So Much Romance Behind My Barn

Today’s post begins behind my barn and ends in Los Angeles. Back when I retired from teaching and moved to Altenburg, I was asked to look into what happened to the 11 members of the first class of the Log Cabin College that was built behind my barn. That research resulted in the publication of an article I wrote for the Concordia Historical Institite Quarterly. That article was titled “Out of One Room”. Later on this blog, I wrote the story about how an orphan boy, Franz Julius Biltz, married a girl who was born in South Africa, Marie von Wurmb. That post was titled, A Budding Romance Behind the Barn. Today’s tale takes us into the next generation in the Biltz family, and that leads us to Martin Luther. Reading that previous post will set the background for today’s story.

Clara Helena Biltz was the first child born to Franz Julius and Marie (von Wurmb) Biltz. Clara was born on March 17, 1851, making today her 172nd birthday. Clara’s parents were married in New York City in 1849. The pastor who conducted that marriage was Rev. Theodore Brohm who had married Marie’s mother, Johanna von Wurmb. The way I have it figured, the courtship of Clara’s grandparents began between two other people while they were living behind my barn. Rev. Brohm was one of the builders of the Log Cabin College, and Johanna von Wurmb was living in another cabin nearby. Clara’s father, Franz Julius Biltz graduated from the Log Cabin College (Concordia Seminary, Altenburg) in 1848, and had been installed as the first called pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Friedheim, Missouri. Friedheim is located not far from here. A list of pastors in the early years of Trinity, Friedheim is pictured here.

Trinity, Friedheim – list of pastors

After going to New York to get married, Rev. Biltz brought his new bride back to Friedheim, and their first few children were born there, including today’s birthday girl, Clara. Her baptism record can be found in the early records of Trinity, Friedheim, and it was her father who wrote that record. It spills over two pages so I have to display two images.

Clara Biltz baptism record – Trinity, Friedheim, MO

Clara has an interesting list of sponsors. First, Johanne Brohm, who was her grandmother, was a sponsor, who was absent but was represented by Rev. Gruber, who was the pastor at Grace, Uniontown. Second was Rev. Christoph Heinrich Loeber, who had been Franz Julius Biltz’s classmate at the Log Cabin College and then became the pastor at Concordia, Frohna. Third, we see Caroline Louise Bergt, one of Pastor Loeber’s members in Frohna.

Clara was still in Friedheim when a photo was taken of her sitting on her father’s lap. Another photo was taken of Clara’s sister, Bertha, sitting on her mother’s lap. This has always puzzled me. I don’t know how the Biltz’s, who I knew struggled through their early years in Friedheim, a very small village, could have had photographs taken. How could they afford it? This was also during the very early years of photography. Where would they find a photographer?

Before Clara shows up in her first census, she did some travelling. Her father took a call to a Lutheran church in Cumberland, Maryland where Clara lived for a few years, and then her father took a call to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Concordia, Missouri in 1860 where he spent the rest of his career. The 1860 census for the Freedom Township in Lafayette County, Missouri, which is where Concordia is found, shows the Biltz family. Clara was 9 years old, and her father is called a preacher.

1860 census – Freedom Township, MO

I find a few other notable facts on the above entry. First, you can see that the place of birth for Clara’s mother, Marie, was the Cape of Good Hope, which is in South Africa. Marie’s father was a Lutheran missionary in that country when she was born. It’s not often that I find a character for this blog that was born in a place like South Africa. I also find it fascinating that 3 students in the first class attending the Log Cabin College behind my barn could, by today’s standards, be called South African citizens. Secondly, a 17 year-old girl, Magdalena Bergt, was living in this household. She was another Perry County native, born in the Frohna farm place that would eventually become what is now called the Saxon Lutheran Memorial. She was also the daughter of Caroline Louise Bergt, one of Clara’s sponsors. So, the above census has persons who were connected to the two historical sites that are presently found in East Perry County, the Lutheran Heritage Center & Musuem in Altenburg that preserves the Log Cabin College and the Saxon Lutheran Memorial in Frohna. Pretty neat, huh? Third, you can see that two Biltz children were born in Missouri, followed by two that were born in Maryland.

The 1870 census finds Clara still living with her parents in Concordia, Missouri. By the way, it was Pastor Biltz who got the privilege of naming that town, and he named it after his alma mater, Concordia Seminary, Altenburg (the Log Cabin College). Clara was 19 years old at that time. Her younger sister was “at college”. Rev. Biltz had established a Lutheran college in Concordia called St. Paul’s Lutheran College.

1870 census – Freedom Township, MO

Now, we need to take a look at the man who would become Clara’s husband. It turns out that he was the son of another man who is quite famous in early Lutheran history in America. And Clara’s future husband was named after the most famous of all Lutherans…Martin Luther himself. Martin Luther Wyneken was born on December 15, 1844, the son of Friedrich Conrad Dietrich (F.C.D.) and Sophie (Buuck) Wyneken. When Martin was born, his father was ministering to German Lutherans in Ft. Wayne, and another rural area nearby known as Friedheim. That means both Clara and Martin came from places named Friedheim. In 1850, Martin’s father became the 2nd President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, succeeding its first President, Rev. C.F.W. Walther. So, when the 1850 census was taken, we find the Wyneken’s living in St. Louis, where the Synod was headquartered. Martin was 6 years old. He had a twin brother named Heinrich Christian.

1850 census – St. Louis, MO

Once again, there is another interesting aspect to the above census entry. In that household, was a young couple, Heinrich Schwan and his wife. Heinrich’s wife was born in Brazil, where Rev. Schwan had served as a missionary after becoming a pastor. Rev. Schwan later became the third person to become the President of the Missouri Synod.

In 1860, we find the Wyneken’s living in the Preble Township in Adams County, Indiana. That is where Friedheim is located. At this time in his life, Martin and his twin brother were farm laborers.

1860 census – Preble Township, IN

Zion Lutheran Church in Friedheim, Indiana is one of the charter members of the Missouri Synod. If you visit their website today, you will find this paragraph that tells of that congregation’s history.

     Zion Friedheim is a Haven of Peace and a Harbor of Hope; anchored in rich history, but ever growing in Christ.  In June 1837, Pastor J. Hoover began preaching the gospel to a small group of recent German emigrants in Northern Adams County, Indiana.  By February 1838, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church at Friedheim, Indiana was organized.  Nine years later, Friedheim was a charter member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

That church describes themselves these days as a “Haven of Peace and a Harbor of Hope”. So, Clara Biltz and Martin Luther Wyneken each have a Cape of Good Hope and a Harbor of Hope attached to their family trees.

Martin Luther Wyneken followed in his father’s footsteps and became a Lutheran pastor. He became the first pastor of a new congregation, First Lutheran Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas. A list of early pastors of that congregation is shown here.

First Lutheran, Fort Smith, AR – list of pastors

Martin is found in the 1870 census living in Fort Smith and serving as a Lutheran preacher.

1870 census – Ft. Smith, AR

This story begs the question, “How did Clara and Martin Luther become acquainted?” I have a theory. The Western District of the Missouri Synod was established in 1854. A list of that district’s past presidents is displayed below. You can see that Clara’s father eventually became the president.

Western District – list of presidents

In 1871, while Rev. Martin Luther Wyneken was in Fort Smith (which was in the Western District), there was a district convention held in, of all places, Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. We see a list of conventions below that shows the one that took place in 1871.

List of Western District conventions

That congregation (also my congregation) had a new church dedicated in 1867. Pastors from all over the district would attend those conventions, and the way I have it figured, both Rev. Biltz and Rev. Wyneken likely came to Altenburg for that meeting. If so, Pastor Biltz might have brought his family, especially since they had past connections to Altenburg. Perhaps this is how Clara Biltz got to know Martin Luther Wyneken. My mind goes wild thinking about it. Rev. J.F. Buenger, one of Rev. Biltz’s professors at the Log Cabin College was the president of the district in 1871. Rev. Buenger had relatives living in Altenburg. In fact, some of them were living on my land. I think it’s possible that the Biltz’s may have been provided housing on my property. Could it also be possible that the courtship between Clara and Martin Luther also began “behind my barn”?

Martin Luther Wyneken married Clara Biltz on October 13, 1872 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Concordia, Missouri. A civil record for that wedding is shown below. You can see that Clara’s father performed the wedding. I would not doubt if Martin Luther’s father also attended that event.

Wyneken/Biltz marriage record – Lafayette County, MO

I am also able to show you this couple’s wedding photograph.

Wyneken/Biltz wedding

Martin and Clara had 4 children. The Wyneken’s spent some time in Cincinnati, Ohio their time in Arkansas. Then Martin began to have health problems. In the 1880 census, we find the Wyneken’s living in San Francisco with Rev. Jacob Buehler, who was married to Martin’s sister. I did not display the previous census page with the Buehler’s. This entry says that Martin was sick with bronchitis, but we find out later that he really had consumption, another name for tuberculosis.

1880 census – San Francisco, CA

Martin Luther Wyneken died in 1884 at the young age of 39. By then, he had tried moving to Los Angeles to help with his poor health. A story of his life was printed in a Lutheran Witness article.

Martin Luther Wyneken – Lutheran Witness

Clara is found in the 1900 census as a widow. She was living in Los Angeles with 2 children who coincidentally were named Clara and Martin.

1900 census – Los Angeles, CA

Clara is found in 3 more census entries, all from Long Beach, California. Here is the one from 1910. She was living with another son, Arthur, who was a Lutheran pastor.

1910 census – Long Beach, CA

Next, here is the entry from 1920.

1920 census – Long Beach, CA

The last census is the one taken in 1930. Her single daughter, Clara, was back living with her brother and mother.

1930 census – Long Beach, CA

Clara Wyneken died in 1936 at the age of 84. Findagrave says that both Martin Luther and Clara Wyneken are buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, but neither has a gravestone photo.

I find this story so amazing because it mentions so many folks who were instrumental in the early history of our synod. And as if this is not enough, let me also tell you that Bertha Biltz, Clara’s sister who was pictured sitting on her mother’s lap, would get married to Ferdinand Walther, the son of the first President of the Missouri Synod, Rev. C.F.W. Walther. Rev. Walther also spent some time behind my barn.

Will any of my grandchildren find romance behind my barn? Wink, wink. Nod, nod.

3 thoughts on “So Much Romance Behind My Barn

  1. I think I’m reading this blog post about my direct ancestors for the first time. Thanks for tying all the various strands of this story in such a tight know. I must admit that I had never thought about how Martin and Clara actually met. The Missouri Synod was a small microcosm back then, I think, and I guess that’s what I had always thought. But who knows? Maybe it really was behind your barn!

  2. There are some other Brohm-Wyneken connections that might explain how Martin and Clara were acquainted with each other. Theodore Brohm was one of Martin Wyneken’s professors at the St. Louis seminary. When Brohm later took a call to serve a congregation in New York, his assistant was C.C. Schmidt, who married Martin’s sister, Marie. This information comes from a summary of C.C. Schmidt’s autobiography found at (See source #213) C.C.Schmidt was a college and seminary classmate of Martin and Henry Wyneken. When F.C.D. Wyneken died in 1876, it was Theodore Brohm who preached his fourth and final funeral sermon in Cleveland. I agree that Martin and Clara likely became romantically involved while Martin was serving at Fort Smith, but it appears that Clara’s mother’s family and the Wynekens were well-acquainted with each other prior to that.

    Information about Martin Wyneken’s missionary efforts in California can be found in The Romance of Lutheranism in California by Richard T. DuBrau. A synopsis can be found at the link above, source #271.

    Thanks for all of the careful and interesting research that you do!

  3. My GG Grandfather was FW John and I never knew that he had been the pastor in Friedheim, MO 1864-1868. Thank you for that new information, learn something new every day!

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