Strieter Autobiography: Various Boyhood Tales

[Continued from Part 9. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Youth (conclusion)

I would like to relate a few more snippets from my youth.

When I was just a boy, my sister Christiana worked in Manchester for a merchant named Keith. There were two brothers; the oldest was an old bachelor, and the younger one was married but had no children. The younger, a short and very friendly man, brought my sister home in the buggy for a visit and approached my father, asking him to relinquish me to him. He wanted to take me in as his son. He would give me a good training, and if I turned out well, I would go into his business. He had a large general store. He really pressed my father, and toward me he was uncommonly friendly. I took a terrible liking to the idea too, but my father shook his head: “Nothing good will come of it! Deceit sticks between buyer and seller like a nail in the wall. There you will turn into a worldling on me and will too easily get lost eternally on me.” Our dear God would not have it that I become a rich storekeeper.

A diagram of the square mile in Freedom Township in which the Strieters lived and worshipped. Solid lines represent roads, dotted lines represent property division, and small squares represent either a house or a church.

A diagram of the square mile in Freedom Township in which the Strieters lived and worshipped. Solid lines represent roads, dotted lines represent property division, and small squares represent either a house or a church.

Another small occurrence: There were two eighty acre plots next to each other, running south to north lengthwise. The eastern eighty were divided. On the southern forty a Hessian family, the Gosenheimers, lived on the southern end. Mr. Gosenheimer was a master tailor. Mrs. Gosenheimer’s sister was there, and they had a boy, somewhat smaller and younger than I. They took us into their home until my father had built his log house. Our house was erected on the northern half of the eighty acres in the east end. On the western eighty a man named Hoberger lived on the west side. Once my father sent me to him on an errand very early in the morning. I headed through the woods. When I was halfway there, a large marsh lay in front of me to the right. Over there, beyond the marsh, was a field. An animal, black, was approaching me across the field. I stopped and asked myself, “What could it be? It’s not a sheep; it’s hanging its head to the ground. It’s also not a pig; it’s much too big. It’s not a dog either.” It came to the fence; then I could tell what it was. It climbed up on the rails and then tumbled down. Ah, it’s a bear! The brute came lumbering right at me. “What should you do? Run away? Then he’ll run after you. Climb up a tree? He can certainly climb too.” I positioned myself behind a tree. I had a dog with me. He soon saw the guy too and started growling softly. I told him to stop. When the bear, a frightfully large guy, was still fifteen rods [82.5 yards] or so in front of me, I thought, “This is it!” I step forward, and Mr. Bear looks up and sees me, hesitates a little while and—then turns aside somewhat to the left and starts running. Now I felt relieved, took care of my errand, returned home, and told my story. Soon after that the poor guy was shot.

The part of Lake Pleasant where Johannes almost drowned. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

The part of Lake Pleasant where Johannes almost drowned. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

Another occurrence: We had a lake to the north, a mile or so away, Lake Pleasant. We, my brother and I, often bathed in it. One time we swam far out and then turned around for shore. We were maybe a few rods [20 yards] or so from shore when I thought, “You can certainly wade now,” and let myself down. But the water went over my head. Now because I was so certain, I started swallowing water right away and immediately I was gone. My brother, five years older and much bigger, noticed it immediately. He grabbed me – he was able to stand – and held me up until I came to my senses.

Another little story: One day we rode the horses to the waterhole, perhaps twenty rods [110 yards] from the stable, but didn’t have any bridles, nothing in our hand but the halter strap. After the waterhole we rode a bit further, a short pleasure ride. We turn, and I put my horse into a gallop, with my brother and his horse following, and we race the horses as fast as they’ll go. On the way it occurs to me: “The stable door is still open. If your horse rushes on in, you are dead.” I get scared, but can’t do anything but jump off, and we’re going much too fast for that. In front of the stable door there was a tall manure pile. Before I came to it, I forcefully shouted, “Ho!” Suddenly my horse stopped and next thing I knew, I was lying on my back on the manure, with my head toward the horse.

One more: It was winter and my mother was visiting my sister Rosine in Scio – Karl Müller’s place – and got sick. She suffered a lot from rheumatism. She was referred to an old English doctor, who was not actually practicing any more and lived on his farm, which was maybe ten miles or so west of us. We received word that we should go to the doctor and get medicine for her. I get on the horse and go. From the doctor though I ride off straight for Müller’s. It was bitterly cold, and evening was setting in. I rode over there on a newly installed road34 that led to the path along which Müllers lived. Suddenly I have to go down a very steep hill. My horse’s hind feet slipped and he sat down and did not get back up until we reached the bottom. Now I was headed to the Müllers. My horse was tired and I was too. I was riding slowly. All at once I became very sleepy. I had heard that you should not fall asleep, otherwise you would freeze to death. I forced my eyes wide open, but I was already pretty much out. It seemed to me like I was seeing a rider on a large, black horse hurrying toward me in a dream. As I was dreaming this, next thing I knew that horse was running right past me. My dream was actually happening. That collision woke me up and now I put my horse in a drive, and pretty soon I was there.

Endnotes

34 Perhaps what is today State Road 52.

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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.

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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