Strieter Autobiography: The Brimstone Boys

[Continued from Part 30. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Translator’s Note

The first time through this section, I would suggest completely ignoring the endnotes as you read. Simply enjoy the good, clean, Lutheran shenanigans.

Hardships and Happenings (continued)

I attended the conventions and conferences. One time I didn’t go to the local conference because I was sick. I also was not at the 1854 convention in St. Louis because I was very poor and had no money for traveling. I also was not at one delegate convention and had my alternate go, because I was deaf and wouldn’t have been able to hear anything anyways. Otherwise, to my knowledge, I was at all the conventions and conferences from 1853 up to my retirement from the ministry. More than once I baptized my newborn baby and then departed, or it was born to me while I was gone. Never did I submit the excuse: “domestic circumstances.”50

Johannes Strieter with full beard, c. 1860s. Photo courtesy of Susan Hawkins.

Johannes Strieter with full beard, c. 1860s. Photo courtesy of Susan Hawkins.

At the beginning of the 60s I came to the convention in St. Louis with a full beard and had to put up with a lot of teasing.51 This is how it happened: I was shaving at a farmer’s place in Big Bull. He didn’t have a mirror; there was only a small triangular piece of a mirror in the house. It had been stuck into a crack in one of the beams in the log house. That was okay, but the razor was like a saw and the heavy, bitter tears ran down my cheeks.

Then I asked myself, “Did our dear God really cause the beard to grow so that we could torture ourselves with it so shamefully?” and I answered, “No.” And from then on I let everything grow as it pleased. To this day I never again had a razor put to my face.

Professor Crämer with full beard (source)

Professor Crämer with full beard (source)

In St. Louis Missionary Clöter took a liking to my beard. Later we had convention in Monroe, Michigan, and Clöter came with the full beard too.52 In the evening there was supposed to be conference, but there wasn’t a lot going on. My Jox right away nominated Strieter to conduct the meeting; I had to take the chair and Clöter was made secretary. Jox wanted to have the two bearded men up in front. Soon many people were following my example with the full beard, even my dear Prof. Crämer.

One time we had convention in Watertown and I drove there with Fanny, 75 miles.53 One time conference was in Lebanon and I also drove the 80 miles there to Babylon.54 One time conference was in Woodland, and I also drove there.55 One time it was in Freistadt, and I also drove there.56 There we camped in the late Fürbringer’s study.57 Beds were positioned on the floor on both sides. Our feet were touching in the middle. Outside58 stood a bed for two. Ruhland lingered downstairs a bit long. Stecher and Steinbach slipped into the bed, to Ruhland’s chagrin. Whether he liked it or not, he would have to join us in the camp. Strasen was lying up by the door and says, “You guys leave the last spot open for Ruhland and when he comes marching through, each of you give him a kick.” He had to get undressed outside.59 Once he’s in by us, Strasen gives him one. He turns around and starts griping. In the meantime he gets one from the other side. Then he sees the game we’re playing and strikes out for his bed, but he gets his kick from both sides all the way down. Having reached the end, he starts in: “You despicable people.” But we are laughing hysterically and he starts laughing too. Oh, Ruhland was just terrific!60

One time conference was in Mayville, where Dicke was.61 I drove there. As I was unhitching, my horse was nibbling around at the dung. Everyone was standing outside when I came. Then the dear Synod President Wyneken exclaimed, “Look! Strieter’s horse is so hungry, it’s feeding on dung, and so shamefully lean. We should take up a collection so that Strieter can buy oats.”

But my Dicke came to my aid: “That horse is not lean. It is thin and empty right now because it has run 40 miles.62 No horse looks round after doing that.”

Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wyneken in his older years

Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wyneken

One time conference was at Jox’s place in Kirchhain.63 Dr. Sihler was also there. In the evening someone called in through the window, “Is there still room in the camp?” It was our old, dear President Wyneken.64 The joy was great. During the midday break we went under the green trees and played Plumpsack.65 Link set it up.66 The old gentlemen had to play too. Link especially had it in for Wyneken. He often had to get out of the ring and received some terrific whackings from Link. W[yneken] would laugh his head off and run. Even the old Dr. had to take his turns.

We were very brotherly together and were attentive during the sessions. Back then it never occurred to anyone to read the newspaper during that time or to tell something to the guy next to him. Our headmen were Strasen and Link, and they supplied most of the papers. Wyneken called us the Brimstone Boys [Schwefelbande].67

Endnotes

50 Leutner corrected Strieter’s “häusliche Umstände” to “Familienverhältnisse wegen.”

51 The Missouri Synod Convention was held in St. Louis on October 10ff., 1860.

52 The Northern District Convention took place in Monroe, Michigan, on May 29ff., 1861.

53 The Northern District Convention took place in Watertown on June 18ff, 1862.

54 The Wisconsin Pastoral Conference met in Lebanon from May 5-7, 1863.

55 The Milwaukee Pastoral Conference met in Woodland from April 26-28, 1864.

56 The Wisconsin Pastoral Conference met in Freistadt from September 9-11, 1862.

57 This may have been an honorary name for the study due to Ottomar Fuerbringer’s faithful service in Freistadt from 1851-1858. By the time this conference was held, Friedrich Boeling had been using this study since the beginning of 1861.

58 Leutner’s correction is probably more correct: “In the room next door…”

59 See previous endnote.

60 Something is amiss in this story, since Friedrich Carl Theodor Ruhland (1836-1879), one of the more vociferous opponents of the Wisconsin Synod at this time, had moved from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to Wolcottsville, Niagara County, New York, and had been installed as pastor of St. Michael’s Church there on July 6, 1862, before the conference in Freistadt was held. (It also does not seem likely that the study in Freistadt would have been upstairs.) Since it does not seem likely that Strieter was mistaken about Ruhland, the main character in the story, perhaps he was mistaken about the location. Perhaps this occurred at the conference Ruhland himself hosted from May 11-14, 1860 (which would explain why he was irritated about not getting to sleep in the bigger bed), or at the one in MIlwaukee on May 3-4, 1861. Ruhland eventually became the first president of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Germany, today in fellowship with the Wisconsin Synod.

61 I was unable to locate any announcement for a conference in Mayville during Strieter’s years of service in Wisconsin on the pages of Der Lutheraner. However, it may have been held in early May 1862, since the Wisconsin Pastoral Conference usually met around that time in other years.

62 The distance between Strieter’s homestead and Mayville is more like 70 miles, but Strieter most likely divided the journey between two days.

63 The Wisconsin Pastoral Conference met in Kirchhayn from September 3-5, 1861.

64 51 years old at the time

65 A German version of Duck-duck-goose played with a knotted handkerchief

66 That is, Pastor Georg Link of Immanuel, Lebanon

67 According to the Grimm Brothers’ Deutsches Wörterbuch, Schwefelbande, lit. “sulfur gang,” denotes “a sorry or slipshod gathering, a rabble, especially in more vulgar parlance and used colloquially.” It supposedly originated as a “nickname for Sulphuria, a students’ club in Jena that was notorious for not giving satisfaction,” and the Grimm Brothers also suggest that the label alludes to the devil or hell.

[Read the next part here.]

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Strieter Autobiography: Investigation and Mission Trip

[Continued from Part 29. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Hardships and Happenings (continued)

Copyright 2016 Red Brick Parsonage. This is more or less the site of Strieter's parsonage in Marquette County, located at W3276 County Road E, Neshkoro. Strieter's two-story timber-framed house filled out with clay was built around 1856 on this site. A log stable was built around the same time. Eventually the 2-acre property was expanded to 4 acres, and in 1876 a new parsonage was built. A new barn was built at some point too, the foundation of which is pictured here. The property ceased to be used for the parsonage after 1898.

Strieter’s parsonage property, W3276 County Road E, Neshkoro. Copyright 2016 Red Brick Parsonage. Strieter’s two-story timber-framed house filled out with clay was built around 1856 on this site. A log stable was built around the same time. Eventually the 2-acre property was expanded to 4 acres, and in 1876 a new parsonage was built. A new barn was built at some point too, the foundation of which is pictured here. The property ceased to be used for the parsonage after 1898.

Something about hardships pertaining to Fall Creek. I go up there one time, drive to Montello, 12 miles. (I also had 12 miles to Princeton, and 12 to Wautoma. 400 steps or so off of the Mecan, to the west, was my house.) I take the wife along so that she can take the horse back home. From Montello I take the stagecoach to Parteville,25 from there to Toma on the railroad. Then it was 90 miles or so to Eau Claire on the stagecoach. Before it gets to Eau Claire, I get off and head off to the right on foot to Fall Creek to my people, who with few exceptions had been my church attendees [Kirchkinder] in Injunland.

How happy they were when I stepped into their midst in front of the schoolhouse! Man and woman embraced my neck and kissed me. Oh, with what delight I preached to them!26

On way home, while riding on the stagecoach day and night, the driver, who had apparently fallen asleep, lost his way and drove into the bushes. He halts and shouts that we men should get out and should look for the road because he didn’t know where he was. There were two other men besides me in the box, and several ladies. We get out. The one man looks around and shouts, “Here is the path!” But the coach was situated on a slope. He has to turn around, so we three position ourselves on a ledge, grab on top, and lean backwards to keep the coach balanced so that it doesn’t tip over, and we make it back on the road.

I had written my wife to pick me up in Montello, but she doesn’t get the letter; when I arrive in Montello, there’s not one woman there. What now? I have no other choice but to walk 12 miles. I was not at all accustomed to walking; I was always on the horse or on the buggy. I don’t get very far before my feet are aching and the soles of my feet are burning like the blazes. I sit down, take shoes and stockings off, and try walking barefoot, but that wouldn’t work at all. The sand was so hot, and every little stone was irritating. I put my stockings back on and now walk home in stockings, 10 miles or so.

Another time I was up there we rode to Black River Falls on the stagecoach.27 There we were told that the stage could not go any farther because of the bad roads. The 4 horses were hitched to a lumber wagon, three thin boards laid across the box. On the front board the driver took his seat. On the second board a man and a woman, each with a child in his or her lap; the boy was bigger and the girl was smaller. On the back board I and a short young lady. Others wanted to come too, but we were told, “The horses can’t pull that much.” It was just starting to get dark when we took off.28

We come to a frightful hill. The two of us men have to get down. The horses cannot pull us all. The driver, the two ladies, and the little children stay up. The ground was loose, yellow sand. The horses run in a gallop as best they can, 10 steps or so, catch their breath again, and then another burst like that, until they are on top. We get back on and away we go.

Wasn’t all that long before the little lady next to me gets sleepy, lays her little hands on my knee and her little head on top and drifts off. The people in front of me also fall asleep and were so careless that each one has his or her child’s little head facing out. Then all at once the man’s child hangs his head down over the box. I reach out between the two of them, grab it by its little robe and pull it back in. Then the wife’s baby hangs its head out and I pull it back in. So it went the whole night. Having arrived at a station in the morning, we drink some coffee. Then the wife expressed her thanks that I had “watched [gewatcht]” their children so well. —

I had been commissioned by my President Fürbringer29 to conduct an investigation. There was a preacher there by this point.30 I preached to a schoolhouse full of people, then the investigation got going. A number of complaints were brought forward; unfortunately they turned out to be true. The preacher asked for forgiveness, and since there were no criminal offenses, I asked the congregation to pardon him and retain him. But they didn’t want that; they still thought it would be better if he left, because things were simply ruined by that point. He was relocated out west after that, and became a very good pastor there, even a visitor.31 He has been in heaven for a long time now. —

I received a slip of paper on which a bunch of places were recorded for me that I was supposed to visit and do mission work. A man promised me a riding horse. Bright and early32 one man hitches his horses to his wagon, another brings me a horse, a big gelding, and says, “He has the heaves [die Heafs], but he won’t keel over. Just keep riding him at a good clip, sir.”

I get on my gelding. The other man takes off; I follow after. He puts them into a trot, and I put my gelding into a gallop. But right away I think, “Oh no, oh no, how is this going to turn out?” For he galloped so high and was throwing me into the saddle with full force. The consequences came soon enough. I get colic, and have to call to the man to stop, then take a seat in his wagon and tie the old boy to the back. The pains get worse and worse; the man finally has to drive at a crawl. I tell him to take me to an apothecary. He did so. The gentleman was in the middle of sweeping out. I tell him that I’m sick. He says, “Yeah, I can see that.” He disappears into his hideout and mixes me up something proper, a half glass full of yellow stuff. How it tasted, I don’t remember anymore, but I scarcely had it down before my belly gets red-hot and my pain is gone.

I get on my gelding and head for Chippewa Falls, leave my horse on this side, and I take the ferry across the river. Over there the path goes along between the river and the hill, toward the village. There stands a little house right next to the path, and behind it, at the bottom of the hill, a new brewery with “Gerhard” on it. “He has to be German; you should stop in there.”

The man was a young, friendly man; no beer belly on him. He directed me into the village. There, situated in the valley, stands a saloon in the center. I make my way there, address the bartender in German, and he answers me in German. I say who I am and why I was there. He says that he doesn’t care much for church. There in the distance in that little house by the hill lives a cobbler, he says; I should stop in by him.

I head over. The cobbler is beating his leather. He stutters and says that yeah, a pastor had been there earlier, and the people from the country had come in to hear him preach. The preacher was supposed to eat at his place at noon, and they were going to give him 25 cents each time. They still owed him 50 cents, and he wanted nothing more to do with it.

During the conversation, a door opens up and a woman walks in the door and soon picks up on the discussion. She speaks fine German. “Whoa,” I thought, “this is a sophisticated woman.” She gives me several zingers, but gentle ones, the gist of them being how people were expected to fodder the vagabonding33 preachers for free. I get red, stand up and say, “Listen here, ma’am, I am an honest pastor and no lowlife!” I pat my money-bag and say, “I have money. If you give me a meal, ma’am, I will pay you” [cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12]. She turns friendly and apologizes.

Now they told me that there were not many in the village and there were people scattered in the country, but they could not be called together now on such short notice. I say, “Okay, I will ride up to Yellow River and come back the day after tomorrow. Could the people be called together by then?”

Yeah, he didn’t have any time at all, he said, and besides that, he didn’t know anybody either. I myself could not go and do it, for I was always scheduled in advance from place to place. So I was unable to preach in Chippewa Falls.

I go back to the brewer, stay overnight at his place and ask, “What kind of a cobbler’s wife is that? She did not grow up here.”

“Yeah,” he says, “a military officer brought her along from Germany and jilted her, and in her need she took the cobbler as a husband.”

I cross the river34 and get on my gelding and head up to Yellow River. I arrive at a settlement of Swabians, my own countrymen, turn into a house where two brothers live, who had two sisters as their wives. Each had a baby. They were in the middle of cooking sugar.35 So in the morning the one woman would go into the bush and the other would stay with the children. In the afternoon they would switch. In the evening many people came. In the morning a nice large group assembles in the schoolhouse.36 I announce my hymn and start singing; they sing along, very well, but somewhat slowly. I start to preach. Then a man calls out, “Mr. Parson [Pfarrer], a little louder; there are people here who can’t hear well.” So now I belt it out.

After church I warn the people not to get involved with every single wandering preacher, but to come together on Sunday, sing a hymn, and a man should read a sermon out loud. A preacher would probably be coming to Fall Creek soon and he would serve them too.

They respond, “Yeah, we thought that you were just going to stay with us, sir.”

I say, “Yeah, my dear people, that simply will not work. Just take heart and stick tightly together and hold reading service. The good Lord will not abandon you, and he will give you a preacher.”

They bade me a fond farewell and expressed their many thanks.

I head back to Chippewa Falls and continue on to Menomonie, but have to gallop; the fellow will only walk or gallop. Soon the inside of my legs are in a lot of pain, but what can I do? I have to keep going.

Before Menomonie I arrive at a settlement and turn in at the house of the man to whom I was directed. He asked if I was Pastor Mohldehnke.37

I say, “No, I am Pastor Strieter.” “Great,” I thought, “now you have ended up in Mohldehnke’s ward, the traveling preacher of the Wisconsin Synod.”

In the morning I go to the schoolhouse.38 Was completely full. Before I know what’s happening they start to sing, but I don’t know the words and don’t recognize the melody either. When they stopped, I stood up and asked if this congregation belonged to Pastor Mohldehnke.

“Yes, Pastor Mohldehnke has preached here before.”

I say, “Then I should not be permitted to preach.”

They say, “You are Lutheran too, sir, from what we’ve heard. Go ahead and give us a sermon. You are already here anyway, and we so seldom get an actual sermon.”

“Alright,” I say, “then I will preach, but tell Pastor Mohldehnke when he comes not to look at this as if I were trying to interfere with his ministry [Amt]. I was directed here and did not know that he had already preached here. He should regard it as a guest sermon.” They said they would deliver the message.39

I state my hymn, start singing, then preach. Also warn them to watch out for the fanatics, the Methodists. The wife of the Methodist preacher was even in church, as I was later informed. They took a hat collection and gave it to me.

In general I received money almost everywhere. I have already wondered to myself why our traveling preachers today often have to be supported almost entirely from the fund. I never needed to apply to the fund for assistance. When I went to Big Bull, I would bring home a whole bag full of money. Indeed – 10-cent pieces, 5-cent pieces, such small 3-cent pieces, such big 2-cent pieces, a sixpence, a shilling, rarely 2 shillings. I would empty my bag onto the table for my wife and she would sort it all and put each sort into a little purse and revel in her treasure.

One time I had to ride way out of the way and baptize 3 children for a man. When I was finished, he counted 37 cents into my hand. I say, “That has to be all the money you have, sir!”

“Yes.”

“Okay, then I will give it back to you and add that much more.”

He started to cry: “Aw, it is meant to be a thank offering, that my children are now baptized, and you won’t accept it, sir?”

“Okay, if it is meant to be a thank offering, I will take it.”

One time a woman came. “Mr. Pastor, I am a widow and don’t have any money, but would really like to give you something. Here is a small sack of nuts; please take them along for your children.”

My people in the Injunland gave me two hundred dollars and rye for bread and some for the horse, some wheat too. —

I now hurried from Menomonie to Durand, across the river on the ferry, up the hill, into a saloon. “Are you German, sir?”

“Yes indeed!”

I say who I am and why I was there.

“Yeah,” he says, “there would no doubt be people here, but where can we assemble?”

I say, “There’s room enough right here.”

He says, “You want to preach in the saloon, sir?”

“Certainly!”

“Fine by me.” He goes and gets my horse into the stable and shows me in through the door to his family. I stay overnight.

In the morning a nice large group assembles.40 I announce the stanzas of my hymn and start singing. They sing along. I position myself with my back against the counter, the liquor bottles behind me, and start preaching. Soon the door opens up and a man pokes his head in, but quickly bangs the door shut again. Another man does the same, and another. It’s comical, and I have to control myself so that I don’t lose my focus. After the sermon I baptize two more children.41

From Durand I make my way toward Eau Claire. In the distance by the hill I see an old little house and think, “You should just stop in there once.” The door is open, opposite another door. In the middle of the living room sits the father with his head hung down. I call out, “Good day, father.”

“A German voice!” he says. “Do come in, sir.”

Soon an old little mother comes in through the other door. He told me that they had had 3 children, two sons and a daughter. The one son had drowned while floating logs, the other had been shot and killed in battle – the Civil War [Rebellionskrieg] was going on at the time – and the daughter had recently married and now they were all alone.

I comforted them with their Savior and asked if they had a Bible.

“Yes, other good books too.”

I told them just to keep reading them and to pray persistently and remain firm in faith in their Savior. He would not abandon them.

“Oh, dear Pastor,” he says, “couldn’t you please give us the Holy Supper?”

“Dear father,” I say, “I have absolutely nothing with me. Hold on to the spiritual use of the Supper, sir. Apply to yourself the merit of Jesus, which he has won for you by giving over his body and shedding his blood. Then you will have the blessing of the Supper even without actually taking it.” But I make up my mind: “That is not going to happen to you again.” From then on I always took some wine and wafers along, even when I rode.

I commended the dear folks to our dear God and took my leave.

I rode towards Eau Claire. On the other side of a bridge across a river I was supposed to turn right. Back there were also people to whom I was supposed to preach. I lose the barely visible track, ride up a high hill; the other side slopes down like a roof. Both of my gelding’s hind feet slip out and he sits down on his backside and doesn’t get back up until the bottom. At the bottom I bend a bit left and find the track again. Come into the open, turn in at the first house and tell the woman who I am and why I was there. She leaves me her child and runs to call her husband. He is a friendly man and, as I soon notice, Christian. I stay overnight and preach in the house to a number of listeners.42

I ride back over onto the Eau Claire Road. There I am supposed to go over across the prairie to a house and visit a family where especially the wife is really spunky, but find the house locked. I go back over and continue on the road. I come to a new house where a staghorn is fixed on a post, so it was a tavern. On the porch [Poartch] stands a man. “Are you by chance the Lutheran preacher, sir?”

“Yes!”

“Please come on in.” He took my horse from me and leads me into the saloon. “Do you want something to drink, sir?”

“No, thank you,” I say.

“Then go into this room,” and he opens the door for me.

There sit a number of women and also a man, and against the wall sit 4 nice girls, dressed in white, with a blue43 ribbon around their waists, and one woman has a child in her arm. The little children are seated according to size. I am supposed to baptize the children. I take down their names and give a short address, telling the adults and the little children what baptism is, that they were making a covenant with the triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that they would put on Christ. They should believe that from the heart and hold on to this covenant of grace.44

I now read the rite and ask the biggest one, “Do you desire to be baptized?”

“Yes,” says the child, leans its little head over the water and lets itself be baptized. Same with the second, the third, and the tiny little Trude too, the baby the woman was holding. Oh, it was too beautiful! I got to experience the same thing one time in Berlin.45

After the baptism they give me coffee and cake, then I continue riding to Eau Claire, turn in at my young carpenter’s place, who brings me to a widow.46 I cannot preach there.

Ride back to Fall Creek and turn my gelding back in, get driven back to Eau Claire, take my seat on a small steamer and head down the river to Reed’s Landing.47 Arrive there towards evening, go up the rise. A saloon is there and I go in. “Are you German, sir?”

“Yes indeed.”

“Do you have something to eat?”

He pours me a glass of beer, gives me a piece of sausage and a piece of bread. I take that to a corner, sit down and set it on a barrel and try to consume it. The beer doesn’t taste good; I let it stand. The sausage is dry and doesn’t taste good either. I chew on the bread. Then all at once a bunch of guys come in and take their places at the counter and get some drinks. In the middle stands a short man, a blacksmith, who right away starts mocking and says that the Bible is a book of lies. This is too much for me. I stand up and go up to the person: “Listen here, sir, you say the Bible is a book of lies. Let me ask you: If you were to get completely drunk right now, and you went home and abused your wife and children like a tyrant, would that be right?”

The keeper interjects, “Yeah, that’s what he often does.”

“No,” the man replies.

“Okay,” I say, “the same thing is also found in the Bible, for there it is: ‘You husbands, show common sense as you live with your wives’ [cf. 1 Peter 3:7]. Now how can the same thing that is the truth in your mouth be a lie in the Bible?”

He was quiet, and one-two-three, the room was empty.

In the corner a door is open and a woman stands in the doorway and calls out that supper is ready. The saloonkeeper says, “Mister, are you are a parson?”

“Yes.”

“Please come and eat with us,” he says.

I go in. There a large, roasted fish is sitting on the table; I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. We sit down.

“Mr. Parson,” says the keeper, “please say a prayer.”

I say a prayer and dig in.

He asks, “Do you know Professor Walther, sir?”

“Oh sure,” I say, “quite well.”

He says, “I was in St. Louis at N.’s, the confectioner” – I can’t remember the name, but he was a well-known individual. “Walther often tried to convert me, but he did not succeed.”

“Too bad,” I say. “You should be converted if you want to go to heaven.”

“Mr. Parson, time will tell. A mocker I am not.”

“Couldn’t a person preach here then?” I ask.

“Yeah, look here, sir,” he says. “Earlier a man came and passed himself off as a preacher, held church, told the people that traveling cost money and that they should take a collection for him. They do that. He takes the money and goes to the nearest saloon and wastes it on drink. Several others did the same. A person loses all his desire after that.”

My steamer comes and I get on board for La Crosse. The boat gets under way and I go inside. Soon I go back outside. There stands a large man with a raincoat [Wachsrock] on, at the front and looking out. I go inside and outside more than once, and in the morning the man is still standing in the same spot. He now goes inside and another man takes his place.48 I learn that the night-watchman was the captain. A noble figure, getting old already, with a hooked nose.

The thought now occurs to me: “This man stands in one spot the entire night in order to maneuver his boat safely down the river. What dedication! What, and you’re going to get tired? It’s going to be too much for you? You’re going to get testy – you who work on immortal souls for your Savior?”

I come to La Crosse and take my seat on the [railroad] cars for Parteville. There stands my Fanny in the innkeeper’s stable, whom I have left there for so long this time. I hitch up and take off. Haven’t gone too far when I start to feel ill. I drive under an oak, let my horse munch on a bush, and I lie down on the ground and throw up. But nothing comes out except sour, bitter water, and some blood at the end. I’m so dizzy, the whole world is spinning, and my head aches badly. It’s getting to be evening; I simply have to get going. I crawl to my buggy and claw my way up, hold on tight to the seat on both sides and take off. Have to drive at a walk though; my head won’t take it. Reach home toward morning,49 lie down for a little rest and try to take my clothes off. But my underpants have crusted together with the grime, so that I first have to soak them with a wet, hot cloth. My legs from the top down to the knees are completely sore. That came from getting thrown around in the saddle.

Endnotes

25 Strieter’s spelling of Pardeeville

26 Strieter appears to have departed for his first trip to Fall Creek on or around Monday, November 12, 1860, since he recorded two baptisms he performed in “Eau Clair” on November 14, 1860. According to Declaring God’s Glory: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (August 17, 2014), the commemorative book celebrating the 150th anniversary of St. John Lutheran Church in Fall Creek, “it was Wilhelm Stelter who convinced Strieter to make the trip to the Fall Creek Valley.” This is consistent with Strieter’s records, since Strieter calls him “my Stelter” and “a very dear Christian” in the previous chapter, and since he includes Wilhelm Stelter as a witness to the first of the just-mentioned baptisms, that of Florendine Caroline Stubbe. Declaring God’s Glory also claims that since “there was no local pastor” in 1863, Strieter “was called and twice made the 200-mile trip to conduct church services, baptize children and perform marriages” there. But this is highly unlikely, since a) Strieter’s records do not include any 1863 visits to Fall Creek, and b) Candidate Theodor Gustav Adolph Krumsieg was ordained and installed as as the congregation’s first regular pastor on September 28, 1862, and was installed at his next parish in Fond du Lac County on December 13, 1863. Even allowing for time to move from Eau Claire County to Fond du Lac County and for a delay in making arrangements to have a pastor install him in his new parish, it does not seem likely that Strieter would have had time to arrange and make two 200-mile trips to Fall Creek in the time available between Krumsieg’s departure and the end of the year in 1863. c) Fall Creek must have obtained a pastor not long after Krumsieg’s departure, since Strieter goes on to talk about another trip there in early April 1864 to conduct an investigation into the accusations against their pastor, a trip for which there is evidence in his records. That means that there had to be time for the new pastor to get settled in Fall Creek and for the relationship between him and his new congregation to deteriorate. Finally, d) Declaring God’s Glory speaks of two trips Strieter made, and there is evidence of two trips in his records – one in 1860 and one in 1864, but none in 1863. The only discrepancy between what he shares here and his records is that he goes on to mention how “the sand was so hot” against his bare feet on the final leg of his return trip, so that he finished the trip in stocking feet, which hardly seems possible in a Wisconsin November. Perhaps the conclusion of this trip got jumbled with another one in his memory, or perhaps it was an abnormally warm November day.

27 For this final trip, Strieter records 5 baptisms he performed in Fall Creek on Sunday, April 3, 1864, after baptizing the son of his neighborlady on Tuesday, March 29. Thus he departed on or around Wednesday, March 30.

28 Most likely the evening of Friday, April 1

29 Ottomar Fuerbringer (1810-1892) was president of the Northern District of the Missouri Synod from 1854-1872 and from 1874-1882.

30 The preacher under investigation remains a mystery, though someone with more time and ambition could doubtless discover his identify. Even the 150th anniversary book for St. John, Fall Creek, does not mention any preacher between Theodore Krumsieg and Wilhelm Julius Friedrich. The latter preached his first sermon in Fall Creek later that year on August 7 and was ordained and installed on October 2.

31 A visitor was akin to a circuit pastor today. He was answerable to the district president and responsible for visiting the pastors in his area.

32 On Monday, April 4

33 The printer misread herumlaufenden for Strieter’s herumstreichenden.

34 On Tuesday, April 5

35 That is, boiling maple sap down to syrup

36 On Wednesday, April 6

37 Strieter’s spelling of Moldehnke. See endnote 39 below.

38 On Thursday, April 7

39 Pastor Eduard Moldehnke of the Wisconsin Synod made three well-documented mission trips between 1861 and 1862, but in none of these does he mention stopping or preaching near Menomonie. However, at the 1863 Wisconsin Synod convention, President Johannes Bading reported that “during the course of spring [1863], journeys were also made in Minnesota and four stations were visited. Furthermore 14 new stations were established in western Wisconsin, so that altogether 22 stations in Wisconsin and Minnesota are being served by the traveling preacher.” At that same convention, it was resolved to release Pastor Moldehnke from his position so that he could serve as instructor of the seminary-college to be started in Watertown. Pastor Moldehnke agreed to the new position, provided he be given three more months to wind up his traveling preacher activities, which was granted. After 1863, Moldehnke appears only to have made one more trip in 1866, since it was reported to the synod convention that year that Moldehnke had spent several months in Minnesota as a traveling preacher. So the congregation mentioned by Strieter here most likely did not have to relay Strieter’s message.

40 On Friday, April 8

41 Strieter records baptizing 4 children in Durand on this day – Christian Lorenz Kuhn, August Wilhelm Zeising, Wilhelm Heinrich Wetterroth, and Anna Elisabeth Catenhusen.

42 On Saturday, April 9. Strieter’s two baptisms “by Mondovi” were of Johann Ludwig Heinrich Machmeyer and Heinrich Schreiner.

43 The printer misread buntes for Strieter’s blaues.

44 This is not exactly proper language about baptism. Baptism is a one-sided covenant in which God does all the acting, not a two-sided covenant. In baptism God saves us (Mark 16:16; Titus 3:4-5; 1 Peter 3:20-21), forgives our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), clothes us with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27), makes us heirs of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7), and makes a pledge to us that we will have a good conscience before him (1 Peter 3:21). This of course does not benefit us apart from faith in Christ (Mark 16:16), but the responsibility for the loss of faith lies with us, not with God. Strieter does allude to this proper view of baptism when he calls baptism a “covenant of grace,” which it cannot be unless it is one-sided. The language of two-sidedness crept into Lutheranism over time, especially in trying to describe the purpose of the confirmation rite, which is not instituted or commanded in Scripture. One faulty explanation of confirmation is that it is a renewing of our baptismal covenant, which we cannot in fact renew, since we had no part in making the covenant in the first place.

45 Strieter appears to be faltering a bit in his memory here. He did baptize 4 children in the town of Brunswick in Eau Claire County on April 9, but they were not all girls, and the baby’s name was not Trude. He baptized Anna Louise Wüst (b. September 6, 1856), Amalie Caroline Wüst (b. November 13, 1857), and Carl Friedrich W. Wüst (no birthdate given) – all children of Johann and Maria (Damas) Wüst – and also Marva Peisch (b. November 22, 1863), the daughter of Johann and Amalie (Würtenberger) Peisch. The similar experience he had in Berlin actually occurred less than a month later, on May 1, when he baptized 4 daughters of August and Barbara (Ander) Schipinsky – Pauline Wilhelmine (b. December 14, 1852), Emilie Clara (b. May 17, 1854), Louise Wilhelmine (b. October 14, 1855), and Anna Friederike (b. May 29, 1860).

46 The German in Strieter’s manuscript is difficult here. I have followed Leutner’s abridgment. Strieter’s manuscript reads (to the best of my ability, trying to discern what was later crossed out): “…der führt mich zu einer Wittwe [sic], die einzigen [sic] Lutheraner im [in? ein?]”, followed by a large space, followed by a word that starts with an S, but is indiscernible because of the lines stricken through it and the attempted corrections written over the top of it. Whatever the case, Strieter appears to have faltered here to one extent or another, since his records indicate he did baptize 2 children in Eau Claire on Sunday, April 10.

47 Strieter’s spelling of Reads Landing, Minnesota, on the western shore of the Mississippi River where the Chippewa River empties into it

48 This sentence was omitted by the printer.

49 Strieter appears to have concluded his investigation/mission trip on Tuesday, April 12 – nearly two weeks away from home.

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: Troubles with Water

[Continued from Part 28. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Hardships and Happenings (continued)

And now some more about the hardships.

One time I was driving across a marsh, alongside the road, because it was completely impassable, came to the end where there was standing water, and I note, “There you will get stuck.” There was a pile of fence rails lying there which I went and brought over, then lay one next to the other and build a bridge, pull the horse onto it, keep taking out the ones in back and putting them down in front again, kept on doing that until I reached firm ground. But now I arrived too late. The people were gone.

One time I was driving to Berlin for preaching and I wanted to take a box of books home with me from the depot. The railroad went from Ripon to Berlin. Got up very early, for I was in a hurry to get home, for I was almost always in a hurry. It’s not yet day. The valley below, where the depot was located, was filled with fog, but I saw light through the window in the depot. I was heading for that; I could not see the path. All at once I jerked forward and then just as quickly backward again, so that I thought the evil foe was taking me on. I have to wait once I’m there. The man wasn’t there yet. Day breaks and I think, “You should at least go see what the deal was there.” See, there was a hole dug – someone was presumably looking for sand – 6-8 feet or so long, 3 feet or so wide and just as deep. I had driven over that. I looked at it and wondered just how the horse got across that. It did not see the pit and plunged right in. But my Fanny was nimble.

One time Pastor Brand, a Norwegian, came to me and wanted to get across to his daughter congregation by Puckaway Lake – a farmer had brought him from another daughter congregation – and he asked me for Communion wine and if I could take him there. We were driving there. On the shore of the lake stood a little house. Out came a friendly man and greeted me by name. I asked him if he knew me. He said, “I am in your church as often as you preach at Buchholz’s, sir.” It must have been 6 miles away or so.

I say, “So you can understand me, sir?”

He says, “Not much at first, but soon more, and now, sir, I understand you every word.”

The two of us pastors, the man, his wife, and several little children take our seats in a skiff, for I wanted to hear the sermon, and we go across the lake. In the distance at the bottom of the hill was a house where church was to be held. My dear Brand now had announcement first, then confession, then began to preach. But pretty soon my watch told me, “You have to go,” for I had 17-18 miles or so. I stand up and leave. My dear Brand follows me out and bids me adieu, but sends a young man with me who’s supposed to show me to a rowboat. He showed me to a dinky little rowboat with two oars. I get in and go at it, towards the house in the distance. Pretty soon I note: “This thing is definitely leaking.” There’s the water coming in, and at a pretty good rate too. I started rowing away for all I was worth. The water is rising. I already have to set my feet up against a crossboard, so that I don’t fill my shoes. I can’t bail the water; I don’t know if there’s a container available. Even if there is, I still don’t dare let the oars rest, for the wind was strong and blowing sideways; it would have driven me up to the upper end and the lake was fairly long. So I had to work. My little boat is already over half-full of water. I started getting anxious. I’m sweating; my hands ache. Finally I am on the shore, but completely wiped out with my hands full of calluses. —

During the winter I was driving across that lake one time with Fanny, over the ice. The lake is not deep and is very springy; the Fox River flows through it lengthwise.24 I’m moving right along. I want to get to Fairwater, and it’s much closer going from Buchholz’s than by around Princeton. There, not far from me, the ice bows up and the water spurts into the air. A little farther, the same thing on the other side. It’s getting worse and worse. I have to keep dodging the spurting places left and right. My Fanny also notices the fun and sweeps away across the ice like a fox. I am getting anxious and ask the good Lord to please not let me break through. I make it across. —

Endnote

24 Puckaway Lake is only 5 feet deep at its deepest point.

[Read the next part here.]

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.]

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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