Gottfried Wachter – Altenburg Blacksmith

I really want to write this story today because we had a visitor in our museum a few days ago by the name of Wachter. Gerard Fiehler and I were able to assist him and his wife in finding out more about his Wachter family history. We were able to help him discover ancestors he had never known about before. Today’s main character was one of those ancestors. I want him to read what I found out about his great grandfather.

Christian Gottfried Theodore Wachter was born on February 12, 1838 in Gefell, Germany. That makes today his 184th birthday. Gottfried was the son of Johann and Catherine (Grosskopf) Wachter. The Wachter family came to America aboard the ship, Minerva, in 1853. The passenger list for that ship shows not only the Wachter’s, but also a Saalfeld (spelled differently) couple and a Bodenschatz. All of these folks settled in East Perry County. Gottfried’s father had died in Germany, and his mother, Catherine, had married Henry Saalfeld, so the 48 year-old Catherine Saalfeld on this list is Gottfried’s mother.

Wachter names – Minerva passenger list 1853

Gottfried is found as a 21 year-old blacksmith in the 1860 census. The head of the household was Henry Saalfeld, Gottfried’s stepfather. Two other Wachter brothers were also in this entry.

1860 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Next, we need to take a look at the woman that would become Gottfried’s wife. Her name was Sarah Jahn, who was born on August 4, 1842. She was the last of 6 children born to Gottfried and Dorothea (Schmidt) Jahn. All but one of the Jahn children were girls. The Jahn’s were part of the Gesellschaft that arrived in Perry County in 1839, and Sarah was one of 2 children born to this couple in America. Sarah was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. I was at the museum this morning, but I forgot to get a photo of her baptism record. Sarah is found in the 1850 census at the age of 7.

1850 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Ten years later, we find Sarah in the 1860 census at the age of 17. Frederick Winter, who had married Sarah’s sister, Christina, was the head of the household.

1860 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Gottfried Wachter married Sarah Jahn on July 25, 1861 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. The image of their church marriage record is displayed below.

Wachter/Jahn marriage record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

There is also a civil marriage record we can view.

Wachter/Jahn marriage record – Perry County, MO

Not long after their marriage, Gottfried spent some time serving as a soldier during the Civil War. Here is a record of his military service.

Gottfried Wachter – Civil War military record

Our German Family Tree lists 11 children born to this couple, although several of them did not live long. When the 1870 census was taken, there were 3 children in their family. Gottfried was a blacksmith. There was an apprentice blacksmith by the name of Herman Neumueller living in the household.

1870 census – Altenburg, MO

Next, we find the Wachter’s in the 1880 census. It turns out to be the last census in which we find Gottfried. Another apprentice blacksmith lived in their household.

1880 census – Altenburg, MO

Sometime along the way, the Wachter’s had a family photo taken.

We can also view individual portraits of Gottfried and Sarah.

Gottfried Wachter died in 1891 at the age of 53. His death record is found in the books of Trinity, Altenburg.

Gottfried Wachter death record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

Gottfried died at a time when Perry County kept death records, so we can take a look at that death record which was written in English. I have to display it in two images.

Gottfried Wachter death record – Perry County, MO

I will not display it, but one of the men who witnessed Gottfried’s last will and testament was my great grandfather, Gottwerth Schmidt. Gottwerth’s mother was a Saalfeld, and although I don’t have positive proof, I think Gottwerth may have been able to call Gottfried’s stepfather, Uncle Henry Saalfeld.

Sarah Wachter can be found in the 1900 census at the age of 57 along with one remaining daughter, Clara Wachter.

1900 census – Brazeau Township, MO

I was not able to find Sarah in the 1910 census, but she must have been living in St. Louis because we find her in a city directory for that year.

Sarah Wachter – 1910 St. Louis city directory

Sarah Wachter died in 1914 at the age of 71. Her death certificate says she died in St. Louis. Another son, Otto Wachter, was the informant on this document.

Sarah Wachter death certificate

Both Gottfried and Sarah Wachter are buried in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg.


In case you’re wondering why this post is published so late in the day, it’s because I spent a good portion of the past two days butchering hogs. So, as it says in the book “Tale of Two Cities” (the East Perry County edition about Altenburg and Frohna),

“It was the best of times, it was the wurst of times.”

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