Born May 27th…Or Was It March 27th?

I began to look into a girl who was reported to be born on May 27th. I was excited to do her story for a variety of reasons. However, after gathering all sorts of information for this post, I discovered the day of birth was incorrect. I decided to write the story anyway, mainly because today is a travel day for me, and I did not have the time to find another character about which to write. Not only that, today’s character is also one that was included in the post written just a few days ago…Acts of God – Part 1.

The birthday of Martha Maria Loeber is simply recorded in our German Family Tree as “c. 1830”, meaning “about 1830. No church or civil record from this area includes Martha’s birthday. Several family histories on claim that Martha was born on May 27, 1830. In addition, the record found on the Saxon Lutherans Genealogy site (found at operated by Kathy Berkbigler states that Martha was born on May 27, 1830. With the evidence displayed in this post, perhaps Kathy will correct the record on her site. I think you will agree after just looking at the following record from a Lutheran parish in Eichenberg, Germany that Martha Maria Loeber was born on March 27, not May 27, 1830.

Martha Loeber baptism record – Eichenberg, Germany

Another reason I wanted to go ahead with this story is the fact that our museum received a boxful of documents and photographs from Dave and Diane Guelzow during their visit to Altenburg this past weekend. One small document is rather amazing. When I first looked at it, since I am not a talented reader of German script, I did not know what it was. Gerard Fiehler studied it for some time and between the two of us, we think it is a message written and signed in Germany by Martha Maria Loeber at the time that they left for America in 1838. That document is displayed below.

Maybe someone with more expertise in German script can confirm what we now think this document is. Perhaps someone in Germany. (Hint. Hint. Lutz Backmann.) If this indeed was written by Martha, she had amazing penmanship skills at the age of 8. The note is dated October 8, 1838. That would likely have been when Martha’s family departed their home in Eichenberg. They would later depart Germany from the port city of Bremerhaven in November.

The above note was enclosed in an envelope that also tells a story. We could use some help making sure what these words say. I do know that “achtjaehrigen Kind” means 8 year-old child. It is signed by Martha Sievers, one of the Buenger children.

The Loeber family is found in the 1840 census for Perry County. Individual members of a household are not named in that census. I have placed a box around the tally mark that would represent Martha. She was listed in the column for 10-15 year old females.

1840 census – Perry County, MO

Martha Loeber was one of the students in the first class when the Log Cabin College opened in December of 1839. She was one of four female students. An article in a past Der Lutheraner highlighted these four women and included photos of all four of them…Lydia Buenger, Martha Loeber, Maria Wurmb, and Sarah Wurmb.

A few other previous posts mentioned Martha Buenger’s marriage to Theodore Ernst Buenger. First, there was the story titled, A Loeber-Buenger Wedding. Another post pointed out that Martha and Theodore shared the same May 23rd wedding anniversary with my great grandparents, Gottwerth Schmidt and Wilhelmine Seibel. That post was titled, Two Special Anniversaries. Martha was just 18 years old when she got married.

When these two were married, Theodore Ernst (also called Cantor Buenger) was a Lutheran teacher in St. Louis. When the 1850 census was taken, this couple was living in the household of Theodore Ernst’s brother, Rev. J.F. Buenger. Theodore Ernst and Martha had their first child, a girl by the name of Emma, by the time of this census.

1850 census – St. Louis, MO

I’m going to take just a quick side trip to discuss the Henrietta Wunderlich who is listed in the household above. We see on the passenger list for the Republik below that the Wunderlich family was from Eichenberg, the same town where Martha Loeber was born.

Wunderlich family – Republik passenger list 1930

Henrietta’s mother died right away after arriving in St. Louis. She died in April of 1839. Her father had gone to Altenburg where he married again, but he died not long after in 1849, leaving Henrietta as an orphan. Somehow she ended up living with the Buenger’s when she was 14 years old.

Theodore Ernst Buenger spent a very short time teaching in New Orleans, Louisiana in the early 1850’s, but by 1855, he and his family were living in Chicago. We find them in an 1855 Illinois state census living in that city. This entry indicates this family had 3 children, all girls. Eventually, they would have 6 children.

1855 Illinois state census – Chicago, IL

I was unable to find the Buenger’s in Federal census records from 1860 and beyond, but I did find another Illinois state census from 1865. This census was arranged differently than the previous one. The pair of 2’s on the left show a total of 4 daughters at different ages. The 2 on the right shows a pair of younger sons, and the single tallies are for Theodore Ernst and Martha.

1865 Illinois state census – Chicago, IL

Theodore Ernst Buenger was a teacher and principal at Immanuel First Lutheran Church in Chicago. For a while, that is also where Rev. J.A.F.W. (Alphabet) Mueller was a pastor. Another former pastor from Altenburg, Rev. J.P. Beyer, also served at that congregation for a while. Theodore Ernst died in June of 1876 at the age of 54. America must have been preparing to celebrate its centennial when he died. Martha died in 1895 at the age of 64. They are buried together in the Wunder’s Lutheran Cemetery in Chicago. That cemetery is named after Heinrich Wunder, one of the early graduates of Concordia Seminary when it was still located in Altenburg. The gravestone shows Theodore Ernst’s information at the top and Martha’s information on the bottom. The top is definitely harder to read. This gravestone is further proof that Martha was born on March 27, 1830.

Theodore Ernst and Martha Buenger gravestone – Wunder’s, Chicago, IL

We want to thank Dave and Diane Guelzow for their important contribution of documents and photos to our museum collection.


It did not take long before our friend in Germany, Lutz Backmann, to let us know what the note and envelope say. First of all, the note signed by Martha Loeber includes the words of Psalm 34:7 in the Martin Luther translation. Also, the envelope says,  “An ‘album sheet’, written by our mama as an 8 year old child before she immigrated to America with her parents. Brother Theodor received it in 1931 and gave it to me. M. Sievers”

Leave a Reply