This address was given on the occasion of the 150th anniversary
of the building of the Blooming Grove Dunkard Meeting House.
At the time your forefathers immigrated, the Christian
life-style in Wuerttemberg was extremely well regulated, and
during Sunday worship service you could hear the orthodox
doctrines of the Church across the country. Many preachers
rather discussed the rational way of life or talked about the
best way to raise cattle than how to become a newborn man
through Jesus Christ.
The pastor was subordinate to the synodical president and, in
turn, the president was subordinate to the King of Wuerttemberg.
The Church was a department within the state department.
The Church was in charge of education, i.e. the schools, and
since the Church carried out baptisms, weddings and funerals,
she was consequently responsible for keeping the records of
births, marriages and deaths. The Church at that time
functioned as City Hall. She compiled the yearly military draft
list. Young men between 16-26 were recruited. Once the pastor of
Moehringen was reminded by the king that his draft list was
The pastors were also requested to refrain from any political
involvement since Christian religion implies obedience to the
government. On the occasion of the king's birthday all
preachers in the country had to base their topics on a
preselected chapter of the Bible and include the king's
wellbeing in their prayers. Whenever the king traveled through
the countryside, the pastor - as a sign of his subordination -
had to pay him reverence by putting in appearance at the
Many sincere Christians in Wuerttemberg were not satisfied with
this kind of standardized or organized Christian existence.
Their desire was a Christian life based on a personal relation
with their living God through daily experiences. As a result of
this desire small groups of sincere Christians gathered on
Sunday afternoons - after the official church services were over
- for bible studies and prayer.
These men and women were lay-people and not educated
theologians. Up to this day you find their bible study and
prayer groups in Wuerttemberg. Our family grew up in this kind
of spiritual atmosphere.
In the early years these groups were not tolerated and
considered Separatists. Later on the Church as well as the
State started to tolerate them. In general they were called
"Pietists". Although Pietists were from the beginning a
minority, their influence in the society and politics and
church-government became a distinctive factor in the decades
thereafter. The pietistic movement in Germany became most prevalent
in the State of Wuerttemberg.
Your forefathers, who grew up in the pietistic movement, brought
their faith and spiritual heritage to this country. The
Pietists originating from Wuerttemberg, where Moehringen is
located, have certain characteristics. Their belief is that
1) Jesus Christ is your personal redeemer and that this
should not be seduced into a belief in the King's Church;
2) Your faith should show itself in daily living;
3) The Bible is your guide for your way of life;
4) You await the Second Coming of Christ.
Wuertemberg Pietism derives its flavor from the characteristic
mentality of the people of Wuerttemberg. For generations the
natives of Wuerttemberg have been described as considerate,
industrious and enduring. But they are also considered thinkers,
with a tendency towards mysticism. They tend to speculate,
either in a secular or biblical sense, on visions of a new world.
They are not outgoing by nature and do not display their joy or
humor. They prefer to show themselves as disciplined,
successful and organized.
What was it that made these people leave their country in the
early 19th century?
In order to answer this question, I will have to paint for you
a picture of the political and economical conditions in
Moehringen and Wuerttemberg at the time.
During the period of 1793 - 1817 the South-West of Germany
suffered greatly. It was the time of almost uninterrupted
wars, the so-called Napoleonic wars. Armies tramped through
Moehringen. First the French, to be followed in the next
year by the Austrians. Then came the Prussians, followed by
the Cossacks from Russia. The soldiers camped in private
homes and farms. The owners had to provide them with food
and service their horses. They also had to make contributions
of money. At the end the people were exhausted and their
But all of this could have been endured. What hit the people
most was that many families had to send their fathers and sons
to war. They had to fight for Napoleon because the King of
Wuerttemberg, who was elevated to the throne by the grace of
Napoleon, had to furnish Napoleon with 30,000 men for the war
against Russia. Moehringen had to furnish 30 men. Only one of
these 30 returned home alive. The others starved and froze to
death in Russia.
When the King of Wuerttemberg, Frederic I, came to power, he
abolished all the established rights of the ordinary citizens
and nobility. He was a brutal man without decent morals. He
loved luxury, hunting, good food and drinking. He is known as
the fat king with an enormous belly. Today you can still see
the special desk made for him with a curved cutout to accomodate
his heavy body. During his reign the citizens of Moehringen,
for example, repeatedly had to take out his 500 hunting dogs,
and they had to deliver enormous quantities of vegetables to the
grazing grounds of the wild hogs. During the hunting season the
citizens of Moehringen had to assist in chasing the deer and
wild hogs. Cornfields and meadows were trampled with no regard
for the crops.
In 1806, the king declared emigration as illegal. Even the
desire to emigrate was considered an act against the king
(we see the same happening in our days in Russia). Therefore,
no emigration took place between 1804 to 1817 from Moehringen.
1816 was a decisive year for the people of Moehringen. Two
things happened: the dictator-like King Frederic died and his
son and successor, Wilhelm I, reinstituted all rightw which his
father had abolished. Among these was the right to emigrate
The second decisive cause was that 1816 was a year in which all
crops were destroyed by rain. There was no harvest in any part
of the country. As a result hunger was so great that people ate
grass, roots, bread made of sawdust and bark of trees. 50% of
the people roamed the country as beggars. Many of them lost
there minds through malnutrition and starvation.
Before the year 1804 only a limited number of people had
emigrated to America. In the year 1817, however, after the
Hunger Year, a real exodus began. 20% of the Moehringen
population, 280 persons, including women and children, left
Moehringen, heading for America. Your ancestors were among
Moehringen was not the only village or town affected by this
vast emigration. All towns soon noticed the loss of working
hands and talents. To make the people reconsider emigrating,
the king issued warnings and guidelines. The guidelines
appeared under the following heading:
"Warning too Emigration Maniacs"
1) No public advertising for emigration.
2) An emigrant has to prove that he had a valid contract
with a ship-owner.
3) An emigrant has to prove that he has paid his debts.
4) An emigrant has to give assurance that he will not
enter into military service against the Kingdom of
5) In emigrating, he loses his citizenship in the Kingdom
of Wuerttemberg with limited rights to retun.
The emigrants of Wuerttemberg made their way to Holland by
boat on the river Rhine. The trip from Moehringen to a port
in America took, on the average, three to four months. Four
weeks alone from Moehringen to Holland - including waiting.
From diaries and other reports we know that the emigrants
often suffered severely on the oversea voyage. Only God's
word gave them the power and strength to endure these hard-
ships. I would like to quote to you passages from such a
travel diary written by George Kiess in the year 1804:
"I soon got accustomed to the life-style of a pilgrim and
was comforted by the words of our Lord and Redeemer. Foxes
have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of man has no
place to lie down and rest," and the writer continues and
says: "but I still have more."
"Often when I was disturbed by what was going on around me,
I forgot the outside world and found peace in God, who is
Peace and Love himself...A touch of his peace is more the the
world can give."
The faithfulness of your forefathers, reflected in these
thoughts by George Kiess, was the basis that carried them
through all the hardships they had to endure. They certainly
found a beautiful, vast and abundant country. But I am
convinced that without their faith they would have vanished.
And I am also convinced that the blessings of your ancestors
and forefathers are still with you. This conviction is so
beautifully expressed in your hymn:
"Faith of our Fathers, living still
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword.
Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
Whenever we hear that glorious word.
Faith of our Fathers,
We will be true to thee till death."