J. C. W. Lindemann.

(Lebensbild eines lutherischen Volk- und Schulmannes.)

Life Sketch of a Lutheran Man of the People and Pedagogue.

For “Blätter und Blüten” by L.

(Translated from Blätter und Blüten (Petals and Blossoms: Gathered by the Editors of the Abendschule. First Volume. St. Louis, Mo.: Printed and published by Louis Lange Publishing Co. 1894. pp. 189-200. By Sieghart Rein.)

The ancient university town of Goettingen is located in the lovely Leine Valley of the present province Hannover. Here the oldest son was born on January 6, 1827 to the first clerk of the royal judiciary chancellery there, Kaspar Wilhelm Lindemann and his wife Elisabeth, née Bethge. He received the name Johann Christoph Wilhelm at his holy baptism on February 4th. God had designated little Wilhelm as chosen tool for the Lutheran Church in America, at whose organization and extension he had been an all too early consummate contributor. Whoever honors God, him one should honor in return. To the honor of our great God, Who performs wonders to the human beings, and for the benefit of the American Christian people, these lines have been written. Since the life sketch of such a great man can only be presented within a narrow scope, the main features are sufficient to characterize him, to refresh the memories of old acquaintances and to present an instructive example for those who are unfamiliar with him.

The first childhood years of little Wilhelm were spent in the house of the town musician and landlord to students, Spangenberg, across from the Pauliner-Kirche [St. Paul’s Church], where his parents lived. The Pauliner-Kirchhof [churchyard of St. Paul’s] made an excellent play­ground for the children, which they used often, but from which they were chased often by the police. However, the childish games were mixed early with life’s gravity for our Wilhelm. His dear mother died early on and the household was conducted by strangers. His father was at his counter from 9 o’clock in the morning till 5 o’clock at night; the maids did what they wanted then and naturally the children also. Nevertheless their father got the children used to doing tasks regularly and provided useful activities early on. He had a choice library, although not an extensive one. During his long wanderings as a journeyman and later as lieutenant he had observed the world with open eyes and acquired much splendid knowledge. When he was at home at night, he either read to Wilhelm’s older sisters himself, or he had [someone] read to him. Often he also told what he had read or what he had experienced on his military ex­peditions.

At his fourth year Wilhelm started to draw under his father’s supervision; likewise regular writing exercises began and at six years he had to help his father with copying, whereby hard compulsory measures were not missing. In the parental home he had also advanced in reading so far that his teacher, “the tall man with the long hand,” told him to bring along his catechism right at the first school attendances, after having tested him in reading the primer. His father had seen to it that Wilhelm received a good school education and with his Wilhelm, as we will see, it was not in vain. The little boy had a desire to learn anytime and the necessary talents. Milling around in the street had never been his passion. He’d rather sit in the parlor reading, drawing, or cuting out figures. That earned him the title “Stubenhocker” (“Stay-at-home”). He was also given the nickname “Recke” (“Stretch”) by his comrades because of his long build.

Thus under strict paternal supervision, under cheery, merry learning in school, combined with amusing excursions into the romantic surroundings of Goettingen, the time of confirmation approached, but at the same time also the earnest question: “What was to become of the lad?” Attending the Gymnasium [academic secondary school] and then attending university — the funds did not permit that. Learning to paint, for which Wilhelm always had a great desire, also required a significant amount of money. Finally it was decided that Wilhelm would enter into an apprenticeship under his uncle in Kirchrode to be a carpenter. As though in a dream, he went dejectedly into his attic room in which he shed many a tear, while all who knew him shook their heads over it that the bright boy picked this trade. Now followed four hard years as an apprentice, filled with anguish and anxiety. But this too had to serve for his best.

Nearly throughout his entire apprenticeship time — for he soon sensed that he had missed his calling by becoming a carpenter — young Lindemann entertained the idea of becoming a painter; in his leisure time he diligently practiced drawing. He repeatedly asked his father to permit him to devote himself to painting; but he constantly either received no answer at all or a negative one. Later, too, in the last years of his life, he constantly drew with great pleasure and just as great neatness and correctness. His skill in it is attested to by his several large pen-and-ink drawings and pictures, which he as pastor and professor gave to several good friends as anniversary gift or pleasant memento.

During his apprenticeship he read diligently and expanded his knowledge. His assiduous, restless spirit, which constantly compelled him to work and which now evinced the earnest man, who later, as he often said himself, “worked for his recreation.”

After he finally had become a journeyman carpenter, he traveled around “with good clothes, a moderately filled wallet and a full knapsack.” The destination was Dresden, where his father had been garrisoned and had often told his son about its beauty and art treasures. But God had something else in mind for the young traveling journeyman. As he was having a look at the town of Altenburg, he came to the Leipzig railroad station, where a train is ready to depart for Leipzig, and deciding quickly Lindemann buys a ticket for Leipzig. By doing that he took a step which was to exert a decisive influence upon his future life.

On the same evening yet, he arrived in Leipzig, lodged at the hostel for carpenters and immediately acquired work the next morning; but he soon got into terrible danger of [loosing] his soul. Just at that time the [Johannes] Ronge Movement had originated in Germany and notorious Robert Blum had gathered a German-Catholic congregation in Leipzig. The young and fiery carpenter journeyman of master Stuck had no concept of religious truth at that time. As far back as he could recall, God’s Word had made no vivid impression upon his mind. Therefore he followed the great crowd and let himself be misled into joining the Blum mob. He believed to have found the truth, which he sought, by the “German Catholics;” and in order to completely discern the newly-discovered truth all the more so, and to all the more be able to successfully oppose “old superstitions,” he bought a Bible — his first one! Was an eager reader of the Bible. He started with all eagerness as he did everything else that he intended to do. Every day several hours were spent in reading the Bible and parallel passages were referred to carefully. It was such a pleasure for him, that he even neglected his work [over it]. His Bible was in the drawer underneath his carpenter’s bench, and whenever doable at least a few verses were read. But he read with blindfolded eyes. He read the Bible at that time, as he repeatedly told me, to gather ammunition against Christianity, and he was so very entangled and captivated, that he formally joined the German Catholics and regarded Robert Blum as an apostle of truth.*

Faithful God, however, Who wanted to use the one led astray in His service later on, saw to it that Lindemann’s eyes were opened in time. Of course, Lindemann informed his parents and his pastor in Göttingen what he had done. The answer of his former Seelsorger (pastor) had an immediate effect: Something like scales fell from his eyes; he realized his error and immediately went to see Mr. Großmann [Grossmann], who was employed as catechist at St. Peter’s Church. Mr. Großmann helped him faithfully, prayed with him and introduced him to serious-minded Christian people. Just at that time of the German Catholic movement, Dr. Delitzsch wrote to his old friend professor Walther: “The number of believers in Leipzig and certainly, the religiously inclide, has increased considerable.” Into this church young Lindemann was introduced. Bookseller Dörfling gave him several booklets and among them a pamphlet about mission by director Karl F. L. Graul and a second one by Pastor [Johann] Kilian at Kotitz: “Necessary caution [for] Evangelical Lutheran Christians at the present religious confusion, etc.” The latter writing has contributed much in strengthening the earnest journeyman carpenter; the former, however, aroused the earnest resolution within him, to become a missionary. He expresses this heartfelt desire to mission director Graul personally, when he lodged at bookseller Dörfling during a visit in Leipzig. Graul advised him, since because of the forthcoming transfer of the mission house from Dresden to Leipzig in that year, no new pupils were accepted, to report to pastor [Johann K. W.] Löhe to be trained for mission [work] among the Germans in North America. Lindemann had no desire for that; he wanted to be a missionary to the heathens. When it was decided therefore that he would not be admitted to the Dresden Mission House, he had no peace of mind in Leipzig anymore; he returned to Göttingen in order to be admitted to another mission house especially with the help of his pastor, Superintendent J. Hildebrand. He used the time of waiting in Göttingen for diligent private studies, until the likelihood of admittance into the Berlin Mission House opened up. But this, too, came to nothing. When he got to Berlin, he was told by supervisor Bloch that the letter of recommendation for him had not arrived. Thus God had closed this door also, in order to open another and better one. Lindemann was never a man to shrink back because of misfortune or be moved to useless complaining and lamenting. Deciding quickly, he returned to his trade. In the nearby town of Bernau, where he had found work again, as a result of his inquiry, he gets to know several separated Lutherans, who were served by Pastor Friedrich Lasius out of Berlin. Lindemann got to know and love Lutheran doctrine only then among these people. He now realized thankfully why God had led him to Bernau, and now, that he had found the church communion in which he was to work in the future to the glory of God and [to] the benefit of many souls; God led him back again to his home and from there into the service of the church.

Superintendent Hildebrand used his influence with supervisors of the teachers’ seminary in Hannover, Köster and [Carl A. W.] Röbbelen, for the purpose of Lindmann’s acceptance into the seminary there. But before the move to there could be brought about, Lindemann diligently prepared himself at teacher Möller’s in Misburg. The studies were based on the books used at the seminary and which had in part been dictated. He also had to practice keeping school and soon attained such skill at it that the teacher turned over the school [to him] frequently, as it became necessary. Whoever has had the opportunity later on to observe our Lindemann when he stood among the children instructing them, will have readily recognized the born schoolmaster in him. He always taught with heart and soul, whereby his sharp comprehension, his clear, resolute judgment, his talent for narration, his entire particular ability to instruct enabled him especially.

He did not remain long at the seminary in Hannover, into which he was admitted on October 9, 1847. It was in the year of the Revolution of 1848 when Supervisor Köster told the seminarians that he was charged with sending a teacher to Baltimore. No one of the seminarians wanted to go to America and the supervisor suggested that any one of the candidates [for admission to the teacher’s seminary] was inclined to, he may report to him very soon. This request moved Lindemann to indicate to the supervisor that he was willing to go to Baltimore, in case he considered him suitable. Köster consented and handed the call of the Evangelical Lutheran St. Paul’s Congregation in Baltimore over to him.

Thus, God, in a marvelous way, without Lindemann’s assistance, called him to America. On May 4th he embarked on the “Pallas” in Bremen and landed in Baltimore on July 6th after a very favorable journey, and on July 31st he assumed his position there with about 60 schoolchildren. Filled with a sincere love for his Savior and his children, full of zeal and joy at his duties and yet full of fear and apprehension of his own weakness, he had administered his teaching post in Baltimore to the great satisfaction of his superiors and the congregation until the end of 1850.

He subsequently decided upon the advice of friends, especially [that of] Pastor Friedrich C. D. Wyneken, to devote himself to the ministry. Although he had married in the meantime, he acted on the decision around Easter 1852 and entered the seminary at Fort Wayne, Ind., where he was trained under Professors A. Crämer and Dr. W. Sihler. Both of these teachers have survived him, but had been faithful friends as long as he lived. Not only they have gladly thought of him, but the memory of this earnest, diligent, resolute man, who under burdensome circumstances and severe worries as a housefather applied himself to his studies and soon was prompted to preaching and conducting Christenlehren (catechetical studies), lives on also among the older congregation members in Fort Wayne. Lindemann kept up a sincere friendship with his colleagues at that time and those among them, who helped to lay him to his final rest, moved by deep sorrow, professed: “That was a friend, the like are few.”

The studies did not last long in Fort Wayne, too. The need was great. A man of such ability and experience as our Lindemann was of great use in many places. Thus he received a call in July 1853 already as vicar at the Evangelical Lutheran Zion Congregation in Cleveland, O.; where at that time our present [1894] president of the Missouri Synod, Dr. Heinrich C. Schwan was pastor. Lindemann herewith had entered his clerical activity and we must devote a special chapter to it.

*          *          *

When Lindemann assumed his ministry in Cleveland, the currently flourishing character of the Lutheran Church there was still in its initial stages and the Lutheran congregation was a despised small group and hostility was heaped upon it from all sides. The church character was still in the making. Fierce struggles demanded a whole man. The new vicar soon proved himself to be such and his manly decisiveness and intrepidity soon brought the struggle to a standstill. He seized the work assigned to him with a steady hand and he performed his ministry among repeated mortal danger with earnest conscientiousness. The congregation grew, so that soon a separate congregation was established on the West Side, and Lindemann became its independent pastor. The high-principled man has put his stamp on this congregation during his time of ministry, as he was one of the rare men, whose entire personality is influential for others and who, without seeming to know, domineer in the good sense of the word.

The circumstances at that time were meager. The congregation was called Holzhackergemeinde (woodchopper congregation) because many of its recently immigrated members had to support themselves by chopping wood and as day laborers. No one among them was prosperous. In 1856 when they proceeded to build a larger church building, the congregation had so little credit, was also without funds, that the sole farmer in it took out a mortgage on his farm, in order to be able borrow the absolutely necessary money. To a large part the church-building debt was paid off cent-wise, without [the congregation] having to ask for outside help.

 With such poverty of the congregation in the material it is self-evident that also the pastor and his family had to make both ends meet and apprehension for food was added to the hot congregational conflicts. Nevertheless the pastor retained his joyful courage and gladly shared his poverty and need with his congregation members. His cross, of which he was not spared, could not take away his joyfulness.

Even when he was especially stressed and overburdened, he always found time to devote to his family. He was a loving, caring house father, who oversaw and led his children’s instruction. Idleness and inactivity was an abhorrence to him, which he could not tolerate from his children, although he granted them the necessary recreation and childish pastimes. Being a lover of nature himself, who enthusiastically observed the life and goings-on of the animal kingdom and liked to be outdoors, he took long walks through field and forest with his children, visited the most secluded places, set traps with his boys, caught butterflies, looked for beetles, lizards and other creepy-crawlies and was glad like a child when he had found a striking fossil, a rare bug or a hidden spring in the undergrowth. During long winter evenings he devoted the first hours to his loved family. He either orally tested [his children] on their school lessons, had read to him, or read a story, or a travel book, or something from world or natural history. But we liked best to hear him tell stories.

He kept up social intercourse with members of his congregation and liked to have company. Between several members of the vestry and him an intimate personal relationship had been formed. As strict and earnest he was as pastor in his ministry, he was just as affable and intimate in his social intercourse when he found like-minded persons. His speech, always seasoned with salt, his superb gift for entertaining made him into a welcomed companion.

In his sermons he proved himself not only a preacher firmly founded in Scripture and a confessional Lutheran, but also a very up-to-date one, who with wise attentiveness and seelsorgerischer (pastoral) conscientiousness as a good steward among his [fellow] servants gave everyone his due share. He was not an exceptional speaker. Using plain, down-to-earth speech, disdaining every rhetorical embellishment, free from all sensationalism, he spoke naturally and appropriate to his whole personality, but preached nevertheless so didactically and with such an emphasis that he truly edified his congregation and not only promoted knowledge of doctrine, but molded it into a model congregation regarding [its] vitality. He employed great diligence and constant attention to the Christenlehren (catechetical instructions). At that time he had gone through his catechism more than once with pen in hand and several neatly written exercise books give witness to his thorough preparation. Generally he was not a man who did anything haphazardly, but whatever he touched was completed thoroughly.

At that time already he began to place his gifts and knowledge in the service of wide spheres. He began to write for the Lutheraner and published his Arithmetisches Exempelbuch für deutsche Volksschulen in Amerika [Book of Arithmetic Problems for German Elementary Schools in America]. Thus it was hardly surprising that such a man attracted the attention of the Synod and that it tried to win such a worker for a wider sphere.

When, therefore, the directorship at the teachers’ seminary of the Synod became vacant, Pastor Lindemann was chosen for this office. After eleven years of ministry as pastor, he began his activity as professor and Direktor (president) with the opening of the seminary relocated from Fort Wayne to Addison, Ill., in the fall of 1864.

With habitual determination and steady hand, the new director took hold of the reins and it soon turned out that, although he had no particular previous experience for such an important position, he, nevertheless, was a natural for this ministry. God had endowed him for this position from an early age. His bright mind led him to clearly discern the assignment given him, and his strong will did not let the objective be displaced easily. His astonishing capacity for work helped him overcome many difficulties. He was strict but also loving. You could hear his footstep in the seminary, said the late Dr. Sihler of him, even when he had his feet underneath his desk.

With untiring devotion he has, now that God had made him into a champion and had put him at the head of such a great school system, sought and worked, gathered and studied, in order to be able to carry out the ministry entrusted to him. That, which he had acquired by thorough studies, by sincere prayer begged of God and by having been tried and tested by his own doubts, he offered now to his students in a lively, clear, well-thought through lecture.  The gift to teach had been bestowed him in an entirely special measure, so that he could clearly and convincingly convey that which he had discerned to others, but also had the great advantage that he shaped character, which in the future acted with the mind and spirit of their teacher. How much he was concerned about the physical welfare of his students, is evident among other things by the fact that he often cared for the sick and kept watch over them at their bed. Yet shortly before his death he had a younger, seriously ill student brought to his own study and cared and waited on him for two weeks as his own child and yet on the day of his death he had visited the sick in the nearby small hospital, which was so difficult for him, that he had to rest three times along the short distance.

His seminary and his students grew on him. He served God and not men. To be allowed to serve his Savior, to help building His kingdom, to advance his dear Lutheran Church and to be generally useful to Christian people, that warmed the tireless director’s heart. He was willing to consume himself in the service of God and his church. Therefore, his zeal for the Lord’s house drove him, although he was nearly overburdened with work, to be generally concerned not only about the welfare of the institution under his care, but also about the wellbeing of his fellow Lutheran believers generally. Therefore not only the superbly edited first volumes of the Schulblatt, (School Periodical), as well as his “Deutsche Grammatik” (German Grammar), his Theorie des Rechnens (Theory of Arithmetic) and his excellent Schulpraxis (School Praxis) flowed from his industrious pen, but he also wrote often a word of warning or encouragement for the Lutheraner  (Lutheran). As appointed “Kalendermann” [“calendar man”] of the Synod, he had supplied a truly Christian calendar for German Lutherans in America for seven years. For the sake of all pious fathers, mothers and schoolmasters, he compiled Luther’s principles for child discipline and his way of child rearing in his own home from the great Reformer’s writings in a booklet entitled: Dr. Martin Luther als Erzieher der Jugend (Dr. Martin Luther as Educator of the Youth) in 1866.

However, not satisfied to let the pound, entrusted to him due to his calling, grow exuberantly, he put his excellent talent as narrator into service for his fellow believers and countrymen. He was a man of the people. He had gotten to know the [common] folk through his Lebensführung [conduct of his life], and he, as did once the captain of Capernaum, loved his folk and, whatever was needful for his folk, moved his heart. Thus he became a Volksschrift­steller [author for the people]. In his hours of leisure, of which he had few, when he was on trips during vacation, or illness kept him from his usual tasks, he wrote those “Erzählungen aus dem amerikanischen Volksleben von J. C. Wilhelm” (“Tales from the American Folk Life of J. C. Wilhelm”). Thus the tale included in this book originated from him. [“Wohl dem, der Freude an seinen Kindern erlebt.” (“Blessed is He Who Delights in His Children.”)] He was a man of the pen; and his pen did not rest before God Himself took it out of his hand.

It almost seems as though the diligent man had sensed that his indefatigable working would take a sudden, quick end. While he took care of that young student in his study during Christmas time, he had put his letters and papers in order and completed his family chronicle except for his own life. One can tell by the last entries that they had been written in great haste. At other times, he had gone to bed after he had held the evening service in the seminary; but the last few nights he had repeatedly worked at his desk until midnight; when his family admonished him to stop working, he used words like these: “Let me; I have to hurry; my time is precious!” He was also observed withdrawn deep in thought. During those days he often admonished his students emphatically saying: “Repent, see to it that you have a good conscience and be saved.”

Nevertheless no one had thought that the end of the dear man would be so close. On January 15, 1879, he was seated at the lunch table with his family and had seasoned the meal with his delightful, this time especially happy conversations, and then he sat at the sickbed of his oldest daughter. She noticed that he turned his face away suddenly and started to groan. With a grasp he tore off his necktie and paced up and down the room tortured by intense angina pectoris, but praying loudly. In the meantime, one of his colleagues, as well as an older student had been sent for, and they put him hurriedly to bed, applied already often proved palliatives; but this time no medicine and no rubbing of the chest and arms with wool cloths helped. Lying there in the death-struggle he prayed with an unusually loud and grave voice: “Lord Jesus, I commend my spirit into Your hands!” — “You alone are my Savior and all my trust is in You!” — “O God, be merciful to me for Christ’s sake!” In between he repeated his favorite Bible verse several times: “For God so loved the world, etc,” until the end. He then began to pray the Three Articles. But before he had finished them, he called out: “Call my colleagues! Little children, my senses are fading away!” When his eldest colleague approached his bed, dying Lindemann was already unable to speak. During the consolation of short words of comfort from the Bible, the soul departed gently and peacefully from the tired body.

The daily task of the now late Direktor had been a relatively short one and yet he probably worked more than many others, to whom God had granted a long life. He never sought earthly advantages, fleeting honor and fame from the people, but was motivated to new faithfulness and indefatigable work in honor of his Savior, Who had administered to and done such great things for him.

Dr. Walther wrote of him when he announced the sudden death of the dear Seminary Direktor: “A man full of faith and the Holy Ghost; a man, who was childlike in faith and childlike naive in heart, word and deed but a champion; just as faithful in little things as in the great, highly talented and abundantly endowed with rare knowledge and profound experience, but at the same time humble in heart; always ready to yield [the things] concerning himself, but unswerving and adamant [in things] pertaining to the Word and the cause of God; self-consuming in the zeal for God’s house, but forgetting himself and his own advantage; working indefatigably day and night for God’s Kingdom until the last breath of his life — a light, a salt, a jewel, a gem of our church community.”

He has died, but he still lives in his writings and also in his delightful stories, with which he had repeatedly graced the “Abendschule.” May the tale [“Wohl dem, der Freude an seinen Kindern erlebt.” (“Blessed is He Who Delights in His Children.”)] freshly presented [in this book] not only revive the memory of a true man of the people, but also contribute to Christian instruction and prove to be a lasting blessing to quite many readers.     


*   Dr. [Franz] Deltzsch wrote to Dr. [C. F. W.] Walther at that time (Lutheraner I, 91): “Everywhere here in Germany, the so-called German Catholic congregations are breaking away from the hierarchy as a result of the exhibition of the [Holy] Coat at Trier [Treves], but for a few exceptions, they are also rejecting the Catholic faith [along] with the Roman superstition. It is the church of Rationalism with the tricolor: God, virtue, immortality. The approval of the world is boundless; Johannes Ronge, the new reformer, is to have already received 10,000 Reichsthalers as gifts and yet his opposition is purely a negative tearing-down one without foundation in the Scriptures, without any spiritual character.”