A gravestone for Christoph H. K. W. Steinkamp was discovered during the cemetery restoration 2020-2021. He was born in Oppendorf Germany on April 30, 1860 and died on May 6, 1880 and was buried at Black Walnut Cemetery. There is a period at the end of his last name which may signify that he didn’t have children to carry on his line. He was only 20 years old. Dorris Keeven-Franke provided a translation of the verse on the bottom of the stone:

“May the Lord bless you my beloved
Do not mourn my leaving.”

Gary Simpkins set about tracing how Christoph came to the United States. Gary’s working theory is that in 1877 the ship Weser from Bremen, Germany landed in New York carrying among them two brothers, one 17 Christoph Steinkamp and the other 16 years old Henry Steinkamp. From New York, they boarded a train headed for St. Louis.  It was upon arriving in St. Louis that their fate was set into motion. The younger brother Henry stayed in St. Louis and worked for another brother Bernard who was twelve years older and after arriving in 1867 had established himself owning a grocery business. Henry lived a normal life, got married and had a family. He lived to about 68 and died in 1930.

There is more research required, tracing the descendants of the Steinkamp brothers from St Louis to verify Christoph’s relationship to their family and learn if any stories had been handed down.
Christoph, the older brother stayed on the train and ended up in St. Charles County. At this point, he disappeared. No marriage, no census, nothing to show where he lived and worked. He was all but forgotten, until November 2020, 143 years after his ship landed in New York.
After much research, we were able to uncover newspaper articles on his death on May 6, 1880. The Alton Evening Telegraph reported on May 8th that Christoph and 3 friends (Fritz Koch, Ferdinand Gebhardt who was an extended family member of the Kempf family, and Henry Engelbrecht who was an extended member of the Kluesner family and who is buried next to Christoph) left Portage on a skiff to go fishing and evidently had an unfortunate mishap which cost them all their lives. Christoph’s body was recovered in Alton and as reported in the May 13, 1880 Alton Telegraph, an inquest was held on May 11th.
We found that the Coroner’s Inquest reports from the 1800s from Alton, in Madison County, IL were stored at the IL Regional Archives Depository at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale IL. In October, 2022, a trip was made to the Archives and it was determined that Christoph’s Inquest report was not there and has been lost to time.
It appears that we have exhausted all avenues of research into Christoph’s death. Hopefully a family member will locate documents that will shed more light on the life of Christoph Steinkamp.

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