contents ©2016 by Harold Pfohl

Early Years Part 3 – Lüders Family – Expansion, Multiple Deaths, a Community Leader, an Old Maid and a Shotgun Wedding


Recap: The Lüders were from Spornitz, Mecklenberg-Schwerin.   Except for Joachim, who was a tailor at home in Sportnitz, Germany, the manner in which the family made their living is not known.

They emigrated in 1854. The immigrant party consisted of

  • Parents: Johann Lüders age 51 &  his wife Eva Dorothea Leitz, 55;
  • Son, Johann Jr., 27; and his wife Wilhemina (nee Jaap) 21
  • Son, Joachim, 25; and his wife Henrietta Marie (nee Heinke) 24.

There were no children in the family, although Henrietta was pregnant with her first child at the time of their departure from Spornitz.

Ocean and RR Honeymoon

The trip was a honeymoon for Johann and Wilhelmina (Minna), who married Tuesday, August 29, 1854, and sailed for America on the following Friday, September 1.

The immigrants were at sea for six weeks. While the voyage and prospect of America must have been exciting to the newlyweds, the rough autumn seas on the North Atlantic and the extremely cramped quarters could not have been very romantic.  (Post: ACROSS THE ATLANTIC)

SI 3035
Honeymoon quarters on board a transatlantic sailing ship in the 1850s

They arrived at their farm on Wednesday, November 1, 1854. It was entirely wooded and had to be cleared. (Post: EARLY YEARS – GUTS, AMBITION AND IGNORANCE; HOMESICKNESS, DEATH AND SUCCESS   Post – location in Wisconsin: JOURNEY & DESTINATION – CEDARBURG, WIS)

* * * * *

Lüders’ Life in Cedarburg

 On Thursday, February 15, 1855, baby Johann Friederich was born to Henrietta and Joachim.

On Sunday, April 8, 1855, the family joined Immanuel Lutheran church,

Fig 010 RESCAN 1st church - Immanuels C. Nieman photo
The New World: Immanuel Lutheran Church of Cedarburg, Wisconsin – the First New World Church for the Niemanns and Lüders (Photo by Charlie Nieman, 1890s)

and on Friday, December 21, 1855, they became citizens of the US.

By 1860, the family was still together and well settled. The census shows:

  • Johann Sr., age 57, farmer and Eva Dorothea, age 61 Assets $1800 – real estate and $500, personal property
  • Johann Jr., age 33, farm laborer; Minna age 27, Assets $100 real estate and $100- personal worth; children Minna, age 4, Carl, age 2
  • Joachim, age 30, farm laborer; Henrietta age 30; Assets $100 – real estate and $100- personal worth; children John, age 5, Augusta, age 3, Maria, age 1

Judging from the census the land that had been pioneered was owned by Johann Sr., and Eva Dorothea.

They Expand Their Holdings

The family prospered and was expanding; so much so that on November 10, 1860 Johann Sr. bought another farm located on Bridge Road. Joachim, and Henrietta and their family moved there.

Map - Cedarburg 1873-4 blog  luders

The 1873 plat shows the Lüders to have combined holdings of 260 acres, probably the largest in the township at the time.

Joachim and Henrietta – Catastrophe: Homesickness and Death

1863 – 1870 brought catastrophe to Joachim’s family.  On Sept 16, 1863, Henrietta died of tuberculosis at 33 years of age. It was said that she died of homesickness, regardless of what the medical cause may have been.  What a crushing loss to have come so far, sacrificed so much, gone through so much privation and arduous labor, leave so many loved ones behind, and then to face death leaving behind your three little children (age 8, 6, & 4) and a young husband.

The picture of the home church in Germany and the pictures of 1865 Cedarburg and the shed that had been the first home of Immanuel Lutheran Church (Post: THE NEW LAND) help to explain why it was said of young Joachim Lüders’ wife, Henrietta, that she died of homesickness.  The accouterments of an advanced community of the mid 1800s were lacking.  Crude dwellings, bad roads, sheds for churches, and limited commercial establishments were the rule.  It was the beginning; most prospered and grew, some suffered and died.

Joachim’s mother, Eva Dorothea, must have been a great help, but she was 64 years old and had to have been heavily occupied with the prodigious labors of her home.  Joachim needed help fast.

Joachim and Albertina – the Spectre of Still More Grief

Joachim went hunting for a helpmate and found an “old maid” (in the nomenclature of the time), Albertina Brüss,  who lived in nearby Jackson with her brothers. He married 30 year old Albertina on December 22, 1863.

Henrietta’s two littlest children died soon thereafter.

Joachim and Albertina had a baby, also named Albertina in 1864.  In 1866 the baby died.

In 1870 Joachim and Henrietta’s remaining child, Johann Friederich, died at age 15.

It is hard to imagine how Joachim dealt with all of that grief.  How does one deal with prodigious physical labor when burdened with so much heartache?

Joachim and Albertina had four more children:

  • Albert, in 1866
  • Otto, in 1868
  • William, in 1871
  • Martha, in 1874
Fig 006 0002 05 eIMG0002 Joachim & Albertina Lueder & family (3)
Joachim and Albertina Luders family – about 1879-80

Left to right: (children) Martha, William, Albert, and Otto. Parents are Albertina (nee Brüss), and Joachim.

Joachim and Albertina Buy Their Farm From Pa & Ma, Johann Sr., & Eva Dorothea

October 5, 1869 was a noteworthy day for Joachim and Albertina.  They purchased the farm, on which they were living and working, from Joachim’s parents, Johann and Dorothea.  Estimating the value of a 147-year-old transaction in today’s currency is haphazard, but the sale price of $1,500 may have been the equivalent of $150,000 in today’s dollars (see footnote). While it certainly helped matters that the seller was his father, it is clear that Joachim had worked hard to earn his farm.

It is interesting to note that Joachim had anglicized his last name to Lueders.  His father retained the German spelling, Lüders.  His mother never learned to write, and signed the deed with X, her mark.

A word regarding Eva Dorothea:  she may have been illiterate, but she was formidable.  Through joint efforts with her husband, she had moved her family to a new world crossing  the Atlantic Ocean and half the North American continent.  Then, in the short space of eight years she had become the co-owner of the largest farm holdings in the township.

She was a pillar for her family through multiple deaths while carrying on with daily labor that we, with abundant electricity, appliances, and tools cannot even imagine. The woman who signed X had to have been a remarkable character with high energy, and not a simple person at all.  It is unfortunate that no known photo of Dorothea and Johann exists.

 Joachim Builds a Church

 Joachim was a pillar of Immanuel Lutheran Church. He was a church trustee for 18 years, church council chairman for a number of years, and he led the choir.  In 1880 the congregation resolved to build a large modern church. Joachim was the chairman of a committee of four men charged with the burden of raising the funds required to give substance to the congregation’s vision.  The final cost was $7,745.

Immanuel Lutheran Church – Succeeding Structures

In 1883 the second church was deconsecrated and was used by the congregation as their parochial school (third image from the left) for many years.

In 1891 a new 3,050 lb. bell was purchased with a gift from the Ladies Aid Society of $618.  The bell has Joachim’s name and the names of two other trustees scratched into it. The beautiful limestone structure, which now stands as an official historical landmark in Cedarburg, was dedicated on Sunday, March 18, 1883 when Joachim was 54.

The bell has rung its melodious tones over generations of Joachim’s descendants and fellow congregants from their baptisms through their lives of worship to their funerals, pealing joy and tolling sorrow.  The ringing of the bell with Joachim’s name on it is a fitting symbolic capstone to his life.  He left a lovely sanctuary in his homeland, he joined a tiny rough log church in the New World, he helped to buy a larger church, and finally he was a fundamental figure in the creation of a beautiful house of worship that with good fortune will last for centuries.

Driefaltigkeitskirche Kirche harvest fest. copy
Evangelische Lutherische Dreifaltigkeitskirche, Cedarburg, Wis. Am Danksagungs Tage (Thanksgiving Day)

No photo of the interior of Immanuel Lutheran from that era is available, but the image above is of Trinity Lutheran in Cedarburg in the late 1800s/early 1900s.  Immanuel’s sanctuary would have had a similar style which no longer exists.  It has been recently modernized.

Wedding Bells – Then All Too Soon Bells toll for Joachim’s Passing

Joachim and Albertina’s son William married Augusta Nieman on November 5, 1899.  Six weeks later Joachim died.  He was 70 years old.

Albertina was described as a “very difficult person” and blamed Joachim’s death on William and Augusta. The wedding day was very cold; he became ill and never recovered. The official cause of death is given as cancer. Perhaps he had been weakened by it and exposure at the wedding killed him. He was a respected, gregarious, and well-liked person. He was a community leader.  And, if his children were any indication, he was a wonderful father.

While Albertina may have been a “difficult” person, she had three wonderful children.  That wouldn’t have happened without her having numerous virtues.  One child, Albert, was not so wonderful.  More on that later when dealing with our story at the turn of the century.

William and Augusta lived on Joachim’s farm and Albertina stayed with them until her death in 1906. Her granddaughter, Elda, was the most cryptic person this writer has ever known and when asked the cause of Albertina’s death said: “A chicken flew at her face and then she died.”  Apparently a chicken scratched a mole and cancer resulted. 

Johann Jr., and Wilhelmina (Minna)

Fig 007 IMG0006_3 copy_edited-1
Johann, Jr., Minna, and family – about 1875

L-R, Back: Maria Dorothea (md. Engelbert Krohn), Carl, Wilhelmina (md.Ferdinand Mintzlaff, Augusta (md. Henry Wilhelmy) Front: Johann Jr., John III, Emma (md. Andrew Fromm) Minna, Bertha (the baby, md. Willie Hartwig – blacksmith at Horns Corners).  Baby Bertha was born in March of 1874.

Johann Jr. and Minna had ten children. Three died as infants.

Then tragedy: Johann Jr. died March 5, 1877 at age 50 leaving 44 year old widow, Minna, to raise their seven remaining children.

This was soon followed by the death of Johann Sr., the family patriarch, eight months later on November 2, 1877 at age 74.

Eva Dorothea, Johann Sr.’s wife, lived another five years until April 29, 1882. Eva must have been a great help to Minna in her struggles to cope with all her burdens.

Minna’s older son, Carl, was about 19 years old at the time of his father’s and grandfather’s deaths. With his sisters’ help he was able to do the labor necessary for successful farming.

Minna had an uncommonly hard life. Both of her parents died at the time of her confirmation in the Lutheran church in Spornitz in 1848.  She was 14 years old and lived with an aunt for the next 6 1/2 years until she married.  She then experienced tragedy and hardship as an immigrant, pioneer and finally as a 43 year old widow with seven children on a farm without electricity or any power assisted equipment or appliances of any kind. Simple tasks such as doing laundry for seven children and cooking for them were laborious and exhausting.

Life was tough.  So was Minna.

It was said that she was very concerned that her children’s prospective spouses should have money.  That is hardly surprising given how brutal her life experience had been.

If Minna Could Have Wielded a Shotgun………

It is not surprising that her rage was volcanic upon learning that one of her unmarried daughters was pregnant.  The moral outrage at the circumstance in that era’s values was significant.  Given Minna’s harsh experiences she very likely was also enraged at the very real possibility that her daughter would be in exceedingly difficult economic circumstances with the probability of adding to Minna’s burdens as well.

The daughter and the offending gentleman got out of Cedarburg and put considerable distance between themselves and Minna, settling in Iowa near her lover’s brothers until the heat in Cedarburg abated. But, more on this in the next post when the subject is the Fromm family.

A family gathering late in Minna’s life

L-R, Back: Emma, Carl, Augusta, John III, Bertha  Front: Maria, Minna, Wilhelmina (Minna Jr.)

Minna died on September 1, 1909, at the age of 75 years. Her two sons and her five daughters survived her.  Her fortitude and perseverance in the face of so much adversity is well worthy of remembrance.

Next – Early Years Part 4 – Fromm Family – “Rotebart” (Redbeard) Left Germany in a Hurry, Bought a Strange Homesite, Civil War & Dysentery, Ferocious Religious Dispute, and More on the Shotgun Wedding

Footnote re value of money:  Ascertaining the value of money 147 years after a transaction is a very imprecise exercise.  For those with interest this link is a good read: measuring worth – relative value  80 acres in that location today would be worth a great deal of money, but for residential development, not farming.




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