Strieter Autobiography: The Accident

[Continued from Part 15. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Into the Ministry

In 1852 synod convention was in Fort Wayne at the end of June and beginning of July. A pastor came from Holmes County, Ohio, B[esel],1 a Basel student who colloquized and was taken up as a member of the synod. B[esel] came to Crämer and requested a preacher for a congregation by Coshocton which he had taken from a United preacher.2 Crämer sent for me and told me that I had to take my examination and go with B[esel]. Röder3 and I were actually slated to be missionaries to the Indians. Crämer even gave us private instruction. That was delightful! He had the book of Matthew in the Chippewa language. There Röder would sit on one side and I on the other, each with his Testament open. Crämer would read to us in Indian and we would repeat it. Then we would copy down the dreadful words in order to memorize them for homework. Chippewa had long, difficult [welsche] words. But the reason for that was because the language had so few words and everything had to be paraphrased. Miessler, subsequently a doctor in Chicago, who became Baierlein’s successor in Bethany, told me when he left us (much to our chagrin) that Chippewa had its roots in Hebrew.4 I asked Crämer not to send me away yet, but my pleading was in vain.

At eight o’clock I had to take my seat in front of my Crämer and Dr. Sihler. My schoolmates sat behind me. Crämer examined me until ten o’clock; then, after a short break, the doctor tackled me. His first question was, “Strieter, what’s in Matthew 13?” Fortunately I knew. But now I was also supposed to say what was taught in those parables. How that went I don’t remember any more, but I received a certificate saying I was sufficiently qualified for the preaching ministry [Predigtamt].5

On July 4 we headed out from Fort Wayne on the canal amid fanfare [mit Musik]. In Toledo we boarded the steamer to Sandusky; from there to Monroe; from there to Detroit; from there to Cleveland. At midday there was bloody beefsteak etc. Schaller and others did not want to eat the steak, but Schwan6 and I dug in. In the evening Schaller thought that if the steak was served again, he would eat it, but it did not return. In Cleveland B[esel] and I went with Schwan, who lived in a small little frame house; his son Paul was a small boy.

Soon we traveled a stretch on the railroad, then continued on the canal. We got off in Massillon. On shore stood an old, respectable Pennsylvania Dutch7 farmer by the name of Arnold. He received us joyfully and led us down the street to a small inn. A young man from the east, a baker, was with us, who was going to visit his mother. Arnold had a fourteen-year-old fellow with him who worked for him. Now the horses were retrieved – four splendid animals, the oldest eight years old – and harnessed to a wagon. The old father had brought a load of wheat to market. His wagon did not have a box, but planks on the side, with a small board across them on which B[esel] took his seat with Arnold. The baker positioned his trunk behind those two and he and I sat on that. Behind us stood a plow and a sack of salt. The back horse on the left had a saddle on his back, the front horse on the left had the reins, and the young fellow took his seat in the saddle.8 I ask, “Can the boy even drive?”

“Oh sure! He drove the whole way here.”

We start out; the horses are in a walk. When we went a little downhill, they trotted a little and then continued at a walk. Arnold had a lot of questions about the synod convention and B[esel] told him about it. Now we went uphill, probably for a mile or more. The path went up in snake turns. At the top it was level again, then downhill. It didn’t take long before the back left horse whinnied and fired out, and now we were off and running, all four as fast as they could.

B[esel] cried, “Hoh!”

Arnold cried, “Hoh!”

But the horses did not want to hoh!

Arnold called to the boy, “Hang on tight!” Arnold grabbed the pieces of wood in front of him and hung on and let the horses run as they wished.

At first I thought, “You go to the end and drop yourself down; it’s not too high.” But then another thought came to me right away: “You are the only one who can still maybe provide help. If the horse stops kicking out, then make your way out on tongue and get on the horse behind the boy and draw the front horses to the side.” But the animal wouldn’t stop kicking. You could always see the shiny horseshoes on the bottom of his feet flashing in the air. On the right the water had torn a deep ditch, in places at least six feet deep or so. The wagon often came so close to going in this ditch that I thought, “Now it’s going to tip over,” but it always kept going past.

Finally we came to the climax. There was just one man who wanted to get up the hill with his load. “Now,” I thought, “something’s going to happen!” I was right. He quickly got off to the side when he saw us coming, but his back wheel was still on the rut. Our back axle met with his, and just like that I was lying in the distance, not far from the fence. A small sandbank was there, runoff from the hill; I shoot like an arrow headfirst into the sand, making a hole in it as big as a hen’s nest. Right next to this hole, a handbreadth or so away, a stone is lying in the ground as large as a plate and protruding from the ground. I sit up and rub the sand out of my ears and think, “Well, our dear God has sure protected you from a sudden death.” For if I had landed on that stone, I would have bashed my brains out. My baker slid down fairly close to me without injury, ran to me right away and said, “Are you hurt?” and marveled with me at my good fortune that I had not hit the stone.

On the path stood the baker’s trunk, planks were lying there, and behind me, over there along the fence, were the back wheels, the plow, and the big sack of salt, with half of it spilled out from the bottom. The others were gone. We looked around, and here comes my B[esel]. He had hung on tight to the crosspiece on which the shaft sits that holds the front and back parts of the wagon together, thinking that the back wheels were still on and would run him over and kill him, and he let himself be dragged over the stones of the washed-out path. Finally he could not take it any more and let go. There he lay, untouched. He pulls himself together and runs toward us screaming, “O my head! O my shoulders! O my hips! O my legs!” The blood was already running into his shoes.

In the distance stood a house; from there the residents saw everything. The man of the house came over and took B[esel] with him, hitched up his buggy, loaded B[esel] up, and went home with him.

My baker and I bring the trunk and planks to the side and go wandering after our cart. Below ran a small brook with a little bridge. On the other side the bank went straight up at a steep angle. At the top it’s dug out and the path bends off to the left a bit. There the wheel ran up and flings the old father over the side,9 so hard that his shoulder turns yellow and black, and he had to carry his arm in a sling. But he still went after his horses.

The path went through the valley and back up the hill in the distance. There the saddlehorse tumbled and the boy fell, right between the horses, who dragged him by the saddle strap over the stones up the hill. When they reached the top, the strap ripped, and my boy lay there. A house stood close to the path. The people come out and carry the boy inside. The man hitches a horse to a stone drag; they lay the boy on it and bring him to the inn, several miles or so further.

In front of the inn, where the horses usually stopped for a midday rest, stood a post and a water trough. The horses ran through between the post and the corner of the building. They still had the axle and one wheel on the tongue and they ran against the corner of the building with such force that they tore out a large stone at the bottom. The inn shook so much that the ladies inside thought that there was an earthquake and ran outside, but they soon saw what had happened. The one lady ran to the field to get the men; it was harvest time. The other one ran around the stall and grabbed the front horses by the head so that they would not run any further. They had run from the watering hole across the street alongside the stall towards the fence.

When my baker and I also arrived, the boy was lying on the floor. His mother was with him, a widow who didn’t live too far from there. The doctor was next to him. The others were standing around him, including old man Arnold, and were holding his arm. The poor boy! His back looked like a piece of raw flesh, his arm was crushed, his shoulder was dislocated, his leg was broken, and several ribs were cracked.

When the doctor was finished, he said he did not know what he looked like on the inside, but everything seemed to be all right, and the external injuries would heal quickly. I comforted the wailing mother as well as I could. —

After six to eight weeks the young man was all right again. —

B[esel] brought the bad news home and now all the sons of the old father – I believe there were four of them – went together on horseback to see what had happened to “Dad.” They gathered up the parts of the wagon and loaded everything back up. The old father said to me, “Jack will stay here” – his youngest, a handsome young man, eighteen years old – “and I will too, and you take Jack’s horse and ride home with the others.”

I said, “No, Father Arnold, you take the horse and ride home, and I will stay with the wagon.”

Arnold got on and off he went. My Jack took his four horses out of the stall and hitches them up, takes his seat in the saddle, but brings along his blacksnake. My baker and I sit on the trunk again. Jack heads out. Right away the path goes somewhat downhill and my horse on the right whinnies again and starts to cut loose, but my Jack lashes him around his body, so that it whistles. The horse jumps forward. Jack turns his whip around and whacks the animal on the forehead with the thick, yellow10 knob so hard that I expected the animal to collapse. If the horse jumped forward, it gets one one the forehead; if it jumped backwards, it gets one around the body. “Just wait, I’ll run off on you! [Wart, ich will dir weglofen!]” Jack said. He put them into a strong trot, called out, “Hoh!” and bump, they stopped, and he repeated that a number of times. It didn’t take long and the horses were like lambs.


1 Here we encounter the first of Strieter’s many name abbreviations. The 1852 convention proceedings for the Missouri Synod list among the voting preachers a Friedrich Besel in Holmes County, Ohio. Besel left for the Iowa Synod in 1881.

2 “United” refers to the Prussion Union, which merged the Lutheran and Reformed Churches in Prussia.

3 Ernst Gustav Hermann Miessler (1826-1916) worked with Baierlein at the Bethany mission station from 1851 to 1853, when he succeeded him. He left the preaching ministry in 1871 to study and practice medicine in Chicago, which he did from 1874-1899.

4 Strieter received a “satis” diploma. This is a classic sentence in Strieter’s autobiography, and many pastors can doubtless relate to it when recalling their seminary education.

5 Heinrich Christian Schwan (1819-1905) had been taken up as a member of the Missouri Synod in 1850. He served as pastor of Zion in Cleveland, today the second oldest church in the synod, from 1851-1899. He helped to popularize the use of the Christmas tree in American churches by placing one in Zion in 1851. He was known as a staunch, tactful, sharp, wise, modest, and refined Lutheran pastor.

6 The Pennsylvania Dutch were early German immigrants to America in the 17th and 18th centuries from what is today western and southwestern Germany. Many were refugees of war. Usually Dutch refers to the people of the Netherlands and their language, but in the label Pennsylvania Dutch it is an Americanization of Deutsch, meaning German. Since they also had their own dialect, the label was also used to refer to their descendants.

7 I.e., on the front left horse. The saddle on the back left horse remained empty, as will be made clear.

8 If I’m imagining this correctly, the horses turned left with the path on the other side of the bridge, but were going so fast that the wagon ran up partially onto the bank, thus tipping to the left, with the right front wheel higher than the left front wheel, and knocking old man Arnold out onto the path on the left side of the wagon.

9 Carl Strieter translates gelben as brass.

[Read the next part here.]


Strieter Autobiography: Career Decision

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

Seminary (continued)

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

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

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

Auch said, “Think it over!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: The Franconians

[Continued from Part 10. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]


J. K. W. Löhe

J. K. W. Löhe

In the first half of the [18]40s the men sent by Löhe1 came with their colonies. First came Ernst and Burger.2 Burger soon died, leaving behind a widow and two little boys. The oldest eventually married the daughter of my youngest sister, Margaretha, and currently still resides in Adrian, Michigan. Then came Hattstädt to Monroe, Michigan.3 He and Sievers are, to my knowledge, the only ones in our synod who never left their positions. Crämer and his Franconians came and established a colony on the Cass River, fourteen miles east of Saginaw.4 Gräbner and his Franconians came and “settled” [„settelten“ sich] eight or so miles north of Frankenmuth5 – the name they gave to the place just mentioned – and they named their settlement Frankentrost.6 Sievers and his Franconians came and settled on the western shore of the Saginaw River, opposite Lower Saginaw, and they called their place Frankenlust.7 Clöter was in Upper Saginaw.8 Kühn came with Franconians, but they stayed in Detroit for the most part; only one family and a number of bachelors came along to Frankenmuth. Kühn was to establish the colony of Frankenhilf.9 Friedrich Lochner also came with Sievers.10

Hattstädt, Crämer, and Lochner traveled to Ann Arbor to Pastor Schmidt and held a conference with him. Schmidt made a very Lutheran impression and uncompromisingly professed his loyalty to the symbolical books of the Lutheran Church. They established fellowship, and the mission was to be run jointly, for Crämer was also doing mission work among the Chippewas.11 Missionaries Auch and Meyer now entered into close brotherly fellowship with the Franconian pastors and held conferences with them. But it wasn’t too long before Schmidt separated from the Franconians and went his own way again. Indeed, the Franconians were decried as half-Catholic: They burned candles at the Lord’s Supper; the pastor chanted at the altar; he turned his back to the people; he made the sign of the cross. Especially the sign of the cross was regarded as the living Satan. Missionaries Auch and Meyer, however, remained with the Franconians. In 1847 our synod, the Missouri Synod, was called into being in Chicago, and now the Franconians joined this synod, including Missionaries Auch and Meyer. Thus the mission in Sebewaing and Shebeyang came into our synod.12

The mission house in Shebeyang was built; I helped as much as I could. A long log house made from squared fir trunks, the house was divided in the middle, one half being the missionary’s residence and the other being the church and school. It was dedicated. Baierlein from Bethany preached;13 Jacob Graverad translated. His father, an Englishman, a liquor dealer among the Indians at one time, was Auch’s translator at first. But the Indians who already understood some English told Auch, “Graverad does not say what you say at all. He often says the opposite.” So Auch dismissed the elder and employed the younger. The tall Jacob, however, knew well how to speak good Indian, but was bad at English. He called everything “she”.


1 Johann Konrad Wilhelm Löhe (1808-1872) was a confessional Lutheran pastor in the village of Neuendettelsau in Franconia, Bavaria, Germany, from 1837 until the end of his life. In 1841 Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wyneken traveled around Germany pleading the cause of the spiritually needy Lutherans in America. From his small village Löhe answered the plea in a big way. (See the following endnotes.) One of his men, Wilhelm Sihler, sent over in 1843, founded what would become Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in September 1846, which was eventually entrusted to the Missouri Synod, in whose founding Löhe played a large role. Löhe separated from the Missouri Synod in 1853 over the doctrine of church and ministry. He helped found the Iowa Synod the following year.

2 Adam Ernst (1815-1895), formerly a journeyman shoemaker, and Johann Georg Burger (1816-1847), one of Ernst’s friends, were two volunteer helpers whom Löhe sent to America in 1842. Ernst eventually became a member of the Ohio Synod, and Burger eventually ministered in Hancock and Van Wert Counties in Ohio.

3 Georg Wilhelm Christoph Hattstädt (1811-1884) was sent to America by Löhe in 1844.

4 Friedrich August Crämer (1812-1891) met Löhe in 1844 and was sent to America in 1845. He was pastor in Frankenmuth until 1850, when he accepted a call to be a professor at the seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. See also next endnote.

5 All the names the Franconians gave their settlements were personalized paraphrases for God. Frankenmuth means the (Source of the) Franconians’ courage. A Historic Site sign outside of St. Lorenz Evangelical Lutheran Church on West Tuscola Street tells the story of Crämer and the city’s founding.

6 Johann Heinrich Philip Gräbner (1819-1898) was sent to America by Löhe in 1847. Frankentrost means the (Source of the) Franconians’  comfort. Today Frankentrost is a small unincorporated community about eight miles east of Saginaw, identified by Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church (LC-MS) on the southwest corner of MI-46 and Mueller Road.

7 Georg Ernst Christian Ferdinand Sievers (1816-1893) was sent to America by Löhe in 1847 and became pastor in Frankenlust, Michigan. Frankenlust means the (Source of the) Franconians’ joy. Today the location of the original colony is marked by St. Paul Lutheran Church on the southwest side of Bay City on the southern corner of Westside Saginaw Road (MI-84) and Ziegler Road.

8 Ernst Ottomar Clöter (1825-1897) was sent to America by Löhe in 1849. He was installed as pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Saginaw by Pastor Sievers (see preceding endnote) on November 30, 1849.

9 Frankenhilf means the Helper of the Franconians. Eventually this colony was founded in 1851. Today it is the village of Richville.

10 Strieter is in error here. Friedrich Johann Carl Lochner (1822-1902) came with Crämer in 1845, not with Sievers in 1847. Lochner was first the pastor of a “United” congregation in Toledo, Ohio, but left when he failed to have it constituted as a Lutheran congregation. He then served Lutheran churches in Madison and Macoupin Counties, Illinois; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Springfield, Illinois, where he was also an instructor at Concordia Seminary.

11 In a letter dated November 21, 1845 – which Pastor Schmid appears to have written in stages – he wrote: “In a very surprising but very pleasant manner, brotherly participation and help was offered us from Bavaria, without any request on our part or knowledge thereof. The Lord arranged to have real help from the old fatherland in our Indian mission, which in this part of the world has received very little support up to this time. A small colony of believing souls, with their own preacher, arrived here last summer in order to work as a mission colony among the Indians, and to be as a light to them. They occupied a fitting location on the Cass River in Saginaw County, buying a piece of land which I had selected before their arrival. There is also a piece of land for the mission. … Reverend Mr. Löhe, who wrote us concerning the whole matter, expressed his wish and the wishes of many other participating friends, namely to spread the kingdom of Christ also among the poor Indians. In doing this, he asked nothing of us up to this point which would be contrary to our conscience and conviction; pure teaching and adherence to the Lord and the Holy Sacrament, according to the creed of our Evangelical Lutheran Church, is his condition, with which we, who for many [sic] years have founded a Lutheran synod, are in agreement, convinced that up to this point our Evangelical Lutheran Church has remained pure and true in her teaching and the administration of the sacraments, adhering to God’s holy word, and in doing so we here have never been led into controversy with either the Reformed or the Lutherans. As far as forms and customs are concerned, we shall continue to love them and will put incidentals in their relation to the great prime things, and I would never like to render judgment of any sort about our brothers who call themselves Evangelical… If the brothers of Bavaria do not ask anything which is contrary to our conscience, then we can very well carry on our work of the Lord with them… A colony has settled on the Cass River about 25 miles from the above-mentioned [mission] station [in Sebewaing]. Pastor Crämer, who suffers from fever a great deal, hopes in a short time to begin a school for Indian children. At the present time they are very busy erecting a building for a mission house…”

12 In his letter dated January 31, 1848, Pastor Schmid gives no hint of any strife. But his next letter to the Basel Mission Institute, written three years later, on April 29, 1851, he records the breakup from his perspective: “For nearly eighteen years I have served numerous congregations here with the Holy Word and Sacrament, in which there are Lutheran and Reformed from the homeland. Yet I have never had to experience the slightest criticism on the part of the Reformed because of teachings and creed. As far as church practice is concerned, I maintain everything according to our Württemberger church, except that we from early times did not have Communion wafers. If the divine truth is proclaimed in a godly and powerful manner and the pastor lives in the strength of the gospel, then the truth-loving and the truth-seeking people of both confessions can get together through the strength of the Word; and this will also occur without any attempt to force a union. For that reason there are, I think, many in the congregation here whose parents were Reformed, but I am not certain of it. I do not inquire about it, for they are united and happy with and through the proclaimed Word of the cross and the holy sacraments. Firmness in the teachings and in the creed is required here, and if this exists, then the Spirit of the Lord will be with his Word… As far as the rigid Old Lutherans are concerned, with whom I have come into contact without learning to know them, I respect their sound teachings, but these people are mostly lacking in living faith, and for that reason there is so little love and so much harshness toward others. Their rigid ceremony and their strong condemnation of others are terrible things to me. … I could not join this synod [the Missouri Synod], out of conviction. We too had a synod among us here, but it lacked firm foundation and therefore collapsed; some wanted an organization strictly Lutheran, others not so strict, and as a result a lengthy paper was drawn up but when one wanted to follow its path, the wind blew it away. … That we have erected a mission here and that we have already worked a year among the Indians with blessing in this state is already known, and that our missionaries joined the Old Lutherans and that they demanded from us what we couldn’t do, you probably also know. Thus we had no choice but to turn over the mission with its missionaries to the Old Lutherans, and thus our mission endeavor is restricted.” In a letter dated February 9, 1857, Schmid reports that he had joined the Ohio Synod the previous fall, but in a letter dated November 14, 1859, he says that the Ohio Synod did not suit him because of “their stiff and strict forms and ceremonies,” and on March 19, 1861, he reported that he and several brothers had resurrected the Michigan Synod (the so-called Second Michigan Synod) in December 1860. Pinpointing Schmid’s theological position is difficult. He certainly seemed to breathe an evangelical spirit, and it seems that the early Missourians could have learned something from him in this regard. But the Missourians’ charge of doctrinal duplicity against Schmid is also hard to refute. In the final analysis, Schmid made too big a deal out of the Missourians’ ceremonies (something Schmid himself said earlier he did not want to do) and his accusation against these early Missourians for lacking a living faith is unfounded, as evidenced, among other things, by this autobiography.

13 Eduard Raimund Baierlein arrived in Frankenmuth to serve as a missionary to the Ojibwe in 1847. He labored at the Bethany mission station in St. Louis, Michigan, about 34 miles west of Saginaw, from 1847-1853.

[Read the next part here.]