The Destinies and Adventures of the Stephanists who emigrated from Saxony to America - pages 4 - 8


We pray to God that He abundantly comfort them in their time of need. With regard to our many enemies, we wish to fortify our hearts with the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ: "Love your enemies; bless those whom you flee. Be kind to those who hate you. Pray for those who hunt and persecute you." Matthew 5, 44.

Dear friends who remain behind, when you reflect upon our migration to America, know that an Old Lutheran congregation sails away on five ships under the protection of God. Six ministers with approximately 700 souls, among whom are 10 ministerial candidates and 4 school teachers, leave with joy to a place where they can unmolestedly preserve the faith of their fathers in accordance with their best knowledge and conscience. In this we serve God and in this same manner we may live in peace until the end of time.

Bremen Harbor, November 18, 1838.
                  Martin Stephan, Pastor
                  for himself and in the name of
                  those brothers in faith traveling
                  with him to North America.

The first ship to leave was the Copernicus. Then the Republic and the Johann Georg set sail. Only the Olbers and the Amalia were still at anchor and ready to take on passengers. The Olbers, a magnificent 3-masted ship, was making its maiden voyage and it was christened. Along with 13 other passengers the elder Pastor Walther, Magistrate Wege and three ministerial candidates had cabins. The lower deck was filled with 181 faithful souls traveling in steerage.

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Handwritten marginalia: Köpchen

Handwritten note at bottom: Der Copernikus hält im ganzen 181 Seelen der Sachsen - The Copernicus carried a total of 181 Saxon souls.


The majority left the German fatherland joyfully, for it had been portrayed as a second Sodom and Gomorrah. — And not one among them truly suspected that scarcely a year later they would wish to return. They sang filled with conviction:

            A white knight of the Lord
           leads us, a shining star
           guides us on to Kanaan
           as Moses had before.

Whether Moses would be pleased with the comparison we cannot say, however these songs certainly could not have failed in their promised purpose of bolstering the moods of the emigrants. —

On November 18th at 10AM the Olbers set sail with a favorable wind and the ensuing peace gave rise to much personal reflection.

The journey progressed quickly and after only 40 hours the ship had made its way past the canal at Calais. The Captain, Heinrich Exter commented that this was a singular occurrence.

Sea sickness set in and caused great distress for many of the passengers. On November 26th death claimed its first victim of the dangerous voyage. The three-year-old boy of D. M--ch finished his young life. An apoplectic fit was the cause of death. New to making ocean voyages and moved by the sorrow of the father, the captain made an exception in the traditional practice of burial at sea. The ship's carpenter made a small coffin and the boy's remains


were then laid to rest in the watery grave. On this occasion Pastor Stephan delivered a moving speech, which must have been heart rending when one thinks of the grieving parents, the jettisoning of the coffin into the ocean and their having to accept for all time the empty spots in their souls left by the death of their beloved son. They would never have the opportunity to assuage their grief by crying at a green hillside grave. But the child would rest in peace! — The Olbers sailed on through the twilit night echoing the lullaby of the Stephanists:

           Now sleep, my beloved child
           be still upon your bed
           The evening comes along
           the ship sails ahead.
           Beloved Jesus guides us
           We follow in his stead.

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On November 21st an unfavorable wind stirred up, which brought a violent storm. The ship was in the Bay of Biscay and for the first time the passengers saw the perilous panorama of an ocean storm. The storm passed without a tragedy. The weather improved and the ocean was calm once more. The ocean became ever more turbulent and this hindered the holding of general church services.


On Tuesday, November 27th a new storm threatened. All hatches were shut and no one was allowed to venture out from cover. The storm grew ever stronger and reached its highpoint on November 28th. Two sailors were ripped away from the rudder; one of them was seriously injured. — The oceans gradually stilled. — Along with praying and singing, the urge to eat and drink was not diminished in the least among the passengers. The ship's stores were not meant to accommodate so may stomachs. So it happened that a talkative woman from Dresden, Mrs. T--st--n, began to reminisce about kitchens back home and she spoke these nostalgic words: "Oh, how lovely it would be to have some potato dumplings again!" — The words had scarcely left her mouth when as if from a ghost a whisper rose from many sections of the steerage compartment, "Dumplings! Dumplings!" The silence was broken by loud applause from the crowd and yearning for homemade food dominated everyone's thoughts. With snappy eloquence Mrs. T. stated how such a delicious dish could not be expected from the ship's kitchen for the entire voyage and that if everyone would help, the work would soon be over, etc. — she made the necessary preparations and invited everyone to participate.

         Come on, everyone. Lend a hand.
         There's enough work for young and old!

The men were given aprons and any other article which could serve the purpose.


In less than 15 minutes the entire steerage compartment was turned into a dumpling factory. For the sake of speed, the potatoes were grated raw in the provincial Thuringian manner and the haste with which everything was done gave promise of the desired results the emigrants were seeking. The fire was already crackling under the huge ship's kettle; a hundred hands were forming the delicious dough into appetizing balls. All at once the doors of the cabin opened and —

With heavy steps upon the floor
the magistrate stepped through the door.

Several shocked members dropped the half-formed dumplings and they rolled along the ship's floorboards. Others stood in utter amazement, not knowing what to do. — A suspenseful pause followed. — The fate of the dumplings was undecided. The twinkle returned to people's eyes and the cry of "keep going, keep going" echoed from many parts of the ship. The work continued in silence and at 2 o'clock the first batch was completed. The second batch was done at 4 o'clock. If the dumplings were not up to the standards of a proper kitchen and their considerable mass laid heavy on the stomachs of several people for many days, it was because of the lack of proper ingredients and the shortness of the time. Everyone pressed in around the kettle and a small dispute broke out, so one of the ministerial candidates had to act as an unbiased judge in dividing up the dumplings.


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Copy of text provided by the Concordia Theological Seminary Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825

Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks