Strieter Autobiography: Settling in Wisconsin

[Continued from Part 20. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Wisconsin

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.

Approximate location of the Stone Hill post office. The road pictured is County Road Y.

Approximate location of the Stone Hill post office. The road pictured is County Road Y, heading south from the intersection with County Road E. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

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.

St. John Lutheran Church and Cemetery, Budsin (mailing address Neshkoro). This church represents the congregation closest to the parsonage where Pastor Strieter lived. It is thus considered the mother church of all the other confessional Lutheran churches in the area. The present brick church was built in 1907.

St. John Lutheran Church and Cemetery, Budsin (mailing address Neshkoro). Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage. This church represents the congregation closest to the parsonage where Pastor Strieter lived. It is thus considered the mother church of all the other confessional Lutheran churches in the area. The present brick church was built in 1907.

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.

Endnotes

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.]

Strieter Autobiography: Newburgh

[Continued from Part 19. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Newburgh

The first St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Newburgh, Ohio, with parsonage in the background (today St. John's Lutheran, Garfield Heights)

The first St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Newburgh, Ohio, with parsonage in the background (today St. John Lutheran, Garfield Heights)

In 1854 a small portion of Zion’s Church in Cleveland, Mr. Pastor Schwan’s congregation, branched off and formed an independent congregation in Independence, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, near Newburgh, two miles south, and named it St. John Church.1 Twenty or so families combined to form it. They built a little frame church and a small parsonage behind it. They called me to be their pastor. In October 1854 I moved there with my young wife, Mother-in-law Ernst, and her five younger little daughters.2 On the 18th Sunday after Trinity I was installed by Pastor Schwan, with Pastor Kühn from Euclid and Pastor Steinbach from Liverpool assisting. The church was dedicated at the same time. Pastor Kühn delivered the sermon. Pastor Steinbach presided at the rite of dedication.3 On the 19th Sunday after Trinity I delivered my inaugural sermon.

I preached and taught school during the week to twenty or so children. With the exception of one family and a widow Z. they were all Hanoverians. Father H. H. Böhning was the senior member. When we met to elect our Board of Elders and determine the salary (I was to be paid two hundred dollars per year), Father Böhning said, “I will give this much.” And he went through the ranks this way, and asked at the end if they were happy with that. “Yes,” they said, cheerfully and unanimously. Besides the two hundred dollars they also gave wood for fuel and a lot of other stuff. They took very good care of us. There I had it very nice for a change. The people loved me and bore with my weakness4 very patiently. They also loved my wife very much. The girls M. B. and M. B. gave her a new dress every year. They also liked Mother-in-law Ernst and the girls. The dear people came to church very regularly, and the same was true for Catechism instruction and the men’s attendance at congregational meetings. There was a very brotherly spirit among us.

My church attendees [Kirchkinder] enjoyed listening to God’s Word. It also had its fruit. One time Widow Z. came to me and said that her neighborlady had brought her an entire basketful of goodies, and when she asked why she was doing this, she had answered, “On Sunday the pastor preached about love, and it went to my heart.”

One time H. B.5 spoke his mind to me rather quite freely and definitely said more than he should have. The next day he came: “Mr. Pastor, I am sorry. I have as many regrets about what I said as I have hairs on my head.”

One time I noticed that a certain man had peered into the glass a little too deeply. The next morning there was a knock at the door. I said, “In here [Herein]!” which is what we said back then. In comes my man So-and-so. I say, “Have a seat, sir!” He sits down. I say, “Now, my dear man, what brings you to me this early?”

He says, “Oh, sir, you know that already!” and he started to cry and pleaded with me to forgive him anyway.

One time I stayed overnight at Father Böhning’s. Before going to bed he read from the Bible, prayed, and sang with his family the entire hymn, “Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow,”6 and my, how lovely! My Newburgers, as they called us, were good singers overall. We would also sing in four parts. My Ernst Böhning sang a splendid bass, and my Friedrich Tönsing a fine tenor. Mary Böhning and Mary Borges and several others sang the first part and W[ilhel]m and John Böhning sang alto.

Almost every Sunday we were taken along as guests after the service. Often we ended up at Father Böhning’s. The good old mother boiled us pea beans [Vicebauna] with a long sausage in there and meat. Beforehand there would be a milk soup with these tiny little dumplings. My, that was delicious! The Borges family also invited us often and took us along, and many others did too.

I received a call from the vicinity of Baltimore, but the Newburgers would not release me. Another one from the vicinity of Columbus, Ohio, but again I was not released, and yet another from old Frankentrost, but they would not release me then either.

Now my Jüngel7 came to me one day. I say, “What brings you to me so unexpectedly?”

He says, “Tomorrow morning I will tell you.” In the morning he took a letter from Dr. Sihler out of his pocket with an enclosed call and accompanying note from W[ilhel]m Stelter, from Crystal Lake, Marquette County, Wisconsin. In it was stated that over 300 families had been deserted by their preacher and had been left for the fanatics and Albright Brethren there. Help had to be provided immediately. Dr. Sihler had thought of us both.

Jüngel said, “I cannot and I dare not leave. I have recently received a United congregation in Amherst, which I dare not abandon. You must go.”

I presented it to my congregation. Fritz Tönsing was chairman. It was discussed back and forth, all of it in favor of my staying. Finally the chairman says, “I will call the question now, so that we know where we stand. All in favor of letting our pastor move, say Yes!”

Everybody was silent.

“All opposed, No.”

“No,” everybody called out.

Tönsing smiled and said, “I am going to ask again, but a bit differently: All who are convinced in their conscience that we should let our pastor move, say Yes.”

“Yes,” they said, though very meekly. That was in November 1859.

With my neighboring ministers [Amtsnachbarn] I was on good terms. I visited them and they me. Held conferences with each other regularly. In Cleveland was Schwan. He was our senior. In Ohio City, now West Cleveland, my dear Lindemann. Already at the seminary we had gotten along very well.8 In Euclid was Kühn. In Liverpool first Steinbach, then Jüngel. He was also at the seminary with me and we were always close friends.

I know that one time Schwan and Lindemann marched the five miles out to me. I walked to Schwan after school almost every Monday. We also went to take baths together in Lake Erie and often went for walks. After these recreations we would set about on our sermon for the next Sunday. Schwan had the Latin Harmony9 and I had Luther. He would read, then I would read. At this point he would ask, “Strieter, what should we use?” I would then have to start outlining, and he would laugh sometimes, but he also often commended me. One time he said, “Your outline is absolutely excellent. If Walther had it, he would turn it into a sensational sermon, but you, sir, are too stiff.”

I said, “Yeah, how does one go about becoming more smooth?”

He said, “Copy someone else’s sermons, so that you get into a different channel. Take Fresenius.10” I buy myself Fresenius right away11 and start copying, word for word in fact, and I commit it to memory. Sunday I mount the pulpit and repeat everything beautifully up through half of the first part; at this point I lose my line of thought. My Tönsing was sitting close to the front and looking me right in the eye. As I was losing it, he looked down at his feet. I didn’t get back on track; everything got jumbled together. Finally in my anxiety I say, “Amen!” Before everyone left, I signal my Tönsing: “Did you notice something today, sir?”

He says, “Yes sir, I did. You lost your spot.”

I put my Fresenius in the corner though and went back to making my own sermon, after I had made my usual study of Luther, especially his House Postil.12 This was my method: When I was finished with Luther, I started thinking and prepared the whole thing in my mind right up to the Amen, and then I wrote it and delivered it that way.

One time conference was held by me. Jüngel brought his neighboring United minister along. He already had all sorts of United ideas during the conference. Theology was also discussed during dinner. After Lindemann had spoken, the United gentleman said, “That all depends on how you look at it.”

Lindemann lifted his plate into the air: “How you look at it!? This is a plate, no matter how I might look at it.”

The gentleman was silent, but after the meal he took his hat and left.

One time Lindemann and I had to go to Holmes County, Ohio, where I had been together with B[esel], in order to dedicate a church. Engelbert was there now.13 Lindemann preached in the morning and I in the afternoon. Because of the sermon I gave, I continued to get quite a bit of razzing. That’s because I was betrayed.14 I had my dear old Pennslyvania Dutchmen in front of me and was going right along in my sermon and said that on the Last Day our dear Lord would call out, “Jack, John, George, come out!” and just like that they would be standing there with glorified bodies. To my Pennsylvania-Dutchmen it wasn’t funny at all; they all had on completely serious faces. The dear old Arnold had already told me earlier, “I think you are a pretty smart guy [Ich denk, du bist a ziemlich smarter Kerl].”

Endnotes

1 Today this is St. John Lutheran Church of Garfield Heights.

2 Henry F. Rahe, Johannes and Elizabeth’s eventual nephew (a son of Elizabeth’s next oldest sister Martha), in his previously cited “Sketch of the Parents of the Ernst Girls” (rf. endnote 21 here), writes: “When they got to Newburgh, Rev. Strieter could not support the Widow Ernst and her five daughters, and besides the parsonage was too small. Aunt Martha worked out and they farmed out three of the girls to other pastors. Aunt Sophie, Aunt Sarah and my mother, Anna, all of them under eleven years of age were the ones placed in pastors’ families and they had a hard life of it. Aunt Sophie, who resembled her mother in stature, temperament and will power more than any of the other girls, would not put up with this farming out proposition and they had to take her home and keep her there until after her confirmation. She then went to work for Rev. H. C. Schwan. It no doubt was a hard thing for Grandmother Ernst to send her young girls, eight, nine, and ten years old, to other people even if they were ministers. It was her own doing, and Uncle Strieter was to blame for much of it. All relatives, both from the Ernst and Wittig sides, opposed her determination to go with Strieters, and promised her all the help she would need to raise her family. This act estranged her from all her relatives, especially her brother. She never corresponded with any of them or visited them. She was the one who was estranged and not the relatives. In later years and especially in her last illness (Uncle Leutner in whose home she died told me this), conscience pangs bothered her, on account of her conduct toward her relatives, especially her brother and the separation from her husband. I once spoke to Uncle John Strieter about this moving of the family from Vermilion and he admitted that it probably would have kept the family together had they remained in Vermilion and would have been ‘better according to human reason, but what was to be, was to be.’”

3 From the “Church News [Kirchliche Nachricht]” section of the November 21, 1854, issue of Der Lutheraner: “After a number of members of the Cleveland congregation formed their own parish with our consent, St. John’s Congregation in Independence, and issued an orderly call to Mr. Pastor J. Strieter, who had been in Elyria and Vermillion [sic], he was committed by me to his new office, at the behest of the Most Reverend President of the Middle District of our synod, Mr. Dr. and Prof. Sihler, on the 18th Sunday after Trinity, with Mr. Pastors Kühn and Steinbach assisting, and the newly erected church was dedicated at the same time. — Now may our dear fellow believers include also this congregation in their prayers. — H. C. Schwan. Address: Revd. J. Strieter, Newburgh P. O., Cuyahoga Co., O[hio]” (p. 56).

4 Strieter more than once mentions “his weakness,” and he seems to be referring to something in particular. Later in this chapter he specifies this weakness by referring to the delivery of his sermons.

5 This is perhaps the “Father H. H. Böhning” he mentions earlier, but since Johannes always uses his last name elsewhere, it is more likely someone else.

6 The original hymn has nine stanzas.

7 Heinrich Jüngel, originally from Hesse-Darmstadt, was pastor in Valley City, town of Liverpool, Medina County, Ohio.

8 Wilhelm Lindemann, originally from Hanover, had enrolled at Fort Wayne during the 1851-1852 school year.

9 This refers to the Harmonia Quatuor Evangelistarum or Harmony of the Four Evangelists, a harmonizing of and commentary on the four Gospels begun by Martin Chemnitz, continued by Polycarp Leyser, and completed by Johann Gerhard in 1627.

10 Johann Philipp Fresenius (1705-1761) was a pietistic Lutheran pastor at Nieder-Wiesen, Giessen, Darmstadt, and Frankfurt am Main, who remained loyal to the Lutheran Confessions and opposed the Moravians.

11 Since it appears that Schwan and Strieter studied and preached on the Gospels together, the book Strieter bought was probably Heilsame Betrachtungen über die Sonn- und Festtags-Evangelia (Beneficial Reflections on the Sunday and Festival Gospels), first published in 1750. Fresenius also had a book of sermons on Epistle texts published in 1754.

12 There were two editions of Luther’s House Postil (a postil is a book of sermons). The first was published in 1544 by Veit Dietrich, formerly Luther’s personal secretary. The second was published in 1559 by Andreas Poach, a former student of Luther, on the basis of the notebooks of Georg Rörer, a deacon at the Wittenberg parish church and tireless transcriber and copier of Luther’s sermons. (Thus Poach’s edition is sometimes also called Rörer’s edition.) From the next chapter we know that Strieter possessed the German volumes of the first Erlangen edition of Luther’s works (1826-1857). Volumes 1-6 of that edition (1826) contained Luther’s House Postil, interspersing the sermons found in both Dietrich’s and Poach’s original editions.

13 Wilhelm Engelbert, originally from Nassau, had enrolled at Fort Wayne during the 1852-1853 school year and had graduated in 1855.

14 Namely, Pastor Lindemann told the other pastors about Strieter’s sermon when they got back. Pastor Engelbert’s account of this dedication was published in the February 18, 1859, issue of Der Lutheraner (vol. 15, no. 13): “This past 17th Sunday after Trinity [September 26, 1858] was a day of celebration for St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Holmes County, Ohio, for they had the great joy of consecrating their newly erected frame church. In the morning Pastor Lindemann preached on Galatians 2:16 and presented on that basis: What the true adornment of an evangelical Lutheran church is, namely 1. the pure message about justification, and 2. the listeners who make this message their own in true faith. In the afternoon Pastor Strieter preached on Luke 19:1-10 and showed from that text: 1. how Christ has moved into this church, and 2. how we should serve as his hosts” (p. 103).

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: Vermilion

[Continued from Part 18. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Into the Ministry (conclusion)

We [i.e. my new bride and I] took the railroad cars from Elyria to Vermillion. When we arrived, my Lisbeth’s cousin, H. Ernst, peeked in through the door and sees us sitting. Then he was gone. We went to Mother. As already said, she had her own house in Vermillion. The T[heiss]’s25 were already there. We sit down at the table and eat our good noodle soup, which Mother Ernst had cooked for us. There goes a racket outside. There was a large open space in front of the house. There stood a large group, big and small, making a shivaree that was tremendous. Among other things they had planed the edges of a large merchandise box and smeared it with resin, and now two people were sawing on the box with a scantling. Boom, boom, it rumbled dreadfully. My H. T[heiss] says, “You’re going to have to give those guys some money to get them out of here.” But I didn’t have any. The last cent was spent on the trip. H. T[heiss] reached into his money-bag and took out a handful of small stuff – apparently he had caught wind of what was going to happen – and gave it to me.

I went out and asked who was in charge. They pointed me to a large guy, to whom I gave my handful of money and I thank them for their kindness. They say in English, “Hooray for Mr. Strieter! Hooray for Libby Ernst!” and now they headed for the saloon. After that, those guys were uncommonly friendly.

Libby Ernst was a beautiful, sensible, and virtuous girl and a good student. During winter the sailors would lodge in Vermillion. My Lisbeth’s cousins were also sailors. One of them, Caspar Ernst, went to the college [Hochschule] in Oberlin every winter. He would pester Mother Ernst to let Lisbeth go along with him to the school. He said he would take care of everything; it wouldn’t cost her a cent. Mother Ernst would say, “Lisbeth knows enough to get along in the world. She is not going to Oberlin.” Others would come and want to take her to a party or a ball. Mother says, “Lisbeth is staying at home.”

During winter they oftentimes had “spelling school” there. That was a always a big deal. Everybody ran there together, so that the large schoolhouse was crammed full. It was conducted like this: Two “choosers” were elected, and they posted themselves up at the desk opposite each other and now chose their spellers. Soon the aisle was filled in two rows back to the door. The “choosers” elected were always the two best spellers, and that was Gust Pelton and Libby Ernst. The spelling got going. The schoolmaster gave the words. During her final years there they had a fine schoolmaster, Mr. Salos. Pretty soon the rows were spelled down, since whoever missed a word had to sit down. Finally Gust Pelton and Libby Ernst would still be standing. It might occasionally happen that one of these two would spell down the other, but most of the time they would say in English, “We will give up.” Even Mr. Salos one time posted himself opposite Libby when she was the only one still standing, and someone else gave the words. But Libby spelled down Mr. Salos too. In this way Libby was generally liked and the boys were understandably not too happy that the minister had caught Libby.

I now lived at Mother Ernst’s house and had it nice and good. I held church, two days of school, and went down to the South Ridge and held school the remaining days and still preached on the South Ridge, for in Elyria everything was finished. T[heisen]s26 had moved to Liverpool and [Mr.] B[öse] moved back to Germany. Apart from that there was only a German joiner still there, who never came to church though, and a Catholic store-clerk.

Even on the South Ridge I only had seven to eight listeners left; the others moved back to Germany, especially the Hessians. Here’s how that came about: The daughter of [Mr.] S. – the lovely house I mentioned earlier – married a brother-in-law of T[heisen] the miller who, as already mentioned, ran out of work. He [i.e. Mr. Theisen] would kind of sit around and often on the front steps with his small little daughter. Soon his sister-in-law27 started talking badly about him, saying that he was just sitting there to look at the women to see if they were pretty. She said that to a woman and her mother, and they in turn immediately told the T[heisen]s about it. [Mr.] T[heisen] went to her and confronted her about it and was probably a bit harsh. The young woman ran home immediately and complained about the experience to her parents.

I came home, for I was still living in [Mr.] S.’s house at the time, and was met with dark faces. The daughter had already left again. I asked what was the matter. Then she starts in and relates how [Mr.] T[heisen] had treated her daughter. I went over and spoke with [Mr.] T[heisen] and then with the young sister-in-law, but she denies everything. [Mr.] T[heisen] says, “I have my witnesses.” They were brought and both the young woman and her old mother verified that she had said it.

I dismissed the witnesses and said, “Now there’s no more denying it.” She now confessed that she had said it and apologized.

I stayed overnight. When I came home, I was immediately asked how it went. I say, “Very well; they have reconciled.”

“What!” [Mr.] S. pounded on the table. “My daughter has reconciled with that milljack?” And right away he went over to see her. Then she was making an angry face again, and my hosts were now like people possessed by the devil. Before that the old man would eat with me, while the others ate outside. But now the small boy would call over into my little room, “Dinner!” When I came out, no one was there and the door was closed. I ate by myself. I also used to prepare a family devotion. When the man and I had eaten, I would call the others inside and would read and pray. But now he would read outside and would yell loudly, so that I couldn’t help but hear it. None of them gave me a kind look any more. I kind of let this go for a while and then I spoke with the old folks. They looked at the floor and said nothing. I spoke with the old man in private, but to no avail.

I thought, “Okay, it’s time to have a serious talk with this man.” We went to church; he was carrying my robe. I start in and confront the man with his sin, especially the Fifth Petition.28 I sincerely admonished him that he needed to break his stubbornness.

We now stood still and I stopped talking. Now he goes across under his chin with his hand and announces, “Mr. Pastor, this head will have to come off before I will reconcile with that milljack.”

I say, “If that’s how you are going to talk, then you, sir, are no Christian.”

“So!” he says and marches off ahead of me into the schoolhouse, laid his bundle on the table, and went home.

The following Sunday only six to eight people came to church on the South Ridge. The others, mostly Hessians, stayed away. I go to them and speak with them. Then one would give this excuse, the other that excuse. I found out that [Mr.] S. had gone around and told the people that they should not go to listen to me in church any more; I was half-Catholic. He had seen in one of my books that it said “you should bless yourself with the holy cross” and signs of the cross were printed in it.29 That was why they stayed away. But I preached to the few people out on the South Ridge. I always went the eighteen miles there from Vermillion on foot. It was a very difficult walk for me, for the poor, misled people weighed really heavily on my heart. A few remained faithful. One widow Z. even moved up to Vermillion and later moved to Newburgh when I did.

Endnotes

25 The print edition mistakenly reads F. for T. (cf. endnote 18).

26 The print edition mistakenly reads F. for T. (cf. previous endnote).

27 Namely “the daughter of [Mr.] S.”

28 That is, he referred especially to the man’s ignoring of the Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

29 Mr. S. probably saw a page from Luther’s Small Catechism in Strieter’s Book of Concord. In the section on “How the Father, as the Head of the Family, Should Teach His Household to Bless Themselves in the Morning and Evening,” Luther says that in the morning and in the evening, before praying, “you should bless yourself with the holy cross…”

[Read the next part here.]

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 throne15, 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. I stayed there 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.16 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 now it’s growing.’”

I also began preaching in Vermillion.17 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[heisen]18 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.19

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.20 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.21 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—house22 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!”23

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.24

Endnotes

15 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.

16 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.

17 Strieter’s spelling of Vermilion, Ohio

18 The print edition mistakenly reads F. for T.

19 From the “Church News [Kirchliche Nachrichten]” section of the June 7, 1853, issue of Der Lutheraner: “Most Reverend Mr. President! Herewith I am supplying the report I owe you, that Mr. J. Strieter, formerly a pupil at the Fort Wayne seminary, after he had received an orderly call from the German evangelical Lutheran congregation in and around Elyria, Loraine County, Ohio, was, at the behest of the Vice President, ordained by me and at the same time solemnly bound to all the confessional writings of our church on April 6 in the presence of his congeregation and with Mr. Pastor Steinbach assisting. Our brother’s field of labor is small by outward appearances; may the Lord be pleased to compensate for that by making it that much more fruitful through his blessing! — H. C. Schwan. Cleveland, May 6, 1853” (p. 142).

20 Bedbugs

21 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.”

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

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

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

[Read the next part here.]