I have been both fascinated and flabbergasted by the same story for several years. The events that happened in the August Friedrich Ahner family keep popping up as I do searches on our German Family Tree. I guess one of the reasons that this family keeps getting my attention is that they come at the beginning of the alphabet, and when I search for a story, the search first takes me through the “A” names. Also, since several events took place in this family during December, that is the month when I have written a few other stories highlighting this family. Let me review a little bit.
On December 1, 2016, during the first year of this blog, I composed a story titled, Born at Sea. That post was inspired by the birth of a baby boy in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean aboard the ship, Copernicus, in 1838. As it turned out, that post posed just as many questions about this family as it did answers.
A year later, I returned to the Ahner story. I composed the post, Ahner Enigmas, once again on December 1st. In that post, I attempted to answer some of the questions that had me flummoxed. Looking back, I think I did come up with some of those answers correctly, but I now think I may not have gotten everything right. So, I’m going to address the Ahner story yet again today. One of the very confusing things about this story is this piece of information found in the passenger list in the book, Zion on the Mississippi.
I think you would all agree that it doesn’t make sense that two men sharing the same name, August Friedrich Ahner, could be only 7 years apart in age and yet be referred to as a “Sr.” and a “Jr.”. Add to that the fact that these two men were from the same place in Germany, the city of Burgstadt. And, if that is not enough, each of these men had a son that they named Friedrich August Ahner. One of those sons became a Lutheran pastor, whose story was included in the Ahner Enigmas post. The other son carrying that name had his story told in the post, August and Anna Ahner.
Before I continue, let me admit to you that I do not think I will answer all the questions about these Ahner’s today either. At this point, I will just speculate that the two original immigrants who shared the same name who sailed aboard the Copernicus could possibly be some sort of cousins to one another.
A two-week period of time in December of 1838 was quite eventful aboard the ship, Copernicus. First of all, Friedericke (Schaefer) Ahner gave birth to a son named Gotthilf on December 1st. Then, on December 6th, Wilhelm Kramer, the 24 year-old son of Gottfried Kramer, died aboard the ship and was buried at sea. Gottfried Kramer’s wife had died just before his family left for America. Wilhelm’s death record is found in the books of Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg because Pastor Loeber wrote down some of the records from Rev. Buerger, who was on the Copernicus, in his congregation’s books.
Next, the baptism of Gotthilf Ahner took place on December 8th. That baptism record is also in the Trinity, Altenburg books.
Two days later, on December 10th, the 2 year-old sister of the newborn baby, Gotthilf, died. She, too, was buried at sea. Below is the death record for Theresia Ahner, also from the Trinity books.
As if that wasn’t enough, 3 days later, on December 13th, a young lady named Johanna Hempelin died. Zion on the Mississippi calls her Johanna Hempel, a 22 year-old maid from Mannichswalde. Her death record spells her name, Hempelin, and says she was 19 years old when she died.
That wasn’t even an end to this list of events. Ernst Schlimpert, the 1 1/2 year old son of Gottfried and Christiane (Poppitz) Schlimpert, died on the same day as Johanna Hempelin died.
That means in the course of one week, there were 4 burials at sea. I know the 3 fathers of the ones who died must have been heartbroken, but the depth of agony for the two women who had to witness their little ones cast into the sea must have been overwhelming.
Both of the August Friedrich Ahner’s spent some time in St. Louis after their arrival. Toward the end of 1840, each of their wives would have stillborn daughters whose records are included in the books of Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis. One was born and died in November, but the one born to Friedericke Ahner, who had given birth to one child and watched another one die on the ship, had a daughter who was born and died on Christmas Day of 1840. Now, even Christmas Day was not going to be a day to remember the birth of a child in Bethlehem, but a reminder of the death of a child in St. Louis.
A daughter named Sarah was born in 1842 to August Friedrich and Friedericke and another son in 1845. The last son did not even live one year. Then, in July of 1849, during the Cholera Epidemic that took so many lives in St. Louis, Friedericke died from that disease. That left August Friedrich as a widower with several young children.
This is where there is some confusion among people who have researched this family. August Friedrich did get married again, but just who did he marry? Some claim he married Anna Maria Louisa Schreiber in 1857, but that was actually the marriage of his son, August Friedrich who became a Lutheran pastor. I think the answer to who married the widower, August Friedrich, is found in the St. Louis marriage record shown here. It shows him marrying a widow by the name of Maria Elizabeth Hoeffler. I was not able to find the maiden name for her. The marriage was performed by Rev. J.F. Buenger.
Rev. Buenger was the pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Louis, a relatively new congregation. Some baptism and marriage records for that congregation can be found online. Here we see such a record for this wedding.
There is another dispute about this marriage. The first record above from St. Louis looks like this marriage took place on November 23, 1851, but the Immanuel record says this wedding took place on November 3, 1850. I think the year they got married was 1850 because the other marriage records surrounding the civil record are for marriages in 1850. I cannot explain the difference between November 3rd and 23rd.
The Ahner family is found in the 1860 census in which August Friedrich was a saddler. His wife’s name was listed as Anna, which can be explained by a later death record that says her name was Anna Maria Elizabeth. Two additional children had been born to August Friedrich and his 2nd wife.
I was unable to find this family in the 1870 census, but I did find them in the one taken in 1880. At the age of 69, August Friedrich was called a sexton.
A sexton could be either a custodian or a gravedigger (or both). In this case, I think August Friedrich was a custodian for Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis. In an Ahner family binder that we have in our research library, it gives the biography of this August Friedrich Ahner. In it, it says he was the custodian of the Chalice that Trinity still uses to this day that came to America aboard the ships in 1839.
Anna Maria Elizabeth Ahner died in 1885 at the age of 68. Here is the death record for her found in the books of Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis. It says she died of tuberculosis.
August Friedrich Ahner died in August of 1887 at the age of 76. He died just a matter of months after the death of Rev. Dr. C.F.W. Walther. August Friedrich’s death record found in the Trinity books says he died in Worden, Illinois. I think he went to live with his daughter, Sarah, who was living in that town with her husband and family. I find it especially interesting that this record calls August Friedrich, “Senior”, despite the previous image from Zion on the Mississippi that says he was August Friedrich, Jr.
Both August Friedrich and Anna Maria Elizabeth Ahner are buried in the Concordia Lutheran Cemetery in St. Louis, but neither one has a gravestone photo.
I think I was able to answer a few more questions in this post, but some questions still remain.