Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Stephan! Martin Stephan!

Plumbing the depths of my Ontario Empoblog post comments, I ran into this comment on this post.

The best account is in Walter O. Forster's Zion on the Mississippi (CPH, 1953, 606 pages).

A shorter account is given in Carl Eduard Vehse's The Stephanite Emigration to America.

If official LCMS publications tend to slight Martin Stephan, they either misrepresent or ignore Dr. Vehse and his influence on C.F.W. Walther and the polity of the Missouri Synod.

posted by Carl Vehse : Tuesday, November 27, 2007 7:38:00 PM

The latter book was written in 1840 and is available here (RTF) in an English translation. Here's an excerpt:

Thereupon our authorized spokesman laid before him the document with the cessio bonorum, and since it was now too late in the day to convey him across the Mississippi on the ferry as agreed, he spent the night alone in a tent set up near the landing place.

In the morning we found him with his Bible open before him.

The ferry was ready at half-past ten o'clock --his only request was that "the people might withdraw so that he would not meet anyone." I shall never forget his deeply moved expression as I brought him to the ferry. (Vehse p 22) He left with obvious worry on his face, with stooped posture, a cap on his gray head, supporting himself by his right hand on a walking stick, carrying another under his left arm, continually complaining of having been unjustly dealt with, toward the Mississippi --to occupy a room rented for him on an isolated farm on the Illinois shore beyond a rock formation that because of its form is called the devil's bake oven! I cannot deny that this parting roused painful, uncontrollable feelings in me as I recalled all the good, besides much that was bad, for which I am indebted to him.

In the cane he carried under his left arm, he apparently made away with another 700 piasters which he is supposed to have shown to his host on arrival in order to assure himself of a hospitable reception. It has become known that he once had such a hollowed-out walking-stick made in the mountains, of which he boasted that therein "spies might carry their dispatches." A further 400 piasters in Missouri bank notes missing from the credit fund were apparently taken along either by him or his housekeeper, although her belongings also were thoroughly searched, so that if indeed she did make off with them, she must have buried them at the time.

But this is probably the best account of the lot:

Soon after they bought land, Martin Stephan was accused of sexual impropriety and embezzlement. They shipped Stephan across the river to Illinois, which is where all heretics should be forced to go....

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