicated on Pentecost Sunday in 1845. Today is Pentecost Sunday. What are the chances that Dave Guelzow would be visiting Altenburg on this special anniversary of his ancestors? The photo below shows Dave and Diane Guelzow standing in the 1845 church (now part of our museum) at about the spot where Theodore Ernst and Martha were married.

Dave and Diane Guelzow

That’s not all. I own the property that once belonged to Christiane Buenger, so Dave stayed on the property that once belonged to his ancestors. The Log Cabin College, at which Martha Loeber was one of the first students, was built on this land also. Although that cabin in no longer located on this land, Dave and Diane are pictured in front of the Log Cabin College in the photo below.

Mim and Roy Guelzow’s 6 children are all interesting. Dave and one of his brothers, Jim, became Lutheran pastors. Two other sons, Jonathan and Tim, became Lutheran educators. The only girl, Susan, married a Lutheran minister. This family reminds me of the Mama Buenger story, in which so many children of a widow went on to be full-time church workers or to marry them.

As if that is not enough, tracking Dave’s mother, Miriam Brauer, will also lead us back to the German Lutheran immigration that took place in 1839. However, you’re going to have to wait till tomorrow to read that story.

4 thoughts on “Acts of God – Part 1

  1. David Guelzow is my first cousin. His father, Uncle Roy, was my mother’s brother. My mother was Elva Martha Meta Guelzow Klaus. She met my father, Harold Klaus, in Ironton when he was teaching high school. My dad is from Farrar. Our Grandfather, Paul Hans Guelzow, graduated from Concordia Seminary. He worked for the RR as a chaplain for a time. Mother said they always had money when he worked for the RR, but not so when he pastored a church! When he died, he was pastor at a Luth Church in East Peoria IL. His first wife, Meta Sievers, was the daughter of Martha Buenger and Ferdinand Sievers, she died when my mother was 7 months old in 1922. Meta’s mother, Martha Buenger Sievers, was the daughter of Martha Loeber and Theodore Ernst Buenger.

  2. Just an amazing and extremely interesting story. Warren, you are certainly leaving so much detailed information for those to come later. Dave and Diane great to meet you virtually. I am looking forward to the day that wing my way to MO and visit the Center.

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