Strieter Autobiography: The Brimstone Boys
April 27, 2016 Leave a comment
The first time through this section, I would suggest completely ignoring the endnotes as you read. Simply enjoy the good, clean, Lutheran shenanigans.
Hardships and Happenings (continued)
I attended the conventions and conferences. One time I didn’t go to the local conference because I was sick. I also was not at the 1854 convention in St. Louis because I was very poor and had no money for traveling. I also was not at one delegate convention and had my alternate go, because I was deaf and wouldn’t have been able to hear anything anyways. Otherwise, to my knowledge, I was at all the conventions and conferences from 1853 up to my retirement from the ministry. More than once I baptized my newborn baby and then departed, or it was born to me while I was gone. Never did I submit the excuse: “domestic circumstances.”50
At the beginning of the 60s I came to the convention in St. Louis with a full beard and had to put up with a lot of teasing.51 This is how it happened: I was shaving at a farmer’s place in Big Bull. He didn’t have a mirror; there was only a small triangular piece of a mirror in the house. It had been stuck into a crack in one of the beams in the log house. That was okay, but the razor was like a saw and the heavy, bitter tears ran down my cheeks.
Then I asked myself, “Did our dear God really cause the beard to grow so that we could torture ourselves with it so shamefully?” and I answered, “No.” And from then on I let everything grow as it pleased. To this day I never again had a razor put to my face.
In St. Louis Missionary Clöter took a liking to my beard. Later we had convention in Monroe, Michigan, and Clöter came with the full beard too.52 In the evening there was supposed to be conference, but there wasn’t a lot going on. My Jox right away nominated Strieter to conduct the meeting; I had to take the chair and Clöter was made secretary. Jox wanted to have the two bearded men up in front. Soon many people were following my example with the full beard, even my dear Prof. Crämer.
One time we had convention in Watertown and I drove there with Fanny, 75 miles.53 One time conference was in Lebanon and I also drove the 80 miles there to Babylon.54 One time conference was in Woodland, and I also drove there.55 One time it was in Freistadt, and I also drove there.56 There we camped in the late Fürbringer’s study.57 Beds were positioned on the floor on both sides. Our feet were touching in the middle. Outside58 stood a bed for two. Ruhland lingered downstairs a bit long. Stecher and Steinbach slipped into the bed, to Ruhland’s chagrin. Whether he liked it or not, he would have to join us in the camp. Strasen was lying up by the door and says, “You guys leave the last spot open for Ruhland and when he comes marching through, each of you give him a kick.” He had to get undressed outside.59 Once he’s in by us, Strasen gives him one. He turns around and starts griping. In the meantime he gets one from the other side. Then he sees the game we’re playing and strikes out for his bed, but he gets his kick from both sides all the way down. Having reached the end, he starts in: “You despicable people.” But we are laughing hysterically and he starts laughing too. Oh, Ruhland was just terrific!60
One time conference was in Mayville, where Dicke was.61 I drove there. As I was unhitching, my horse was nibbling around at the dung. Everyone was standing outside when I came. Then the dear Synod President Wyneken exclaimed, “Look! Strieter’s horse is so hungry, it’s feeding on dung, and so shamefully lean. We should take up a collection so that Strieter can buy oats.”
But my Dicke came to my aid: “That horse is not lean. It is thin and empty right now because it has run 40 miles.62 No horse looks round after doing that.”
One time conference was at Jox’s place in Kirchhain.63 Dr. Sihler was also there. In the evening someone called in through the window, “Is there still room in the camp?” It was our old, dear President Wyneken.64 The joy was great. During the midday break we went under the green trees and played Plumpsack.65 Link set it up.66 The old gentlemen had to play too. Link especially had it in for Wyneken. He often had to get out of the ring and received some terrific whackings from Link. W[yneken] would laugh his head off and run. Even the old Dr. had to take his turns.
We were very brotherly together and were attentive during the sessions. Back then it never occurred to anyone to read the newspaper during that time or to tell something to the guy next to him. Our headmen were Strasen and Link, and they supplied most of the papers. Wyneken called us the Brimstone Boys [Schwefelbande].67
50 Leutner corrected Strieter’s “häusliche Umstände” to “Familienverhältnisse wegen.”
51 The Missouri Synod Convention was held in St. Louis on October 10ff., 1860.
52 The Northern District Convention took place in Monroe, Michigan, on May 29ff., 1861.
53 The Northern District Convention took place in Watertown on June 18ff, 1862.
54 The Wisconsin Pastoral Conference met in Lebanon from May 5-7, 1863.
55 The Milwaukee Pastoral Conference met in Woodland from April 26-28, 1864.
56 The Wisconsin Pastoral Conference met in Freistadt from September 9-11, 1862.
57 This may have been an honorary name for the study due to Ottomar Fuerbringer’s faithful service in Freistadt from 1851-1858. By the time this conference was held, Friedrich Boeling had been using this study since the beginning of 1861.
58 Leutner’s correction is probably more correct: “In the room next door…”
59 See previous endnote.
60 Something is amiss in this story, since Friedrich Carl Theodor Ruhland (1836-1879), one of the more vociferous opponents of the Wisconsin Synod at this time, had moved from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to Wolcottsville, Niagara County, New York, and had been installed as pastor of St. Michael’s Church there on July 6, 1862, before the conference in Freistadt was held. (It also does not seem likely that the study in Freistadt would have been upstairs.) Since it does not seem likely that Strieter was mistaken about Ruhland, the main character in the story, perhaps he was mistaken about the location. Perhaps this occurred at the conference Ruhland himself hosted from May 11-14, 1860 (which would explain why he was irritated about not getting to sleep in the bigger bed), or at the one in MIlwaukee on May 3-4, 1861. Ruhland eventually became the first president of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Germany, today in fellowship with the Wisconsin Synod.
61 I was unable to locate any announcement for a conference in Mayville during Strieter’s years of service in Wisconsin on the pages of Der Lutheraner. However, it may have been held in early May 1862, since the Wisconsin Pastoral Conference usually met around that time in other years.
62 The distance between Strieter’s homestead and Mayville is more like 70 miles, but Strieter most likely divided the journey between two days.
63 The Wisconsin Pastoral Conference met in Kirchhayn from September 3-5, 1861.
64 51 years old at the time
65 A German version of Duck-duck-goose played with a knotted handkerchief
66 That is, Pastor Georg Link of Immanuel, Lebanon
67 According to the Grimm Brothers’ Deutsches Wörterbuch, Schwefelbande, lit. “sulfur gang,” denotes “a sorry or slipshod gathering, a rabble, especially in more vulgar parlance and used colloquially.” It supposedly originated as a “nickname for Sulphuria, a students’ club in Jena that was notorious for not giving satisfaction,” and the Grimm Brothers also suggest that the label alludes to the devil or hell.
[Read the next part here.]