Lehr on the Move, pt. 2

Today’s post is a continuation of yesterday’s story, Lehr on the Move. The post today will probably not be as long, but it will tell the story of J.W. Lehr’s later ministry in Missouri and his marriage to his second wife.

Going off of yesterday’s post, J.W. Lehr was installed at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Honey Creek, MO, just outside of Jefferson City, MO, in 1899. Following the death of his wife, Louise, in 1908, the 1910 Census shows J.W. at 48 years old with only three of his daughters – Olga, Paula, and Emma – still living with him.

1910 Census – Cole County, MO

J.W. would remain the pastor at Honey Creek until he accepted a call to Zion Lutheran Church in Macon, MO, in 1913. He was installed as pastor there on October 5, 1913, according to The Macon Times-Democrat from October 2 of that year.

The Macon Times-Democrat – Oct. 2, 1913
Zion Lutheran Church, Macon, MO – Present Day

According to the 1910 History of Macon County, the German Lutheran Church of Macon was formed in 1865, and Zion Lutheran Church split off in 1882. What is really interesting about this congregation is the fact that J.W. was preceded by his son, Ernest Lehr. What makes it even more interesting is the reason why Ernest left the congregation at Zion. A February 13, 1913, edition of The Macon Times-Democrat announced that the Rev. Ernest Lehr, along with Col. W. Marburger, became the owners of the Blees Military Academy on the south side of Macon. They reportedly bought the academy for $300,000. Ernest Lehr was to become an instructor in History and German. The same newspaper article states that Ernst had graduated from St. Paul’s College in Concordia, MO, and Concordia Seminary in Springfield, IL, where his father also graduated.

The Macon Times-Democrat – February 13, 1913

That endeavor by Ernest Lehr would be short-lived as by 1915, the academy was bought by Dr. Arthur G. Hildreth and Charles E. and Harry M. Still. They turned the building into the Still-Hildreth Osteopathic Sanitarium.

Blees Military Academy – Present Day

It was while serving at Zion Lutheran Church that J.W. Lehr married his second wife, Lena W. Albers. Let’s take a look at her early life.

Lena Albers was born on September 6, 1876, in St. Louis, MO, the daughter of Henry Albers and Wilhelmina Schmidt. (There is no direct connection between Wilhelmine Schmidt and any of the Schmidt families in Perry County.) Lena’s parents immigrated from Germany and lived in St. Louis. I was unable to find the family in the 1880 Census, so the first census in which we can see them is the 1900 Census. At this point, Lena is 23 years old, and she is the oldest of four children. No occupation is listed for her, but her father and brothers have a variety of occupations. Her father was working as a bricklayer, Adolph was a woodworker, and Otto was a “shoe factory helper.” The youngest son, Edwin, was still going to school.

1900 Census – St. Louis City, Missouri

By the 1910 Census, Lena, then 33 years old, and the youngest son Edwin were still living in St. Louis with their parents. At 65 years old, Henry was still working as a bricklayer, and Edwin had begun working in the shoe factory by this time.

1910 Census – St. Louis City, Missouri

J.W. Lehr and Lena Albers were married on February 3, 1914, in St. Louis at Holy Cross Lutheran Church by Rev. C.C. Schmidt. That marriage was announced in both The Macon Times-Democrat and The Macon Daily Herald.

The Macon Times-Democrat – February 5, 1914

The article from The Macon Daily Herald is displayed in two images.

The Macon Daily Herald – February 2, 1914

J.W. Lehr also served as the pastor at Mt. Hope Lutheran Church in Shelbyville, MO, while also serving at Zion in Macon. According to a history of the region, Mt. Hope Lutheran Church was established in 1868, and their first building was constructed in 1882. While searching through newspaper articles from the Shelby County Herald, I could only find brief mentions of J.W. Lehr and his son Ernest. Zion Lutheran in Macon and Mt. Hope in Shelbyville had been sharing a pastor since at least 1909. In newspaper articles from the early 1900’s, the Shelby County Herald usually does not mention Mt. Hope by their name; rather they are described as “the German church west of town.” That congregation disbanded in recent years. Below is a picture of their most recent building.

Mt. Hope Lutheran Church, Shelbyville, MO

The beginning of World War I saw a frenzy of anti-German sentiment and misconceptions of the German Empire spread throughout the United States, especially in the Midwest. Many native Germans still held some allegiance to the German Kaiser. J.W. Lehr shared an article with the local paper in Macon after the outbreak of the war. The purpose of this article was to explain and disprove certain ideas Americans had of the German Kaiser due to misunderstandings of the German language. Lehr did not necessarily demonstrate any specific allegiance in the following article.

The Macon Daily Herald – August 18, 1914

In 1916, J.W. Lehr became the pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Stover, MO. The 1920 Census shows him living in Haw Creek Township of Morgan County, where Stover is, with Lena and their two children. Their daughter, Irma, is five years old, and their son, Walter, is one year old.

1920 Census – Morgan County, MO
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Stover, MO – Google Maps

I was also able to find a photo of J.W. Lehr from the time he was serving at St. Paul, Stover.

Rev. J.W. Lehr

J.W. Lehr would remain the pastor at St. Paul until his retirement in 1927 due to the loss of his voice. There is a good chance this is connected to the throat ailment he had while serving at Honey Creek. After retiring, J.W. and Lena moved to Altenburg, MO, for two years until they moved to St. Louis. While living in St. Louis, they lived at 3708 Texas Ave., which is where Lena lived before they got married. That building is still standing and is shown below.

3708 Texas Ave., St. Louis, MO – Google Maps

The 1930 Census shows J.W. Lehr at 68 years old with both children from his second marriage still living in the household with Irma at 15 and Walter at 11 years old. However, by the 1940 Census, J.W. and Lena are living by themselves – J.W. at 78 years of age and Lena at 63.

1930 Census – St. Louis County, MO
1940 Census – St. Louis County, MO

A photo was taken of the J.W. Lehr later in life while visiting his daughter, Wanda Lehr Sommerer, grandchild, Clara Sommerer Engelbreht, and great-grandchildren at Honey Creek. J.W. Lehr is seated in front.

Lehr, Sommerer, and Engelbrecht Families

J.W. Lehr died on September 5, 1941. His death certificate provides his birthplace as Steden, Germany, but this is actually where he first received theological education. J.W. Lehr must have also made great impressions on the congregations he served. The newspaper articles from Macon at the time he married Lena provided evidence of that, but what is very impressive is the article written on him in the Lockwood Luminary at the time of his death. At this point, it had been nearly 50 years since he had served at the congregation, but a very detailed biography of his life was written. It is displayed in two images.

The Lockwood Luminary – September 19, 1941
J.W. Lehr Death Certificate – Missouri

Lena would live for another 22 years. We cannot view any more census records at the time. The 1950 census is scheduled to be released in April 2022. Lena more than likely continued to live at her home on Texas Ave., as can be seen from a photo in her later years.

Lena Albers Lehr – Findagrave.com

Lena died on December 6, 1963, at the age of 87. By the time of her death, she had moved to 8721 Halls Ferry Road in St. Louis. This is the site of Halls Ferry Manor, which has its own place in Lutheran history. The facility is owned by Lutheran Senior Services, but it had previously been associated with the Lutheran Altenheim Society. Altenheim in German is translated as “old home.” The Lutheran Altenheim Society was an organization dedicated to caring for elderly Lutherans, primarily in the St. Louis area. They opened up their first building in 1906 in South St. Louis. Their location at Halls Ferry Road was opened in 1929 to serve residents of North St. Louis, which is where Lena would have lived in her last years. This building was replaced with the current Halls Ferry Manor in September 1995. In 1996 the Lutheran Altenheim Society merged with the Lutheran Health Care Association to create Lutheran Senior Services.

Lena Albers Lehr Death Certificate – Missouri

J.W. and Lena Lehr are buried together in Concordia Cemetery in St. Louis.

John W. and Lena Lehr Headstone – Concordia Cemetery, St. Louis

These last two blog posts have been a joy to research and write for multiple reasons. I was able to discover the journeys of a pastor who was a part of a large system of early ministerial training in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and would serve many different congregations throughout the Midwest. Not only did this pastor serve at a congregation which I attend, he is also the ancestor to my fiancĂ© and the rest of the family I will soon by joining. A relic of Louise Kesel Lehr has managed to stay within the family. I have learned multiple aspects of Lutheran history through the organizations and programs the people found in these posts were a part of. This is also one of the wonders of genealogy, in that learning the life of specific people can open one up to much larger trends of history, as this story has done for me.

I would also like to provide a map showing all of the places J.W. Lehr lived at in Germany and the United States, as well as just one of the United States. I’ll provide a key for the U.S. map.

  • 1: Springfield, IL (Concordia Seminary)
  • 2: Kensington, KS (near former Germantown) (First St. John Lutheran Church)
  • 3: Hildreth, NE (near former West Salem) (possibly Emmanuel Lutheran Church)
  • 4: Hinton, IA (Trinity Lutheran Church)
  • 5: Lockwood, MO (Immanuel Lutheran Church)
  • 6: New Wells, MO (Immanuel Lutheran Church)
  • 7: Honey Creek, Cole County, MO (Immanuel Lutheran Church)
  • 8: Macon, MO (Zion Lutheran Church & Mt. Hope Lutheran Church in Shelbyville, MO)
  • 9: Stover, MO (St. Paul Lutheran Church)
  • 10: St. Louis, MO (Retirement, previously Altenburg, MO, for two years)

As a student of history, I believe it is important to give credit to the sources of my information for these last two blog posts, and I pulled information from many different sources. I have given some credit at different parts of the posts, but I would also like to provide credit here.

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