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.]

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.]

Seminary

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”.

Endnotes

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.

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