C.F.W. Walther’s Sweetheart

Posts on this blog are not often initiated by a date of death, but that is the case today. Rev. C.F.W. Walther’s beloved wife, Emilie, died on August 23, 1885. Emilie has been mentioned in several previous posts on this blog, but in this article, I will highlight some of the evidence we have of Rev. Walther’s deep love for his wife.

Christiane Emilie Buenger was born on July 21, 1812 in Etzdorf, Germany. She was the daughter of Jacob Friedrich and Christiane (Reiz) Buenger. Emilie shared her birthday with her younger brother, Theodore Ernst Buenger, who was born on July 21, 1821. A previous post highlighted this fact titled, Buenger Siblings Birthday Shared. Emilie’s father, a Lutheran pastor, died in 1836, not long before the Gesellschaft left Germany in 1838. So, when the Buenger family left Germany, Emilie’s mother, Christiane, was a widow. Christiane is the “Mama Buenger” named in the title of my book, Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod. Emilie was one of 8 Buenger children who made the trip to America, but this family did not make that trip aboard the same ship. In fact, they ended up on 3 different ships. Emilie was the only Buenger child who came on the ship, Copernicus. Emilie is found on the passenger list shown below. I have also highlighted two other names on this list, George Schieferdecker and Rosina Mueller. George Schieferdecker was a candidate that later became a Lutheran pastor in America. I cannot help but think that somebody may have been attempting to put Emilie and George on this ship together as part of a matchmaking plan. Rosina would later become Emilie’s sister-in-law as a result of her marriage to Rev. Johann Friedrich Buenger.

Emilie Buenger – Copernicus passenger list 1838

Christiane Buenger is found in the 1840 census living in Perry County, and Emilie would have been part of her household. Rev. C.F.W. Walther would have been living in Perry County in 1840 also, but he lived in someone else’s household, so his name does not appear in this census.

1840 census – Perry County, MO

Several events took place in the early 1840’s involving C.F.W. and Emilie. First of all, after the Altenburg Debates in April of 1841, Rev. Walther accepted a call to Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis. The rest of his life would be spent living in that city. However, that meant that he and Emilie were quite a distance apart from one another. As it turns out, C.F.W. did propose marriage to Emilie Buenger, but he did that by proposing marriage in a letter he wrote to her on August 10, 1841. The entire English translation of that letter can be found in Chapter 48 in my Mama Buenger book. I will display just a portion of that letter here, which came after he addresses her as “My heartily beloved Emilie”.

     Therefore I cannot wait any longer to express this my wish frankly, also to you.  It is this:  Will you, dearest Emilie, become my life’s companion?  Can you return at least in some degree the love which, as I now confidently hope, God has enkindled in my heart for you?  Do you believe that you can live with me happily, contentedly, and God-pleasingly in a union as intimate and inseparable until death as the holy estate of matrimony is?

I especially like the part where C.F.W. gives credit to God for enkindling his heart for Emilie. Not long after Emilie received this epistle of proposal, Emilie wrote back to him on August 15, 1841. The entire English translation of that letter is also in my book in Chapter 50. It begins with the greeting, “My most precious, most dearly beloved, God-given betrothed”.

The heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is my Brautwerber [intercessor], have convinced me that it is the will of the Lord.  Therefore I give you my yes and say that I want to be your wife.

On September 21, 1841, C.F.W. Walther married Emilie Buenger in Perry County. Some difficulties identifying the date and place of this wedding were discussed in the post, When Was C.F.W.’s Anniversary? The marriage record found in the books of Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna is displayed here.

Walther/Buenger marriage record – Concordia, Frohna, MO

So, it was off to St. Louis for Mrs. C.F.W. Walther where she lived till she died. This couple would have 6 children, two of which died at quite young ages. One died of a tragic fall down their cellar stairs at the age of 4 in 1848. Two of their children were a set of twin boys, Ferdinand and Constantine. We find this Walther family in the 1850 census. I did not display it, but this census entry continues on the next page showing the young men who were attending the brand new Concordia Seminary building that opened in 1850.

1850 census – St. Louis, MO

Before I move on, let me point out that Rev. C.F.W. Walther wrote a birthday poem to Emilie on September 21, 1846. I consider it another piece of evidence that C.F.W. Walther had a deep love for his wife and family. Rev. Walther was not with his wife when he wrote this poem. He was aboard a steamboat on his way back to St. Louis after attending a meeting in Ft. Wayne, Indiana to discuss the formation of a new synod. I am not going to display that poem, but I will give you a link where you can find it. It was put online by the Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis with an English translation.

Link to CHI story: https://concordiahistoricalinstitute.org/pieces/pieces-of-our-past-no-47/

At some time along the way, Emilie Walther had this photo taken of her and her four children. For some reason, her husband was not included in this photograph.

Emilie Walther with 4 children

I suppose I ought to show you photos of both C.F.W. and Emilie. (I know of no photo that includes both of them.)

Another photo of Emilie Walther can be seen here.

Emilie Walther

Emilie and her family are also found in the 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses, but I choose not to show them. I am going to skip to her death. As said before, she died on this day in 1885. We can view her death record from the state of Missouri in two images. Her cause of death is given as Bright’s Disease, which is a kidney ailment.

Emilie Walther death record – St. Louis, MO

The above document states that Emilie was to be buried in the Concordia Cemetery in St. Louis. I’m not sure what was first done with her body and that of her husband who died in 1887, but in 1892, a mausoleum was built to house their two graves. A short video describing the construction of this mausoleum can be viewed below.

Just a quick side note. David Fiedler, the speaker in this video, is on our program for the upcoming immigration conference. He will be talking about his book on prisoners of war in Missouri titled The Enemy Among Us.

The Walther Mausoleum is shown in the photo below.

Walther Mausoleum

The markers for Emilie and C.F.W. found inside that mausoleum are pictured here.

Emilie and C.F.W. Walther grave markers – Concordia, St. Louis, MO

Concordia Historical Institute is said to have an excerpt from a letter C.F.W. wrote after his wife’s death. CHI describes C.F.W. as a grieving husband. I do not have quick access to their documents, so I cannot show it. I strongly suspect that letter states his great love for his wife because there is plenty of evidence that love was genuine.


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