History of the First German-Lutheran Settlement in Altenburg, Perry County Missouri: pages 15 - 19


who had remained in St. Louis. They soon experienced prosperity and they found a worthy spiritual shepherd in the late O.H. Walther, elder of the two brothers. The St. Louis congregation also met with less disruption after Stephan's fall in Perry County because they were able to reorganize more quickly due to their favorable circumstances. The congregation in Perry County endured many harder trials. Nothing had been organized here and many people didn't have much more than a roof over their heads. In the annex section large shelters had been built, which were shared by several families and in which many people had to spend the next winter. Land had been purchased but no one knew whose property it was. In the beginning they lived a communal existence but this was abandoned because the credit account was drained. During the winter the rich as well as the poor lived in privation. Climatic fever soon arrived and caused dreadful devastation. Lack of shelter, creature comforts and other human necessities contributed to the death toll along with fatigue and work under a burning sun, the dangers of which were not well known at the time. The new population was decimated. Death took the strongest people. Others suffered from fever for weeks or months at a time without proper care because those who tended to the sick were sick themselves. The author of this chronicle remembers how in one of the woodplank houses built on the shore of the Mississippi not only the ground floor but the upper floor rooms were filled with sick people languishing with fever in the oppressive heat. He remembers how in the following fall blockhouses were hastily built to accommodate even more families in a portion of the settlement called Seelitz and how every house was filled with many severely sick people. These blockhouses literally became hospitals however


there was scarcely anyone healthy enough to give more than the most necessary care to others. Once the communal fund was exhausted and land was raffled off to individual creditors and lots were parcelled out for purchase by debtors, the entire congregation divided into five smaller congregations in Wittenberg, Seelitz, Dresden, Altenburg and Frohna. Prior to this church services were held in a large camp five miles from Wittenberg. Now each congregation held its own church services with its own pastor assigned to the congregation. Altenburg had Pastor Löber; Dresden had Pastor F. Walther; Seelitz had Pastor Bürger; Frohna and Wittenberg were served by Pastor G.W. Keyl. Pastor Örtel, displeased with the arrangement and perhaps disillusioned by his own expectations, left Perry County during the summer. A portion of his congregation went to St. Louis. Many of the others formed their own congregation. Some of them, having previously belonged to catholic and reform churches, were formally received into the Lutheran Church after attending instructional sessions.

Shortly before Christmas in 1839 the new settlement in Perry County grew significantly when Pastor C.F. Gruber from Reust in the Dukedom of Altenburg landed in Wittenberg with 141 Lutherans. He too belonged to the select group of pastors who had attached themselves to Stephan because of his decisive conviction in the old uncorrupted faith. Due to external hinderances he was not able to put his emigration plan into action until a year later. Although they had been told of Stephan's fall these brothers in faith were unable to change their plans to leave Germany. Pastor Gruber was a blessing for the entire old dukedom and he had much trouble obtaining permission to leave since the duke thought highly of him and wanted him to stay. Many from the Dukedom had decided to emigrate with him, leaving a year after the previous mass migration. Some people stayed behind either because they were not fully convinced of the need to leave or because they were not prepared to leave.


This caused Pastor Gruber many complications with the authorized committees because so many peaceful and affluent subjects of the Dukedom were upset by the renewed plans to emigrate. These subjects attempted to place many impediments in the way. As a result of this last wave of emigration a letter of serious warning was issued to all ministers in Altenburg districts, especially the superintendents, restoring doctinal options to manifestations of faith as revealed in scripture. Admittedly these were only partial measures since they served to bring the church regime to light and power. The growth in the number of Lutheran faithful in Perry County led to the establishment of a new settlement called Paitzdorf with Pastor Gruber as its spiritual caregiver.

Gradually order was restored in external matters for the emigrant congregations. With God's help they managed to get through the first winter. The Lord showed his wondrous power in maintaining so many people, who for the most part were deprived of money and provisions. More than once many a father did not know where he would find bread for himself and his family the next day. But behold by the end of winter, "they ate and all were satisfied," for the Lord had fed 5000 with 5 loaves. In the interim a firm grounding was established for the church's continued existence. It created an inner spiritual unity within the congregations, allowing them to prevail despite many hard battles which threatened to tear them apart. Stephan's deception left its bitter mark. Soon after Stephan's downfall many residual evils became apparent. Congregational existence as a whole was altered by Stephan's influence. Too much emphasis was placed on ministerial office and the external, visible church. People believed that the well being of the soul depended upon the external church; it limited the present, visible, and righteous-faith church to the narrow boundries of Stephan's community. The right and duty


of each individual Christian to test doctrine and reject false teaching was not permitted under Stephan's regime. The individual's freedom of conviction in God's word and the right to follow his own conscience was changed into blind faith and obedience to Stephan. The overestimation of Stephan's personal worth, his gifts and his abilities became human idolotry. In giving him the honor of high office others imparted the appearance of virtue. Indeed many were not certain of their status as a child of God or their standing in grace unless they heard it from their pastor's mouth. They grounded themselves more in their pastors than God's word. The office functions as an intermediary when the immediate, personal relationship between the soul and its Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is severed — this was a blatant, papist leavening agent used by the Stephanist regime. After his fall God opened the eyes of many so this would be recognized. The excellent writings of Spener concerning the spiritual priesthood and the famous book by Mr. von Seckendorf, titled The Christian State, pointed to a holy path. The path to wholesome, holy reform was derived from the inside by casting out falsehoods and laying a new groundwork in truth. Even more than the pastors, the candidates separated themselves from this idea because they feared that such a religous movement might take a corrupted regime such as the entire church organism and rip it apart at the seams. It wasn't just the apprehension and lingering anxiety caused by the many investigations to find the transgressions and misunderstandings, which had occurred as a result. In many there had arisen a justifiable mistrust against the clergy. Many people felt they had been stripped of the peaceful existence offered to them by the spirit of the Lord, who offered cleansing and purification to the congregation. Instead, the congregation was being pulled apart to an even greater extent by its clergy. They maintained that the entire emigration congregation was outcast before God because of the dreadful sins and transgressions they had committed. In stating that their emigration was done in the name of God they had committed blasphemy.


No penance has yet been performed and no open admission of guilt had been made! The ministers may have abandoned their ordained vocations in Germany and possibly they had no ordained vocation here. They should go back to their former congregations in Germany. All the ministerial duties they had performed since leaving were null and void. In reality there was no church, no proper preaching office, no pure teaching and no true service to God in the current situation. — These were their assertions. Truth and falsehood mixed together and served to totally confuse the minds of many and assail their consciences. A veritable ordeal by fire threatened the existence of the congregation. Shortly after this time significant schisms and sects arose. One large group had already discontinued open church services. One of the pastors, Mor. Bürger, resigned his post for reasons of conscience. The other pastors, Löber, Keyl, Gruber and Walther, did what they could to repair the damage with the vexed congregation by sending word back to Germany concerning their false dreams. Löber and Gruber wrote to their former district authorities and indicated their willingness to return to Germany if required. They received well-intended responses offering forgiveness but they were warned to guard against committing additional acts of faithlessness. They were told to stay at their posts. These conflicts continued throughout the summer. The crux of the conflict centered primarily on the question, is the true church of Christ present within Stephan's emigrant congregation or not? A portion said no and others said yes. It was decided that each group should find evidence for their position from the scriptures and from the writings of acknowledged teachers of the church. A public debate would be held. On one side there was Pastor Bürger and Advocate Marbach. On the other side was Walther the younger, Keyl and Löber. A large group of people attended the debate because the outcome was of great import for all. They waited in rapt anticipation. God bestowed his grace and the victory went to the group


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