Disgruntled Doctors Depart

I begin today with a portion of the passenger list of the ship, Olbers. the last ship that was part of the Gesellschaft to arrive in New Orleans in January of 1839.

Sterzel and Schnabel names – Olbers passenger list 1839

On the above list, you will see two families…the Sterzel’s and the Schnabel’s. Included are also two physicians. One was Johann August Sterzel, Jr., and the other was Carl August Schnabel. I am going to tell the two short stories of these two doctors in this post.

I will begin with the Schnabel’s. Let’s first take a look at the Schnabel family as it is listed in the book, Zion on the Mississippi.

Schnabel names – Zion on the Mississippi

Dr. Carl August Schnabel struck up a deal with the leader of the Gesellschaft, Rev. Martin Stephan, prior to their departure from Germany. Pastor Stephan also made the voyage to America aboard the Olbers. Dr. Schnabel’s family was to be given free passage to America in exchange for Dr. Schnabel’s medical services while aboard the Olbers. Upon arrival in New Orleans, and before boarding the steamboat, Selma, Dr. Schnabel insisted on also being paid for his services. Below is how this confrontation is described in Zion on the Mississippi.

Schnabel incident in New Orleans – Zion on the Mississippi

In a footnote found in that book, we discover that the Schnabel’s officially left the Gesellschaft on January 31, 1839. Another woman, Rosalie Hermann, is also mentioned as leaving the immigration society.

Schnabel departure – Zion on the Mississippi footnote

I took a little bit of time attempting to track this Schnabel family after their departure from the immigration. I was mostly unsuccessful. I did find a Carl A. Schnabel in the 1850 census living in St. Louis and working as a lacemaker. Perhaps that is Dr. Schnabel’s son who was 10 years old at the time of the immigration.

1850 census – St. Louis, MO

Next, we will take a look at the other doctor listed on the previous passenger list. Johann August Sterzel, Jr. came to this country with his father and a sister named Christiane. The ship’s passenger list says Johann was a physician, but on the passenger list found in Zion on the Mississippi, he is called a veterinarian. His father was a blacksmith.

Sterzel names – Zion on the Mississippi

In the case of the Sterzel’s, they did board the steamboat, Selma, and made their way up the Mississippi River to St. Louis. Then they also joined the group of immigrants that settled in Perry County. However, before I continue, let me point out that there are several places in Zion on the Mississippi that mention a man named Sterzel. The man mentioned in likely Johann August Sterzel, Jr. Those references seem to indicate that Dr. Sterzel had a leadership role in the Gesellschaft while they were still in Germany.

Not long after arriving in Perry County, Johann August Sterzel, Jr. married Wilhelmine Rothe on July 22, 1839. The church marriage record for that wedding is included in the books of Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg, but it was going to be a while before that congregation would have a church sanctuary, so this wedding must have taken place in the wilderness of Perry County somewhere.

Sterzel/Rothe marriage record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

Let’s take a quick look at Wilhelmine Rothe. She came to America on a different ship, the Copernicus. She is listed as being part of the Gottlieb Schubert family on that ship’s passenger list. She is called Wilhelmine Schubert and was 17 years old at the time.

Gottlieb Schubert family – Copernicus passenger list 1839

Zion on the Mississippi lists this Schubert group a bit differently. Wilhelmine has the surname, Rath, in parentheses.

Gottlieb Schubert family – Zion on the Mississippi

There is a footnote in Zion on the Mississippi explaining why Wilhelmine might have been listed with a Schubert surname.

Wilhelmine Rothe footnote – Zion on the Mississippi

Sadly, this Sterzel/Rothe marriage lasted only one month. On August 25, 1839, Wilhelmine died. She was likely still a teenager at the time of her death. Her death record is found in the Trinity, Altenburg books in a section describing deaths that took place in Seelitz. That is where Wilhelmine was buried.

Wilhelmine Sterzel death record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

If Johann Sterzel was a medical doctor, and if he was residing in Seelitz, he must have been called on to serve quite a few sick people and also likely saw many die. There was plenty of disease and death in Seelitz in those early years.

We find a Sterzel entry in the 1840 census for Perry County. It lists 3 tally marks, probably Johann, the widower, Johann, Jr., and Christiane, the sister.

1840 census – Perry County, MO

Dr. Sterzel married again. Let’s take a look at his second wife. Her name was Christiane Haupt, who had come to America aboard the ship, Republik. I was unable to find her on the actual passenger list for the Republik, but she is found in the list from Zion on the Mississippi. In that list, she is called a 25 year-old maid.

Christiana Haupt – Zion on the Mississippi

Johann Sterzel married Christiana Haupt on May 13, 1840, so today would be this couple’s 183rd anniversary. There is no marriage record for this wedding in the early church books. All we have is a transcription of a civil marriage record from Perry County.

Sterzel/Haupt marriage record – Perry County, MO

About a year later, the Altenburg Debate took place in April of 1841. Johann August Starzel may have been the only one in the Perry County colony who could say that he had been married twice in America before the Altenburg Debate. The two primary participants in that debate were a lawyer, Adolph Marbach, and Rev. C.F.W. Walther. After that debate was over, Adolph Marbach, along with the Seelitz pastor, Rev. Buerger, decided to return to Germany. An excerpt from Zion on the Mississippi says that Johann Sterzel went with them. Marbach and Sterzel did end up back in Germany, but Rev. Buerger remained in the United States and continued in the ministry.

A note in our German Family Tree attributed to Edgar Dreyer says the Sterzel couple left for Germany with their young son. There is no record of a Sterzel child’s baptism in the GFT. However, I found a family tree on Ancestry.com that says a son named Traugott Sterzel was born on May 13, 1841, which would have been Johann and Christiana’s first anniversary. Also, according to that family tree, Christiana died in Germany in 1853. Then Johann August Sterzel married a third time. His last wife was named Hanna Christiana Lohse. They were married on July 2, 1854. Johann had several children with his 2nd and 3rd wives in Germany. Johann died in 1885 at the age of 71. The person who placed the family tree on Ancestry.com also included photos of both Johann and Hanna. I will display them here. The captions are written in German, but I think you can figure out much of it.

Now you know two short stories about two doctors who became disgruntled after arriving in America and made the decision to leave the immigration society. I find them both helpful in understanding some of the drama that took place amongst those German Lutherans during their early years in this country.

5 thoughts on “Disgruntled Doctors Depart

  1. 1. So, if Johann Gottfried Hemmann came to America on the “Johann Georg” ship on November 27, 1839, he was not part of the Gesellshaft group? Did that matter back then?
    2. Did the steamship Selma and others make a stop at Perry County for the Lutherans or did they have to go all the way to St. Louis? Bruce Jeske, a member of the Hemmann clan.

    1. 1. The folks arriving in November of 1839 were part of the Gesellschaft. They were delayed in Germany and weren’t able to leave with the “Stephanite’s”. So, we still consider the Gruber Group as part of the original immigration.
      2. The Selma went straight to St. Louis. In February, they still hadn’t purchased land, so they wouldn’t have even known they were passing land they would later buy.

      1. Thanks so much for the quick reply even on Mother’s Day!

      2. Another question.. Did they come from Germany or Prussia? Germany did not yet exist yet in 1839, I thought.

Leave a Reply