Strieter Autobiography in Production

Finalized cover design for Sacred Storytelling

n December 15, Sacred Storytelling: The Autobiography of Johannes Strieter (1829–1920) and Related Sources went into production. Please contact Wipf and Stock Publishers’ customer service department if you wish to place an order for a softcover or hardcover edition. God willing, it will eventually also be available in ebook format.

Special thanks go to Erin Mathieus for her artwork, which was used as the basis for the cover design, and to Prof. em. James Korthals, Dr. John Brenner, and Winfried Strieter for their gracious endorsements.

Please see my earlier post for an overview of the book’s content. Especially the Name and Place Indexes are extremely comprehensive, and should prove valuable to both church historians and ancestral researchers.

To God alone be the glory!

Strieter Autobiography in Typesetting Phase

Erin Mathieus, The Gospel by Horsepower, 2020, acrylic on mixed-media paper

My manuscript translation of Johannes Strieter’s autobiography has been submitted to Wipf and Stock Publishers of Oregon, under the title Sacred Storytelling: The Autobiography of Johannes Strieter (1829–1920) and Related Sources. The tentative synopsis reads:

After emigrating from Germany to Michigan at age seven, Johannes Strieter (1829–1920) served as a confessional Lutheran pastor in Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana amid almost unbelievable hardships. Though not a well-known person himself, his life’s path intersected with that of numerous distinguished persons—August Crämer, Friedrich Wyneken, J. C. W. Lindemann, C. F. W. Walther, and John C. Pritzlaff, just to name a handful. Through his recollections, we also encounter firsthand the Ojibwa, the Civil War, the establishment and founding of roads, cities, churches, and schools, and travel by sea, lake, river, canal, railroad, horseback, buggy, stagecoach, and on foot. We accompany him as he nearly kills his sister, is spared in a terrible accident, falls in love, navigates difficult pastoral situations and decisions, enjoys laughs with and at the expense of his friends, gets drafted into the Union Army, buries some of his children, watches his family grow, ministers to the troubled, misguided, sick, and dying, and finally retires to Michigan on account of deafness. Translated afresh from Strieter’s original manuscript and presented with twelve appendices to supplement his autobiography, Sacred Storytelling is a treasure trove of adventure, perspective, entertainment, courage, and conviction.

The tentative Table of Contents:

  • List of Illustrations [contains 64]
  • Translator’s Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Original Preface
  • Preliminary Remarks
  • Chapter 1: Youth
  • Chapter 2: Seminary
  • Chapter 3: Into the Ministry
  • Chapter 4: Newburgh
  • Chapter 5: Wisconsin
    • Hardships and Happenings
    • Battle with the Fanatics
    • My Departure from Injunland
  • Chapter 6: Aurora
  • Chapter 7: Peru
  • Chapter 8: Proviso
    • Saloon and Ball
    • Lodge
  • Chapter 9: Pleasant Experiences
  • Appendix I: Strieter Ancestry
  • Appendix II: Strieter Children
  • Appendix III: Indian Missions in Huron and Saginaw Counties, Michigan
  • Appendix IV: Announcements Pertaining to Strieter’s Ministry
  • Appendix V: Sketch of the Parents of the Ernst Girls by Henry F. Rahe
  • Appendix VI: Beginnings of Organized Lutheranism in Marquette County, Wisconsin
  • Appendix VII: Early Relationship between the Missouri and Wisconsin Synods
  • Appendix VIII: Johann Jacob Hoffmann
  • Appendix IX: J. J. Kern Letters
  • Appendix X: Death and Burial of C. F. W. Walther
  • Appendix XI: Jubilee Report
  • Appendix XII: Johannes Strieter’s Obituary
  • About the Translator
  • Subject Index
  • Name Index
  • Place Index
  • Scripture Index

Previously, I had asked all interested parties to contact me and to provide me with their contact information and with the number of copies desired. Since I do not have to self-publish this book, this is no longer necessary. You can simply keep abreast of the book’s progress on this site or at its Facebook page, and then order it either from Wipf and Stock or Amazon once it’s published. Thanks for your support, and God bless!

Biographies in the Works

Detail of the Ducal Castle in Wolfenbüttel from an engraving by Matthäus Merian the Elder, published in 1654

Michael Praetorius Biography

On March 5, I signed a contract with Wipf and Stock Publishers out of Oregon to publish an edited translation of Siegfried Vogelsänger’s 2008 biography of the confessional Lutheran composer Michael Praetorius (1571-1621).

I originally made overly ambitious plans to translate Wilibald Gurlitt’s dissertation on Praetorius. But in the spring of 2018 Winfried Elsner, who collaborated with Vogelsänger and who currently chairs the Michael Praetorius Collegium of Wolfenbüttel, acquainted me with this more concise introduction to the composer and his work and persuaded me to undertake its translation instead. The goal is to have it released in advance of the 400th anniversary of Praetorius’ death in 2021.

God willing, in addition to providing a detailed summary of Praetorius’ life and work, the book will also introduce the reader to Praetorius’ father, employers (especially Duke Heinrich Julius of Brunswick-Lueneburg), wife and children, and other relatives, friends, and acquaintances. It will also include an appendix containing the sermon and graveside remarks Pastor Peter Tuckermann delivered at Praetorius’ funeral—appearing in English in their entirety for the first time. As of this writing, the plan is also to have the book richly illustrated with artwork (both older and more modern) and photographs. Some of the primary source translations I have undertaken and continue to undertake in order to ensure the historical accuracy of the book’s content may also appear on this site in the future; some may also be included in additional appendices to the book.

If you wish to follow the progress of this biography more closely, you can do so here.

Johannes Strieter Autobiography

Many of this site’s readers are primarily interested in my work on the 1904 autobiography of Pastor emeritus Johannes Strieter (1829-1920).

The work on the autobiography itself is basically finished. The delay in getting the manuscript submitted and published is mostly due to the discovery of a slew of correspondence from the mid-1850s to mid-1860s in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s Presidential Papers, some of it penned by Strieter himself. The pertinent letters in this correspondence tell two stories related to Strieter’s time in Wisconsin:

  1. The multifaceted and interesting story of the founding of Lutheran congregations in Marquette and Green Lake Counties, Wisconsin, without which Strieter would not have been called to Wisconsin in the first place, and thus also would not have played a significant role in the founding of many other Lutheran congregations elsewhere in Wisconsin through his mission trips, and
  2. The story of the conflict between Pastor Strieter and Pastor J. J. Kern, which is tied to #1.

I want to include translations of this correspondence, as well as other primary source material (church record information, Der Lutheraner articles and announcements, newspaper articles, etc.), together with this autobiography, since it both helps to put the details of the autobiography in their proper context and comprises an important and previously little-known chapter of the history of the Wisconsin and Missouri Synods. However, it is not only taking a long time to complete due to the large number of letters available (I am approaching the halfway mark), but the appendices are quickly approaching and surpassing the autobiography itself in size.

The serial I am currently writing for the WELS Historical Institute Journal (see Published) is thankfully providing the impetus I need to continue trudging my way through, and organizing, these primary sources. Once I am finally finished, I am considering the possibility of submitting this material as two separate manuscripts for companion volumes—the first being the autobiography itself, the second the supplementary primary source material. Eventually this project will, God willing, have its own Facebook page too, but for now, if you want to make sure you don’t miss important updates on it, please revisit the information here, especially the parts in bold.

Thanks for continuing to follow Red Brick Parsonage, and the triune God bless you all.

A Missionary’s Demise at Sea

By J. J. F. Auch

Translator’s Preface

In January of 1850, a 20-year-old Johannes Strieter set out from Freedom Township, west of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and headed north to Saginaw to pay his sister Dorothea and her husband, Missionary J. J. F. Auch, an extended visit. In Saginaw Missionary Auch picked Strieter up in his sled and drove him to their home in Sebewaing, on the western coast of the “thumb” of Michigan. There Strieter helped out as much as he could with the Lutheran mission to the Chippewas there. He also spent time with Missionary J. F. Maier at the Shebahyonk station, about seven miles northeast of Sebewaing.

Strieter clearly enjoyed his time there, including his time with Missionary Maier, who had a good sense of humor. Missionary Maier was also married to a Dorothea, the sister of Missionary Auch who had been confirmed with Strieter at Salem Lutheran Church in Scio. When Strieter left with Friedrich August Crämer to begin his pre-seminary studies in Frankenmuth in the spring of that year, after helping to build the new mission house in Shebahyonk, the parting was a sad one.

In the article below, Missionary Auch describes the tragic demise of Missionary Maier in the fall of that year. By that time Strieter was actually attending the seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Although Strieter doubtless heard of the tragedy, he does not mention it in his autobiography. Still today and even in English, Auch’s emotion is palpable.

You can view Missionary Maier’s grave at Find A Grave.

Mission News

Sibiwaing [sic]
November 28, 1850

Most Reverend Mr. President!1

A difficult task has been assigned to me by the Lord, that of informing you and our entire synod of the terrible misfortune that befell our mission on the fifteenth of this month. Mr. Missionary Maier and another man by the name of Haushahn, a resident here, found their grave in the Saginaw Bay on the just-mentioned day. They set out from Sibiwaing on the 12th with the purpose of bringing winter provisions back home and set sail from Lower Saginaw2 for the return trip on the 15th with a favorable, though very strong wind, and when it grew stronger and stronger, and there was also such a thick fog on the sea that they could only see a short distance ahead, they came right into the worst spot of breakers on the entire east side of the Saginaw Bay, and here they were shipwrecked, perhaps a half mile from shore and six miles from Sibiwaing. Just as I was returning to Sibiwaing from Shiboyank [sic],3 Mr. Missionary Maier’s place of residence, where I had held divine service in his absence, I found a man at my door with a note from a merchant who had been so kind as to bring the boat’s cargo into his custody. This note contained the terrible news. Mrs. Missionary Maier4 was actually staying with us during her husband’s absence and was now notified of her husband’s misfortune at the same time we were. I will not describe the heart-rending scene that followed. May the Lord from whose hand this distress came also comfort us according to his great mercy. To him be praise, thanks, and honor for such mercy!

The next day I rode out to the spot and found things as they had been reported to me, the mast on the boat broken off, the boat itself overturned, and the cargo scattered over a half-mile stretch of the shore. Although I rode back and forth along the shore nearly eight miles, the only thing I could find was Mr. Maier’s cap drifting along the shore. How horrible I felt! The day after that I went back to the spot of the accident with our German settlers here, who proved very devoted and sympathetic to the cause and flipped the boat back up in the water. But after we had once again searched all around in the water for the bodies for a long time and to no avail, we returned home to Sibiwaing with the badly damaged load of flour.

I then discontinued any further searching until last Monday, the 25th. On that day, I once again went out to the spot in the company of our interpreter, Mr. Maier’s brother, who had made his way here at the news of his brother’s death, and with another man. Two miles above the site of the accident, I and Mr. Maier’s brother climbed ashore and, while the other men continued in an Indian boat, we went searching along the shore. On the way I found a coat belonging to Mr. Maier, in addition to other small articles from the boat. Finally we came to the place where we had found the most flour and as I turned my gaze forward, I saw Brother Maier on his face in front of me, his coat over his head, the waves beating against him, lying on the shore in water perhaps four inches deep. Calling out to his brother, I hurried over. Ugh, what a sorry sight! We turned him over, his hands were washed snow-white, his face was puce, his skull bashed in. Maier’s brother was wailing dreadfully. I did my best to comfort him with God’s Word, but the pain my own heart was in to see my brother-in-law in that condition right there in front of me—there are no words to describe it. We also found the other man just sixty paces away from Mr. Maier. We returned home. On the next day we buried them and thereby sowed the first seed corns on the mission property here in Sibiwaing that are looking forward to a blessed resurrection [cf. John 12:24,25].

Mr. Missionary Maier was faithful in his calling. I can vouch for this on his behalf in good conscience. He lived to his Lord in faith, and so we also have the assurance from God’s unchangeable Word that he has also died to the Lord [cf. Romans 14:7-9]. He lived to the age of 27 years, one month, and 11 days.

His death has left a gaping hole in our mission. Who is going to fill it? — Our Indian congregation is very sorrowful. When I comforted them with God’s Word, the chief told me, “Yes, we now have a spiritual shepherd under us, who is proclaiming God’s Word to us; I sincerely rejoice with my people in that fact. I was intending to see myself soon put into a position where I would be able to teach God’s Word myself, but what are our prospects now? Night and darkness now surround us again, when I think of going to school. Yet I do believe what you told us from God’s Word, that ‘for those who love God, all things must serve for the best.’”5

“…”

I have now taken over Shiboyank again, trusting in God’s assistance. I have promised to hold service there every Sunday and, when the weather permits, once during the week too. I have also started up Indian school again. Here in Sibiwaing I am responsible for the Indians and perhaps eight German families. Consequently there is not a single hour in which I do not see myself surrounded with work on all sides. Oh, how unfit I feel for such a serious calling! There are many times I almost do not know how to keep my faith from dwindling. If God’s Word were not my comfort, I would surely perish. I therefore ask the entire synod and especially you, dear Mr. President, to remember me in your petitions to the Lord as your lowly fellow brother. May the Lord show mercy and provide another shepherd for the abandoned sheep in Shiboyank in the near future! These sheep have begged me to please earnestly stress to the synod how dire their situation is, along with the request that they be sent another spiritual shepherd in the near future. God grant it, etc., etc.

J. J. F. Auch.

Source
Der Lutheraner, vol. 7, no. 8 (December 10, 1850), pp. 63-64

Endnotes
1 That is, the president of the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States (today the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod), namely F. C. D. Wyneken, who was also serving as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis at the time

2 That is, Bay City. According to Herman Zehnder, the name of this sailing vessel was the Huron (Teach My People the Truth, p. 79).

3 Now usually spelled Shebahyonk. The location of this Native American community and mission station is today roughly identical with the unincorporated community of Weale, about seven miles northeast of Sebewaing near the mouth of Shebeon Creek.

4 The author’s sister (see Translator’s Preface)

5 The author seems to be quoting the chief of the Chippewas at Shebahyonk. We have conflicting reports on this chief’s position with respect to Christianity. His name is variously spelled Nocktschikome (letter from Friedrich August Crämer to Wilhelm Löhe, July 25, 1845), Nage-Dschikamik, Nage Dschickamik (both in Strieter’s autobiography, describing events of 1850 predating the events of this article), and Meganigischik (Herman Zehnder, Teach My People the Truth, p. 83, apparently citing Frankenmuth church records from 1849). Strieter says that his name meant Great Chief, and he describes a powwow he attended, sometime around early spring of 1850, at which the chief denigrated the Christian God in favor of the great spirit of the Chippewas and their dancing rites for worshipping him. When Strieter went back to the spot the following morning, “there lay the chief dead-drunk, with his squaw sitting next to him, watching over him.” However, we do know that the chief’s brother converted (taking the Christian name Sam) and was married in the Lutheran church in Frankenmuth, and perhaps this article is indication that the chief himself also converted later in 1850. Perhaps it was precisely because of the chief’s decidedly unchristian character and conduct earlier that same year that Auch was left speechless in response to his strong affirmation of Christian faith here.

The Burial of Dr. C. F. W. Walther

By Prof. Martin Günther

The Burial of the Blessed Dr. Walther

On May 7, during the synod convention, on its fourth day of sessions, Dr. Walther fell asleep. So that the convention would not be interrupted and so that a truly large number of the synod’s members could take part in the burial, the burial was postponed at the desire of the convention.

On Friday, May 13, in the afternoon, the embalmed body was brought into the seminary building and placed on the bier in the main hall [großen Halle] there, near the lecture rooms. When it was time to depart from the house of mourning, Mr. Pastor Stöckhardt gave an address and said a prayer. The coffin, carried by eight students, was followed by the grieving survivors—the two sons of the deceased, Mr. Pastor Ferdinand Walther and Mr. Constantin Walther, Mr. Pastor St[ephanus] Keyl and his wife and daughter,1 and Mr. Pastor H[einrich] Niemann, whose wife, the youngest daughter of Dr. Walther,2 was unfortunately prevented from attending by illness. The rest of the students followed after them.

The seminary building was draped in black both inside and out. Even the professors’ residences, as well as those of the church members who live here, were hung with black. The students took turns keeping guard.

On Saturday evening, at the desire of Americans, an English funeral service was held in the main hall [Aula] of the seminary. Mr. Pastor Birkner from St. Louis was the speaker.

On Sunday afternoon the body was brought to Trinity Church. Great was the number of those who made an appearance for this solemn occasion. The main hall [große Aula] could not hold them all. Mr. Pastor Stöckhardt gave the address for this, printed in this issue. A great multitude followed the corpse on foot, in spite of the threatening weather. Trinity Church was decked in mourning crape both inside and out. Many, many additional people came into the church on that day and on Monday and Tuesday morning, in order to have one last look at the countenance of the cherished deceased.

At midday on Tuesday the body was brought to its final resting place. Around 11 o’clock the students, professors and pastors, from both here and elsewhere, teachers, congregational administrators, and others assembled in the schoolhouse on Barry Street, in order to proceed from there to Trinity Church in solemn procession. Around 12 o’clock the funeral service began, in which Mr. President Schwan preached on Psalm 90 and Mr. Professor Crämer spoke at the altar on 2 Kings 2:12. The pallbearers on this solemn occasion were the professors of the seminary and the pastors of the city. From all parts of our country pastors of our synod had hastened this way to pay their last respects to the beloved deceased. Even other synods were represented: the Hon. Minnesota Synod by her president, Mr. Pastor Albrecht; the Hon. Wisconsin Synod by Professors Notz and Gräbner from her seminary in Milwaukee; and the Hon. Norwegian Synod by her president at large3 and Mr. Professor Larsen from Decorah. Certainly there has been no funeral for a theologian in America in which that many theologians have taken part. Certainly the city of St. Louis has scarcely seen a larger funeral.

At the grave Mr. Pastor O[tto] Hanser gave the graveside address on Daniel 12:2,3. Mr. Professor Larsen (of the Norwegian Synod) could not refrain from giving a short speech, in order to testify for how much also the Norwegian Synod has the cherished departed to thank. We impart his heartfelt words here:

Included among the great host of mourners who have assembled on this sad occasion are a small number of pastors from the Norwegian Synod, including the president at large of this synod. On behalf of so many of our brothers, we would very much like to express the heartfelt gratitude that we feel toward God and his servant, the cherished Dr. Walther, now of blessed memory, for every good thing God has poured out through him, on us as well. And so we cannot pass up the opportunity also to convey our thanks to the entire synod, so strongly represented here, who had him as her leader. The Missouri Synod has demonstrated such great and sacrificial love to us for nigh unto thirty years now. Since the year 1858, surely without interruption, we have had students in her theological seminaries. Approximately half of our pastors have studied at these seminaries, and most of them have had the benefit of Walther’s instruction. Who can measure the blessings they have reaped from this, and the blessings reaped through them by their congregations and our people? But also others of us, including some older persons in our synod, who did not receive formal instruction here as enrolled students—did we not sit at Walther’s feet too? Certainly we did, and far from being ashamed of it, we rather count it as an honor and, more than that, as a great blessing which we have been allotted thereby. Our people have also been blessed by Walther and the Missouri Synod in that quite a few writings from here have been translated into our language and have been distributed among our fellow countrymen. We mention especially Walther’s Gospel Sermons [Evangelien-Postille] and the glorious little book, The True Form of an Evangelical Lutheran Local Congregation Independent of the State [Die rechte Gestalt einer vom Staate unabhängigen evangelisch-lutherischen Ortsgemeinde].

Walther and the synod who had him as her leader gave us such strong guidance and encouragement in faithfulness, both in preserving the divine truth and in striving for true holiness. Let it be our earnest wish and prayer today that this faithfulness might long survive the dear departed both in our synod and in his own! May it be so for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

It should go without saying that the students sang their funeral songs at the grave of their beloved teacher, just as they had for the preceding solemnities. Mr. Pastor Sieck spoke the collect and blessing, and Mr. Pastor Wangerin, after he and the assembly had finished singing the antiphonal burial song, “Now Lay We Calmly in the Grave,”4 spoke the Lord’s Prayer. The grave into which the coffin was lowered is lined with masonry. A heavy stone slab covers the coffin.

Source
Der Lutheraner, vol. 43, no. 11 (June 1, 1887), pp. 86-87

Endnotes
1 Stephanus Keyl (1838-1905), the oldest son of Pastor Ernst Gerhard Wilhelm Keyl, was taken into the custody of C. F. W. Walther, his uncle, in 1847 when his father accepted a call to Milwaukee. He ended up marrying Walther’s daughter Magdalena (b. Nov. 22, 1842), his first cousin, in 1862.

2 Julie (b. July 27, 1849)

3 Herman Amberg Preus (1825-1894; president of the Norwegian Synod from 1862)

4 A hymn by Michael Weisse (c. 1480-1534), #476 in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary

The Death of Dr. C. F. W. Walther

By Prof. Martin Günther

✠ Dr. C. F. W. Walther ✠

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strieter Autobiography: Subscribing for the Book

(UPDATE [8/5/20]: The information shared here, especially the instructions at the bottom for how to obtain a copy of the book, is out of date. Please see here for an update on the book’s progress and how to obtain a copy.)

If you are interested in owning a hard copy of Strieter’s autobiography, please read on. (If you do not yet know anything about the autobiography, please read Part 1 here.)

The most recent installment of Strieter’s autobiography, that is, the last part of the chapter “Hardships and Happenings,” will be the last installment from that work that appears on this blog. The remaining chapters are:

  • “Battle with the Fanatics” – his encounters with the Methodists and Albright Brethren during his Wisconsin years
  • “My Departure from the Injunland”
  • “Aurora” – his time in Aurora, Illinois
  • “Snippet on Squaw Grove and Pierceville”
  • “Peru” – his time in Peru, Indiana (today St. John’s, Peru)
  • “Proviso” – his time in Proviso, Illinois (today Immanuel, Hillside)
  • “The Saloon and Ball” – his battle against drinking and dancing in Proviso
  • “The Lodge” – his battle against lodge membership
  • “Pleasant Experiences” – the stand-out joys that God gave him throughout his ministry, including his marriage, and also his retirement from the ministry
  • “Addendum”

At this point, the plan is to publish the autobiography as a hardcover book when finished, even to self-publish if necessary. If self-publishing is necessary, complimentary volumes would be given to anyone who has been helpful in this process, most notably the Concordia Historical Institute, the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Library, and a select group of Pastor Strieter’s descendants. I would ask any other descendant of Pastor Strieter for a donation simply matching the per-volume cost of publication. And to anyone else interested, I would ask for a donation marginally exceeding the per-volume cost (the goal being to make up for the complimentary volumes and ultimately to break even). (If a professional publisher accepts the manuscript, then I would only see to it that the complimentary volumes were distributed.)

If self-published, the format and size of the book would tentatively be something akin to a David McCullough hardcover, minus the dust jacket – with a small, elegant, professional emblem on the cover (silhouette of a profile of a bearded man with horse and buggy), two or three groups of pages with pictures related to the content inserted at intervals (thus no picture will be by itself in the body of the text), and a section of endnotes at the end of each chapter (as opposed to footnotes on each page) so that they don’t distract the reader who simply wishes to enjoy the autobiography by itself. Regardless of how it is published, I will also see to the provision of an index of names, places, concepts, events, etc. including modern-day churches descended from or related to the congregations Strieter mentions.

I am hereby asking all interested parties – whether individuals, societies, or organizations – to provide me with their name(s), address(es), and the number of copies desired. You can email me at:

redbrickparsonage@gmail.com

I will compile these names in a subscription spreadsheet so that I have a good idea of how many copies to have printed.

The other benefit of an advance subscriber spreadsheet is that, if the number of subscribers adds up sufficiently, I may be able to use that spreadsheet to persuade a publisher to accept the manuscript and take over publishing responsibilities. While this might affect format, size, and layout, it would definitely make my life easier and most likely result in broader distribution.

Thank you for your interest in Strieter’s autobiography, and I look forward to hearing from you!

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: 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.

[This concludes the preview of Johannes Strieter’s autobiography. Click here to learn more about its publication in Sacred Storytelling.]

Strieter Autobiography: Adventures on the Water

[Continued from Part 8. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Translator’s Note

In this section Strieter tells the story of how the lumber for the mission house in Shebeyang (or Shebahyonk) was obtained. See here, here, here, and here. The Historic Site marker at the Indian Mission today simply sums up all the history below with one sentence: “In 1849, Rev. Mr. Auch ferried lumber from Lower Saginaw to Shebahyonk on Wild Fowl Bay, seven miles north of Sebewaing.” But I imagine a capable tour guide could keep an entire audience staring in wonder just at the siding of the Mission for upwards of five minutes, if he or she were able simply to retell the story below.

Youth (continued)

In the spring a mission house was to be built in Shebeyang, for which we needed boards. My brother-in-law [Missionary Auch] and I took our seats in the mission boat, which was 20 feet long with one mast and a sail. We had no wind and had to “pole” the boat, that is, propel it with poles. Toward evening we came to a small little stream, navigated into it, made a tent, brought our blankets and our trunk inside, made ourselves a fire, and cooked tea and eggs. We had bread too. We ate and went to sleep.

During the night the wind came from the other side and drove the water from the little stream out into the bay, and our boat sat there on the sand. We packed everything back in and now worked at getting our boat into the water. We had to go into the water. Boots and stockings came off and now, with our poles stuck in under the boat, we lifted up and pushed them against the side, until the thing was floating. We got in and put our stockings and boots on – people wore boots back then – and off like the wind we went. But the wind was too “close”; we could not reach the lighthouse at the mouth of the Saginaw River.32 We navigate to shore and I say, “I am getting the fever!” That doesn’t help any; I start yawning and getting the chills. We stand there for a while, but night is approaching; we have to get going. We push our boat back until we reach the river. Then Auch took a rope, went up on shore and pulled the thing, and I was supposed to keep it away from shore with a pole. But I wanted to sleep after I got the chills, for it was the dumb ague. Bump, my boat strikes against shore. I wake up and push it back off. The wind is making little ripples, and I think, “That is a turned down bed. You should just go crawl into it.” Bump, my boat strikes against shore again, and I push it off again.

Finally there is a little house on the prairie in the distance. My brother-in-law says, “Those are Frenchmen. Let’s go and find out if they’ll put us up for the night.” We go over; the house is locked. A little ways away is another house; we see light there. Off we go over there. There we find two women, the mother from the first house and her daughter in the second house. Their husbands were out fishing. There were two beautiful children in the cradle, one with the head at one end, the other with the head at the other. One belonged to the mother and the other to the daughter. Auch asked if we could stay overnight. They said sure. Pretty soon the mother takes off with her baby, and the daughter plunders her bed to make one for us on the floor. I slept gloriously. In the morning the woman bakes buckwheat cakes and roasts salt pork and fish. O how great it tasted – better than on the ocean. Auch asks what we owe her, but she doesn’t want anything. I say, “Give her a half-dollar.” He took out his money-bag and gave her a brand new half-dollar. Then she laughed anyhow, and was very pleased as she examined the half-dollar in her hand.

We returned to the boat and were off. We went to the sawmill and my brother-in-law bought wood. But we have to go to Upper Saginaw, because everything else could only be bought there. There I develop my fever again. My brother-in-law brings me to the inn. A fat woman takes me up to a bed. Every moment she comes and wakes me up in English: “You musn’t sleep!” At any rate, we got back up to Lower Saginaw and stayed overnight with a Frenchman. There we had boiled potatoes [Pellkartoffeln], salt pork, and fish.

We now loaded our boat full of lumber, so that it was only a handlength above the water, and we made our way to the bay. A strong wind was blowing, but since we were near the mouth of the river, the wind was too “close” to us and we had to drop the sail and grab for the poles. We work tremendously hard; the waves are always throwing us back against the right shore. Finally we are around the corner.33 In front of us a sailing ship lay at anchor. It had a large float of boards hanging at the side, which were to be loaded in once the water had quieted. We tied our boat to the float and then had a look at the bay. The water was very turbulent, the waves were running high, and there were whitecaps everywhere. The captain appeared on his ship and shouted to us that we should go back into the river. He said the water was much too high for our boat and he could not hold us; his anchor had enough weight to hold already.

My brother-in-law says, “John, what should we do?”

I say, “Not go back; we don’t want to go through all that work again.”

He says, “If you’re up for it, let’s keep going.” He reefs the sail in until it’s a piece as large as a tablecloth. I untie the rope, and he hoists the sail. Whoosh, we whizzed on past the ship out into the open, stormy bay.

At first I felt strange though. When the boat was at the top of a high wave, I would think, “Now it’s going to rush down into the trough and right down to the ground.” But look, just like that it was back at the top of another wave. My brother-in-law began to sing. Then I relaxed and thought, “If you are singing, there must not be anything to worry about.” But the boat traveled so horribly that it tilted way to the front, as if it were going to stand up on its head, and the water was constantly washing in at the front, so that I had to bail water almost continuously. In two hours we were at the mouth of the Sebewaing River, so we had done about thirty miles in two hours.

Endnotes

32 That is, the wind was blowing from the direction they wanted to go.

33 At the mouth of the Saginaw River, there is a projection of land along the eastern bank.

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