Strieter Autobiography: A New Home

[Continued from Part 4. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Youth (continued)

Now we boarded a small ship, and that brought us to the canal. On the canal we were now headed for Buffalo. The canal men were really nasty: If anyone went on shore, they would not let them back on. My father even fetched us some bread once, and when he was about to jump on, the helmsman veered away, and my father fell into the water up to his neck and his two loaves of bread were floating on the water.

Karl Müller's headstone in St. John's Lutheran Church cemetery, Bridgewater, Michigan

Karl Müller’s headstone in St. John’s Cemetery, Bridgewater, Michigan. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

We arrived in Buffalo and knew that we now had to go on the turbulent Lake Erie. We were quite uneasy and had a look at the water. We thought that out there it raged and blustered like it did on the Sea of Gennesaret when the Savior sailed across it with his disciples, but the water was completely tame. We boarded a steamboat, and that quickly brought us safe and sound to Detroit. There people had been arranged to meet us with transportation. The elder Auch was also there, the father of my eventual brother-in-law. They loaded us up and drove us to Ann Arbor. From Ann Arbor we headed several more miles further – to the west, I believe – to Scio. There was a large settlement of Württembergers there, together with their pastor Friedrich Schmidt, an alumnus of Basel.15 In the middle the frame church stood on the one corner, the parsonage on the other corner, and behind the church lay the cemetery.16 A mile or so to the west there were forty acres of land on which a log house was located a ways off the path. That was the property of a bachelor, Karl Müller, a tailor. He did not live in his house though, but went around sewing in people’s homes. For back then it was different from today. If you needed clothes back then, you fetched the tailor. We moved into his house. The owner ended up marrying my oldest sister Rosina. Their youngest son is the Pastor Müller in Deerfield, Michigan. We stayed in Scio through the winter. In the spring of 1838 we moved seven to eight miles further south to the town of Freedom, Washtenaw County, Michigan.

Bethel United Church of Christ Cemetery, where Jacob and Katharina Strieter are buried

Bethel Cemetery, where Jacob and Maria Katharina Strieter are buried. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

There Father bought himself forty acres of uncultivated land for a hundred dollars. Before that he had already bought himself a cow for twenty dollars, and so his supply of money was used up now. The forty acres lay perhaps a quarter mile off of the road from Manchester to Ann Arbor, somewhat more towards Manchester. There were many Germans there too, Württembergers, and in the township of Bridgewater bordering on the south, Hessians; my brother-in-law Müller was also a Hessian. There was not a church there. Service was held in a log public schoolhouse, a mile or so east of us.17 My father erected a log house and cleared land for farming. My brother Jacob, five years old than I, helped him bravely, and so did I, as much as I could. My sisters worked as servants and gave their earnings to Father. Back then girls did not get three to four dollars a week, but 75 cents or at best 1 dollar. Pastor Schmidt preached for us in the schoolhouse; he had many preaching stations. One time after the sermon he stationed my father in front of himself and delivered an address, then my father knelt down, and the pastor solemnly blessed him. From then on my father preached five Sundays and Pastor Schmidt on the sixth. Later, up at the intersection, from which we lived a quarter mile to the north, a log church was built and a cemetery was laid out, which is also where my parents are sleeping.18 My father preached in the church and also taught school during the winter for three months at a time – both, however, without any actual pay. I attended school under my father for three winters.

I also attended some classes in the public school in the aforementioned schoolhouse. There we had a certain Jerry Cramer for several terms. He was an absolutely outstanding teacher, but very strict, though also kind and just. One time a small Catholic girl was crying; her name was Eva Crämer. “Eve, why are you crying?” he asked. She pointed at a big girl who had taken her picture; it was her cousin. He inquired about it, and sure enough, she had it, a little Catholic picture of Mary. He sent a boy out to fetch a stick. He brought a hazel stick, about as thick as a finger and three feet long. The teacher grabbed the thieving girl by the hand, brought her on the floor, and gave her a real proper lashing over her back.

In my class there was a big, lazy brat, who never knew his spelling lesson. A lot was “spelled” [gespellt] back then. One morning the teacher told him, “If you do not know your ‘spelling lesson’ this evening, if you miss just one word, then you will receive your punishment.” The guy studied now, but still missed one word. Then the schoolmaster took his ruler and lashed him three times on each hand so hard that the young man told me the next morning that his hands were so swollen that he couldn’t chop any wood.

One time the teacher showed us a thing made of lead that looked like a half dollar, with a hole and a string in it. He told us, “Whoever does not miss a single word in spelling this evening, gets this thing around his neck and may take it home until tomorrow.” Now we went at it. I was the top speller. Lillie Allen was standing next to me. Whenever a word was given to me, she would look at me, expecting me to miss it, but I didn’t miss and now I received the thing around my neck. How proud I was, and with what pleasure I showed my lead thing to my parents and siblings!

Endnotes

15 Friedrich Schmid(t) was born on September 6, 1807, in Walddorf near Nagold, Württemberg, Germany. In March 1828 he entered the Basel Mission Institute. He was ordained a Lutheran minister on April 7, 1833. German immigrants in Washtenaw County had previously requested a pastor from Basel and so Schmid was sent to America, arriving in Ann Arbor in August 1833. What became Salem Lutheran Church in Scio was organized on September 20, 1833. Today it is one of the oldest congregations in the Wisconsin Synod.

16 The frame church, 30 by 40 feet, was erected in 1836. Pastor Schmid built a house across from the church in the summer of 1836 and moved his family into it in September.

17 This was eventually known as the Kuebler District schoolhouse.

18 The German Evangelical Bethel Congregation was officially organized by Pastor Schmid in the fall of 1840. At the same time an acre was deeded to the congregation for a cemetery and a log church erected on that acre. Today this church is Bethel United Church of Christ, located on the southeast corner of Bethel Church Road and Schneider Road. So the Strieter family lived a quarter mile north of there on what is now Schneider Road.

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Strieter Autobiography: Emigration

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Youth (continued)

In 1837 my father formed his emigration ideas. The choice was between Russia and North America, the United States. It was said that the Russian tsar was very kind to German Lutherans and helped them to find a home. But my father still decided in favor of America, and he had in fact selected Ann Arbor, Michigan, as his destination. Pastor Götz sent for my father and urged him to stay. He showed him on the map a body of water that was called Lake Erie. He told him that we would have to cross it, and that it was a very turbulent body of water where a very large number of ships sank. My father related this to us, but cheered us up by saying, “Our dear Lord God is also on the water.”

We got ready for our departure. Another family and a few young men from Affalterbach and several families from the surrounding villages also got ready to go. My father hired a coachman with two big old horses and a large wagon covered with white fabric; that’s where everything was packed up. Mother and we small children were allowed to sit up top; the others had to walk. Now we were off to America. When we came to the Ochsen, the innkeeper ran to the wagon with a flask of wine, managed to grab hold of my father, wept and cried out, “Now our prayer-man is leaving us.”

We traveled to Bremen. It was a long, deplorable trip! The cover over us got cracks in it here and there, and the water would drip through them when it rained. The coachman was a drunken wretch. In every single inn, especially where he was lodged for the night, he drank, and no one could get him away from it. If the young men had not looked after his horses, the poor animals would have died.

Finally we arrived in Bremen. My father soon became acquainted with Christian brothers, especially a certain Kalbfleisch family. At a synod convention, I believe the location was called Collinsville,11 an old lady invited me over and told me that she had gotten acquainted with my father in Bremen. In Bremen they loaded us on a small vessel on a river12 and now we were headed to Bremerhaven. That’s also where we thought we were going to die; at one point our small vessel was sitting on the ground. After a while the water was coming toward us like a mountain, and we thought it was going to cover us.13 In the harbor two ships were ready – a beautiful new vessel with three masts, a speedy sailer called Louise, and an old vessel with two masts which was called Leondine. We really wanted to take the Louise, but there was no more room on it, and so we had to board the Leondine in disappointment.

We were off and so too began the seasickness. My poor mother almost never left her bed. We ate sailors’ fare – black, tough hardtack. On the upper deck there was a walled-in firestove on which a large kettle was stored. The cook handed it over for cooking every day. If the girls did not feel well, then the young men did the cooking. They had beans which were put in the water in the kettle, along with a nasty piece of salt pork. Then they were cooked. The beans on the bottom were burnt, and those above them were hard. And then there was the grease on top, as thick as a finger. When midday came, then the people came with bowls and took their portion. But we Swabians had never eaten such food. In Affalterbach, in the morning we had a bread soup with fried potatoes, at midday millet gruel [Hirsbrei], creamed corn [Welschkornbrei], potato wedges and spaetzle [Kartoffelschnitz und Knöpfle], fried spaetzle and salad, pancakes and salad, steam dumplings [Dampfnudeln, a kind of roll], yapper slappers (Maulschellen, filled rolls), meatballs or sausage balls, depending on the circumstances, and so on. We didn’t have a lot of meat, but we did have some, though we never had salt pork.

My sisters took our portion of pork raw, then they roasted it well and filled an entire metal tub [Blechstipig] with it and brought it over to us. They broke the hardtack into pieces with the hammer, put the fragments in a bowl and poured hot water over them and melted them, and thus made a good soup that we could eat.

We had a good trip. No one died, and a little girl was born, who was baptized Leondine. Only once were the hatches closed on account of a storm. There was one time during the night that something slid past against us and our ship tipped way over to one side. In the morning the captain – he was still rather young, a short and most delightful guy – told us: “Another ship was sailing toward us and would have just about drilled us into the ground.” From then on the young men had to blow a signal. They had a long brass reed available and they positioned themselves at the front and one of them blew until he was out of breath, then the second one blew, then the third and so forth, the whole night through, in order to warn the other ships to stay away from us.

On Sunday it was always quiet. My father would go onto the deck; everybody gathered around him. Even the sailors had to be quiet. The captain would lean against a mast. There a hymn would be sung, and my father would read a sermon from Ludwig Hofacker14 and would pray.

We were about halfways there when the captain showed us a ship over yonder and said, “That is the Louise.” We arrived happily in New York, and two days later the Louise did too – the beautiful, new speedy sailer.

Endnotes

11 In Illinois

12 The Weser River

13 Strieter is describing what it looked like to him when he approached the sea for the first time.

14 Ludwig Hofacker (1798-1828) was a pietistic Lutheran pastor in Stuttgart and Rielingshausen. He was renowned for his passionate Christ-centered preaching; his church would often already be crowded an hour before the service began.

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