The Return of Maggie (Schmidt) Van Loh’s 120-year-old Family Bible

On March 14th, 1898, in West Bend, Iowa, Margaretha Martha Anna “Maggie” Schmidt, the 23-year-old daughter of Conrad Jacob Schmidt and Martha Elisabeth (Lindemann) Schmidt, married the Dutch-German farmer Henry Conrad Van Loh, the 29-year-old son of John Nonen Van Loh and Gesina “Jennie” (Eichel) Van Loh. Henry’s brother, John Van Loh Jr., and the young Else Gerlach (sister-in-law of the local German Evangelical pastor) served as witnesses in a ceremony officiated by the aforementioned pastor, Rev. John Bernhardt “JB” Happel.

Maggie (Schmidt) Van Loh and her husband, Henry Conrad Van Loh Sr. (Photo courtesy of Linda Swalin.)
Margaret Anna (Schmidt) Van Loh (1875-1910), ca. 1900. (Original black-and-white photo courtesy of Linda Swalin.) Colorized by Josiah Schmidt.

As a wedding gift, Rev. Happel, his wife Anna Katharina (Gerlach) Happel, and Anna Katharina’s sister, Else Gerlach, gave Henry and Maggie a German-language family bible, printed by the International Bible Agency in New York City.

Henry and Maggie had five children from 1899-1906: Gesina, Martha Elizabeth, Henry Conrad Jr., John Norwin, and Frederick William Van Loh.

The children of Henry and Maggie (Schmidt) Van Loh. Starting from the top-left and moving clockwise: Henry Jr. (1902-1988), John (1904-1982), Gesina (1899-1924), Fred (1906-1967), and Martha Van Loh (1901-1997). (Photo courtesy of Linda Swalin.)

Henry unfortunately came down with tuberculosis, a slow-progressing and painful illness. They moved to New Mexico in 1905 and then to Colorado in 1906, hoping the clean, dry air and high altitudes would help Henry’s health. At the age of 38, Henry died in Canon City, Colorado on February 16th, 1907. His body was transported back to West Bend, Iowa, and buried in the West Bend Cemetery. Maggie moved back to West Bend, Iowa with the children, and in 1910 relocated to Dakota City, Iowa.

Widowed Maggie (Schmidt) Van Loh and her Van Loh in-laws. The woman seated in the bottom right corner is Margaretha “Maggie” (Schmidt) Van Loh. The rest are currently unidentified members of the extended Van Loh family. (Photo courtesy of Denise Lindemann.)

Maggie, however, had also caught tuberculosis from her husband before he died. Although the bacteria silently incubated within her for a few years, the illness afflicted her in 1910. She died at her home in Dakota City, Iowa on November 27th, 1910, leaving behind five orphaned children. Various uncles, aunts, and adult cousins took in the Van Loh children. When the children grew up, they moved one by one out to Oregon on the west coast: Martha and John to Salem, Henry Jr. to Eugene, and Fred to Portland.

The children of Henry and Maggie (Schmidt) Van Loh. From left to right: John (1904-1982), Martha (1901-1997), Fred (1906-1967), Gesina (1899-1924), and Henry Van Loh Jr. (1902-1988). (Photo courtesy of Linda Swalin.)

One of these Van Loh children inherited the Van Loh-Schmidt family bible, and then passed away, either leaving the book in an attic or store room to be picked up by the next owner of the house, passing the book to some peripheral relatives, or perhaps including the book in an estate sale. At some point, this family bible ended up in the hands of an elderly German couple who lived in the Woodburn/Mt. Angel area, between Salem and Portland. This elderly couple were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and when they died, a box full of their Watchtower Bible & Tract Society publications was given to a couple of nearby friends (who were also Jehovah’s Witnesses). The family bible was hidden inside this box of publications. This couple then passed the book onto a rare book collector by the name of James Landon, in Salem, Oregon.

James opened the book, discovered it was a family bible that had belonged to Henry and Maggie, and then–through diligent Internet searching–discovered the genealogical material I had posted online over the years (some of which dealt with Henry and Maggie). James sent me an email, and we began putting the pieces together. After solving this mystery, James generously offered to send me the family bible, so that it could finally be reunited with a relative.

The exterior of the Van Loh family bible: now dried and beginning to crumble. I am looking into having it rebound with a new, fresh cover, as the interior pages are still in good condition.
The spine of the book, which reads, “Die Heilige Schrift, mit Apokryphen,” translating to: “The Holy Scripture, with Apocrypha.” (The biblical canon assembled by Martin Luther includes several books that are not accepted as canonical by all Christian denominations. These apocrypha include the books of Judith, Wisdom, Tobit, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Additions to Esther, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, the Prayer of Azariah, the Song of the Three Holy Children, and the Prayer of Manasseh.)
The dedication page of the book.

On the dedication page of this family bible is written:

“Gewidmet zum Tage
Ihrer Trauung am 14. März 1898.
von J. B. Happel & Frau erbst.
Else Gerlach.
Suchet in der Schrift!
Der Herr behüte ihren Ausgang und Eingang von nun an bis in Ewigkeit.”

This translates to:

“Dedicated to the day of your wedding on March 14, 1898.
Received from J. B. Happel & wife. [and] Else Gerlach.
Search in the Scriptures!
May the Lord safeguard their comings and goings now and forever.”

The page containing the publication and printing information. The title translates to “The Bible, or the Entire Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments, in the German Translation by Dr. Martin Luther. Edition with Apocrypha.”
The beginning of the personal Family Chronicle section, in between the Old Testament section and the New Testament section of the book.
Within the Family Chronicle section is a page entitled “Wedding Day.” The verse quoted here is John 24:15: “I and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Nothing was written on this page.
Within the Family Chronicle section is a page entitled “Ancestors.” The verse quoted here is Isaiah 54:10: “If the mountains should waver and the hills be removed, my mercy for you will however never waver, and the covenant of my peace will never be removed, says your Lord, the Merciful.” Nothing was written on this page.
Within the Family Chronicle section is a page entitled “Children.” The verse quoted here is Mark 10:14: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them; because to such belong the kingdom of God.” Nothing is written on this page.
A second page for “Children,” within the Family Chronicle section. Nothing is written on this page either.
Within the Family Chronicle section is a page entitled “Deaths.” The verse quoted here is Revelation 14:13 (or, as this book of the bible is called in German, “Die Offenbarung von Johannes,” or “the Revelation to John”). The verse translates to: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Indeed, the Spirit says, that they rest from their labors; because their works follow them.”

On the “Deaths” page of the Family Chronicle section in this bible, Henry and Maggie pasted a clipped newspaper obituary regarding the death of one of their friends from New Mexico. This deceased friend was John C. Tiberghien (1861-1905). The obituary reads:

“FIREMAN FALLS FROM HIS ENGINE — J. C. Liberghien(sic) Meets Instant Death at the Roadside Near Ribera Station Last Night. — A paragraph in the railroad department of The Optic this evening states that Engineer Jack Lowe went out on No. 7 passenger train last evening, it being his first trip since having returned from his vacation trip. It was little thought when the item was penciled that it would be the last trip of his fireman, J. C. Tiberghien, who met death by falling from his engine immediately this side of Ribera station at an early hour last night. Tiberghien lost his balance and was hurled out of the cab and onto the ground with terrific force. He struck on his head, which when the body was picked up, was found badly crushed. The dead fireman enjoyed the respect and confidence of his employers and those associated with him on the road. He was aged about forty-five years and leaves a wife, seven children and an aged mother, residing at No. 717 upper Railroad avenue. His father died at Trinidad, Colo., where a sister, Mrs. E. J. Bevelle, resides. The remains will be shipped to that city tonight for interment. The deceased fireman held policies paid up within the last few months in the Pacific Mutual company and in the Continental Casualty company. The amount of the first is $1,500. Both policies are in force and the money they call for will go to the family. The eldest child of the family is a boy aged sixteen, who is employed at Graaf & Hayward’s. None of the other children are old enough to be of any assistance in the support of the family. Mr. Tiberghien had been ill with diabetes for some time and had not been able to run regularly during the last two years. Trouble and care have seemed to be the familiars of the family for many months past, and the terrible, crushing blow sustained in the death of the husband and father seems almost too grievous to be borne.”

Within the Family Chronicle section is a page entitled “Special Events.” The verse quoted here is Proverbs 3:6 (or, as this book of the bible is called in German, “Sprüche Salomos,” or “the Sayings of Solomon”). The verse translates to: “Think on the Lord in all your ways, so will He guide your path.”

On the next page, Maggie (Schmidt) Van Loh has pasted the obituary of her husband, Henry Conrad Van Loh Sr., clipped from the West Bend Journal newspaper. The obituary reads:

“Death of Henry Conrad VanLoh. Died–In Cannon(sic) City, Colorado, Saturday, Feb. 16, 1907, of tuberculosis, Henry Conrad VanLoh, aged 39 years, 5 months and 11 days. The death of Henry VanLoh had been anticipated for some time and came as a relief after much suffering. To prolong his life he, with his family moved to Colorado almost 3 years ago, where everything in human agency had been done to restore his health but in vain. Henry Conrad VanLoh was born in German Valley, Stevenson(sic) Co., Ill., Oct. 5, 1867. With his parents he came to West Bend in the year of [blank]. On March 14, 1898, he was married to Margarette Schmidt of this city. To Mr. and Mrs. Henry VanLoh five children were born, all of whom survive their father. All who knew the deceased will sympathize deeply with the stricken wife, children, mother, brothers and sisters. Mr. Henry VanLoh was highly esteemed here, where he spent the greater portion of his life and friends as well as relatives are saddened by his demise. The remains reached here Wednesday morning accompanied by the wife, children and brother of the deceased. The funeral occurred Wednesday afternoon, from the residence at 1 p.m. and from the German Evangelical church at 2:30 p.m., Rev. A. Satory(sic) officiating. The remains were interred in the West Bend cemetery.”

Within the Family Chronicle section is another page also entitled “Special Events.” Another obituary for Henry Conrad Van Loh Sr. (this one in German) was pasted onto this page.

On the next page, Maggie (Schmidt) Van Loh has pasted yet another obituary of her husband, Henry Conrad Van Loh Sr. This obituary was clipped from the fourth column of page 4 of the 10 April 1907 edition of the Ostfriesische Nachrichten (“East Frisian News”) newspaper. This newspaper was a German-language paper published out of Breda, Carroll County, Iowa. (East Frisia is a region of northwest Germany near the border with Holland. This newspaper reported on news related to Dutch-German immigrants in Iowa during the late 1800s and early 1900s.)

In the original German, the obituary reads as follows. (See further below for an English translation.)

“Allen Freunden und Bekannten sei hiermit die traurige Nachricht mitgeteilt, daß es dem Herrn gefallen hat, unsern lieben Sohn, Bruder und Gatten.
Henry Conrad Van Loh
aus der Zeit in die Ewigkeit abzurufen im Alter von 39 Jahren 5 Monaten und 11 Tagen. Er wurde geboren am 5. Oct. 1867 in German Valley, Stephenson Co., Illinois, und kam im Jahre 1885 mit seinen Eltern nach West Bend, Palo Alto Co., Iowa, hier brachte er den größten Teil seines Lebens zu. Im Jahre 1898 verheiratete er sich mit Margarethe Schmidt, es wurden ihnen 5 Kinder geboren, welche alle den Vater überleben. Seit mehreren Jahren leidend, zog er 1905 mit seiner Familie nach New Mexico, von dort nach Canon City, Col., um Genesung zu suchen, doche alle menschliche Hülfe war vergebens. Er entschlief in Canon City, Colorado, am 16. Feb. 1907 an Tuberculosis, im lebendigen Glauben an seinen Erlöser. Seine Leiche wurde nach West Bend, Iowa, geschickt, wo sie am 20. Feb. 1907 in Begleitung seiner hinterbliebenen Gattin und 5 Kinder und eines seiner Brüder ankam. Die Beerdigung fand statt am 20. Feb. Die Leichenrede hielt Pastor Schorn, Pastor der Deutsch Evangelischen Friedens-Gemeinde zu West Bend, Iowa, von welcher der Verstorbene ein treues Glied war. Der Leichentext war Joh. 16, 16. Er hinterläßt seine Gattin, 5 Kinder wie auch seine wohlbetagte Mutter, 2 Brüder und 2 Schwestern, in der gewissen Hoffnung des Wiedersehens beim Herrn.
Im Auftrag der Hinterbliebenen
Aug. Schorn, Pastor,
West Bend, Iowa”

The above obituary translates in English to:

“This sad news is communicated to all friends and acquaintances: it pleased the Lord that our dear son, brother and husband,
Henry Conrad Van Loh
was retrieved from the temporal world into eternity, at the age of 39 years, 5 months, and 11 days. He was born on 5 Oct. 1867 in German Valley, Stephenson Co., Illinois, and moved to West Bend, Palo Alto Co., Iowa with his parents in 1885, where he lived most of his life. In 1898 he married Margarethe Schmidt and they had 5 children, all of whom survived their father. Suffering for several years, he moved with his family to New Mexico in 1905, from there to Canon City, Col., to seek recovery, but all human help was in vain. He died of tuberculosis on 16 Feb., 1907 in Canon City, Colorado, with a living belief in his Redeemer. His body was sent to West Bend, Iowa, where it arrived on 20 Feb., 1907 with his surviving wife and five children and one of his brothers. The funeral took place on 20 Feb. The eulogy was given by Pastor Schorn, pastor of the German Evangelical Peace Congregation in West Bend, Iowa, of which the deceased was a loyal member. The burial text was John 16:16. He leaves his wife, 5 children, as well as his elderly mother, 2 brothers and 2 sisters, in the certain hope of seeing one another again in the Lord.
On behalf of the bereaved,
Aug. Schorn, Pastor,
West Bend, Iowa”

Thanks again to James Landon for his diligence and generosity in reuniting this book with family. It serves as a beautiful glimpse into a tragic but important episode of our family history.

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