The 1956 Reunion of the Concordia Theological Seminary (Springfield, Illinois) Class of 1916

One hundred years ago this June, on the evening of 21 June 1916 at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Springfield, Illinois, twenty young men graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary.[1] The Reverend Frederick Brand addressed the soon-to-be Lutheran ministers to “Go out in the name of the Lord, preach the gospel in the name of the Lord and do it under the protection of the Lord.”[2] My grandfather, Conrad Albert Rook, was a member of this class.

It would be forty years before many of these men would see one another again. On 16 June 1956, thirteen members of their class (which included a classmate who, though an original member of their class, graduated in 1915) held a reunion in St. Paul, Minnesota.[3]

Concordia Springfield Seminary Class of 1916 40th Reunion
“Spes Mea Christus, 1916-1956,” folder cover.

To help commemorate the occasion, the class members each wrote short autobiographies and compiled them into a folder with the Latin title, “Spes Mea Christus” [My hope is Christ].[4] Each pastor wrote his biography differently; many include reminisces of their early, college, and later years, providing what are probably rare glimpses into the lives of these men.

These were the “good ole days” in Springfield, especially the three years I roomed in the third story of the “Kaffee Muehle”. Never will I forget the two years of fellowship in Room 302 with “Dad” Strickert, “Dutch” Heilman, Fritz Wegener, Herman Schleef, and my older brother who considered it his bounded duty always to keep a watchful eye over me.

-Rev. Conrad Albert Rook[5]

The following men contributed autobiographies to the typescript:

  • Rev. J. August Birnbaum
  • Rev. August F. Bobzin
  • Rev. Herman Dubbe
  • Rev. Edward C. Hauer
  • Rev. Gotthilf Hermann Hentschel
  • Rev. Paul R. Jank
  • Rev. Bernard W. Jannsen
  • Rev. Ludwig Karcher
  • Rev. Henry F. Krohn
  • Rev. George E. Nelson
  • Rev. Fredrick W. Parduhn
  • Rev. Herman J. Reinking (graduated 1915)
  • Rev. Conrad Albert Rook
  • Rev. Arthur Schulz
  • Rev. Arthur F. Wegener
  • Rev. Fred A. Wegener
  • Rev. Edward L. Wittkopp

The folder, passed down to my mother, is a family history treasure. A digital copy of the typescript was given to the Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis, Missouri in 2015. (For more information on the Concordia Historical Institute, see this post.) Copies of the autobiographies should be obtainable through them. I am also able to share them with family members and researchers (see my contact information under the “About” section). I hope this posting finds its way to the descendants of Springfield’s Concordia Theological Seminary Class of 1916.

Reference Notes:

  1. “Young Pastors Given Diplomas,” Illinois State Register (Springfield), 22 June 1916 (Thursday), p. 8, col. 4; digital images, GenealogyBank ( : accessed 4 February 2013).
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Lutheran Pastor Completes 40th Year in the Ministery,” clipping dated 1956, from unidentified newspaper (probably from Battle Creek, Michigan); Collier Collection, vol. 65, p. 12, Willard Library, Helen Warner Branch, Battle Creek, Michigan.
  4. Concordia Theological Seminary (Springfield, Illinois), Class of 1916, “Spes Mea Christus, 1916-1956” (typescript, 1956); copy in possession of Mary Bernthal [address for private use], 2016.
  5. Concordia Theological Seminary (Springfield, Illinois), Class of 1916, “Spes Mea Christus, 1916-1956,” upaginated, autobiography of Conrad Albert Rook.



Tombstone Tuesday : Ann Bernthal

Ann Bernthal grave marker, Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery, Bonfield, Kankakee County, Illinois.
Ann Bernthal grave marker, Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery, Bonfield, Kankakee County, Illinois.

Ann Bernthal (1861-28 September 1861) was the daughter of Rev. Georg Bernthal and his first wife Maria née Von Renner. Little is known about Ann. Transcribed church records note she died the same day as her mother.[1] Her grave marker reads she was 8 months old.[2] She is buried at Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery, Bonfield, Pilot Township, Kankakee County, Illinois where her father was minister.

Maria (Von Renner) Bernthal (about 1840-28 September 1861) emigrated with her family from Prussia, arriving in the United States on 23 June 1855.[3] She married Rev. Georg Bernthal in 1860 in Kankakee County.[4] Maria was the sister of August Karl Woldemar Von Renner who was a college classmate to her husband.[5] Prior to her marriage, she resided with her parents in Bremen Township, Cook County, Illinois where her father farmed.[6] Maria is remembered to have died from a rattlesnake bite.[7] There is no extant headstone to mark her grave.[8]


[1]Kankakee Valley Genealogy Society, Pilot Township Cemetery Book (Bourbonnais, Illinois: Kankakee Valley Genealogy Society, 1997), 20 & 24.

[2]Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery (Bonfield, Kankakee County, Illinois), Ann Bernthal marker, personally read, September 2012.

[3]”New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, ( : accessed 29 April 2014), manifest, Bark Copernicus, 23 June 1855, list stamped 540, “Erste Cajute” [First Class] line no. 4, Maria von Renner, age 15; citing microfilm publication M237 (Washington: National Archives and Records Administration), roll 153.

[4]”Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900,” database, Illinois Secretary of State, ( : accessed 13 July 2014), entry for George Branshal-Mary Renner, 30 August 1860, citing Kankakee County, Illinois [Marriages] Vol. 00B, license no. 00000427.

[5]“Jubilee Celebration and Most Remarkable Tribute to Lutheran Pastor and Teacher,” The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, 15 August 1909; digital images, , Historical Newspapers Collection.

[6]1860 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Township of Bremen, p. 73, dwelling 572, family 548, Woldemar Von Renner; digital image, ( : accessed 13 July 2014), citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 169.

[7]Lavon Wilcox, compiler, Pilot Township (n.p.: Kankakee County Bicentennial Commission, c. 1976), 69.

[8]Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery (Bonfield, Kankakee County, Illinois), grave markers, personally read, September 2012.

Tombstone Tuesday : Rev. Georg Bernthal

Rev. Georg Bernthal grave marker, St. Michael's Lutheran Cemetery, Richville, Michigan.
Rev. Georg Bernthal grave marker, St. Michael’s Lutheran Cemetery, Richville, Michigan.

Georg Bernthal (09 November 1837-08 March 1913) was born in Roßtal, Bavaria, the youngest child of Georg Martin and Anna Barbara (Bloß) Bernthal. He immigrated to Frankenmuth in 1846, arriving with the second group of settlers. Georg studied for the ministry at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. From 1859 to 1862 he served Zion Lutheran Church in Bonfield, Kankakee County, Illinois as their first pastor. He served as pastor of  St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Richville, Michigan for 50 years from 1862 until his retirement in 1912. He is laid to rest in St. Michael’s Lutheran Cemetery alongside his second and third wives and his daughter Magdalena.

Rev. Georg Bernthal grave marker inscription, St. Michael's Lutheran Cemetery, Richville, Michigan.
Rev. Georg Bernthal grave marker inscription, St. Michael’s Lutheran Cemetery, Richville, Michigan.