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Rev. Heinrich Hermann Fiegenbaum

1821 — 1905


Rev. Henry Fiegenbaum, a pioneer German Methodist Minister circuit rider of the central west, died at 2:30 yesterday afternoon at the age of 83 years at his home Fifth and Auguate Streets.  He was born in Ladbergen, Prussia, 16 October 1821.  He came with his parents to America in 1832, landing at New Orleans.  Coming up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, the family stopped in St. Charles County, Missouri, where he spent his early life in clearing ground and farming.  He lived in St. Charles County for several years but finally went to St. Louis to seek employment.  While in St. Louis he was invited to attend a German Methodist revival.  He was converted at the meeting and soon entered the ministry, spending the next twenty years of his life as a circuit rider, commencing in the late 40's.  His first circuit went out from St. Louis and through central Illinois, returning back to St. Louis.  After about eleven years spent preaching as a circuit rider in Illinois, he turned his attention to the west.  He was married to Miss Clara Kastenbudt 11 April 1847.  She died 2 September 1897.  He moved his family to St. Joseph in 1870 at the close of his ministry east of St. Louis.  His family has lived in and near St. Joseph since that time.  For about eleven years after coming to this part of the state he traveled all through Kansas, Nebraska, western Missouri and Iowa, and as far west as Denver, in the interest of the German Methodist Church.  As a result of his work in the west, after coming to St. Joseph, both as a circuit rider and as an organizer, the German Methodist Church became a conference in itself, he being its father.  Many times his trips would keep him away from his family for two or three months at a time.  He traveled from place to place while preaching a circuit either on horseback or using a canoe and snow shoes.  Frequently in the winter time he was taken from one place to the next German settlement in a sleigh.  Although he answered requests for English services, he devoted his entire ministerial life to the German Church and in his organizing the conference in this part of the central west he had to find the German settlements during the early days when this part of the country was thinly inhabited.  He retired from active service in 1889.  After the German Methodist Church became a conference and St. Joseph a district, the Rev. Mr. Fiegenbaum was presiding elder, which position he served for about twenty years.  Up to the last ten years of his life he was sturdy, active and always working.  Even during his retired years he was always ready to serve his church and was frequently called upon to assist in revivals.  He was the first of four brothers, who came to America, to die.  The others are ministers.  He has two sisters, who married ministers, who are living.  They are:  Rev. F. Fiegenbaum of Wathena, Kansas, Rev. William Fiegenbaum of Edwardsville, Illinois, Rev. Rudolph Fiegenbaum of Connell, Washington, Mrs. K. Wellemeyer of Warrenton, Missouri and Mrs. William Winter of Kansas City.  His brother, Rev. F. Fiegenbaum and sisters were at his bedside when he died.  The funeral will be held from the German Methodist Episcopal Church at 2 o'clock Monday afternoon.  Rev. G. Becker will have charge of the services.  Burial will be at Ashland Cemetery.  The Rev. Mr. Fiegenbaum's wife, Clara (Kastenbudt) died shortly after they celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Surviving children are Mrs. C. J. Steinmetz, Miss Mary and Miss Anna Fiegenbaum of St. Joseph and Mrs. Thomas Curry of Oregon, Missouri.

Source: This transcription is courtesy of Frances Gretchen (Klein) Leenerts. She reported that the obituary was published in The St. Joseph Gazette (St. Joseph, Missouri) on 14 January 1905.

Pioneer Methodist Dead.

St. Joseph, Mo., Jan. 13 — Rev. Henry K. [sic] Fiegenbaum, pioneer circuit rider, and founder of German Methodism west of St. Louis, is dead, aged 83.  Fiegenbaum organized conferences between here and Denver, from 1840 to 1860, and retired fifteen years ago.  He is known among churchmen all over the United States.

Source: Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Michigan) on Saturday, 14 January 1905; page 1, column 2 (last item).

newspaper obituary for Rev. Heinrich Hermann Fiegenbaum
photographic portrait of Heinrich Hermann & Clara Catherine (Kastenbudt) Fiegenbaum

"Death," wrote Faber, "is an unsurveyed land, an unarrayed science.  Poetry draws near death to hover over it for a moment and withdraw in terror.  History knows it only as a universal fact, philosophy finds it only among the mystery of being, the one great mystery of being not.  But we all rejoice in the fact that the light of our Christ hath penetrated this dark shadow. By his promise of "whoso findeth me findeth life."

Rev. Henry Fiegenbaum, a pioneer German Methodist circuit rider of the central west and founder of the German M. E. conference, died at his home in St. Joseph, Mo. Friday afternoon, January 13, 1905, in the 84th year of his age.  He was born in Ladbergen, Prussia, October 16, 1821, and came to America with his parents by the way of New way of [sic] New Orleans, in 1832.  The family came immediately to St. Charles, Mo., where he spent his early life upon the farm.  From here he went to St. Louis to seek employment, and while there he attended a German Methodist revival, and was converted.  At the same revival a Miss Clara Kastenbudt was converted and on April 11, 1847, she became the wife of Rev. Fiegenbaum.

Shortly after his conversion he felt that he should enter the ministry, and at once began preparations to dedicate his life to the Master's cause, and in 1847 he was granted exhorter's license, and the following year he was given the Okoe, Illinois charge, until the annual meeting of conference, and his circuit afterwards was extended and for several years he preached as a circuit rider in Illinois, Southern Wisconsin, Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota, being in the Rock River conference and doing the pioneer work among the Germans in these various states.  His home was in Galena, Ill., having charge of the Galena charge and for six years was presiding elder.  During these eight years he traveled mostly by buggy and horseback, and was often in danger of his life from wild animals and Indians, which were plentiful in this sparsely settled country, but his zeal knew no limit, fearing neither weather, beasts or Indians, on he went, carrying the tidings of Salvation to his fellow countrymen, who had come to America to build themselves homes in our land of liberty.  From Galena he went to Wapello, Iowa, where he served as presiding elder for four years, then taking a three years' charge at Pekin, another three at Quincy, Ill, brought him into the folds of the German conference, then known as the Southwest German conference.  By this conference he was sent as presiding elder to the Missouri district, which extended over the western half of Missouri, all of Nebraska, all of Kansas and the west half of Iowa.  After serving in this capacity two years, he took the charge at Oregon, Mo., where he worked successfully for three years, after which he again became presiding elder of the Missouri district, whose growth was so rapid as to form two large districts in themselves, and by the year 1878 he brought it before the Southern conference at Warsaw, Illinois, Bishop Merrill, presiding.  At that time there were but 37 ministers enrolled.  Of these but ten are now in actual service, twelve are super annuated [sic], and including Rev. Fiegenbaum, eleven have died.  The conference included three presiding elders and 3,014 members.  He lived to see the fruits of his early work extend until the conference today includes over 100 ministers, four presiding elders and 8,000 members.  The original conference included the state of Iowa, but since has been transferred to St. Louis.  The first session of the Wes[t] conference was held in the old rock and brick church in St. Joseph, on the same site now occupied by the present German M. E. church.  We here give Father Fiegenbaum's early fields of labor in his Savior's cause:

1848 50, Muscoutah, Ill.

1850 52, Muscatine, Iowa.

1852 60, Galena, Ill.

1860 64, Wapello, Iowa, P. E.

1864 67, Pekin, Ill.

1867 70, Quincy, Ill.

1870-72, St. Joseph, Mo; P. E.

1872 75, Oregon, Mo.

1875-83, Presiding Elder, St. Joseph.

1883 86, St. Joseph.

1886 89, Sedalia.

While in Sedalia his health failed him and he retired from active ministerial work and returned to St. Joseph, where he had made his home since 1870, and where he lived up to the time of his death - thus giving 42 consecutive years of labor in the ministry.  In his early day labors for the church, his circuits covered large territory, which would keep him away from his family for two and three months at a time, and would travel from place to place on horseback or using canoe or show shoes, and frequently in the winter season would be taken from one German settlement to another in a sleigh.

He began his ministry when but 27 years of age, and during all these years he gave his life in extending the cause of Christ and building up the church; and although enfeebled from age and physical infirmities, he was ever ready to do what he could for his people.  His ambition through life was service for the Master, and up to the last several years he was sturdy, active, earnest - always working - always busy.  Even during his retired years he was frquently [sic] called upon to assist in revivals.

It is a remarkable co incident [sic] in the history of this family:  there were four brothers and two sisters - the brothers were all ministers and the sisters married ministers.  Father Fiegenbaum is the first of the list to be called home by Him who gave him being.

The brothers and sisters are:  Rev. William Fiegenbaum, Edwardsville, Illinois, aged 80 years; Mrs. Katherine Wellemeyer, Warrenton, Missouri, aged 77 years; Rev. F. W. Fiegenbaum, Wathena, Kansas, aged 74 years; Mrs. Mi[n?]a Winter, of Kansas City, Missouri, aged 71 years; Rev. Rudolph Fiegenbaum, Connell, Washington, aged 68 years.  The combined ages of the family that are left, aggregate 370 years, something very remarkable, surely, in one family.  His brother, Frederick W., and the two sisters and his surviving children were at his bedside when he died.

On April 11th, 1847, Rev. Fiegenbaum and Miss Clara Kastenbudt were united in marriage in the city of St. Louis, and on Sunday, April 11, 1897, in their home in St. Joseph, they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.  The wedding was solemnized in the German M. E. church in that city, immediately following the regular service.  Their golden wedding anniversary came on Palm Sunday, and although having reached the golden stepping stone, and true to their early faith, wended their way to the house of God, they found the church a bower of palms.  At the close of the regular service, Rev. Harmes, pastor in charge, called the bridal party forward and seating them befor [sic] the altar, delivered a touching and fitting address to them.  Mrs. Dorothia Lahman and Dr. Heinz, of St. Joseph, the only living guests and witnesses of the marriage in 1847, were present on the occasion of the golden anniversary.  Mother Fiegenbaum died September 2, 1897, only a few months following their golden wedding anniversary.

The surviving children are Mrs. C. J. Steinmetz, Misses Mary and Anna Fiegenbaum, of St. Joseph, and Mrs. Tom Curry, of Oregon.  There are also 12 grand children and three great grand children.

The funeral was held from the German M. E. church in St. Joseph, on Monday afternoon, January 16, 1905, the services being conducted by the pastor, Rev. G. Becker, the interment being at Ashland cemetery.

"Well done good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

Source: "Rev. Henry Fiegenbaum....," in The Holt County Sentinel (Oregon, Missouri); Friday, 20 January 1905; page 1, columns 4-5.

Digital copies accessed through Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (The Library of Congress) in November 2011.

Notes to Both Obituaries

The Photo

The digital version of the microfilmed copy of the photo of Heinrich Hermann & Clara Catherine (Kastenbudt) Fiegenbaum at the beginning of the second article is not very clear. It appears to be identical to the image on the remembrance card created for their 50th wedding anniversary in 1897. W. Richard Nelson, Jr. has very generously shared a copy of the original picture, which is posted in the photo collection on this web site.

Birth Details

Both of the obituaries state that Rev. Henry Fiegenbaum was born at Ladbergen, Prussia on 16 October 1821. This information is not entirely correct.

Members of the Fiegenbaum family who live in Germany and have examined the records of the evangelical churches in northwestern Germany report that the correct day of birth is 15 October. In either case, death came in Henry's 83rd year, not the 84th as reported by the The Holt County Sentinel.

The church records also identify him as Heinrich Hermann Fiegenbaum, son of Adolph Heinrich and Christine Elisabeth (Peterjohann) Fiegenbaum, born in the Hohe section of the village of Lengerich. Adolph Heinrich Fiegenbaum was born and raised in the nearby village of Ladbergen and that is where he and Christine Elisabeth Peterjohann were married in 1820. Following the wedding, the couple settled in Lengerich, Christine's home town, and that is where their first five children were born between 1821 and 1833. The birth and baptism of their sixth and final child was recorded in 1837 in the baptismal registry of the German evangelical church at Femme Osage, St. Charles County, Missouri.

Adolph Heinrich Fiegenbaum and Christine Elisabeth Peterjohann were two members of the family who experienced first hand the political and therefore the social turmoil of the Napoleonica Era. At the beginning of their lives, the quiet agricultural villages where they lived were administratively part of Grafschaft Tecklenburg (English: County Tecklenburg), purchased in 1707 by Frederick III, Elector-Margrave of Brandenburg & King in Prussia (Frederick I). In 1808, Grafschaft Tecklenburg was absorbed into the Grand-duché de Berg (English: Grand Duchy of Berg), which came under the rule of Emperor Napoleon I "in personal union." By 1810-1811, the old Grafschaft was incorporated directly into the First French Empire and Ladbergen and Lengerich found themselves in the Département Ems-Supérieur (English: Department of the Upper Ems). Following Napoleon's defeat in 1814, there was some administrative turmoils as the victors decided who got what of the spoils. By the time Adolph and Christine married in 1820, their hometowns were politically part of Regierungsbezirk Münster, Provinz Westfalen, Königreich Prueßen (Administrative District Münster, Province of Westphalia, Kingdom of Prussia). These administrative changes are covered in more detail in the page about Ladbergen.

Immigration to the U.S.A.

In obituaries such as these two and for Henry's brothers and sisters, in biographical sketches of family members, in census enumerations, and in a number of other secondary sources, the family's immigration to the USA has been reported as taking place on any number of dates in the early 1830s. I have not yet been able to discover a passenger list which would help to clear up the confusion. In spite of the many mentions of 1832 or 1833 as the time of this important family event, I believe that there is a strong argument for believing that this branch of the Fiegenbaum family arrived in the USA in 1834. If you have the stomach for it, there is a whole page in this web site devoted to this discussion.

Settling in Missouri

Whether or not the family settled in the city of St. Charles, Missouri is not known with any certainty. It seems very likely that they were living somewhere in St. Charles County, but not in the "big city".

The birth on 2 Janaury 1837 and baptism on 5 February 1837 of Henry's youngest brother, Heinrich Rudolph Fiegenbaum, were recorded in the baptismal register of the German evangelical church at Femme Osage, St. Charles County, Missouri (founded in 1833 as the deutsche evangelische Kirchegemeinde and known since 1957 as Femme Osage United Church of Christ).

By 1840, Adolph Heinrich Fiegenbaum, the father, had purchased 40 acres of federal land in St. Charles Township, a few miles east of the village of Femme Osage. In 1844, he purchased 81.47 acres in nearby Warren County, Missouri, just north of the village of Holstein. It was in the neighborhood of where Adolph's older brother, Johann Heinrich Fiegenbaum, and his family has settled after arriving in Missouri in 1841.

By the time of the 1850 U.S. census, most of the children, including Heinrich Hermann Fiegenbaum, had struck off on their own. Adolph, his wife, Christine Elisabeth Peterjohann, and the two youngest sons were living in Wapello Township, Louisa County, Iowa.

Service in the Church

It was the policy of the German Methodist Episcopal Church to move its pastors to new charges every few years. This frequent change of location is reflected in the list of Henry's postings in this article. The same pattern of movement appears in the chronology his three brothers, who were also ministers in the German Methodist Episcopal Church, and his two sisters, who married ministers in the same denomination. This constant relocation has made the discovery of the family history even more challenging than normal. Documents listed in the More Resources section, below, provide what details of the story I have been able to collect.

Henry's last active years in the ministry were focused on the northwestern portion of Missouri, much of it centered on St. Joseph, Missouri. It was to here that he and Clara retired. There is frequent mention of them in The Holt County Sentinel during the transition from the 19th to the 20th century as they visit with friends in Oregon, Missouri or Henry fills in at the Greman M. E. Church. Both Henry and Clara died at St. Joseph and were buried there in Ashland Cemetery.

Brief Genealogy

Heinrich Hermann Fiegenbaum's family

Clara Catherine Kastenbudt's family

Fiegenbaum - Kastenbudt family

More Resources