Strieter Autobiography: Settling in Wisconsin
February 9, 2016 Leave a comment
In November 1859 I set out for Wisconsin with my wife and three children. We were not able to take Mother Ernst along, because we ourselves still didn’t know where we were going to be staying, and because the cold winter was just around the corner and she had trouble with coughing, especially in the winter.1 She moved to the city of Cleveland with her girls.
We traveled to Milwaukee. My wife had a girlfriend from school there, K. T., who was married to F. E. They took us in. I now wrote to Wilhelm Stelter. But in his letter to Dr. Sihler the good man had written his township, Crystal Lake, at the top, but nowhere did he provide his P.O., which was called Stone Hill. I addressed Crystal Lake, but get no reply because he didn’t receive my letter. I wrote again – no reply. After eight days I tell my wife, “We’re setting out.”
We rode by the railroad as far as Ripon. There I inquire and learn that we had to go to Princeton. I ordered a wagon; the luggage went up into it. The wife takes her seat next to the driver with the two youngest and I take my seat with my Friedrich in the back on a crate. At first we were going along pretty well. Then came the Injunland paths.
Injunland: They told me that it had belonged to the Indians and had been purchased from them for one cent per acre. A very beautiful area to the eye, hilly, richly furnished with marshes, rivers, and lakes, but meager sand-soil.
When we arrived in Princeton, there were people there who were going to be my members. Immediately the word got out: The preacher is here! They were Poseners, who addressed me as Preacher, and my wife as Mrs. Priestette [Frau Priestergen]. A man came to me, C. T.2 I was supposed to turn in at his place. Another man also took his seat on the wagon and off we go.
Now came the real Injunland paths with their pole bridges across the marshes. “That — wooden country,” the driver cursed in English, as my wife later told me.3 We arrived at C. T.’s place in the evening. Over across the road lived Father T.,4 who came to see us right away. Everything looked and sounded very injunlandish. In the evening we had a meal, also injunlandish. Didn’t quite taste right! At night the dear Mrs. T., a beautiful young woman who still had no children,5 threw some rye straw on the floor which Grandmother T. had brought,6 and we spread our bedding on it. Sleep didn’t want to come either, but my fatigue got the better of me. I soon wake up again, however, and hear my wife sobbing so softly. It was hard on me too. I heard and saw her do this for several days and nights. Then I said, “Lisbeth dear, you must not cry any more. Our dear God has brought us here and he will surely help us.” Now she got a hold of herself.
A house had been built on W[ilhel]m Stelter’s land and two acres fenced in7 for my predecessor D[iehlmann]. The house was built in German fashion – timber framing [Fachwerk] and filled out with clay. It had two rooms and a small bedroom. I bought myself a six-year-old horse, Charley, for 60 dollars, hitched him to a sled and drove to Wautoma and got myself two stoves, bedsteads, etc., and we moved in.
On the second day of Christmas 1859 I preached for the first time, in the morning in the town schoolhouse and in the afternoon at Welke’s place, nearly 12 miles away or so. After that I also preached at Tagatz’s,8 at Schmidt’s, at Kiesow’s, later Donning’s, at Buchholz’s, at Warnke’s, in Neshkoro at Rörke’s, in the vicinity of Westfield, in Berlin, in Fairwater.9 To Buchholz’s it was 12 miles, to Fairwater 25 miles, to Berlin 25 miles; to the other places it was not especially far. I never preached less than four and never more than nine times a week and almost always traveled about 6000 miles a year with my horse. When I preached at Buchholz’s, I would take off at 7 in the morning, preach, then drive ten miles to Warnke’s.10 In the winter it was closer; I would preach the second time and then drive another nine miles or so home. At first I took along something to eat, but it didn’t work, for in the winter it was frozen and in the summer it was as dry as bark. So I gave it up and ate just like my horse, at 7 in the morning and 7 in the evening.
On January 15, 1860, Pastor P. H. Dicke from Mayville installed me.11 I picked him up from Ripon and also brought him back there. In Ripon he bought me an old buggy for 30 dollars with his own money and lent it to me without interest until I could pay it off.
I held instruction in the summer, and did so at Tagatz’s, at Buchholz’s, at Warnke’s, also in Fairwater at Röske’s. The children from Berlin we took into our home. I confirmed in Fairwater at Röske’s; the others I assembled at Tagatz’s and at Stelter’s and confirmed under the green trees in groups of 50 or so, and held the Lord’s Supper there too. Children came to me from 12 miles away. I also taught some school.
1 In his “Sketch of the Parents of the Ernst Girls” cited earlier, Henry F. Rahe confirms that Mother Ernst “had a bronchial trouble,” which was especially hard on her in winter. She died on March 23, 1875, at the home of Friedrich Leutner, the teacher and organist at Zion in Cleveland who had married her youngest daughter Mary (and thus was Johannes’ and Elizabeth’s brother-in-law) and who was responsible for publishing this autobiography. “The funeral was March 25, 1875. The body was first placed in a vault in Erie St[reet] Cemetery and on April 4, 1875 she was buried in our church cemetery – St. John’s Lutheran, Garfield Heights, Ohio [formerly the St. John’s, Newburgh, which Johannes served as pastor]. Here she rests with three daughters, Sophie, Anna and Sarah, with their husbands, and fifteen grand and great-grand children.”
2 This was most likely Christoph Tagatz.
3 In his original manuscript Strieter included the actual word the driver said – “damn.” It was crossed out and replaced with a dash by the editor. The word cursed (fluchte) was also misprinted as whispered (flüsterte).
4 Martin Tagatz, who was 57 years old at the time. He passed away on January 5, 1867, and was buried on January 7.
5 See endnote 2. Christoph Tagatz’s wife was Louise née Schätzke, and though she had no children at the time, she appears to have been pregnant, as their daughter Emilie Pauline was born on June 9, 1860, and baptized by Strieter on July 1.
6 Though it is possible that “Grandmother T.” refers to Martin Tagatz’s mother (see fn. 4), there is no burial record for such a woman. Strieter is likely referring to Martin’s wife, Anna Justine, née Mesall or Missal, who was 49 at the time. She passed away on September 30, 1874, and was buried on October 2.
7 Today this property has the address W3276 County Road E in the town of Crystal Lake (mailing address Neshkoro). The parsonage Strieter is describing was built around 1856. Strieter later also mentions a log stable that was built on the property. Eventually the property was expanded to four acres, and in 1876 a new parsonage was built. A new barn appears to have been built at some point too, the foundation of which still serves as a flower garden today. The property ceased to be used for the parsonage after 1898.
8 There is a Matz-Tagatz Cemetery on Eagle Road, three and a half miles west of Germania and 3/10-mile east of State Road 22, marking one of the original preaching stations. According to A Historical Stroll Through the Churches of Marquette County (1985), there was a log community center here before 1855, considered to be “the first so-called church” for the congregation that is today known as St. John’s Lutheran, Budsin (mailing address Neshkoro). A Historical Stroll also claims that “in 1855, a wooden frame church was built facing our now Highway 22 on the cemetery grounds west of the present brick church [at the intersection of Highway 22 and County Road E]. This church had a balcony built around it in the inside.” However, it seems strange a) that Strieter does not mention this church (unless perhaps it is synonymous with “Schmidt’s”) and b) that Strieter would have also preached “at Tagatz’s” so closeby. Furthermore, a later incident Strieter records in the next chapter makes it clear that he needed to make at least one turn to get to the preaching station at Tagatz’s, which would not have been the case if Tagatz’s was synonymous with the present church property. (See endnote 7.) Also, this preaching station was a schoolhouse, not a church proper. Finally, A Historical Stroll also records that “the land on which our churches stood and still stand was deeded on the 26th of February, 1866.” This causes me to surmise that the date for the building of this frame church is incorrect, and that it perhaps occurred in 1865 or later, after Strieter left, not 1855.
9 Some of the congregations that still exist today as a result of Strieter’s ministry, in addition to those mentioned in endnote 8 above, 10 below, and 15 and 16 in the next section, are as follows: Trinity Lutheran, Little Mecan (mailing address Montello); Zion Lutheran, Neshkoro; Immanuel Lutheran, Westfield; St. John’s Lutheran, Berlin; St. Paul’s Lutheran, Berlin (an 1899 daughter of St. John’s); and Zion Lutheran, Fairwater.
10 According to A Warnke Genealogy, published by Orlan Warnke in 1989, the Warnke preaching station was on the homestead of Peter Warnke, who lived “about 3 miles to the east of Germania” (p. 10), on the east side of what is today Soda Road, just south of the intersection with Eagle Road (p. 20). (Germania is an unincorporated community at the junction of Eagle Road and County Road N in the town of Shields, Marquette County.) A log church was built on Mr. Warnke’s property and was in use until 1876, when a new church was built in Germania. This congregation became known as St. Peter’s Lutheran. It closed in March 1962. The unused building remains, as does the Germania Lutheran Cemetery on Eagle Road east of Germania.
11 P. Heinrich Dicke had enrolled at Fort Wayne during the 1851-1852 school year and had graduated in 1853, first serving as pastor in Frankentrost, Michigan (rf. “The Franconians” & endnote 6 there). The June 30, 1857, issue of Der Lutheraner reports that he was installed as pastor of “the three Lutheran congregations by Mayville, Dodge County, Wisconsin,” on Ascension Day, May 21, 1857, “on the occasion of the celebration of a church dedication” (p. 183). From the “Church News [Kirchliche Nachrichten]” section of the February 21, 1860, issue of Der Lutheraner: “After the honorable J. Strieter, up till now the pastor in Newburgh, Ohio, was called as pastor in an orderly way by the four evangelical Lutheran congregations in the town of Christal [sic] Lake, Newton, Shields, and Mechan [sic], Marquette County, Wisconsin, and he had accepted the call in agreement with his former congregation, he was installed into his new office by the undersigned on the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany at the behest of the Honorable Mr. President of the Northern District. May the faithful God, who has assigned a large field of labor to this servant of his in that area, now also graciously grant that his activity there would result in the salvation of many souls! Mr. Pastor J. Strieter’s current address is: Stonehill P. O., Marquette Co., Wisc. — P. H. Dicke” (p. 110).
[Read the next part here.]