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.

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Strieter Autobiography: The Ojibwe

[Continued from Part 7. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Youth (continued)

One time I went with him [Missionary Meyer] to a sick woman. Back in the sugar maple woods a little old woman who was almost 100 years old had taken ill. They brought her home to her wigwam. There she lay on a bulrush mat with an old squaw attending to her. Next to her lay a dead bird, green, with long legs; I believe we called it a waterhen. She kept setting the bird here and there and stroking it. The missionary told me later that it was her guardian spirit that would supposedly bring her to the Indian heaven. The missionary spoke with her about Heaven, but she would not listen to any of it. She said she was too old. Especially the other woman was very surly.

The religion of the Indians was described to me this way: They believe that there is a great good spirit, Gishaemanido, and an evil spirit, Machimanido.28 Each one has many spirits in its service, which are in the animals and all around us. For example, a rattlesnake is an evil spirit. When it storms really badly, that is caused by the evil spirit, and you have to appease it with offerings. My brother-in-law once had an Indian with him in a ship when the waves were high; the Indian threw tobacco in the water. In the far west, they say, is a beautiful land with magnificent sugar maple forests and beautiful lakes and rivers. There is a lot of game and a lot of fish, but no pale-face comes there. That’s where eternal peace is found. Along the border of that land runs a deep, narrow, dark stream, with a narrow footbridge going across. A bad Indian falls off and perishes in the stream, but a good Indian gets across. Everyone chooses his own guardian spirit, like that woman chose the bird. When she was buried, I went to find her grave. There a split piece of wood was embedded in the ground at the head, and her bird was painted in green on top of it.

The Indians liked me: “Bushu, bushu John,” they would say.29 I even witnessed one of their festivals. They had assembled near the creek30 in an open area. With short, thin sticks, perhaps one and a half feet high, they had staked off a longish space. In the middle stood a man with the drum, which was a hollow log covered with deerhide on both ends. He had a mallet in his hand and now he began beating on the deerhide with gusto. Another man stood next to him with a gourd, a vegetable like a pumpkin, a thick, round mass with a handle. When it is dry, it is very hard, and the seed rattles when you pound it against your hand. He now took his one hand with the thing and began pounding it forcefully against the other, so that it rattled. That was the music. When they had played for a while, a man and a woman stepped into the circle, their hands crossed against their chest and an animal pelt hanging over their arms with the scalp still on it, a weasel, a muskrat, a mink, etc. They skipped along one after the other. Pretty soon the man thrusts his pelt into a woman’s face and cries out, “Hui!” and she then jumps into the space too. The woman does the same to a man, and pretty soon the space is filled. Those in the middle play the music and the others go skipping along to it one after the other. And then pretty soon two of them leave the ring and go over into the nearby thicket. The chief, Nage-Dschikamik,31 great chief, lies on the ground nearby and has a large liquor jug in his arm. A Frenchman who knew the language was with me. The chief spoke with me through him. He told me, “We are celebrating a festival of thanks to the great spirit.” I had the interpreter tell him that that was not how a person thanks the great spirit. He replied, “He is a very great spirit, not as particular as people are. It doesn’t matter to him whether you people kneel down and pray, or whether we dance.” The next morning I went back to the festival area. There lay the chief dead-drunk, and his squaw sat next to him, watching over him.


28 These names are variously spelled. According to “The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary,” gichi-manidoo means great spirit or god and maji-manidoo means evil spirit or demon (accessed 19 August 2015).

29 According to “The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary,” boozhoo means hello! or greetings! (accessed 19 August 2015).

30 Probably the Shebahyonk River (or Shebeon Creek), but possibly the Sebewaing River.

31 The “Dsch” is probably Strieters German way of representing a “j” sound. Strieter spells this name two slightly different ways in his manuscript – Nage-Dschikamik here, and Nage Dschickamik later.

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Strieter Autobiography: First Michigan Synod

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

Youth (continued)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

27 In other words, Johannes threw up.

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