27 February 2016

Adolph Heinrich Fiegenbaum


Christine E. (Peterjohann) Fiegenbaum

Family Story Published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch
Sunday, 26 June 1898

newspaper article on the history of the Fiegenbaum-Peterjohann family
St. Louis Post Dispatch.  Sunday, June 26, 1898.

Source: Composite image created from four individual images of the newspaper article provided by Frances Gretchen (Klein) Leenerts and Jane (Lichte) Denny.

Four Sons of a St. Louis Gardener
Have Served 192 Years in the Ministry

Three Were Superannuated After Fifty Years of Work; Their Sisters Married
Ministers, Two Daughters Married Ministers and Lives of All
Have Been Full of Blessings Which Were Prophesied
Before Their Birth and in Their Infancy.

There occurred at Edwardsville, Ill., one day last week a meeting of three brothers, members of a most remarkable family.

All of the brothers are preachers of Christianity; they have another brother in the same work who was not present.

Two sisters, who complete the family, are the wives of ministers.

The youngest of the six is 62 years old; the eldest 74.

All are vigorous to an extent belieing [sic] their age.

Most remarkable of all about this family is the length of time its male members have spent in religious work.

Combined, the share of the brothers' life devoted to leading humanity into the path of righteousness would fall but a few years short of two centuries.

Three of the brothers have each preached 50 years and the youngest hopes to achieve a similar record.

All of them belong to the German Methodist Church, as do their brothers-in-law.

Three have become superannuated, and while remaining regularly ordained ministers, they are not asked to work in this evening of their lives.

Two of these were itinerant preachers, circuit riders; 50 years they spent in the saddle, exhorting the pioneers of the Middle West.

The brother still actively engaged is a traveling preacher.

Wm. Fiegenbaum, at whose house the meeting took place, is 74.  He was relieved from active duty by the conference four years ago.

Henry, aged 78, lives at St. Joseph.  He retired about the same time as William.

Frederick preached his last sermon quite recently, giving way to the counsel of his family when he passed the half-century mark in his ministerial career.

He is 68 years old and resides at Oregon, Mo.

Rudolph, the baby of this long-lived family, has been preaching since he was 20 years old, and he is now 62.  His home is in Sioux City, Io.

Mrs. Catherine Wellemeyer, the eldest sister, who has reached the age of 72, lives at Garner, Io.

The other sister, Mrs. Minnie Winter, is 65 and lives at Wymore, Neb.

Each one of the six brothers and sisters has a large family; all have grandchildren, though no great-grandchildren.

William Fiegenbaum has six children.  Two daughters, Mrs. C. F. Blume of Minneapolis, Minn., and Mrs. H. C. Jacoby of St. Louis, are wives of Methodist ministers.

The meeting of the brothers was unexpected by William, who had not seen either of the others for several years.

Henry and Frederick were attending the commencement exercises at the Methodist Seminary at Warrenton, Mo., and decided that they would continue their journey from home a little further and visit William at Edwardsville.

The meeting took place at Dr. Fiegenbaum's home.  The old men greeted each other with that affection which loving brothers nearing the end of life's journey hold for each other.

Old man Fiegenbaum's figure is known to every man and child in Edwardsville.  He is revered by all.

A man of meager school learning, as are his brothers, his mind is stored with the knowledge that comes from friction with the world and his advice is often sought and always respected by those who know him.

His mentality is as strong as ever and he doubts not that he could preach as powerful a sermon as ever flowed from his lips during the early enthusiasm in his work.

But he is content to pass the remainder of his life in repose, watching his family grow about him, while younger men labor in God's vineyard.

This kindly old man has no deed or word on the mental record of his life to cause a qualm of conscience or a single pang of regret.

Satisfied with his career on earth and confident of heavenly reward, he neither seeks nor fears the end, but awaits its coming calmly and contentedly.

"That our family is a remarkable one I know, and that its history would be of interest to the readers of the Sunday Post Dispatch I also believe," he said.

"But to relate it correctly and narrate the events of our lives in their proper sequence I must begin at the beginning, for I am an old man, and methodical.  And, too, an event which transpired before I was born, in our belief predestined the future of myself and brothers and sisters.

"My father and mother lived in Westphalia, in Prussia proper.  They courted many years, and father daily besought mother to marry him.

"But she had been converted to the United Evangelical Church, and felt what was then called 'homesick for heaven.'  There was a conviction in her heart, strong as her love for father, that it was God's will she should not marry.

"So they lived for years loving each other, but still apart.  'Wait until I have God's permission,' mother would answer to his pleadings, 'and then I shall marry.'  Days and months and years father waited.  It was when they were 28 years old that mother went to him and said:

" 'Rudolph, I have permission of God, and we shall wed; and it has been said "A great blessing shall come upon your children." '

"Years after father and mother heard from the lips of a man of God, in foreign land, 'A great blessing shall come upon your children.'

"It was the blessing of being a Christian and having the power and will to teach its laws - surely a great blessing, which fell upon us and fulfilled the prophecy.

"When our mother and father and their five children - Rudolph had not been born then - landed at New Orleans, we were penniless.  Henry, the oldest, was 12 years old, and Minnie, the youngest, was only a baby.

"We worked for a countryman who bought a farm in Warren County, back of St. Charles.  At that time St. Louis was only a village and St. Charles a cluster of houses.

"Father eventually acquired a little piece of ground through years of toil.  The boys were growing up and some of us found work in St. Louis, I in a grocery store.

"About that time there came to St. Louis a Methodist evangelist.  There was no church for him, and one day when we were at home in Warren County, mother had him preach to a gathering at our house.

"When the congregation had dispersed the preacher prayed with father and mother.  At the end of his prayer he said 'A great blessing shall come upon your children.'

"That prophecy was to them like the voice of God delivered through man.

"Mother had in former years admonished us against the doctrine of the Methodists, but this preacher changed her mind.  She embraced the creed, as did all of us, in brief time.  That was in 1844 and I was 20 years old.

"That same year I was licensed as an exhorter and went up the Missouri River to preach the gospel in the trading camps and settlements.  I remember how the people used to listen to me, eagerly and joyfully.

"They attended meeting those days with muskets in their hands and long knives in their belts, for Indians were in the woods.

"At Glasgow and Carrolton the people formed congregations and each settlement built a little log church while I was there.

"When I got back home Henry had been gone some time, having become an exhorter also.  I was then regularly ordained as an itinerant preacher and started out again, this time astride of a horse, with my Bible and a few articles of clothing in the saddle bags.

"And for 50 years I traveled thus, nor am I unwilling to continue it now.

"Through Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota I rode.  Every day I preached, sometimes to only a dozen harvesters in the field, but I was of the Lord's harvesters and passed none by.

"This great country grew and prospered under my eyes.  Today a little log cabin in a clearing; to-morrow neighbors; a few days more a hamlet; anon a bustling village; a year, thatched hut stood within a city.

"What was a bridle path on one trip was a broad roadway on the next.  Each time I returned to St. Louis, which was only in years, the place had grown beyond semblance of its former self.

"Traveling was not so comfortable in the early days and there were dangers for the body, too.  I remember once when I escaped death at the hands of the Sioux in the forests of Minnesota.

"I had established a church at a little settlement about 150 miles from St. Paul.  I stayed there until the church building was put up.

"That night I rode 15 miles on the road to St. Paul with a family and slept at their house.  Early next morning I continued my journey.  When I got to the next town I learned that the Sioux, who were then on the warpath, had massacred the family who sheltered me over night.

"My brothers became engaged in religious work, as each thought himself fitted.

"Sister Mary married the Rev. William Winter, an itinerary Methodist minister of Warren County.

"Catherine married the Rev. Millemeyer [sic] and his circuit took him to Iowa.

"Father and mother moved to Iowa in the early 40's.  Contented and happy in their old age, they died secure in the knowledge that He whose prophecy of a great blessing upon their children had been fulfilled in their life, would care for the children until the end.

"As age unfitted us for active ministerial service, we were retired one by one.  Rudolph still remains in the field.  Although Henry and Frederick and I are no longer preaching we are still regular ministers and will remain so until death.

"Four years ago when I quit preaching I came to Edwardsville, where three of my children and their families reside.

"It was not my aim in life to make money, but there is enough for my wife and me to live out our lives at rest and that is enough.

"Every day I think of the prophecy and every day in my prayers I thank God for the fulfillment of that promise: 'A great blessing shall come upon your children.' "

Source: "Four Sons of a St. Louis Gardener Have Served 192 Years in the Ministry" in the St. Louis Post Dispatch; Sunday, 26 June 1898. Transcription by J. Mark Fiegenbaum.


Some of the ages of the people mentioned in this article are not confirmed by the information reported in other documents. Researchers are advised to consult the genealogical database for a more complete survey of known sources.

The three brothers who met in Edwardsville, Illinois were Hermann Wilhelm Fiegenbaum, Heinrich Hermann Fiegenbaum, and Friedrich Wilhelm Fiegenbaum.

Three other siblings, Christine Elisabeth (Fiegenbaum) Wellemeyer, Maria Wilhelmine (Fiegenbaum) Winter, and Heinrich Rudolph Fiegenbaum, the youngest of the six and the only one who was born in the United States, were not present at the gathering.

The reunion "took place at Dr. Fiegenbaum's home." This is no doubt a reference to Dr. Edward William Fiegenbaum (1854-1927), a son of Rev. Hermann Wilhelm and Sophia (Gusewelle) Fiegenbaum. Another of their sons, Julius Henry Fiegenbaum (1859-1923), was also a medical doctor, but he lived in nearby Alton, Illinois.

Rev. Hermann Wilhelm Fiegenbaum, the former pastor of the Methodist church in Edwardsville, appears to be "the Old man Fiegenbaum" who is described as a revered figure in town and who becomes the narrator of the family story that is reported by the Post-Dispatch. Wilhelm or William, as he seems to have been known in his adult years, wrote a brief essay, published in 1859, describing his early life as a pastor in the German Methodist Episcopal Church.

Heinrich Hermann Fiegenbaum, often referred to as Heinrich or Henry in histories of the German Methodist Episcopal Church, also contributed an autobiographical sketch of the start of his career to this same book.

The third of the brothers attending the reunion in 1898, Friedrich Wilhelm Fiegenbaum, often identified in printed sources as Friedrich or Fred, wrote a less formal but more empassioned memoir of his experiences. It was addressed to his children and included more personal and family details.

Maria Wilhelmine (Fiegenbaum) Winter, referred to in this article as "Mrs. Minnie Winter" and "Sister Mary" also wrote a brief autobiographical essay.

The parents of the three ministers reminiscing in Edwardsville were Adolph Heinrich Fiegenbaum (1793-1877) and Christine Elisabeth Peterjohann (1797-1871), formerly of Kreis Tecklenburg, Province of Westphalia, Kingdom of Prussia. According to the best data we have presently, they were married on 25 October 1820 in Ladbergen, Adolph's home town. Adolph would have been 26 and Christine 23 years old, not age 28 as reported in this article. Following their marriage, Adolph and Christine lived in nearby Lengerich, Christine's home town. It was here that the first five of their children were born - from 1821 to 1833.

According to his citizenship hearing in the St. Charles (Missouri) Circuit Court on 2 April 1838, Adolph declared that he and his family had emigrated from Ladbergen, Kingdom of Prussia and had landed in the United States at New Orleans, Louisiana in June 1834. In the autobiographical sketch written for his children, Rev. Friedrich Wilhelm Fiegenbaum recorded that his family arrived in New Orleans at the end of June and reached St. Louis on 3 or 4 July 1834.

In 1840, Adolph was granted a federal land patent for 40 acres in St. Charles County, Missouri, a few miles east of the village of Femme Osage.

In 1844, he received another federal land patent, this time for 81.47 acres in the neighborhood of Holstein and Hopewell, Warren County, Missouri. Thirteen members of the extended family of Adolph's younger brother, Johann Heinrich Fiegenbaum, had immigrated to Missouri in 1841 and had settled in this same area.

By the time of the 1850 U.S. census, Adolph, Christine and their two youngest sons, who were still in the family home, had taken up land in Wapello Township, Louisa County, Iowa. Although the account in the newspaper states that "Father and mother moved to Iowa in the early 1840's", I believe the relocaton actually took place later in the decade.

In the meantime, Rev. Hermann Wilhelm Fiegenbaum, the "the Old man Fiegenbaum" of the Post-Dispatch article, had already married Sophia Gusewelle at St. Louis and begun his career in the German Methodist Episcopal Church. Tracing his family over the course of his career throughout the Mid-West is no easy task. Biographical sketches and a preliminary chronolgy show that he did indeed travel through Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota, as the newspaper reports.

His brothers and sisters were just as mobile, as can be seen in the various resources listed below. Note especially those documents which mention biographical material and chronolgies.

Brief Genealogy

Adolph Heinrich Fiegenbaum's family

Christine Elisabeth Peterjohann's family

Fiegenbaum - Peterjohann family

More Resources