Pieces of Our Past
August 2, 2013
Artifact: Photograph of Wilhelm Sihler
Significance: August 2 marks the anniversary of the founding of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1846. Wilhelm Sihler (1801-1885) was instrumental in founding the “practical seminary” and served as its first president from 1846 to 1861, when it moved to St. Louis during the Civil War.
About the Photograph: While the photograph is undated, Sihler’s beard and hair color seem to indicate the photograph was taken later in his life. Sihler appears in his clergy robe with Beffchen (the white linen at the collar), which was the common dress of a Lutheran pastor in the late 1800s. The photographer was B. H. Benham of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Norwalk, Ohio.
About the Founding of the Seminary: Wilhelm Loehe, a pastor in Neuendettelsau, Germany, who helped send many Lutheran pastors, including Sihler, to America, had the idea for the establishment of a school to train “emergency helpers” (Nothelferseminar) for the ministry. As noted in a history of the Synod, the scope of the school was that “matured young Christian men who had an adequate general education, omitting the ancient languages, and desired to become ministers, were to be prepared for the service of the Church by receiving as complete a theological training within as short a time possible.” This school was established on August 2, 1846, and opened shortly thereafter. Wilhelm Sihler, pastor in Fort Wayne, served as the professor and president of the school, a position he held for fifteen years. Eleven students were enrolled the first year, all sent to America by Loehe. The school first opened in rented quarters, but land and buildings were purchased quickly with funds from Loehe and friends. After the Missouri synod was established in 1847, the school was turned over to the new church body.
The letter at right was written by Sihler to a fellow Lutheran pastor, Friedrich Lochner, of Toledo, Ohio, on September 8, 1846. Lochner had also been sent to America by Loehe. In the letter Sihler discusses some of the plans for the imminent opening of the school, including money sent from Loehe to support the school and the possibility of acquiring two acres of land for it.
Translation of Sihler Letter
Dear Brother Lochner!
When this letter gets into your hands through Mr. Rudisill, a respected member of the Evangelical Lutheran congregation and a man friendly to me, please receive him as [you would] me. He also wants to bring me the books, which Brother Hattstaedt has hopefully sent you long ago for me. Let him also give you back the freight from Monroe to Toledo. Shortly the seminarians with Candidate Roebbelen will doubtlessly come through Toledo (with these 12). They have left Craemer at the beginning of July. I have already received a draft from Loehe in the amount of 980 D.
I have written to Brohm already that all students should come here. I want to rent a house and get a housekeeper. It won’t cost as much then, as if they board around.
As I hear, a rich English man wants to donate two acres clear land, at a well-located site, as seminary grounds. How are things with the congregation? My wife – as well as I – sends her kind regards to you and your dear wife,
Ft. Wayne, Sept. 8, ’46