Luther Visualized 12 – Marriage and Family

Luther’s Marriage and Family

Oil paintings on panel by Lucas Cranach the Elder’s studio, on display at the Lutherhaus in Wittenberg. Left: Martin Luther, 1528. Right: Katharina von Bora, 1528 or later.

Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora, a runaway Cistercian nun, were betrothed and married on June 13, 1525. Neither had a strong physical or emotional attachment to the other at first, but these eventually blossomed from their commitment to each other. Martin would eventually praise his wife highly and famously said in 1531, “I wouldn’t give up my Katy for France or for Venice…” They had six children together – Johann (or Hans), Elizabeth, Magdalena (or Lena), Martin, Paul, and Margarethe – but the two older girls died prematurely.

Sources
Weimarer Ausgabe, Tischreden 4:503-504, no. 4786 (recorded by an anonymous source in the 1530s and copied by Pastor Kaspar Khummer)

Gustav Kawerau, ed., Der Briefwechsel des Justus Jonas, first half, vol. 16 of Geschichtsquellen der Provinz Sachsen und angrenzender Gebiete, ed. Historische Commission der Provinz Sachsen (Halle: Druck und Verlag von Otto Hendel, 1884), p. 94, no. 90 (14 June 1525)

Gottfried G. Krodel and Helmut T. Lehmann, eds., Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1972), 49:116-117

Theodore G. Tappert and Helmut T. Lehmann, eds., Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 54:7-8, no. 49 (recorded by Veit Dietrich in the Summer or Fall of 1531)

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation, trans. James L. Schaaf (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), pp. 195-204

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church, trans. James L. Schaaf (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), pp. 237-238

16th century copy of Portrait of a Girl, an oil painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder. This copy hangs in the Lutherhaus in Wittenberg. It is based on the original in the Louvre in Paris, which is dated to between 1520 and 1528. For years the sitter was identified as Magdalena Luther (rf., e.g, the “Album of Photographs” in Schwiebert’s Luther and His Times [St. Louis: CPH, 1950]). But this identification is erroneous, since this sitter is about 10 years old and even the latest dating, 1528, predates Magdalena’s birth.

The account of the illness and death of Luther’s 13-year-old daughter Magdalena in 1542 is so heart-rending and touching that it almost demands a human face. Perhaps that is why this portrait has been linked to her for so long. It perhaps bespeaks the qualities of Luther as a father better than any other event. During her illness Martin asked his daughter whether she was willing to go to her Father above, to which she replied, “Yes, dear father, whatever God wills.” She died in his arms not long thereafter.

A funeral was held the same day Lena died, September 20, at which Luther broke down in tears. However, as the casket was being closed, Luther gathered himself enough to express his sure hope that his daughter would rise again on the Last Day. The Christian bond and character of the Luther family serves as a model to this day.

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The Death of Dr. C. F. W. Walther

By Prof. Martin Günther

✠ Dr. C. F. W. Walther ✠

So the sad occurrence has now come to pass. Although it was not unexpected, all our hearts are still filled with the deepest grief. Our dearly beloved and highly respected father and teacher, Dr. C. F. W. Walther, has passed away.

What this dear, departed man has meant to our synod,1 yes, to the Church both near and far, and what we therefore have now lost by losing him, we need not highlight here. What we have him to thank for, right after God, we highlighted in Der Lutheraner when we had occasion to report on his 50th anniversary in the ministry,2 and the synodical address and synodical sermon printed in this issue show how we rightly mourn, yet not without hope.

We will therefore limit ourselves here to a brief recounting of our blessed Walther’s final days on earth and of his blessed departure.

The aforementioned issue already reported on the illness he had contracted.2 Since that time, with every passing week, the hope that this faithful, tireless laborer would be restored to his work in the Lord’s vineyard increasingly dwindled. His strength continued to wane. Indeed, at first the departed was entertaining the hope that he would still recover at some point; indeed, the man who was accustomed only to work on behalf of God’s kingdom was thinking that he would be able, even if only in a limited way, to take up his usual work once again. But later he gave up these thoughts and looked forward to his release from bondage and eagerly anticipated his redemption.

He often confessed that he experienced great joy when he called to mind all of the many great blessings which God had shown him during his long life. Right up to the end, he often praised it as a special grace of God that God had protected him from severe spiritual afflictions in this final illness, which he had not been spared in past illnesses. He also comforted himself with God’s gracious election, and was comforted by others with it. One time he mentioned that many people probably considered him a truly stubborn man who would not be dissuaded from his opinions, but he was certain that this “obstinacy,” with which he had held firmly to the truth he had come to know, was a donum Dei (gift of God).3 Regarding special wishes and concerns for the future, he expressed several times that he had nothing in particular on his heart—just one matter that Mr. Pastor Stöckhardt took care of at his wish. Only in general terms did he frequently declare: Oh, if our synod will simply persevere in what she has! God has shown her such extravagant grace. And if she will only preserve a devout ministerium and not let any unworthy persons into the ministry [ins Amt]!

In his final weeks he often slept and was unconscious. Visitors could speak with him very little. During this time, when writers, upon taking their leave, would say to him, “The Lord will not leave you or forsake you; he will stand by you with his power,” the wearied man would turn his head a little and say, “Especially in the final hour!” Often the sigh would rise from his heart: “God, have mercy!” Often he would pray: “Jesus, your blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress,” etc.4 When Mr. Pastor O. Hanser took leave of him and asked him if he was looking forward to the glory of heaven, he answered, “Yes.”

Concerning his final days, Mr. Pastor Stöckhardt reports as follows:

At 5:30 this evening ([Saturday,] May 7), our Dr. Walther was finally set free from his prolonged suffering and transferred to the company of those who have overcome. His final days were a truly peaceful conclusion to a difficult confinement in bed. While he was almost continually without consciousness a week ago, since Wednesday one could once again speak with him intelligibly and he understood everything that was said to him. At the start of the convention, his son reminded him that the convention was now beginning, but that he would soon be called to another assembly, that of the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. To that he replied, “That will be glorious!” Indeed he still did much sighing: “God, have mercy! O God, do not forsake me!” But right up to the end he also affirmed the deathbed comfort that people shared with him from God’s Word with “Yes,” or by nodding, or with a handshake. When an old church member visited him the day before yesterday and began to speak Psalm 23, he recited the entire psalm. Yesterday evening we prepared ourselves for the end. At his request I prayed one more time with him and his relatives and then read the verse from the evening hymn: “Should this night be my final night In this dark vale of tears, Let me behold your Son in light With your elected heirs,” etc.5 When I was finished, he said, “May God grant it!” I then posed him this question: Was he now also ready to die confidently in the same grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to which he had testified throughout his life? He answered it with a loud and clear “Yes.” Toward midnight he seemed to have terrible pains one more time, and then he said, “That is enough!” After that, he seems to have experienced no more agony. The whole day today he was, as they say, at the point of death, but he did remain conscious right up to the end, and he made it clearly known that he had no problem understanding what his son, Prof. Schaller, and I said to him. One hour before his death, I was called straight to another dying man and, when I came back, I found him departed. In short, it was a truly peaceful, quiet, uplifting conclusion to a prolonged, often gloomy period of suffering.

We bow down beneath the hand of God. It is sorrowful for us. It is wonderful for him. He has entered into his Master’s happiness. We can only imagine the joys with which the soul of this devout and faithful servant was received! O how glorious, how great his reward will be!

Source
Der Lutheraner, vol. 43, no. 10 (May 15, 1887), pp. 77-78

Endnotes
1 Namely, the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, today called the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

2 From Der Lutheraner, vol. 43, no. 3 (February 1, 1887), p. 17: “This issue of Der Lutheraner is festively decorated, and rightly so, since the man who founded this newspaper in 1844, who ran it by himself for years, who, even after its editorship was placed into the hands of the St. Louis seminary faculty, has labored most faithfully on its behalf and carried its welfare on his heart up to the present, namely Mr. Doctor C. F. W. Walther, celebrated his 50th anniversary in the ministry [Amtsjubiläum] on January 16.

“Now if it is already a great and gracious gift of God when a servant of the Church has labored for 50 years in one or more congregations, then we should extol it as an especially great and gracious gift when such a man has completed 50 years in the ministry [Amtsjahre] who has served not just as a pastor, but whose service has extended into far reaches. And this is the case with our beloved celebrant. Passing over his abundantly fruitful activity as a pastor, he has functioned as editor of Der Lutheraner, as author of many significant doctrinal and polemic writings, as long-standing president of our synod, as professor and president of our St. Louis institution, as tireless speaker and consultant at synod conventions, as correspondent and adviser not just here in America, but also all the way into the farthest reaches of our church, to Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Not just friends, but even opponents are compelled to acknowledge this abundantly fruitful activity. Thousands owe him a debt of thanks, right after God. Our paper therefore has fittingly put on festive adornment in honor of this joyous occasion for its founder.”

From the same issue, column 2 of p. 18: “This celebration, which for many months now had occupied the hearts of the St. Louis congregations and of most of the congregations in the synod, now lies behind us. During this time, ardent prayers have ascended to the throne of divine grace, asking that our faithful Savior would please permit our faithful teacher to enjoy this great and rare day of honor in good health and with all his former mental vigor, and that he would permit us to celebrate a truly joyful day of jubilee. But it has pleased the Lord, in his unsearchable wisdom, not to answer our prayers in the way our hearts implored; otherwise we would be able to report today on a larger public celebration. If all of our human wishes and plans had been achievable, this day would certainly have been a day of jubilee for the entire synod, led by the St. Louis congregations, and the presidents and delegations from all our synodical schools and pastoral conferences would have made an appearance. For, God be praised, everyone in our synod was saying the same thing, that we had to honor the celebrant as the spiritual father of the synod, whom God has so richly endowed with such extraordinary gifts, because it is chiefly due to him that our synod has spread out so rapidly, that she has enjoyed such unity in faith and confession with corresponding practice, and that each one of her congregations enjoys such glorious freedom and independence, limited only by the clear word of God. And since this is true only by God’s free grace, this day was accordingly also supposed to be prepared as a day of rejoicing and of pure thanks and praise for God’s superabundant grace, which he has so undeservedly shown us through the celebrant.

“These were our human thoughts. But God had other things in mind. The illness of our dear doctor, which had already cropped up in September of last year, grew all the more rampant as he strenuously carried on with his work in his old self-denying way, without permitting himself a moment’s rest, until he finally exhausted himself completely and broke down. The illness had now grown so strong that all the skill of the doctors seemed wasted and we even despaired of his life. But God answered the prayers of his children that were certainly being sent up to him from all over the synod on behalf of this precious life. The illness slowly abated, but a completely extraordinary infirmity remained, which still left us in a constant state of concern for his life. Naturally, this extremely critical condition soon threw all plans for a larger celebration up in the air and, when asked about it, the doctors unanimously declared that, while they did have confident expectations for the dear invalid’s eventual recovery, an exciting, outdoor celebration was also out of the question for the time being. However, they were optimistic that a quieter, short congratulation ceremony in his room with not too many visitors, as the expression of sincere love and grateful veneration, would be much more likely to have a beneficial effect on him.”

3 This is reminiscent of John Adams’ famous quote: “Thanks to God that he gave me stubbornness when I know I am right” (David McCullough, John Adams [New York: Touchstone, 2002], p. 228).

4 At age three, Walther had memorized this stanza for Christmas. “His father was so impressed by this memory that he gave Ferdinand a three-penny piece. This left an indelible mark on the young boy, who determined that if knowing this text was worth so much to his father, it must contain a very important truth” (C. F. W. Walther, Law & Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible, ed. Charles P. Schaum [St. Louis: CPH, 2010], p. xix).

5 The final two stanzas of J. F. Herzog’s hymn, “Nun sich der Tag geendet hat.”

Quote of the Week – Rubbing God’s Ears

Philip Melanchthon traveled to a colloquy in Hagenau after Philip of Hesse’s bigamy became known and was causing a scandal for the Lutherans. (Luther had actually recommended this bigamy for pastoral reasons—definitely not his finest moment.) The sensitive Melanchthon was so troubled by the scandal that by the time he reached Weimar he had already become so sick that he could not continue the trip. He contracted a bad fever and was bedridden.

Luther personally went to see him and arrived in Weimar on June 23, 1540. He found Melanchthon deathly ill, unrecognizable, and unable to hear or speak. Luther later said in one of his table talks that Melanchthon’s eyes had already dimmed like a dead person’s. After Luther expressed his shock, Matthaeus Ratzeberger, court physician for Duke John Frederick I of Saxony and eyewitness to what happened, says that Luther went to the window in the room and prayed an especially bold and earnest prayer. Luther himself seems to have felt the need to explain the boldness of the prayer afterwards either to everyone in the room or privately to Ratzeberger:

Our Lord God had to stand there and take it from me there, for I threw the sack at his door and rubbed his ears with all the promises to hear and answer prayers that I could recount from Holy Scripture, so that he had to hear and answer me if I was going to trust his promises in other matters too.

Luther then took Philip by the hand and said, “Cheer up, Philip, you are not going to die.” He then gave him a short address.

Philip seemed to regain his breath at this. When Luther ran to get him something to eat, Philip refused it, so Luther threatened him: “Listen here, Philip, here’s how it is: You are going to eat for me or I am going to put you under the ban.”

Melanchthon gave in, and from then on he began to recover.

Sources
Christian Gotthold Neudecker, ed., Die handschriftliche Geschichte Ratzeberger’s über Luther und seine Zeit (Jena: Druck und Verlag von Friedrich Mauke, 1850), pp. 103,104

Weimarer Ausgabe, Tischreden 5:129, no. 5407

Strieter Autobiography: Investigation and Mission Trip

[Continued from Part 29. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Hardships and Happenings (continued)

Copyright 2016 Red Brick Parsonage. This is more or less the site of Strieter's parsonage in Marquette County, located at W3276 County Road E, Neshkoro. Strieter's two-story timber-framed house filled out with clay was built around 1856 on this site. A log stable was built around the same time. Eventually the 2-acre property was expanded to 4 acres, and in 1876 a new parsonage was built. A new barn was built at some point too, the foundation of which is pictured here. The property ceased to be used for the parsonage after 1898.

Strieter’s parsonage property, W3276 County Road E, Neshkoro. Copyright 2016 Red Brick Parsonage. Strieter’s two-story timber-framed house filled out with clay was built around 1856 on this site. A log stable was built around the same time. Eventually the 2-acre property was expanded to 4 acres, and in 1876 a new parsonage was built. A new barn was built at some point too, the foundation of which is pictured here. The property ceased to be used for the parsonage after 1898.

Something about hardships pertaining to Fall Creek. I go up there one time, drive to Montello, 12 miles. (I also had 12 miles to Princeton, and 12 to Wautoma. 400 steps or so off of the Mecan, to the west, was my house.) I take the wife along so that she can take the horse back home. From Montello I take the stagecoach to Parteville,25 from there to Toma on the railroad. Then it was 90 miles or so to Eau Claire on the stagecoach. Before it gets to Eau Claire, I get off and head off to the right on foot to Fall Creek to my people, who with few exceptions had been my church attendees [Kirchkinder] in Injunland.

How happy they were when I stepped into their midst in front of the schoolhouse! Man and woman embraced my neck and kissed me. Oh, with what delight I preached to them!26

On way home, while riding on the stagecoach day and night, the driver, who had apparently fallen asleep, lost his way and drove into the bushes. He halts and shouts that we men should get out and should look for the road because he didn’t know where he was. There were two other men besides me in the box, and several ladies. We get out. The one man looks around and shouts, “Here is the path!” But the coach was situated on a slope. He has to turn around, so we three position ourselves on a ledge, grab on top, and lean backwards to keep the coach balanced so that it doesn’t tip over, and we make it back on the road.

I had written my wife to pick me up in Montello, but she doesn’t get the letter; when I arrive in Montello, there’s not one woman there. What now? I have no other choice but to walk 12 miles. I was not at all accustomed to walking; I was always on the horse or on the buggy. I don’t get very far before my feet are aching and the soles of my feet are burning like the blazes. I sit down, take shoes and stockings off, and try walking barefoot, but that wouldn’t work at all. The sand was so hot, and every little stone was irritating. I put my stockings back on and now walk home in stockings, 10 miles or so.

Another time I was up there we rode to Black River Falls on the stagecoach.27 There we were told that the stage could not go any farther because of the bad roads. The 4 horses were hitched to a lumber wagon, three thin boards laid across the box. On the front board the driver took his seat. On the second board a man and a woman, each with a child in his or her lap; the boy was bigger and the girl was smaller. On the back board I and a short young lady. Others wanted to come too, but we were told, “The horses can’t pull that much.” It was just starting to get dark when we took off.28

We come to a frightful hill. The two of us men have to get down. The horses cannot pull us all. The driver, the two ladies, and the little children stay up. The ground was loose, yellow sand. The horses run in a gallop as best they can, 10 steps or so, catch their breath again, and then another burst like that, until they are on top. We get back on and away we go.

Wasn’t all that long before the little lady next to me gets sleepy, lays her little hands on my knee and her little head on top and drifts off. The people in front of me also fall asleep and were so careless that each one has his or her child’s little head facing out. Then all at once the man’s child hangs his head down over the box. I reach out between the two of them, grab it by its little robe and pull it back in. Then the wife’s baby hangs its head out and I pull it back in. So it went the whole night. Having arrived at a station in the morning, we drink some coffee. Then the wife expressed her thanks that I had “watched [gewatcht]” their children so well. —

I had been commissioned by my President Fürbringer29 to conduct an investigation. There was a preacher there by this point.30 I preached to a schoolhouse full of people, then the investigation got going. A number of complaints were brought forward; unfortunately they turned out to be true. The preacher asked for forgiveness, and since there were no criminal offenses, I asked the congregation to pardon him and retain him. But they didn’t want that; they still thought it would be better if he left, because things were simply ruined by that point. He was relocated out west after that, and became a very good pastor there, even a visitor.31 He has been in heaven for a long time now. —

I received a slip of paper on which a bunch of places were recorded for me that I was supposed to visit and do mission work. A man promised me a riding horse. Bright and early32 one man hitches his horses to his wagon, another brings me a horse, a big gelding, and says, “He has the heaves [die Heafs], but he won’t keel over. Just keep riding him at a good clip, sir.”

I get on my gelding. The other man takes off; I follow after. He puts them into a trot, and I put my gelding into a gallop. But right away I think, “Oh no, oh no, how is this going to turn out?” For he galloped so high and was throwing me into the saddle with full force. The consequences came soon enough. I get colic, and have to call to the man to stop, then take a seat in his wagon and tie the old boy to the back. The pains get worse and worse; the man finally has to drive at a crawl. I tell him to take me to an apothecary. He did so. The gentleman was in the middle of sweeping out. I tell him that I’m sick. He says, “Yeah, I can see that.” He disappears into his hideout and mixes me up something proper, a half glass full of yellow stuff. How it tasted, I don’t remember anymore, but I scarcely had it down before my belly gets red-hot and my pain is gone.

I get on my gelding and head for Chippewa Falls, leave my horse on this side, and I take the ferry across the river. Over there the path goes along between the river and the hill, toward the village. There stands a little house right next to the path, and behind it, at the bottom of the hill, a new brewery with “Gerhard” on it. “He has to be German; you should stop in there.”

The man was a young, friendly man; no beer belly on him. He directed me into the village. There, situated in the valley, stands a saloon in the center. I make my way there, address the bartender in German, and he answers me in German. I say who I am and why I was there. He says that he doesn’t care much for church. There in the distance in that little house by the hill lives a cobbler, he says; I should stop in by him.

I head over. The cobbler is beating his leather. He stutters and says that yeah, a pastor had been there earlier, and the people from the country had come in to hear him preach. The preacher was supposed to eat at his place at noon, and they were going to give him 25 cents each time. They still owed him 50 cents, and he wanted nothing more to do with it.

During the conversation, a door opens up and a woman walks in the door and soon picks up on the discussion. She speaks fine German. “Whoa,” I thought, “this is a sophisticated woman.” She gives me several zingers, but gentle ones, the gist of them being how people were expected to fodder the vagabonding33 preachers for free. I get red, stand up and say, “Listen here, ma’am, I am an honest pastor and no lowlife!” I pat my money-bag and say, “I have money. If you give me a meal, ma’am, I will pay you” [cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12]. She turns friendly and apologizes.

Now they told me that there were not many in the village and there were people scattered in the country, but they could not be called together now on such short notice. I say, “Okay, I will ride up to Yellow River and come back the day after tomorrow. Could the people be called together by then?”

Yeah, he didn’t have any time at all, he said, and besides that, he didn’t know anybody either. I myself could not go and do it, for I was always scheduled in advance from place to place. So I was unable to preach in Chippewa Falls.

I go back to the brewer, stay overnight at his place and ask, “What kind of a cobbler’s wife is that? She did not grow up here.”

“Yeah,” he says, “a military officer brought her along from Germany and jilted her, and in her need she took the cobbler as a husband.”

I cross the river34 and get on my gelding and head up to Yellow River. I arrive at a settlement of Swabians, my own countrymen, turn into a house where two brothers live, who had two sisters as their wives. Each had a baby. They were in the middle of cooking sugar.35 So in the morning the one woman would go into the bush and the other would stay with the children. In the afternoon they would switch. In the evening many people came. In the morning a nice large group assembles in the schoolhouse.36 I announce my hymn and start singing; they sing along, very well, but somewhat slowly. I start to preach. Then a man calls out, “Mr. Parson [Pfarrer], a little louder; there are people here who can’t hear well.” So now I belt it out.

After church I warn the people not to get involved with every single wandering preacher, but to come together on Sunday, sing a hymn, and a man should read a sermon out loud. A preacher would probably be coming to Fall Creek soon and he would serve them too.

They respond, “Yeah, we thought that you were just going to stay with us, sir.”

I say, “Yeah, my dear people, that simply will not work. Just take heart and stick tightly together and hold reading service. The good Lord will not abandon you, and he will give you a preacher.”

They bade me a fond farewell and expressed their many thanks.

I head back to Chippewa Falls and continue on to Menomonie, but have to gallop; the fellow will only walk or gallop. Soon the inside of my legs are in a lot of pain, but what can I do? I have to keep going.

Before Menomonie I arrive at a settlement and turn in at the house of the man to whom I was directed. He asked if I was Pastor Mohldehnke.37

I say, “No, I am Pastor Strieter.” “Great,” I thought, “now you have ended up in Mohldehnke’s ward, the traveling preacher of the Wisconsin Synod.”

In the morning I go to the schoolhouse.38 Was completely full. Before I know what’s happening they start to sing, but I don’t know the words and don’t recognize the melody either. When they stopped, I stood up and asked if this congregation belonged to Pastor Mohldehnke.

“Yes, Pastor Mohldehnke has preached here before.”

I say, “Then I should not be permitted to preach.”

They say, “You are Lutheran too, sir, from what we’ve heard. Go ahead and give us a sermon. You are already here anyway, and we so seldom get an actual sermon.”

“Alright,” I say, “then I will preach, but tell Pastor Mohldehnke when he comes not to look at this as if I were trying to interfere with his ministry [Amt]. I was directed here and did not know that he had already preached here. He should regard it as a guest sermon.” They said they would deliver the message.39

I state my hymn, start singing, then preach. Also warn them to watch out for the fanatics, the Methodists. The wife of the Methodist preacher was even in church, as I was later informed. They took a hat collection and gave it to me.

In general I received money almost everywhere. I have already wondered to myself why our traveling preachers today often have to be supported almost entirely from the fund. I never needed to apply to the fund for assistance. When I went to Big Bull, I would bring home a whole bag full of money. Indeed – 10-cent pieces, 5-cent pieces, such small 3-cent pieces, such big 2-cent pieces, a sixpence, a shilling, rarely 2 shillings. I would empty my bag onto the table for my wife and she would sort it all and put each sort into a little purse and revel in her treasure.

One time I had to ride way out of the way and baptize 3 children for a man. When I was finished, he counted 37 cents into my hand. I say, “That has to be all the money you have, sir!”

“Yes.”

“Okay, then I will give it back to you and add that much more.”

He started to cry: “Aw, it is meant to be a thank offering, that my children are now baptized, and you won’t accept it, sir?”

“Okay, if it is meant to be a thank offering, I will take it.”

One time a woman came. “Mr. Pastor, I am a widow and don’t have any money, but would really like to give you something. Here is a small sack of nuts; please take them along for your children.”

My people in the Injunland gave me two hundred dollars and rye for bread and some for the horse, some wheat too. —

I now hurried from Menomonie to Durand, across the river on the ferry, up the hill, into a saloon. “Are you German, sir?”

“Yes indeed!”

I say who I am and why I was there.

“Yeah,” he says, “there would no doubt be people here, but where can we assemble?”

I say, “There’s room enough right here.”

He says, “You want to preach in the saloon, sir?”

“Certainly!”

“Fine by me.” He goes and gets my horse into the stable and shows me in through the door to his family. I stay overnight.

In the morning a nice large group assembles.40 I announce the stanzas of my hymn and start singing. They sing along. I position myself with my back against the counter, the liquor bottles behind me, and start preaching. Soon the door opens up and a man pokes his head in, but quickly bangs the door shut again. Another man does the same, and another. It’s comical, and I have to control myself so that I don’t lose my focus. After the sermon I baptize two more children.41

From Durand I make my way toward Eau Claire. In the distance by the hill I see an old little house and think, “You should just stop in there once.” The door is open, opposite another door. In the middle of the living room sits the father with his head hung down. I call out, “Good day, father.”

“A German voice!” he says. “Do come in, sir.”

Soon an old little mother comes in through the other door. He told me that they had had 3 children, two sons and a daughter. The one son had drowned while floating logs, the other had been shot and killed in battle – the Civil War [Rebellionskrieg] was going on at the time – and the daughter had recently married and now they were all alone.

I comforted them with their Savior and asked if they had a Bible.

“Yes, other good books too.”

I told them just to keep reading them and to pray persistently and remain firm in faith in their Savior. He would not abandon them.

“Oh, dear Pastor,” he says, “couldn’t you please give us the Holy Supper?”

“Dear father,” I say, “I have absolutely nothing with me. Hold on to the spiritual use of the Supper, sir. Apply to yourself the merit of Jesus, which he has won for you by giving over his body and shedding his blood. Then you will have the blessing of the Supper even without actually taking it.” But I make up my mind: “That is not going to happen to you again.” From then on I always took some wine and wafers along, even when I rode.

I commended the dear folks to our dear God and took my leave.

I rode towards Eau Claire. On the other side of a bridge across a river I was supposed to turn right. Back there were also people to whom I was supposed to preach. I lose the barely visible track, ride up a high hill; the other side slopes down like a roof. Both of my gelding’s hind feet slip out and he sits down on his backside and doesn’t get back up until the bottom. At the bottom I bend a bit left and find the track again. Come into the open, turn in at the first house and tell the woman who I am and why I was there. She leaves me her child and runs to call her husband. He is a friendly man and, as I soon notice, Christian. I stay overnight and preach in the house to a number of listeners.42

I ride back over onto the Eau Claire Road. There I am supposed to go over across the prairie to a house and visit a family where especially the wife is really spunky, but find the house locked. I go back over and continue on the road. I come to a new house where a staghorn is fixed on a post, so it was a tavern. On the porch [Poartch] stands a man. “Are you by chance the Lutheran preacher, sir?”

“Yes!”

“Please come on in.” He took my horse from me and leads me into the saloon. “Do you want something to drink, sir?”

“No, thank you,” I say.

“Then go into this room,” and he opens the door for me.

There sit a number of women and also a man, and against the wall sit 4 nice girls, dressed in white, with a blue43 ribbon around their waists, and one woman has a child in her arm. The little children are seated according to size. I am supposed to baptize the children. I take down their names and give a short address, telling the adults and the little children what baptism is, that they were making a covenant with the triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that they would put on Christ. They should believe that from the heart and hold on to this covenant of grace.44

I now read the rite and ask the biggest one, “Do you desire to be baptized?”

“Yes,” says the child, leans its little head over the water and lets itself be baptized. Same with the second, the third, and the tiny little Trude too, the baby the woman was holding. Oh, it was too beautiful! I got to experience the same thing one time in Berlin.45

After the baptism they give me coffee and cake, then I continue riding to Eau Claire, turn in at my young carpenter’s place, who brings me to a widow.46 I cannot preach there.

Ride back to Fall Creek and turn my gelding back in, get driven back to Eau Claire, take my seat on a small steamer and head down the river to Reed’s Landing.47 Arrive there towards evening, go up the rise. A saloon is there and I go in. “Are you German, sir?”

“Yes indeed.”

“Do you have something to eat?”

He pours me a glass of beer, gives me a piece of sausage and a piece of bread. I take that to a corner, sit down and set it on a barrel and try to consume it. The beer doesn’t taste good; I let it stand. The sausage is dry and doesn’t taste good either. I chew on the bread. Then all at once a bunch of guys come in and take their places at the counter and get some drinks. In the middle stands a short man, a blacksmith, who right away starts mocking and says that the Bible is a book of lies. This is too much for me. I stand up and go up to the person: “Listen here, sir, you say the Bible is a book of lies. Let me ask you: If you were to get completely drunk right now, and you went home and abused your wife and children like a tyrant, would that be right?”

The keeper interjects, “Yeah, that’s what he often does.”

“No,” the man replies.

“Okay,” I say, “the same thing is also found in the Bible, for there it is: ‘You husbands, show common sense as you live with your wives’ [cf. 1 Peter 3:7]. Now how can the same thing that is the truth in your mouth be a lie in the Bible?”

He was quiet, and one-two-three, the room was empty.

In the corner a door is open and a woman stands in the doorway and calls out that supper is ready. The saloonkeeper says, “Mister, are you are a parson?”

“Yes.”

“Please come and eat with us,” he says.

I go in. There a large, roasted fish is sitting on the table; I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. We sit down.

“Mr. Parson,” says the keeper, “please say a prayer.”

I say a prayer and dig in.

He asks, “Do you know Professor Walther, sir?”

“Oh sure,” I say, “quite well.”

He says, “I was in St. Louis at N.’s, the confectioner” – I can’t remember the name, but he was a well-known individual. “Walther often tried to convert me, but he did not succeed.”

“Too bad,” I say. “You should be converted if you want to go to heaven.”

“Mr. Parson, time will tell. A mocker I am not.”

“Couldn’t a person preach here then?” I ask.

“Yeah, look here, sir,” he says. “Earlier a man came and passed himself off as a preacher, held church, told the people that traveling cost money and that they should take a collection for him. They do that. He takes the money and goes to the nearest saloon and wastes it on drink. Several others did the same. A person loses all his desire after that.”

My steamer comes and I get on board for La Crosse. The boat gets under way and I go inside. Soon I go back outside. There stands a large man with a raincoat [Wachsrock] on, at the front and looking out. I go inside and outside more than once, and in the morning the man is still standing in the same spot. He now goes inside and another man takes his place.48 I learn that the night-watchman was the captain. A noble figure, getting old already, with a hooked nose.

The thought now occurs to me: “This man stands in one spot the entire night in order to maneuver his boat safely down the river. What dedication! What, and you’re going to get tired? It’s going to be too much for you? You’re going to get testy – you who work on immortal souls for your Savior?”

I come to La Crosse and take my seat on the [railroad] cars for Parteville. There stands my Fanny in the innkeeper’s stable, whom I have left there for so long this time. I hitch up and take off. Haven’t gone too far when I start to feel ill. I drive under an oak, let my horse munch on a bush, and I lie down on the ground and throw up. But nothing comes out except sour, bitter water, and some blood at the end. I’m so dizzy, the whole world is spinning, and my head aches badly. It’s getting to be evening; I simply have to get going. I crawl to my buggy and claw my way up, hold on tight to the seat on both sides and take off. Have to drive at a walk though; my head won’t take it. Reach home toward morning,49 lie down for a little rest and try to take my clothes off. But my underpants have crusted together with the grime, so that I first have to soak them with a wet, hot cloth. My legs from the top down to the knees are completely sore. That came from getting thrown around in the saddle.

Endnotes

25 Strieter’s spelling of Pardeeville

26 Strieter appears to have departed for his first trip to Fall Creek on or around Monday, November 12, 1860, since he recorded two baptisms he performed in “Eau Clair” on November 14, 1860. According to Declaring God’s Glory: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (August 17, 2014), the commemorative book celebrating the 150th anniversary of St. John Lutheran Church in Fall Creek, “it was Wilhelm Stelter who convinced Strieter to make the trip to the Fall Creek Valley.” This is consistent with Strieter’s records, since Strieter calls him “my Stelter” and “a very dear Christian” in the previous chapter, and since he includes Wilhelm Stelter as a witness to the first of the just-mentioned baptisms, that of Florendine Caroline Stubbe. Declaring God’s Glory also claims that since “there was no local pastor” in 1863, Strieter “was called and twice made the 200-mile trip to conduct church services, baptize children and perform marriages” there. But this is highly unlikely, since a) Strieter’s records do not include any 1863 visits to Fall Creek, and b) Candidate Theodor Gustav Adolph Krumsieg was ordained and installed as as the congregation’s first regular pastor on September 28, 1862, and was installed at his next parish in Fond du Lac County on December 13, 1863. Even allowing for time to move from Eau Claire County to Fond du Lac County and for a delay in making arrangements to have a pastor install him in his new parish, it does not seem likely that Strieter would have had time to arrange and make two 200-mile trips to Fall Creek in the time available between Krumsieg’s departure and the end of the year in 1863. c) Fall Creek must have obtained a pastor not long after Krumsieg’s departure, since Strieter goes on to talk about another trip there in early April 1864 to conduct an investigation into the accusations against their pastor, a trip for which there is evidence in his records. That means that there had to be time for the new pastor to get settled in Fall Creek and for the relationship between him and his new congregation to deteriorate. Finally, d) Declaring God’s Glory speaks of two trips Strieter made, and there is evidence of two trips in his records – one in 1860 and one in 1864, but none in 1863. The only discrepancy between what he shares here and his records is that he goes on to mention how “the sand was so hot” against his bare feet on the final leg of his return trip, so that he finished the trip in stocking feet, which hardly seems possible in a Wisconsin November. Perhaps the conclusion of this trip got jumbled with another one in his memory, or perhaps it was an abnormally warm November day.

27 For this final trip, Strieter records 5 baptisms he performed in Fall Creek on Sunday, April 3, 1864, after baptizing the son of his neighborlady on Tuesday, March 29. Thus he departed on or around Wednesday, March 30.

28 Most likely the evening of Friday, April 1

29 Ottomar Fuerbringer (1810-1892) was president of the Northern District of the Missouri Synod from 1854-1872 and from 1874-1882.

30 The preacher under investigation remains a mystery, though someone with more time and ambition could doubtless discover his identify. Even the 150th anniversary book for St. John, Fall Creek, does not mention any preacher between Theodore Krumsieg and Wilhelm Julius Friedrich. The latter preached his first sermon in Fall Creek later that year on August 7 and was ordained and installed on October 2.

31 A visitor was akin to a circuit pastor today. He was answerable to the district president and responsible for visiting the pastors in his area.

32 On Monday, April 4

33 The printer misread herumlaufenden for Strieter’s herumstreichenden.

34 On Tuesday, April 5

35 That is, boiling maple sap down to syrup

36 On Wednesday, April 6

37 Strieter’s spelling of Moldehnke. See endnote 39 below.

38 On Thursday, April 7

39 Pastor Eduard Moldehnke of the Wisconsin Synod made three well-documented mission trips between 1861 and 1862, but in none of these does he mention stopping or preaching near Menomonie. However, at the 1863 Wisconsin Synod convention, President Johannes Bading reported that “during the course of spring [1863], journeys were also made in Minnesota and four stations were visited. Furthermore 14 new stations were established in western Wisconsin, so that altogether 22 stations in Wisconsin and Minnesota are being served by the traveling preacher.” At that same convention, it was resolved to release Pastor Moldehnke from his position so that he could serve as instructor of the seminary-college to be started in Watertown. Pastor Moldehnke agreed to the new position, provided he be given three more months to wind up his traveling preacher activities, which was granted. After 1863, Moldehnke appears only to have made one more trip in 1866, since it was reported to the synod convention that year that Moldehnke had spent several months in Minnesota as a traveling preacher. So the congregation mentioned by Strieter here most likely did not have to relay Strieter’s message.

40 On Friday, April 8

41 Strieter records baptizing 4 children in Durand on this day – Christian Lorenz Kuhn, August Wilhelm Zeising, Wilhelm Heinrich Wetterroth, and Anna Elisabeth Catenhusen.

42 On Saturday, April 9. Strieter’s two baptisms “by Mondovi” were of Johann Ludwig Heinrich Machmeyer and Heinrich Schreiner.

43 The printer misread buntes for Strieter’s blaues.

44 This is not exactly proper language about baptism. Baptism is a one-sided covenant in which God does all the acting, not a two-sided covenant. In baptism God saves us (Mark 16:16; Titus 3:4-5; 1 Peter 3:20-21), forgives our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), clothes us with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27), makes us heirs of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7), and makes a pledge to us that we will have a good conscience before him (1 Peter 3:21). This of course does not benefit us apart from faith in Christ (Mark 16:16), but the responsibility for the loss of faith lies with us, not with God. Strieter does allude to this proper view of baptism when he calls baptism a “covenant of grace,” which it cannot be unless it is one-sided. The language of two-sidedness crept into Lutheranism over time, especially in trying to describe the purpose of the confirmation rite, which is not instituted or commanded in Scripture. One faulty explanation of confirmation is that it is a renewing of our baptismal covenant, which we cannot in fact renew, since we had no part in making the covenant in the first place.

45 Strieter appears to be faltering a bit in his memory here. He did baptize 4 children in the town of Brunswick in Eau Claire County on April 9, but they were not all girls, and the baby’s name was not Trude. He baptized Anna Louise Wüst (b. September 6, 1856), Amalie Caroline Wüst (b. November 13, 1857), and Carl Friedrich W. Wüst (no birthdate given) – all children of Johann and Maria (Damas) Wüst – and also Marva Peisch (b. November 22, 1863), the daughter of Johann and Amalie (Würtenberger) Peisch. The similar experience he had in Berlin actually occurred less than a month later, on May 1, when he baptized 4 daughters of August and Barbara (Ander) Schipinsky – Pauline Wilhelmine (b. December 14, 1852), Emilie Clara (b. May 17, 1854), Louise Wilhelmine (b. October 14, 1855), and Anna Friederike (b. May 29, 1860).

46 The German in Strieter’s manuscript is difficult here. I have followed Leutner’s abridgment. Strieter’s manuscript reads (to the best of my ability, trying to discern what was later crossed out): “…der führt mich zu einer Wittwe [sic], die einzigen [sic] Lutheraner im [in? ein?]”, followed by a large space, followed by a word that starts with an S, but is indiscernible because of the lines stricken through it and the attempted corrections written over the top of it. Whatever the case, Strieter appears to have faltered here to one extent or another, since his records indicate he did baptize 2 children in Eau Claire on Sunday, April 10.

47 Strieter’s spelling of Reads Landing, Minnesota, on the western shore of the Mississippi River where the Chippewa River empties into it

48 This sentence was omitted by the printer.

49 Strieter appears to have concluded his investigation/mission trip on Tuesday, April 12 – nearly two weeks away from home.

[Read the next part here.]