Corridoor entrance to the
auditorium, stairs in the
background lead to the gallery

Panic at funeral service in 1882
For Rev. Simon Kuhlenhoelter
    On August 11, 1860 the Rev. Simon Kuhlenhoelter became pastor of the German Evangelical Salem Church on the corner of Ninth and State, today the Salem Evangelical United Church of Christ. He was born April 9, 1820 in Lippe-Detmold, Germany. On Christmas morning, 1881 the Rev. Kuhlenhoelter collapsed on his way from the parsonage to the church and died on New Year's night, 1882, as the result of a stroke.
   The funeral services were most impressive; the church was filled with flowers and many appropriate floral designs were displayed about the casket. The church was draped in black. The services were announced for 1:30 o'clock and long before that time every seat in the church was taken. Late comers were crowded into the approaches to the church when they could not find space in the auditorium or gallery. An estimated 2,000 people were in the building when the service began, with the Rev. L. Nollan of St Louis officiating. John Wessels, superintendent of the Sunday School, was in charge of arrangements for burial.

Front of Salem Church showing the gallery on both sides.

   The choir had sung a funeral hymn and a minister had arisen to offer prayer. The audience had also risen to their feet and bowed their heads. While the minister was addressing the congregation there was a crash in the rear of the church that struck terror in the hearts of all present.
   On the inside of the inner door was a vacant space of about ten feet, that was literally packed with men standing. The pressure from those outside, who were trying to gain entrance, was so great it pushed the standing men into a railing, which gave way with a crash.
   This threw the crowd into a panic and a great rush was made for the doors. The people in the gallery also heard the crash and thought the gallery was giving way. They, too, became panic-stricken and went down the stairs as fast as possible.
   A jam resulted when the people rushing from the lower level of the church and those from upstairs met near the main entrance. Men, women and children were so tightly wedged that many were injured from the terrible pressure of the crowd.
   The scene was never to be forgotten. Men yelling and women and children crying for help. In the struggle at the foot of the stairway, many women were thrown down and stepped on. The people nearest the door were so jammed in that they could not move. The crush of the crowd forced the people in the front down until they were piled several deep, directly at the landing of the entrance.
   The people from the auditorium and gallery kept up the rush for the outside, the stronger trampling the weaker ones, some throwing themselves over the people prostrate on the landing. The men seemed to be as badly scared as the women. The people seemed to have lost all reason and stopped at nothing to escape the building.

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