Pastor Dies While Attending Convention in Altenburg

I have known some details of the story I will write today, and I have wanted to tell it for a while. Today is a good occasion to tell it. I do not often write a story that starts with a date of death, but in this case, that is about the only date I have for today’s main character, who died on October 14, 1892. I find the story of Theodor Buszin fascinating. This story centers around a gravestone found in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg marking the grave of a pastor who never served a church in Perry County, but died here.

Theodor Buszin gravestone – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

Before I begin, let me tell you a little about some of the sources I have for this story. First of all, a friend of our museum, as well as a person who has been very involved in the work of the Concordia Historical Institute (CHI) in St. Louis is a descendant of Theodor and has told me some details of his life. Her name is Connie Sedden. Connie also recently sent our museum an English translation of an article that appeared in Der Lutheraner in 1894 that told the story of Theodor’s death. That article was written by a pastor who once served Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg and Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna, Rev. J.F. Koestering. Also, there is a family history on that gives a few other interesting facts about Theodor. I will relate some of those details in this post, but I admit that I do not know how reliable it is. That family history refers to a biography of Theodor Buszin’s life that I cannot access (at least not yet).

One of Theodor’s sons gives the birth of today’s main character as July 14, 1834. One of the fascinating details in this man’s story is the probability that he was not born as Theodor Buszin. I found this tidbit in the Ancestry family tree that I mentioned. That contributor says his birth name was Ludwig Levin, and he was born to Jewish parents. Rev. Koestering’s article also refers to his Jewish lineage. I was not able to find exact names of his parents. Theodor was born in Klecko, which is a city now located in Poland.

Rev. Koestering relates in his article how Theodor had an outstanding education as a youngster, but then later in his life, he rejected his Jewish religion to become a Christian. As a result, he felt the hatred of his Jewish relatives and friends. It is said that he then changed his name to Theodor Buszin. The family tree administrator says the German word, busze (or buβe), means repentant.

Theodor was baptized as a Christian and then married a Christian woman by the name of Emilie Heinsch sometime around 1863. Then, in 1865, Theodor and Emilie came to America, sponsored by a pastor named Rev. Splittgerber. Another post was written about some Splittgerbers, Doughboys Find Splittgerbers in Nebraska, but I do not know if there is any relationship between those Splittgerber’s and this pastor. Other Lutheran pastors were mentioned as influencing Theodore to become a pastor. He entered Concordia Seminary in 1866.

We find the Buszin household in the 1870 census living in the Bonhomme Township, which is located on the western side of St. Louis. Theodor is called a preacher, and there were 3 children in his family. Theodor was the pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Ellisville. A baby named Sophie will not appear in the next census, so I think she did not live long.

1870 census – Bonhomme Township, MO

Rev. Koestering’s article states that Rev. Buszin served as a pastor in Ballwin, Missouri, Secor, Illinois, Indian Creek, Illinois, Linnwood, Missouri, and Cole Camp, Missouri. When the 1880 census was taken, we find the Buszin household living in Cass County, Illinois where Theodor was a minister. Secor and Indian Creek are not located in Cass County, so perhaps Theodor served another location in that county that Rev. Koestering did not mention.

1880 census – Cass County, IL

The above entry would be the last census in which Theodor is found. In 1892, the Western District had a convention which was held in Altenburg. In the early years of the Missouri Synod, the Western District held fairly regular conventions in Altenburg. I found evidence that prior to this one in 1892, there were 6 previous district conventions held here. I think it was because this area has such a rich history in the early development in this synod and district. Rev. Koestering states that Rev. Buszin would faithfully attend such district conventions and provided plenty of useful input while in attendance. So, in 1892, despite the fact that he had not been feeling that well, Theodor made the trip to Altenburg from Cole Camp, where he was the pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church. I found this photo that is said to be the old church for Immanuel.

Immanuel Lutheran Church – Cole Camp, MO

When pastors came to the little village of Altenburg, they had to be housed with local families. When Theodor arrived in 1892, he stayed in the home of Eduard Burkhardt. A story about the Burkhardt’s was written on this blog titled, Ernst Eduard’s Women. The convention opened on October 12th. On Friday, the 14th, Theodor was not feeling well enough to attend the sessions, so he stayed at the Burkhardt home. During that day, he became very ill, and Dr. Ernst Eduard Buenger was called to visit him, but before he arrived, Theodor had died.

Rev. Buszin died at a time when Perry County kept death records. We can take a look at Theodor’s death record in two images. This document says asthma and apoplexy caused his death.

Theodor Buszin death record – Perry County, MO

The burial and funeral for Theodor took place on the afternoon of October 18th after the convention closed at noon. It had taken time for out-of-town family to travel to Altenburg. The burial took place first, conducted by Rev. C.C. Schmidt, president of the district, who was the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in St. Louis. Then what Rev. Koestering described as a “festive funeral service” was held at Trinity. Pastor Koestering conducted that service and preached on the text, Matthew 25:21 which says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Theodor Buszin is quoted by Rev. Koestering as saying, “Oh, that my Lord Jesus would take me home here in Altenburg, that I would find my resting place here among the graves of faithful Christians…” I confess that I, too, have the same desire.

Rev. Koestering says that the funeral service began with the singing of “I am content, my Jesus liveth still”. That hymn is still found in the Lutheran Service Book (#468), with a slightly different title. It is included in the Easter section of that hymnal. The funeral service was held in the present church sanctuary at Trinity, but it was before the pipe organ was installed in 1912. I sometimes wonder what accompaniment the congregation had in those days when they were singing hymns. I am going to end this post by sharing a modern singing of that hymn in a YouTube video. I’m sure they sang the hymn in German back in 1892. I hope you take time to listen and follow along with the words, thinking about how they apply to Theodore’s life of service and the special circumstances surrounding his death.

5 thoughts on “Pastor Dies While Attending Convention in Altenburg

  1. Great work Warren, I was wondering if you could point me to that Ancestry family tree that you refer to in the article? I am doing some research on the topic. Also, I want to find out what I can about how you found that photo of Immanuel in Cole Camp. I googled it and found the same image on Find a Grave, but there’s no description. Many thanks and it was nice to meet you this summer!


    1. I also found the Cole Camp building on Findagrave. I just assumed it was the church building for that congregation. I have no further proof. As for the Ancestry family tree that I used the most for this story, it was the one found here: Some extra information is found in the comments made by the producer of that tree, Natalie Rudow.


  2. Hello Warren,

    I was intrigued by your article on Theodor Ludwig Buszin. I have had several connections with the family. With a bit of research I came up with the following.

    Theodor had a son named Paul Theodore (1873-1944) and a grandson named Walter E. (1899-1973)

    Paul Theodore’s final professional position was as Superintendent of Education in the Northern Illinois District. My father, Adolph H. Kramer, served as Assistant Superintendent from 1948-1951, and as Superintendent from 1951-1963.

    Walter E. at various times served as faculty member at the following schools.

    Bethany College, Mankato, MN Concordia Jr. College, Ft. Wayne Concordia River Forest Concordia Seminary, St. Louis

    He played important roles in LCMS orders of worship and hymnody.

    At River Forest I was enrolled in one of Walter’s classes, and sang in his Cantata Choir.

    My father and I knew Walter quite well. We never realized that he had Jewish lineage.

    Thanks again,

    Fred Kramer



  3. I found your article today to be extremely interesting, as I am Lois (Dreyer) Costar the daughter of Paul Dreyer. When I saw the name “Splittgerber” I clicked on the blog as that being my mother’s maiden name.
    I do enjoy your daily blogs . As a child we would visit my grandparents, Henry & Emma Dreyer, every summer. After my husband and I retired we have tried to come to the semi-annual family reunions and always make sure to visit the museum.
    It is a wonderful project you are doing.


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