Visitors Guide to
Altenburg
Perry County, Missouri
 
   
 



 
 

Seven Saxon Lutheran settlements were founded in East Perry County by approximately 700 Lutherans from Saxony, Germany. These immigrants, who were was, in fact, a "protest group" that attempted to transplant the Church of Dr. Martin Luther to the "New World," came to America to escape the oppression they faced by the government in Germany. The first town founded after their arrival was Wittenberg. along the Mississippi River. Wittenberg was named for after the German town that was the center of the Reformation led by Martin Luther. Wittenberg was a successful river landing that changed to a St. Louis & San Francisco shipping point in 1904. Its prosperity declined during the Great Depression in the 1930s and was completely destroyed by a flood in 1986.

Altenberg was one of six other settlements founded by the Lutheran immigrants on the 4,475 acres of land financed from a communal treasury of $88,000. The other towns were Frohna, Paitzdorf (renamed Uniontown), Dresden, Seelitz, and Johannisberg. Only Altenberg, Frohna, and Uniontown remain. Altenburg was founded and platted in 1839 by the congregation of Trinity Lutheran Church. Tthe town was named by the leader of the immigrants, Reverend G. H. Loeber, for Altenberg, Germany, where he was baptized. Altenberg is one of the first settlements in Missouri established solely for religious reasons. The first years were trying for the Lutherans. The men were mostly students and professional men unaccustomed to farming and disease and spiritual problems beset the immigrants. The Reverend Stephens was accused of “voluptuous living and dictatorial conduct” and was exiled to Illinois. On the verge of disbanding, it was only after Dr. C. F. W. Walther had assured the immigrants from the Word of God that they were still a Church that the situation improved.

The one-room Log Cabin College had been erected in 1839 under the leadership Walther. Classes in 1839 included six languages, math, physics, history, geography, philosophy, religion, music, and drawing. The effective training of its own pastors and teachers became the backbone of a new church body that became the Lutheran Church-Missouri in 1847. The teaching mission was transferred to St. Louis in 1849 where it evolved into the world renowned Concordia Seminary.  The State of Missouri Historical Society placed an historic marker near the Log Cabin College, which stands preserved in the church park of Trinity in Altenburg.

The first church building of Trinity was dedicated in 1845 and was built with random-sized limestone. This one story structure was used as such until 1867 when the present church was built. Thereafter it served as a school for the upper grades for 102 years until 1969 when the present school was dedicated. Now a museum, it displays local church items, including an 1838 baptismal tray and its original bell, cast in Spain in 1761. The present church building, dedicated in 1867, also served as convention headquarters for the Western District on nine different occasions. The altar, pulpit, baptismal font are original furnishings of 1867. The crucifix on the altar was made in Oberammergau, Germany, and was brought along in 1839, as were the baptismal tray and pitcher, both dated 1838. In addition, Trinity has the gold and silver chalice, the gift of a Polish' Countess. The chalice is engraved in Polish, "Sophia Opchkowa, coupled to Oliver Gafchasky in the Church of the Army, A.D. 1707, 23 March." A new Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum was constructed in 2005 to interpret the 1838-39 Lutheran immigration to East Perry County as well as the regional German-American culture. A beautiful exhibit hall, reception area, and gift shop were integrated into the original 1845 church building, commonly known as the "Big School" and offers guided and self-guided tours of the main gallery, Big School gallery, and the original church.  Tours of the 1839 Log Cabin - Concordia Seminary birthplace, the Christiane Loeber Cabin, and the 1867 Trinity Church are also available. The complex also features a state-of-the-art Reading Room and Research Library.

 
     
 
 
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