Kirchliches Informatorium Volume 17, September & October 1869


September 1869: pages 65 - 68

History

of the origin, emigration, settlement and ecclesiastic development of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church or Congregation, which emigrated from Prussia between the years 1839 and 1843, now known as the Buffalo Synod.

Continued from Volume 17, page 51

Pastor Kindermann had sent a letter expressing almost the same reservations to the Breslau Upper Church College on February 16, 1843. The Upper Church College responded on February 28, 1843 in an attempt to refute his objections.

Previously on December 15, 1842 Pastor Lasius had written Kindermann that he and Church Counselor Barschall had been appointed by the Upper Church College to discuss the matter, thus Kindermann should come to Versin near Stolpe. Pastor Kindermann did not want to make such a long journey so he refused. The two gentlemen suspended him and sought him out in Camin for an investigative hearing. Pastor Kindermann declared:

1) That he did not agree with the synodal resolutions. 2) That he wanted to emigrate with his congregation. 3) That he would not accept the suspension because it was necessary for him to serve his emigrating congregation. However later he accepted the suspension for 14 days in the hope that in the interim a better solution to the matter could be found. He also believed that in doing this he would remain at peace with them and thus be able to emigrate in peace.

Kindermann received a letter dated February 25th from Church Counselor Barschall as representative of the Upper Church College, which stated that a commission had been formed to preside over the disciplinary investigation against him. The commissioners were Pastor Dr. Schröder, Pastor Wagener and landowner Zahn. Kindermann was advised that if he had any objections to these judges he should bring them before the Upper Church College within the next 8 days.

Pastor Kindermann responded that it would be against the word of God, the symbolic books and his conscience to accept the Synodal Resolutions and he was busy making his plans to emigrate to another part of the world. He announced his resignation from the church groups of the Lutheran Church of Prussia whereever


said groups were limited by the synodal resolutions. As far as he was concerned, in doing this he also cast aside any objections he had towards the above-named judges.

On April 20th Pastor Kindermann received a letter informing him of the 3 judges' decision dated March 27, 1843.

In this letter he was found not guilty:
a) of the charge that he had not informed the congregations of the synodal resolutions in the proscribed manner.
b) of the charge of persistent disobedience towards the Upper Church College because he came before Commissioners Lasius and Barschall in Camin.
c) He was found not guilty of provoking people to emigrate because the charge could not be proven.

He was found guilty on 5 charges for failing to heed and obey the Upper Church College and for involving himself in a matter of church discipline in Pastor Lasius' Berlin congregation.

Thus they considered it proper:

That Pastor Kindermann would conduct his pastoral office only under direct supervision. He was instructed to immediately cease his ministerial duties and leave Pomerania. He would remain eligible for a ministerial posting and should place himself at the disposal of the Upper Church College in Breslau. If Pastor Kindermann should refuse to accept the verdict he would no longer be acknowledged a pastor of the Lutheran Church in Prussia and notice of his expulsion would be announced.

Information concerning the trial and the correspondence is printed in our 3rd Synodal Letter after Article XV on page 39. It is titled:

Examination of the Suspension of Pastor Kindermann in the Years 1842 and 1843 by the Upper Church College in Breslau.

At the end of September 1843 the two congregations of Pastor Kindermann and Ehrenström arrived in Buffalo. Many congregational assemblies were held under the chairmanship of Pastors Grabau and Kindermann with the end result being that Pastor Kindermann wanted to go with his congregation to Wisconsin to establish a settlement near Freystatt. Pastor Ehrenström's congregation decided to settle near Buffalo and remain under the pastorate of Pastor Grabau until the arrival of Pastor Ehrenström.

Pastor Kindermann also founded a settlement in Kirchhayn, 6 miles north of Freystatt about 20 miles northwest of Milwaukee. This was virgin forest land. The Ehrenström congregation, which came from Bergholz in the Uckermark, elected a number of deputies. Along with then school teacher H. v. Rohr they visited 6 areas close to Buffalo. In Cattaraugus County on the southern shore of Lake Erie the land was like the Harz region in miniature. Farmland was available for purchase at a price of between 7 to 15 dollars per acre. In the so-called Indian Bush, 5 to 7 miles south of Buffalo primal forest area went for 10 dollars an acre. North of Buffalo in the so-called North Bush, the greater portion of which now rests within the city limits, parcels could be purchased for $20 an acre. Another 20 miles south of Buffalo in the Town of Eden and the surrounding area farmland cost 10 to 20 dollars an acre. 6 miles


outside of Lockport on the Erie Canal a place to settle could be purchased for $18 an acre. Finally in the Town of Wheatfield, Niagara County between Lockport, Tonawanda and the Niagara Falls area, a parcel of land with good soil for raising wheat just like in the homeland could be purchased for $9 an acre. After communal prayer and petitions to God our Lord that he might guide them in their decision, the greater portion of the congregation chose these last two options as their places of settlement.

What an act of Providence it was. At the communal discussion in the house of the farmer one evening, almost all those present decided to choose the land near Lockport on the Erie Canal because despite the higher price it was a better piece of land. They were united in their decision and the next morning they were set to sign the contract. They closed the meeting with a petition to God that He guide them with the wisdom of His heart. The petition was answered! To the astonishment of all an agreement was reached with unexpected results. They all agreed to settle in Wheatfield County, which they later called New Bergholz. They've never regretted the decision. The rich blessings of God were bestowed upon them and those blessings have continued to increase year by year. They purchased the land despite the rumors that fever would kill off the settlers. They worked diligently to drain the land and the land proved to be a healthy place for settlement.

Under the leadership of von Rohr 2000 acres of land was purchased from Governor Hunt in Lockport. The series of smaller and larger farms were apportioned off by lottery. In the middle of the parcel one hundred acres of cleared land was turned into a small village with one hundred city-sized lots.

Each of the settlers obtained one of these parcels for 9 to 15 dollars. The poor could have these lots with 10-year credit terms. Another 600 acres of land, on what was called Ward Road, was available to the poor on 10-year credit terms for 8 to 9 dollars an acre. This area later became the settlement of St. Johnsburg.

This was the well thought-out plan. The smaller farmers and workmen lived together near the church and school. Until 1848 church services were held in one of the barns. The school was built along with the first blockhouses in the village.

Land closest to the village would be divided among the small property owners and the more remote land would be divided among the farmers. When the workmen were unable to find work on the farms they could clear their own land and sell the firewood and lumber. So it was that after a few years they could sell their city lots and establish their own small farms. In this way not only would the poor able to pay back the travel costs they had incurred with the journey over but also pay for their own land and become independent property owners. This was the reason why the land was immediately placed at their disposal. Today a cleared acre of land near Bergholz goes for $100.

What a nasty piece of slander former opposition preacher Hugo Hanser was guilty of when he wrote in his letter of defense concerning the enrollment of the St. Johnsburg gang, which had expelled its pastor and school teachers and seized the church and the church property. He stated, "Pastor H. v. Rohr convinced these people


to settle on a swampy piece of land for his own selfish reasons when they would have been better off settling in Wisconsin." However they had neither travel money nor financial means to buy land. And even though these people have become our enemies due to their seduction by a Missouri opposition minister, they have still protested against this letter by Hanser and are compelled to acknowledge that the land was immediately placed at their disposal for their future benefit.

         To be continued


October, 1869: pages 81 - 84

History

of the origin, emigration, settlement and ecclesiastic development of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church or Congregation, which emigrated from Prussia between the years 1839 and 1843, now known as the Buffalo Synod.

Continued from Volume 17, page 68

It is our duty here to comemmorate in gratitude and respect upon Washington Hunt, the former governor of New York State who died in 1867. He was a friend and benefactor to all the poor in and around Lockport, where he resided at the time. He also showed exceptional Christian charity and interest in our Prussian immigrant congregations. He had his most capable surveyor, Mr. Hayn, section off New Bergholz as a village. He paid over $200 for the parcelling of farm lots around Bergholz and St. Johnsburg. He donated 4 acres of land at the center of Bergholz for the church, school and marketplace. The church, parsonage and school are built on that land. He donated

a beautiful and strong yoke of oxen for the construction of the settlers' first blockhouses and a substantial amount of wooden planks. He gave those without financial means 600 acres of land on 10-year credit terms. This land is on Ward Road in what is now St. Johnsburg. He supported our late brother Johann Sy and his brother-in-law Friedrich Görs in their untiring efforts both winter and summer to bring grain and food supplies on the worst roads between Lockport and Buffalo. The first years were the ones of greatest need since the forested areas had not yet been cleared. * At the request of this author, Governor Hunt was willing to give capital to poor small farmers and tradesmen for the crafting and procurement of handtools. A number of Bavarian families settled in St. Johnsburg. After a few years they fell several thousand dollars short of making their mortgage payments and they were at risk of losing their property. He purchased the mortgages from the creditors and gave the families many years in which to pay back the loans.

He extended the same help in generous measure to the congregation in Wolcottsville

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* Work for which God the Lord richly blessed them. Return to text


near Lockport when their defaulted mortgage sums rose to $20,000. It was he who advised the drafting and registry of an assurity deed. This was done in 1845 by the three congregations under Pastor H. von Rohr, Walmore, Bergholz and Martinsville and it stated that the portion of the property he donated to the church should be used exclusively by these congregations provided they acknowledged the synod of Buffalo as their church court. When the congregation in Buffalo also registered an assurity deed with its pastor, J.A.A. Grabau along with the majority of congregations in our synod, he donated $200 towards the construction of the Martin Luther College. When deputies Grabau and von Rohr went to Germany to collect money for the M.L. College and give notice to the congregations there of the gang-related destructive acts of the Synod from Missouri and its building of counter-altars, he not only donated a significant sum but advanced us several hundreds of dollars towards the travel costs. Unfortunately it is well known that the assurity agreements were shamelessly broken in part by Grabau's claim to the deed in Buffalo and by the activities of the gang from Missouri in Bergholz, St. Johnsburg and Martinsville. Deeded congregational and synodal property was taken away from our congregations and our synod.

Governor W. Hunt's deep Christian concern for our Prussian emigrant congregation, which left for the sake for its pure Lutheran faith, was demonstrated not just in his always-ready charity but in the letters of recommendation he provided for our deputies in Europe in 1853. He secured recommendations from the

Governor of New York at the time, Mr. Seymour, and State Secretary Marcy which described in the most generous and friendly terms the causes and motivations behind our emigration from Prussia and our continued settlement in the northwestern portion of New York State. The recommendations stated we had the full support of our state officials. God the Lord blessed him for his interest in our church and his intercession on behalf of our fellow Christians. The writer of this history, who enjoyed his friendship for over 20 years, saw in his company and his correspondence the affect this blessing had on his religious sentiments and on his faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This was especially evident in his final letters from his sickbed in New York where his life prematurely ended. In these letters he spoke as a humble and repentant Christian, expressing his hope for a peaceful end and acknowledging the forgiveness of his sins through his crucified Savior. Even on his deathbed he showed generousity towards the trustees who purchased the land for the congregation in Wolcottsville. In absolving them of the above-mentioned heavy mortgages the farm owners were saved from foreclosure. In His great mercy the true God blessed him and so we hold him in grateful memory. A large number of families own him thanks for their prosperity and protection from property loss.

We now return from this tribute of Christian gratitude to the course of our history.

In Fall of 1844 Pastor Ehrenström arrived in Buffalo. We shall see that it was God's gracious


intervention which kept him in Germany for an additional year. His congregation settled in Martinsville near Tonawanda and in Bergholz and Walmore. In this year they suffered from great need and privation so they were most anxious to receive the word of God and the administration of the holy sacrament under the ministry of Pastor Grabau. In their Sunday and weekly church services the elders read only the preachings of old orthodox teachers so they were fortified in pure doctrine and thus able to withstand temptation caused by Ehrenström's fall. In earlier times he had taught them strictly orthodox doctrine and he warned them of pietistical writings, however as soon as he arrived in Buffalo he showed the pietistical trend towards conventicle existence. In his first sermon in Buffalo he accused Pastor Grabau and the congregations of falling into spiritual slumber and coming close to spiritual death because the law was not being preached. Von Rohr, who was the school teacher there at the time, had to act as intermediary in order to reconcile the injured congregation with the pastor. This action appeared to be successful because Ehrenström was persuaded to give up this groundless prejudgment and rescind the charges. Later we learned that while he was in New York he spent time with a pietistical Berlin native, who remained in New York. Ehrenström also seemed to accept von Rohr's remonstrances that it was through his previous experiences in the church that he learned about conventicle existence. Soon after it became apparent that avarice and hatred for Pastor Grabau were the real motivating factors which drove him down his corrupt path. During a brief stay in Buffalo he hid these feelings. In ministerial brotherhood he worked with Pastor Grabau in the administration of von Rohr's exam for the ministry when von Rohr was appointed to the filial congregation in Humberston in western Canada. He assisted Pastor Grabau in von Rohr's ordination.

However as soon as he became pastor of the congregations in Bergholz, Walmore and Martinsville he hurled insults at Pastor Grabau's teachings and conduct in office. He called the congregation in Buffalo spiritually dead and attempted to persuade his congregations that in order to be spiritually reawakened they must adopt the conventicle practices he would introduce. They must hold prayer sessions. When he was convinced that they had been converted he would begin to administer the holy eucharist to them. When that time arrived, people would see signs and miarcles. In the course of a few months he succeeded in turning a large portion of the congregations into pietistical fanatics. People were talking about miracles and demonic apparitions. Many were seduced into scorning Pastor Grabau and his congregation as unconverted souls. Older, more experienced Christians mourned in silence over this misconduct after uselessly protesting in private and in congregational sessions.

God the Lord saw all this and allowed Ehrenström to fall deeper and deeper into frenzied pietism. He rejected the orthodox writings and the Lutheran symbolic books brought to him by pious Christians in reproach. Many good books were burned including the symbolic books and even the great Weimar Bible and Herrberger's Book of Daily Devotionals. This action opened the eyes of the larger portion of the congregation. After useless warnings to Ehrenström the administrators turned to Pastors Grabau and von Rohr.


Ehrenström rejected their warnings too and the conbined warning of the congregations with the pastors, which had been sent in writing. He was suspended and as he fell ever deeper, Ehrenström was excommunicated. To his remaining supporters he promised miracles in a misinterpretation of Christ's words in Mark 16, 17: "And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons, etc." Thus the holy apostles and disciples of Christ were given these promises for the establishment of the Christian Church in accordance with Mark 16, 20: "Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it." All the faithful should value the word and the signs. Indeed it will be the sign and the proof of their faith and their conversion when they too can perform miracles. When Ehrenström could not restore the sight of a blind man by the name of Wurl (still living in the poorhouse in Niagara County,) he gave up all faith in the word of God. He went with many of his followers to Wisconsin but eventually even their eyes were opened and they returned to their families and their congregations. Ehrenström went to New York and then to San Francisco, where he died in the poorhouse. There are no reports at hand of his end. It can only be hoped that he was repentant. On Judgment Day it shall be seen whether he sought and found the mercy of God in Christ.

In the span of one century the history of pietism passed from rationalism to unionism to indifference and in the end to total corruption and faithlessness.

In a remarkably similar fashion this once learned and gifted man completed the cycle in a few short years. Let is serve as an example in warning against personal hatred, lust for glory and avarice. — It can even destroy someone who at one time acknowledged the truth!!

         To be continued


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Microfilm provided by The Archives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Elk Grove Village, Illinois.


Imaging & translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks