3 June 2017

Adolph Heinrich Fiegenbaum


Christine Elisabeth Peterjohann

formal photographic portrait of Adolph H. and Christine E. (Peterjohann) Fiegenbaum
Date and place unknown.  Permission of Thomas G. Allen; all rights reserved.
formal photographic portrait of Adolph H. and Christine E. (Peterjohann) Fiegenbaum
Date and place unknown.  Photo from Arthur Wellemeyer, Fiegenbaum, Wellemeyer (Klemme, Iowa: A. Wellemeyer, 1955); about page 3.  Permission of Eric Hanson, and F. Gretchen (Klein) Leneerts; all rights reserved.

About these 2 images.

Christine Elisabeth (Peterjohann) Fiegenbaum & Adolph Heinrich Fiegenbaum

Adolph Heinrich Fiegenbaum was probably born on 19 December 1793 at Ladbergen, County Tecklenburg (German: Grafschaft Tecklenburg ) and baptized in the evangelical church in that village later that month. 1 

Christine Elisabeth Peterjohann was born on 5 March 1797 at Lengerich, a nearby but larger village.

Adolph and Christine were married on 25 October 1820 at Ladbergen. It would appear that they lived the early part of their married life in Lengerich, for that is where the first five of their six children were born. As a member of the Heuerleute class, Adolph earned his living farming and building houses.

In 1834, Adolph, Christine, and their five children, between the ages of thirteen and one year, immigrated to the United States, landing in New Orleans and traveling up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Missouri. They appear to have settled first in St. Charles County, Missouri. Heinrich Rudolph, their youngest child, was probably born here; his baptism is recorded in the archives of the German evangelical church at Femme Osage in the southern part of St. Charles County. 2 

During the April term of the Circuit Court of St. Charles County, Adolph declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States. The document, as recorded by the court clerk, reads:

I Adolphus Fiegenbaum do declare that I am a native of Latbergen [sic], Kingdom of Prussia, that I am about fourty [sic] four years old; that I emigrated from Latbergen [sic] that I there owed allegiance to King William III King of Prussia, that I am a Carpenter by profession, and that I am married to Cristina Peterjohan [sic], and that I have six children, that I landed in New Orleans in June 1834 and that I intend to settle in the State of Missouri.

In 1840, Adolph obtained 40 acres of federal land just east of the village of Femme Osage. 3 

By 1841, one of Adolph's elder brothers, Johann Heinrich Fiegenbaum, and at least 13 members of his nuclear and extended family had also immigrated to Missouri. These Fiegenbaums appear to have settled near the villages of Hopewell and Holstein, in neighboring Warren County. They were members of the German Lutheran Church on Charrette, known since 1957 as Immanuels United Church of Christ.

In 1844, Adolph obtained another plot of federal land – 81.75 acres between Holstein and Hopewell, Warren County Missouri. 4  This would have placed his family in the same "neighborhood" as his brother's family.

It seems that about this time that the Fiegenbaum-Peterjohann family became familiar with the work of Franz Horstmann, who had established a German Methodist Episcopal mission at Pinckney, Missouri. Under his ministry, the parents and younger children were converted to Methodism. The three older children were already living and working in St. Louis at this time and, under the influence of revivals held there, also joined the Methodist church. Eventually, all four sons became ministers in this denomination and the two daughters married men who also became pastors in the German Methodist Episcopal Church.

In 1850, Adolph and Christine, the younger children and perhaps one married daughter and her family, settled on land near Wapello, Louisa County, Iowa.

Christine Elisabeth (Peterjohann) Fiegenbaum died on 17 September 1871 at Colesburg, Delaware County, Iowa and was buried there.

According to an obituary in the Hancock Signal, of Garner, Hancock County, Iowa, Adolph relocated to Garner with the family of his son-in-law, Henry Frank Wellemeyer, about one year before his death. He died on 11 January 1877, having spent the last few years of his life as an invalid as a result of injuries suffered in a fall. Adolph was buried in Concord Cemetery at Garner.

Christine's body was brought from Colesburg, Iowa, and interred next to her husband's.

The family's history was briefly recounted in an article of the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Sunday, 26 June 1898. Maria Wilhelmine (Fiegenbaum) Winter composed an autobiographical essay near the end of her life. Read elsewhere on this web site the memoirs and biographical sketches of Friedrich Wilhelm Fiegenbaum, the life stories of Heinrich Hermann Fiegenbaum, and a statement written by Hermann Wilhelm Fiegenbaum. There is also a photo of the six children in adulthood.

About the Two Images

At this time, I do not know exactly when and where the studio portrait of Adolph and Christine was made. As far as I know, there is no clue within the photograph itself that would help answer this question. Until more explicit evidence becomes available, one is therefore left with guessing the age of the couple and relating that speculation to the landmarks of their lives, some of which have been mentioned in the biographical sketch, above.

In 1834, the time of their migration to the USA, Adolph would have been about 41 years of age, and Christine would have been about 37 years old. They settled in eastern Missouri, where they were enumerated in the 1840 U.S. census.

However, I think it not unreasonable to suppose that the visit to the studio took place between 1850 and 1870 when Adolph (about ages 57-77) and Christine (about ages 53-73) resided in Wapello Township, Louisa County, Iowa. Sorry, genealogy is not an exact science.

The oval portrait is a mirror image of the studio portrait. It appeared in Fiegenbaum Wellemeyer, a family history compiled by Franz Arthur Wellemeyer (1880-1960) in 1955. Arthur was a grandson of Henry Frank Wellemyer (1822-1899) and Christine Elisabeth Fiegenbaum (1827-1918), the third child of Adolph Heinrich and Christine Elisabeth (Peterjohann) Fiegenbaum.

In the copy of Arthur's history given to me by Thomas S. Burke has the following description of the portrait:

The above picture of Adolph and Christine, was enlarged from a small "tin-type", the dark haired Christine looks serious. Adolph smiled when the picture was taken. He had a blond beard and his hair was light brown, he was bald headed, but the artist who did the enlarging was kind enough to add a lock of hair to the top of his head.

Bald heads were a feature of Fiegenbaum men which Arthur Wellemeyer took note of. But why he thought the lock of hair on top of Adolph's head was added in the course of enlarging the studio photograph is not clear; both images show the same hair style. What he seems to have missed is that Adolph's very light-colored beard has been "enhanced" with whiskers not visible in the original photograph.


  1. Adolph's date of birth has been reported by family researchers as either 17 or 19 December, in either 1792 or 1793. A list of all the sources relating to his question are available in Adolph's entry in the genealogical database. I explain my selection of 1793 for the year of his birth in the database and also in my comments on Adolph's portrait elsewhere in this website.

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  2. The birth and baptism were recorded in the baptismal register of the German evangelical church at Femme Osage, Missouri. It was founded in 1833 as the Deutsche Evangelische Kirchegemeinde. It is regarded as the oldest evangelical church west of the Mississippi River. Since 1957 it has been known as Femme Osage United Church of Christ.

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  3. A federal land patent for 40 acres of land in St. Charles County was issued in St. Louis, Missouri to "Adolphus Fiegenbaum, of St. Charles County, Missouri" on 1 October 1840.

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  4. A second federal land patent was issued to "Adolphus Fiegenbaum," this one on 1 August 1844. This time he was identified as a resident of Warren County, Missouri and the patent was for 81.47 acres. Based on the description in the patent, the land was located about 1.4 miles (in a straight line) northeast of the village of Holstein, site of Immanuels United Church of Christ.

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Brief Genealogy

Adolph Heinrich Fiegenbaum's family

Christine Elisabeth Peterjohann's family

Fiegenbaum - Peterjohann family

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