My ancestors and the beginnings of the LCMS

Just a warning right from the start: This post is quite long and, considering that the group of people interested in Wyneken family genealogy and other families from whom I descend is pretty small to start with, this article probably reduces the numbers even more.

My father was a Lutheran minister in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). His great great grandfather, FCD Wyneken, was the second president of the synod. This connection with the LCMS is part of my background.

The beginnings of the LCMS can be found in a group of orthodox Lutheran dissidents who sought to escape from what they felt to be false teachings of the state church in Germany in the first half of the 19th century. Led by Martin Stephan, their plan was to leave their homes in the Old World and build something new for themselves in the New World, in the brand new nation the United States of America which was about 60 years old at the time.

Martin Stephan (1777-1846) was apparently quite a charismatic person. Stephan became the pastor of a congregation in Dresden, Saxony in 1810 and began to attract followers, people who were dissatisfied with the rationalist state church at the time. In 1824 he started to think that America might be a place where he and other like-minded people could practice their faith in freedom.

Over the years he gathered several pastors and pastoral candidates around him, along with quite a number of their parishioners and other people who sympathized with him and the other pastors. All of them were dissatisfied with the status quo. In December of 1838 a group of about 700 people sailed from Bremen in northern Germany headed for the new state of Missouri in the US. This group of people came to be known as the “Saxon immigrants“.

One of the ships sank on the way and in the end 602 people arrived in New Orleans in January of 1839. From there they traveled up the Mississippi river to Saint Louis, Missouri. Some of the group stayed in Saint Louis while the rest of them settled in an area next to the Mississippi in Perry County.

There were a number of pastors and pastoral candidates in Stephan’s inner circle. Next to Stephan, they were figures of authority in the group of immigrants. Here is a list of some of them who will play an important role later in this post:

  • Gotthold Heinrich Löber (1797-1849)
  • Theodore Julius Brohm (1808-1881), Stephan’s personal secretary
  • Otto Hermann Walther (1809-1841)
  • Carl Ferdinand Walther (1811-1887)

Now that we find our immigrants in the New World, we need to take a look back at things that had been happening in the background the previous few years. In Dresden, Martin Stephan had started holding private religious meetings in the evenings. The Saxon government was wary of Stephan and his doings, so at times he got in trouble with the police. He was accused several times of taking evening walks with some of his female followers. This may not sound like a problem in modern times, but at the time it was highly inappropriate behavior. His followers always held to him and supported him, saying that this was just an attempt by the state and the state church to attack Stephan.

On the voyage over from Germany Stephan began to develop authoritarian airs. At one point he gathered his pastors around and coerced them into signing a declaration giving him the office and title of “bishop”. In Saint Louis he gave orders that he was to get the best lodging and supplies while most of the other immigrants were still struggling. Stephan had a number of his women followers in his household to see to his needs. He also resumed his habit of taking evening walks with women. In addition, he had started making inappropriate use of the group’s shared funds.

All of this came to a head in May 1839. It is reported that after a sermon by pastor Löber (see above and the chart below) two women came to him separately and confessed to having had improper relations with Stephan. In the following days several other women, including Louise Völker (see chart below), made confessions of having committed adultery with Stephan or stated that Stephan had tried to seduce them. In the course of the next few weeks the scandal grew bigger and bigger until the group of immigrants as a whole rebelled against their “bishop”. The clergymen accused him in writing on May 30, 1839 of fornication and adultery, maladministration of the property of others, proclaiming false doctrine and other charges. They stripped him of his office and banished him from the settlement.

As a result of this scandal the whole group of immigrants fell into a deep depression, questioning whether it was correct of them to have come to the US in the first place. The group was indecisive and paralyzed for a long time, until in April of 1841 CFW Walther (see above and chart below) spoke up in a public debate and convinced the group that their goals in the New World were still valid. After that the majority of them chose to remain in Missouri.

A detailed description of all these happenings can be found in the book “Zion on the Mississippi: The Settlement of the Saxon Lutherans in Missouri 1839-1841” by Walter O Forster.

In 1844 my ancestor, FCD Wyneken, who at the time was working on his own in Fort Wayne, Indiana, read a copy of CFW Walther’s theological magazine Der Lutheraner and immediately recognized he had found a group of people who shared the same religious outlook that he did. From then on he stayed in close contact with Walther and the Saxons.

In 1847 the Saxon immigrants and other pastors and congregations formed what was later to be called the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. CFW Walther served as the synod’s first president from 1847 to 1850. FCD Wyneken succeeded him and served from 1850 to 1864, at which time CFW Walther took office again for his second term from 1864 to 1878.

So much for a brief history of the founding of the LCMS. In this next section we will look at a chart depicting some of my direct ancestors and how they fit in to the above story. It might be best, depending on how you are reading this article, to open the chart in a second window and switch back and forth to see where the names in the article appear in the chart. You could also look at text and chart on separate devices (computer, smart phone, tablet, etc.). Or if you don’t have enough screen space, maybe you could print out the text and view the chart on your screen. In any event, the following might get rather complicated to follow.

My ancestors and the beginnings of the LCMS

At the bottom right of the chart you see my great great grandparents: Clara Biltz and Martin Wyneken. Martin’s father was the above mentioned FCD Wyneken, second president of the LCMS.

Clara’s father was Franz Julius Biltz, who was one of Saxon immigrants. As I mentioned in an earlier posting, he was 13 years old at the time and went along with his older half-sister, Louise Völker, under somewhat irregular circumstances. Louise’s pastor was Ernst Keyl (1804-1872) who was one of the clergymen in the Saxon group. Keyl should actually appear in the chart, too, especially since he married Otto and CFW Walther’s sister, Amalie, but the chart is crowded enough as it is so I chose to leave these two out.

As mentioned earlier, Louise Völker was one of the women who confessed to having had adulterous dealings with Martin Stephan, thus leading to his fall, disgrace, and eventual expulsion from the group.

Franz Julius Biltz married Marie von Wurmb. Franz and Marie were students together at the log cabin school established in the Perry County settlement. Marie’s mother, Johanna von Wurmb nee Zahn and her husband, a former missionary to South Africa, had divorced before Johanna and her children joined the Saxon group. She was the log cabin school’s matron and was responsible for feeding the children. In 1843 Johanna married Theodore Julius Brohm, a pastor who had been Martin Stephan’s personal secretary and who was one of the teachers in the log cabin school.

Johanna’s sister, Wilhelmine Zahn, was also a member of the Saxon group. She had married Gotthold Löber long before the group left Germany. Löber was one of the group’s leading clergymen and it was his sermon that triggered the first women to confess their illicit relations with Martin Stephan.

Wilhelmine and Gotthold Löber’s daughter, Martha, married into the Bünger family. The above-mentioned book Zion on the Mississippi lists six members of the Bünger family who were between 26 and 11 years old when they journeyed to the US with the other Saxons. Two of Martha Löber’s Bünger sisters-in-law married the two leading Saxon clergymen: CFW and Otto Walther. This is how the Löbers and Zahns became related, by marriage, to the Walthers.

Biltzes, Walthers and Wyneken at Biltz home ca. 1900.
FJ BIltz seated at the left, with son Adolf. Ferdinand Gerhard Walther with wife Bertha nee Biltz, their son Julius sitting on ground. Biltz’ adopted daugher Bertha Winkler. Cousins Arthur Wyneken and Paula Walther. Mollie Biltz.

To complete the circle, CFW Walther and his wife Emilie Bünger had a son Ferdinand Gerhard Walther. Ferdinand Walther married Bertha Biltz. Bertha of course is the daughter of our Franz Julius Biltz and the younger sister of my great great grandmother Clara Wyneken nee Biltz.

It wasn’t until relatively recently that I realized there was actually a family link between the Wynekens and the Walthers. The photograph here shows a family get-together at the old homestead in Missouri. The young man pictured on the the right side of the picture is Arthur Wyneken, youngest son of Martin and Clara, visiting his grandfather Biltz, his Biltz uncles and aunts, and his Walther uncle and cousins.

I grew up hearing Wyneken relatives complaining about the fact the LCMS has a youth organization called the Walther League but that there’s nothing comparable in honor of the Wyneken name. Ah, these petty rivalries! And now I find out that the Walthers and the Wynekens were even related by marriage.

This article has turned out a lot longer than my articles usually are. I’m sorry about that, but this article does cover a lot of material.

To sum things up, after all the evidence presented above I am tempted to say that it if I didn’t exist, the LCMS would not have come about.

Hm. Maybe that’s not really how I should summarize this all up. I do believe, however, that this article does show how quite a large number of my direct ancestors and relatives played important parts in the happenings that resulted in the formation of the LCMS.

5 thoughts on “My ancestors and the beginnings of the LCMS

  1. Benjamin Phelps

    Thanks for the genealogical article on your extended family’s LCMS founding connections. I think your Wyneken relatives had a good reason for some rivalry and bitterness. Walther seems to have left a larger-than-life impact on Missouri Synod historiography because he lived longer than Wyneken and personally taught so many of the future leaders and pastors. Wyneken’s greatest impact was at the very start and during his presidency that ended in 1864 almost a full quarter-century before Walther’s death. I’m currently writing my final chapter of the Wyneken bio, concluding with the founding of Missouri and his move to St. Louis. If you look at who made up the synod in 1847 and who joined it in the following years, you will see that the majority were not in Missouri, not Saxon, and not directly connected to Walther. Most were directly, or indirectly, led to become pastors in America because of Wyneken and his Notruf.

    Keep up the good work! I will be incorporating much info from your research into the biography, including the very interesting material from HC Wyneken’s will.

    Thanks, Ben

    On Sun, May 10, 2020 at 11:10 AM Wyneken Family History wrote:

    > mpwyn posted: ” Just a warning right from the start: This post is quite > long and, considering that the group of people interested in Wyneken family > genealogy and other families from whom I descend is pretty small to start > with, this article probably reduces the numbers ” >

    1. mpwyn Post author

      Thanks, Ben, for the kind words. I find your thoughts about Walther vs. Wyneken quite intriguing.

    2. Richard Stoll

      Ben, I am a descendent of FCD Wyneken and am most interested in your bio pf the same when it is ready to share.

  2. Robert E. Smith

    Nice summary! I’ve studied FCD quite a bit and I tell the story of our founding, not from the Saxon viewpoint, which made up about half the founding congregations and pastors, but from the story of FCD viewpoint and the Loehe men viewpoint. I’d have to check, but I suspect the Loehe men are also related to the Wynekens. But that story is the story of economic immigrants and missionaries to the native Americans.

    1. mpwyn Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Bob! AAMOF FCD’s daughter Sophie married Heinrich Gottlieb Craemer, foster son of Friedrich August Craemer. August was one of Loehe’s men.


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