The Johann David Rau Family in Cooper County, Missouri

19th Century German Immigrant Church Affiliations
Three Generations of the Johann David Rau Family in Cooper County, Missouri
John David Hopkins
Emeritus Senior Lecturer, University of Tampere, Finland

Among the first acts of immigrants in the mid-19th century was usually to establish churches in their native languages; these would become the focus of their community life and would help them adjust to their new lives in America. Collectively, the churches would help form a strong tradition of church membership and a role of religion in American life that continues today.

The experience of Johann David Christian Rau, who emigrated in the mid-1850s from Germany to central Missouri, is similar to that of many 19th century European immigrants, particularly those who moved to regions where there were large numbers of their countrymen. This was certainly the case in Missouri: the 1850s was the peak period of German immigration to America (see timeline), with 215,000 Germans arriving in 1854 alone. Many were attracted to Missouri not only because of its rich farmland, but because many of their countrymen were already there. Once established, the new German communities soon founded churches and other civic institutions in their mother tongue.

Rau was a founding member of three successive Cooper County churches: in Boonville, Clarks Fork, and Lone Elm. His son William Martin Rowe (the surname now anglicized), who married Christine Anna Louise Toellner, daughter of fellow German immigrants Christopher and Anna Timm Töllner, would continue his father's activity in the Lone Elm and Boonville congregations, as would his own children and grandchildren: the Rau/Rowe family connection to the churches of their ancestors would continue strongly into the third and fourth generations.

(L) The 02 January 1859 wedding photo of Johann David Christian Rau and Rebekah Ann Goodman at the German Evangelical Church in Boonville, as recorded in the Trau [Marriage] Register of the church Kirchenbuch.
(R) The 24 July 1901 wedding photo of William Martin and Christine Anna Toellner Rowe, at the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lone Elm. William was the son of David and Rebecca Rowe (as their names were now spelled) and Christine the daughter of Christopher and Anna K. Toellner. (See the wedding news report.)

The Background of Johann David Rau in Germany

Johann David Christian Rau was born on 31 March 1834 in Rettert, Germany, in the current Rhineland-Palatinate [Rheinland-Pfalz] region, formerly a part of the Duchy of Nassau. Rettert is roughly halfway between Koblenz to the Northwest and Wiesbaden to the Southeast, in Germany's wine-producing heartland roughly 20 kilometers east of the Rhine. Johann was oldest of four children of the farmer and stonemason Georg Philipp Rau (born 17 December 1798 in Bettendorf), and his wife Anna Magdalina Bingel (born 20 May 1808 in Langschied), and was the only one to emigrate to America. Johann's siblings [all born in Rettert] were Philipp Peter Rau (born 27 September 1835), Philipp Jacob Rau (born 12 June 1840) and Maria Caterina Rau (born 08 November 1843).


Rettert and Bettendorf are ca. 3-4 kilometers apart, with Langschied ca. 8-10 kilometers southeast (the Rhine at Spay is ca. 20 km west of Rettert). Until Johann Rau left for America, three generations of his family had lived only a few kilometers apart.
(Image via Google Maps, click to enlarge)

Johann's grandfather, the shepherd Johann Peter Rau (born 27 June 1766) had been born in Bettendorf as well, as had his wife Elisabethe Catharina Zimmer [or Zimmerman] (born 09 August 1766) and his older brother Ferdinand Rau (born 31 March 1789).

The parents of Johann's paternal grandmother, Anna Magdalina Bingel [Justus Anton Bingel, born 11 April 1786, and Elisabethe Margarethe Brenser (or Brömsser or Brömser), born 11 December 1785] had likewise been born in Langschied, as had Anna. Until Johann left for America, at least three generations of his family on both sides had lived within a radius of only a few kilometers.

This changed dramatically when Rau, at the age of 21, together with several of his relatives, joined the wave of Germans who were leaving for America. In the 1980s research of Dorothy 'Dotty' Rowe, wife of Johann Rau's future youngest grandson Kenneth Christian Rowe, Johann is thought to have arrived in the Port of New Orleans on January 26, 1855 aboard the S.S. Judith from Le Havre, being the 'Johann Rau' listed in the ship's manifest. His obituary says he remained in New Orleans 'a short time' before proceeding to Cooper County to reside. Family narrative reports that after landing he was separated from his relatives and never regained contact with them.


'Johann Rau' in the manifest of the SS Judith
[The Glazier-Filby Germans to America series from which this was taken is known to be rife with errors;
see study by Antonius Holtmann and his team]

From New Orleans Rau would typically have travelled by steamship up the Mississippi River to St. Louis and then westward along the Missouri River to Boonville. The first confirmed records [to date] of his new life in America are from Boonville. 'David Rau' is one of 30 names on the first Constitution, dated 01 January 1855, which officially established the German Evangelical Church of Boonville.

The Trau [Marriage] Register of the church's Kirchenbuch [PDF] later records the marriage by Rev. C.L. Greiner of 'John David Rau' to Rebekah Ann Goodman on 02 January 1859, with witnesses/sponsors having been Benj. Goodmann (sic.) and Peter Back. Rebekah was 18 years old, having been born in nearby Wooldridge, Missouri, on 17 October 1841, the daughter of Johnson Goodman (07 August 1797-19 May 1875) and Lucy Bailey (06 July 1795-11 November 1859). Johnson Goodman had been born 'of English descent' in Kentucky (or Virginia, as is variously reported) and had moved to the Clarks Fork region (see map below) in 1817.

A Question Still Open: When Exactly Did Rau Arrive in America?

As may often happen with immigration records, when documentation is incomplete and the spelling of names varies, confirming identities and dates may be problematic. Did Johann Rau really arrive on the Judith in January 1855? His age in the manifest is 23; this would not match his birthdate. It is possible the age was recorded incorrectly, as the manifest also lists him as 'female.'


David Rau's Nov. 1859 U.S. citizenship certificate. This testifies that Rau, formerly a subject of the Grand Duke of Nassau, had lived continuously in the U.S. for at least five years as of September 1859.
(click to enlarge)

Several other details also would not seem to match the January 1855 arrival date. Rau's obituary described him as making the 49-day voyage at the age of 20, which would have had him arriving in 1854. Also, he became a U.S. citizen on November 1, 1859; citizenship requires a 5-year waiting period. This would match an arrival by mid-1854, but not one in 1855. Further, while 'Johann' was his first given name, no records apart from his wedding indicates that he used this name, with other records showing 'David' or 'David C.' Rau/Rowe.

The Boonville Kirchenbuch [PDF]records 'David Rau' as one of its founding members; no other Rau or Rauh appears in early church records. Although the church was initially organized in August 1853, its constitution was adopted two years later, on January 1, 1855. This is the document on which David Rau's name appears. If Rau had arrived in 1854 (or earlier), he could have been a 'founding member' when the church constitution was adopted, but an 1855 arrival would make this problematic.

In other Boonville records of the time, a 'David Rauh' was an 1852-53 member of the Sänger Chor [which had been founded the same year; in 1868 it would merge with the Boonville Turn Verein, which had been founded in 1858, to form the Turn und Gesang Verein].

No other record has yet been found of a David Rauh/Rau in Boonville before 1855; the 1850 census for Cooper County District 23 did not include any persons named 'Rauh'; only 'Catherine Rau' from Germany, aged 22. However, in 1860 the spelling of 'Rauh' was used in in the records of the Clarks Fork Trinity Church, of which Johann David was also a founder, and variances in the spelling of German names were not unusual in records of the time.

Were '[Johann] David Rau' and 'David Rauh' different persons? Was another 'David Rauh' in Boonville 2-3 years earlier than Johann David? If not, his immigration date would need to be at least 2 years earlier for him to have been an 1853 member of the Sänger Chor and an 1853 founder of the church. Perhaps supporting the idea that they might be the same person is that Johann David was known for his singing; musical ability was also apparent in his descendants. Thus one may have expected him to have joined a singing group. This, however, is only speculation.

Genealogist Virgil Hein, who has studied the Toellner family history, feels Rau could instead have been the 'Johann Rau' who arrived in New Orleans on the ship Argo from Le Havre on 30 June 1849 at the age of 15. This would have made possible his membership in both the Sänger Chor in 1852-53 and involvement in even the initial organization of the Evangelical Church in 1853. However it conflicts with the report of Rau's obituary that he arrived at the age of 20 (Hein feels this is the point most prone to error). Research continues on his date of arrival.

Why Central Missouri and Boonville?

The question of how and why Rau ended up in Boonville is also open. It is known that the 1829 publication in Elberfeld, Germany, of Gottfried Duden's Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America [Bericht über eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerika's] [see book excerpt] had motivated many Germans to immigrate to the rich farmland alongside the Missouri River west of St. Louis [see also more detail on this from a 2002 study by Dorris Keeven about Duden's influence on Missouri settlement]. It is further known that a rather large number (relative to the population of this rural area) of immigrants from Rettert/Roettert and its surroundings in the Duchy of Nassau had immigrated to Cooper County, Missouri (of which Boonville is a part) both prior to Rau's arrival and thereafter (see Germans From Rettert/Nassau in Boonville, mid-1850s). It has also been reported that Rau had left Rettert for America 'with relatives' (presumably also from Rettert or its nearby villages). One might thus speculate that many Rettert emigrants left with the specific destination of Cooper County, where they would join others with whom there were some relationships from the homeland. However, what exact connections, if any, may exist between these points is at present not known.

Religious Background of Early Churches in Boonville

The Duchy of Nassau from which David Rau had immigrated had a strong Evangelical tradition, a result of Frederick William III, King of Prussia from 1797 to 1840, having forcibly combined the Lutheran and Reformed churches into the Evangelical Church of the Prussian Union (this was subsequently to form the basis for the Evangelical Synod of North America after German immigrants brought their Evangelical faith to America). Thus the Evangelical faith would have been familiar to David Rau. However, family narrative says that David Rau was Lutheran.


The locations of the Turn und Gesang Verein and the three German churches built between 1852-1854
(Click to enlarge)

In the early 1850s the Methodist (1830s), Presbyterian (1841), Episcopal (1845) and Baptist (1847) churches were well-established in Boonville. However, all were English-speaking. They also sympathized with the American South and its practice of slavery, with which the Germans did not agree. Thus as the Germans arrived, they founded their own churches, as well as cultural organizations like the Sänger Chor and Turn Verein.

German Methodists organized in 1850 and built a church in 1852 on the southeast corner of 6th and Vine. German Evangelicals and Catholics at first shared a building adjacent to the present Catholic Church, holding services on alternate Sundays. But soon both built their own churches, across the street from each other on the northeast and southeast corners of 7th and Spring streets, respectively.


The first German Evangelical Church in Boonville (erected 1854/55, rebuilt in 1887, enlarged in 1915)

There was no Lutheran congregation in Boonville at the time, although when Rau later moved to Clarks Fork, there were enough other German Lutherans in the area to establish their own German Lutheran church.

An Early Pattern of Cooperation

These patterns suggest that in their early years, German churches were characterized by a shared language and culture, which at first prevailed over sectarian distinctions. The congregation of the Evangelical Church included Lutherans and other non-Evangelical Germans. It is apparent that the churches and their members cooperated during their initial struggle to establish themselves in a new country and new language.

Indeed, this cooperation was part of a larger ecumenical support at the time, as the first pastors of the new church were subsidized by annual grants from the Presbyterian Church Mission Board. These grants began in 1850, when there were not yet enough members to form a self-sustaining church, and ended in 1856 after the congregation, now in its own building, had completed a year of operation under its January 1855 constitution.

[Initially the Presbyterians subsidized 'circuit rider' pastors, who visited Boonville twice a month. The first resident pastor, Johann Wettle, began in 1853 and served until October 1856, when the Evangelical Church called Rev. C.L. Greiner to be their first independent pastor.]

However, over the coming decades, this cooperation would be strained. As the immigrants' children assimilated into American culture and their German identities diminished, sectarian differences would sharpen, and congregations would divide or dissolve. While the Evangelical and Catholic churches are still active in 21st-century Boonville, the German Methodist church would vanish in the early 20th century, along with the Turn und Gesang Verein.

German Influence in the Growth of Church and Town

The industriousness of the German immigrants helped the new town of Boonville prosper. While the 'Boonslick' region was first settled in the first decade of the 1800s, the town itself was only platted in 1817 and incorporated in 1839. Thus when the German Evangelical Church formed, Boonville itself was in only its second decade. Yet both town and county were growing rapidly: whereas in 1830 the county population had been only 5,901, by 1840 it was 10,484; by 1850 12,908; and by 1856 15,082.

In turn, the 1830 population of Boonville is estimated at only some 600, although by 1840 it was 1,666 and by 1853 2,800, with an increase of roughly 140 a year. The increase from 1853 was largely due to the influx of Germans, whose contributions to the community were soon seen everywhere, not least with the construction by German brickmasons of many homes and businesses now comprising 'historic downtown Boonville.'


George Vollrath's Boonville Pottery, ca. 1870 (on Locust Street, where David Barton School now stands)

One of the most influential members of the new Evangelical Church was George Vollrath, an immigrant potter, vintner and miller from Saxe-Coburg who arrived in Boonville in the late 1830's. In 1840 at the age of 29 he purchased the 7-year-old Boonville Pottery from its founder, Marcus Williams (who had recently been elected Mayor of Boonville, and was having trouble running both the town and his pottery), and rapidly expanded it into the largest stoneware business in Missouri, responsible for an estimated 70% of all the pottery produced in Missouri by the beginning of the Civil War. At his death in 1865 his estate was worth over $35,000, a fortune for the time.

Vollrath was one of the founding members, and first trustees, of the Evangelical Church. It was largely through his energy and financing that the first church building was constructed in 1854/55, as well as a school just south of the church for the congregation's children in 1857. While he made his fortune as a potter, he was also an active vintner, where his interests overlapped with at least three other prominent church founders, William Haas, Jacob Neef and John Henry (J.H.) Boller.

Many of the early German immigrants were from Germany's wine-producing regions, and soon realized the rich potential of Cooper County for wine production. Soon there were numerous vinyards inside and outside the town, leading to Boonville being known at the time as the 'Vine-clad City.' Virtually every German family grew grapes to eat, to preserve in jams and jellies, and to produce their own wine. (The German custom at the time was to offer visitors to one's home a glass of one's own wine, produced from their own grapes, apples or dandelions, much like offering coffee today.)

Grapes were an abundant and economical crop; any extra grapes German housewifes were not able to eat, preserve or use for wine would have a ready market in the commercial wine producers which were springing up, chief among which was the Boonville Wine Company started by Emile Haas, which neighbored the vinyards of George Vollrath, Jacob Neef, William Haas and J.H. Boller.


Remains of the Haas Brewery/Wine Company (Click for a closeup). In the foreground are the former vinyards; in the background the Katy railroad bridge.
Photo ca. 1905 by M.E. Schmidt

Emile Haas had first founded Haas Brewery, just west of Boonville's Harley Park where the bluffs slope down to the Missouri River. He later expanded the Brewery into the Boonville Wine Company, which boasted the largest vinyard in the county, with some 115 acres of grapes and apples. (Major William Harley, after whom Harley Park is named, was Haas' partner in the Wine Company.)

Incorporated in 1855, the Boonville Wine Company quickly grew to be the area's largest industry, with a magnificent 4-level stone building fronting the Missouri river above eleven arched underground storage cellars. One of its wines, Haas' Catawba, received a first prize at the 1876 Philadelphia Fair, and was widely sold throughout Missouri and in the eastern states. The wine (and beer) was often preserved and sold in stoneware jugs produced by George Vollrath's pottery.

As the immigrants began to flourish, from their wines, pottery, business endeavors and otherwise, a portion of their growing prosperity always went to their church, which gradually grew in status within the community.

But it was not only in construction, pottery, wine and beer that church members left their mark in town. Many among the church's first generation, including Jacob Gmelich, William Mittelbach, Charles, Julius and Henry Sombart, and Drs. Charles and Alex van Ravenswaay, among many others in addition to Vollrath, Haas, Boller and Neef, have been cited among Boonville's most influential historic citizens for their contributions to business, medicine, education and community life.


David and Rebecca Rowe's headstone in Boonville's Walnut Grove Cemetery

Among their most lasting contributions is Boonville's Walnut Grove Cemetery, atop Locust Street hill above George Vollrath's pottery. The cemetery's initial property was purchased in 1852 by Carl Franz and Eliza Aehle, with its development influenced significantly by fellow church members Jacob Gmelich (see below) and William Mittelbach.

While the cemetery has been public since 1881, and those of all faiths have always been influential in its development, a special relationship between the German Evangelical Church and the cemetery has existed from the beginning.

Among the cemetery's first burials in 1877 was the church's first regular pastor, Rev. C.L. Greiner. Just inside the cemetery's present entrance are aligned the graves of the church's longest-serving pastor, Rev. Emil F. Abele; 20-year cemetery secretary and church board member William Mittelbach (whose marker is a fountain given by the cemetery in commemoration of his two decades as its Superintendent and Secretary); and longest-serving musical director and choirmaster, Woodard B. Hopkins, Sr., and their families. It is also the final resting place of David and Rebecca Rowe and their son William Martin Rowe (who long served as treasurer of both the Cemetery Board and his Church Board) and his wife Christine Töllner Rowe, as well as successive generations of the Rowe family.

David and Rebecca Rowe Leave Boonville to Farm in Clarks Fork

At present it is not known how David Rowe had earned his living after arriving in Boonville. He might have been employed in enterprises owned by fellow church members, or he may have been a farm laborer outside Boonville, or both. However it is known that David and his bride Rebecca had earned enough money to be able to buy their own farm in rural Clarks Fork Township, southeast of Boonville, shortly after their marriage on January 2, 1859.

Their move from Boonville to Lone Elm, in Clarks Fork Township, is evident from church and birth records. There are no further references in the Boonville Kirchenbuch to David and Rebekah Rau after 1859. However, in 1860 'David Rauh' is recorded as one of the 28 founding members of the new (German) Trinity Lutheran church of Clarks Fork. David and Rebecca Rowe (the 'Johann/John' is no longer recorded, 'Rebekah' is now 'Rebecca' and 'Rau/Rauh' has been anglicized to 'Rowe') are cited often in Clarks Fork Trinity church marriage and baptismal records between 1860 and 1888. Further, their first child, Mary Catherine Sophia, was born on October 17, 1859, 'in Clarks Fork near Washington School,' as it is recorded in the genealogy notes of Dorothy Rowe, further evidence that they had moved to Clarks Fork shortly after their wedding.


Extract of Section 8, Township 47N, Range 16W.
Arrows point to David Rowe's property, the Washington School immediately to the south, and the Clarks Fork Trinity church to the southeast.
(Click to enlarge)

The reason why David Rowe moved from Boonville to Clarks Fork was to start farming; land records show that he owned a farm near Lone Elm in Clarks Fork township, as can be seen in Section 8 of the 1897 Township 47N, Range 16W Cooper County plat map [the detail is the same in the 1877 plat map, but the 1897 edition is easier to read]. Further, Rebecca's obituary says that "after her marriage in January 1859 she began married life in her home community, later moving to a farm in the Washington school district of Clarks Fork where she and David lived for many years."

[The Clarks Fork Trinity Lutheran congregation met in the Washington School before a church building was constructed. The Washington School building, now a private home, still stands, and can be located via Google Earth at 8 degrees 51 minutes 22.50 seconds North Latitude; 92 degrees 41 minutes 21.74 seconds West Longitude, just south of where David and Rebecca Rowe's farm had been.]

While little detail survives of the Rowe farm, German immigrant farmers in Cooper County generally employed a diversified, efficient mixture of animals and crops which aimed at self-sufficiency. Chickens were raised for their meat and eggs, pigs for meat and lard, cows for meat and milk, sheep for meat and wool, and horses to pull wagons and plows. Hides were tanned, wool was spun and used for clothing, and the manure from all animals would be tilled back into the soil.

Wheat, corn, and oats were raised for family consumption, and hay and clover as animal feed or for composting, with any surplus sold or exchanged for sugar, salt, herbs, spices, cotton cloth and other staples. Every farm would grow, in addition to seasonal crops, potatoes, cabbage, carrots and other staples of the traditional German diet that would keep well through the winter in root cellars or be canned or (in the case of cabbage) preserved as sauerkraut. Likewise, apples were grown for eating or for preservation as applekraut or apple wine. Every farm would also have a grape arbor, with the abundant fruit used for eating, preservation as jams and jellies, or for homemade wine.

The 1910 census, the last for which Rowe was alive, records him and Rebecca as living in Lone Elm on a mortgaged farm, with 7 of their [now adult] children still living. These were Mary Catherine Sophia (born 17 October 1859); Alice Maggie (born 31 August 1861); Laura Joan (born 23 May 1863); Louise Frances (born 23 May 1868, died 26 November 1877); George Philip (born 11 October 1870); William Martin (born 11 June 1873; Ida May (23 July 1880); and David Carroll (28 February 1883). A ninth child, Henry Otto (born 25 January 1866 and christened 'Ferdinand Heinrich Albert Otto' at Clarks Fork church on 25 March, died 23 April 1866, just short of 3 months old).

David Rowe died on January 28, 1917 at the age of 83 years, 9 months and 27 days (as his obituary noted), at the home of his daughter Ida near Tipton. Rebecca died on February 23, 1925 at the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Sponcler, in Kelly Township, southwest of Bunceton.

John King, David Rowe, and the Arrival of the Holstein Germans

Most of the Germans who had immigrated to the Boonville area thus far had been from southern Germany, including the Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxe-Coburg, Baden-Württemburg and neighboring regions (see map). The coming years were see the arrival of northern Germans as well, many from the Schleswig-Holstein region north of Hamburg.


John King (Koenke)
(Photo: Johnson's History of Cooper County, 448)

Responsible for many of these was one John King (originally Koenke or Koehnke or Koehnecke), born on February 15, 1828 in Holstein. According to the National Historical Company's 1883 History of Howard and Cooper Counties, Missouri (see page 949), he immigrated to America in 1853, arriving in New Orleans and travelling from there up the Mississippi to Davenport, Iowa. In 1854, hearing about the free land available in the new Kansas territory, he returned to St. Louis and boarded a steamboat for Kansas. However, along the way he stopped at Boonville and there met several other Germans who convinced him to stay. Whether David Rowe was one of these Germans is not known, but the lives of King and Rowe were thereafter to be closely related.

King first worked as a stagecoach driver and then as a farm laborer. In 1859, like David Rowe, he had saved enough to buy a tract of land in Clarks Fork Township, just north of the future Lone Elm Church in Sections 13 and 24 of Township 47N, Range 17W (the "J.King" whose property borders David Rowe's land in the previous plat map is that of Jacob King, also a founding member of the Clarks Fork church). Also like Rowe, John King married in January 1859, to Sophia Friedmeyer, daughter of Bernard and Sophia (Karnes) Friedmeyer.

[Jacob King (18 July 1817-23 Febuary 1878), also from Holstein, immigrated in 1857 and bought in 1867 what came to be known as 'Valley View' farm just northwest of David Rowe's land. In 1866 he married Anna Nohrenburg, brother of Peter Nohrenburg, who was also a founder of the Clarks Fork church. Jacob King's son Johan Washington ('John W.') King inherited Valley View.]

[The fact that many Clarks Fork church and land records are only labelled "J. King" has been a source of much confusion, along with the fact that both Jacob and John had sons named Henry — 'Henry M.' for Jacob and 'Henry O.' for John. (Lone Elm church records do not have this confusion, as Jacob died in 1878, before the church was founded in 1896.) At present it is not known if Jacob and John King were related; if so they were at best cousins, as John had only one surviving brother, named Auble.]

Also like David Rowe, in 1860 John King was to be one of the 28 founding members of the Clarks Fork Lutheran Church, of which he was to serve as deacon for nearly two decades. Later, again with David Rowe, he would be one of the founders of the Zion Lutheran Church in Lone Elm.

Yet the connections between John King and David Rowe did not stop there. Through King's influence many other Holstein Germans learned of prospects in Cooper County and were encouraged to emigrate; King would even aid them financially and travel to New York to assist them with their journey to Missouri. Among these Holstein Germans were several who would closely interact with David Rowe and his family.

Arrival of the Töllner Siblings and Their Future Spouses from Holstein

The Holstein Germans included the brothers Herman and Christopher Toellner (originally Töllner) and their sister Meta; as well as Herman and Christopher's future wives, Sophia Schnack and Anna Katherine Louise Timm. Herman (born 05 November 1845), Christopher (born 11 July 1849) and Meta (born 20 May 1864) Toellner emigrated from Krempermoor; Sophia Schnack from Quickborn, Hoernerkirchen, Hemdingen; and Anna Timm from Barmstedt, all in Holstein.


Holstein map showing the proximity of Krempermoor (the Töllners), Hemdingen (Sophia Schnack), and Barmstedt (Anna Timm), with the Elbe River at left
(Click to enlarge)

The three Toellners emigrated separately. Herman was the first to leave, arriving in New York from Hamburg, according to his U.S. passport application dated 21 April 1900, 'on or about January 26, 1867.'

Christopher followed a year and a half later, arriving in New York on the Holsatia from Hamburg on June 22, 1868 at the age of 19 (assuming he is the "? Tollner, farmer, age 19") in the ship's manifest. This general date of arrival is confirmed by his April 21, 1900 U.S. passport application, on which he states he arrived on the Holsatia 'on or about July 10, 1868.'

Three years later, on 10 May 1871, Christopher filed his intention to take U.S. citizenship; he received it six years later, on 04 April 1877, at age 28.

Meta Toellner joined her brothers 13 years later, with Hamburg exit records showing her as leaving on 10 April 1881 and New York entry records showing her, age 17, arriving from Hamburg and Le Havre on the ship Cimbria on 23 April 1881.


(L-R): Christopher, Meta and Herman Toellner on
the front porch of Chris's home in Lone Elm
(Early 20th century; date unknown)

Sophie Schnack arrived in New York on June 23, 1870 at the age of 20 on the S.S. Hammonia from Hamburg and Le Havre, possibly with other members of her family (see her wedding record below). At present, it is not known when Anna Timm immigrated.

Shortly after arrival, Herman and Christopher joined the Boonville Evangelical Church. The November 15, 1872 marriage of Herrman (sic) Toellner (born 1845) to Sophia Snak (sic) (born 1841) is recorded in the Kirchenbuch only a few [un-numbered] pages after the marriage of 'John David' and 'Rebekah Ann' Rau. Witnesses were Christoph (sic) Toellner and Lena Snak (sic).

However, there are no further references to the Toellners in the Kirchenbuch after 1872. Trinity Lutheran records show that Christopher and Herman moved to Clarks Fork within two years after their marriage, first appearing in baptismal records in January 1874. Their Clarks Fork church records continue through 1896, when both of the Toellners and David Rowe, along with John King and others, transferred their membership to the newly-established Lone Elm Zion Lutheran church (see below).

Like David Rowe, Herman and Christopher (now known as 'Christ' or 'Chris') Toellner left Boonville for Clarks Fork Township to begin farming. Herman and Sophia's property can be seen in the same plat map as David Rowe's [above], in Section 19 (spilling over into Section 30 beneath it), a bit to the south and west from David Rowe's in Section 8.

Chris Toellner bought land further south and east from David and Herman in the Lone Elm sector of Clarks Fork Township, as can be seen in Section 23 of the Township 47N Range 17W plat map [which adjoins the map showing David Rowe and Herman Toellner's property]. Chris Toellner's land in Section 23 is separated only by that of Henry Timm from the Zion Lutheran Church of Lone Elm, to the east across the present County Road "B" in Section 24, diagonally just across the road from the property of John King.

Christopher and Anna Toellner's Family in Lone Elm

After Chris Toellner immigrated to America, he worked as a farmhand for several years, saving his earnings first to rent land, and eventually to purchase his own farm. On 25 February 1876 he married Anna Katherine Timm at Clarks Fork Trinity Church. The following year he bought 100 acres of 'unimproved prairie land' in the Lone Elm neighborhood of Clarks Fork Township. Over time he built a large home with several outbuildings, and in 1895 purchased an additional 100 acres of land.

Chris and Anna Toellner had nine children: Sophie Meta Catherine (born 12 January 1878); Christine Anna Louise (born 26 August 1879); Hermann Johannes (born 11 August 1882, died 1927); Emma Lourine Dorothea (born 29 March 1884); Matilda Magdalena (born 21 December 1886); George Heinrich (born 13 January 1888); Heinrich Christian (born 25 July 1890); Walter Wilhelm Christian (born 09 March 1892); and William Albert Carl (born 20 February 1896). Another child, Gotgab [or Gottgab, old German for 'god-given'], was apparently stillborn on 28 August 1894.

The Rowes and Toellners Transfer to Zion Lutheran Church in 1896

On Dec 27, 1896, members of the Clarks Fork Trinity congregation who lived in Lone Elm [which is also in Clarks Fork township] were authorized to establish a daughter congregation closer to their homes, as the 4-5 mile trip to the Trinity church had been an arduous journey on primitive roads. Both David Rowe and Herman and Christopher Toellner and their families transferred from Clarks Fork Trinity to the new Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church.


The Rowe and Toellner farms relative to the Clarks Fork and Lone Elm churches (2010 roads)
(Click to enlarge)

Miss Christine Anna Louise Toellner (ca. 1895)
One of the incentives for David Rowe's family to transfer to the new Lone Elm church?
(Click to enlarge)

While poor roads and closer proximity to the Lone Elm church are the reasons cited in the church history, family relationships were undoubtedly also a factor. The Lone Elm church was indeed closer to Chris Toellner's property (about a 10-minute walk), but it was further away from David Rowe than the Clarks Fork church, and also further for Herman Toellner (although apparent distance on this 2010 map may have been different with the roads of the time).

The family connections involved more than Chris and Herman being brothers; there were close connections between the Chris Toellner and David Rowe families as well. Not only did William Martin Rowe marry Christine Anna Toellner in 1901, soon after the Lone Elm church was founded, but three years later, on 01 June 1904, William's brother George Philip would marry Christine's sister Emma Lourine. The close family connections which culminated in four of their children marrying may have influenced Rowe's decision to transfer his membership to Lone Elm even if it did involve a longer journey between home and church.

The Toellner brothers remained lifelong members of the Lone Elm church. Both are buried in the church cemetery, along with their families and numerous descendants. David Rowe remained a member of Zion Lutheran until his death in 1917, although he and Rebecca are buried in Boonville's Walnut Grove Cemetery, the early history of which had been so strongly associated with the German Evangelical Church he had helped to found.

However, by 1917 the word "German" had disappeared from the name of the church, as English rapidly began to replace German as the church language. Church records and certificates were still in German in the first decade of the 20th century (see for example the 1903 Boonville Church's 50th Anniversary Commemorative Booklet [PDF] and the 1907 Lone Elm baptism certificate for Erna M. Rowe), but this would soon also change.

The speed of the changeover from German to English is apparent from pages 7 through 12 of the English translation [PDF] of the 50th Anniversary Booklet. While in 1893 the church felt that "keeping up the German language was of critical importance for the congregation (p.7), in 1899 one English evening sermon a month was being given in English (p.8), and by 1900 all evening sermons were given in English, the Sunday School and confirmation instruction was given only in English, and new church youth groups such as the Endeavor Society used only English (p.8). The Endeavor Society's founding constitution noted that "the language used by the society would be English, as the young people of our congregation are not able to use the German language" (p.12).

The second and especially third generations of the church's founders were no longer fluent in German, and the churches were forced to change from German to English in order not to lose their younger members. While the 1903 Anniversary Booklet was still published only in German (see the original German publication [PDF]), and the name of the church was still "The German Evangelical Congregation", the approach of World War I made any connection to German or Germany politically risky, and within the next ten years most of the German churches would operate solely in English.

William Martin Rowe and Christine Toellner Marry and Return to Boonville

On July 24, 1901, David Rowe's son William Martin married Christine Anna Louise Toellner, daughter of Christopher Toellner and Anna Katherine Louise Timm, at the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lone Elm.


The Lone Elm General Store operated by W.M. Rowe
(Click to enlarge)

Born on June 11, 1873, William Martin Rowe first worked as a farmer until 1896, but then began a properous career in business and public service, with his first employment at the Lone Elm general store, then owned by Julis Hosp.

On 03 September 1900 he was appointed Postmaster in Lone Elm. On August 1, 1901 (a week after his marriage to Christine), he took over the operation of the late George H. Meyer's store in Clarks Fork, returning to Lone Elm in November 1905 to become Julius Hosp's partner in the Lone Elm store.

On July 4, 1909 he sold his interest in the Lone Elm store and moved with Christine and their three oldest children to Boonville (their fourth child Vera was born 3 days later), to become President of the new Boonville Mercantile Company, a position he would hold until his death.


The Boonville Mercantile: W.M. Rowe, President
(Before Rowe expanded the building in 1914/15). The house at left which was demolished for the expansion had belonged to Major William Harley
(Click to enlarge)

After their move to Boonville, The family and their six surviving children returned to the original home church of their grandfather Johann David Christian Rau. The church was now known as the Evangelical Church in Boonville (later the Evangelical and Reformed Church, presently the United Church of Christ).

William and Christine Rowe's surviving children were Alverta Ann Rowe Souder (born 05 April 1903); Edwin Herman Rowe (30 September 1904); Erna Matilda Rowe Hopkins (23 July 1907); Vera Elizabeth Sophie Rowe Grathwohl (12 July 1909); William Toellner [W.T.] Rowe (28 September 1915); and Kenneth Christian Rowe (24 September 1916). A seventh child, Virgie Christine, was born on 13 August 1906 but died one day later.

The Rowe family lived at 513 Third Street (shown here in the early 1920s), one of the first two homes built atop the crest of Third Street across from the future 'Hitch House' on the Kemper Military School property, until the children married and left home. The home was only a short walk from both the Boonville Mercantile Company and Hopkins Grocery, later to be owned by William and Christine Rowe's daughter Erna and her husband Woodard B. Hopkins (Senior). Erna Rowe Hopkins and Vera Rowe Grathwohl would remain life-long Boonville residents and Evangelical church members.


Christine and William Martin Rowe in the early 1930s at the peak of his influence in church and community.

William Rowe was active in the church his father had helped found. He served as Treasurer of the church board for 22 years, and headed the committee to expand the church building in 1915 (just after he had expanded the Mercantile building). He was Vice-President of the church board at the time of his death.

Rowe was also a long-standing member and treasurer of the church choir. For the last three years of his life he sang under the direction of his son-in-law Woodard B. Hopkins, who was just beginning his three-decade tenure as the church's musical director and choirmaster.

In addition, William Rowe served as clerk in the Missouri State Legislature and as a member of the Boonville city council, as well as Board Member and Treasurer of the Walnut Grove Cemetery Association.

William Rowe died on 29 March 1936; Christine on 30 September 1960. William Rowe's funeral was the first occasion on which the choir wore the robes it had been his project to obtain, which were completed just in time for the service. In his memory a church Memorial Fund was created which still exists today.

A Close Association With Three Churches, All German in Origin

David Rowe, Christopher Toellner, John King and their families shared a close association with German immigrant churches from the beginning of their new lives in Missouri until the end. Rowe helped start all three, first in Boonville, then in Clarks Fork, and finally in Lone Elm.

The Rowe family experience was largely representative of other immigrants as well. Wherever immigrants arrived, they established churches which provided sanctuaries in their own languages and the cultural values of their former homelands; from this secure 'home' in their new country the interactions of all the churches in each community would help the immigrants to gradually assimilate into a 'common' American culture.

This pattern established a strong tradition of church membership and a role of religion and church in American life which continues today. While not all immigrants would be as active as David Rowe in helping to found three successive churches, virtually all were closely involved with their fellow countrymen in religious and cultural institutions initially transplanted from their homelands and subsequently adapted to the American milieu: one of many ways in which immigrants helped form the present-day fabric of America.

(L) The German Evangelical Church of Boonville, now the United Church of Christ (2009 photo by Karen Ratay Green).
The parsonage (1903) is to the left. Notice the red brick architecture typical of German communities in the Midwest.
(R) Clarks Fork Trinity Lutheran Church (1868 photo). It was built from wood instead of brick.

(L) One of the stained glass windows of the Boonville church, with its inscription in German (click to enlarge).
Jacob F. and Doris Gmelich were both immigrants from Germany who were prominent members of the church. Jacob was President of the Commercial Bank, a four-term Mayor of Boonville, and a Lt. Governor of Missouri.
After Jacob's death in 1914, Doris donated a pipe organ in her husband's memory which is still in use.
(C) 1907 baptism certificate, in German, of the Lone Elm church (click to enlarge)
(R) Construction of the original Zion Lutheran Church in Lone Elm, Missouri (click to enlarge)

(L) Map excerpt showing Boonville, Clarks Fork, Lone Elm and Wooldridge (click to enlarge)
(R) Map showing the location of the excerpt at left in the State of Missouri (click to enlarge)

NB: Research for this page is ongoing, and information will be updated as new detail emerges.
Please contact John D. Hopkins at with questions or comments.

28 June 2009 'Special Music' in the Historic German Evangelical United Church of Christ in Boonville
Research Files Index     —     Background on John D. Hopkins

Last Updated on 12 May 2018