Continued in the Unchanged Profession of the Lutheran Church of the Prussian Congregation, which immigrated between 1839 and 1843
"Fear not, little flock."
Published by order of the Evangelical-Lutheran Synod of Buffalo. Under the editorship of
Volume 17 Detroit, October 1, 1869 Issue 6
appears monthly at the price of $1.00 per
The Origins, Emmigration, Settlement and Church Development of the Evangelical Lutheran Church or Congregations, which emigrated from Prussia between the years 1839 and 1843, now known as the Synod of Buffalo
We consider it a duty to express our gratitude and respect to the former governor of New York, Mr. Washington Hunt, who died in 1867. He was not only a friend and benefactor to all the poor in and around Lockport, where he at one time resided, he also bestowed Christian charity upon our immigrant congregations from Prussia and took part in our lives. He commissioned one of the most skilled surveyors, Mr. Hayn, to lay out New Bergholz as a village with all farmlots surrounding Bergholz and St. Johnsburg. This cost him over $200. He donated 4 acres of land, in the center of Bergholz, for a church, a school and a marketplace and the church, the parishhouse and school were built upon it. He gave the poor settlers a beautiful and strong yoke of oxen and a significant quantity of timber with which to build their first blockhouses. He gave those without money 600 acres on Ward Rd, now St. Johnsburg, on 10 years credit. He supported our blessed brother Johann Sy and his brother-in-law Friedrich Görs by giving them years of credit for their well-intended and tireless efforts transporting meal and other provisions back from Lockport and Buffalo both winter and summer on the worst roads during those first years of neediness and settlement. This was back when the primal forest first needed to be cleared away * When asked by the writer of this history, he was ready and willing to advance capital to the poor small farmers and tradesmen for building and buying tools. A number of Bavarian families settled in St. Johnsburg. A few years later their mortgages, amounting to many thousands of dollars, came due and the families were in danger of loosing their property. He [Washington Hunt] bought their mortgages for their owners and extended many years of credit to the families until they could pay off the mortgages and keep their land.
He extended similar assistance in grand measure to the congregation in
Wolcottsville near Lockport, where the amount of mortgages in default approached $20,000. It was he who advised the establishment and recording of deeds in trust for the three congregations in Wallmore, Bergholz and Martinsville, then (1845) under the spiritual care of Pastor H. von Rohr. That way the portion of the church property, which he had donated, would only belong to the members of those congregations. The Synod of Buffalo as the Synodal Church Court acknowledged these deeds. When the congregation in Buffalo also recorded a deed in trust under and with its pastor, J. A. A. Grabau and most of the other congregations of our synodal band followed suit, he gave $200 towards the building of the Martin Luther College. When collections were being taken for the deputies, Grabau and von Rohr to go to Germany to garner further support for the Martin Luther College and to inform our congregations in the German churchs about the efforts of the Missouri Synod to build counter altars, he not only gave a significant contribution but also extended a hefty cash advance of many hundreds of dollars for this trip. How shamefully this recorded contract has been broken under the guise of justice by Grabau of Buffalo and the Missouri mutineers in Bergholz, St. Johnsburg, Martinville and Wolcottsville. How shameful that donated congregational and synodal property has been stolen from our congregations and our synod. — Unfortunately all this is known!
Governor W. Hunt held a deep Christian sympathy for our emigration from Prussia, undertaken for the sake of pure Lutheran profession. He showed this not just in his ever-available financial assistance but also in his warm commendation for our deputies going to Europe in 1853. He requested letters of introduction for us from the Governor of New York at that time, Mr. Seymour, and State Secretary, Marcy. In this request he lovingly and warmly described the causes and reasons for our emigration out of Prussia and blessed continuing settlement in the northwestern part of the State of New York and he asked for the support of our state government officials. This participation in the affairs of our church and the intercession on behalf of our grateful fellow Christians have been blessed by God. The writer of this history, having enjoyed his friendship for over 20 years, saw in this association and exchange of letters his religious conviction,and his faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was especially apparent in his last letters, written from his sickbed in New York and ending with his all too early death, which was universally mourned. As a humble and repentant Christian he expressed his hope for a blessed end with the forgiveness of his sins for the sake of his crucified savior. Even on his deathbed he generously cared for the trustees of the land deal from the congregation in Wolcottsville so that they would be protected from penalties until the final payments for the substantial mortgages had been amassed by the participating farm owners. May the true God sanctify him in His great mercy. Among ourselves we hold him in grateful memory and a large number of our families are beholding to him for their prosperity and protection from loss of their property.
After this tribute in Christian gratitude we return to our history.
In Fall of the year 1844 Pastor Ehrenström arrived in Buffalo. As we shall see, it was God's gracious care which had held him back for a year in Germany. His congregation, which settled in Martinville near Tonawanda, Bergholz and Wallmore, endured great deprivation in this, their first year and were all the more desirous of the word of God and the sacraments, which were delivered under the spiritual guidance of Pastor Grabau. In their Sunday and weekday church services they received sermons of old orthodox teaching from the elders and they were fortified and steeped in pure doctrine in order to withstand the temptations of Ehrenström's apostasy. Previously he had taught strictly orthodox doctrine and had specifically warned against pietistic writings, however upon his arrival in Buffalo he began to show pietistic inclinations towards conventicle. In his first sermon in Buffalo he assailed Pastor Grabau and the congregations with groundless charges - they had fallen into spiritual slumber and were approaching spiritual death because the law was not sufficiently preached to them. Von Rohr, a schoolteacher at the time, had to act as intermediary in order to reconcile him [Ehrenström] with the sickened congregation and its pastor and the attempt appeared successful in that he allowed himself to be moved to give up this groundless bias and rescind the charge. Later we found out that he been influenced by a pietist from Berlin, who had remained in New York. He also seemed to accept v. Rohr's reproaches to the tenet that, in accordance with all earlier experiences of the church, private bible study must be introduced as necessary. Soon after it became apparent that ambition, avarice and hatred for Pastor Grabau were the driving forces behind his path to corruption. During a brief stay in Buffalo he kept this hidden and assisted Pastor Grabau with the examination and ordination of v. Rohr, who was appointed to ministerial office by the daughter congregation in Humberston in Canada.
He had barely taken over the spiritual care of his congregations in Bergholz, Wallmore and Martinville when he began slandering Pastor Grabau's teachings and conduct in office. He called the congregation in Buffalo spiritually dead and attempted to convince his congregations that they must become spiritually reawakened through conventicle: first they must hold private prayer sessions and then he would administer the holy eucharist to them when he was convinced of their conversion; then people would see signs and miracles. Over the course of a few months he managed to turn a large portion of the congregations into pietistical fanatics; people heard of miracles and demonic apparitions. Many were charmed into scorning Pastor Grabau and his congregation as unconverted. The older experienced Christians quietly rued this misconduct after they had spoken up against it privately and in congregational meetings.
God the Lord witnessed all this and allowed him to fall ever deeper into fanatical pietism. He condemned the orthodox texts and the Lutheran symbols, which were used to reproach him by the remaining pious Christians. He burned many books, including the symbolic books, the great Weimar Bible and Herrberger's daily devotional, etc. When this happened the majority of the congregations finally opened their eyes. After useless warnings the church administrators went to Pastors Grabau and von Rohr. Ehrenström would not accept their warnings
and he rejected the final warning given by the congregations with their pastors, which were also delivered in writing. He had to be suspended and as he continued to fall deeper, to be excommunicated. He had promised his remaining followers a miracle, having misinterpreted the words of Christ in Mark 16, 17 - These are the signs for those who believe: In my Name devils will be driven out, etc. This was given to the holy apostles and the disciples of Christ for the establishment of the Christian church and it imparted promises, which should still apply to all the faithful, in accordance with Mark 16, 20 - "They went out and preached everywhere and the Lord worked with them and fortified the word through signs." Indeed for him and his followers there should be tests and proofs of their faith and conversion, which would produce these miracles. However when he 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 God's word. It was under this set of circumstances that he went to Wisconsin along with most of his followers but when their eyes were opened to him they returned to their relatives and congregations. First he went back to New York and then San Francisco, where he died in the poorhouse. Detailed reports of his end are not at hand, which might give hope that he died repentant. Judgment Day will point out whether he sought and found God's mercy in Jesus Christ.
In a remarkable way the progress of pietism in the Lutheran Church of Germany over the course of a century leading to nationalism, unionism, indifference and total apostasy and scepticism had come to full realization within this once learned and gift man in the span of a few years. May it serve as an example of what personal hatred, ambition and greed can do even to one who previously professed the truth!!