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

Endnotes

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.]

About redbrickparsonage
Red Brick Parsonage is operated by a confessional Lutheran pastor serving in the Midwest.

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