I have a difficult story to tell today. We are presently in the week after Easter Sunday, and it is the message of Jesus’s resurrection that is sometimes the only hope that we Christians have when overwhelming sadness enters our lives. In such times, we often depend on the comforting words we hear from our Lutheran pastor. However, where does one receive comfort if the person experiencing terrible hardships is the Lutheran pastor? You will see evidence in this post that a Lutheran pastor can find comforting counsel from his neighboring Lutheran pastors.
The event that led me to today’s tale was the birth of a set of twins who that took place in Pierce, Nebraska on this date. Flora Christiana and Lydia Coelesta Estel were born on April 14, 1876, so today would be their 147th birthday. These twin girls were the daughters of Rev. Philipp Samuel and Sophia (Knapp) Estel. Some of the events that will be told in today’s post were mentioned previously in a story written about the parents of these twins. It was titled, A Jacob Preacher with Perry Roots. When the twins were born, Rev. Estel was the pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Pierce. That congregation had been established in 1871. Flora and Lydia were the 4th and 5th children out of a total of 9 born to the Estel’s. We find the Estel household still living in Pierce, Nebraska when the 1880 census was taken. The twins were 4 years old at the time. By looking at the places of birth for the children, you can surmise that Pastor Estel had already served in several locations before his time in Pierce. You see children born in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa before we find some being born in Nebraska.
The Estel’s made a move in 1882 to Jacob, Illinois, where Rev. P.S. Estel would become pastor of Christ Lutheran Church. It was while there that tragedy struck this family, and struck it often. However, before tragedy struck the Estel family, apparently it was being experienced by others in Pastor Estel’s congregation. Take a look at some death records from Christ Lutheran’s books that took place early in 1883. Records stretched over two pages, so I have to display these records in two images. It may be a challenge to begin reading a record in the first image and finishing reading it in the second image.
The four death records are as follows.
- 1. George Haehnlein, a child born in 1879 died at the age of 4.
- 2. Friedrich Hollman, born on 1861, died at the age of 22.
- 3. Hannah Miesner, a child born in 1880, died at the age of 3.
- 4. Heinrich Brunkhorst, a child born in 1879, died at the age of 4.
As you can see, Pastor Estel had already performed funerals for several people in 1883 who died rather early in life, three of them being young children. Then came what became the horrible month of May for Pastor and Mrs. Estel. By the end of the month, this Estel couple would lose 4 of their children, including the twins. Take a look at the next page in the death records of Christ, Jacob.
Let me attempt to reconstruct some of these events in order. First of all, on May 13th, Lydia Estel died of diphtheria at the age of 7. This must have devastated the Estel family. Apparently, a message was sent across the river to Altenburg, Missouri to Rev. J.F. Koestering, the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church. In the days before the telephone or telegraph, that message likely had to be delivered by hand after it made its way across the river on a boat. A burial for Lydia was planned for the next day, but another death occurred on May 14th. Heinrich Heessel died at the age of just a couple months. It looks like either two funerals or a double funeral must have taken place on the 14th, and the funeral service(s) was conducted by Rev. Koestering.
Pastor Koestering must have returned to his home after this funeral. Then, 3 days later, on May 16th, Flora Estel, the other twin, died. Another message must have gone across the river, but this time, the message ended up in the hands of Rev. W.G. Polack, who was the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown. Perhaps the message first went to Rev. Koestering, but he may not have been in a position to help. I think it’s possible that Pastor Koestering knew one of his young members, Anna Darnstaedt, was on her deathbed with tuberculosis at the time. Anna died on May 22nd at the age of 21, yet another early death. Her death record is shown below.
We can see from the Christ, Jacob death record for Flora that Rev. Polack was the one who made the trip across the river to assist with her funeral on May 17th. There is another amazing fact connected to Rev. Polack. When he made the trip on May 17th, he must have had to beg his wife to make the trip. She must have been very pregnant at the time. In fact, she would give birth to a baby girl on May 27th. The baptism record for Frieda Polack is shown here, and right above it, you will see that Conrad Hemman had been born on May 14th, and his baptism took place on the same day as Pastor Pollack’s daughter.
The troubles continued for the Estel’s. On May 22nd, Rosa Estel, their one year-old daughter, died. For that funeral, it was Rev. Janzow, who was the pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna, who must have gotten word of this death and traveled to Illinois to perform the 3rd funeral for the Estel family.
A week later, on May 29th, Gustav Estel, who had been born in Nebraska a year after the twins in 1877, died at the age of 6. When the funeral was held a day later, it was once again Rev. J.F. Koestering that assisted. It is really hard to comprehend the amount of grief that must have occupied the parsonage in Jacob.
Later that year, in September, Martha Moeckel died, and she was just a little over a year old. It appears that Pastor Estel conducted that funeral service, but I have to think it was very difficult for him.
Several years passed, during which Pastor and Sophia Estel had no children. Then, on September 22, 1889, a son, Ernst Adolph, was born. Sadly, that child died on the same day he was born. This son was baptized, and his baptism record is shown here.
Just 4 days later, Sophia Estel died as a result of this childbirth. Her death record, which is quite lengthy and likely includes information about her son’s death as well, is displayed below.
In the first image above, you will find the name of Pastor Zschoche, who must have been involved in Sophia’s funeral service. During the time between 1883 and 1889, Rev. Zschoche had succeeded Rev. Janzow as the pastor of Concordia, Frohna.
Pastor Estel continued to serve Christ Lutheran Church until 1904 as a widower with 4 remaining children, all of which were confirmed by their father at that church. In 1904, he took a call to Nokomis, Illinois, but he only remained there for a year before retiring and moving back to Jacob, Illinois. He lived in Jacob with one of his sons, Gottfried Estel, who had become a doctor. I am thinking Gottfried might have been influenced by the sickness and death in his family when he was a child when making the decision to enter the medical field.
Let me quickly tell you about the other son in the family. Theodore Samuel Estel became a Lutheran pastor. However, I did not find evidence of where or when he served. What I did find was his World War I draft registration that says he was living in Carroll, Illinois. He was called a minister, but it says he had “no charge”, which I think means he was not actively serving as a pastor anywhere. This document also states that he was sickly and very hard of hearing.
Theodore S. Estel died in St. Louis in 1953, and we can take a look at his death certificate. He died at the Lutheran Hospital and this form says he was a retired Lutheran minister.
Rev. P.S. Estel died in 1920. All of the burials that took place in this Estel family were in the Christ Lutheran Cemetery in Jacob. However, Findagrave does not have a gravestone photo for any of them. When I visited Jacob a few years ago, I took many photos of graves in that cemetery, and one of them is this one for Rev. Estel. If I recall correctly, there was a plot in that cemetery that contained all the Estel graves. I wish that I had taken a better photo for that plot.
In amongst all the Estel tragedies, we also see the story about how Lutheran pastors care for one another. When a Lutheran pastor suffers the loss of a loved one, he is not the one who does the ministering, he becomes the one being ministered to. I have to think that all the Perry County pastors who went to Jacob in 1883 and 1889 did not just go to perform funeral duties, but were also involved in counseling their colleague and his wife through their grief. Here in Perry County, we have had a few of our local pastors who unexpectedly lost their wives not long ago. In those cases, the same thing happened. Other local pastors counseled these grieving pastors and assisted with their wives’ funerals.
I will also add that when a pastor loses his wife, the congregation also grieves. The congregation in Jacob, Illinois must have grieved terribly as well when their pastor and his wife lost all those precious children back in 1883, and they must have grieved again in 1889 when their pastor became a widower.
This morning, The Lutheran Hour Ministries published today’s devotion which was titled, Tears of Laughter. It was a reprint of a devotion once written by Rev. Ken Klaus, who recently left this earth to his heavenly home. It was a devotion that reassures us that because Jesus rose from the dead, our hope is knowing that we, too, will one day be experiencing the eternal joy of heaven. Our ultimate hope, as well as the hope for Rev. Estel, is found in the Resurrection.
Since I published this story, I have received photos from two sources that should give you a better idea of the Estel family plot located in the Christ Lutheran Cemetery in Jacob. First of all, our museum’s friend, Lori Adams took some photos of the Estel plot when she visited Jacob, Illinois several years ago. You can see in these photos that the Estel plot was in quite a state of disrepair when they were taken. You can click on the thumbnails to enlarge them.
A member of Christ Lutheran Church, Dale Kranawetter, also sent me more recent photos. You can see that now some definite improvements have been made to the Estel plot and the grave sites of several of the Estel children are now better marked.
I am going to speak on behalf of our readers when I say that we are so incredibly thankful for Lori and Dale’s photos which add so much to this story.
4 thoughts on “Hope in the Resurrection”
It was in about 1980 that my son Dan and I went on a genealogy trip to Perry County and other places that would be of help in that quest. We visited Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob, IL, because my great-grandparents Gustav Adolph and Agnes Christiane Hansine (nee Fehnke) Schubarth were at one time associated with that congregation. I have never forgotten the experience of discovering that all these young people, including those of the pastor, died in such a short amount of time. The overwhelming grief that must have been felt. Hope in the Resurrection, indeed.
As a pastor who has also lost a wife in death, I can attest that a classmate came from Indiana to California to aid and comfort me. Also two pastors from a previous state came to her funeral and impacted me greatly. I am part of the Hemmann clan. Gustave Christoph Hemmann is my grandpa. Bruce Jeske
Bruce you have our sympathy. I am a granddaughter of your grandfather twin sister. Karen Bronenkant