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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Walther's Criminal Behavior - No Secret To Historians

The keepers of the Walther shrine have hidden the syphilis story,
but the rest is well known.
Part I
One of the UOJ lapdogs claimed I was writing about a secret LCMS history, smirking as if I were making up details or digging up legends known only to a few. The material below is from Zion on the Mississippi, Walter O. Forster, 1953. The book is older than the UOJ Enthusiasts Paul McCain, Jay Webber, Preus Inc, and Jumpin' Jack Kilcrease (who jumps synods and confessions with the greatest of ease). Concordia Publishing House printed the book, which was a doctoral dissertation that employed the resources of the Concordia Hagiography Institute, where McCain had a sinecure.

My copy was owned given to Arthur Stellhorn Welch, whose mother wrote this in 1984:
"This is the authoritative soruce of the history of the Saxon Pilrims who came to America for religious as well as other freedoms. My father's parents, Stellhorn and Buenger, are of this company. I see in your nature and life that cultural and genetic strain." (Emphasis in original)

Zion has been required reading for seniors. Vehse has another account. Now the Stephan records are available in the book above, whose title I modified somewhat.

As I wrote before, Stephan was investigated many times for his obvious immoral behavior with young women. Louise Guenther was the main mistress, but there were others investigated by the police and church officials. The groupies were jealous of each other and vied for Stephan's attention. Two of the lawyers were participants in the court action just before the Saxon departure, which led to Stephan's house arrest. His long-suffering wife gave detailed testimony about Stephan's infidelities, which his lawyers knew about, although they were happy to go to America with him. Vehse and Marbach were brothers-in-law.

Note that Suelflow solemnly recorded Walther blaming Mrs. Stephan for the bishop's adultery!

All the historians know that C.F.W. Walther's future mother-in-law was jailed for her part in kidnapping and hiding the niece and nephew of Ferdinand and his brother. According to the Stephan book, police issued warrants for the arrest of Walther, who left his port early, like Jonah, on a fast ship West, regardless of the fare.

Download it here.

Landing in New Orleans, Walther swore allegiance to Bishop-for-Life Stephan, known adulterer. A few months later, Stephan was suddenly revealed to be an adulterer and a false teacher, for calling himself bishop. Actually, the pastors elected him bishop, so that made them false teachers as well.  As for the lying, let me get started.

Stephan and his group were being dissed in America and Europe for their lawlessness. That is no secret - Zion, p. 345. Stephan's pastors defended their effort and their bishop - in print.

Money was loosely handled, but the laity had control of that, even though they obeyed the directives of Stephan. The bishop showed the signs of third stage syphilis, with many strange delusions and impractical, improvident plans. The unemployed pastors also paid themselves out of the common fund. Ferdinand's brother did not even account for the huge sum, $400, he requested and received. Zion, p. 364.

"The Bishop always had a number of women staying with him at his St. Louis residence." Zion, p. 355. The women included - "Louise Voelker, Louise Guenther, Mrs. Schneider, Pauline Weidlich, and the youthful Marie Schubert, niece of the Walthers." (ibid) He resumed the evening strolls with women, the practice in Germany that attracted police attention. It is no secret that he left his wife behind in Dresden, to fend for herself, and abandoned all his children except his healthy son, who came over and established his own LCMS dynasty.

The clergy were loyal to the hierarchical order, even after the removal of Stephan. Zion, p. 357.

Walther was happy to carry out Stephan's abusive orders. Zion, p. 358.

The Saxons were offered a good deal on land, right in St. Louis, (p. 376) but Stephan wanted to be in the wilderness, so they bought in Perry County. They were running out of money. Zion, p. 373. Stephan the Bohemian had no problem with human slavery. They could have purchased better land for less in Illinois or in another territory. Perry County had spas good for additional syphilis treatment and the advantage of obscurity, away from prying eyes and urban newspapers.

The stories of Stephan's "stupid vanity and gross incompetence" suggests syphilitic dementia rather than the effects of the bishop's title. Zion, p. 387.

On April 24, 1839, five of the pastors (Loeber, Keyl, Oertel, Buerger, Walther) replied to an attack by the St. Louis newspaper, Zion, p. 388. They defended their enterprise and their bishop, but the paper said they were all under a cloud, both in Europe and America. The five pastors reversed themselves a few days later - in print!

The Rogate Sunday sermon (May 5, 1839) and confession story is recorded on p. 392 of Zion. Loerber (a great friend of Walther) preached a sermon. Two women confessed adultery, and Loerber told Walther. But they already knew, and Forster does not seem to believe the story he repeated about the shocking discovery.

"In Germany they did not want to believe ill of Stephan because of their high regard for him and their close association with him. Hence they closed their eyes to all evidence and their ears to all 'slander' against him and pronounced him an innocent martyr." Zion, p. 394

The facts are known to those who investigated them. Stephan became more contagious (third stage syphilis) and shared his disease with his mistresses. The community suddenly became aware that the overlooked adultery had bequeathed a slow, shameful death sentence on their young women, thanks to their bishop. His children and wife were already suffering from syphilis, abandoned in Dresden.

On May 15, Walther and a layman traveled from St. Louis to Perry County. Zion, p. 403. Forgetting Matthew 18, Walther did not confront Stephan but instead defrauded him of the land given by the Saxons (80 acres).  That behavior shows the common understanding in the group, that Stephan had his female groupies and no one really saw anything. After years of ignoring all the girlfriends and the bishop's wife being left behind in Dresden, Walther could not act suddenly outraged over adultery.

Part II

Something else was brewing. The only explanation is an outbreak of syphilis. To defend themselves against the charge of Loerber and Walther revealing a confidential confession (the cover story), Missourians have said, "But everyone already knew." That shows the cover story to be a lie - and not a well crafted lie at that.

Above on May 15, Walther and a layman traveled to Perry County, but not to confront Bishop Stephan. Walther needed to organize the Perry County residents, since the St. Louis Saxons were already united. Recall that Stephan was with his groupies in St. Louis before he moved down to Perry County. The entire Saxon group was in the public spotlight because their sordid reputations followed them. The kidnapping, immoral behavior, and money issues were reported in Germany and in America, although the apologists make it sound like persecution, remaining vague about why two newspapers were so antagonistic about this Holy Spirit anointed immigration.

In Perry County, Walther openly defied Bishop Stephan. The New York group came to Perry County at that time. Zion, p. 408. That included three of the Buengers, "who had been separated from the rest of the family by the performance of the Walther brothers in the incident involving the Schubert children." Zion, p. 404f. Incident? Incident? I wonder if Forster was a little more direct and found his prose edited by the LCMS public relations experts.

The Saxons consisted of three groups at this point: the St. Louis residents, the Perry County pioneers, and the newly arrived New York contingent. The New Yorkers were still loyal and obedient to Stephan. So were the Perry County residents, although they chafed at Stephan's spending and spirochete-fueled delusions.

Walther stayed with the Buengers in Perry County and got them on his side. They were already Waltherians via the kidnapping. J. F. Buenger was one of Walther's closest friends. Zion, p. 408.

"Walther, of course, immediately instructed J. F. Buenger on the state of affairs but did so in the sleeping quarters of a group of about twenty-five to thirty men, and the fact that it was done in Latin did not prevent others, such as Ernst Buenger, from understanding it. This episode is typical of Walther's methods on his mission. He did not make the mistake of immediately mounting a stump and denouncing Stephan, but gave his information to hand-picked individuals, always with the caution that they were to keep it to themselves for the time-being." Zion, p. 409.

By May 19th the "entire colony was seething." Zion, p. 409. Stephan took note, telling Ernst Buenger, "Beware of that Ferd. Walther, that fellow is a fox." p. 409.

That Sunday, May 19th, Pentecost, Walther had everyone listen to him preach, although they had been directed to hear Stephan at a different location. Walther said after his sermon: "Many of you will have been surprised this morning that I preached in spite of the invitation and against the orders of the man who until now has been beloved and respected by us all, but terrible things have happened, which I shall now communicate to you." Everyone believed Walther, so all three groups were united against Stephan. No one went to Stephan in obedience to Matthew 18. Walther began with "tell it to the church," but not until he had most of the people on his side by his crafty spread of the story. Zion, p. 410.

Walther went back to St. Louis to bring those residents to Perry County for the climax of his excellent adventure.

The tacky Walther shrine has been refurbished.

Walther did a superb job in organizing the mob against Stephan
and serving as spin-doctor about his own history.

Part III 
In Pursuit of Religious Freedom describes the arrival of the St. Louis mob and the many criminal acts against their leader:

  1. Invading his home.
  2. Threatening his life.
  3. Strip-searching him for money.
  4. Stealing all his money, a large sum of gold.
  5. Taking away his books and personal possessions.
  6. Making him leave his house and sleep outside.
  7. Kidnapping him at gunpoint and forcing him to live in Illinois.
Not one act against Stephan was justified by his adultery. But everything is understandable in light of the spread of syphilis. Daughters and families were humiliated. The Saxon group was shown to be a degenerate cult carrying the most dreaded plague of the time. No real cure was available. A young woman with syphilis would give it to her husband and to her future children. Severe rashes would give away the disease until it went into latency, only to emerge again later with final, deadly results.

The clergy were all in trouble for their published support of Stephan, just before the expulsion. They were just as quick to accuse the bishop in print was they were to defend him in print. Both actions were only a few days apart. This reversal did not come from a dramatic confession or two, but from a much darker source and their justified fears of facing a mob in St. Louis.

I went over the Forster account in Zion to find who was organizing and leading the mob action against Stephan. No other name appears in leadership. Walther acted on behalf of the St. Louis Saxons, coming down to Perry County to steal the bishop's 80 acres and organize the colony. He used the Buenger family to convert the newly arrived New York group to his side. Then he returned to St. Louis to bring those people down to Perry County in the dramatic purge, robbery, and expulsion.

Walther never wanted an early history of the Missouri Synod written down, because he was so much a part of the story. (Suelflow) O. H. Walther married one Buenger daughter and died, so Ottomar Fuerbringer married the widow. C. F. W. Walther married another Buenger daughter and took over his brother's congregation in St. Louis when O. H. died.

Ludwig Fuerbringer was the son of Ottomar, so he was a double-Buenger (mother and aunt) and the nephew of C.F.W. Ludwig also skipped over the early years of the Saxon adventure in his two little books about the Missouri Synod. I find much to admire in Ludwig's life, ministry, and teaching. His books prove the saying that always comes to mind when dealing with historical accounts, "The unspoken word is the most important."

This Walther statue is at the Purple Palace, the LCMS Vatican.
The original is at the Concordia Hagiography Institute.
Another copy is inside the Walther shrine.
Three idols are erected to the same kidnapper and thief in the same city.
CFW is the ruling norm of the Olde Synodical Conference.