Strieter Autobiography: To Fort Wayne

[Continued from Part 13. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Seminary (continued)

Crämer told me he had a call to be a professor in Fort Wayne, and that I should now go home to Freedom, bid my siblings farewell and adieu, and then meet up with him in Detroit for the continued journey to Fort Wayne. My brother-in-law had made me a trunk. I shut my things inside it and we were to make the trip with that and Crämer’s luggage. I took just a few things with me and marched back to Ann Arbor. In the evening I arrived there and rode with a man to my old home. It was late when I arrived at the farmyard. My brother had a large, handsome dog, white with large yellow spots; he had gotten it from a “nigger”25 from the South. Everything was already dark in the house. The dog began to bark. I said, “Penter, come!” He stopped barking and came. I knock.

“Who’s outside?” I heard my brother say.

I said, “Your brother.” He got up out of bed; his wife did too and opened the door. The dog went inside with me, posted himself in front of me, began to sniff me up until he had reached my face. He lets out a loud bark and starts licking me all over; I could not escape.

I visited my siblings in Freedom and Bridgewater. They provided me with a number of other items and I took my leave. My brother brought me to Ann Arbor, and I boarded the railroad car, for the first time in my life. A railroad ran from Detroit to Jacksonburg.26 It was nighttime when I arrived in Detroit, where guys were standing in front of a chain and hollering dreadfully; they wanted people for their hotel. I waited till everyone was gone. Then a man came to me and asked if I wanted to spend the night. I said, “Sure!” He took me along. When I was with my siblings I had also bought myself a suitcase [Büchsenranzen] and I had put all my effects in it. He took my case for me, hung the strap over his shoulder, and off we went. We marched a good stretch, then he turned to the side, opened a door, and there we were.

I heard Irish voices coming from the kitchen. The man asked if I wanted to eat. I said, “Sure!” He went to the kitchen and soon came a piece of beefsteak with potatoes and bread. The steak was tough and bloody, but I was hungry and enjoyed the meal. Pretty soon he asked if I wanted to go to bed. I said, “Sure!” Now he took a tallow candle – that was the only kind we had back then – opened a door, and we went up the stairs. Right in front stood a bed and behind it a few more. By the first bed he said I should undress. I lay my paints on the chair, hang my waistcoat on a nail along with my pocket watch, and climb into bed. He grabbed my pocket book out of my pocket, took my watch, and laid both of them under my pillow for me and left. In the morning I ate again and paid just 25 cents.

I now went to find Pastor Schaller.27 On the slope not too far from there, toward the river, stood a large, simple, old frame house. Here lived Pastor Schmidt’s brother-in-law,28 and upstairs, Pastor Schaller. The latter was just coming down the stairs, and I introduced myself to him. He had a cobbler friend in his congregation, married, but without children. He directed me to him. Eight days I stayed with those folks. They lived quite a ways out, in the upstairs at a Catholic tailor’s house. He was a strict Catholic. One time I’m chopping some kindling for my hostess with a small hatchet. Over yonder across the fence, in the next lot, stood an old, single-story frame house, from which several women would come out. One woman, fairly young, stations herself in front of me, lays her hands on the fence and her chin on top, and stares at me without saying a word. I keep pecking away at it, and the wench won’t leave. I toss my hatchet to the side and run inside to the tailor: “I say, what kind of people are actually over in that place?”

He says, “Those are whores, who want to entice you over there.” And now he also gave me a speech, warning me never to get mixed up with bad women folk.

In my host’s shop I also bought myself a new pair of boots. They were definitely somewhat large, but the cobbler said, “You are still growing. I have made these myself. You are getting a good deal!” And he was right.

After eight days Schaller told me I should head out on my own. I went down to the river and boarded the ship, took deck passage though, since I didn’t have a lot of money. The ship set sail for Toledo, where I wanted to go. Soon I noticed a young fellow who was my size and age, who was dressed like a sailor with a little sailor cap on his head. He immediately made my acquaintance and told me that his home was between Tecumseh and Clinton.29 He said his father was a farmer, but he could not stand it on the farm; he was now a sailor. He was now going home for a visit. When it was midday and the meal was taken below for the sailors, he slipped down into an opening and motioned for me to follow. Below we ate a marvelous meal together, but he told me afterwards that we now had to treat the guys; we did that too. He asked me where I was from and what my name was and where I was headed and what I wanted to be. I told him. Then he cried, “Oh, you fool! Go with me to my parents, and when I go back to the ocean, I will take you along and make a fine sailor out of you. You don’t need to be afraid of me; I’m no bad guy.”

I found the fellow extraordinarily pleasant and I was always happy when I was on a ship. My favorite picture as a child was a ship with three masts in full sail. We arrived in Toledo, grabbed the fellow’s trunk at both ends, and went to the hotel. We ate and slept in the same bed. In the morning he paid the bill. “Now John, what do you say?”

I said, “I’m still going to go to Fort Wayne.”

He said, “Then good bye.”

I got on the canal boat and rode to Fort Wayne.30

Endnotes

25 This was a common way of referring to African-Americans at the time, both by those who wished to refer to them disparagingly and by naïve immigrants who simply heard others using the label and didn’t know any better. The word itself originates from the Latin word niger, meaning black (man). Strieter’s quotation marks indicate his own uncertainty about the appropriateness of the term.

26 Jacksonburg(h), Michigan, was founded in 1830. Its name was changed to Jacksonapolis and then shortened to Jackson in 1838, but apparently it continued to be called Jacksonburg informally.

27 Johann Gottlieb Michael Schaller (1819-1887) came to America in 1848, largely at the encouragement of Löhe. After accepting a call to Philadelphia in 1848 and Baltimore in 1850, he accepted a call to Trinity in Detroit in 1850. He had joined the Missouri Synod in 1849 and was won over to Walther’s position on church and ministry at the synod convention in St. Louis in 1850. He was the father of the eventual Professor John Schaller of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, who authored Biblical Christology.

28 From Pastor Schmid’s letter dated March 19, 1861, we know that Pastor Hattstädt (rf. endnote 3) married a sister of his. But Strieter is likely talking about a different brother-in-law here, since Hattstädt, as Strieter notes earlier, remained in Monroe for the duration of his ministry.

29 More than 50 miles northwest of Toledo in Michigan

30 Via the Maumee River

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Strieter Autobiography: First Michigan Synod

[Continued from Part 6. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Youth (continued)

It was around that time, I believe, that Schmidt founded the so-called Michigan Synod. He wanted to start a mission among the Chippewas in Huron County, on the eastern shore of Huron or Saginaw Bay.21 He had selected my brother-in-law, who married my second sister Dorothea, to be his missionary. My brother-in-law left his farm and went to attend the university in Ann Arbor. Later he ran to Schmidt every day to learn theology from him. Candidate Auch was ordained. The head of the Michigan Synod was Metzger from Liverpool, Medina County, Ohio.22 He came from Liverpool and delivered the sermon.23 Candidate Auch told me afterwards that he had seen Metzger drinking a bowl of punch before he went to church. The sermon certainly fit the description – a crude rant against the Catholics. As he preached, the spit flew out of his mouth.

Auch moved to Sebewaing, Huron County.24 Schmidt trained another man, Sinke, a ladies’ tailor from Germany by profession. He was a very short little man, physically and intellectually lacking. Schmidt also trained another man, Meyer. All three also preached by us in Freedom. Auch made it through and so did Meyer, but Sinke got pathetically stuck right away in the beginning and got down from the pulpit after several fruitless attempts. Schmidt sent Sinke and Meyer to Auch in Sebewaing. Sinke tailored there and mended clothes for the Indian boys, for Auch ran an Indian school.25 Meyer, however, mostly served the station in Shebeyang.26 Schmidt and my father wanted me to become a missionary too, and to be trained by Schmidt as well. I had no desire for that. Schmidt was repulsive to me, especially since people commonly spoke about his greed. I worked the field with my father.

My third sister Katharina married Friedrich Luckhardt, who, even though he had no experience as a farmer, bought forty acres of land and took up farming. My fourth sister Christiana married Christian Bach, a farmer, whose father bought him sixty acres of land over in Bridgewater, where my brother-in-law Müller also moved. My youngest sister Margaretha married a blacksmith, Johann Killinger, who had twenty acres of land near his smithy. My brother Jacob married a girl who had recently come from Germany, Christiana Trinkler. We called her Nana. My brother-in-law Killinger asked my father to let me help him. So I worked with him in his smithy and in his field. I even had it in mind to learn that fine trade, but it was not the will of our dear God. I got very sick with typhoid and had to go home. My sainted mother was sick for a year; she suffered from gout. She died on October 4, 1847, at age 56. Ten months later, on July 27, 1848, my father died at age 60. He was only in bed for two days. Just after New Year’s of 1850 I set my bundle on my back to go and visit my brother-in-law and my sister in Sebewaing.

I marched from Ann Arbor to Saginaw. There my brother-in-law picked me up with the sled. Saginaw at that time had one street along the river, one inn, one store, several liquor dens, and a row of small houses. Lower Saginaw, now Bay City, also had one small street along the river, one liquor den where people could also buy all sorts of small and sundry items, and a small number of small houses. But there was a large sawmill nearby, and on the road to Upper Saginaw another very large one, and on the east side of the river, now East Saginaw, yet another very large sawmill. My sister had no children. She had a mishap with her first delivery. They were very happy to see me. I was always the favorite with my siblings. I now made myself as useful as I could; I even taught a little school with the dear Indian children.

I really loved the Indians. I also often went with Missionary Meyer to Shebeyang. One time I came down with the fever, dumb ague; it makes you shake a little and then you have to sleep and it gives you the most terrible thirst and terrible dreams and hallucinations. A squaw stayed with me. She spread out a bulrush mat on the floor for me, on which I lay down in front of the fire. I was craving water. She bends her head forward, forces her mouth open, and makes the sound, “Ohch.” But I wanted water. She gave me some and immediately her prophecy was fulfilled.27

I still often went with dear Meyer and had fun with him at his expense. He was no horseman. There I would ride next to him and would knock his stirrup off his foot. Then I would put my horse into a brisk trot and his horse would want to do the same, and he had to hang on tight to the mane. If we came to a wet spot, I would go right through with his horse behind me so that the water would splatter all over him. Once in a while he would scold, but most of the time he laughed.

Endnotes

21 In a letter dated April 1, 1843, Pastor Schmid wrote: “You know from my last letter to you [dated February 5, 1842] that we are willing to do something among the aborigines of this land, to bring them the gospel. The Lord has since that time guided us so that we hope to carry out this enduring desire within the coming year. We organized a mission society and took in a number of young men who will prepare themselves to carry the flag of the cross of Christ to the poor Indians. … For nine years I have been here and labored in the part of the vineyard of the Lord assigned to me without my joining a Lutheran synod, partly because Michigan is so far from the other states whereh the synods exist, and part because the synods include too many who are unbelievers. But to become more solidly founded and to be able to work unhindered in the Kingdom of God, we – Brother Metzger, Brother Cronnenwett [in the previous letter spelled Kronewett and in a subsequent letter Kronenwett], whom we ordained last year and who served with blessing in several congregations in the state of Ohio, and I – formed a synod, in order to be able to ordain our pupils in the future.” This synod is now called the First Michigan Synod in retrospect, because when Schmid didn’t strictly insist on subscription to the Book of Concord, four pastors, who had joined the synod soon after its founding, left and became founding members of the Missouri Synod. The first Michigan Synod, also called the Missionary Synod of the West, disbanded shortly thereafter. Strieter will talk more about this later.

22 Rev. G. W. Emmanuel Metzger, a native of Württemberg, Germany, was pastor of what is today Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Valley City, Liverpool Township, Ohio. When he arrived in 1834, the congregation had a log church more than a mile south of Valley City, also called Liverpool Center. In May 1838, a frame church was dedicated about a mile further to the southeast. This caused dissatisfaction with some of the members, who left that congregation and started their own, Emmanuel in Valley City, today Emmanuel United Church of Christ. Metzger appears to have served the mother congregation until the fall of 1843, since Pastor Schmid wrote in a letter dated August 19, 1843: “Brother Metzger will, I believe, accept a call in Canada this fall, which is better for his family relations.” At any rate, Rev. Karl August Wilhelm Röbbelen, sent by Wilhelm Löhe (whom Strieter will mention later), was installed there in 1846. Around 1850, there was another division in the mother church, which resulted in the founding of St. Paul in Valley City (LC-MS). The mother church Zion eventually joined the American Lutheran Church and is today a member of the ELCA.

23 In a letter dated December 21, 1844, Pastor Schmid wrote: “We celebrated our first annual festival here in Michigan this past summer in the month of June. Friends of the mission from near and far gathered… Brothers Metzger, Kronenwett, and Richter served as pastors. Our first pupil, J. F. Auch was festively ordained by us to bring the Word of Life to the Indians.”

24 In a letter dated November 21, 1845 – which Pastor Schmid appears to have written in stages – he wrote: “After our mission festival, which took place during the first days of the month of June, and our emissaries had been consecrated for this holy work, preparations were made for their journey which took place in the name of the Lord on June 17. Brothers Auch, Dumser, and Sinke, and the wife of the first mentioned [Dorothea née Strieter] left together and arrived safely in Saginaw, a small village, where they will remain for a few weeks, and then go about 25 to 28 miles farther to the Indians who are living near Lake Huron, to which place Brothers Dumser and Sinke were assigned. … In Sebewaing on Lake Huron our brothers, Auch, Dumser, and Sinke, have already erected a mission house on a part of the eighty acres which the mission purchased. The school for Indian children is now to begin, to which the Indians are not only willing, but are asking permission, to send their children in order to partake of Christ and his eternal grace.

25 In a letter dated January 31, 1848, Pastor Schmid wrote: “Our school for Indians is quite large; poor, helpless children who wandered about like wild creatures, naked and deeply sunk in the forests, are now neatly dressed, are required to learn to read, write, etc. in the school here and to listen to the word of Jesus, their Savior, with reverence…”

26 J. F. Meyer (or Maier) worked at the Shebeyang (or Shebahyonk) mission, located on Saginaw Bay near the mouth of the Shebahyonk River, today called Shebeon Creek, about seven miles north of Sebewaing.

27 In other words, Johannes threw up.

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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.

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