Strieter Autobiography: Youth in Affalterbach
July 29, 2015 2 Comments
[If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]
I was born in Affalterbach, Marbach Jurisdiction [Oberamt], Kingdom of Württemberg. Regarding my birth and baptism, here are my sainted father’s own words:
On the 9th of September, 1829, I, Jacob Strieter, became the father of a baby boy. He was born into the world between one and two in the morning. On the 11th of September he was brought to Holy Baptism and received the name Johannes, and his name was entered in the Book of Life with the precious blood of Christ.
Affalterbach, a small market town with a population of 500 back then, is located on the country road between Marbach and Winnenden, two hours from either city. In the middle of the town was a crossroads. On the left-hand corner, as you stand facing Winnenden, was an inn, the Lammwirt [Lamb Inn], and on the right-hand was an inn, the Ochsenwirt [Oxen Inn]. Everything above there was called the Upper Village [Oberdorf]. From the Ochsenwirt it went somewhat downhill, and down there was called the Lower Village [Unterdorf]. In the Lower Village, off to the side, was the well. It was a good well; everybody fetched their water from it for men and livestock.
In the Lower Village my father had a house of his own. We lived upstairs, and the livestock were stalled beneath us. Facing the street, which ran past below, were two windows. One evening fireworks were set off in the distance. We had the window open, were leaning out and were eagerly watching them. My sister shoved me to the side, I shoved her back and shoved my sister right out the window. She fell headfirst, one story down onto a stone slab. Father brought her up seemingly dead. But she soon came to again.
My father was born on July 17, 1789, my mother on November 28, 1791.
My parents were Jacob Strieter and Maria Katharina Wiesenauer. They had eight children:
- Jacob Friedrich,
- Margaretha, the one I threw out the window,
- Johannes, and
- a girl who died young,1 so I ended up being the youngest.
My father was a shepherd at first. He sent his shepherd-servant with his flock to graze in the Bavarian countryside, while he guarded other people’s flocks at home. The servant came home and the flock was mangy, five hundred sheep, and Father had to have them cheaply slaughtered. With the proceeds he bought himself some more acreage, in addition to the acres he already had, and then took up farming.
My parents were pious; my father especially was a devout Christian. He held family devotions three times each day. In the morning he read a chapter from the New Testament; those of us children who could read also had to have the book in front of us and each one also had to read several verses. At midday he read from the Old Testament and in the evening from a devotional book, mostly from Arndt’s Wahrem Christentum [True Christianity].2 My father was kind to his children, but still stern in his discipline. He did not permit his children to keep any frivolous, worldly company and did not let any of them on the dance floor. He had an old hymnal, the Württemberg hymnal [das Württemberger Gesangbuch] of 1740, which was bound together with the New Testament. This testament contained brief annotations on the verses, by Brenz,3 I believe. This little book was a wedding present from his father-in-law, Johann Martin Wiesenauer, who was also a pious man. My niece, Lizzie Leiken in Sebewaing, Michigan, still has this little book. From this hymnal, whose songs still had doctrinally sound lyrics, the parents would sing. My parents liked to sing in general. When my mother sat at the spinning wheel, she would sing spiritual songs almost continously. My father, too, would sing almost constantly, when his work permitted it. How often I would hear: “Christ, the Life of All the Living.” My father also had many fine sayings, such as:
“No fire, axe, or knifepoint | shall sever me from you.”4
“I still have a Savior surely | from my sins, who’s mine securely, | all my lifetime never forsakes me, | till before his throne he takes me.”5
He also had the custom that, when the prayer bell tolled, he would remove his cap, fold his hands, and pray with his family loud and in chorus: “Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide, | for round us falls the eventide.”
Another custom he had, when he would set out to go somewhere or would begin a task, was to say, “In God’s name.”
One time my father was in his vineyard and I took his pruning knife, went off to the side a ways, and cut something off, then went to Father and said, “Father, look what a nice twig I have!”
He said, “Yeah, you have cut off my young little tree.” But he did not punish me any further.
One time there was gunfire in the direction of Wolfselten,6 a tiny little village on the Murr River where the mill was located.7 I followed the sound of the shooting, but I did not stay on the path; instead I went in at an angle. I came to the clay pit, where there was a bed of clay. It was nice and smooth and had a yellow tint to it. I tried to get across there, but I sank in up to my waist and got stuck. I was scared and cried out. Then someone came over from the road and got me out. But now I didn’t look for the shooting any more, but made my way home. The whole way I was gazing down at my yellow legs. My sister Margaretha, who was three years older, took off my little britches and washed them in the ditch opposite our house.
We had a pastor whose name was Götz.8 He was a very strict, moral man, but a rationalist. When he visited a sick person, he would tell him that he should overcome all pain with manly strength. When he began his instruction, which my brother attended, he began with this: “The earth turns on its axis.” My brother related this at home. Then Father said to him, “Child, you must not believe that. Our dear God says, ‘The sun rises at the end of the sky and goes around until it’s back at the same end’ [cf. Ecclesiastes 1:5], and he knows better.”
The pastor’s wife, however, was pious. If anyone was seriously ill, then she would come after the pastor, even to the poorest people, and she would bring something good along and read to the sick person from the New Testament.
My father was a shepherd at first, as I already mentioned, and during that time people would often send for him now and then when something was on their livestock, especially on their sheep. He had a beautiful sharp knife, with a white handle made of bone, maybe eight inches long. When he was called out somewhere, he would stick the knife in the inner side pocket of his coat. One day he had been out, came home and forgot to take out his knife. He went to chop some wood. The knife was situated in the pocket with the point facing Father’s waist, and when he swung down he stabbed himself in the side with the knife. He swelled up badly and was in a lot of pain and almost suffocated to death. Then came the pastor’s wife and brought some olive oil and told Mother to give some of it to Father and to apply it to the swelling in a hot press using a rag. Mother did this, and Father got better again.
I also attended the school in Affalterbach for one year. This school was a little ways off the country road, toward Marbach. That’s where the church was too. There were two classrooms. In the lower level the schoolmaster held class with the smaller children, and in the upper level his son, who was called Provisor, taught the bigger children. Both were enormous wardens. In the lower classroom I was in the first row. He sat behind his desk, on which he had a long blackthorn the width of a finger. If someone misbehaved, then he would laugh, “Ha ha!”, take his stick, usually come striding out, up over our heads, until he reached the culprit, and then down it came in all its force. Oh, what dread I had for that old teacher; but I never received any beatings.
One time I was heading home from school; it was already late. There was music coming from the Ochsen.9 Before the Ochsen we had to veer right to go home. I was trotting along slowly behind my siblings. But when I heard the music, I followed the music. They were dancing in there. On one side there was an elevation, on which the musicians were sitting. An old codger was playing the bass viol; my Injunlanders called it the Brumm.10 I clambered up and sat down next to the Brumm player and kept peering in at the gaps in order to find out where the sound was coming from. How long I was sitting I do not know, but suddenly my sister grabbed me by the arm, pulled me down and marched on home with me.
My father had been across the field in Winnenden and had just come home. He was sitting in the middle of the living room and had his small leather cap on. He pulled me between his knees. “Where have you been?”
“In the Ochsen.”
He laid me over his knees, took his small leather cap off and taught me my numbers with it. “There, next time you’ll stay with your brother and sisters!”
1 Barbara was born on December 28, 1831, and died on January 8, 1832.
2 The fuller title is Vier Bücher vom Wahren [or von Wahrem] Christentum (Four Books about True Christianity). Johann Arndt (1555-1621) is best known for this book and for being the pastor of the young Johann Gerhard, who would become one of Lutheranism’s greatest theologians.
3 Johannes Brenz (1499-1570), a fellow reformer and correspondent of Martin Luther, who participated with him in the Sacramentarian Controversy and the Marburg Colloquy of 1529.
4 From st. 13 of “If God Himself Be for Me.” The you refers to Jesus.
5 The final lines of st. 13 of “Komm, mein Herz, in Jesu Leiden,” a German Communion hymn sung to the tune of “Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness.” Based on the context of these hymn verse excerpts, Jacob Strieter appears to have used these sayings when things were going badly.
6 That is, Wolfsölden. Wolfselten is basically a phonetic spelling. See also next endnote.
7 Wolfsölden, just east of Affalterbach, is actually located on the Buchenbach (Beech Tree Creek), connected to the Murr River. Still today on a map you can see a Mühlkanal (mill canal) off of the Buchenbach. Both the creek and the canal run along Mühlenweg (Mill Lane).
8 According to Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Affalterbach’s website, M. Carl Gottlieb Goez (or Götz, as Strieter has it) was pastor from 1818-1837 (accessed 26 July 2015).
9 Rf. 3rd paragraph.
10 Strieter will talk more about “his Injunlanders” later in the Wisconsin chapter. Brummen means to growl or rumble, and in telecommunications a Brumm is a hum.
[Read the next part here.]