Upper Peninsula Mission Trip (1864)

Introduction by Friedrich August Crämer
Report by Johann Jacob Hoffmann

Translator’s Preface

In the process of working on Johannes Strieter’s autobiography, I have had to do a lot of perusing of old issues of Der Lutheraner, the first official periodical of the Missouri Synod. While looking for something else, I came across the following mission trip report by J. J. Hoffmann. Hoffmann has already been covered by both Strieter and myself in a previous post, but this report helps to supplement the information found there.

If we didn’t know how the story ended with J. J. Hoffmann – namely, with him getting ejected from the Missouri Synod – we might not perceive anything too out of the ordinary in this report. After all, Professor Crämer of Concordia Fort Wayne submitted it to Der Lutheraner with his wholehearted approval and C. F. W. Walther, the editor, had no problems publishing it. The fact is that the easily detected arrogant tone of the report was not a stranger to the pages of Der Lutheraner. When this arrogance was pointed out by other Lutheran church bodies and their periodicals (which the Missouri Synod would only concede as half-Lutheran at best), the Missouri Synod and the authors of Der Lutheraner would simply dismiss such accusations as resentment against Missouri’s “unrelenting adherence to Christian doctrine and practice” (cf. Mark Braun, A Tale of Two Synods, p. 22-30). While it is true that the Missouri Synod at this time definitely was the synod most faithful to biblical, Lutheran doctrine (the most important characteristic of any church body), putting that doctrine into practice in love, understanding, and patience was not its strong suit.

So it is only with the benefit of hindsight that we can detect in Hoffmann’s report the early traces of an arrogance, pride, and domineering manner so extreme that it eventually proved too distasteful even for the Missouri Synod and its leadership. (And indeed it is good to see that it was eventually dealt with decisively.) It is also bleeding with irony in light of the eventual rejection; Hoffmann was so clearly proud to be a Missourian, but once ejected by the Missourians, he would become as much as enemy as before he had been a friend.

Nevertheless, wherever his Word is preached, God accomplishes his good purposes and saving will, even when the human instrument is less than perfect and the truthful message of the messenger’s mouth does not sound in harmony with that messenger’s actions. (All of us pastors must have recourse to that truth, without, however, lounging around comfortably in it.) And we see that truth on display in this report as well, for we cannot deny that Hoffmann’s trip bore spiritual fruit for God’s kingdom. To the triune God alone be the glory, and that is indeed not just a pious wish and prayer, but the reality.

I translated what follows from Der Lutheraner, edited by C. F. W. Walther, vol. 21, no. 4 (October 15, 1864), p. 28-30.

(Sent in by Prof. Crämer)
Mission Trip Report

For a long time already it has been a real desire of the members of our dear Wisconsin Conference that the region along Lake Superior belonging to the state of Michigan might be visited for once, since so many of their former congregation members have moved there and they had received repeated requests from them to be visited. This summer they now called upon our Pastor J. J. Hoffmann to undertake a trip there. He was found agreeable to the task, set out on foot on August 8 of this year, thankfully covered the distant, wearisome, and perilous journey under God’s protection, and provided me the following report about his arrival at the place of his destination and what he accomplished there, which I simply must share with the dear readers of Der Lutheraner:

[Hoffmann’s report follows to the end. Prof. Crämer left out the first part of the letter.]

Finally I came to Rockland on Monday at midday. The Rockland, Minnesota, and National Mines are in that city.

Already shortly before my departure I had heard that there was a German preacher in Minnesota (now called Rockland); he was also purported to be Lutheran. If everything had not been arranged already, this news might have induced me to postpone the trip for a bit and to gather more information first. As matters stood though, by this point I had to make the trip. In addition, I did know that he was not from our synod and that his service was therefore of no use to our former congregation members anyway. I now inquired after this preacher with my innkeeper first, who was a well-cultured man, an old soldier, and had served in Italy and in France. Now he was lying on his deathbed though. He had had a stroke at the top of the stairs in his house, fallen down, and from then on had completely lost all feeling from his chest on down. Even though no one was supposed to disturb him, the condition he was in nevertheless required that much more that I speak with him. I soon found that he too was one of the poor people who had fallen away from their faith on account of the baseness and the shameful greed of a large part of the so-called spiritual leaders in Germany. By one such clergyman he had been defrauded of his father’s entire estate of some 30,000 thalers. To the question of whether he then considered what was written in God’s Word to be true, he only kept on saying that he had formed his own ideas on that. He was nevertheless tolerating it when I was preaching law and gospel over and over again between our conversation, and although he never said anything in response, one tear was chasing the next.

He also informed me about the pastor and had someone bring me to him. The pastor was an alumnus of the mission institute in Basel. It was therefore no surprise to me when I learned he was not a Lutheran. Nevertheless, he agreed with me when I said that calling it the Basel Mission Institute was actually an absurdity, since, for instance, when it sends out its graduates with Reformed leanings and those with Lutheran and United leanings, it has to and does say to all of them alike: “It is true that you all have differing convictions, but each of you should just make the most of the conviction he has. It is all from the Holy Spirit, and so each of you should just act and teach according to his conviction.” The institute also has absolutely no confession whatsoever that could be considered Lutheran – not once is the Small Catechism of Luther promoted there, nor is the Augsburg Confession. It has fallen squarely in the middle of the current of the spirit of the times and wishes precisely to train people who are only going to preach “Christ,” as if that could happen without preaching his doctrine pure and whole. And from this kind of institute the Michigan and Wisconsin Synods get their preachers and still want to be called Lutheran synods, even though their pastors who come from the institute are not at all acquainted with the symbolical books of the Lutheran church, and thus not their doctrine either. I used these facts to show him how the Michigan Synod, to which he belonged, could not be truly Lutheran. This too he granted, and seemed in general to have a desire to become truly Lutheran. I told him I would not preach in Rockland and asked if he knew anyone there who had formerly been in our fellowship. He said No. When I later returned to Rockland again, I simply could not understand how it had escaped his notice that many Missourians were there, apart from concluding what I subsequently found out. Tuesday morning I traveled 12 miles by stagecoach to Ontonagon, a sizable city along Lake Superior to which the pastor in Rockland laid no claims. I was looking for a Lutheran there and happened to meet him as soon as I got off the stagecoach. He ran an inn and poured me some beer there. He was in other respects a very noble man, but right away he said, “You won’t have anything to do here; the people will probably not come. I don’t go to any church myself, though my wife and a few other women like to go.” Another man said, “A pricher? Gimme a break! The parson! I need the parson like I need a…” A third man said, “The folks here are too smart; they’re nobody’s fool. There won’t be anyone who comes” (“and I won’t either,” he might as well have added). Another woman said: “There are not many Lutherans here” – even though there are 18 families – “and many of them go to the English church. I go there too, since I can understand English as well I do German,” and with that she murdered some English so badly that it might have moved someone to pity me just for having to be there to hear it.

On the other hand I also met many honest souls; they also greatly bemoaned the lack of love for God’s word. But most of all they lamented the fact that the people had become even more indifferent through ignorant preachers, and they accordingly wished very much that a competent man would gather them. So too at many places along the lake I met several people who had moved there from our congregations. They were very happy beyond measure at the assurance that our synod would provide them with a preacher at their request, and they asked me to please see to that. So I now collected addresses of people in the following places: Buchanan,1 Burlington,2 and Portland3 in Minnesota; Superior City, La Pointe, Bayfield, and Bay City,4 along with Ashland in Wisconsin; and Marquette and Munising in Michigan. I also met a number of people from Portage Lake5 that reported to me that close to 100 families (and probably even more) were living in the neighborhood who were without a preacher, and they too expressed the desire that I would see to it that a competent man come there. I told these people that Pastor St. in Rockland had applied to his synod on their behalf, but they declared that they knew nothing about that and wanted to have nothing to do with it, since they could not continue to rely on that synod. —

On Wednesday evening then I held church, to which the Presbyterians came, since it was the exact time their weekly service was held and since their preacher is in the war. I spoke to them, at their wish, on the 32nd Psalm. To the Germans I spoke on the summary of all gospel passages, John 3:16-18. After church I met another Missourian with whom I spoke quite a while longer and who also came back in the morning because he couldn’t get enough. I also succeeded in posting a few copies of Der Lutheraner and Lehre und Wehre as missionaries and certainly these will produce abundant fruit under God’s blessing. I also put a copy of Die Abendschule to work, and this too is certainly more conducive to making the reader into a healthy Christian than many so-called Lutheran papers. The Herold also happened to fall into my hands and I found the article on the slave-drivers in the Missouri Synod. You can imagine what effect it had on former members of our congregations. If they had previously considered the Herold to be a good, Christian paper, now their eyes were opened regarding this pet child of the Michigan Synod after I explained to them the whole story of the history of this writeup. About 8 o’clock in the morning I rode back to Rockland again, since I unfortunately did not have time to accept the various invitations because the steamboats here have such unpredictable travel schedules. When I arrived there at midday, my innkeeper’s health had gotten worse and worse. I asked him if he would permit me as a preacher to speak a few words with him. To all such inquiries he would only say that his head could not take it. When I asked him if he at least wished that I would pray for him, that God would make him healthy or be gracious to him in any case, he answered in the affirmative: “I thank you kindly for that, sir.” Friday morning I found him completely withered away. I stood for while at his bed by myself and shooed the flies away. Then he cried out suddenly in great agitation, perhaps ten times one after the other, “Pastor! Pastor!” The word “pastor” I understood quite clearly; I’m guessing that the second word, which I could not make out as clearly, was the name of the pastor through whom he had lost his father’s estate. I bent over him and asked him loudly if I should pray with him, to which he clearly mumbled, “Yes,” as he bowed his head. I knelt down and grabbed hold of his already cold hands and prayed. This was his last word. I thought that he would at least make it until evening yet, and since his wife came in and cried out anxiously, “Ah, leave my husband alone, sir! Leave my husband in peace!” I left to go and see the mines once. I rode down 1200 feet with my escort in a box. Then we got out and went zigzagging around in the mine, and after we had come back to 1200 feet from 1500 feet underground, we sat down and consumed our midday meal. Afterward I rode up alone – in 2 minutes I was back on the surface of the earth, and now I heard that the innkeeper had died. I also found a few Missourians now, but they belonged to the congregation, and I was asked to please preach to them on Sunday, and since it was okay with their pastor, who seemed to have honest intentions on the whole, that’s what I did. After church many Missourians remained standing at the church doors, and when I asked them if any of them were from our congregations, I received multiple “I am” and “Me too” answers. In the evening the people now held a meeting, and there I found out something I never would have guessed. The congregation was founded by Missourians, who banded together as “Zion’s Evangelical Lutheran Church,” and the church property had also been procured through their efforts. The former preacher was also from the Michigan Synod. After he moved away the Board of Elders had applied to our synod for a preacher through Mr. P. Stecher. Meanwhile the Michigan Synod had sent the present Pastor St. to the congregation without their desire or knowledge. So the congregation had taken him in pro tempore, as it were, until one of our own would come, which had not yet happened by that point. Since they were looking for advice, I was compelled to tell them that, since the congregation was supposed to be an evangelical Lutheran one and had been founded as such, they should also make every effort to see to it that Lutheran doctrine and practice held sway in the congregation. But if that could not be accomplished, then they could not remain in affiliation with that congregation or that synod. The pastor was present at this meeting and also seemed to see the necessity of adhering firmly and exactly to Lutheran doctrine and practice, or of dropping the name “Lutheran” if that was not the case. The Lord grant that this congregation become more and more that which it was founded to be.

So then, this trip accomplished this much at any rate: We now know those whom we have to keep track of, and I can now fully inform the brother who will serve as missionary there exactly what the situation is with the people and the area. God only grant that these poor people who are looking for help might also soon be able to be helped. To that end we must then persistently ask the Lord of the harvest to fill up the hearts of our students and many others who will still join them with real love for Christ and their fellow redeemed, so that they devote themselves to the wearisome task [Dienst] of mission work with commitment and dedication. We must also pray that he would open the hands of our congregation members so that such energetic pupils, but especially the poor ones, are able to be trained, and that he would also bless the work of our precious Pastor Brunn to that end, so that we are able to answer the cry for help of our dear, scattered fellow brothers and are thus also able to help fill the heavenly storehouses of our Savior.

I do not wish to burden you further, sir, with the details of my return trip. Let me just say that I departed on Monday morning at 9 o’clock and made it back to Jenny,6 the boundary of my parish, on Saturday morning at 9:30, August 27. I was so tired though that I could hardly walk the length of my living room any more. From here to Minnesota [i.e. Rockland] it is a good 200 miles, even though it might not amount to that much according to the measurement indicated on a map. By now, God be praised, I have recovered again to some extent; at first, though, I was nearly lame for 2 weeks. But now I ask you, worthy Mr. Professor, to work with me at getting the synod to send a competent man to that area. Material for congregations is available in abundance and little by little more and more people could be assembled, and then the desire of those Christians would be fulfilled, and those who did not seek God would learn to seek him again and find him.

May then the Lord of the great harvest be pleased to help in this regard too, according to his grace, for the sake of his name. Amen.

Yours,
J. Jacob Hoffmann

Endnotes

1 Today the closest community to this location is Knife River. There is a Buchanan Historical Marker 3.5 miles southwest of Knife River along Highway 61.

2 Now named Two Harbors

3 Location unknown to me, though most likely along the coast of Lake Superior like the others

4 Formerly northeast of Ashland along the coast of Chequamegon Bay

5 The Houghton and Hancock area

6 That is, Merrill, Wisconsin, which used to be called Jenny Bull Falls, or Jenny for short.

Strieter Autobiography: Johann Jacob Hoffmann

[Continued from Part 27. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Hardships and Happenings (continued)

I wrote to Professor Crämer for an assistant. He replied that he was sending me J. J. Hoffmann. He said that he was still young and unsteady [leicht angelegt]; he was not yet able to be independent. He needed to work under me for at least another year yet, and I was supposed to keep a good eye on him.

J. J. Hoffmann

J. J. Hoffmann

Hoffmann came.17 An impressive, youthful person, very gifted. I liked him a lot. But soon I notice that he is a light character. His favorite was idling away the time in the kitchen with the wife and the maid. I had him preach at Tagatz’s and told the congregation that this was my assistant. We would do the work together. He would work especially in Big Bull, but would also preach here, and I would go back up to Big Bull from time to time. Were they quite alright with that? They gave a unanimous “Yes.”

I now bought Fanny, a 5-year-old dark chestnut, a beautiful animal, for 120 dollars, a high price at the time and I had to pay in gold18 coin. But I obtained it on a one-year loan, and with zero interest. I now gave Hoffmann my good Rocky for 80 dollars, the price he cost me,19 also on a loan without interest, and for as long as it took him to get the money. I did that because Fanny was no riding horse, but was a fine runner in the buggy, easily trotting 12 miles an hour.

I now say to Hoffmann that he should go up to Big Bull and should stay 14 days and come back home. He went and came back after 14 days. I had him preach again at Schmidt’s. After the sermon he asked me on the way home how I had liked his sermon. On the previous Friday I had already given him Luther to study. But he soon set the book aside and went to find my wife and conversed with her, and not until Saturday evening did he jot a little bit down. I told him in answer to his question: “For sheer words, I have no idea what you said. Hoffmann, you’re going to turn into a miserable babbler this way. Why don’t you leave your studies of Greek and French” – for he had told me he was pursuing those – “and read Luther, so that you can preach something decent?”

He hung his head.

Corner of what is today Naugart Drive and Berlin Lane, c. 1909. The frame schoolhouse on the right replaced the original log schoolhouse where Hoffmann was called and organized the first Lutheran congregation in the area on March 11, 1861.

Corner of what is today Naugart Drive and Berlin Lane, c. 1909. The frame schoolhouse on the right replaced the original log schoolhouse where Hoffmann was called as pastor and helped organize the first Lutheran congregation in the area, behind Strieter’s back, on March 11, 1861.

He went back to Big Bull, soon comes back, and said that he had had them call him as an independent pastor.20 I ask him how he could dare do that behind my back? Didn’t he know that the congregation belonged to me? I also now told him what Crämer had written me. He apologized to me. I now had to put a good face on the bad affair and install him.21 The man also came to a sad end. My dear old Strassen,22 long time president of the Wisconsin District of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, can sing a sad song about Hoffmann. So can the dear Dr. Schwan, president of the synod at large at the time.23

Translator’s Postscript on J. J. Hoffmann

Just what the lyrics for the “sad song about Hoffmann” would say is difficult to surmise, in large part because the Concordia Historical Institute does not have any collection for Carl Strasen, and H. C. Schwan destroyed most of his correspondence before he died. What we know is as follows:

Johann Jacob Hoffmann (usually referred to by his middle name) was born on June 12, 1840, in Kuehndorf, Prussia, to Johann Valentin and Maria Christiane (Hohmann) Hoffmann. He was one of 17 children. He immigrated with his family to the United States around 1845 when he was around five or six years old. They lived for a while in Buffalo, New York, where his father worked as a tailor. Eventually the Hoffmanns moved to Michigan, where Jacob’s father farmed until his death.

Jacob began his studies for the public ministry of the gospel in Buffalo, then continued and finished them at the seminary in Fort Wayne. He was sent to serve as an assistant to Pastor Strieter in Marquette County early in 1861, where he was ordained on February 17. On March 11, the Lutherans in the town of Berlin northwest of Wausau called him to be their pastor and he accepted. As Strieter notes, this was somewhat rash on his part, but Strieter installed him on August 25. From his base in the town of Berlin, he served at least 20 preaching stations, traveling even as far as rural Neillsville, and making a mission trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 1864.

Eduard Moldehnke

Eduard Moldehnke

In a December 2, 1861, report to the Johannes Bading, president of the Wisconsin Synod, traveling missionary Eduard Moldehnke wrote of a chance meeting with Hoffmann in Wausau on September 23, during a mission trip to the area. Moldehnke reported:

On September 23, I traveled 35 miles by stagecoach to Wausau, a village surrounded by a ring of black stumps. It has a charming location on the Wisconsin River and is basically the last village in that direction. I arranged to stay at the home of Mr. Paff. In the evening I preached to about 30 people. Earlier I had just so happened to meet a Missouri man, Hoffmann. He would like to live there, but the people are rejecting him. He has a congregation in the bush about 10 miles from Wausau, but he hurries by horse to about 30 stations and fails to accomplish anything substantial by splintering his efforts this way, meager as they already are. He was very rude to me, even though he is only about 21 years old. Naturally I repudiated his attacks, though too mildly, I fear. … With his domineering manner Hoffmann has caused scandal everywhere he’s preached. Even some in his own congregation would gladly be free of him. So he preached in Wausau in a private home and when Mr. Paff asked him how he managed to preach there without permission, he said that he was a preacher and had the right to preach anywhere, and so on.

On January 20, 1862, Jacob was united in marriage with Johanne Rosinalde Erneste von Anschuetz (in records, Jacob referred to her as Rosine or Rosa for short) by Rev. Friedrich Lochner in Milwaukee. Rosine was 18. God blessed their marriage with 11 children:

  1. Ernst August Wilhelm, b. October 7, 1862
  2. Johann Valentine Ernst, b. March 31, 1864
  3. Johann Jacob Ernst, b. December 10, 1865
  4. Ernst Georg Heinrich Martin, b. December 10, 1865
  5. Clara Renata Coeleste, b. January 13, 1868
  6. Theophilus Oscar Ernst, b. July 2, 1869
  7. Adolphe August Ernst, b. August 28, 1871
  8. Otto Wilhelm Ernst, b. January 15, 1874
  9. Eduard Oscar Arthur, b. December 31, 1875
  10. Wilhelm Philipp Ernst, b. August 18, 1878
  11. Harry Hubert, b. November 1, 1882

The first nine Hoffmann children had 6, 6, 8, 6, 8, 5, 7, 5, and 9 sponsors, respectively, including six different pastors and a schoolteacher. Rosa was a capable and intelligent mother, teaching her children in the evenings.

Hoffmann accepted a call to St. John’s in Portage in February 1867. There he took pride not only in preaching but also in teaching, writing in the back of their record book, “My attention was directed at the school above all.” When he began teaching in June of 1867, there were 22 children. By 1868 the congregation had erected a new schoolhouse and there were 75 children. At the dedication of the school in December, Pastor Hoffmann read a document he had composed in which he boasted of his accomplishments. In his concluding remarks he said:

I sincerely and earnestly ask that every father please send his children punctually and consistently each day when school is being held. I beg that every father please buy his children the necessary chalk tablets and books. I furthermore ask that every father please punctually pay the trivial amount for exercise books, ink, and quill pen, which I supply the children myself, just as I do the German books. That way they will come by them fairly and will always be provided with what they need.

One more note in closing: I will do my best to continue to hold school in the future as much as possible. I will also continue to do my best to do it as well as possible. I will do my best to teach every child what is necessary and beneficial at the proper time. But I ask you trust me enough to assume that I must know what is most necessary and what a child needs to learn first. Nevertheless, everyone may make his wishes known to me, and if they are acceptable, I will take them into consideration.

This excerpt is part of a 9-page feature that he wrote about himself in the back of St. John’s record book, after having devoted just over 1 page to all of his five predecessors combined.

St. John’s 150th anniversary booklet says that 1870 was a stormy time in the history of the congregation, supposedly owing to “great opposition to strict biblical practices.” It also reports that Pastor Hoffmann resigned “‘for the sake of peace’ and with broken health” sometime around the middle of July 1872. He appears to have moved to East Tawas, Michigan, near Tawas City. (This may have been where his parents were living.)

Hoffmann then accepted a call to St. Paul’s in Sheboygan Falls and St. John in Plymouth, Wisconsin, at the end of 1872 and was installed in January of 1873. His firstborn son Wilhelm died on June 4, 1873, at 3:30 p.m. from fever and smallpox. He was 10 years old. In recording his son’s death in the records, Hoffmann called him “a gem of a Lutheran and a gem of a Missourian.” It was probably not long before or after this that his second son Ernst, at age 9, fell down the cellar and broke his leg below his hip, which crippled him for life. What effect these tragedies had on Hoffmann’s psyche is not known.

In June of 1878, the 150th anniversary book for St. John, Plymouth, reports that Hoffmann went on a missionary tour through the Lake Superior region for several weeks. “Adverse reports occasion the resignation of Pastor Hoffmann from the Sheboygan Falls-Plymouth parish in November.” In the record book for St. Paul, Sheboygan Falls, Hoffmann made his final entry in the Confirmation section as follows:

On the 23rd of November, 1878 [a Saturday], the following children were confirmed by me in the Lutheran church in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, and admitted to the Holy Supper, by special, fervent request on the part of the children:

  1. Johann Jacob Ernst Hoffmann, born December 10, 1865 [12 years old]
  2. Ernst Georg Heinrich Martin Hoffmann, born December 10, 1865 [12 years old]
  3. Clara Renata Coeleste Hoffmann, born January 13, 1868 [10 years old]

The two twins had already finished confirmation instruction in 1875, and again in 1877, and had thoroughly learned all of Dietrich’s [edition of Luther’s] Catechism at that time. The girl had also taken part in all of the confirmation instruction in 1877 and had learned well the chief questions and all the passages in Dietrich’s Catechism. — All three of them were, as far as knowledge is concerned, some of the best of the confirmands, and just because of their young age had stay back from the Holy Supper, which all three of them have already desired most passionately. Therefore I was no longer able to refuse them given the situation. — God bless them in time and eternity. Amen. J. Jacob Hoffmann, Pastor.

A note was later added in the margin by Hoffmann’s successor:

J. J. Hoffmann was already deposed [from his office as pastor] at the time and consummated the action [of confirmation] without witnesses. J. M. Hieber

The following “Announcement and Warning” appeared in the July 15, 1879, edition of Der Lutheraner:

The Northwestern District of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States hereby announces that J. J. Hoffmann, formerly pastor at Sheboygan Falls and Plymouth, Wisconsin, is no longer to be regarded as one of your own. He has been officially dismissed from his position because he has occasioned much scandal and offense by his conduct, in spite of all our admonition.

Representing the above-named synodical district
C. Strasen, President

Later reports from the The Lutheran Witness place him in New Orleans spreading slanders against the Missouri Synod and its leadership and ministering to a French Lutheran mission congregation. In 1882 he accepted a call back to Wisconsin, to serve some of the same members he had previously served. This occasioned a lasting split among the Lutherans in the area and the founding of Grace Lutheran Church in the town of Maine. Hoffmann served in the area until 1885. From 1890-1895 he served in Sheboygan and was unaffiliated with any synod. He appears to have returned to New Orleans in 1895, but he drops off the radar after 1897. By the time eight Lutheran congregations northwest of Wausau celebrated a joint 50th anniversary in 1910, the Wausau Daily Record-Herald reported that Hoffmann was deceased.

All of these pieces are part of the “sad song about Hoffmann” that Strasen and Schwan could sing once upon a time. There does not appear to have been one super-scandal that ruined Hoffmann’s ministry. Rather, his life and ministry seem to have been characterized by a steady buildup of headstrong activity. He thought of himself more highly than he ought to have (cf. Romans 12:3), craving attention, recognition, and praise, and wanting always to do things his own way, without concern for what his brothers in the ministry thought or what his members thought, whom he probably perceived as being ignorant and uninformed by comparison. He also seems to have been lacking in people skills. His knowledge, skill, and energy are undeniable, but so are his arrogance, lovelessness, and folly.

Endnotes

17 From the “Church News [Kirchliche Nachrichten]” section of the March 19, 1861, issue of Der Lutheraner: “Mr. J. Jacob Hoffmann, candidate for the holy preaching ministry [des heil. Predigtamtes], was recently sent to me from Fort Wayne as an assistant and, after receiving a call, he was ordained by me and solemnly bound to all the symbols of our church on Invocavit Sunday, the 17th of M., at the behest of the Mr. President of the Northland District. — J. Strieter. Address: Rev. J. Jacob Hoffmann, Stone Hill, Marquette Co., Wisc.” (p. 23). The “M.” was either a mistake by Strieter or a misprint by the editor of Der Lutheraner. Invocavit Sunday fell on February 17 in 1861, not March 17.

18 “or silver” was crossed out in lead and then in ink.

19 Strieter had traded a 60-dollar horse for Rocky, plus paid another 20 dollars.

20 A document has been preserved, titled “Formation of the Congregation in the Town of Berlin, Marathon County, Wisconsin,” apparently authored by the August Schmidt mentioned later in this footnote. It reads in part: “After the Lutherans in the vicinity of Wausau had asked Mr. Pastor J. Strieter from the towns of Newton, Christal [sic] Lake, and Shields, Marquette County, Wisconsin, to visit them and he had refreshed them with the word of God 3 times, Pastor Hoffmann, formerly a student at the seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and assistant pastor of the aforementioned congregations, came to these people, and after he traveled through the area, a meeting for the purpose of founding a congregation was held on March 11, 1861, the proceedings of which are inserted here:

Proceedings of the congregational meeting for the towns of Berlin and Stettin, Marathon County, Wisconsin, assembled in the district schoolhouse near Mr. Heinrich Beilke on March 11, 1861.

The meeting was opened by Mr. Pastor Hoffmann with prayer. Mr. Friedrich Krentz was elected president, and Mr. August Schmidt was elected secretary. — After Mr. Pastor Hoffmann was given an explanation of his compensation…he was unanimously called by the following persons, who hereby organized themselves as an evangelical Lutheran congregation, to conduct the ministry among them according to the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church…” This is followed by the names of 58 adult males, not including the secretary himself, for a total of 59. The location of the district schoolhouse mentioned here (a log building at the time) is today occupied by an empty, unused brick schoolhouse on the southeast corner of Naugart Drive and Berlin Lane.

21 From the “Church News [Kirchliche Nachrichten]” section of the September 17, 1861, issue of Der Lutheraner: “Today, namely on the 13th Sunday after Trinity [August 25], Mr. Pastor J. Jacob Hoffmann, my former assistant preacher, after first being issued a call, was installed by me into his congregation by Wausau at the behest of the most honorable presidium of the Northern District. May the Lord make him a blessing for many. The address of the dear brother is: Rev. J. JACOB HOFFMANN, Box 38, Wausau, Wisc. — J. Strieter” (p. 23).

22 Strieter’s spelling of Strasen, i.e. Karl Johannes August Strasen (1827-1909), pastor in Watertown, Wisconsin, and president of the Northwestern District from 1875-1880 and of the Wisconsin District from 1880-1885.

23 Namely, at the time Hoffmann was ejected from the synod in 1879. H. C. Schwan was president of the Missouri Synod from 1878-1899.

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Strieter Autobiography: The Ojibwe

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

Youth (continued)

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

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

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

Endnotes

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

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

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

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

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Strieter Autobiography: First Michigan Synod

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

Youth (continued)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: Confirmation

[Continued from Part 5. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Youth (continued)

Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Scio (Ann Arbor), Michigan. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Scio (Ann Arbor), Michigan. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

In 1843 I was confirmed in the spring by Pastor Schmidt in Scio. We were positioned according to age. I was the second last. In the back of the Württemberg catechism [Württemberger Kinderlehre] are questions and answers for confirmation. There were enough for everyone to answer two. Whoever was good at learning learned them all; whoever was bad at learning learned the two questions and answers that would come up at his or her turn. The pastor held his classes in the church. They did not last very long. When it was time to start, we children sat in our place, Mr. Pastor would come in, say an ex corde prayer with his eyes half-closed and turned toward heaven, and then begin. With his hands behind his back he would walk up and down the aisle and talk. What did he say? This is the only thing I still remember: Once while he was walking, the stovepipe above him wobbled. I looked up and thought, “If that falls down, it’s going to hit the pastor on the head.” He noticed this, stood still, and asked what I was looking at. He never did ask anything from the catechism, never posed one question. In general he did nothing but talk, and towards the end I learned a couple Psalm verses and some hymn verses from Hiller.19 Hiller was also our hymnal in church. The questions, mentioned before, were assigned, as was the confirmation hymn that was supposed to be sung at the confirmation.

On Confirmation Day we had to go to his house. There he gave us a serious speech: We should not fall away. He would be able to see it in our eyes if we had fallen away. We cried emotional tears as we solemnly resolved that we would not fall away. He went away, soon came back, and his knees were dusty; he had apparently been praying on his knees. We headed to the church, the pastor in the lead; we followed along behind him. The altar was encircled by a railing. We had to take our seats inside it. He delivered an address, but I have no idea what that was about either. He stepped in front of the altar; we had to sing our hymn, and now he quizzed us on our questions. We knew the answers. Individually we went up to him, knelt down, and he solemnly blessed us with his hand laid upon us, and he read our commemorative passage from a small slip of paper.20 Mine was not a complete passage from the Bible, but his own words that were based on a Bible passage. For the Lord’s Supper we had to go to the altar two at a time. On the plate lay cut-up, ordinary bread, maybe about the length and width of a finger, and two drinking glasses stood there, filled with wine. He took one of those little pieces of bread, broke it in two and put a half-piece in everyone’s hand. He also put the glass in everyone’s hand. I don’t remember anything else about a confession and absolution. No one announced for the Supper. Later I saw a Catholic woman go to the Supper with everyone else.

Endnotes

19 Strieter is referring to Philipp Friedrich Hiller’s Geistliches Liederkästlein (Small Treasure of Spiritual Songs).

20 It is possible that Pastor Schmidt laid both his hands on each confirmand, but the immediate context seems to suggest that he blessed them with one hand and held the slip of paper with the other.

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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: Emigration

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

Youth (continued)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endnotes

11 In Illinois

12 The Weser River

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

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

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