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: Counseling and Instructing

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

Wisconsin (continued)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then she was happy. —

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

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

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

“Oh yes!” she exclaimed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I say, “He wanted you.”

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

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

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

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

Endnotes

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

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

21 See previous chapter and endnote 12 there.

22 An expression taken from Romans 16:18

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Strieter Autobiography: Vermilion

[Continued from Part 18. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Into the Ministry (conclusion)

We [i.e. my new bride and I] took the railroad cars from Elyria to Vermillion. When we arrived, my Lisbeth’s cousin, H. Ernst, peeked in through the door and sees us sitting. Then he was gone. We went to Mother. As already said, she had her own house in Vermillion. The T[heiss]’s25 were already there. We sit down at the table and eat our good noodle soup, which Mother Ernst had cooked for us. There goes a racket outside. There was a large open space in front of the house. There stood a large group, big and small, making a shivaree that was tremendous. Among other things they had planed the edges of a large merchandise box and smeared it with resin, and now two people were sawing on the box with a scantling. Boom, boom, it rumbled dreadfully. My H. T[heiss] says, “You’re going to have to give those guys some money to get them out of here.” But I didn’t have any. The last cent was spent on the trip. H. T[heiss] reached into his money-bag and took out a handful of small stuff – apparently he had caught wind of what was going to happen – and gave it to me.

I went out and asked who was in charge. They pointed me to a large guy, to whom I gave my handful of money and I thank them for their kindness. They say in English, “Hooray for Mr. Strieter! Hooray for Libby Ernst!” and now they headed for the saloon. After that, those guys were uncommonly friendly.

Libby Ernst was a beautiful, sensible, and virtuous girl and a good student. During winter the sailors would lodge in Vermillion. My Lisbeth’s cousins were also sailors. One of them, Caspar Ernst, went to the college [Hochschule] in Oberlin every winter. He would pester Mother Ernst to let Lisbeth go along with him to the school. He said he would take care of everything; it wouldn’t cost her a cent. Mother Ernst would say, “Lisbeth knows enough to get along in the world. She is not going to Oberlin.” Others would come and want to take her to a party or a ball. Mother says, “Lisbeth is staying at home.”

During winter they oftentimes had “spelling school” there. That was a always a big deal. Everybody ran there together, so that the large schoolhouse was crammed full. It was conducted like this: Two “choosers” were elected, and they posted themselves up at the desk opposite each other and now chose their spellers. Soon the aisle was filled in two rows back to the door. The “choosers” elected were always the two best spellers, and that was Gust Pelton and Libby Ernst. The spelling got going. The schoolmaster gave the words. During her final years there they had a fine schoolmaster, Mr. Salos. Pretty soon the rows were spelled down, since whoever missed a word had to sit down. Finally Gust Pelton and Libby Ernst would still be standing. It might occasionally happen that one of these two would spell down the other, but most of the time they would say in English, “We will give up.” Even Mr. Salos one time posted himself opposite Libby when she was the only one still standing, and someone else gave the words. But Libby spelled down Mr. Salos too. In this way Libby was generally liked and the boys were understandably not too happy that the minister had caught Libby.

I now lived at Mother Ernst’s house and had it nice and good. I held church, two days of school, and went down to the South Ridge and held school the remaining days and still preached on the South Ridge, for in Elyria everything was finished. T[heisen]s26 had moved to Liverpool and [Mr.] B[öse] moved back to Germany. Apart from that there was only a German joiner still there, who never came to church though, and a Catholic store-clerk.

Even on the South Ridge I only had seven to eight listeners left; the others moved back to Germany, especially the Hessians. Here’s how that came about: The daughter of [Mr.] S. – the lovely house I mentioned earlier – married a brother-in-law of T[heisen] the miller who, as already mentioned, ran out of work. He [i.e. Mr. Theisen] would kind of sit around and often on the front steps with his small little daughter. Soon his sister-in-law27 started talking badly about him, saying that he was just sitting there to look at the women to see if they were pretty. She said that to a woman and her mother, and they in turn immediately told the T[heisen]s about it. [Mr.] T[heisen] went to her and confronted her about it and was probably a bit harsh. The young woman ran home immediately and complained about the experience to her parents.

I came home, for I was still living in [Mr.] S.’s house at the time, and was met with dark faces. The daughter had already left again. I asked what was the matter. Then she starts in and relates how [Mr.] T[heisen] had treated her daughter. I went over and spoke with [Mr.] T[heisen] and then with the young sister-in-law, but she denies everything. [Mr.] T[heisen] says, “I have my witnesses.” They were brought and both the young woman and her old mother verified that she had said it.

I dismissed the witnesses and said, “Now there’s no more denying it.” She now confessed that she had said it and apologized.

I stayed overnight. When I came home, I was immediately asked how it went. I say, “Very well; they have reconciled.”

“What!” [Mr.] S. pounded on the table. “My daughter has reconciled with that milljack?” And right away he went over to see her. Then she was making an angry face again, and my hosts were now like people possessed by the devil. Before that the old man would eat with me, while the others ate outside. But now the small boy would call over into my little room, “Dinner!” When I came out, no one was there and the door was closed. I ate by myself. I also used to prepare a family devotion. When the man and I had eaten, I would call the others inside and would read and pray. But now he would read outside and would yell loudly, so that I couldn’t help but hear it. None of them gave me a kind look any more. I kind of let this go for a while and then I spoke with the old folks. They looked at the floor and said nothing. I spoke with the old man in private, but to no avail.

I thought, “Okay, it’s time to have a serious talk with this man.” We went to church; he was carrying my robe. I start in and confront the man with his sin, especially the Fifth Petition.28 I sincerely admonished him that he needed to break his stubbornness.

We now stood still and I stopped talking. Now he goes across under his chin with his hand and announces, “Mr. Pastor, this head will have to come off before I will reconcile with that milljack.”

I say, “If that’s how you are going to talk, then you, sir, are no Christian.”

“So!” he says and marches off ahead of me into the schoolhouse, laid his bundle on the table, and went home.

The following Sunday only six to eight people came to church on the South Ridge. The others, mostly Hessians, stayed away. I go to them and speak with them. Then one would give this excuse, the other that excuse. I found out that [Mr.] S. had gone around and told the people that they should not go to listen to me in church any more; I was half-Catholic. He had seen in one of my books that it said “you should bless yourself with the holy cross” and signs of the cross were printed in it.29 That was why they stayed away. But I preached to the few people out on the South Ridge. I always went the eighteen miles there from Vermillion on foot. It was a very difficult walk for me, for the poor, misled people weighed really heavily on my heart. A few remained faithful. One widow Z. even moved up to Vermillion and later moved to Newburgh when I did.

Endnotes

25 The print edition mistakenly reads F. for T. (cf. endnote 18).

26 The print edition mistakenly reads F. for T. (cf. previous endnote).

27 Namely “the daughter of [Mr.] S.”

28 That is, he referred especially to the man’s ignoring of the Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

29 Mr. S. probably saw a page from Luther’s Small Catechism in Strieter’s Book of Concord. In the section on “How the Father, as the Head of the Family, Should Teach His Household to Bless Themselves in the Morning and Evening,” Luther says that in the morning and in the evening, before praying, “you should bless yourself with the holy cross…”

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: Marriage

[Continued from Part 17. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Into the Ministry (continued)

I went to live with [Mr.] T[heisen] in the small town and was treated like a lord there. In front was a large room, my table, my bed, and there I taught school to six children or so. One Sunday I would preach in Elyria and those from the South Ridge, two miles away, would come over here; the next Sunday church was there and those in Elyria went over there. After the sermon I would also give Catechism instruction.

I lived for my quarter-year at [Mr.] T[heisen’s] place in town. One time I was not feeling well. My host said he had a small, white powder that I should take. I take the powder and feel completely miserable. I need to go through the garden to the throne15, but get such pains there that I can’t even move. My hostess comes and calls, “Mr. Pastor, you’ve been in there so long. Why don’t you get dressed and we’ll get you out of there.” I pulled myself together and the mother and the girl bring me into the house and lay me on my bed.

No sooner do I lie down than I get the cramp in both calves, which pulls my flesh together in a clump. I yelled, and they rubbed. I yelled, “Get me a pail full of cold water!” The girl gets water, and I put both feet into the cold water and the cramp goes away. But I thought, “You are never taking that powder again.”

Later I lived at [Mr.] S.’s house over in the woods. They had a frame house. In the front they had a small, low addition, where they lived. Then the actual house. That had a large room and a bedroom. It had a fireplace, but no stove. The inside of the house was not “plastered [geplästert].” It was winter. When I would put wood on, she would come and douse it with water on me and say the chimney was starting to burn. My dear neighbor-lady, F., brought a bed. Not far from there was an old log schoolhouse in which I taught school. When I arrived in the morning, I first had to shovel out the snow. There was a stove there, but bad wood. They would bring the logs that had already sat in the water for ten years and saw them into blocks. I would split them and make a fire. But it did not want to burn. My little children came; I sat them around the stove and I stood behind them. The whole winter I never got one foot warm and I contracted a terrible head cold, which I didn’t get rid of until I was in Wisconsin. In the evening a number of folks would come and I taught them hymns for an hour [hielt Singstunde].

Mrs. S. was one short, angry little woman. She had two boys. The smaller one was terribly dumb and couldn’t grasp anything at all. The whole winter we taught the three letters a, b, c. She would help: “Jonnie, what’s this? Say a. What’s this? Say b. Now, what’s this?” – pointing back to a. He doesn’t know. “You Satan, won’t you just say it?” and she lays into him. The boy starts crying. Then she says, “No, no, my Jonnie, I will not hit you any more.” The boy rubs his eyes. “Jonnie, what’s this?” She tells him. “What’s this?” She tells him. Back to the first letter. He doesn’t know what it is. She lays into him again: “You Satan, won’t you just say it?” The boy starts crying loudly.

I go in there: “Ah, just leave the child in peace!” That’s how it went every day.

One time the husband was by the fire in the field and didn’t come right away. When she called him for dinner, she tried to smash his brains with the fire poker. He just barely got out of the way so that he avoided her blow.

A family came from Germany. The wife became frightfully homesick and lost her mind. I visited her regularly. With God’s help I get her straightened out again. I went to live with [Mr.] F. I stayed there longer than usual. There I had it nice!

I had a listener who always went to sleep on me during the service. As soon as the sermon started, his head would start to hang. He came to announce for the Lord’s Supper. I said, “But my dear man, you are always sleeping during the sermon.” He replied that he could not help it. I said, “Let me give you a good piece of advice, sir. Come to church with the thought, ‘Today I am going to hear for once what the pastor knows.’ Then, when you are there, pray really earnestly that our dear God would please drive the sleep away. And if it comes anyway, then bite yourself on the tongue, and make it a good one.” And sure enough, from then on my dear man was a very attentive listener. Later everything closed down there for a while.16 Jüngel was now Steinbach’s successor in Liverpool. He told me, “[Mr.] H. came to me and asked me to begin there again, because people had moved into the area. He wanted to have me picked up with the buggy and brought back home and he would give me five dollars every time.”

I said, “Wow, that is a lot! Why is he willing to do all that?”

“Yeah, he said, ‘Pastor Strieter sowed seed in my heart, and now it’s growing.’”

I also began preaching in Vermillion.17 Several families lived there. I also used to preach on the South Ridge. When I did, I ate at [Mr.] H.’s at midday and marched eighteen miles to Vermillion, preached in the evening and taught hymns for an hour, and on Monday and Tuesday I taught school to eight little children or so. Tuesday after school I walked my eighteen miles back down and taught school the rest of the week back on the South Ridge. My miller [Mr.] T[heisen]18 had no more work in Elyria and had to go looking for work. He moved with his family to Liverpool.

In the spring of 1853 I was ordained by Schwan. He preached on the Good Shepherd. It fit well, and I earnestly made up my mind to become a good undershepherd. Steinbach assisted.19

I now went to live with [Mr.] S. on the rotation. At his house, next to the main room, was a small room that was to be mine. I made a proper table and bought myself a water pitcher and a glass. The room smelled terribly bad; it had been the cat’s den for years. When I went to bed, I felt things crawling over my entire body. I got up. Everything was covered in red.20 I got dressed, then sat down at my table, and laid my head on the table. That’s how I carried on.

One day the wife said, “Don’t you go to bed, sir?”

I said, “There are bedbugs.” She and her daughter go at it and start washing, but it didn’t help a thing; I had to stay at the table. The family simply did not live well. I could not eat their bread. It was three fingers high and so hard that you could have used it as a projectile and smashed in a person’s brains. Each morning he ran into the small town to fetch some meat, but every time he brought the udder, which he got for free or for a few cents. That went into the water and was brought to the table together with the gravy when it was just tolerably well boiled. Luckily they always brought boiled potatoes [Pellkartoffeln] to the table. So I could at least peel off the skin and eat my potatoes with salt, and I also would drink some water. The potatoes and the water did not fill me up, however, and it started to take a terrible toll on me. When I went to my schoolhouse on the South Ridge, I would have to stop and rest several times. How often I stood behind my table and thought, “It’s time for you to go and tell your people, ‘I can’t go on like this any more,’” but I never actually did so; I just kept on toughing it out.

One time my dear Ph[ilipp] T[heiss] loaded me on his buggy and drove me to Steinbach. Along the way he started in, “Sir, I would like to have a word with you on a matter of special importance.”

I said, “Okay, what is it?”

He said, “You must marry, so that you can get away from the S. family; you are in death’s clutches there.”

I said, “What are you saying! Sixty dollars a year – and that’s not coming in – and moving around every quarter year?”

He said, “You are always preaching to us about trusting in God; you should also take your own preaching to heart and have trust in God. God is clearly showing you that you need to marry, otherwise you may as well resign. And now let me also tell you whom you’re going to marry; take Lisbeth.” In Vermillion lived a widow, Anna Kunigunda Ernst, with six little daughters.21 The oldest, Lisbeth, she had sent to the parochial school by Steinbach and to be confirmed by him, since there was nothing happening in Vermillion. After confirmation the mother sent her daughter to Elyria, so that she would have church and Catechism instruction, and she made her home away from home at T[heiss’s].

Before this I got a letter from my brother, who wrote that [Mr.] L. had told him that he should write to me and ask me whether I wanted his daughter M. for my wife. One tramp after another was coming inquiring after her, but he had promised my father that I should have his M. I wrote that I could not think about marriage at this time; if God wanted to have it, he would surely work it out. In the meantime M. should not be bound to me. After a year my brother wrote to me that M. had married and had died while giving birth to her first child. I would have had a rich wife, but I would not have kept her; thus God cares for us without us even knowing it. —

We came to Steinbach. When he looked at me, he clapped his hands together: “Man, what do you look like? Whose house are you at?”

I said, “At S.’s.”

He said, “That’s enough of that; you are in death’s clutches there. You need to marry, so that you can get away from there.”

I said, “Marry with sixty dollars a year? How am I supposed to provide for a wife like that?”

He said, “Our dear God, who has provided for you to the present, will then provide for you both.” He continued, “You’re taking Lisbeth.” I would have been happy to take her, but she was too young for me.

We rode home, but from Elyria we went straight to Vermillion in order to hold service there in the evening. [Mr.] T[heiss’s] brother, H. T[heiss], was in the forest cutting wood for ship-building. When he came home: “Are you still at S.’s, sir? One only need look at you to see it. In that sh—house22 death has you in its clutches! Get yourself away from there.”

I said, “Whereto?”

He said, “Marry someone. Take Lisbeth!” She was right above us.

I said, “And where do I go with her?”

He said, “To Mother Ernst. She has a house in Vermillion; you’ll be well taken care of there.”

I said, “There are three of all good things; this is from God!”23

Mother Ernst and her little daughters came to church. I preached and taught hymns for an hour. Afterward Lisbeth went into the adjoining room to practice the melodion. I now say to Mother Ernst, in the presence of H. T[heiss] and Ph[ilipp] T[heiss], what was said to me three times in succession. She says, “If you would like my Lisbeth, sir, I give her to you with a happy heart!” We call Lisbeth out of the room and the betrothal took place.

"I found [this wedding picture] in an anniversary program from St. John Lutheran Church in Elyria, Johannes' first call." - Winfried "Joe" Strieter (13 April 2015), a great-great-grandson of Johannes Strieter

“I found [this wedding picture] in an anniversary program from St. John Lutheran Church in Elyria, Johannes’ first call.” – Winfried “Joe” Strieter, a great-great-grandson of Johannes Strieter, in an email dated 13 April 2015

After a quarter-year I rode with my Lisbeth to Elyria via railroad. There I borrowed a horse from the livery stable and we drove to Steinbach. He married us. On the way home I wanted to hurry up and I cracked one on the horse with the whip. It lashes out in back and its leg goes over the shaft. I have to unharness in order to get my horse free. After a while I lash again and my horse also lashes again and, sure enough, over the shaft yet again. I note that the beast knows his stuff, and I now must drive step for step.

I forgot to mention something, that the judge in Elyria wouldn’t give me a marriage license. He asked whether the girl was eighteen. I said, “No!”

He said, “Since you are honest enough to tell me that, I must also be honest with you and tell you that I can only give you a license with the consent of her parents.” So I had to get her mother, who then told the gentleman that I should have her daughter. My wife, Lisbeth, was born in Brownhelm, not far from Vermillion, on August 24, 1838, and we were married on January 17, 1854. There was certainly no eighteen years between those two dates.24

Endnotes

15 German: Pabst. Pabst or Papst is the word for pope. In many Protestant regions zum Papst gehen (“go to the pope”) was slang for using the lavatory or, in this case, the outhouse, alluding to the papal throne.

16 Strieter here is telling a story that happened much later to illustrate how this conversation, and the sermons now attended to as a result of the conversation, bore fruit for this sleeping man, whom he identifies a couple sentences later as a Mr. H.

17 Strieter’s spelling of Vermilion, Ohio

18 The print edition mistakenly reads F. for T.

19 From the “Church News [Kirchliche Nachrichten]” section of the June 7, 1853, issue of Der Lutheraner: “Most Reverend Mr. President! Herewith I am supplying the report I owe you, that Mr. J. Strieter, formerly a pupil at the Fort Wayne seminary, after he had received an orderly call from the German evangelical Lutheran congregation in and around Elyria, Loraine County, Ohio, was, at the behest of the Vice President, ordained by me and at the same time solemnly bound to all the confessional writings of our church on April 6 in the presence of his congeregation and with Mr. Pastor Steinbach assisting. Our brother’s field of labor is small by outward appearances; may the Lord be pleased to compensate for that by making it that much more fruitful through his blessing! — H. C. Schwan. Cleveland, May 6, 1853” (p. 142).

20 Bedbugs

21 I am indebted to Susan Hawkins, a great-great-granddaughter of Johannes Strieter, for sharing with me a document titled, “Sketch of the Parents of the Ernst Girls (Elizabeth, Martha, Sopie, Anna, Sarah, Mary)” by Henry F. Rahe, son of Anna Ernst and Henry H. Rahe. He relates the following concerning Anna Kunigunda (or Kunigunde) Ernst: “Anna Kunigunde Wittich was born March 16, 1811 in Kreis Rothenburg, Bebra Hessen Germany. Her parents were well-to-do and she received a good education for those times. She had a command of a fine High German and later in America acquired a good English. She was a very fine seamstress and a past master in fine knitting and crocheting. … She had the misfortune to lose her mother by death. Her father married again and [Anna] did not get along very well with her stepmother. Some of her cousins…and some friends decided to come to the United States. She thought it would be fine to accompany them here and if she would not like America, she could return to Germany. They left Germany in March 1836. … From New York they went up the Hudson to Albany, thence by Erie Canal to Buffalo, and by lake boat to Cleveland. Just how [Anna] got to Vermillion I do not know. My supposition is that some of her countrymen were interested in boat building and she accompanied them to the busy little boat building center of Vermillion. One of the men, Philip Minch, became a big lake boat builder and vessel owner. … At Vermillion, Ohio is where the married life of happiness and trouble for Casper Ernst and Kunigunde Wittich commenced, was lived and ended. They were married in 1837 by a Justice of the Peace. … As stated before, [Anna] Ernst would or could not put up with the weakness of her husband and divorced him in 1848 or 1849.” Earlier in the sketch Mr. Rahe had written: “Grandfather [Casper] Ernst was a six foot tall, broad shouldered, good-looking man. He had black hair and was dark-skinned. He was easy going and good-natured but his weakness was drink. Knowing Grandmother [Anna] Ernst as I did, although I was rather young to form an opinion, the trouble was that Grandmother would not stand for his weakness… Grandfather Ernst bought about an acre of land in the center of Vermillion and built a fair-sized frame house on it. This property and some money he gave to his wife at the time of the divorce. … Grandfather Ernst died in 1850 at the early age of forty-two, of typhoid fever… He was buried in a Vermillion cemetery along Lake Erie. The cemetery has since been washed into the lake.”

22 German: S—haus. Carl rendered the word pigsty, but he was being polite; pigsty is Schweinestall or Schweinekoben.

23 Strieter is referring to the fact that he was told to marry Elizabeth Ernst three times that day, by three different men.

24 The math puts her at 15 years old at the time of her marriage to Johannes, who was 24.

[Read the next part here.]