Strieter Autobiography: Johann Jacob Hoffmann

[Continued from Part 27. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Hardships and Happenings (continued)

I wrote to Professor Crämer for an assistant. He replied that he was sending me J. J. Hoffmann. He said that he was still young and unsteady [leicht angelegt]; he was not yet able to be independent. He needed to work under me for at least another year yet, and I was supposed to keep a good eye on him.

J. J. Hoffmann

J. J. Hoffmann

Hoffmann came.17 An impressive, youthful person, very gifted. I liked him a lot. But soon I notice that he is a light character. His favorite was idling away the time in the kitchen with the wife and the maid. I had him preach at Tagatz’s and told the congregation that this was my assistant. We would do the work together. He would work especially in Big Bull, but would also preach here, and I would go back up to Big Bull from time to time. Were they quite alright with that? They gave a unanimous “Yes.”

I now bought Fanny, a 5-year-old dark chestnut, a beautiful animal, for 120 dollars, a high price at the time and I had to pay in gold18 coin. But I obtained it on a one-year loan, and with zero interest. I now gave Hoffmann my good Rocky for 80 dollars, the price he cost me,19 also on a loan without interest, and for as long as it took him to get the money. I did that because Fanny was no riding horse, but was a fine runner in the buggy, easily trotting 12 miles an hour.

I now say to Hoffmann that he should go up to Big Bull and should stay 14 days and come back home. He went and came back after 14 days. I had him preach again at Schmidt’s. After the sermon he asked me on the way home how I had liked his sermon. On the previous Friday I had already given him Luther to study. But he soon set the book aside and went to find my wife and conversed with her, and not until Saturday evening did he jot a little bit down. I told him in answer to his question: “For sheer words, I have no idea what you said. Hoffmann, you’re going to turn into a miserable babbler this way. Why don’t you leave your studies of Greek and French” – for he had told me he was pursuing those – “and read Luther, so that you can preach something decent?”

He hung his head.

Corner of what is today Naugart Drive and Berlin Lane, c. 1909. The frame schoolhouse on the right replaced the original log schoolhouse where Hoffmann was called and organized the first Lutheran congregation in the area on March 11, 1861.

Corner of what is today Naugart Drive and Berlin Lane, c. 1909. The frame schoolhouse on the right replaced the original log schoolhouse where Hoffmann was called as pastor and helped organize the first Lutheran congregation in the area, behind Strieter’s back, on March 11, 1861.

He went back to Big Bull, soon comes back, and said that he had had them call him as an independent pastor.20 I ask him how he could dare do that behind my back? Didn’t he know that the congregation belonged to me? I also now told him what Crämer had written me. He apologized to me. I now had to put a good face on the bad affair and install him.21 The man also came to a sad end. My dear old Strassen,22 long time president of the Wisconsin District of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, can sing a sad song about Hoffmann. So can the dear Dr. Schwan, president of the synod at large at the time.23

Translator’s Postscript on J. J. Hoffmann

Just what the lyrics for the “sad song about Hoffmann” would say is difficult to surmise, in large part because the Concordia Historical Institute does not have any collection for Carl Strasen, and H. C. Schwan destroyed most of his correspondence before he died. What we know is as follows:

Johann Jacob Hoffmann (usually referred to by his middle name) was born on June 12, 1840, in Kuehndorf, Prussia, to Johann Valentin and Maria Christiane (Hohmann) Hoffmann. He was one of 17 children. He immigrated with his family to the United States around 1845 when he was around five or six years old. They lived for a while in Buffalo, New York, where his father worked as a tailor. Eventually the Hoffmanns moved to Michigan, where Jacob’s father farmed until his death.

Jacob began his studies for the public ministry of the gospel in Buffalo, then continued and finished them at the seminary in Fort Wayne. He was sent to serve as an assistant to Pastor Strieter in Marquette County early in 1861, where he was ordained on February 17. On March 11, the Lutherans in the town of Berlin northwest of Wausau called him to be their pastor and he accepted. As Strieter notes, this was somewhat rash on his part, but Strieter installed him on August 25. From his base in the town of Berlin, he served at least 20 preaching stations, traveling even as far as rural Neillsville, and making a mission trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 1864.

Eduard Moldehnke

Eduard Moldehnke

In a December 2, 1861, report to the Johannes Bading, president of the Wisconsin Synod, traveling missionary Eduard Moldehnke wrote of a chance meeting with Hoffmann in Wausau on September 23, during a mission trip to the area. Moldehnke reported:

On September 23, I traveled 35 miles by stagecoach to Wausau, a village surrounded by a ring of black stumps. It has a charming location on the Wisconsin River and is basically the last village in that direction. I arranged to stay at the home of Mr. Paff. In the evening I preached to about 30 people. Earlier I had just so happened to meet a Missouri man, Hoffmann. He would like to live there, but the people are rejecting him. He has a congregation in the bush about 10 miles from Wausau, but he hurries by horse to about 30 stations and fails to accomplish anything substantial by splintering his efforts this way, meager as they already are. He was very rude to me, even though he is only about 21 years old. Naturally I repudiated his attacks, though too mildly, I fear. … With his domineering manner Hoffmann has caused scandal everywhere he’s preached. Even some in his own congregation would gladly be free of him. So he preached in Wausau in a private home and when Mr. Paff asked him how he managed to preach there without permission, he said that he was a preacher and had the right to preach anywhere, and so on.

On January 20, 1862, Jacob was united in marriage with Johanne Rosinalde Erneste von Anschuetz (in records, Jacob referred to her as Rosine or Rosa for short) by Rev. Friedrich Lochner in Milwaukee. Rosine was 18. God blessed their marriage with 11 children:

  1. Ernst August Wilhelm, b. October 7, 1862
  2. Johann Valentine Ernst, b. March 31, 1864
  3. Johann Jacob Ernst, b. December 10, 1865
  4. Ernst Georg Heinrich Martin, b. December 10, 1865
  5. Clara Renata Coeleste, b. January 13, 1868
  6. Theophilus Oscar Ernst, b. July 2, 1869
  7. Adolphe August Ernst, b. August 28, 1871
  8. Otto Wilhelm Ernst, b. January 15, 1874
  9. Eduard Oscar Arthur, b. December 31, 1875
  10. Wilhelm Philipp Ernst, b. August 18, 1878
  11. Harry Hubert, b. November 1, 1882

The first nine Hoffmann children had 6, 6, 8, 6, 8, 5, 7, 5, and 9 sponsors, respectively, including six different pastors and a schoolteacher. Rosa was a capable and intelligent mother, teaching her children in the evenings.

Hoffmann accepted a call to St. John’s in Portage in February 1867. There he took pride not only in preaching but also in teaching, writing in the back of their record book, “My attention was directed at the school above all.” When he began teaching in June of 1867, there were 22 children. By 1868 the congregation had erected a new schoolhouse and there were 75 children. At the dedication of the school in December, Pastor Hoffmann read a document he had composed in which he boasted of his accomplishments. In his concluding remarks he said:

I sincerely and earnestly ask that every father please send his children punctually and consistently each day when school is being held. I beg that every father please buy his children the necessary chalk tablets and books. I furthermore ask that every father please punctually pay the trivial amount for exercise books, ink, and quill pen, which I supply the children myself, just as I do the German books. That way they will come by them fairly and will always be provided with what they need.

One more note in closing: I will do my best to continue to hold school in the future as much as possible. I will also continue to do my best to do it as well as possible. I will do my best to teach every child what is necessary and beneficial at the proper time. But I ask you trust me enough to assume that I must know what is most necessary and what a child needs to learn first. Nevertheless, everyone may make his wishes known to me, and if they are acceptable, I will take them into consideration.

This excerpt is part of a 9-page feature that he wrote about himself in the back of St. John’s record book, after having devoted just over 1 page to all of his five predecessors combined.

St. John’s 150th anniversary booklet says that 1870 was a stormy time in the history of the congregation, supposedly owing to “great opposition to strict biblical practices.” It also reports that Pastor Hoffmann resigned “‘for the sake of peace’ and with broken health” sometime around the middle of July 1872. He appears to have moved to East Tawas, Michigan, near Tawas City. (This may have been where his parents were living.)

Hoffmann then accepted a call to St. Paul’s in Sheboygan Falls and St. John in Plymouth, Wisconsin, at the end of 1872 and was installed in January of 1873. His firstborn son Wilhelm died on June 4, 1873, at 3:30 p.m. from fever and smallpox. He was 10 years old. In recording his son’s death in the records, Hoffmann called him “a gem of a Lutheran and a gem of a Missourian.” It was probably not long before or after this that his second son Ernst, at age 9, fell down the cellar and broke his leg below his hip, which crippled him for life. What effect these tragedies had on Hoffmann’s psyche is not known.

In June of 1878, the 150th anniversary book for St. John, Plymouth, reports that Hoffmann went on a missionary tour through the Lake Superior region for several weeks. “Adverse reports occasion the resignation of Pastor Hoffmann from the Sheboygan Falls-Plymouth parish in November.” In the record book for St. Paul, Sheboygan Falls, Hoffmann made his final entry in the Confirmation section as follows:

On the 23rd of November, 1878 [a Saturday], the following children were confirmed by me in the Lutheran church in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, and admitted to the Holy Supper, by special, fervent request on the part of the children:

  1. Johann Jacob Ernst Hoffmann, born December 10, 1865 [12 years old]
  2. Ernst Georg Heinrich Martin Hoffmann, born December 10, 1865 [12 years old]
  3. Clara Renata Coeleste Hoffmann, born January 13, 1868 [10 years old]

The two twins had already finished confirmation instruction in 1875, and again in 1877, and had thoroughly learned all of Dietrich’s [edition of Luther’s] Catechism at that time. The girl had also taken part in all of the confirmation instruction in 1877 and had learned well the chief questions and all the passages in Dietrich’s Catechism. — All three of them were, as far as knowledge is concerned, some of the best of the confirmands, and just because of their young age had stay back from the Holy Supper, which all three of them have already desired most passionately. Therefore I was no longer able to refuse them given the situation. — God bless them in time and eternity. Amen. J. Jacob Hoffmann, Pastor.

A note was later added in the margin by Hoffmann’s successor:

J. J. Hoffmann was already deposed [from his office as pastor] at the time and consummated the action [of confirmation] without witnesses. J. M. Hieber

The following “Announcement and Warning” appeared in the July 15, 1879, edition of Der Lutheraner:

The Northwestern District of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States hereby announces that J. J. Hoffmann, formerly pastor at Sheboygan Falls and Plymouth, Wisconsin, is no longer to be regarded as one of your own. He has been officially dismissed from his position because he has occasioned much scandal and offense by his conduct, in spite of all our admonition.

Representing the above-named synodical district
C. Strasen, President

Later reports from the The Lutheran Witness place him in New Orleans spreading slanders against the Missouri Synod and its leadership and ministering to a French Lutheran mission congregation. In 1882 he accepted a call back to Wisconsin, to serve some of the same members he had previously served. This occasioned a lasting split among the Lutherans in the area and the founding of Grace Lutheran Church in the town of Maine. Hoffmann served in the area until 1885. From 1890-1895 he served in Sheboygan and was unaffiliated with any synod. He appears to have returned to New Orleans in 1895, but he drops off the radar after 1897. By the time eight Lutheran congregations northwest of Wausau celebrated a joint 50th anniversary in 1910, the Wausau Daily Record-Herald reported that Hoffmann was deceased.

All of these pieces are part of the “sad song about Hoffmann” that Strasen and Schwan could sing once upon a time. There does not appear to have been one super-scandal that ruined Hoffmann’s ministry. Rather, his life and ministry seem to have been characterized by a steady buildup of headstrong activity. He thought of himself more highly than he ought to have (cf. Romans 12:3), craving attention, recognition, and praise, and wanting always to do things his own way, without concern for what his brothers in the ministry thought or what his members thought, whom he probably perceived as being ignorant and uninformed by comparison. He also seems to have been lacking in people skills. His knowledge, skill, and energy are undeniable, but so are his arrogance, lovelessness, and folly.

Endnotes

17 From the “Church News [Kirchliche Nachrichten]” section of the March 19, 1861, issue of Der Lutheraner: “Mr. J. Jacob Hoffmann, candidate for the holy preaching ministry [des heil. Predigtamtes], was recently sent to me from Fort Wayne as an assistant and, after receiving a call, he was ordained by me and solemnly bound to all the symbols of our church on Invocavit Sunday, the 17th of M., at the behest of the Mr. President of the Northland District. — J. Strieter. Address: Rev. J. Jacob Hoffmann, Stone Hill, Marquette Co., Wisc.” (p. 23). The “M.” was either a mistake by Strieter or a misprint by the editor of Der Lutheraner. Invocavit Sunday fell on February 17 in 1861, not March 17.

18 “or silver” was crossed out in lead and then in ink.

19 Strieter had traded a 60-dollar horse for Rocky, plus paid another 20 dollars.

20 A document has been preserved, titled “Formation of the Congregation in the Town of Berlin, Marathon County, Wisconsin,” apparently authored by the August Schmidt mentioned later in this footnote. It reads in part: “After the Lutherans in the vicinity of Wausau had asked Mr. Pastor J. Strieter from the towns of Newton, Christal [sic] Lake, and Shields, Marquette County, Wisconsin, to visit them and he had refreshed them with the word of God 3 times, Pastor Hoffmann, formerly a student at the seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and assistant pastor of the aforementioned congregations, came to these people, and after he traveled through the area, a meeting for the purpose of founding a congregation was held on March 11, 1861, the proceedings of which are inserted here:

Proceedings of the congregational meeting for the towns of Berlin and Stettin, Marathon County, Wisconsin, assembled in the district schoolhouse near Mr. Heinrich Beilke on March 11, 1861.

The meeting was opened by Mr. Pastor Hoffmann with prayer. Mr. Friedrich Krentz was elected president, and Mr. August Schmidt was elected secretary. — After Mr. Pastor Hoffmann was given an explanation of his compensation…he was unanimously called by the following persons, who hereby organized themselves as an evangelical Lutheran congregation, to conduct the ministry among them according to the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church…” This is followed by the names of 58 adult males, not including the secretary himself, for a total of 59. The location of the district schoolhouse mentioned here (a log building at the time) is today occupied by an empty, unused brick schoolhouse on the southeast corner of Naugart Drive and Berlin Lane.

21 From the “Church News [Kirchliche Nachrichten]” section of the September 17, 1861, issue of Der Lutheraner: “Today, namely on the 13th Sunday after Trinity [August 25], Mr. Pastor J. Jacob Hoffmann, my former assistant preacher, after first being issued a call, was installed by me into his congregation by Wausau at the behest of the most honorable presidium of the Northern District. May the Lord make him a blessing for many. The address of the dear brother is: Rev. J. JACOB HOFFMANN, Box 38, Wausau, Wisc. — J. Strieter” (p. 23).

22 Strieter’s spelling of Strasen, i.e. Karl Johannes August Strasen (1827-1909), pastor in Watertown, Wisconsin, and president of the Northwestern District from 1875-1880 and of the Wisconsin District from 1880-1885.

23 Namely, at the time Hoffmann was ejected from the synod in 1879. H. C. Schwan was president of the Missouri Synod from 1878-1899.

[Read the next part here.]

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Strieter Autobiography: Winter Trips to Wausau

[Continued from Part 26. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Hardships and Happenings (continued)

It was winter, I’m riding to Big Bull, it starts to snow and keeps on snowing and snowing. The snow gets deeper and deeper. I can’t ride fast any more, stay overnight halfway to Steven’s Point.9 Gets terribly cold. I’m lying in the bed and freezing, finally get up, go out, open a door and, on a hope and a prayer, call out in English, “Landlord!”

“Huh?” is the answer I get. I ask him to get up. He comes.

“I have to go,” I say.

He accompanies me out to the stable, puts the saddle on. I pay and take off; it was two o’clock. But now how cold it is under the bright sky and in the air! Around 7 I come to my Everay, who tries to take off my shawl, but shawl and beard are one icy clump there. I first have to hold my head by the stove for a while until it thaws. I eat and get back on my pony to go to Big Bull. Again cannot ride hard; the snow is too deep and too loose. Around 8 in the evening I finally arrive in Wausau. I head for the inn and have my little horse brought into the stable. “I will take care of the pony,” says the hostler.

I say, “No, I will take care of the pony,” have him make a straw-bed for him, stick some hay in, give him water – he was not warm – and 4 quarts of oats. That done, we now go into the house. I let them give me something to eat, then go to bed.

Bright and early I get on my horse and head out into the bush and still make it on time for church, according to the arrangements I had made.10

Another time I take the sled.11 The neighborlady [Mrs.] K[ohnke] also sends a sackful of buckwheat groats with me to give her mother, and I had my box with books that I always brought along – hymnals, Bibles, postils, catechisms, prayer books, Bible histories – and a basket with my Communion paraphernalia and a traveling bag with my robe. I preach and hold Lord’s Supper here and there. I have to drive a long stretch through the beautiful virgin forest. There lies a tree stem across the path. 4 feet off the ground it had broken off and is lying on the stump and, on the opposite side, on its branches, 3 feet high or so off the ground. I cannot go around; there is thick underbrush both left and right. I undo my Rocky from the sled and draw him around to the other side and cover him up and now work at getting my sled onto the stem. It was heavy, and I have to exert myself tremendously. Finally I have it on top. But what now? I have no other choice but to let it go. Down it slides, but somewhat crooked. I crawl through underneath and try to lift the shaft up, but oh boy, it must have gotten stuck under something there. I cannot get it up and have to push my sled backwards onto the tree again so that I can get the shaft loose finally. I hitch my pony, but I had shoes on – my feet were wrapped in a wool cloth and I had fur shoes over that. The snow gets into my shoes, melts, and it’s getting cold now, for night was falling.

I hitch my horse and continue on to my destination. I arrive, my horse is taken off my hands and I go inside, sit down in front of the stove and try to take off my shoes and also my stockings, to rub my cold feet and warm them up. But the stockings are frozen tight to the skin, and I first have to stick my feet in the stove to thaw the ice.

Soon I lie down. I was lying for a while when I get a bed partner. He lay for a while, then he called out, “Yes, yes, Father Luther said so.” After a short pause: “Yes, yes, Father Luther said so.” Again after a while: “Yes, yes, Father Luther said so.”

I say, “What exactly did Father Luther say?”

He doesn’t say a word.

When I woke up in the morning, my bed partner was gone. I ask my hostess what sort of man that was. Then she told me that he was a follower of Grabau.12 He had come here with a bundle of money, had bought himself a bunch of land and had used his money to help others get land. He said that we were not the true Lutheran Church; he and his adherents were. Those he had tied to his purse strings stuck with him and he would read to them from Luther and act as their pastor.

We now drove through the bush over to the gardener, which is what he had been in Germany, and held church in his house. After church I say to the people, “Keep an eye on your pigs; there is a bear in the area. Back there in the woods I saw his tracks.”

When I came back,13 they told me that scarcely had I left when one day the sun had shone nice and bright and after that it had frozen again. Then the snow had frozen hard, and way up yonder stood a beech tree that had still had nuts that now fell down. Then they had lured the mother pig over there to glean the beechnuts. Pretty soon the pig had started squealing terribly, and the bear was sitting by it and wolfing down its flesh from its living body. The father had loaded the old shotgun, and since he didn’t have any shot, put stones in. The boy grabbed the axe and the father the gun and they went to meet the bear.

When they got close to him, he growled, and the father had aimed and lowered the gun again. The son yelled, “Father, shoot already!”

But the father said, “Yeah, if I don’t hit him right, then he’ll go off on us.”

The son said, “I’ve got the axe here; I’ll chop him on the head.”

The father aimed again and lowered the weapon again.

Then the boy said, “Father, give me the weapon. I’ll shoot,” and the bear lay down on his side. Shot him in the ear. They brought their pig home on the hand-sled and laid it in front of the stove and tended to it. Its whole side had already been eaten away down to the ribs. But it recovered again. They sold the bear’s hide, oil, and meat and made, if I’m not mistaken, 16 dollars.

When the story came to an end, the father exclaimed, “If only another bear would come!”

I drove home.14 It was cold. Between Steven’s Point and Wautoma I come to a place where I had previously turned left. I can see just fine how high the snow is, but think that the pathway still must be firm, for we would often go on trips 6 feet high above ground. The freshly fallen snow would always get trampled down firm again. But look, my pony sinks so deep into the snow that I can only still see his head and tail. I undo the horse, pull the sled back, and now trample around in the snow so that my horse can get some air, and I bring it out of there and hitch it back up. At this point a man comes who tells me that I had to turn left further down.

I make it through the woods back onto the open prairie. Then I come to two sleds loaded down with sacks. On the front sled were three yoke of oxen, on the back sled two yoke. The back sled driver lets his sled stand, comes to the front sled, and now one man beats on the oxen on this side, the other on the other side, until they have dragged the sled forward several rods or so [about 20-30 yards]. Then they go and get the back sled that far in the same manner. I’m finally able to pass the sleds and I come to my inn15 and think, “You should stay overnight.”

I have my little horse unharnessed and go inside. After a while two Jews come, one younger and one older, with a sled full of pelts which they had obtained from the Indians by trade. When they had warmed up and were about to leave, I ask where they were still planning on getting to tonight. “To Berlin,” was the answer.

To Berlin – that was at least another 30 to 40 miles! “Why,” I thought, “if they can do that, you can still make it home too.” I have my little horse hitched back up and I follow the Jews. The snow was dug out on the right side and so we could sled through along the fence and the snowbank. All at once my Jews disappeared. Then I reach the corner. The snow was dug out across the path to the other side and was so high that I couldn’t see the Jews any more when they turned the bend. Further along it bends back to the right, with the fence on the left and the snowbank on the right.

Then, all at once: Stop! There stood my Jews and I behind them, with a sled loaded with sacks in front of us that wants to come this way. Right away a troop of oxen comes, driven by two men, who also want to go up the way we were going. After briefly consulting, it was decided: “The big ox there in front must create a pathway.” The ox now gets some beatings and he burrows through the snow. When he makes it forward a few feet or so, then he is given a rest again, then they lay into him again, until he is finally around the sled in front of us. The others now had it easier. Once the oxen were gone, the driver in front of us also wants to turn out and go around, for we could not; we had a snowbank 6-8 feet high on the right. But his white horses won’t draw one trace tight. He had to unload all of his sacks and they then drew the empty sled around. Now there is a clear pathway and my Jews now try to get going, but now one of their horses won’t budge. They had a big old yellow horse on the right, and a young little animal on the left, four years old or so, who won’t budge. They now lash at the tired little animal mercilessly. The younger man goes and stands in front and beats him between the ears with the thick end of the whip handle. But the animal takes the beating and doesn’t move a muscle. I ask them to please not beat the animal like that. They should grab the big horse by the bridle and talk to him nicely to get him to draw the sled tight first. They did that and it worked. Away they go now, with me following along.

In Wautoma they turn left to go to Berlin, and I turn right to go to my homestead. I still had 12 miles. For a stretch it was going well, for I had a pathway, but now I had to leave the pathway and turn left. The snow is deep there. My Rocky is almost knee-deep in the snow. It’s not long before I have no idea where I am any more. I’m freezing terribly, throw the reins over my head and wrap myself in the buffalo. It is getting colder and colder. I think, “This night you will freeze to death.” I start praying that my dear God would please take my poor soul to himself if my final hour had arrived. Then the thought of the wife with her 4 little children occurs to me. “No,” I said to my dear God, “you cannot let me freeze to death. Bring me home alive to my family once more.” Sleep wants to overpower me. But I keep moving my arms and legs over and over and keep praying unceasingly to my God to please have mercy on me.

All at once I come upon a track and also see a house on the left. I look at it and recognize it; it’s the Bursak16 schoolhouse. I say, “Gid up, Rocky!” and in fifteen minutes I am in my yard. I go inside. My wife gets out of her warm nest and lies down with the children, and I get in. She throws everything we have on me, also gives me something warm to drink, but I am freezing so badly that my teeth are chattering. It was 3 o’clock in the morning. I had been sitting on the sled and had eaten nothing from 7 o’clock in the morning to 3 o’clock in the morning.

I finally fall asleep and don’t wake up until around 10 and now I want to go and get my mail, which we would get 3 times a week. I had 3 miles to travel and think, “The poor Rocky is so tired; just go on foot.” But that won’t work. The snow is so deep and so loose that I can’t make any headway. Then I think, “Go and get Rocky and put the saddle on and ride slowly.”

I go and get my Rocky and retrieve my mail items, let my little horse in through the small gate and have the wooden nail in my hand that gets pegged in front. My Rocky doesn’t quite go through far enough. I give him just a few taps in the rear and say, “Rocky, a little further.” He whinnies and turns right – two acres were fenced in – down along the fence, then up along it over there, and 3 times or so around the yard going along the fence, so that the snow and the halter strap were flying in the air. Oh, was I glad to see that!

Endnotes

9 I.e., in Plainfield. He appears to have stayed there on Monday night, November 26, 1860.

10 Namely, on Wednesday, November 28. He baptized one baby on Thursday, three on Friday, three on Sunday, and three on Tuesday.

11 He departed on this third and final mission trip to Wausau on Monday, January 14, 1861. He baptized three children that evening in Stevens Point. He stayed overnight in Wausau on Tuesday, and arrived at his destination on Wednesday morning, January 16. He baptized two children that day, two on Thursday, four on Saturday, and one on Tuesday.

12 Johannes Andreas August Grabau (1804-1879) was imprisoned in Erfurt in 1837 for opposing the Prussian Union (union of Lutheran and Reformed Churches in Prussia). With the help of friends he escaped and went to Berlin, where he continued his ministry secretly. He was arrested and imprisoned again in 1838. He was permitted to emigrate in 1839 and did so with about one thousand other Prussians. A small group stayed in Albany, while Grabau and the majority settled in Buffalo, where he served as a pastor for nearly 40 years. In 1845, he helped organize what came to be called the Buffalo Synod, a distant ancestor of today’s ELCA. Grabau butted heads with the Missouri Synod over his extreme views on ordination and the authority of the ministry, among other things.

13 Most likely for J. J. Hoffmann’s installation on Sunday, August 25, 1861.

14 Strieter is resuming his previous story, before the incident with the bear and the pig.

15 The inn in Plainfield he has already mentioned twice

16 The correct spelling appears to be Bursack.

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: In Search of a Horse

[Continued from Part 25. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Hardships and Happenings (continued)

I would also like to say something about my horse:

As soon as I arrived in Injunland, I bought my Charley from a Catholic for 60 dollars. Since I had no money though, dear [Mr.] Bucholz put up security until I could pay. The brute was very nasty though. The moment he was hitched up he would want to take off, and Mama and the maid would have to hold him, one on each side, until I was in the buggy. As soon as they let go, away he went! If I restrained him, then he would immediately rear up. If I let him run, then he would run for all he was worth for two miles or so. He also proved his nastiness by darting to the side at every stone or stump, and right after that he would take off blindly – it could be in any direction – and would do so as quick as lighting.

He soon had to pay for his nastiness, or rather I did, for he got the heaves on me and began to limp with his front leg. Now he behaved; I could let him stand wherever I wanted without tying him up. But a lame horse would not suit me.

I drove to Big Bull. There I turned in at an innkeeper’s place,4 later too. The gentleman was uncommonly friendly towards me, never would take any pay from me, and I always had to eat with him at the family table. I drove to Wausau and from there out into the bush. I stopped at the first farmer’s place and held church.5 That night it rained heavily, and now my buggy was finished. The man took it apart, loaded it onto his wagon, drove it back to Wausau, put it back together, and I left.

When I come back to my innkeeper in Steven’s Point, whose name was Everay,6 I complain to him about my trouble with my lame horse. He says, “I think I can help you,” and leads me into his stable and shows me a black mare, supposedly 8 years old, strongly built. He says, “Let’s try harnessing her to your buggy.” We get on and drive around in the city. “She supposedly balks,” he says. But the animal travels as nicely as can be. “Alright,” says my innkeeper, “continue on your way now. If she goes, then you’re taken care of; if she doesn’t, then bring her back and I’ll make everything right.”

I take off. My horse travels fine. Midday arrives. I drive over to the shade of a nearby leafy tree and give my Kate oats in the pail that I had with me. In a few minutes she has the half pailful gone. I put the bridle on and take my seat, but my horse won’t take one step. I get down and grab it at the head and pull it along after me. Not far ahead of me lies a village, I believe it was called Plainfield. I think, “You should leave the buggy there, ride back and get your lame Charley back.”

I arrive at the lodging yard, take the harness off, put the buffalo on the horse’s back and start to ride back. “Wait,” I thought, “this simply won’t work. You made arrangements with M. T. to bring you to Ripon tonight. You’re going to the synod convention in St. Louis.”7 I turn around, put the harness back on, hitch up, and start pulling my Kate along after me again. I come to a small grove, take my seat in the buggy again, hang my head, and consider the miserable predicament I’m in. Kate hangs her head too and goes to sleep. I quietly grab my whip, lash her a good one under the belly and yell, “Gid up!” She lurches forward, runs like mad, and I head home on the run.

My [Mr.] T. is already there. I tell my wife about my trade and tell her that she should now drive with the horse every day; perhaps we’d get it in shape. I eat, take my traveling bag, and take off for Ripon, 30 miles. There I get on the [train] cars for St. Louis. My wife writes, “I drive every day. Your horse travels fine.” I come home. Then she tells me, “M. T. came and wanted to go somewhere with Kate. I let him have her, then she balked. He goes and stands in front of her and tries to hit her. Then she goes off on him, tears his coat up and tries to attack him with her front feet so that he has to crawl underneath a bush8 for protection, and now she won’t go for me any more either.”

I hitch her back up, but nope, she won’t budge. I put the saddle on and ride to Steven’s Point. There I hear that Everay is outside of town on his farm. I go and find him and tell him what the deal is. He shows me a pony, white, somewhat yellowish, with black mane and black tail, a fat fellow. Rocky is his name. He says, “He goes, and is a fine riding horse. Give me 20 dollars for him.” He writes a bill with a pencil; I sign and get up on Rocky and take off.

Oh, how fine he gallops, how thrilled I am, how I thank God for my little horse! Now I was taken care of; now I can drive and ride, and my wife and children are delighted with the handsome, nice Rocky. I now do a lot of riding and read my Luther on my Rocky. When he gallops, it’s like I’m sitting in a rocking chair.

Endnotes

4 Strieter left on Monday, October 1, 1860, stayed in Stevens Point that night, and stayed in Wausau the night of October 2. See next endnote.

5 Strieter held church for the first time in the Wausau area on Wednesday, October 3. He also baptized eight children that day. The farmer appears to have been Carl Kufahl, who lived on the northeast corner of what is today the intersection of County Road A and N 72nd Avenue. (Today this site is the parking lot for Schmidt’s Ballroom Bar and Grill.) He later donated some of his property for the site of Immanuel Lutheran Church. The front page of the August 15, 1910, edition of the Wausau Daily Record-Herald records some of the reminiscences Strieter shared six years after penning this autobiography, when he returned to the Wausau area for a 50th anniversary celebration shared by eight Lutheran congregations: “I took my horse and buggy and drove to ‘Big Bull’ but before I reached this hamlet, my buggy was all in pieces. The road was full of holes and my horse became lame. With the help of some of the earlier pioneers whom I met enroute and who had heavier teams and wagons, I safely reached ‘Big Bull.’ But here [in Wausau] there was no one. It was impossible for me to preach the gospel at a place where scarcely anybody lived. I remember a man who had a store near the river, I believe his name was Kickbusch, where I stayed over night. The next morning I went to the town of Berlin, where a large number of people gathered in various homes and listened to my preaching.” There was doubtless some error in transmission from German to English, and Strieter may have grown fuzzier in some of the details, but this does appear to supplement what he shares in his autobiography here. His buggy probably was starting to fall apart already before he headed out “into the bush,” and he did almost certainly stay with a man named Kickbusch on October 2 – August Kickbusch, to be exact, who had arrived from Milwaukee earlier in 1860 and had opened a store in a little shanty on Clarke’s Island (Marchetti, op. cit. [endnote 16 here], p. 127). Clarke’s Island today is primarily occupied by Big Bull Falls Park beneath the Stewart Avenue Bridge.

6 In his manuscript, Strieter spells it Evreÿ here, then Evrÿ and Evry later. The editor corrected it to Everey here and Everay later. The printer consistently printed Everay.

7 The 1860 synod convention in St. Louis was held from Wednesday, October 10, to Saturday, October 20.

8 The book mistakenly printed Tisch (table) for Busch.

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Strieter Autobiography: Winter Woes

[Continued from Part 24. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Hardships and Happenings

Now something about hardships and happenings.

Whenever it worked out, I would also take my wife along. Yes, we even did some fishing. We would make 3 seats on the buggy and the wife, the 5 children, the schoolmaster, and L. would climb in and we’d head for the milldam, towards Harrisville. Mostly we’d catch a nice mess of black bass.1 What a thrill that was!

One winter we also had a bad cold spell. It was Christmas and there was supposed to be the Lord’s Supper at Tagatz’s. My administrator [Mr.] B. comes with his face all wrapped up and says, “Are we still going?”

I say, “Yes.”

He says, “There won’t be any church though.”

He and my schoolmaster R[öske] head out. I hitch up, Mama and L. climb in the sled and take my effects in their lap. They sat in the box and I throw the buffalo blanket over them, get in, and away we go. The horse is running at a terrific clip. Before the schoolhouse I have to make a turn and I knock the sled over.2 My wife gets back in the sled, and I get the buffalo over her. L. runs ahead 50 steps or so to the schoolhouse and already has white blotches on both cheeks as big as a dollar. [Mr.] B. tells her that; she gets some snow to draw the frost back out. They had a fire going in the stove and had moved the table over by it. The wife sets my effects on the table; I drive to [Mr.] T. to nail my sled box back down. Even when I get back, my wine in the bottle still looks like chopped ice. We have to return home without having church.

For eight days we led a camp life. In the living room stood a box stove with one hole on top. On the floor above us stood the meat barrel. I go up to the schoolmaster and say, “We have to bring the meat downstairs, otherwise all of it will freeze into one clump, and we won’t have any meat to eat then.” I grab the top of the barrel and he grabs the bottom, but it starts to get too heavy for him. He jumps off to the side and lets the barrel crash. It rolls into the wall so hard that the house shakes. But that was our good fortune, for it had already frozen all the way through, and the collision broke everything up into pieces.

I go out with my face bundled up and fill my arm with wood, then my schoolmaster goes out with his face bundled up and makes another armful, and we stack a pile in the corner.

The well in front of the house, 12 feet deep, was frozen in. We take the pump out and lower a ladder down, chop the ice apart and draw water with a small bowl. The water came out of the sand and was not deep, but the well never gave out. Soon we had another small hole, from which we would remove the ice chunks and draw water with a small little cup.

My stable was a log stable surrounded with straw and thatched with hay. But whenever I came into the stable, my horse, a dark chestnut, and my brown cow were snow-white, and I would wipe the frost off again. My hens also roosted in the corner of that stable. They would not get down, and I had to hold their feed in front of them, their water too. I held water in front of the livestock in the stable, but they didn’t want any. For several days they drank nothing. Then I went down to the Mecan and chopped the ice up. I chopped a hole as deep as the axe-handle was long. Finally the axe broke through and the water shot up as high as our house. My schoolmaster and my boy3 brought the livestock, but they didn’t get them there. The horse yanked himself free from the schoolmaster’s hand and went home, and the cow followed after.

Since the stove had only one hole, L. boiled potatoes on it. We had a hole under the floor where the stove stood where the potatoes were kept. They didn’t get any frost. They were cooked, meat was roasted, then coffee was made. We would eat and L. would start all over again.

At night we brought the beds out and threw them around the stove. There we would lie down for bed, the whole herd of us. Before falling asleep I would give the command: “Whoever wakes up, stick wood in the stove!” When the stove was full of coals, we scooped them into an iron kettle and dumped them outside so that there would be room for more wood.

Several people froze to death. After 8 days I drove to Buchholz’s for church. A man had died, and I was supposed to give a funeral address in the house before church, and since I had to drive 14 miles or so, I headed out early. Several times I had to stop and rub the ice off around my horse’s mouth so that it could breathe. I drove through the woods. When I came into the open, the wind blasted me in the face and I suddenly get a stinging pain in my head, as though someone had stabbed an awl into me. I quickly get my head under the buffalo and start rubbing my forehead. Someone later told me, “One more sting, sir, and death would have claimed you.” For I long time I felt the effects.

One time I was driving over a creek that ran very swiftly and was never frozen over otherwise, but now it was. I go in. Halfway across the ice breaks, and my horse sinks in the water up to its belly. The wheels plant themselves in the ice and the swingletree breaks off. I grab the reins at the very end and let my horse through, call to it, and it stops. I get down – the ice held me – and tie my horse up and cover it up, tie the reins to the shaft, pound the ice down, and try to pull the buggy out after me, but not a chance! I go and get my horse and tie the traces to the reins and let the horse pull the buggy out. I take the halter strap, tie the swingletree on, hitch the horse and off we go! But the horse ran so fast that I had my hands full controlling it.

One time I’m driving home at night and have to cross a marsh. They had cut a path through there in the fall, stuck a ditch on both sides, thrown twigs in, and piled the dirt from the ditches on top. All of it was an icy plane. My horse is trotting along, unfortunately directly above the ditch, so that it was hollow beneath the horse. Suddenly it breaks through and is now situated in a hole just as as large as the length and width of the horse, and its legs sink into the mire so that the ice is exactly level with the horse’s back. I get down and think, “You should go over to that house and get somebody.” It was 40 rods or so [about 220 yards] away. I start walking and make it as far as the fence. “Wait,” I thought, “you’d better not. You can’t just leave the horse by itself.” I go back again, grab my horse under the mouth and say, “Fanny, come.” Then the horse pulls its front leg up, sets its foot on the ice, and just like that it was out of there. —

One time a young man told me he would like to ride with me to the next church. He gets on. When we came to the marsh, two miles wide or so, I asked, “How good does it look? Will it still hold?”

He says, “Oh sure, just fine!”

I say, “It’d still be best for me to drive around.”

He says, “Oh no, yesterday they were still driving hay over it. Just keep going.”

I go in. It works. Every so often the horse puts its foot through, but nothing serious. We come to the far edge. There everything is a pool of water. We go in. Bump, my horse is situated in it so that the water is level with its back. I say, “Now you’re going to have to get down, sir.” I had shoes on. He climbs down into the water. I say, “Undo the horse, sir. Grab it by the head and say, ‘Come!’” He does it. The horse heaves itself up and works itself out. I say, “Tie it up, sir, and come grab the buffalo and cover the horse up.” He does it. I say, “Alright, now pull the buggy onto the land.” He pulls, but it won’t budge. I say, “Go get the reins, sir, and tie them tightly to the buggy and take the reins over your shoulder.” He does it and now starts pulling like an ox. Bump, there he lies prostrate in the water. I didn’t dare laugh, but very secretly thought, “Serves you right. Why did you lure me in here?” He gets up and pulls again and thankfully gets the buggy onto the land. We hitch the horse and off we go, but now it ran. My young man got down by the church. Where he went to, I don’t know.

One time my wife and I were driving home from Berlin and also had to cross a marsh. We come to water; my horse goes in up to its waist. Two young men, one bigger and one smaller, came along with fishing poles and I ask them to help. They did. We unhitched the horse and all three of us pulled Mama across and continued on our way.

Endnotes

1 If the fishing back then was the same as on Harris Pond today, these were largemouth bass.

2 This accident seems to have taken place at what is today the corner of 15th Drive and Eagle Road (today State Road 22 basically runs right through that same intersection), as Strieter was attempting to turn east onto Eagle Road. (See endnote 8 in the previous chapter.) This would also mean that there was once a schoolhouse about 50 steps east of this intersection.

3 Doubtless Friedrich, the oldest

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Strieter Autobiography: Ministry Expansion

[Continued from Part 23. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Wisconsin (conclusion)

I was not able to spend a lot of time teaching school, for I was in the saddle, on the buggy, or in the sled pretty much day and night, but I adapted my instruction to cover school subjects as much as possible. I obtained a young teacher from Fort Wayne, Lossner. When he went to C., Dress came. I fixed one up myself, my dear F[erdinand] R[öske],23 whom I instructed and confirmed privately with his older brother. He lived with me at home. —

St. Paul Lutheran, Naugart, with Pomeranian Settlement Historical Marker in foreground. Copyright 2012 Red Brick Parsonage. The brick schoolhouse in the background is no longer in use, but marks the location of an original log schoolhouse where Pastor Strieter preached and where the first Lutheran congregation was officially formed in 1861. The white house in the background once served as the Naugart post office from 1886-1940.

St. Paul Lutheran, Naugart, 14 miles northwest of Wausau, with Pomeranian Settlement Historical Marker in foreground. Copyright 2012 Red Brick Parsonage. The brick schoolhouse in the background is no longer in use, but marks the location of an original log schoolhouse where Pastor Strieter preached and where the first Lutheran congregation in the area was officially formed in 1861. The white house in the background served as the Naugart Post Office from 1886-1940.

One day my neighborlady [Mrs.] K[ohnke] came to me with an old woman. It was her mother from Big Bull. Way up behind Wausau flows the Wisconsin River. Above Wausau it has a falls, which the log drivers called Bull; near Wausau yet another falls, which they called Big Bull; further down yet another, which they called Grandfather Bull. So the location of Wausau acquired the name Big Bull. No one called it anything else. When I wrote, I addresssed Big Bull and it got there fine.24 The old mother told me that up there behind the village, in the woods, 10 to 20 miles in circumference, there were many people living, Pomeranians, who had no pastor. The Pomeranians say Pastor. Three years ago already their pastor had left them and had gone to run a sawmill, so I should come up to them too. I promise her I will and now go to Big Bull too.25

Every time I made the trip there in two days, and in two back again, 120 miles to the first preaching station. I made it to Steven’s Point the first day. The second, all the way there. If I couldn’t reach Wausau, then I headed to the first preaching station bright and early in the morning. Preached at many stations in schoolhouses and residences, usually 9 times during the week, distributed the Supper and baptized. Preached also in Steven’s Point.26

One time I received a very nice letter in which I was asked if I would also preach to them sometime. I said I would and set a time. On the appointed day a person comes on foot and gives the impression that he is the writer of the letter – a man, single, in his thirties or so. He absolutely refused to eat with us. I hitch up and bid him have a seat, but he does not want to. He goes along in front of me for 15 miles or so. How often I stopped and urged him to have a seat, but no sir.

We were heading towards Portage. Finally we go past a lake on an elevation. Down there in the valley stands the schoolhouse. His older brother, a widower, approaches me and calls out, “Welcome, sir, you who are blessed by the Lord” [cf. Genesis 24:31]. I get down and go into the house. The runner makes a good meal, and now we head into a neighboring house for church. After church I ask if I should come back, but the runner says he that he will write again. They must not have been pleased with me.

On the way home my escort has to check on his fires on his land that had to be cleared. In the meantime the older brother opens up a large trunk and shows me his brother’s books, pamphlets, and periodicals – Latin, Greek, etc., periodicals from Germany by Rudelbach,27 etc. – and tells me that his brother is very learned and that he learns everything on his own. But he forbade me from saying anything to his brother. About himself he said that he had to marry again, but an inner voice was telling him it had to be a young woman. They joined the Iowans,28 as I learned later. —

Many of my Injunlanders moved to Fall Creek, in the vicinity of Eau Claire. They wrote to me to come to them too. Went there often.29 Had to go 25-30 miles or so to Parteville30, then on the railroad to Toma31, then another 90 miles by stagecoach.

Endnotes

23 The printed book has H. R., and Strieter’s original manuscript appears to read H. K., but a comparison of Strieter’s description here to the records he kept and to what he says in the next chapter reveal that the young man in question is Wilhelm Ferdinand Röske, born on May 7, 1844, and confirmed with his older brother Carl Friedrich Jr. (b. May 27, 1841) on October 31, 1863. Their parents, Carl Friedrich Sr. and Louise (Goethe) Röske, were from the town of Harris in Marquette County.

24 Strieter has these waterfalls backwards, though he has Wausau correct. According to Louis Marchetti in his History of Marathon County Wisconsin and Representative Citizens (Chicago: Richmond-Arnold Publishing Co., 1913), quoting a July 1906 speech given by the Hon. John C. Clarke, who had come to Wausau in 1845: “The name of ‘Bull Falls’ which is attached to nearly all the rapids in the Wisconsin river, of which there are many, was given by the voyageurs of the American Fur Company, who in going north from Indian station, known as Dubay, heard a terrible roaring sound, which upon investigation proved to come from the falls at Mosinee, and they named them ‘Toro’ [Taureau, ‘Bull’]; moving north they found a larger rapids, and to them they gave the name of ‘Gros Toro’ [Gros Taureau, ‘Big Bull’]. Still further along they encountered the great falls, and these they named ‘Grand Pere Toro’ [Grand-père Taureau, ‘Grandfather Bull’]. From these names all the other falls have received the names they are known by” (p. 65). Today the location of Bull Falls is identified by the Mosinee Dam, of Big Bull Falls by the Wausau Dam south of Stewart Avenue, and of Grandfather Bull Falls by the Grandfather Dam about 14 miles north of Merrill along Hwy 107. As it relates to Wausau, this history is reflected today in businesses like Bull Falls Brewery and Big Bull Falls Landscaping and in the annual Big Bull Falls Blues Fest.

25 A careful examination of Strieter’s records and the records of his eventual assistant, J. J. Hoffmann, reveal Strieter’s neighborlady to be Johanne Henriette Kuhnke or Kohnke (née Krenz), and her mother to be Dorothea Sophie Anklam (née Lau; 1811-1890). Dorothea had been previously married to Johann Daniel Krenz, who had died around the early 1840s in Germany. She was 48 at the time she visited Strieter, and the Lutheran congregations northwest of Wausau are indebted to her for their existence. Her husband August Anklam and her son Friedrich Krenz ended up being founding members of the first Lutheran congregation northwest of Wausau, founded on March 11, 1861, and Friedrich was also elected the first president and provided the land for the first parsonage. Dorothea is buried in Big Hill Cemetery on County Road A next to Friedrich.

26 Some of the churches that still exist today as a result of Strieter’s ministry in rural Wausau and Stevens Point include: St. Paul Lutheran, Naugart (mailing address Athens; see picture above); Grace Lutheran, town of Maine (mailing address Wausau; branch-off congregation from Immanuel mentioned below); Trinity Lutheran, town of Berlin (mailing address Merrill); Faith Lutheran, town of Maine (mailing address Merrill; the result of a combination of St. John’s Lutheran, town of Scott, and Zion Lutheran, town of Maine, the cemeteries of which still remain); St. John’s Lutheran, town of Hamburg (mailing address Merrill); St. Peter Lutheran, Little Chicago (mailing address Marathon); and St. Paul Lutheran, Stevens Point. There used to be an Immanuel Lutheran, town of Maine, in the unincorporated community of Taegesville; it was relocated south to the town of Stettin in 1923 and now no longer exists. There also used to be a Dreieinigkeit (Trinity) Lutheran, town of Berlin, about two miles east of Little Chicago, whose cemetery, now called Friedenshain, remains. A red granite monument across from St. Paul, Naugart, just over one mile south of County Road F on Berlin Lane, commemorates the Pomeranian immigrants who settled the area.

27 Andreas Gottlob Rudelbach (1792-1862) was a Dano-German theologian who edited, among other things, the Zeitschrift für die gesammte lutherische Theologie und Kirche (Periodical for the Lutheran Church and Its Theology at Large) (1839ff.).

28 That is, the Iowa Synod, which had been founded in 1854. In 1930 it merged with the Ohio Synod and the Buffalo Synod to form what is now called the “Old” American Lutheran Church. In 1960 another merger produced the “New” American Lutheran Church, which in 1988 merged with two other church bodies to become the present-day Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

29 Today this is St. John Lutheran on County Road JJ south of Fall Creek.

30 Strieter’s spelling of Pardeeville

31 Strieter’s spelling of Tomah

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Strieter Autobiography: Counseling and Instructing

[Continued from Part 22. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Wisconsin (continued)

One time a woman asked me to stop by her place sometime; she had something to tell me about. I stop by. There she relates this: Over in Germany she had been a rich farmer’s daughter, and her husband had been her father’s servant, and because he was such a good person, she had fallen in love with him and suggested that they get married. But he had said, “Get that idea out of your head. Your father will not agree to it, and if he did agree to it, our wealth would come from you. I have nothing, and it is not good when the wife makes her husband rich. You are a hothead; you’ll fly off the handle at some point and rub it in my face.”

“So I promise him, ‘I will say nothing about it all my life.’

“I approach my mother and she approaches my father. ‘Good,’ said my father, ‘I will give you such and such an amount, then the two of you can move to America.’

“We got married. My father gave me money and we came to America and bought ourselves the land here. Just think, sir, I got annoyed over something recently and say to my husband, ‘You didn’t have anything but your jacket!’

“He doesn’t say a word, but shoots me a look. Oh, that look went right through my heart! If only he weren’t so good! But I have such a good man. He can go anywhere and while this one or that one comes home and has too much, mine never does. And he is so good to me and the children. And now I had promised him I would never rub it in his face, and I did it anyway. So do you think that God can forgive me my sin?”

I say, “First of all, you must apologize to your husband, ma’am, and he must first forgive you.”

She says, “Ah, I have already asked him for forgiveness many times, and he has said to me, ‘Just forget about it; everything is fine!’”

I say, “Good, now ask your dear God for forgiveness too.”

She says, “O how often I have done that!”

I say, “Okay, what more do you want? Now everything is just fine. Your husband has forgiven and God has forgiven, and you don’t need any forgiveness beyond that.”

She says, “Has God really forgiven me too?”

I say, “Why, in the Fifth Petition he says he has.”

Then she was happy. —

One time a man came to me with his wife and told me that his wife was going out of her mind. He had heard that such women should be given a good, sound beating, and should he try it once?

I say, “Of course not. How is that going to help? You must be kind, sir.”

I speak with the woman. She said that one child after another would die on her when it was born, and that was God’s punishment for her sins. I point her to her Savior and recite passages to her. She listens to it, but that’s it. I arrange to meet the man again and again. Finally have no idea what else to say. One day I had her in front of me again and asked her whether she really wanted to be saved.

“Oh yes!” she exclaimed.

I say, “Good, and God wants it too and affirms it with an oath [cf. Hebrews 6:13-20]. Now who’s going to prevent it?”

Suddenly she lifts up her head and looks at me beaming with joy and cries out, “That is true!” From then on she stayed happy.

Yes, when God’s hour has struck, he helps through a simple little word.

One time a man came and told me that his woman was a Jewess. They were not married yet and his girl, 12 years old, was also not baptized yet.

I say, “Come over and bring the woman along.”

He came. I start with Moses and the Prophets and prove to the woman that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah promised by the prophets and ask her what is her position on that. But she gave me no answer. He says, “Come on, talk to the preacher.” She remains stock-still.

I arrange to meet her again. She comes and I take her alone and start again and ask what she thinks, but she remains stock-still. If I talk about something else, she is very talkative. If I start talking about Jesus, her head turns to the ground and not a word. I cannot start anything with the woman.

I tell the man, “So I cannot marry you, sir, for the woman does not believe in Jesus, so I also cannot marry her in the name of Jesus. Go to the justice of the peace. Your child, though, I will instruct and baptize.” The child is sent to me and I instruct and baptize it in the presence of witnesses. The mother, however, did not show her face.19

While I’m on the subject of the Jewess, I will also add this: One woman asked me, “Mr. Preacher, your wife is a Jewess, is she not? She has such large, black eyes and such heavy, black hair.” —

I also had to deal with the musicians. Especially at weddings they knew how to have a good time. If it was going to be a proper one, it lasted three days and three nights. During that time there would be music-playing, dancing, and boozing. The performers were my churchgoers. One of them, a teacher from abroad, knew better than to go to the Lord’s Supper, but always went to church; the others – there were 4 of them usually – also went to the Supper. I speak with the musicians, but accomplish nothing except that they become defiant towards me. I thought, “You must put up with this for the time being.” But it didn’t take long before I just couldn’t give the performers the Supper any more in good conscience, but they still went to church and their wives also went to the Supper. Not just at weddings, but also at get-togethers things often got out of hand. I had to rebuke and to instruct; had much opposition from the flesh and often unpleasant confrontations. Ah, many sighs were sent to heaven, many tears were shed. My short impromptu prayer was always: “Comfort me once again with your help and let your joyful Spirit uphold me!” [Psalm 51:12].20

I did most of my studying when I was riding, driving, or sitting. I had Luther, the Erlangen edition, the German volumes, which I picked up cheaply in Euclid from one of Kühn’s members through Kühn’s negotiation. Luther’s House Postil was my constant companion, as well as another extra volume.21 I read my Luther, and my manner and method of preparing my sermon in my mind, as already noted, now came in very handy. First I would go through my Gospel, then I would run through my Luther, then I would outline, then I would think and organize, then I would preach in front of the group in question in my mind all the way from the first word to the last, and would then step confidently in front of my people. I never preached long.

For confessional services I used the Catechism exclusively, simply covering part for part in order, but I didn’t just preach outright, but asked a lot of questions, doing more catechesis and taking answers so that I would also know whether they understood it. Especially a former teacher [Mr.] F. answered me very often.

I did not labor in vain. Quite often it was expressed: “We never heard such sermons abroad.” Quite a few tears were cried; quite often there was grieving over the fleshly condition.

The people were not to blame, for they must have had miserable preachers – rationalists, hirelings, belly-servers,22 and babblers. You could tell from some of the things that were said. One man, Administrator B., was once asked to tell me that I should preach more humbly. I say, “I am constantly striving to be humble and am not aware of anything particularly arrogant in my sermons.”

He says, “Oh, that’s not what I meant. What I mean is this: Our preachers would often have the whole church in tears when they preached.”

“Ah, so,” I replied, “you mean, sir, that I should preach more emotionally?” Their preachers had had it as their goal to elicit the emotions, so that they would be praised for what a fine sermon they had given.

Especially for funerals they must have had this practice, for one man even gave me two dollars before his mother’s burial. That was unheard of. He said, “Please give a nice address; my mother was a good woman.”

But I read as my text: “Death is the wages of sin” [Romans 6:23], and preached law and gospel.

One man told me, “What my pastor [Seelsorger] in Germany liked best was when he got to sit down with the musicians at weddings and play the Brumm” – the bass viol.

They also could be bribed. I noticed that too. There was a man who came from 12 miles away to bring us two beautiful, nicely dressed ducks, and soon he started in, telling me that he was living in conflict with his neighbor, and I should settle it. But he gave me to understand that I should take his side.

Another man asked if he could ride with me to the next congregation. I invited him up. Soon he pulled a small, folded-up paper parcel from his pocket and handed it to me saying, “Mr. Preacher, I would very much like to give you some pay, sir.”

I say, “You certainly don’t owe me any pay, sir. You’re just a servant on the prairie.”

He says, “Even so, I want to give you this just this once. Please take it; I give it gladly.”

I took it, stick it in my waistcoat pocket and say, “Thank you very much!”

Pretty soon he started in: “Mr. Preacher, you have a girl as your maid, sir, whom I would very much like to have as my wife. You will put in a good word for me, won’t you?”

I say, “Listen here, sir, I did not study for the matchmaking trade, but let me give you a good piece of advice: Ask L.’s parents” – he had none himself – “and if they say Yes, ask L., and if she also says Yes, then come to me and I will marry you.”

He was quiet. In front of my house he got down and went on his way. My L. saw us coming and I hardly get into the house before she asks, “Papa, what did he want from you, sir?”

I say, “He wanted you.”

L. says, “Just what I thought! How often have I already told that guy that I do not want him.”

I say, “Yeah, but he gave me money too,” and pull out my small parcel. It is 5 dollars. I say, “You poor guy, spending so much money for nothing!”

My L. laughs and claps her hands: “If only it were 10!”

Whenever anyone came with a gift, I was suspicious. But soon they learned to think differently.

Endnotes

19 The man in this story was Gottlieb Busse and “his woman” was Charlotte Jacobson. Their 12-year-old daughter was Julie Busse, born on February 15, 1851. (Thus most of the events in this story took place in 1863.) Strieter baptized her on March 27, 1864, in the presence of Julius and Rose Breitenfeld and his wife Elizabeth.

20 One of the evils of Pietism enumerated by Valentin Ernst Loescher (1673-1749) in The Complete Timotheus Verinus (Milwaukee: NPH, 1998) is precisionism in matters of adiaphora, that is, unyielding strictness in matters neither explicitly commanded nor forbidden in Holy Scripture (p. 150-160). Pietists like Joachim Lange (1670-1744), Gottfried Vockerodt (1665-1727), August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), and Paul Anton (1661-1730) taught that producing or attending comedies, joking, and dancing were sinful. Pietists took activities that often lead to sin – e.g. dancing often leads to lust (cf. Matthew 5:28; Romans 13:14), and those who love to joke often end up being obscene or coarse (cf. Ephesians 5:4) – and wrongly labeled them sinful in themselves. The effects of the Pietistic movement can still be felt in the Lutheran Church today, and Strieter was not exempt from them in his day either, even though he certainly knew about Pietism and opposed it in principle. One can appreciate his concern: Lust, drunkenness, and self-abandonment are all sins, and certainly those sins abound in the kind of raucous scenes he is describing. However, while acknowledging that we do not know all the details and therefore must be cautious in judgment, it could be that Strieter went too far in refusing the Lord’s Supper to the musicians.

21 See previous chapter and endnote 12 there.

22 An expression taken from Romans 16:18

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: Announcing for Communion

[Continued from Part 21. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Wisconsin (continued)

The people had the custom of not standing around in front of the schoolhouse or residence, but of going inside and singing until I arrived. They had Bollhagen’s hymnal,12 which in the main part had our hymns more or less unaltered. It had several appendices that contained rationalistic hymns. One man told me, “Our preacher in Germany always had us sing from the second appendix.” That’s where the worst hymns were.13 I looked up all the hymns that were in our St. Louis hymnal14 and wrote the page number in Bollhagen’s hymnal on the side. I purchased hymnals from Barthel and sold them, and thus I brought our hymnal into use among the people. At first I would say, “In my hymnal, no. —, in Bollhagen’s, page —.”

The people sang well and knew all the melodies. It never happened to me once that we were unable to sing a hymn. Almost everywhere I had some men who would act as the precentor. I would begin, and some good singer would take it up. Then I would save my voice as much as possible.

One time I noticed over at Buchholz’s that every last person was standing in front of the church. (There they soon built a log church thatched with straw,15 and soon another one just like it at Donning’s.16) When I got there, someone said, “Father died the day before yesterday. Please give a funeral sermon before you go into the church.” I announce the hymn, “Who Knows When Death May Overtake Me,” and while they are singing, I think of a text for myself and what I am going to say.

Now with the Lord’s Supper I had some anxiety. My Stelter – he was an administrator [Vorsteher] and a very dear Christian – said, “When we were abroad, people announced for the Supper with the schoolteacher or with the custodian. No one went to the preacher.”

I think to myself, “Where do you even start?” I give a speech and show what the Lutheran custom is, namely to announce for the Supper beforehand with the pastor, and I show how necessary this is for me and them.

But the reply was, “We’re not used to that,” meaning that it wasn’t necessary either.

A former schoolmaster from Germany wanted to know where it stood in the Bible that you had to announce for the Supper. I had already cited the passages, “We are stewards” [cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1], and, “Do not throw your pearls to the sows” [Matthew 7:6], and now I also pointed to the passage, “Confess your sins to each other” [James 5:16]; they confessed their sins to John.17 He was quiet. But they still could not and would not see the necessity of the practice.18

I say, “But what then if it is absolutely necessary for me to say something to someone for the sake of my conscience?”

They reply, “Then just say it.”

I say, “In front of everyone?”

They say, “But of course!”

I say, “Fine, that’s what I’ll do.”

I allow every single person to give me his or her name, and I always write it down. When I held Lord’s Supper at Buchholz’s for the first time, I had 75 male and 75 female names in my book. After that I posed the following questions: Do you believe from the heart in Jesus Christ as your Savior? Do you believe that in the Lord’s Supper the true body and blood of Christ is eaten and drunk under bread and wine? Are you reconciled, and do you wish to partake of the Holy Supper as repentant sinners? These questions were answered Yes in chorus.

But it didn’t take long before it happened as I thought it would. One time I’m going home from Princeton and see how someone is unhitching his oxen from the cart and letting them drink and hitching them back up again, and he’s so drunk that he can hardly get it done. On Sunday there’s Lord’s Supper at W[arnke]’s. My man is sitting way in the back, but gives his name too.

I say, “But my dear man, I have something to say to you, sir. I saw you there completely drunk, did I not?”

He says, “Yeah.”

I say, “Does this happen with you at other times, sir?”

He says, “Yeah.”

I say, “You, sir, are a drunkard then. A drunkard cannot inherit the kingdom of God; God’s word condemns him [cf. 1 Corinthians 6:10]. He can only take the Holy Supper to his detriment.”

He says yeah, he was sorry and would amend his ways.

I say, “You, sir, must repent, sincerely, acknowledge your sin and hasten in faith with your sins to your Savior. Repentant, as a Christian, you must go to the Lord’s Supper.”

He says, “Yes, I will do that.”

I say, “I will give you the Lord’s Supper then, but I will be watching you to see whether you are serious about improving.”

Later, on the way home, a man is standing at the bottom of the little hill where I have to turn and he says, “Mr. Preacher, one moment!” I halt. He says, “I also want to go to the Supper. Will you take me, sir?”

I say, “You know my questions, sir. What is your position on them?”

He says, “I am not reconciled. My brother-in-law N. and I are mortal enemies and I would sooner go to hell than forgive him.”

“My dear man,” I say, “how then are you going to go to the Supper? Doesn’t the Lord say that if you do not forgive people their failings, then your heavenly Father will not forgive you yours either [cf. Matthew 6:15]?”

He says, “I know well that according to the teaching of Jesus I cannot go to the Supper.”

The Lord’s Supper is at B[uchholz]’s. After the names are recorded, a father stands up and says this: “Mr. Preacher, So-and-so and Such-and-such, my daughter and my son-in-law, have also announced, and they are at enmity with us.”

I ask the accused; they admit it. I say, “Then reconcile with each other immediately! All four of you step into the aisle and extend your hands in reconciliation.” They do so.

A mother stands up: “Mr. Preacher, So-and-so, my son, has also announced, and he’s a drinker. Please admonish him.”

I admonish him.

The Lord’s Supper is at T[agatz]’s. There I learn that [Mr.] H. doesn’t believe in any devil. He announces.

“Mr. H., is it true what I hear about you, sir, that you deny the existence of the devil?”

He says, “How can I believe that there is a devil, when no one has ever seen him?”

I say, “Sure someone has seen him – there in the wilderness [rf. Matthew 4:1-11]. Haven’t you heard about that yet, sir?”

He says, “Oh sure, but I can’t believe it.”

I say, “Then you do not believe God’s word, sir. Then you also cannot believe the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, so you cannot go to the Supper.”

In the course of time one administrator after another comes to me. They say, “Mr. Preacher, the people don’t like having you tell them their shame right to their face in front of everyone.”

I say, “That’s exactly what I suspected!”

I now present again how necessary it is to announce. This time they want to do it. I now say that I will set a day on which they should announce; for those far away I will hold it so that they can announce by my buggy before church. And that’s how it went. That’s how I got private confession and announcing for the Lord’s Supper going.

One time I’m going to B[uchholz’s] for announcement in the church. On the way someone calls to me, “Mr. Preacher, we would also like to go to the Supper. Will you write us down here?”

“Gladly.”

He says, “But the question is whether I am allowed to go?”

I say, “Why wouldn’t you be?”

He says, “Yeah, I am in conflict with my neighbor [Mr.] P, who let his cattle in my pasture. I told him about it, but to no avail. Then I sued him and he was judged guilty. But in front of the court he came up to me and socked me one in the face and went to the judge and laid 5 dollars down. I go to him later and confront him with his wrong, but he says, ‘I have paid for that.’”

I say, “If you have offered him reconciliation and he didn’t want it, then you, sir, can go to the Supper, but he cannot.”

I reach my destination. Sure enough! My [Mr.] P. comes and announces. I confront him with what [Mr.] M. said. He admits it, but also refers to his 5 dollars. I say, “Listen here, sir, you know better than that. You know that you cannot make up for your sins with 5 dollars. You must ask [Mr.] M. to forgive you.”

“I will not do that.”

I say, “Then you cannot go to the Supper either.”

He makes a sour face and leaves.

After the service the administrators are occupied with something else, and I come out of the sacristy with my basket. (I always had to bring everything with me.) My [Mr.] P is also still there and starts in: “Listen, you administrators, I have something to tell you. I am in conflict with [Mr.] M. To him he gives the Supper, but not to me.”

I now lay the matter before them. My administrators said, “The preacher did exactly right.”

Later a woman came and said, “Mr. P. has threatened that he’s going to give you a sound thrashing, sir. I would definitely watch out; he is a wild man.”

I say, “Did he say that to you, ma’am?”

She says, “Yes.”

I say, “Good, give him my regards and tell him that here under the hay is a small little gun, loaded and ready. If he should attack me in the woods like a murderous robber, I will shoot him stone dead.”

But he did not come.

Endnotes

12 Laurentius David Bollhagen (1683-1738) first issued his Heilige Lippen- und Herzensopfer einer gläubigen Seele oder Vollständiges Gesangbuch (Holy Offerings from the Lips and Heart of a Believing Soul or Complete Hymnal) in 1724 for use in public worship in Pomerania. It was reprinted several times after his death. In 19th century editions the first word was changed from Heilige to Heiliges (A Holy Offering…).

13 The second appendix contained such hymns as “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers” (Christian Worship 7), “The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us” (CW 10), “Come, Oh, Come, Life-Giving Spirit” (CW 181), “Alleluia! Let Praises Ring” (CW 241), and “Renew Me, O Eternal Light” (CW 471). Strieter, however, probably did not especially care for the strong representation in that section of Pietistic hymns and hymnwriters. And I am sure that hymn #1203, for example, made him positively shudder. Attributed to a certain J. P. v. Schult, it opens thus:

Jesus, come with your Father,
Come to me – I love you!
Come, O faithful Counselor of my soul,
Holy Spirit, take possession of me!
Let me, O triune Being,
Be selected as your dwelling.

This could perhaps be understood correctly in light of John 14:23, but by a) switching the perspective from Jesus’ third person to the first person of the singer, b) including the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus does not include in John 14, c) intensifying the language, and d) providing no theological context, it ends up conveying a message and giving an impression diametrically opposed to the truth Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:16.

14 The Kirchen-Gesangbuch für Evangelisch-Lutherische Gemeinden ungeänderter Augsburgischer Confession, first published in 1847, also colloquially known as “Walther’s hymnal.” Today it is also available in English.

15 Today this is Emmanuel Lutheran, Big Mecan (mailing address Montello), located at the corner of Evergreen Lane and Town Hall Road, just south of State Road 23. The church Strieter describes here was built in 1863 at what is today the east end of Emmanuel Lutheran Cemetery.

16 Today this is St. Paul’s Lutheran, town of Newton (mailing address Westfield), located at the corner of 10th Road and 11th Road.

17 Either Strieter was mistakenly thinking, either at the time or when recalling the incident later, that the passage was found in one of John’s epistles, instead of in James, or he was combining James 5:16 with 1 John 1:9 in his mind.

18 The practice of announcing with the pastor before partaking of the Lord’s Supper can trace its ancestry back to private confession, which in turn dates all the way back to around 250 AD in the Eastern Church. The Eastern Church historians Socrates Scholasticus and Sozomen both relate that the office of penitentiary, a minister appointed for hearing private confessions, also thereby helped people to prepare to receive the Lord’s Supper (Socrates, Bk. 5, Ch. 19; Sozomen, Bk. 7, Ch. 16). The Bible nowhere explicitly necessitates private confession or announcing, but it does command us to examine ourselves before receiving the Supper and warns us of the consequences of treating the Supper lightly (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). Strieter was also correct to cite 1 Corinthians 4:1 and Matthew 7:6, which emphasize the pastor’s role in relation to the Lord’s Supper, namely to be a faithful administrator of it and not to knowlingly or willingly distribute it to those who are continuing in some sin. Many Lutheran churches in America today no longer practice announcing, probably due to the difficulty of putting it into practice in our fast-paced, busy society and in larger churches. However, there is usually still some form of registration required so that the pastor is able a) to take note of those planning to partake of the Supper and to speak to them beforehand or afterward if needed, and b) to keep track of whether or not any of his congregation’s members are failing to make use of the Supper.

[Read the next part here.]