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.

Endnotes

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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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: Youth in Affalterbach

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

Youth

I was born in Affalterbach, Marbach Jurisdiction [Oberamt], Kingdom of Württemberg. Regarding my birth and baptism, here are my sainted father’s own words:

On the 9th of September, 1829, I, Jacob Strieter, became the father of a baby boy. He was born into the world between one and two in the morning. On the 11th of September he was brought to Holy Baptism and received the name Johannes, and his name was entered in the Book of Life with the precious blood of Christ.

Johannes Strieter's baptismal record (1) - entry 29

Johannes Strieter’s baptismal record (1) – entry 29

Johannes Strieter's baptismal record (2)

Johannes Strieter’s baptismal record (2)

Affalterbach, a small market town with a population of 500 back then, is located on the country road between Marbach and Winnenden, two hours from either city. In the middle of the town was a crossroads. On the left-hand corner, as you stand facing Winnenden, was an inn, the Lammwirt [Lamb Inn], and on the right-hand was an inn, the Ochsenwirt [Oxen Inn]. Everything above there was called the Upper Village [Oberdorf]. From the Ochsenwirt it went somewhat downhill, and down there was called the Lower Village [Unterdorf]. In the Lower Village, off to the side, was the well. It was a good well; everybody fetched their water from it for men and livestock.

In the Lower Village my father had a house of his own. We lived upstairs, and the livestock were stalled beneath us. Facing the street, which ran past below, were two windows. One evening fireworks were set off in the distance. We had the window open, were leaning out and were eagerly watching them. My sister shoved me to the side, I shoved her back and shoved my sister right out the window. She fell headfirst, one story down onto a stone slab. Father brought her up seemingly dead. But she soon came to again.

My father was born on July 17, 1789, my mother on November 28, 1791.

The family record for Jacob Strieter.

The family record for Jacob Strieter.

My parents were Jacob Strieter and Maria Katharina Wiesenauer. They had eight children:

  1. Rosina,
  2. Dorothea,
  3. Katharina,
  4. Christiana,
  5. Jacob Friedrich,
  6. Margaretha, the one I threw out the window,
  7. Johannes, and
  8. a girl who died young,1 so I ended up being the youngest.

My father was a shepherd at first. He sent his shepherd-servant with his flock to graze in the Bavarian countryside, while he guarded other people’s flocks at home. The servant came home and the flock was mangy, five hundred sheep, and Father had to have them cheaply slaughtered. With the proceeds he bought himself some more acreage, in addition to the acres he already had, and then took up farming.

A old, restored fresco on the north wall of the sanctuary in the Evangelical church in Affalterbach. It appears that this fresco once encircled the sanctuary, depicting important stories from the Bible. Whether it was visible when Johannes attended church there is unknown.

A old, restored fresco on the north wall of the sanctuary in the Evangelical church in Affalterbach. It appears that this fresco once encircled the sanctuary, depicting important stories from the Bible. Whether it was visible when Johannes attended church there is unknown.

My parents were pious; my father especially was a devout Christian. He held family devotions three times each day. In the morning he read a chapter from the New Testament; those of us children who could read also had to have the book in front of us and each one also had to read several verses. At midday he read from the Old Testament and in the evening from a devotional book, mostly from Arndt’s Wahrem Christentum [True Christianity].2 My father was kind to his children, but still stern in his discipline. He did not permit his children to keep any frivolous, worldly company and did not let any of them on the dance floor. He had an old hymnal, the Württemberg hymnal [das Württemberger Gesangbuch] of 1740, which was bound together with the New Testament. This testament contained brief annotations on the verses, by Brenz,3 I believe. This little book was a wedding present from his father-in-law, Johann Martin Wiesenauer, who was also a pious man. My niece, Lizzie Leiken in Sebewaing, Michigan, still has this little book. From this hymnal, whose songs still had doctrinally sound lyrics, the parents would sing. My parents liked to sing in general. When my mother sat at the spinning wheel, she would sing spiritual songs almost continously. My father, too, would sing almost constantly, when his work permitted it. How often I would hear: “Christ, the Life of All the Living.” My father also had many fine sayings, such as:

“No fire, axe, or knifepoint | shall sever me from you.”4

“I still have a Savior surely | from my sins, who’s mine securely, | all my lifetime never forsakes me, | till before his throne he takes me.”5

He also had the custom that, when the prayer bell tolled, he would remove his cap, fold his hands, and pray with his family loud and in chorus: “Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide, | for round us falls the eventide.”

Another custom he had, when he would set out to go somewhere or would begin a task, was to say, “In God’s name.”

Vineyard outside of Affalterbach. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

Vineyard outside of Affalterbach. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

One time my father was in his vineyard and I took his pruning knife, went off to the side a ways, and cut something off, then went to Father and said, “Father, look what a nice twig I have!”

He said, “Yeah, you have cut off my young little tree.” But he did not punish me any further.

One time there was gunfire in the direction of Wolfselten,6 a tiny little village on the Murr River where the mill was located.7 I followed the sound of the shooting, but I did not stay on the path; instead I went in at an angle. I came to the clay pit, where there was a bed of clay. It was nice and smooth and had a yellow tint to it. I tried to get across there, but I sank in up to my waist and got stuck. I was scared and cried out. Then someone came over from the road and got me out. But now I didn’t look for the shooting any more, but made my way home. The whole way I was gazing down at my yellow legs. My sister Margaretha, who was three years older, took off my little britches and washed them in the ditch opposite our house.

Evangelical church in Affalterbach. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

Evangelical church in Affalterbach. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

We had a pastor whose name was Götz.8 He was a very strict, moral man, but a rationalist. When he visited a sick person, he would tell him that he should overcome all pain with manly strength. When he began his instruction, which my brother attended, he began with this: “The earth turns on its axis.” My brother related this at home. Then Father said to him, “Child, you must not believe that. Our dear God says, ‘The sun rises at the end of the sky and goes around until it’s back at the same end’ [cf. Ecclesiastes 1:5], and he knows better.”

The pastor’s wife, however, was pious. If anyone was seriously ill, then she would come after the pastor, even to the poorest people, and she would bring something good along and read to the sick person from the New Testament.

My father was a shepherd at first, as I already mentioned, and during that time people would often send for him now and then when something was on their livestock, especially on their sheep. He had a beautiful sharp knife, with a white handle made of bone, maybe eight inches long. When he was called out somewhere, he would stick the knife in the inner side pocket of his coat. One day he had been out, came home and forgot to take out his knife. He went to chop some wood. The knife was situated in the pocket with the point facing Father’s waist, and when he swung down he stabbed himself in the side with the knife. He swelled up badly and was in a lot of pain and almost suffocated to death. Then came the pastor’s wife and brought some olive oil and told Mother to give some of it to Father and to apply it to the swelling in a hot press using a rag. Mother did this, and Father got better again.

A model of the church in Affalterbach as it used to look, possibly including the schoolhouse.

A model of the church in Affalterbach as it used to look, possibly including the schoolhouse.

I also attended the school in Affalterbach for one year. This school was a little ways off the country road, toward Marbach. That’s where the church was too. There were two classrooms. In the lower level the schoolmaster held class with the smaller children, and in the upper level his son, who was called Provisor, taught the bigger children. Both were enormous wardens. In the lower classroom I was in the first row. He sat behind his desk, on which he had a long blackthorn the width of a finger. If someone misbehaved, then he would laugh, “Ha ha!”, take his stick, usually come striding out, up over our heads, until he reached the culprit, and then down it came in all its force. Oh, what dread I had for that old teacher; but I never received any beatings.

Affalterbach today. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

Affalterbach today. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

One time I was heading home from school; it was already late. There was music coming from the Ochsen.9 Before the Ochsen we had to veer right to go home. I was trotting along slowly behind my siblings. But when I heard the music, I followed the music. They were dancing in there. On one side there was an elevation, on which the musicians were sitting. An old codger was playing the bass viol; my Injunlanders called it the Brumm.10 I clambered up and sat down next to the Brumm player and kept peering in at the gaps in order to find out where the sound was coming from. How long I was sitting I do not know, but suddenly my sister grabbed me by the arm, pulled me down and marched on home with me.

My father had been across the field in Winnenden and had just come home. He was sitting in the middle of the living room and had his small leather cap on. He pulled me between his knees. “Where have you been?”

“In the Ochsen.”

He laid me over his knees, took his small leather cap off and taught me my numbers with it. “There, next time you’ll stay with your brother and sisters!”

Endnotes

1 Barbara was born on December 28, 1831, and died on January 8, 1832.

2 The fuller title is Vier Bücher vom Wahren [or von Wahrem] Christentum (Four Books about True Christianity). Johann Arndt (1555-1621) is best known for this book and for being the pastor of the young Johann Gerhard, who would become one of Lutheranism’s greatest theologians.

3 Johannes Brenz (1499-1570), a fellow reformer and correspondent of Martin Luther, who participated with him in the Sacramentarian Controversy and the Marburg Colloquy of 1529.

4 From st. 13 of “If God Himself Be for Me.” The you refers to Jesus.

5 The final lines of st. 13 of “Komm, mein Herz, in Jesu Leiden,” a German Communion hymn sung to the tune of “Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness.” Based on the context of these hymn verse excerpts, Jacob Strieter appears to have used these sayings when things were going badly.

6 That is, Wolfsölden. Wolfselten is basically a phonetic spelling. See also next endnote.

7 Wolfsölden, just east of Affalterbach, is actually located on the Buchenbach (Beech Tree Creek), connected to the Murr River. Still today on a map you can see a Mühlkanal (mill canal) off of the Buchenbach. Both the creek and the canal run along Mühlenweg (Mill Lane).

8 According to Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Affalterbach’s website, M. Carl Gottlieb Goez (or Götz, as Strieter has it) was pastor from 1818-1837 (accessed 26 July 2015).

9 Rf. 3rd paragraph.

10 Strieter will talk more about “his Injunlanders” later in the Wisconsin chapter. Brummen means to growl or rumble, and in telecommunications a Brumm is a hum.

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