The Keyl-Walther Couple

If you are a regular reader of this blog, or if you have studied the early history of Lutheranism in America, you no doubt have heard about two pastors that were part of the Gesellschaft that arrived in this country in 1839. Those two pastors were Rev. E.G.W. Keyl and Rev. C.F.W. Walther. In those early days, it was not uncommon for daughters and sons of Lutheran pastors to find each other and become husband and wife. Therefore, it should not be surprising that one of Rev. Keyl’s sons would marry one of Rev. Walther’s daughters. However, the surprising aspect of this couple getting married is the fact that these two were also first cousins because Rev. Keyl’s wife was Rev. Walther’s sister.

Let’s begin with the son of Rev. Keyl. Stephanus Keyl was born on June 29, 1838 in Niederfrohna, Germany, where his father was the pastor. The Gesellschaft left Germany in November of 1838, so Stephanus was just a matter of months old when he made the voyage across the Atlantic. His parents made that trip aboard the Johann Georg, as did Rev. Walther. We see them all listed together on that ship’s passenger list. Amelia Ernestine Keyl was C.F.W. Walther’s sister.

Keyl and Walther names – Johann Georg passenger list

After arriving in this county, both of these pastors served for short times in Perry County. Rev. Walther was the pastor of the Dresden and Johannisberg communities from 1839-1841, after which he became a pastor in St. Louis for the rest of his life. Rev. Keyl was the pastor of the Frohna community from 1839-1847, after which he was pastor in Freistadt and Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1847-1850.

In 1849, after the synod was formed, Concordia Seminary, which had been located in Altenburg, was moved to St. Louis. When the 1850 census was taken, we find Stephanus as a student at that institution at the age of 12. You will see some other names that were part of the Gesellschaft on this entry.

1850 census – St. Louis, MO

I was unable to find Stephanus in an 1860 census. However, an 1861 passenger list for the ship, Hermine, may explain why. Stephanus was returning to the United States as a student of theology. I suspect he spent some time in Germany getting some extra theological training.

Stephanus Keyl – Hermine passenger list 1861

It was not long after Stephanus returned to America that he got married. So, let’s take a look at the early life of his bride. Her name was Christiane Magdalene Walther, who was born on November 22, 1842. That makes today her 179th birthday. She was the daughter of Rev. C.F.W. and Emilie (Buenger) Walther. As you might imagine, Magdalene was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church where Rev. Walther was the pastor. Part of her baptism record is displayed below.

Magdalene Walther baptism record – Trinity, St. Louis, MO

Two of Magdalene’s sponsors were Christiane Buenger, C.F.W.’s mother-in-law (and also the woman that I call Mama Buenger) and Johann Friedrich Buenger, one of the builders of the Log Cabin College. Magdalene was baptized on December 4, 1842, which was an historical day in the history of that congregation. Their first church sanctuary was dedicated on that day. I wrote a post titled, 12/04/1842 – What a Day!, that described the amazing things that took place on that day.

Magdalene is found in the 1850 census at the age of 7. She was found on the page right before that of Stephanus Keyl in that census.

1850 census – St. Louis, MO

We find Magdalene once again in the 1860 census, still living with her parents in St. Louis. She is called Mary in this entry and is 17 years old.

1860 census – St. Louis, MO

I was not able to find a marriage record, but some family histories on Ancestry.com state that Stephanus Keyl married Magdalene Walther on October 29, 1862 at Concordia Seminary. I suspect that this date was placed in Magdalene’s obituary, but I am not able to access that newspaper’s archives.

Rev. Stephanus Keyl was a pastor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1862-1867. That means we do not find him in a federal census while he was living there. The first census in which we find Stephanus and Magdalene as a couple was the one taken in 1870. They were living in the New York City area on Staten Island. Stephanus is called a clergyman with 2 daughters.

1870 census – Northfield Township, NY

In 1869, Rev. Stephanus Keyl began to be a missionary inside the United States. He was a missionary to immigrants from 1869 till he died. In a book titled, A Century of Grace, that tells the history of the first 100 years of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, we find a description of Rev. Keyl’s missionary work.

Rev. Stephanus Keyl – Century of Grace

A New York state census taken in 1875 even calls Rev. Keyl a missionary.

1875 NY state census – Richmond County, NY

A pair of photographs were taken of Stephanus and Magdalene.

According to Ancestry.com family trees, Stephanus and Magdalene had as many as 10 children, several of which did not live long. I was not able to find another census for the Keyl’s until the one taken in 1900.

1900 census – Richmond County, NY

That census was the last one in which we find Stephanus. He died in 1905 at the age of 67. Magdalene would be found in several more census records. Here, we find her in the 1910 census as a widow. She had 4 children living with her, 2 sons and 2 daughters.

1910 census – Richmond County, NY

Next, we find Magdalene in the 1920 census. This time, there were 3 single children living with her.

1920 census – Richmond County, NY

The last census in which we find Magdalene was the one taken in 1930. The same 3 single children were included in her household. The two daughters had spent some time as teachers.

1930 census – Richmond County, NY

Magdalene Keyl died in 1936 at the age of 93. She and her husband were buried in the St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery on Staten Island, New York. There is a plot with a family marker along with individual gravestones.

In the end, both Stephanus and his father ended up on the east coast of the United States, and both seemed to be involved with assisting immigrants when they entered this country. Stephanus worked much of his life on Staten Island, New York, and his father spent much of his career in Baltimore, Maryland, another point of entry into the United States.


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