William Nickolas Fischer, Friedrich Eggers and Peter Flessa are names engraved on headstones that line Zion Lutheran Church cemetery. These names also join 34 fellow charter members of Cole County's first organized Lutheran congregation, Zion.
The Cole County Historical Society invites Zion residents, family descendants and others to share their stories and history of a community established by German immigrants, founded in religion and built off the love of hardworking families during the next Getting to Know Our Communities summer series program, scheduled July 17 at the historic Zion Lutheran Church, 6 miles southwest of Jefferson City on Route C.
Program committee co-chairman Leah McNay said the group has visited many of Cole County's communities in the past four years, including Wardsville, Lohman, Taos, Russellville, Centertown and Elston. Communities like Honey Creek and Zion might not have had established businesses that drew in visitors, but the importance of its church and its families helped keep it alive and well.
"Zion is different from all the others, especially since it never had a store or business per se. They did have businesses, but it wasn't at the Zion community. They operated them out of their home, like a blacksmith, tailor, shoemaker, etc.," said Doris Schmutzler, co-organizer of the program and CCHS board member. "What is unique about Zion is the families and who made them up. That is what we will be discussing at the upcoming program — the families and in particular the 37 charter members of Zion."
Those charter members who established the church in 1843 are Heinrich Birkicht, Johann Peter Koch, Johann Friedrich Meister, Johann Heinrich Rockemann, Johann Christ Schachert, Heinrich Heisinger, Christoph Wolf, Johann Vogel, Karl Frisch, Johann Plank, Leonard Wolfram, Christian Frantz, Johann G. Peetz, Nickolaus Raithel, George Plank, Johann Loesch, Paul Bottlieb Loesch, Christ Arnold, Johann Lampe, Adam Heisinger, Andreas Holzbeierlein, Peter Flessa, Heinrich Eggers, Friedrich Eggers, Heinrich Beck, Wilhelm Fischer, Gustav Loesch, Johann Antweiler, John Mersel (Meisel), Peter Blochberger, Konrad Wunderlich, Heinrich Duehafen, Johann C. Wolfram, Wilhelm Mohr, Adam Duenkel, Johann H. Hahn and Gottlieb Deimler. Frantz and Edward Loesch served as Zion's first leaders.
With doors opening at 6 p.m., guests can browse a variety of posters about many of these families and hear some of their histories through several generations.
Take charter member William Nickolas Fischer, who brought his own family and three neighborhood children in Germany — the Hartenstein brothers — on a 90-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to America, ultimately settling on a farm in the Zion area. Since the boys were poor, the older children walked to and from Jefferson City daily to find work.
Even though he wasn't a charter member like McNay and fellow committee chairman Darrell Strope's ancestor Heinrich Heisinger, resident Johann Nieghorn largely contributed to the Zion community. Great-great-grandfather to Schmutzler's husband, Gary, Nieghorn immigrated from Germany in 1847. A tailor by trade, he was a businessman, owned a vineyard, a distillery, owned farms and built the Nieghorn House (a hotel, saloon and restaurant at 120-122 E. Dunklin St.). He died in 1899, and in October 1901, his estate paid $600 to build the J. Nieghorn School, a public school across the street from the Zion Lutheran Church.
"We have his estate ledger book," she said, noting much of it is written in German — the book, as well as a few artifacts, pictures and a collection of items such as a 1820 vaccination certificate, 1833 Sunday School attendance sheet and a document signed by a magistrate on 1837.
"If you had to pack only one bag and a bucket or basket, what would you bring and what would you leave behind? How would you decide?" Schmutzler said. "It is amazing to see what they decided to take with them and where they ended up. There are so many ways to find out this information. You learn how these individuals, our ancestors, made a life in a new land, what they left behind and how they prospered."
Schmutzler, a descendant from the Loesch family, has worked to collect research, history and stories like Fischer's and Nieghorn's, establishing a record book for many of Cole County's cemeteries. Posters containing pictures, artifacts and information from these families will be on display and available for guests to browse during the July 17 program.
At 7 p.m., Pastor Jeff Schanbacher will talk about the Zion Lutheran Church and the founding of the community, and Schmutzler will discuss the Loesch family among a few others. Additional presentations about Zion-based families will come from other descendants, including Shari Fischer of the Fischer family and Denise Ziegelbein of the Erhardt family. Guests then will be invited to ask questions and share anecdotes of their own.
"We encourage the locals to stand up and tell their family stories. That is the whole reason why we are doing this," Schmutzler said.
Guests are encouraged to bring old photographs, memorabilia, scrapbooks, family histories and stories to share. The program is free and open to the public.
The final 2018 Getting to Know Our Communities summer series program will discuss the great bend in the Osage River (Osage Bend, Missouri) on Aug. 21 at St. Margaret of Antioch Catholic Church Hall, 12025 Route W in Jefferson City.
Zion Lutheran Church and Cemetery is located at 2346 Zion Road, off Route C in Jefferson City. For more information, contact the CCHS at 573-635-1850.