After three full hours of useless discussion they finally dared enter the house.
Stephan had sufficient time to gather some things and prepare himself. Scarcely had they announced their intentions and the reason for their visit when Stephan assailed them in stident tones concerning their right to dismiss him. He insisted that the entire incident was a malicious and ambitious conspiracy against him. He protested his innocence and declared his devotion to the congregation. The deputation committee could not get the bishop to yield or admit to anything. They left without having accomplished anything after an episode whereby they managed to take away mattresses but then returned them, forming a line of thirteen men to pass them back to their lord and master.
They did not know what to do to get the old sinner to admit to anything. They finally decided to send a second deputation committee. They elected Dr. Bimpage and Dr. Vehse, who had previously served the congregation as legally appointed agents. These two men had more success, getting the bishop to admit his crimes — which he had not done before and would not do again; — he played the role of the unmasked betrayer and begged for leniency. They promised him reasonable treatment provided he return the funds he had embezzled from the congregation. Upon investigation 130 large and a few small denomination gold pieces were found hidden among his hose
in a locked suitcase along with many precious and valuable items. They did not find a number of bank notes issued by the Missouri Bank even though they assured the bishop that they would increase the sum to 100 dollars for severance and travel money. Dr. Bimpage recorded the entire incident in which the downcast sinner admitted to all the dreadful crimes we previously reported on page 91.
Much forethought had been put into this action so that the disgraceful incident would not be brought before the civil courts. They deliberately planned the swift and silent removal of the ex-bishop. This way the mantle of Christian love could be spread over the crime and they could lay claim to the same indulgent treatment. The administrators had the responsibility for demanding an investigation of Stephan's betrayal in the name of their deceived countrymen. It was their duty to demand punishment by the civil authorities. The clergy was had the duty to clear itself of all suspicion and prove its innocence before the congregation and the rest of the world not just for the sake of its holy office but as a matter of individual honor. However by freeing Stephan, the pastors and their assistants cast suspicion upon themselves that perhaps they did not dare investigate his actions and conduct because their own complicity and guilt might come to light! To what extent this latter assertion is grounded, let our readers examine the following communications.
The congregation from New York (page 37) arrived in Perry County a few days before the confrontation. The members were quite shocked as they heard the unholy register of sins of their esteemed Stephan. One member of the congregation, schoolteacher Müller, escorted the ex-bishop from the colony, across the Mississippi to the Illinois shore. Among other things Stephan had asked for a sofa upon which to lay his weary head. They were willing to grant this request just to be rid of him. When the boat landed Stephan's things were brought on shore. Mülller took him as far as a nearby farm. From the shore of the Mississippi he saw the rocky slopes, which people call the "Devil's Oven." He asked where Müller was taking him. When he heard the name of the area he cried out in astonishment, "So you want to take me to the Devil's Oven?" —
As long as his money held out, he would not suffer any deprivation, however it would not last long since he initiated court proceedings against the congregation. He lost the case and it cost him a substantial sum. When the land was purchased, Stephan's name was put on the deed. Currently he is suing to reclaim this as his rightful property. At present the result of this contest is unknown to us.* Stephan played on the weakness of his associates and believed with certainty that they would give him money just to be rid of him. As previously mentioned, they wanted to avoid any legal entanglements. However this stance became ever more impossible as many more
|brave residents of St. Louis took in the brtrayed. For now we leave this man, who brought so much misfortune to the congregation, in order to add a few facts about the situation of the settlers. We abandon him to his future, which no matter how difficult, cannot equal the unspeakable misery he brought upon hundreds of families by his hypocrisy. As his old foot crosses the farther reaches of the New World, as he sinks to the ground drained and exhausted, without comfort or aid, without food or drink, then he will and must dispense with the happy notion, which fortifies us in times of misfortune, that his suffering is undeserved. The tears and accusations of the deceived will forever pursue him and his conscience, a never slumbering and vengeful companion, will never allow him to sleep as peacefully as the poorest of his followers after a full day of heavy work. Shunned by his betters, he will bear his own miserable existence until his grave opens beneath his trembling feet and death frees him of the onerous memory of his disgraceful life. His grave will have no noble marker; no tears of love and sorrow will fall upon it. The wanderer will shy from it and it will be a place pointed to from near and far to teach the lesson of how far a teacher of God's word can stray and how much he could violate his holy office. However in the court|
of the Almighty each accusation and each tear caused by his reckless actions will be taken into account. The final day of reckoning will be glorious for the innocent and the deceived but terrible for the guilty.
First of all we relate a movement within the German population of St. Louis to demonstrate its willingness to help its unfortunate countrymen and to show that its criticism of their affairs in these free states was meant to open the eyes of the confused and warn them of the abyss into which their leader was leading them. The Anzeiger des Westens of June 8, 1839 published the following invitation on the editorial page:
"A number of concerned Germans have reported to us that next Monday evening there will be a meeting of the Germans of this city to consider the current situation of the immigrant old Lutheran congregation. Members of the congregation are especially invited to take part. The location of the meeting will be announced by a circular to be issued on Monday morning."
Naturally there was endless confusion among the Stephanists as a result of the chain of events. The limitedless trust in the clergy, which had held them together, was shaken to its core. Only the commitment of each individual's financial resources
Go to pages 109 -113
Copy of text provided by the Concordia Theological Seminary Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks