A Missionary’s Demise at Sea

By J. J. F. Auch

Translator’s Preface

In January of 1850, a 20-year-old Johannes Strieter set out from Freedom Township, west of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and headed north to Saginaw to pay his sister Dorothea and her husband, Missionary J. J. F. Auch, an extended visit. In Saginaw Missionary Auch picked Strieter up in his sled and drove him to their home in Sebewaing, on the western coast of the “thumb” of Michigan. There Strieter helped out as much as he could with the Lutheran mission to the Chippewas there. He also spent time with Missionary J. F. Maier at the Shebahyonk station, about seven miles northeast of Sebewaing.

Strieter clearly enjoyed his time there, including his time with Missionary Maier, who had a good sense of humor. Missionary Maier was also married to a Dorothea, the sister of Missionary Auch who had been confirmed with Strieter at Salem Lutheran Church in Scio. When Strieter left with Friedrich August Crämer to begin his pre-seminary studies in Frankenmuth in the spring of that year, after helping to build the new mission house in Shebahyonk, the parting was a sad one.

In the article below, Missionary Auch describes the tragic demise of Missionary Maier in the fall of that year. By that time Strieter was actually attending the seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Although Strieter doubtless heard of the tragedy, he does not mention it in his autobiography. Still today and even in English, Auch’s emotion is palpable.

You can view Missionary Maier’s grave at Find A Grave.

Mission News

Sibiwaing [sic]
November 28, 1850

Most Reverend Mr. President!1

A difficult task has been assigned to me by the Lord, that of informing you and our entire synod of the terrible misfortune that befell our mission on the fifteenth of this month. Mr. Missionary Maier and another man by the name of Haushahn, a resident here, found their grave in the Saginaw Bay on the just-mentioned day. They set out from Sibiwaing on the 12th with the purpose of bringing winter provisions back home and set sail from Lower Saginaw2 for the return trip on the 15th with a favorable, though very strong wind, and when it grew stronger and stronger, and there was also such a thick fog on the sea that they could only see a short distance ahead, they came right into the worst spot of breakers on the entire east side of the Saginaw Bay, and here they were shipwrecked, perhaps a half mile from shore and six miles from Sibiwaing. Just as I was returning to Sibiwaing from Shiboyank [sic],3 Mr. Missionary Maier’s place of residence, where I had held divine service in his absence, I found a man at my door with a note from a merchant who had been so kind as to bring the boat’s cargo into his custody. This note contained the terrible news. Mrs. Missionary Maier4 was actually staying with us during her husband’s absence and was now notified of her husband’s misfortune at the same time we were. I will not describe the heart-rending scene that followed. May the Lord from whose hand this distress came also comfort us according to his great mercy. To him be praise, thanks, and honor for such mercy!

The next day I rode out to the spot and found things as they had been reported to me, the mast on the boat broken off, the boat itself overturned, and the cargo scattered over a half-mile stretch of the shore. Although I rode back and forth along the shore nearly eight miles, the only thing I could find was Mr. Maier’s cap drifting along the shore. How horrible I felt! The day after that I went back to the spot of the accident with our German settlers here, who proved very devoted and sympathetic to the cause and flipped the boat back up in the water. But after we had once again searched all around in the water for the bodies for a long time and to no avail, we returned home to Sibiwaing with the badly damaged load of flour.

I then discontinued any further searching until last Monday, the 25th. On that day, I once again went out to the spot in the company of our interpreter, Mr. Maier’s brother, who had made his way here at the news of his brother’s death, and with another man. Two miles above the site of the accident, I and Mr. Maier’s brother climbed ashore and, while the other men continued in an Indian boat, we went searching along the shore. On the way I found a coat belonging to Mr. Maier, in addition to other small articles from the boat. Finally we came to the place where we had found the most flour and as I turned my gaze forward, I saw Brother Maier on his face in front of me, his coat over his head, the waves beating against him, lying on the shore in water perhaps four inches deep. Calling out to his brother, I hurried over. Ugh, what a sorry sight! We turned him over, his hands were washed snow-white, his face was puce, his skull bashed in. Maier’s brother was wailing dreadfully. I did my best to comfort him with God’s Word, but the pain my own heart was in to see my brother-in-law in that condition right there in front of me—there are no words to describe it. We also found the other man just sixty paces away from Mr. Maier. We returned home. On the next day we buried them and thereby sowed the first seed corns on the mission property here in Sibiwaing that are looking forward to a blessed resurrection [cf. John 12:24,25].

Mr. Missionary Maier was faithful in his calling. I can vouch for this on his behalf in good conscience. He lived to his Lord in faith, and so we also have the assurance from God’s unchangeable Word that he has also died to the Lord [cf. Romans 14:7-9]. He lived to the age of 27 years, one month, and 11 days.

His death has left a gaping hole in our mission. Who is going to fill it? — Our Indian congregation is very sorrowful. When I comforted them with God’s Word, the chief told me, “Yes, we now have a spiritual shepherd under us, who is proclaiming God’s Word to us; I sincerely rejoice with my people in that fact. I was intending to see myself soon put into a position where I would be able to teach God’s Word myself, but what are our prospects now? Night and darkness now surround us again, when I think of going to school. Yet I do believe what you told us from God’s Word, that ‘for those who love God, all things must serve for the best.’”5

“…”

I have now taken over Shiboyank again, trusting in God’s assistance. I have promised to hold service there every Sunday and, when the weather permits, once during the week too. I have also started up Indian school again. Here in Sibiwaing I am responsible for the Indians and perhaps eight German families. Consequently there is not a single hour in which I do not see myself surrounded with work on all sides. Oh, how unfit I feel for such a serious calling! There are many times I almost do not know how to keep my faith from dwindling. If God’s Word were not my comfort, I would surely perish. I therefore ask the entire synod and especially you, dear Mr. President, to remember me in your petitions to the Lord as your lowly fellow brother. May the Lord show mercy and provide another shepherd for the abandoned sheep in Shiboyank in the near future! These sheep have begged me to please earnestly stress to the synod how dire their situation is, along with the request that they be sent another spiritual shepherd in the near future. God grant it, etc., etc.

J. J. F. Auch.

Source
Der Lutheraner, vol. 7, no. 8 (December 10, 1850), pp. 63-64

Endnotes
1 That is, the president of the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States (today the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod), namely F. C. D. Wyneken, who was also serving as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis at the time

2 That is, Bay City. According to Herman Zehnder, the name of this sailing vessel was the Huron (Teach My People the Truth, p. 79).

3 Now usually spelled Shebahyonk. The location of this Native American community and mission station is today roughly identical with the unincorporated community of Weale, about seven miles northeast of Sebewaing near the mouth of Shebeon Creek.

4 The author’s sister (see Translator’s Preface)

5 The author seems to be quoting the chief of the Chippewas at Shebahyonk. We have conflicting reports on this chief’s position with respect to Christianity. His name is variously spelled Nocktschikome (letter from Friedrich August Crämer to Wilhelm Löhe, July 25, 1845), Nage-Dschikamik, Nage Dschickamik (both in Strieter’s autobiography, describing events of 1850 predating the events of this article), and Meganigischik (Herman Zehnder, Teach My People the Truth, p. 83, apparently citing Frankenmuth church records from 1849). Strieter says that his name meant Great Chief, and he describes a powwow he attended, sometime around early spring of 1850, at which the chief denigrated the Christian God in favor of the great spirit of the Chippewas and their dancing rites for worshipping him. When Strieter went back to the spot the following morning, “there lay the chief dead-drunk, with his squaw sitting next to him, watching over him.” However, we do know that the chief’s brother converted (taking the Christian name Sam) and was married in the Lutheran church in Frankenmuth, and perhaps this article is indication that the chief himself also converted later in 1850. Perhaps it was precisely because of the chief’s decidedly unchristian character and conduct earlier that same year that Auch was left speechless in response to his strong affirmation of Christian faith here.

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Strieter Autobiography: Life in Frankenmuth

[Continued from Part 12. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Seminary (continued)

There was a young man my age there [in Frankenmuth], Kundinger, Crämer’s sister’s son, who was supposed to be trained yet and and then become Kühn’s schoolmaster in Frankenhilf. Old man Moll of Frankentrost said, “Help the Franconians [Hilf den Franken] is what we want to call it.”14 Crämer gave the two of us daily instruction in the Augsburg Confession. Teacher Pinkepank lived with his wife, Moll’s daughter, across the street on the north side in a long log house that was half residence and half schoolhouse. After he was done teaching school, he instructed us in reading, writing, singing, etc. We also did some scraping on the violin. Kühn gave me a Book of Concord and a small little book called Luther’s Life [Luthers Leben].15

Friedrich August Crämer

Friedrich August Crämer

Since I was not happy with how I was doing, I was expecting my dismissal from Crämer every day. But look at this! One morning after the class hour he clapped me on the shoulder: “Cheer up, my dear Strieter. You are doing quite well. You, sir, are going to the seminary.” Now I was filled with joy.

Stone marking the location of the original log parsonage in Frankenmuth, next to a more recently built museum

Stone marking the location of the original log parsonage in Frankenmuth, next to a more recently built museum. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

Crämer’s house stood on the south side of the path, north of the Cass River, and was a log house. A kitchen took up the entire width on the west side of the house. The eastern side was divided – a small section toward the road was a combination bedroom and study. I can just see the diligent Crämer sitting there at his small, simple desk in front of the window. The other section was a living room. There the stairs went up. The space beneath the roof was also bisected. In the back room toward the west slept the maid and the children, and we slept in the front room – Kühn, Kundinger, and I. There were bedbugs galore.

Every day there was service in the morning and in the evening. We would sing a hymn, then Crämer would mount the low, small pulpit and preach. Later we took turns singing; the men would sing one line and the women would sing the next. It was incredibly lovely. Every Friday there was private confession and every Sunday there was Lord’s Supper. The log church stood somewhat uphill from the parsonage to the west. Next to the church was a framework in which two bells hung, one larger and one smaller, which the dear Franconians had brought along with them from Germany. Every day the prayer bells were rung. Then everybody would stop what they were doing on the path, in the field, in the house, the men would remove their caps, hands were folded and everybody prayed, “Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide,” and so on. It was just too lovely!

But the dear Franconians had their fun too. One time I was sitting by a dear man who was telling me how it was in Germany, how the light afternoon meal [Vesperbrot] had been brought out to the field and there had been beer with it. When he came to the part about the beer, he paused, turned his face upward and called out, “O, a good beer – I could go for one now! [O, a Bierla, wenn i hätt!]”

There were two tall, handsome men there, the Hubinger brothers. The older one ran the farm, the younger one the mill that they had constructed on the Cass River. Everything was built very solidly and laboriously. Because of that the water could do nothing but drive either the saw or the milling gear. A fine, strong dam was there, which had a swing-gate and an exit chute. Off to the east of Frankenmuth lay Tuscola, several miles away. The people there sued the Hubingers because of their dam, for the Tuscolans were floating timber downstream. One day Crämer said to me, “You, sir, are going with the Hubingers to Tuscola today. You will appear with them on their court date and take what is spoken in English and make it German.” The two men and I went up there. We had to wait a long time. Finally we headed out of town to a schoolhouse. Hubingers had arranged for an attorney from Saginaw, who arrived on horseback. His pants were torn up at the bottom. Now the affair was underway. The attorney gave a lengthy speech and read from a book that he had brought along under his arm. The judge reached his decision: “Not guilty!” We went home in cheerful spirits, and the Tuscolans left the Hubingers in peace.

One time Crämer sent me to Frankentrost to fetch Pastor Gräbner. I don’t remember what the deal was. It was Sunday afternoon. I go through the beautiful forest and come to an opening. There a path stretches out and small log houses are standing on both sides. In the middle was a long log house, partitioned: The western half was the pastor’s residence and the eastern was the church and school. I went inside. Pastor Gräbner was actually in the middle of Catechism instruction. I whispered in his ear, but he calmly went on teaching until class was over. Then he went over with me into the little parsonage. It was one room. In the one corner stood an oven, in the other a bed with a curtain around it, and next to it a desk in front of the window. That was the living room, bedroom, and study. Gräbner put on his long boots, slipped into a coat, lit up a German pipe with a porcelain bowl, hung his tobacco pouch on his coat button, took his large walking-stick in hand, and now we headed to Frankenmuth.

The Frankenmuth church bells today. Strieter often rang the large bell on the right.

The Frankenmuth church bells today. Strieter often rang the large bell on the right. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

Also in Frankenmuth both bells were rung every Friday at 3 o’clock, to signal the suffering of Christ. I often rang the large bell, even one time with Crämer. —

It was time to start Frankenhilf. A carpenter was there from Huntington, Indiana, who was, I believe, acquainted with the Franconians. Out there in the virgin forest, seven miles or so northeast of Frankenmuth, tree trunks were felled and rolled on each other in square, about the height of a man, and soon it was time for dedication. Kühn went out there and took me along to sing. They still did not have any Missouri hymnals there. They had brought along a thin little book from Löhe, as big as a Fibel,16 which had beautiful songs in it. I had to sing, “The Lord Hath Helped Me Hitherto.”17 Kühn delivered an address on those words [1 Samuel 7:12] to the carpenter, a handful of young fellows, and Father Ammann, the only head of household with a family. Kühn cried a lot as he gave it and I felt deeply sorry for him. His Frankenhilf must have weighed very heavily on his heart. Now we headed back home through the thick virgin forest on the Indian path. —

It was time for the synod convention, I believe in St. Louis. My sister in Sebewaing had a maid from Frankenmuth, a gem of a child. She had to go home to get married. My brother-in-law mounted one horse, the maid the other, and they rode some forty miles to Frankenmuth through the woods. I was supposed to go down with him to keep my sister company until the pastors came back. We rode off to Frankentrost. On the other side of Frankentrost we met up with an old path and continued on that. We came across a pole bridge that looked suspicious at the end. The wood was rotted, you could see some water there, and it looked very marshy. “We’ll get stuck there,” said my brother-in-law.

I had the young horse. “I’ll get over,” I said. I turned my horse around and got a running start— I was over on the other side. Like a fox my horse easily cleared the spot, which was perhaps three paces wide. My brother-in-law came after me, but his horse didn’t quite jump far enough and his back legs sank all the way down into the muck; but he was out in a jiffy. When we were close to the bay we came to a river, which was deep, not very wide. Fortunately a canoe was available in front of us. We take the saddles off, each of us takes his horse to the side and off we go. The horses pulled that little boat across splendidly. On the other side saddles back on and we continue on our way.

My brother-in-law now traveled to the synod convention. Back then you went up around the lake and then down on the Mississippi; it took a long time.

We had an Indian – he was hard of hearing – who would go up to the prairie very early in the morning and shoot a young buck, and every time his daughter of twelve years would bring us a nice piece, a leg or a loin. We were not able to stow it. I tell my sister, “Just tell the child that she shouldn’t bring us any more.”

“Yeah,” she says, “I don’t dare do that, otherwise the old woman will be insulted.” We ate what we could; the rest we secretly gave to the pigs.

While I was there I had another ride too. I’m taking a young horse out of the stall, on which no one has ever sat, but like a dummy I leave the door open behind me. I swing myself up on it, but just like that it wheels around and goes inside to its stall. I tried to keep myself steady with my heel in the back and with my hand on its neck, but I fell on my back against the threshold and the horse goes right over me. It stepped down at my waist between my legs and scraped me badly, and came down with the other foot at my neck and also took the skin with it there. My back was in considerable pain and the scraped skin stung, but I went and got my horse out again, but closed the door this time, and got on again. But now it went like mad. I let the animal run as long as it pleased; then I rode home slowly, and from then on the horse went fine. —

One evening my sister looks out the window and cries, “Oh boy, here comes the crazy doctor.” An old bachelor lived in Scio, a conceited, learned, and widely traveled man. They said that he had gone out of his mind due to a failed love affair. When he was alone, he would chatter away to himself, otherwise you couldn’t notice anything strange about him when he was with someone. He was already in the area from early on and would trade for rarities from the Indians and send them to Germany. He came and brought a box with all kinds of small and sundry items for exchanging. He took off every morning and returned in the evening. One time it was cold and wet, and my doctor comes home and has a wound on his hand; he said he had scraped himself. The hand was swelling up. My sister says, “Mr. Doctor, let me bandage your hand, sir.”

He replies, “Oh no, Mrs. Missionary, it has to heal that way.”

He comes home again; his hand is even more swollen and the wound looks bad. Then he takes a sharp knife, pricks around in the wound over and over. My sister says, “Mr. Doctor, you are really aggravating your hand. Let me tie something on it, sir.”

He replies, “Oh no, Mrs. Missionary, there is already rotten flesh in it, which has to be cut out,” and he keeps working around on his hand with the knife. Then he takes off again and when he comes home he goes upstairs and doesn’t eat any supper. In the morning he doesn’t come down. I go up there and call him, but he doesn’t want to come down. We eat and then my sister goes and gets him down and makes him a bed in an adjacent room, but by now she has to undo his coat and shirt with the knife, because his hand and arm were so swollen and were more black than white. “Mrs. Missionary,” he cried out, “I have the black gangrene. The hand or the whole arm must come off. Please fetch a doctor.”

I mounted the horse, took another one next to me, and went down to Shebeyang to fetch Jacob Graverad. When I arrived, a squaw told me that they were over yonder on the island. I jumped into a canoe and went over. There I found him. He went with me, borrowed Nage Dschickamik’s (the great chief)18 pony and rode to Frankenmuth to fetch Dr. Koch. Scarcely was our Jacob gone when my brother-in-law comes home, sniffs around in the air and asks, “What smells in here so noticeably?”

My sister opens the door to the doctor’s room and says, “See for yourself!” My brother-in-law, the missionary, was an okay doctor. He puts olive oil19 in a receptacle, makes it hot, soaks a rag in it and covers the doctor’s entire arm with it and stays up with him through the night. In the morning the arm is fine again, and nothing bad can be seen on the hand but the wound. Here comes my half-Indian [Jacob Graverad] on horseback, along with the doctor. When he enters, my doctor calls out from his bed, “Mr. Doctor, you come too late. You see, sir, I am an old, widely traveled physician. I have even doctored the wives of the sultan in Turkey, and I am unable to help myself. Mr. Missionary here knows more than I; he has cured my hand for me.” Koch ate, we foddered his horse, the doctor gave him ten dollars, and he rode back home.

My brother-in-law transported me back with the boat. By Lower Saginaw we took a little jaunt out of our way. By an island in the river we turned right and went into a tributary20 to go to Frankenlust. The river was full of tree trunks and one could scarcely get through; there were also a lot of reeds and grass in it. We came to a clearing. In the distance stood a little log church and not far from that a frame house that was still not quite finished, the parsonage. It was the pastor’s property. His wife received a fortune from her father, as she told me, and dear Sievers used it to build himself a house over in the forest and to help many people out of their distress. When we entered the house, a handsome, very friendly, endearing man stood before us, Pastor Sievers. From the side door stepped in a nicely dressed young lady in the prime of her youth, a half-year older than I, and introduced herself to us as Mrs. Pastor Sievers. —

Example of a grain cradle

Example of a grain cradle

From there we headed back to the Saginaw River and up to Upper Saginaw. There my brother-in-law bought me some black cloth for a suit. I marched to Frankenmuth and felt very happy about my fine, handsome cloth. In Frankenuth lived a Bernthal family on the lower street (two streets led to Saginaw, the upper and the lower)21 along the river, where the church was also located. The old father was a wagonmaker and worked diligently in his workshop. He had several sons and a few daughters. The second son, if I’m not mistaken, was a tailor, and he made me my suit, the handsomest one I had in my life, and also the best; I had it for a very long time. I worked off the tailor’s fee with the cradle in the wheatfield.22 Things were definitely still tight for the people. As soon as possible the wheat was threshed. The sound of it would carry up to us in bed very early in the morning: 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4.23 It was a splendid thing to hear! Women came from Frankentrost, each one with a small sack of grain on her head, three or four in a row, to go to the mill and then back home. It was so nice in Frankenmuth and our dear God let me experience a tremendous amount of good there. May he reward everyone for everything! —

Crämer never stopped concerning himself with the Indians either. In an old shanty not far from the church lived an aged chief and his old wife, who was pushed to the side though, with a few of her youngest boys and the chief’s young wife and a few of her small children. On Sundays all of them would come to the parsonage after church and Crämer would give them a speech. His son Heinrich had to translate; they called him Wabshkentip, White-Head, because he had very light-colored hair.24 The old chief would justify himself though, wherever he could. After the service they would get a bowl full of corn soup with bacon, which they were mighty glad to eat.

Endnotes

14 In other words, they had named the settlement Frankenhilf – (God the) Helper of the Franconians – but the way things were going, they thought a better name would be Hilf den Franken – (God) Help the Franconians.

15 This was possibly Luthers Leben für christliche Leser insgemein (Luther’s Life for Christian Readers in General) by Moritz Meurer (Dresden: Justus Naumann, 1850). This was an abridgement of Meurer’s more scholarly multi-volume work.

16 A German primer

17 This three-stanza hymn was penned by Ämilie Juliane (1637-1706), Countess of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. It was sung to the tune, “All Glory Be to God on High.” Juliane’s hymn was translated into English by August Crull and is, for example, hymn 71 in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary.

18 Rf. endnote 31 in Youth.

19 German: Baumöl. Carl Strieter renders it “oil of turpentine” here.

20 Dutch Creek

21 The upper street would be Genesee Street, which turns into Junction Road, and the lower street would be Tuscola Street, which turns into Tuscola Road, and eventually joins with Junction Road several miles west of town.

22 The cradle is also called the grain cradle or cradle scythe. It consists of an arrangement of fingers attached to the handle of a scythe, such that the cut grain falls on the fingers and can be cleanly laid down in a swath for collection.

23 Representing either one person threshing in sets of four strokes with a flail, or four people threshing together, each taking a stroke in turn.

24 According to “The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary” online, waabishkindibe means he has white hair (ojibwe.lib.umn.edu; accessed 15 September 2015). Heinrich was about 10 years old at this time and was not Crämer’s natural son, but the son of his wife Dorothea, whom Crämer had met on the ship during the voyage to America and had married shortly after landing.

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: Career Decision

[Continued from Part 11. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Seminary (continued)

The idea now occurred to me of becoming a minister [Diener] of the Church myself, even if only as a teacher. I carried the idea around with me and couldn’t get rid of it. I sought refuge in prayer. Over at the edge of the woods stood a white ash, behind which I knelt down and prayed that God would please remove the idea from my heart, because I was unfit. Daily, often several times, I went to find my prayer altar, but the idea only grew more and more intense.

Finally I opened up about it to my brother-in-law Auch. He advised me against it at first, because, in fact, I did not have the gifts necessary for becoming a missionary, and being a missionary’s assistant was too unstable. He furthermore cited the fact that I did not have the educational background for such studies, and that I also did not have the means. In all these points he was absolutely correct. Instead he now made me this proposal: “Stay with us. We have no children. You’ll be like our very own.” He offered me a horse as a gift, a young and beautiful animal, and – get this – he told me he had 700 dollars available, if I’m not mistaken, and that he wanted to lend it to me without interest as long as I wanted. I should use the money to acquire some land. The land on which they were living and the surrounding land was school property and would soon be for sale, 50 cents an acre. In five years there would be a small town here, he said, and I could then resell the acres for 100 dollars apiece. He had purchased 40 acres at the mouth of the river in order to cut off the speculators. The Indians were prophesying an abundant whitefish harvest in the fall. He said I should buy myself a “bag net,” hire a man, buy barrels and salt, stretch the net across the creek in the evening and pull it out full in the morning. Out in the distance, a mile or so away, were two small little islands; a ship could moor along one of them. I could take my fish there with our boat and get three and a half to four dollars a barrel. And actually the promised catch of fish did turn out to be so abundant that a Frenchman and his assistant caught 1200 barrels full off of Fish Point, which is what they called a promontory not too far from the mouth of the river. What he said about the small town also came true.

“Thousands!” I thought. “This way you can become a fairly rich man without a lot of work. Do it!” But I didn’t accept right away.

Auch said, “Think it over!”

I now often ran back to my white ash, but the more I prayed, mostly to be rid of the idea of studying, the more fervent the idea became.

“So,” my brother-in-law asked one day, “what do you want to do?”

I said, “I want to stay true to my idea.”

“Good,” he said. “The next conference is at my place. I will present it to Crämer then.”

Auch traveled to Saginaw with his boat and brought Crämer, Gräbner, Clöter, Sievers, Baierlein, Kühn and a man named Sommer, who was still supposed to be at the seminary, and Mr. Bergrat Koch, Siever’s father-in-law, who had just recently brought his daughter from Germany to be dear Pastor Siever’s wife. The conference was held in the schoolroom. After the conference the gentlemen, especially Crämer, had another serious debate, with Mr. Koch. Mr. Koch thought that the secular arm was needed for the spread of the Church, and we were lacking that here. Crämer and the others didn’t want to have anything to do with a secular arm. Crämer took me aside and said, “You, sir, are going with me to Frankenmuth, and I will see if you’ve got what it takes. If you are fit, then you will go to the seminary in Fort Wayne, and if not, you will go back to Sebewaing.”

I packed my bundle. Meyer’s wife was also there. When it was time to go, they both cried and I did too. Brother-in-law Auch brought the group to Saginaw by boat. Then I headed to Frankenmuth on foot.

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: A New Home

[Continued from Part 4. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Youth (continued)

Now we boarded a small ship, and that brought us to the canal. On the canal we were now headed for Buffalo. The canal men were really nasty: If anyone went on shore, they would not let them back on. My father even fetched us some bread once, and when he was about to jump on, the helmsman veered away, and my father fell into the water up to his neck and his two loaves of bread were floating on the water.

Karl Müller's headstone in St. John's Lutheran Church cemetery, Bridgewater, Michigan

Karl Müller’s headstone in St. John’s Cemetery, Bridgewater, Michigan. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

We arrived in Buffalo and knew that we now had to go on the turbulent Lake Erie. We were quite uneasy and had a look at the water. We thought that out there it raged and blustered like it did on the Sea of Gennesaret when the Savior sailed across it with his disciples, but the water was completely tame. We boarded a steamboat, and that quickly brought us safe and sound to Detroit. There people had been arranged to meet us with transportation. The elder Auch was also there, the father of my eventual brother-in-law. They loaded us up and drove us to Ann Arbor. From Ann Arbor we headed several more miles further – to the west, I believe – to Scio. There was a large settlement of Württembergers there, together with their pastor Friedrich Schmidt, an alumnus of Basel.15 In the middle the frame church stood on the one corner, the parsonage on the other corner, and behind the church lay the cemetery.16 A mile or so to the west there were forty acres of land on which a log house was located a ways off the path. That was the property of a bachelor, Karl Müller, a tailor. He did not live in his house though, but went around sewing in people’s homes. For back then it was different from today. If you needed clothes back then, you fetched the tailor. We moved into his house. The owner ended up marrying my oldest sister Rosina. Their youngest son is the Pastor Müller in Deerfield, Michigan. We stayed in Scio through the winter. In the spring of 1838 we moved seven to eight miles further south to the town of Freedom, Washtenaw County, Michigan.

Bethel United Church of Christ Cemetery, where Jacob and Katharina Strieter are buried

Bethel Cemetery, where Jacob and Maria Katharina Strieter are buried. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

There Father bought himself forty acres of uncultivated land for a hundred dollars. Before that he had already bought himself a cow for twenty dollars, and so his supply of money was used up now. The forty acres lay perhaps a quarter mile off of the road from Manchester to Ann Arbor, somewhat more towards Manchester. There were many Germans there too, Württembergers, and in the township of Bridgewater bordering on the south, Hessians; my brother-in-law Müller was also a Hessian. There was not a church there. Service was held in a log public schoolhouse, a mile or so east of us.17 My father erected a log house and cleared land for farming. My brother Jacob, five years old than I, helped him bravely, and so did I, as much as I could. My sisters worked as servants and gave their earnings to Father. Back then girls did not get three to four dollars a week, but 75 cents or at best 1 dollar. Pastor Schmidt preached for us in the schoolhouse; he had many preaching stations. One time after the sermon he stationed my father in front of himself and delivered an address, then my father knelt down, and the pastor solemnly blessed him. From then on my father preached five Sundays and Pastor Schmidt on the sixth. Later, up at the intersection, from which we lived a quarter mile to the north, a log church was built and a cemetery was laid out, which is also where my parents are sleeping.18 My father preached in the church and also taught school during the winter for three months at a time – both, however, without any actual pay. I attended school under my father for three winters.

I also attended some classes in the public school in the aforementioned schoolhouse. There we had a certain Jerry Cramer for several terms. He was an absolutely outstanding teacher, but very strict, though also kind and just. One time a small Catholic girl was crying; her name was Eva Crämer. “Eve, why are you crying?” he asked. She pointed at a big girl who had taken her picture; it was her cousin. He inquired about it, and sure enough, she had it, a little Catholic picture of Mary. He sent a boy out to fetch a stick. He brought a hazel stick, about as thick as a finger and three feet long. The teacher grabbed the thieving girl by the hand, brought her on the floor, and gave her a real proper lashing over her back.

In my class there was a big, lazy brat, who never knew his spelling lesson. A lot was “spelled” [gespellt] back then. One morning the teacher told him, “If you do not know your ‘spelling lesson’ this evening, if you miss just one word, then you will receive your punishment.” The guy studied now, but still missed one word. Then the schoolmaster took his ruler and lashed him three times on each hand so hard that the young man told me the next morning that his hands were so swollen that he couldn’t chop any wood.

One time the teacher showed us a thing made of lead that looked like a half dollar, with a hole and a string in it. He told us, “Whoever does not miss a single word in spelling this evening, gets this thing around his neck and may take it home until tomorrow.” Now we went at it. I was the top speller. Lillie Allen was standing next to me. Whenever a word was given to me, she would look at me, expecting me to miss it, but I didn’t miss and now I received the thing around my neck. How proud I was, and with what pleasure I showed my lead thing to my parents and siblings!

Endnotes

15 Friedrich Schmid(t) was born on September 6, 1807, in Walddorf near Nagold, Württemberg, Germany. In March 1828 he entered the Basel Mission Institute. He was ordained a Lutheran minister on April 7, 1833. German immigrants in Washtenaw County had previously requested a pastor from Basel and so Schmid was sent to America, arriving in Ann Arbor in August 1833. What became Salem Lutheran Church in Scio was organized on September 20, 1833. Today it is one of the oldest congregations in the Wisconsin Synod.

16 The frame church, 30 by 40 feet, was erected in 1836. Pastor Schmid built a house across from the church in the summer of 1836 and moved his family into it in September.

17 This was eventually known as the Kuebler District schoolhouse.

18 The German Evangelical Bethel Congregation was officially organized by Pastor Schmid in the fall of 1840. At the same time an acre was deeded to the congregation for a cemetery and a log church erected on that acre. Today this church is Bethel United Church of Christ, located on the southeast corner of Bethel Church Road and Schneider Road. So the Strieter family lived a quarter mile north of there on what is now Schneider Road.

[Read the next part here.]