Prairie Pastor and His Pi Partner

Today’s birthday girl, Clara Julie Estel, does not show up in our German Family Tree, but maybe someday, more records from Old Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis will be included. Five of her older siblings are found in the GFT, but several others who were born later, including Clara, are not. Since Clara’s father was part of the Gesellschaft that arrived in America in 1839, she definitely qualifies to have her story told on this blog.

Before I move on, let me say that when I hear the Estel surname, I figure the story likely might take place in one of 3 locations…Perry County in Missouri, Jackson County in Illinois, or St. Louis. Some of the Estel’s remained in St. Louis after coming to America, and today’s branch of Estel’s is an example of one of those.

Clara Julie Estel was born on March 14, 1868, the daughter of John Martin and Caroline (Vetter) Estel. We find Clara’s father on the passenger list for the ship, Olbers, as a 10 year-old.

Estel names – Olbers passenger list 1839

Clara was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis. We have those records as part of an Excel spreadsheet. Clara’s baptism record in that document is shown here.

Clara Estel baptism record – Trinity, St. Louis MO

Clara is found in the 1870 census at the age of 2. Her father is called a Queensware Merchant.

1870 census – St. Louis, MO

A previous post titled, Estel in a China Shop, told the story of Clara’s parents and her father’s involvement as a china salesman.

When the 1880 census was taken, Clara was 12 years old. This time, her father was called a wholesale grocer.

1880 census – St. Louis, MO

Now we will take a look at the man that would become Clara’s husband. His name was Ernest Carl Gustav Holm, who was born on December 11, 1861 in Germany. His mother and two siblings died of cholera in Germany, and then her father married again. Ernest, his father, and his stepmother came to America in 1868 aboard the ship, Borussia, that arrived in New York. Here we see this trio on that ship’s passenger list.

Holm names – Borussia passenger list 1868

More children were born into this family in America. In the 1870 census, we find the Holm family living in St. Louis. Ernest’s father was working in a cigar factory.

1870 census – St. Louis, MO

Ernest Holm married Clara Estel on July 11, 1889 at Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis. We can view the marriage record for this couple as it appears in that church’s records. I will display it in two images.

Holm/Estel marriage record – Trinity, St. Louis, MO

Ernest Holm became a Lutheran minister. A later obituary states that his first position as a pastor was in Scotia, Nebraska. By the time of the 1900 census, Pastor Holm was serving Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Prairie Township in Nebraska.

1900 census – Grand Prairie Township, NE

The map below shows the locations of both Scotia and Grand Prairie.

Scotia and Grand Prairie, NE map

As you can see, by 1900, Ernest and Clara already had quite a houseful of children. They eventually had 11 children, all of which lived to adulthood. Next, we find this family in the 1910 census. There were 10 children, 7 of which were girls.

1910 census – Grand Prairie Township, MO

The last census in which we find Clara was the one taken in 1920. One more child had been born after the 1910 census.

1920 census – Grand Prairie Township, MO

This is what Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Prairie, Nebraska look like today.

Zion Lutheran Church, Grand Prairie, NE

Clara Holm died in 1922 at the age of 54, leaving Ernest as a widower. Rev. Holm continued his work in Grand Prairie for a while longer. We find him in the 1930 census still living in the Grand Prairie Township. He was living by himself.

1930 census – Grand Prairie Township, NE

Sometime along the way, this photo was taken of Rev. Ernest Holm.

Rev. Ernest Holm

At the age of 78, Ernest Holm was living in Columbus, Nebraska when the 1940 census was taken.

1940 census – Columbus, NE

He is called a lodger. At the top of this census page, it indicates the folks in this list were residing at the Lutheran Columbus Hospital.

Rev. Ernest Holm died in 1942 at the age of 80. A rather extensive obituary was written for him.

Ernest Carl Gustav Holm was born December 11, 1861 at Knefzin, Pommern, Germany. His father was Anton Holm and his mother Wilhelmina, nee Krow, who together with three children were victims of the cholera epidemic in 1866. In the following year, he and his father emigrated to America and settled in St. Louis, Mo.

Being endowed with special gifts he was urged by Lutheran pastors of that city and especially by one Theodor Miessler to study for the ministry. Accordingly he entered a preparatory school of the Missouri Synod at Ft. Wayne, Ind. in the year 1877, from which he graduated in the year 1882. The following three years found him at Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Louis, where he graduated in the year 1885.

His first charge called him to Nebraska in a mission congregation near Scotia. This congregation owned a sod house, which the young candidate used as a dwelling place, church and school. From Scotia, he traveled on horseback to outlying towns and in the country, making mission calls and conducting Divine services whenever and wherever he found men and women willing and eager to hear the Gospel.

He worked in Scotia three years, when he received and accepted a call from the St. John’s Lutheran congregation, then known as Grand Prairie, Platte county, Nebraska, (now Columbus). Here he labored in the Lord’s kingdom for the remaining years of his active ministry. In the year 1932 he retired from active work and made his home in Columbus. Failing health finally induced him to spend the declining years of his life in the home of his son living in Palmer.

On January 2, he retired as usual and Saturday evening January 3, after being ill during the day, his soul winged its flight to heaven to be with Christ his Savior, whom he had proclaimed for so many years to mortal men as their only hope and salvation. Only eternity will tell how many souls were brought to the knowledge of God and His Son by the faithful labors of Pastor E. Holm.

In the year 1889 he was united in holy wedlock to Clara Estel of St. Louis. To this union eleven children were born, of whom all are living. Mrs. Henry Rabeler of Bovina Center, N. Y.; Mrs. Fred Johnson of Schuyler, Nebr.; Mrs. Richard Rodenburg of Deshler, Nebr.; Mrs. Richard Bader of Pierce, Nebr.; Rev. B. Holm of Palmer, Nebr.; Mrs. Ruth Hubert of New York, N. Y.; Herbert Holm of Columbus, Nebr.; Mrs. Esther Meyer of Tonganoxie, Kansas; Rex. Alex Holm of Platte Center, Nebr.; Mrs. R. Plager of Compton Plaines, N. J.; Tech. Sgt. Ernest Holm of Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

His wife preceded him in death in the year 1922. Rev. Holm departed this life January 3, 1942, having reached the age of 80 years and 23 days. (Funeral details followed)

Besides the children he is remembered by 26 grandchildren.

While not widely known in this community, his evident Christian character and gentlemanly bearing won the deepest regard and respect of those who came in contact with Pastor E. Holm.

The Palmer Journal, January 8, 1942, page 1, transcribed by Linda Berney.

Ernest and Clara Holm were buried at the St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery in Columbus, Nebraska.

Before I finish, I want to point out that there were two Miessler pastors who can be connected to this story, and both of them had wives that could trace their roots back to the Log Cabin College in Altenburg. First, Rev. Holm’s obituary stated that Rev. Theodore Miessler influenced him in becoming a Lutheran pastor. Theodore’s second wife was Mathilde Buenger, who was the daughter of Herman Buenger, one of the members of the first class in the Log Cabin College in 1839. There was also another Pastor Miessler. He was Rev. Herman Miessler, who was the pastor in Columbus, Nebraska for many years at about the same time as Rev. Holm was at Grand Prairie. Rev. Herman Miessler was also married to a Clara. Her maiden name was Clara von Wurmb, who was the daughter of Theobald von Wurmb. Theobald was another one of those students in the first class of the Log Cabin College.

The math teacher in me wants to point out that Clara Estel was born on Pi Day, March 14th…3.14. She was also born in St. Louis, just as I was, and I cannot help but point out that the area code for St. Louis is 314. Also, Rev. Matt Harrison, the President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which is headquartered in St. Louis, has his birthday today. Happy Pi Day.

2 thoughts on “Prairie Pastor and His Pi Partner

  1. My mother was also a Pi Day 3/14 baby!! Eleanor Vera Rose Siess was the Great Granddaughter of Rev. Johann Friedrich Koestering and Wilhelmine Louise Boese Koestering (creator of the Koestering hole…).

    Her Grandmother was Clara Magdalene Koestering Schuessler (married to Rev. Ernst H T Schuessler (possibly in a double wedding conducted by JF Koestering at Trinity in Altenburg.

    Her mother, the youngest of Magdalene’s five children, was Vera Clara Edna Schuessler . She also married a minister, Rev. Herbert Charles Rose. She served her husband, the church (more stories need to be told of the life of Minister’s wives!!!) and her children well with seemingly endless amounts of hot, heavy, hard work cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, canning, and caring for their brood of 6, even though her dream was to be an opera singer!! Among the the many delicious German inspired foods she cooked and baked, one of my mom’s favorites was her sour cherry pie!!

    My mother, Eleanor Vera, a Pi Day Girl, was the second child and only daughter of this Perry Cty crew. She grew up in several locations in the Perry Cty. area, including Altenburg, Farmington, and Flat River. (Not sure in what order.)

    She told stories of playing the organ or piano for her father’s church services, many of which were still conducted in German. She also tells of how she and her best friend were often responsible for preparing the altar (mother Vera likely did the hard work of sprinkling and ironing the linens each week) and placing flowers. Given the skill with which my mom, Eleanor, arranged flowers from the garden after her own large nest of 5 was empty, I would guess she learned that skill by creating some or all (?) of the church flower arrangements. She certainly learned from her mother how to starch and iron like few know how today. I used to laugh with her that she could put a crease in a pair of pants that could last a full year!!

    My mother, Eleanor, also went on to marry a Lutheran minister and have five children of her own. I am the youngest and only daughter. I broke the chain in several ways – I lived only part of my life in MO. I did not marry a minister. I do no ironing whatsoever… And I was blessed to have two amazing daughters and no sons! Lol! But who knows what the next generation will bring??!! They haven’t arrived just yet!

    I wish I could sit down with all of the generations of these great ladies gathered together to enjoy a piece of pie and coffee and hear stories of their incredible lives.

    Happy Belated Pie Day to All!! Love and miss you so much, mom….. happy birthday!! We always have pie in your honor!



  2. Clara is my great-grandmother! Bruno Holm (also an an LCMS pastor), is my grandfather. My father, Walter Holm and my uncle Roy Holm were also LCMS pastors. My father was born and raised in Palmer Nebraska, so it was there that Ernst spent his last few years. Ernst spent a few years in the Des Peres orphanage as a young boy, where Clara’s father John was a benefactor. I always wondered if that was the connection that took Ernst to the Ministry and also brought Ernst and Clara together?


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