The story of John Jacob "J.J." Buchta is one of intrigue, featuring a young man who twice immigrated to the United States from Germany and later came into a large sum of money through mysterious means. In later years, he became one of the most recognized citizens of Cole County and played an important role in the establishment of a church that has served Lutherans in the Russellville area for well over a century.
"Jacob, as he was known by our family, first came to the United States with his parents in 1882, when he was only 15 years old," said his grandson, Don Buchta. "They settled in the Mount Hope area (on Route U between Russellville and Centertown).
Don Buchta recalls conversations with his father, who explained that Jacob Buchta returned to Bavaria after being in Missouri for only a couple months. A cloud of mystery surrounds this period; however, because family lore notes he soon returned to the Mount Hope area with funds he had acquired.
"We don't know how he came into the money while in Germany," Don Buchta said. "But after coming to Missouri the second time, he left for Los Angeles and used some of that money to purchase an orange grove in an area that has since become Hollywood and Vine."
Buchta later sold the orange grove for a respectable profit and returned to the Mount Hope area, where he had family. Utilizing the profits he made in California, Buchta began purchasing farms and tracts of land near Russellville and Lohman.
Within a few years, Buchta established himself as a renowned breeder of mules and horses under the business name of Mt. Hope Stock Farm. He also raised other livestock, which he could sell in the larger market of St. Louis by shipping aboard the Missouri Pacific Railroad that had depots in Lohman and Russellville.
"The organization of Trinity Evangelical Church, Russellville, Missouri, took place either in September or October of the year 1895," noted the "Golden Jubilee" booklet printed by the church in 1945. "The first deacons elected were John Buchta and Michael Schubert," the booklet added.
Dedicated to his faith, Buchta joined local businessman Michael Schubert on Sept. 12, 1896, in receiving the conveyance of 2 acres of property purchased from Franz Erhart for establishing a cemetery a short distance south of Russellville. The Trinity Lutheran Cemetery has since served as a final resting site for dozens of members of the congregation.
June 12, 1905, was also a special moment in the life of the young farmer; he wedded the former Lena Christina Schubert, of Centertown. The couple raised three daughters and a son while remaining actively involved in the affairs of the church. They supported the construction of a new brick church that was dedicated in 1912 and continues to serve the congregation of Trinity Lutheran Church.
"I was told that my grandfather was about 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighed over 200 pounds," Don Buchta said. "He was known to have been extremely strong."
He continued, "There was a time when he and some other people had to do some type of work on the hoof of a horse. Supposedly, my grandfather wrapped his arms around the horse's neck and brought it to the ground so the work could be completed."
The Jefferson City Post-Tribune noted on Sept. 14, 1938, that Buchta became "one of the pioneers in the farm organization movement (serving) on the board of directors of the Cole County Farm Bureau."
J.J. Buchta joined six area farmers in establishing the Cooperative Association No. 13 on May 22, 1920, with its first offices located in the business district of Russellville. The book printed for the Russellville sesquicentennial celebration in 1988 explained the association later became known as the MFA Exchange.
Though making a decent income through his farm and livestock activities, Buchta found ways to save money while also helping his fellow farmers. On several occasions, he aggregated lime orders for neighboring farmers needing to fertilize their fields.
From 1934-38, Buchta served as an appointed member of the Cole County Highway Commission. The Jefferson City Post-Tribune reported Jan. 3, 1938, that Buchta decided to retire from the voluntary post "because it takes too much of my time."
Time, unfortunately, was not a commodity of which Buchta had a surplus. The 71-year-old farmer died unexpectedly on Sept. 13, 1938, on his farm near Lohman.
"Buchta had been in bad health for several months suffering from leakage of the heart. He refused to surrender his interest and activities on the farm, however," explained the Sept. 14, 1938 edition of the Jefferson City Post-Tribune.
The once unknown German immigrant who later found success as a farmer and livestock dealer in Mid-Missouri was laid to rest in Trinity Lutheran Cemetery, which he helped establish a few decades earlier. His wife, Lena, joined him in eternal rest in 1965.
"When my parents were married in 1934, they lived on one of the farms that my grandfather had purchased," Don Buchta said. "Two years later my grandfather deeded them the farm, and that's the same farm that I live on today."
He added, "My grandfather was a strong, imposing figure but was well respected because he was fair in his dealings. Unfortunately, I was an infant when he died and only have the stories of him that I was given by my parents. I just would have liked to have met him."
Jeremy P. Amick is writing a series of articles on the history of the Russellville area in honor of the Missouri's bicentennial.