History of the First German-Lutheran Settlement in Altenburg, Perry County Missouri: pages 10 -14


Some of these people were acquainted with the Prussian Lutherans who had left the United Church and had established contacts with Stephan before their emigration. Their own reservations concerning the tenets of non-faith had prompted them to leave Örtel's congregation and Pastor Örtel himself felt moved to guide their eyes and steps. With the Saxon emigration came the plan for the establishment of a church congregation fully and completely grounded in the Lutheran profession of faith. Thus from its beginnings the new Lutheran settlement in Missouri experienced significant growth with the addition of 95 souls who landed on May 18, 1839 in the recently founded Wittenberg on the Mississippi.

By the middle of February the last portion of our compatriots and brothers in faith arrived in St. Louis. During the voyage Stephan had been appointed bishop by his ship's congregation. People learned of this event a few days before his arrival in St. Louis. It was a great surprise. The report aroused jubilation and joy in many. Only the most level headed perceived the hierarchical struggle within. Sly Stephan had been hatching this plan for a long time and he had gone to much trouble convincing those around him of the need for an episcopal system of governance in order to build a church. His efforts were not in vain. He succeeded in convincing the most influential of his followers, even though it obviously contradicted the word of God and the symbolic books, that an episcopacy was a godly institution and in accordance with divine law the position was higher than that of a pastor's office. This made it easy for Stephan to procure his appointment as bishop. His closest friends willingly supported him. Now he needed the agreement of the entire emigration congregation and the assembled clerics. Even this presented little difficulty since the minds of the pastors and the candidates were already filled with the erroneous teaching on episcopacy. With establishing a new settlement and housing for the congregation it seemed of the utmost importance that one man,


who had the respect and trust of all, should take the lead. Esteem for Stephan was so great that no one considered the contradiction presented by his election to the bishopric. Everyone greeted, addressed and venerated him as bishop from the time of his arrival in St. Louis as though it were understandable that no further formalities were required. Only the manner in which the post was attained provoked some ethical questions.

In the days following Stephan's arrival the members of the emigration congregation were assembled in local schools rented in various districts throughout St. Louis. In the presence of a pastor or ministerial candidate a copy of the document was produced, which had been signed on the Olbers confirming the bishop's appointment. All members were required to sign an affidavit swearing unconditional obedience in all church and secular matters. Some may have had uncomfortable reservations concerning a yoke placed upon conscience and many hearts may have skipped a beat but there were no verbal protests. The measure was considered good, wise and wholesome and each individual gave his promise without hesitation.

In an attempt to prove his worth the new bishop resorted more often to comfortable seclusion than friendly condescension. Orders were issued to give the church the appearance of an old and well-established episcopacy. Fortunately things were still in the planning stage and were thwarted when this wretched man was exposed. The only change made was in the vestments worn by the priests. Upon the request of the emigration congregation the Episcopal Church of St. Louis graciously allowed them to use the church basement for their Sunday services. At these services our pastors wore white stolls over their black cassocks. We wish here to praise the English congregation for its hospitality. For over three years until 1842 our Lutheran brothers were given the use of this church until their first church was completed.


However for the most part we will discuss Stephan's governing in secular matters as they pertain to the material interests of the emigration congregation. These dealt with where and how the plans for establishment of a colony should be carried out. Much time was wasted in aimless planning and useless deliberation. Men known for their sounding reasoning and good judgment were not heard. People were sent out here and there to scout the land and find an acceptable place for the settlement. Unfortunately the land being inspected was not considered in terms of its ability to be cultivated. Rather it was examined by a few political theorists with farsighted and overextending plans, who were much more likely to find audience with Stephan than knowledgable farmers of good judgment. Things went so far that before the congregation could head for the new settlement, 4 months had gone by in St. Louis which so taxed the credit fund that after the purchase of 4440 acres the land only a minimal sum was left in the account. The land chosen was not the best option and several experienced individuals advised against its purchase. It did offer an excellent landing spot off the Mississippi and it had good commercial access to St. Louis, which was 110 mile away. However the land itself was uneven and mediocre with soil too thin for farming. It was a difficult start for those who would settle here and it was through hard work, organization and frugality with God's blessing that they were able to overcome the obstacles and work their way to prosperity. We give thanks to God that He tends to His holy design even amid human perversity and fallibility, for only the Lord could bless where ordinary sources of help are scarce.

Soon after the final place for settlement was determined, workers were sent there to build shelters. Stephan himself departed along with a few of his most trusted people while the greater portion of the congregation


and its pastors and candidates remained in St. Louis. It was then that an event occurred, which resulted in an unexpected turn to the entire affair. It was like the wave of a magic wand dissolving the bond, which had kept the eyes of the congregation shut for so long to Stephan's excesses and the irregularities in his conduct, things the rest of the world had known for some time. On Rogate Sunday the late Pastor Löber delivered a moving sermon, which prompted a woman who had been in service to Stephan and lived near him, to seek confession. She confessed to many dreadful sins of the flesh to which she had been seduced by this deeply fallen man. She was a guileless woman who succumbed to Stephan's lies and his disgraceful misuse of God's word. She vowed to Pastor Löber while confessing that if necessary she was willing to testify in court because the spiritual health of so many people was in danger if this seducer remained undiscovered. Naturally Pastor Löber felt compelled by conscience to reveal what he knew for the good of the congregation. First he informed his ministerial brothers of the dreadful secrets. Rumors soon spread throughout the entire congregation. It was a crushing blow to think that the man they had chosen to be their channel to the Holy Spirit had suddenly changed into a seducer and a slave to base desires. The first though for most was heartfelt gratitude for the wondrous hand of God, which tore away the veil, disrupted these frightful deeds of the darkness, and saved the congregation from the tethers of hell.

One of the pastors, C.F.W. Walther, was sent to the place of the future settlement to inform those already there with Stephan of his fall. Stephan might had perceived some change in feelings towards him and he may have had his suspicions however he first became aware of the full revelation of his shameful deeds


when the larger portion of the emigrant congregation still in St. Louis arrived in two large ships in Wittenberg on May 30, 1839 without first receiving his order to come. Decisions were made concerning Stephan's fate on the following day. The pastors went to Stephan to lay their charges before him and deliver his dismissal from office. The miserable man grew angry as he received proof of his guilt. He called the charges lies and slanders, treachery and evil. It was doubly terrible that this man, abandoned by the spirit of the Lord, stubbornly denied his guilt before the eyes of all who in better times had placed all their trust and hope in him. The assembled clerics delivered the verdict of removal from office upon him. These serious proceedings were initiated by a prominent man, a certain Dr. Vehse who was the former keeper of the Royal Archives in Dresden. In declaring his moral outrage for Stephan's deeds he prompted others to take the law into their own hands but he was in no way responsible for what followed. This act of preemptive justice denied Stephan the right to a personal investigation. His property must be seized and he must be expelled from the state. The verdict was carried out the following day. He had to leave the district. Stephan was taken by boat to the other side of the Mississippi and deposited on the Illinois shore. He received temporary lodgings from an American farmer in the so-called Devil's Oven, a promotory slope on the shore of the river. A day later only one of his female servants followed him. Pastor Löber later visited Stephan in a vain attempt to move him to seek repentance. Stephan later filed a law suit to reclaim his personal property. He won that law suit. He lived for a while in various districts and eventually served a congregation on the Horse Prairie in Illinois. He died in the spring of 1847 leaving no sign of repentant conversion.

The next period in time was one of many trials for the new settlement in Perry County. Things were easier for those


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