Strieter Autobiography: Marriage

[Continued from Part 17. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Into the Ministry (continued)

I went to live with [Mr.] T[heisen] in the small town and was treated like a lord there. In front was a large room, my table, my bed, and there I taught school to six children or so. One Sunday I would preach in Elyria and those from the South Ridge, two miles away, would come over here; the next Sunday church was there and those in Elyria went over there. After the sermon I would also give Catechism instruction.

I lived for my quarter-year at [Mr.] T[heisen’s] place in town. One time I was not feeling well. My host said he had a small, white powder that I should take. I take the powder and feel completely miserable. I need to go through the garden to the throne13, but get such pains there that I can’t even move. My hostess comes and calls, “Mr. Pastor, you’ve been in there so long. Why don’t you get dressed and we’ll get you out of there.” I pulled myself together and the mother and the girl bring me into the house and lay me on my bed.

No sooner do I lie down than I get the cramp in both calves, which pulls my flesh together in a clump. I yelled, and they rubbed. I yelled, “Get me a pail full of cold water!” The girl gets water, and I put both feet into the cold water and the cramp goes away. But I thought, “You are never taking that powder again.”

Later I lived at [Mr.] S.’s house over in the woods. They had a frame house. In the front they had a small, low addition, where they lived. Then the actual house. That had a large room and a bedroom. It had a fireplace, but no stove. The inside of the house was not “plastered [geplästert].” It was winter. When I would put wood on, she would come and douse it with water on me and say the chimney was starting to burn. My dear neighbor-lady, F., brought a bed. Not far from there was an old log schoolhouse in which I taught school. When I arrived in the morning, I first had to shovel out the snow. There was a stove there, but bad wood. They would bring the logs that had already sat in the water for ten years and saw them into blocks. I would split them and make a fire. But it did not want to burn. My little children came; I sat them around the stove and I stood behind them. The whole winter I never got one foot warm and I contracted a terrible head cold, which I didn’t get rid of until I was in Wisconsin. In the evening a number of folks would come and I taught them hymns for an hour [hielt Singstunde].

Mrs. S. was one short, angry little woman. She had two boys. The smaller one was terribly dumb and couldn’t grasp anything at all. The whole winter we taught the three letters a, b, c. She would help: “Jonnie, what’s this? Say a. What’s this? Say b. Now, what’s this?” – pointing back to a. He doesn’t know. “You Satan, won’t you just say it?” and she lays into him. The boy starts crying. Then she says, “No, no, my Jonnie, I will not hit you any more.” The boy rubs his eyes. “Jonnie, what’s this?” She tells him. “What’s this?” She tells him. Back to the first letter. He doesn’t know what it is. She lays into him again: “You Satan, won’t you just say it?” The boy starts crying loudly.

I go in there: “Ah, just leave the child in peace!” That’s how it went every day.

One time the husband was by the fire in the field and didn’t come right away. When she called him for dinner, she tried to smash his brains with the fire poker. He just barely got out of the way so that he avoided her blow.

A family came from Germany. The wife became frightfully homesick and lost her mind. I visited her regularly. With God’s help I get her straightened out again. I went to live with [Mr.] F. and stayed longer than usual. There I had it nice!

I had a listener who always went to sleep on me during the service. As soon as the sermon started, his head would start to hang. He came to announce for the Lord’s Supper. I said, “But my dear man, you are always sleeping during the sermon.” He replied that he could not help it. I said, “Let me give you a good piece of advice, sir. Come to church with the thought, ‘Today I am going to hear for once what the pastor knows.’ Then, when you are there, pray really earnestly that our dear God would please drive the sleep away. And if it comes anyway, then bite yourself on the tongue, and make it a good one.” And sure enough, from then on my dear man was a very attentive listener. Later everything closed down there for a while.14 Jüngel was now Steinbach’s successor in Liverpool. He told me, “[Mr.] H. came to me and asked me to begin there again, because people had moved into the area. He wanted to have me picked up with the buggy and brought back home and he would give me five dollars every time.”

I said, “Wow, that is a lot! Why is he willing to do all that?”

“Yeah, he said, ‘Pastor Strieter sowed seed in my heart, and it’s growing.’”

I also began preaching in Vermillion. Several families lived there. I also used to preach on the South Ridge. When I did, I ate at [Mr.] H.’s at midday and marched eighteen miles to Vermillion, preached in the evening and taught hymns for an hour, and on Monday and Tuesday I taught school to eight little children or so. Tuesday after school I walked my eighteen miles back down and taught school the rest of the week back on the South Ridge. My miller [Mr.] T. had no more work in Elyria and had to go looking for work. He moved with his family to Liverpool.

In the spring of 1853 I was ordained by Schwan. He preached on the Good Shepherd. It fit well, and I earnestly made up my mind to become a good undershepherd. Steinbach assisted.

I now went to live with [Mr.] S. on the rotation. At his house, next to the main room, was a small room that was to be mine. I made a proper table and bought myself a water pitcher and a glass. The room smelled terribly bad; it had been the cat’s den for years. When I went to bed, I felt things crawling over my entire body. I got up. Everything was covered in red.15 I got dressed, then sat down at my table, and laid my head on the table. That’s how I carried on.

One day the wife said, “Don’t you go to bed, sir?”

I said, “There are bedbugs.” She and her daughter go at it and start washing, but it didn’t help a thing; I had to stay at the table. The family simply did not live well. I could not eat their bread. It was three fingers high and so hard that you could have used it as a projectile and smashed in a person’s brains. Each morning he ran into the small town to fetch some meat, but every time he brought the udder, which he got for free or for a few cents. That went into the water and was brought to the table together with the gravy when it was just tolerably well boiled. Luckily they always brought boiled potatoes [Pellkartoffeln] to the table. So I could at least peel off the skin and eat my potatoes with salt, and I also would drink some water. The potatoes and the water did not fill me up, however, and it started to take a terrible toll on me. When I went to my schoolhouse on the South Ridge, I would have to stop and rest several times. How often I stood behind my table and thought, “It’s time for you to go and tell your people, ‘I can’t go on like this any more,’” but I never actually did so; I just kept on toughing it out.

One time my dear Ph[ilipp] T[heiss] loaded me on his buggy and drove me to Steinbach. Along the way he started in, “Sir, I would like to have a word with you on a matter of special importance.”

I said, “Okay, what is it?”

He said, “You must marry, so that you can get away from the S. family; you are in death’s clutches there.”

I said, “What are you saying! Sixty dollars a year – and that’s not coming in – and moving around every quarter year?”

He said, “You are always preaching to us about trusting in God; you should also take your own preaching to heart and have trust in God. God is clearly showing you that you need to marry, otherwise you may as well resign. And now let me also tell you whom you’re going to marry; take Lisbeth.” In Vermillion lived a widow, Anna Kunigunda Ernst, with six little daughters.16 The oldest, Lisbeth, she had sent to the parochial school by Steinbach and to be confirmed by him, since there was nothing happening in Vermillion. After confirmation the mother sent her daughter to Elyria, so that she would have church and Catechism instruction, and she made her home away from home at T[heiss’s].

Before this I got a letter from my brother, who wrote that [Mr.] L. had told him that he should write to me and ask me whether I wanted his daughter M. for my wife. One tramp after another was coming inquiring after her, but he had promised my father that I should have his M. I wrote that I could not think about marriage at this time; if God wanted to have it, he would surely work it out. In the meantime M. should not be bound to me. After a year my brother wrote to me that M. had married and had died while giving birth to her first child. I would have had a rich wife, but I would not have kept her; thus God cares for us without us even knowing it. —

We came to Steinbach. When he looked at me, he clapped his hands together: “Man, what do you look like? Whose house are you at?”

I said, “At S.’s.”

He said, “That’s enough of that; you are in death’s clutches there. You need to marry, so that you can get away from there.”

I said, “Marry with sixty dollars a year? How am I supposed to provide for a wife like that?”

He said, “Our dear God, who has provided for you to the present, will then provide for you both.” He continued, “You’re taking Lisbeth.” I would have been happy to take her, but she was too young for me.

We rode home, but from Elyria we went straight to Vermillion in order to hold service there in the evening. [Mr.] T[heiss’s] brother, H. T[heiss], was in the forest cutting wood for ship-building. When he came home: “Are you still at S.’s, sir? One only need look at you to see it. In that sh—house17 death has you in its clutches! Get yourself away from there.”

I said, “Whereto?”

He said, “Marry someone. Take Lisbeth!” She was right above us.

I said, “And where do I go with her?”

He said, “To Mother Ernst. She has a house in Vermillion; you’ll be well taken care of there.”

I said, “There are three of all good things; this is from God!”18

Mother Ernst and her little daughters came to church. I preached and taught hymns for an hour. Afterward Lisbeth went into the adjoining room to practice the melodion. I now say to Mother Ernst, in the presence of H. T[heiss] and Ph[ilipp] T[heiss], what was said to me three times in succession. She says, “If you would like my Lisbeth, sir, I give her to you with a happy heart!” We call Lisbeth out of the room and the betrothal took place.

"I found [this wedding picture] in an anniversary program from St. John Lutheran Church in Elyria, Johannes' first call." - Winfried "Joe" Strieter (13 April 2015), a great-great-grandson of Johannes Strieter

“I found [this wedding picture] in an anniversary program from St. John Lutheran Church in Elyria, Johannes’ first call.” – Winfried “Joe” Strieter, a great-great-grandson of Johannes Strieter, in an email dated 13 April 2015

After a quarter-year I rode with my Lisbeth to Elyria via railroad. There I borrowed a horse from the livery stable and we drove to Steinbach. He married us. On the way home I wanted to hurry up and I cracked one on the horse with the whip. It lashes out in back and its leg goes over the shaft. I have to unharness in order to get my horse free. After a while I lash again and my horse also lashes again and, sure enough, over the shaft yet again. I note that the beast knows his stuff, and I now must drive step for step.

I forgot to mention something, that the judge in Elyria wouldn’t give me a marriage license. He asked whether the girl was eighteen. I said, “No!”

He said, “Since you are honest enough to tell me that, I must also be honest with you and tell you that I can only give you a license with the consent of her parents.” So I had to get her mother, who then told the gentleman that I should have her daughter. My wife, Lisbeth, was born in Brownhelm, not far from Vermillion, on August 24, 1838, and we were married on January 17, 1854. There was certainly no eighteen years between those two dates.19


13 German: Pabst. Pabst or Papst is the word for pope. In many Protestant regions zum Papst gehen (“go to the pope”) was slang for using the lavatory or, in this case, the outhouse, alluding to the papal throne.

14 Strieter here is telling a story that happened much later to illustrate how this conversation, and the sermons now attended to as a result of the conversation, bore fruit for this sleeping man, whom he identifies a couple sentences later as a Mr. H.

15 Bedbugs

16 I am indebted to Susan Hawkins, a great-great-granddaughter of Johannes Strieter, for sharing with me a document titled, “Sketch of the Parents of the Ernst Girls (Elizabeth, Martha, Sopie, Anna, Sarah, Mary)” by Henry F. Rahe, son of Anna Ernst and Henry H. Rahe. He relates the following concerning Anna Kunigunda (or Kunigunde) Ernst: “Anna Kunigunde Wittich was born March 16, 1811 in Kreis Rothenburg, Bebra Hessen Germany. Her parents were well-to-do and she received a good education for those times. She had a command of a fine High German and later in America acquired a good English. She was a very fine seamstress and a past master in fine knitting and crocheting. … She had the misfortune to lose her mother by death. Her father married again and [Anna] did not get along very well with her stepmother. Some of her cousins…and some friends decided to come to the United States. She thought it would be fine to accompany them here and if she would not like America, she could return to Germany. They left Germany in March 1836. … From New York they went up the Hudson to Albany, thence by Erie Canal to Buffalo, and by lake boat to Cleveland. Just how [Anna] got to Vermillion I do not know. My supposition is that some of her countrymen were interested in boat building and she accompanied them to the busy little boat building center of Vermillion. One of the men, Philip Minch, became a big lake boat builder and vessel owner. … At Vermillion, Ohio is where the married life of happiness and trouble for Casper Ernst and Kunigunde Wittich commenced, was lived and ended. They were married in 1837 by a Justice of the Peace. … As stated before, [Anna] Ernst would or could not put up with the weakness of her husband and divorced him in 1848 or 1849.” Earlier in the sketch Mr. Rahe had written: “Grandfather [Casper] Ernst was a six foot tall, broad shouldered, good-looking man. He had black hair and was dark-skinned. He was easy going and good-natured but his weakness was drink. Knowing Grandmother [Anna] Ernst as I did, although I was rather young to form an opinion, the trouble was that Grandmother would not stand for his weakness… Grandfather Ernst bought about an acre of land in the center of Vermillion and built a fair-sized frame house on it. This property and some money he gave to his wife at the time of the divorce. … Grandfather Ernst died in 1850 at the early age of forty-two, of typhoid fever… He was buried in a Vermillion cemetery along Lake Erie. The cemetery has since been washed into the lake.”

17 German: S—haus. Carl rendered the word pigsty, but he was being polite; pigsty is Schweinestall or Schweinekoben.

18 Strieter is referring to the fact that he was told to marry Elizabeth Ernst three times that day, by three different men.

19 The math puts her at 15 years old at the time of her marriage to Johannes, who was 24.

A Child Was Born to Us Today

Uns ist ein Kindlein

“Uns ist ein Kindlein heut geborn” as it first appeared in Gesius’ Geistliche Deutsche Lieder (1601). Source.

“Uns ist ein Kindlein heut geborn”

Translator’s Preface

In 1601, Bartholomäus Gesius (c. 1555-1613) published the first volume of his Geistliche Deutsche Lieder D. Martini Lutheri und anderen frommen Christen (German Spiritual Songs by Dr. Martin Luther and Other Pious Christians). According to the rest of the title, the hymns in the collection “were customarily sung throughout the year in Christian churches,” and were arranged by the author “with four or five voices, according to the usual choral melodies, in a proper and pleasing manner.”

For other hymns, such as “All Praise to You, Eternal God” (folio 9) or “From Heaven Above” (folio 10), Gesius cited the author. But for the hymn on folio 16, translated below, no author was recorded. The four-voice setting is presumably his own. If the title can be applied without exception to all the hymns in Gesius’ collection, either Gesius himself had authored it before this and it had found use in one or more churches, or it may have appeared anonymously (authored by one of the “other pious Christians”) sometime between Luther and the publication of this volume.

Eight years later, when Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) published the sixth part of his Musae Sioniae (Muses of Zion) in 1609, he set the melody in Gesius’ collection to his own charming four-part setting (no. XLIX), which has been popularized in such albums as “Mass for Christmas Morning.”

I was planning to have the choir I direct sing Praetorius’ setting on Christmas Eve, and so I set about to translate it. My only departure from the original, which was admittedly not strictly necessary, was that the original two middle lines of the first stanza –

ein wahrer Mensch und wahrer Gott,
daß er uns helf’ aus aller Not.

True man, true God in full was he,
To rescue us from misery.

I changed to the following:

True man in full, yet also God,
To shatter the Oppressor’s rod.

I think it is rare when a translator is able to improve on the original, but here I was convinced such a case existed. The rest of the first stanza is basically a summary of Isaiah 9:1-7, which was the “Epistle” for Christmas Day at the time of the original composition. So I changed the two middle lines so that the entire stanza would be a summary of Isaiah 9:1-7 (rf. Isa 9:4). The “Oppressor” refers primarily to Satan, but also to sin and death by metonymy and association (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8).

This hymn just about sums up the beauty of Christian theology and the meaning of Christmas in as concise, straightforward, and lilting a way as possible. I pray it accordingly fills you, the reader, with joy and confidence.

A Child Was Born to Us Today

1. A child was born to us today
Of chosen virgin, far away –
True man in full, yet also God,
To shatter the Oppressor’s rod.
Wonder and Counsel is his name;
Through him the Father’s grace we claim.

2. What more for us could God have done
Than that he gives us his own Son,
Who from us has removed indeed
All of our sin and each misdeed,
Redeemed us from the sin and pain
Wherein we else would e’er remain.

3. Rejoice, dear saints of Christ, therefore,
And thank our God forevermore!
But hate the cunning, lies, and vice
Which cost your Savior such a price.
Fear God and live lives pure and mild
To glorify the newborn Child.

A Prince’s Response to the Augsburg Interim

By Johann Friedrich the Elder (John Frederick I)

Translator’s Preface

On April 24, 1547, the Catholic princes of the Holy Roman Empire under Emperor Charles V decisively defeated the Schmalkaldic League of Lutheran princes under Elector Johann Friedrich I of Saxony and Landgrave Philip I of Hesse, at Mühlberg on the Elbe River. In the course of battle, Johann Friedrich and other Lutheran princes were captured by the Hungarian cavalry. This battle was part of a larger effort – agreed to by Charles V and Pope Paul III on June 26, 1546 – to compel the Protestants by force of arms to acknowledge the decrees of the Council of Trent, convened in 1545, and to return to the fold of the Roman Church.

Friedrich Bente reports:

The Elector [John Frederick I] himself was taken captive, treated as a rebel, and sentenced to death. The sentence was read to him while he was playing chess with his fellow-captive, Duke Ernest of Lueneberg. John Frederick answered, he did not believe that the Emperor would deal so severely with him; if, however, he were in earnest, they should let him know that he might order his affairs with his wife and children. He then calmly turned to the Duke, saying: “Let us continue the game; it’s your move.” (Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions, 2nd ed. [CPH, 2005], p. 220)

Johann Friedrich the Elder. Portrait by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1531.

Johann Friedrich the Elder. Portrait by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1531.

But due to Emperor Charles’ threat to execute their beloved leader, the city of Wittenberg also signed a Capitulation to the Emperor on May 19. Johann Friedrich was compelled to resign his electoral dignity and the Electorate of Saxony was taken away from him and his heirs and given to his relative Maurice. In exchange, Johann Friedrich’s death sentence was changed to an indefinite prison sentence. Johann Friedrich talks more about the Capitulation in his Confession below.

But the conscientious Charles knew that mere governmental submission was not tantamount to submission to the Roman Church. The first step to reduce the Lutherans to obedience to the pope took place at the 1548 Diet of Augsburg, when Charles issued “The Declaration of the Roman Imperial Majesty as to How Affairs Will Proceed in the Holy Empire of the German Nation with Respect to Religion Until the Decision of the General Council,” or Augsburg Interim, on May 15. The decree became imperial law on June 30, though it proved impossible to enforce.

At some point in 1548, perhaps before the Augsburg Interim became imperial law, “special efforts were also made by the Emperor to induce John Frederick…to sanction the Interim” while he was in prison (Bente, p. 224).

That is where the Confession below comes in.

By 1557, several years after Johann Friedrich’s death in 1554, his written confession to the Emperor in response to the Interim had become more widely known. Nicolas von Amsdorf, in a preface to a book of Luther sermons on John 18-20 published in 1557, wrote of plans to have the Confession published (apparently together with the Luther sermons) and spoke very highly of it:

From [this confession] all pious and troubled hearts, which are assailed under the cross that they carry in any situations like those of [Johann Friedrich], should take a comforting example and illustration, so that they too confess their faith as joyfully and steadfastly as the praiseworthy elector of Christian memory did. He confessed his faith during his imprisonment dauntlessly, yet with the utmost patience and humility.

For he did not rant and rave, he did not disparage the Imperial Majesty or his counselors who urged him to accept the Interim, nor give them empty prattle. Instead, with due honor and reverence, he humbly and submissively requested, and yet at the same time announced, that he could not and would not accept such an Interim in good conscience, just as everyone will see and read in this confession of his. (source)

But in the preface to volume 28 of the Weimar Edition of Luther’s Works (1903), Otto Albrecht and Gustav Koffmane write, “We have not been acquainted with any editions of that ‘Confession’ of Johann Friedrich…from the year 1557. Nor have we come across any copy of the printing of [those Luther sermons on John 18-20 originally published in 1557] bound together with [it].” The most they can say is that a certain Dr. Knaake in Naumburg was in possession of a later edition of Johann Friedrich’s Confession, but they do not say anything more about the nature of that edition (source).

There is a fairly large excerpt from the Confession on pages 224-225 of Bente’s Historical Introductions cited above. One almost cannot read the excerpt without craving the entire document. Bente’s somewhat obscure citation for the excerpt is “Walther, 16”. This refers to pages 16-18 of the first part of C. F. W. Walther’s Der Concordienformel Kern und Stern (2nd ed., St. Louis: M. C. Barthel, 1877), which contains the historical background for the Formula of Concord. Walther’s citation there reads: “Rf. Unschuldige Nachrichten, 1702, p. 364, ff.”

The Unschuldige Nachrichten, or Innocent News, was published by Valentin Ernst Loescher, the great opponent of Pietism, in the first half of the 18th century. Thankfully, the Rare Books Room of the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary had a copy of Loescher’s News for 1702, which I was able to locate this past summer.

There was one more problem though. Walther cited pages 364 and following, but those pages did not contain Johann Friedrich’s Confession. By checking the indexes, however, I found the entire confession reproduced on pages 393 and following under the title, “Churfürst Johann Friedrichs zu Sachsen Bekäntnüß auff das Interim” (translated below). The problem was that Walther’s excerpt began on page 394, which was misprinted as 364.

Loescher says that he is reproducing the Confession “ex MSTO,” short for “ex manuscripto” – “from the manuscript.” How he came to possess the manuscript is unclear, but it is known that he was a collector of rare books and manuscripts. For example, what is today termed Codex Solger 13, which contains a number of valuable, anonymous transcripts of Luther sermons, was once in Loescher’s possession (rf. here). And in fact, if I were into serious research and wanted to attempt to locate the manuscript Loescher once had, I would begin by searching the Solger collection in the Nuremberg City Library (Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg), since I know that at least some of Loescher’s collection ended up in Solger’s collection.

At any rate, we have no reason to doubt the authenticity of Loescher’s manuscript.

  1. Loescher was an earnest and honest confessional Lutheran Christian.
  2. The Confession’s content is in perfect agreement with the historical context delineated above.
  3. Its style and vocabulary is consistent with Johann Friedrich’s upbringing, and with similar writings of the same time period in general.

I am therefore happy to present to you, the reader, this profoundly beautiful confession of the once-powerful Lutheran Saxon prince, Johann Friedrich I. It is extremely difficult to imagine any politician writing something so full of biblical conviction today. The only negative of the Confession I can find is that in one spot it could give the impression of improper Church-State entanglement. (But one finds it difficult to fix blame for any such entanglement that may have existed in reality, if the Lutheran princes of the time were even half the kind of man this confession indicates Johann Friedrich was.)

May the triune God grant us all such a love for Divine Scripture, and for the Unaltered Augsburg Confession and the other Lutheran Confessions, which are squarely founded on it, and a conviction to match.

Elector Johann Friedrich of Saxony’s Confession Against the Interim
From the manuscript

I listened obediently when I was told that the Roman Imperial and Royal Majesty1 and the electors, princes, and estates of the empire had resolved2 how affairs will proceed in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation with regard to the Christian religion until a council should be held, and that the Imperial Majesty earnestly desires of me that I too would consent to the just-mentioned resolution and subscribe to the same.

Now, I am able to recall that when the most highly esteemed Imperial Majesty drew up the Capitulation,3 at first he also included an article saying that I was to obligate myself to whatever what would be decided in a council or that I would accept whatever Your Majesty would decree in matters of faith and not be opposed to the same. But when it was humbly announced to Your Majesty that I could not make such an agreement for many fitting reasons having to do with my conscience, and that no threat to body or life would bring me to do so, Your Majesty commanded that the aforementioned article be stricken and did not pursue any further dealings with me with respect to religion, which I also thus received with humble thanksgiving. And after I was relieved of this burdening of my conscience, everything else in person and possession was humbly surrendered to Your Imperial Majesty’s supremely gracious will and pleasure that much more readily. And after the Capitulation was formalized in all good faith, no further demands were supposed to be made of me, but I was to be permitted to continue in the religion I had embraced and professed. But since the Roman Imperial Majesty is now once again desiring of me that I give my consent to the prepared Interim or legal proposal [Rathschlag], I therefore, in humility, cannot leave Your Majesty uninformed that I have been thoroughly taught and instructed by the servants of the Divine Word from youth onward, and by diligently searching the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures I have come to know – and with God’s help I attest that I maintain this in my conscience without any wavering – that the articles as comprised in the Augsburg Confession, and whatever is in the same vein, are the correct, true, Christian, pure doctrine and are confirmed and founded in the writings of the holy prophets and apostles, and in the writings of the teachers who have followed in their footsteps, to such a degree that nothing conclusive can be produced against them.

It is for this reason that formerly my gracious, dear lord father, of blessed memory,4 and others, out of good and sufficient intelligence and learning, also for their part made us adhere to this Confession many years ago through legitimate ways and means, until a free, Christian, and impartial council should reach a decision. And by God’s grace and mercy, my pious lord father and I have stood by this confession – he to his grave, and I to the present day. And also as part of our governance, before and after the Confession, we have had this doctrine taught and preached, and we have known no other way – even as I still know no other way – to have the eternal, imperishable truth of God announced and expounded to our subjects than in this way. Since then I am now firmly convinced of this in my conscience, I owe God this gratitude and obedience in response to this inexpressible grace which he has shown me, namely that I do not fall away from the truth I have come to know and have confessed, the truth of his almighty will, the will he has revealed to all the world through his Word – so great is my desire to inherit eternal salvation and to escape eternal damnation. For this is what it says in that comforting and terrifying passage of God’s Word: “Whoever confesses me before other people, him I will confess before my heavenly Father. But whoever disowns me before other people, him I will also disown before my heavenly Father” [Matthew 10:32-33]. But if I were to acknowledge and accept the Interim as something Christian and godly, then I would have to go against my conscience and deliberately and intentionally condemn and disown the Augsburg Confession and that which I have hitherto maintained and believed about the gospel of Jesus Christ in many chief articles of doctrine on which salvation depends, and I would have to approve with my mouth that which I considered in my heart and conscience to be completely and utterly contrary to the holy and divine Scriptures. Oh, God in heaven, that would be a misuse and horrible blaspheming of your holy name, and it would be like I was trying to deceive and mislead both you on high in your exalted majesty and my secular jurisdiction here below on earth with fancy words, for which I would have to pay dearly, and all too dearly, with my soul. For that is the true sin against the Holy Spirit, concerning which Christ makes clear that it shall never be forgiven, neither in this world nor in the next, that is, into eternity. Since then I am tied up and imprisoned in my conscience (according to my perception of its voice) and since I know better from the instruction of proven testimonies of Divine Scripture, I therefore ask in all submissiveness and humility, through the mercy of God which he has shown to the entire human race through the incarnation and death of his only and beloved Son, our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ, that the Imperial Majesty would not be put out by me for not agreeing to the Interim and instead stubbornly persisting in the Augsburg Confession, and for setting everything else aside and considering only how I might partake of eternal joys after this life of misery and trouble.

For the Imperial Majesty seems to have the idea that what I really want has nothing to do with religion or faith, but with some hoped-for reputation and other temporal things along with it5 – as if anything, out all the temporal possessions available, could be more desirable to me than my freedom and, above all, the prospect of going with my heavy and enfeebled body to be with wife and child in peace and ease.6 These are thoughts of the heart, which no one can know but God himself. But I testify before the face of God, and wish to testify at the Last Judgment, when God will demand an account from me and all people as to how we have spent our lives here in thoughts, words, and actions, that I am seeking nothing in this matter except the glory of his omnipotence and how I might be received as a child and heir of eternal life. As far as external matters are concerned, I have always been eager to render humble obedience to the Imperial Majesty, as God knows, and I will continue to do that and to keep inviolable what I have promised, vowed, and sworn to the Imperial Majesty, with all the integrity of a prince. I pray that the almighty God would soften Your Majesty’s heart toward me, that I might one day obtain favor with respect to my protracted imprisonment and be paternally released from the same, lest I be allowed to be the first prince and blood relative of Your Majesty7 to spend his life in prison during the reign of Your Majesty: to whom I let myself be herewith commended in all humility.

Johann Friedrich the Elder


1 Charles V (1500-1558), Holy Roman Emperor from 1519 to 1556

2 I.e., at the 1548 Diet of Augsburg

3 The Capitulation of Wittenberg is detailed in the preface above.

4 Johann the Steadfast (1468-1532) was Elector and Duke of Saxony from the death of his brother Friedrich the Wise in 1525 until his own death in 1532.

5 German: Denn daß / die mich belanget [sic] / in die Käyserliche Maj. gebildet / als solte es mir nicht umb die Religion oder Glauben / sondern umb eine verhoffte Reputation und andre zeitliche Dinge hiermit zu thun seyn:

6 Johann Friedrich and his wife, Sibylle of Cleves, had four sons. At the time this letter was written, the first, Johann Friedrich II, was 19 years old; the second, Johann Wilhelm, was 18; the third, Johann Ernst, had died in infancy; and the fourth, Johann Friedrich III, was 10. Thus he is probably referring to his wife and youngest son here, though he may be using “wife and child” as a more general expression for “wife and children”.

7 One of Johann Friedrich’s great-grandfathers – the father of his grandmother, Margaret of Austria – was Duke Ernst the Iron of Inner Austria (1377-1424), who was also a great-great-grandfather of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

Strieter Autobiography: First Call

[Continued from Part 16. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Into the Ministry (continued)

When I arrived at B.’s house, he was lying in bed and he informed me that I had to preach the next day. I went to his books with a heavy heart and tried to put something decent together. Across the street stood an old house where church was to be held. The folks came, I led the singing and preached. Eight days later I preached again and later in several other places. When B. was well again, he took me in his buggy and now it was time to go to my congregation. Roscoe lay across the river along the hills, and on this side was a small town, Coshocton. There in Roscoe we turned in at a Prussian Lutheran’s house, whom B. had praised highly, ate at midday, and then went into an adjoining room. But now I had an experience. All at once the man started in and began scolding terribly: B. had promised them an older preacher and now he was bringing them a candidate. B. got very embarrassed, but there was nothing he could do.

We left and headed out into the very hilly country. We turned in at an elder’s house and discovered that while B. had been at the convention, the old preacher had returned and the people had taken him back in. His people had deposed him on account of an offense against the Sixth Commandment. What happened was that he was spending the night with the elder, Memmel. During the night the mom hears her daughter scream. In the morning the mom asks, “Jane, why did you scream last night?”

“O mom, do you have to ask me?”

“Jane, why did you scream?”

“The pastor came to my bed, so I got really scared. Then he tells me, ‘Child, I really didn’t do anything to you. Just don’t tell anyone, so that I don’t get a bad reputation.’ And I did promise him, mom, so don’t say anything now.”

But her brothers had also heard her scream and saw what had happened, and they spread it around. In the meantime the pastor stayed away. But after his shame had subsided, he returned and confessed, and his people thought that that could happen to anyone, and they kept him.

The next day service was held in the schoolhouse over yonder behind the hill. Memmel went with his family, a widow and a few men came, and a young man came whose mother had died. B. gave a funeral sermon first, then I preached. After the service the men said that they had taken their pastor back in, so they could not make use of me. B. went home; I was supposed to stay for eight days and preach in Roscoe. I did, but the Prussian Lutheran still wanted an older preacher, and so I was superfluous there.

I rode back to B. again by stagecoach and wrote to my Professor Crämer. He wrote that I should go to Steinbach in Liverpool; he had a congregation on the side that I could perhaps take over. I take my seat on the stagecoach and ride to Medina. From there I go on foot to Steinbach, who lived with the dear Haseroth. I taught school for Steinbach for a few days while he went to Schwan in Cleveland to ask him for advice. When he got back, he brought me to Elyria and then held an outdoor meeting on the South Ridge. There were two families in Elyria. There was a dear Theisen family. He worked in the mill. Philipp Theiss, her brother, was a tailor. And there was a Böse family. Between Elyria and South Ridge lived a Württemberger, S., and a few other Bavarians and Hessians, ten families or so. Steinbach drew up a short document which was to be accepted and signed on Sunday, and with that I would be called. But he told me, “There is a man here named B. Do not let him sign; he is an arch-drunkard.”

Sunday came. I preach and now it’s time for the signing to begin. B. was first. I told him my orders; he left the schoolhouse. Then a man started in: “I demand bread at the Lord’s Supper though, otherwise I will not sign.”

I read: “The Holy Supper shall be administered according to the manner and custom of the Lutheran Church. In the manner and custom of the Lutheran Church, wafers are used.” He stands up and leaves, with his wife behind him.11

I was to have a salary of sixty dollars for the year and was to be fed on rotation, going to someone different every quarter-year. On October 10, 1852, I was called and delivered my first sermon.12


11 This is somewhat unfortunate on both sides. On the part of the call document, it is unfortunate that Steinbach and Strieter flatly insisted on wafers. We do know for a fact that Jesus used matzah or unleavened bread when he instituted the Lord’s Supper, but description is not necessarily prescription. What Jesus through his Holy Spirit had his inspired Evangelists record was not a “Continue to do this” with unleavened bread (ἄζυμος), but a “Continue to do this” simply with bread (ἄρτος) (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19; 1Co 11:23-24). Unleavened or leavened bread may be used. In fact, leavened bread was regularly used in the early days of the Christian Church, and the great Lutheran theologian Johann Gerhard wrote, “[T]he usage of leavened or unleavened bread in the holy Lord’s Supper is to be left to the discretion of Christian freedom and…no unnecessary conflict in the Church of God should be initiated on account of this” (A Comprehensive Explanation of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Chapter 7). On the part of this particular man, however, it is unfortunate that he demanded regular bread and would not give up his demand for the sake of peace. It seems that further conversation on this matter could and should have taken place.

12 I.e., as a regularly called pastor.

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: The Accident

[Continued from Part 15. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Into the Ministry

In 1852 synod convention was in Fort Wayne at the end of June and beginning of July. A pastor came from Holmes County, Ohio, B.,1 a Basel student who colloquized and was taken up as a member of the synod. B. came to Crämer and requested a preacher for a congregation by Coshocton which he had taken from a United preacher.2 Crämer sent for me and told me that I had to take my examination and go with B. Röder3 and I were actually slated to be missionaries to the Indians. Crämer even gave us private instruction. That was delightful! He had the book of Matthew in the Chippewa language. There Röder would sit on one side and I on the other, each with his Testament open. Crämer would read to us in Indian and we would repeat it. Then we would copy down the dreadful words in order to memorize them for homework. Chippewa had long, difficult [welsche] words. But the reason for that was because the language had so few words and everything had to be paraphrased. Miessler, subsequently a doctor in Chicago, who became Baierlein’s successor in Bethany, told me when he left us (much to our chagrin) that Chippewa had its roots in Hebrew.4 I asked Crämer not to send me away yet, but my pleading was in vain.

At eight o’clock I had to take my seat in front of my Crämer and Dr. Sihler. My schoolmates sat behind me. Crämer examined me until ten o’clock; then, after a short break, the doctor tackled me. His first question was, “Strieter, what’s in Matthew 13?” Fortunately I knew. But now I was also supposed to say what was taught in those parables. How that went I don’t remember any more, but I received a certificate saying I was sufficiently qualified for the preaching ministry [Predigtamt].5

On July 4 we headed out from Fort Wayne on the canal amid fanfare [mit Musik]. In Toledo we boarded the steamer to Sandusky; from there to Monroe; from there to Detroit; from there to Cleveland. At midday there was bloody beefsteak etc. Schaller and others did not want to eat the steak, but Schwan6 and I dug in. In the evening Schaller thought that if the steak was served again, he would eat it, but it did not return. In Cleveland B. and I went with Schwan, who lived in a small little frame house; his son Paul was a small boy.

Soon we traveled a stretch on the railroad, then continued on the canal. We got off in Massillon. On shore stood an old, respectable Pennsylvania Dutch7 farmer by the name of Arnold. He received us joyfully and led us down the street to a small inn. A young man from the east, a baker, was with us, who was going to visit his mother. Arnold had a fourteen-year-old fellow with him who worked for him. Now the horses were retrieved – four splendid animals, the oldest eight years old – and harnessed to a wagon. The old father had brought a load of wheat to market. His wagon did not have a box, but planks on the side, with a small board across them on which B. took his seat with Arnold. The baker positioned his trunk behind those two and he and I sat on that. Behind us stood a plow and a sack of salt. The back horse on the left had a saddle on his back, the front horse on the left had the lead rope, and the young fellow took his seat in the saddle.8 I ask, “Can the boy even drive?”

“Oh sure! He drove the whole way here.”

We start out; the horses are in a walk. When we went a little downhill, they trotted a little and then continued at a walk. Arnold had a lot of questions about the synod convention and B. told him about it. Now we went uphill, probably for a mile or more. The path went up in snake turns. At the top it was level again, then downhill. It didn’t take long before the back left horse whinnied and fired out, and now we were off and running, all four as fast as they could.

B. cried, “Hoh!”

Arnold cried, “Hoh!”

But the horses did not want to hoh!

Arnold called to the boy, “Hang on tight!” Arnold grabbed the pieces of wood in front of him and hung on and let the horses run as they wished.

At first I thought, “You go to the end and drop yourself down; it’s not too high.” But then another thought came to me right away: “You are the only one who can still maybe provide help. If the horse stops kicking out, then make your way out on tongue and get on the horse behind the boy and draw the front horses to the side.” But the animal wouldn’t stop kicking. You could always see the shiny horseshoes on the bottom of his feet flashing in the air. On the right the water had torn a deep ditch, in places at least six feet deep or so. The wagon often came so close to going in this ditch that I thought, “Now it’s going to tip over,” but it always kept going past.

Finally we came to the climax. There was just one man who wanted to get up the hill with his load. “Now,” I thought, “something’s going to happen!” I was right. He quickly got off to the side when he saw us coming, but his back wheel was still on the rut. Our back axle met with his, and just like that I was lying in the distance, not far from the fence. A small sandbank was there, runoff from the hill; I shoot like an arrow headfirst into the sand, making a hole in it as big as a hen’s nest. Right next to this hole, a handbreadth or so away, a stone is lying in the ground as large as a plate and protruding from the ground. I sit up and rub the sand out of my ears and think, “Well, our dear God has sure protected you from a sudden death.” For if I had landed on that stone, I would have bashed my brains out. My baker slid down fairly close to me without injury, ran to me right away and said, “Are you hurt?” and marveled with me at my good fortune that I had not hit the stone.

On the path stood the baker’s trunk, planks were lying there, and behind me, over there along the fence, were the back wheels, the plow, and the big sack of salt, with half of it spilled out from the bottom. The others were gone. We looked around, and here comes my B. He had hung on tight to the crosspiece on which the shaft sits that holds the front and back parts of the wagon together, thinking that the back wheels were still on and would run him over and kill him, and he let himself be dragged over the stones of the washed-out path. Finally he could not take it any more and let go. There he lay, untouched. He pulls himself together and runs toward us screaming, “O my head! O my shoulders! O my hips! O my legs!” The blood was already running into his shoes.

In the distance stood a house; from there the residents saw everything. The man of the house came over and took B. with him, hitched up his buggy, loaded B. up, and went home with him.

My baker and I bring the trunk and planks to the side and go wandering after our cart. Below ran a small brook with a little bridge. On the other side the bank went straight up at a steep angle. At the top it’s dug out and the path bends off to the left a bit. There the wheel ran up and flings the old father over the side,9 so hard that his shoulder turns yellow and black, and he had to carry his arm in a sling. But he still went after his horses.

The path went through the valley and back up the hill in the distance. There the saddlehorse tumbled and the boy fell, right between the horses, who dragged him by the saddle strap over the stones up the hill. When they reached the top, the strap ripped, and my boy lay there. A house stood close to the path. The people come out and carry the boy inside. The man hitches a horse to a stone drag; they lay the boy on it and bring him to the inn, several miles or so further.

In front of the inn, where the horses usually stopped for a midday rest, stood a post and a water trough. The horses ran through between the post and the corner of the building. They still had the axle and one wheel on the tongue and they ran against the corner of the building with such force that they tore out a large stone at the bottom. The inn shook so much that the ladies inside thought that there was an earthquake and ran outside, but they soon saw what had happened. The one lady ran to the field to get the men; it was harvest time. The other one ran around the stall and grabbed the front horses by the head so that they would not run any further. They had run from the watering hole across the street alongside the stall towards the fence.

When my baker and I also arrived, the boy was lying on the floor. His mother was with him, a widow who didn’t live too far from there. The doctor was next to him. The others were standing around him, including old man Arnold, and were holding his arm. The poor boy! His back looked like a piece of raw flesh, his arm was crushed, his shoulder was dislocated, his leg was broken, and several ribs were cracked.

When the doctor was finished, he said he did not know what he looked like on the inside, but everything seemed to be all right, and the external injuries would heal quickly. I comforted the wailing mother as well as I could. —

After six to eight weeks the young man was all right again. —

B. brought the bad news home and now all the sons of the old father – I believe there were four of them – went together on horseback to see what had happened to “Dad.” They gathered up the parts of the wagon and loaded everything back up. The old father said to me, “Jack will stay here” – his youngest, a handsome young man, eighteen years old – “and I will too, and you take Jack’s horse and ride home with the others.”

I said, “No, Father Arnold, you take the horse and ride home, and I will stay with the wagon.”

Arnold got on and off he went. My Jack took his four horses out of the stall and hitches them up, takes his seat in the saddle, but brings along his blacksnake. My baker and I sit on the trunk again. Jack heads out. Right away the path goes somewhat downhill and my horse on the right whinnies again and starts to cut loose, but my Jack lashes him around his body, so that it whistles. The horse jumps forward. Jack turns his whip around and whacks the animal on the forehead with the thick, yellow10 knob so hard that I expected the animal to collapse. If the horse jumped forward, it gets one one the forehead; if it jumped backwards, it gets one around the body. “Just wait, I’ll run off on you! [Wart, ich will dir weglofen!]” Jack said. He put them into a strong trot, called out, “Hoh!” and bump, they stopped, and he repeated that a number of times. It didn’t take long and the horses were like lambs.


1 Here we encounter the first of Strieter’s many name abbreviations. The 1852 convention proceedings for the Missouri Synod list among the voting preachers a Friedrich Besel in Holmes County, Ohio. Besel left for the Iowa Synod in 1881.

2 “United” refers to the Prussion Union, which merged the Lutheran and Reformed Churches in Prussia.

3 Ernst Gustav Hermann Miessler (1826-1916) worked with Baierlein at the Bethany mission station from 1851 to 1853, when he succeeded him. He left the preaching ministry in 1871 to study and practice medicine in Chicago, which he did from 1874-1899.

4 Strieter received a “satis” diploma. This is a classic sentence in Strieter’s autobiography, and many pastors can doubtless relate to it when recalling their seminary education.

5 Heinrich Christian Schwan (1819-1905) had been taken up as a member of the Missouri Synod in 1850. He served as pastor of Zion in Cleveland, today the second oldest church in the synod, from 1851-1899. He helped to popularize the use of the Christmas tree in American churches by placing one in Zion in 1851. He was known as a staunch, tactful, sharp, wise, modest, and refined Lutheran pastor.

6 The Pennsylvania Dutch were early German immigrants to America in the 17th and 18th centuries from what is today western and southwestern Germany. Many were refugees of war. Usually Dutch refers to the people of the Netherlands and their language, but in the label Pennsylvania Dutch it is an Americanization of Deutsch, meaning German. Since they also had their own dialect, the label was also used to refer to their descendants.

7 I.e., on the front left horse. The saddle on the back left horse remained empty, as will be made clear.

8 If I’m imagining this correctly, the horses turned left with the path on the other side of the bridge, but were going so fast that the wagon ran up partially onto the bank, thus tipping to the left, with the right front wheel higher than the left front wheel, and knocking old man Arnold out onto the path on the left side of the wagon.

9 Carl Strieter translates gelben as brass.

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: Seminary Life in Fort Wayne

[Continued from Part 14. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Translator’s Note

If anyone “in the know” about the content below – whether from Concordia Fort Wayne or the Concordia Historical Institute or anywhere else – has any early pictures of Wilhelm Sihler or the seminary campus or other shareable information that would enhance this post, I would greatly appreciate receiving such. Please contact me using the information on my About page. Thanks.

Seminary (conclusion)

Upon arriving [in Fort Wayne] I went to find the seminary right away. Steinbach later told me that when they saw me approaching with my suitcase, they thought, “What kind of hobo do we have here?”

The gentlemen students directed me over here to Dr. Sihler.31 He was sitting in the kitchen and was right in the middle of fixing a pony for his son Christian; he was tying his colorful, silk handkerchief on one of its legs. I said who I was, where I came from, and why I was there. He asked about Crämer; I had no information to give him. I arrived in Fort Wayne on October 10, 1850, and dear Crämer ended up arriving on the 24th. Dr. Sihler called upstairs, “Rauschert!” Above his small study the Dr. had a room that was also our lecture hall. Two students who boarded with Sihler lived in it, Rauschert and Werfelmann.32 Rauschert came down. Sihler said, “Bring Strieter to Mrs. Bornemann, sir.” She was a widow who foddered me for some time. “Do you have money, sir?” the doctor asked me.

I said, “No.”

He said, “That’s fine. Payment is due every quarter-year. When it’s due, go to Mr. Griebel and he will give you money.” And that’s how it worked. Every quarter cost three dollars, which I went and got from my patron. The people in the country brought us a whole bunch of stuff – whole or half hogs and a lot of fine sausage. I soon filled out at the seminary.

That was where studying really began though. It was almost enough to drive a man insane! Crämer gave the twenty of us guys a dreadful amount of homework. Many a night I only slept for two hours. We soon contracted a lot of headaches. It started around eight; around ten there was a piece of bread, but dry. At midday we always had beans; around one back at it until four; then down to the river, behind the mill dam for a bath. Occasionally the doctor came and took one with us.

Ottmann33 and I were the best swimmers. One time when the water was very high, Ottmann said to me that we should try to swim across. Off we go. Once we reach the other side, he says he should try to see how close to the dam we can swim past. Off we go, but that took some work. When we came to the middle, the water wanted to take us away. We breasted the water and at the same time worked our way sideways. We finally arrived, but completely exhausted. We looked at each other and said nothing. That night the water conducted a tree trunk with roots and branches, but left it lying on top of the dam. Sommer,34 whom I had already gotten to know in Sebewaing, a very friendly and very active person, tried to replicate our work of art the next day. But when he came to the middle of the current, it dragged him away and left him hanging in the branches of the tree trunk. He sat down on the trunk and began to sing. But we hollered at him, “Okay, just get over here; we all know what it’s like now.”

He worked his way over to us along his tree, and once he was on dry land he started in: “O you dear brothers, do not do that again. That is putting God to the test. If the tree had not been there, the water would have taken me away, and I would now be a child of death.” He was alluding to the large boulders down below. Later Pastor Kalb, who was supposed to become a professor at the teacher seminary, drowned at that spot; Fleischmann,35 who tried to save him, almost did too.36

I had been in Fort Wayne for six weeks when I had to teach a Catechism lesson on the Seventh Commandment. We had to go over to Dr. Sihler’s residence several times each week. There the lectures and Catechism lessons were given up in Rauschert’s and Werfelmann’s room. The catechist in question had to go and get six to seven students from Teacher Wolf. They would come up here and sit down on a bench; the seminary students would stand around them against the wall. The doctor would sit on a chair and Mr. Catechist in front of his boys, and now we were ready to go. That gave us some angst. I had already gotten to know the Seventh Commandment pretty well from experience. I explored everyday life with the students and showed how all people are thieves no matter what their station. At the conclusion the doctor would ask everyone for his criticism one by one. He himself went last. To my knowledge no one criticized me, not even Mr. Doctor; instead he praised me highly for being so practical. I was pleased and encouraged by that. Soon I also had to give a lecture on the false teachings about the Lord’s Supper. For that, however, I borrowed from a lecture by Ottmann, which I utilized well. Dr. Sihler praised me again, but he didn’t know that I had plowed with someone else’s heifer, and I said nothing about it either.

One time I had to do a funeral for a child in a house in the bush country. When we were singing, two people behind me were looking over my shoulders and singing along robustly, but in the middle of the verse they sang differently and knocked me off the saddle. I had the music book and was following along too casually. During the next verse it happened to me again, but during the third verse I watched what I was doing and went at it fearsomely, also turned my face towards them a little; now I stayed on track.

I also catechized in the surrounding area. One time I had to mount Sihler’s pulpit to give a funeral sermon. Another time I had to go to Huntington to preach for Pastor Stecher at festival time. For that Dr. Sihler advised me to borrow a horse from a farmer. The man gave me a large, black nag that was still young. I get on, put my umbrella under my arm, and start out. I’m riding on the tow-path for the canal. It starts to rain and I open my umbrella, but now my Black takes off. Fortunately I soon came to a quagmire; my nag got all fours stuck up to his belly. By the time he worked his way out, I had my umbrella closed. The man told me later that he had forgotten to say that I should not open any umbrella, because the horse could not stand that. —

Crämer accepted a call to a congregation on the side and made me his vicar; it was called Nothstein.37 A man lived there whose name was Nothstein. Others lived in the surrounding bush country. It was twelve miles away. Every fourteen days I had to go out there. In the morning I headed out on foot, preached and held Catechism instruction with the little children, and headed back here in the afternoon. I was relieved by others twice, otherwise I kept my arrangement. One time the river was very swollen. Behind Rudisill’s was a small bridge over a brook that came from the marsh, but now the river had torn the little bridge away, and the water was flowing in reverse from the river into the marsh, and with considerable momentum. What now? I looked for a staff, found a branch, took it in hand, and started off into the water. In the middle it just about knocked me over, but I got across anyway; the water went up to my waist. I still had two miles to go, but now I ran.


31 Wilhelm Sihler (1801-1885) was won over to confessional Lutheranism from rationalism. After serving as a private tutor for a number of years, he came into contact with Löhe and came to America in 1843. He initially joined the Ohio Synod, but left it in 1845 due to its lax confessionalism and unionistic practices at the time. With the support of Löhe he started a Nothelferseminar in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1846. Nothelferseminar literally means emergency assistant seminary. Its purpose was to train pastors quickly so that they could provide the pastoral care urgently needed by the many immigrants and fledgling congregations. Often Nothelferseminar is more euphemistically translated practical seminary, as opposed to a theological seminary, since the students in Fort Wayne were given instruction in confessional Lutheran doctrine and pastoral practice, especially preaching and teaching, but received no instruction in the Hebrew and Greek of the Scriptures. This seminary was deeded to the newly formed Missouri Synod in 1847. Sihler was president of the seminary from 1846-1861. He was also Vice President of the Missouri Synod and overseer of the synod’s congregations in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan from 1847-1854.

32 Jacob Rauschert from Franconia and Heinrich Werfelmann from Hannover

33 Friedrich Ottmann from Bavaria

34 Wilhelm Sommer from Saxon Lusatia

35 Philipp Fleischmann (1815-1878) was a professor and director of the teacher seminary in Fort Wayne from 1857 until his resignation due to eye trouble in 1864.

36 The opening article of the July 27, 1858, issue of Der Lutheraner (vol. 14, no. 25), penned by Dr. Sihler, details the tragic death of Pastor J. Paul Kalb (1828-1858) on June 8. He was bathing in the spot Strieter mentions here, between 4 and 5 p.m., with Professor Fleischmann. Fleishmann, “some distance away from [Kalb], all at once saw him disappearing and hurried over to his rescue, since he is skilled at swimming.” But “after he had already succeeded in expending all his energy in bringing his dear friend close to the shore, by God’s ordaining his arm suddenly became paralyzed on him and he was robbed of his senses in such a way that he could no longer hold on to, no longer see his friend, no longer tear him away from the deep into which he had now sunk, and only with the utmost effort, more dead than alive, did he himself reach the not too distant shore, where he lay powerless for some time and could only still manage one loud, prolonged, agonizing cry from his constricted chest.” Kalb’s body was not found until ten days later, five miles downstream.

37 There is a Notestine Cemetery, established in 1834, at 10521 St Joe Road, just north of the intersection with Notestine Road, about nine miles northeast of Fort Wayne along the St. Joseph River. Without knowing the history or people of the area, it is difficult to determine where exactly Strieter’s preaching station was, since he goes on to say a) that it was twelve miles away (presumably from the seminary), and b) that it was two miles from a brook that flowed from a marsh into the river. The station was perhaps located along what is today Notestine Road near the intersection with Wheelock Road.

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: To Fort Wayne

[Continued from Part 13. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Seminary (continued)

Crämer told me he had a call to be a professor in Fort Wayne, and that I should now go home to Freedom, bid my siblings farewell and adieu, and then meet up with him in Detroit for the continued journey to Fort Wayne. My brother-in-law had made me a trunk. I shut my things inside it and we were to make the trip with that and Crämer’s luggage. I took just a few things with me and marched back to Ann Arbor. In the evening I arrived there and rode with a man to my old home. It was late when I arrived at the farmyard. My brother had a large, handsome dog, white with large yellow spots; he had gotten it from a “nigger”25 from the South. Everything was already dark in the house. The dog began to bark. I said, “Penter, come!” He stopped barking and came. I knock.

“Who’s outside?” I heard my brother say.

I said, “Your brother.” He got up out of bed; his wife did too and opened the door. The dog went inside with me, posted himself in front of me, began to sniff me up until he had reached my face. He lets out a loud bark and starts licking me all over; I could not escape.

I visited my siblings in Freedom and Bridgewater. They provided me with a number of other items and I took my leave. My brother brought me to Ann Arbor, and I boarded the railroad car, for the first time in my life. A railroad ran from Detroit to Jacksonburg.26 It was nighttime when I arrived in Detroit, where guys were standing in front of a chain and hollering dreadfully; they wanted people for their hotel. I waited till everyone was gone. Then a man came to me and asked if I wanted to spend the night. I said, “Sure!” He took me along. When I was with my siblings I had also bought myself a suitcase [Büchsenranzen] and I had put all my effects in it. He took my case for me, hung the strap over his shoulder, and off we went. We marched a good stretch, then he turned to the side, opened a door, and there we were.

I heard Irish voices coming from the kitchen. The man asked if I wanted to eat. I said, “Sure!” He went to the kitchen and soon came a piece of beefsteak with potatoes and bread. The steak was tough and bloody, but I was hungry and enjoyed the meal. Pretty soon he asked if I wanted to go to bed. I said, “Sure!” Now he took a tallow candle – that was the only kind we had back then – opened a door, and we went up the stairs. Right in front stood a bed and behind it a few more. By the first bed he said I should undress. I lay my paints on the chair, hang my waistcoat on a nail along with my pocket watch, and climb into bed. He grabbed my pocket book out of my pocket, took my watch, and laid both of them under my pillow for me and left. In the morning I ate again and paid just 25 cents.

I now went to find Pastor Schaller.27 On the slope not too far from there, toward the river, stood a large, simple, old frame house. Here lived Pastor Schmidt’s brother-in-law,28 and upstairs, Pastor Schaller. The latter was just coming down the stairs, and I introduced myself to him. He had a cobbler friend in his congregation, married, but without children. He directed me to him. Eight days I stayed with those folks. They lived quite a ways out, in the upstairs at a Catholic tailor’s house. He was a strict Catholic. One time I’m chopping some kindling for my hostess with a small hatchet. Over yonder across the fence, in the next lot, stood an old, single-story frame house, from which several women would come out. One woman, fairly young, stations herself in front of me, lays her hands on the fence and her chin on top, and stares at me without saying a word. I keep pecking away at it, and the wench won’t leave. I toss my hatchet to the side and run inside to the tailor: “I say, what kind of people are actually over in that place?”

He says, “Those are whores, who want to entice you over there.” And now he also gave me a speech, warning me never to get mixed up with bad women folk.

In my host’s shop I also bought myself a new pair of boots. They were definitely somewhat large, but the cobbler said, “You are still growing. I have made these myself. You are getting a good deal!” And he was right.

After eight days Schaller told me I should head out on my own. I went down to the river and boarded the ship, took deck passage though, since I didn’t have a lot of money. The ship set sail for Toledo, where I wanted to go. Soon I noticed a young fellow who was my size and age, who was dressed like a sailor with a little sailor cap on his head. He immediately made my acquaintance and told me that his home was between Tecumseh and Clinton.29 He said his father was a farmer, but he could not stand it on the farm; he was now a sailor. He was now going home for a visit. When it was midday and the meal was taken below for the sailors, he slipped down into an opening and motioned for me to follow. Below we ate a marvelous meal together, but he told me afterwards that we now had to treat the guys; we did that too. He asked me where I was from and what my name was and where I was headed and what I wanted to be. I told him. Then he cried, “Oh, you fool! Go with me to my parents, and when I go back to the ocean, I will take you along and make a fine sailor out of you. You don’t need to be afraid of me; I’m no bad guy.”

I found the fellow extraordinarily pleasant and I was always happy when I was on a ship. My favorite picture as a child was a ship with three masts in full sail. We arrived in Toledo, grabbed the fellow’s trunk at both ends, and went to the hotel. We ate and slept in the same bed. In the morning he paid the bill. “Now John, what do you say?”

I said, “I’m still going to go to Fort Wayne.”

He said, “Then good bye.”

I got on the canal boat and rode to Fort Wayne.30


25 This was a common way of referring to African-Americans at the time, both by those who wished to refer to them disparagingly and by naïve immigrants who simply heard others using the label and didn’t know any better. The word itself originates from the Latin word niger, meaning black (man). Strieter’s quotation marks indicate his own uncertainty about the appropriateness of the term.

26 Jacksonburg(h), Michigan, was founded in 1830. Its name was changed to Jacksonapolis and then shortened to Jackson in 1838, but apparently it continued to be called Jacksonburg informally.

27 Johann Gottlieb Michael Schaller (1819-1887) came to America in 1848, largely at the encouragement of Löhe. After accepting a call to Philadelphia in 1848 and Baltimore in 1850, he accepted a call to Trinity in Detroit in 1850. He had joined the Missouri Synod in 1849 and was won over to Walther’s position on church and ministry at the synod convention in St. Louis in 1850. He was the father of the eventual Professor John Schaller of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, who authored Biblical Christology.

28 From Pastor Schmid’s letter dated March 19, 1861, we know that Pastor Hattstädt (rf. endnote 3) married a sister of his. But Strieter is likely talking about a different brother-in-law here, since Hattstädt, as Strieter notes earlier, remained in Monroe for the duration of his ministry.

29 More than 50 miles northwest of Toledo in Michigan

30 Via the Maumee River

[Read the next part here.]


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