On-site research by appointment recommended

C.F.W. (Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm) Walther (1811-1887) Papers, c.1828-1887.

  • Collection Number: M-0004
  • Collection Size: 16 linear feet


Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther (C.F.W. Walther)

pres_waltherC.F.W. Walther was born 25 October 1811 in Langenchursdorf, Kingdom of Saxony, as the eighth child (of twelve) to Pastor Gottlob Heinrich Walther and his wife Johanna Wilhelmina Zschenderlein. Only six of their twelve children lived to adulthood. Of these six Walther children, Otto Hermann (1809 – 1841) and C.F.W. followed their father’s footsteps into the ministry; the oldest sister, Theresa Wilhelmina (1802 – 1832), married a teacher named Schubert. After her death in 1832 Schubert married her younger sister Marianne Louise (1810 – 1834). Another sister, Augusta Constantine (1803 – 1881), married a sexton named Engel. Henrietta Juliane (1804- 1868) married Pastor Adolf Wilhelmi, and the youngest Walther daughter, Amalia Ernestine (1815 – 1842), married Pastor E.G.W. Keyl.

Ferdinand, as he was called by his family, was first educated by his father. At the age of eight he attended school in Hohenstein for two years. He then entered Latein Schule (Latin school, a formal education on a college track from which a student graduates at a level comparable with today’s junior college) in Schneeberg, from which he graduated in September 1829. One month later he enrolled in the University of Leipzig to begin his study of theology and joined his older brother Otto Hermann, who was enrolled in the same university. During his college years in Leipzig he suffered of a near-fatal lung disease and had to interrupt his studies for six months. During this time he read Luther’s works intensely and became convinced of the firm scriptural foundation of Lutheran doctrine and the importance of a firm confessional position. In 1833 Ferdinand took his first exam at the university. This examination authorized him to accept a position as a private tutor for the Friedemann Loeber family in Kahla. The experience of two years’ tutoring was necessary for him to take his second examination in Leipzig, which equipped him to accept his first call as a Lutheran pastor.

On 15 January 1837 he was ordained in Bräunsdorf in the church “Zum Guten Hirten,” where he was the sole pastor and taught religion classes in the local school as part of his pastoral duties. During his university time as well as during his time in the ministry, Walther expdrienced difficulties with the rationalistic government of the Kingdom of Saxony. He felt he could not carry out his duties as a Lutheran pastor in accordance with the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church as he had vowed at his ordination. Ferdinand and his brother Otto Hermann became acquainted with Pastor Martin Stephan of Dresden and eventually followed Stephan’s call to the liberation of orthodox Lutheranism in the United States of America.

In November 1838 Walther left his homeland on the ship Johann Georg (one of five ships in the Stephan group to sail for America). He arrived on 5 January 1839 in New Orleans. Approximately 800 Saxon immigrants in the group settled either in St. Louis or to the south along the Mississippi River in Perry County, Mo. Soon after the immigrants were settled in the new homeland, their leader and self proclaimed bishop, Martin Stephan, was accused of financial and sexual misconduct and was expelled from the settlement. The immigration party was deeply disturbed and unsure whether they were still a Lutheran congregation after leaving the authorities and church hierarchy in Germany behind. Walther, who was originally called to be the pastor of a dual parish in the Perry County settlements of Dresden and Johannisberg, struggled severely over the questions that the other pastors and laity were asking. In April 1841, soon after his brother Otto Herman in St. Louis had died and after a call had been extended to him by his late brother’s congregation, a public disputation was held between Walther and an attorney Marbach, one of the lay leaders of the settlers, in what is known as the “Altenburg Debate.” Walther convinced Marbach that they could validly consider themselves to be a church. He then accepted the call to Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis and served this congregation from May 1841 until his death in 1887. While still in Perry County, he was instrumental in establishing a log cabin college, which was opened in December 1839.

On 21 September 1841 Walther married the former Emilie Buenger. Six children were born to this union: Magdalene (b. 22 Nov 1842; d. 15 May 1936), Herman Christoph (b. 25 Oct 1844; died at age four), twins Constantine und Ferdinand (b. 23 February 1847; Constantine d. 21 Dec 1905, Ferdinand d. 25 May 1933), Julie (b. 27 July 1849; d. 12 June 1898) and Christian Friedrich (b. 29 June 1851; d. 29 Oct 1852). Walther’s son Ferdinand was pastor at Brunswick Missouri, until his death in 1922. Both daughters became pastor’s wives. Magdalene married Stephanus Keyl, who ministered in New York; Julie married J.H. Niemann and followed him to Cleveland. Constantine became a miller.

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod was formed on 26 April 1847, and Walther served as its president from 1847 to 1850 and again from 1864 to 1878. The “log cabin” college was moved from Perry County to St. Louis in 1850 and developed into Concordia Seminary. Walther became its first president and held this position until his death in 1887. He also founded the St. Louis Lutheran Bible Society in 1853 and started two important publications: Der Lutheraner (in 1844) and Lehre und Wehre (in 1855). He was author of many books and periodical articles, among which the most noteworthy Pastoral Theology, Church and Ministry and his classic treatise on “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.” While holding synodical and seminary positions as well as editing and publishing several periodicals, Walther was also the head pastor of the four Saxon Lutheran congregations (called Gesammtgemeinde) in St. Louis (Trinity, Holy Cross, Immanuel and Zion). In August 1855 Walther turned down an honorary doctorate from the University of Goettingen, but he accepted a doctor of theology degree from Capital University, Columbus, Ohio, in 1877.

At the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination in January 1887 he was already quite ill and never fully recovered. He died on 7 May 1887 and was buried ten days later at Concordia Cemetery, where a mausoleum was later erected in his honor. Detailed files on Walther’s funeral, as well as the mausoleum, can be found in the Walther Collection.


The C.F.W. Walther Papers contain primarily materials created and collected by him. There are a few items that belonged to his wife, Emilie Buenger Walther. The collection has been arranged into five series: Correspondence (“To” and “From”), Walther’s Writings, Financial/Legal Documents, Photographs, and Sermons.


The correspondence of C.F.W. Walther is extensive and was primarily collected by Ludwig Fürbringer, professor and later president at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, who published two volumes of his letters called Walthers Briefe (1915, 1916). Additional items from many sources have been added to this collection, and it has been separated into two major section: Letters “From” Walther and Letters “To” Walther. All the Walther correspondence is dated in the European way (Day/Month/Year), and the compiled list, “Index of C.F.W. Walther Letters”, (available in the CHI Reading Room) has been altered to reflect this fashion. The writings are filed in separate folders for original manuscripts and copies. The copies may be photocopies of an original, a handwritten transcription of the original in old Suetterlin handwriting (perhaps done by Walther’s secretary, Emmerich Kaehler) or a typed transcription of the handwritten document. In some cases there are also translations of the original text. The majority of the transcriptions were done in the 1960s by Professor Werner Karl Wadewitz. These transcriptions are also available in Accu-Press binders in the CHI reading room.

Neither the series of originals nor the copies are complete. Not all originals available in the collection have been photocopied. In some cases CHI does not possess the original but has only a handwritten copy by Walther’s secretary or in the cases of Walther’s correspondence to his daughter Julie Niemann and her husband there are only typed copies of the content available.

Letters “From” Walther: This collection constitutes only a small part of his complete correspondence. He mentioned in one of his writings that he had written approximately 800 letters a year. The CHI archives has approximately 1,200 of these letters. Walther himself burned many copies of his letters. The available letters are filed in chronological order. A list of all letters known to us is indexed as the “Index of C.F.W. Walther Letters” (available in the CHI Reading Room). Some of Walther’s correspondence is only available in published form in Der Lutheraner and other periodicals or in publications such as Walther’s Briefe; no originals have survived. The letters from Walther contain all available letters written by him and are not divided into “personal” and “official” correspondence. One letter from Walther could not be dated and is filed in the last folder, 1887. Other undated letters have been assigned an approximate date on the basis of the content of the letter.

The Letters “To” Walther sub-series is also filed in separated boxes of originals and copies. These letters are arranged in alphabetical order by name of the sender. Each sender has a separate folder in the “Copies” boxes. The originals are consolidated in folders identifying senders starting with A, B, etc. Neither of the files are complete; both originals and copies should be checked. No list on the letters to Walther has been compiled.

An additional sub-series was established for the Carl S. Meyer Translation Project. Several Walther letters were translated by various translators under the direction of Concordia Seminary professor Dr. Carl S. Meyer (1907-1972) in connection with the research for his publication C.F.W. Walther Letters: A Selection. These translations have been maintained as a separate sub-series within the correspondence series because of uncertainty over copyright status. They are available for research but may not be copied for publication. The translations are filed in chronological order and can be found at the end of the collection in folders f.524-f.563.


This part of the collection is divided into Lutherstunden, Diary, Gutachten and Student Notes. In the Lutherstunden series are notes taken by Walther’s students of his Friday night lectures called Lutherstunden. About two-thirds of these notes were taken in old German shorthand called “Gabelsberger”; the remainder are in Suetterlin (the old German script). Some of these manuscripts have been transcribed into a typewritten format but are not translated yet. One of Walther’s most significant writings of Lutheran theology stems from the Lutherstunden, his lectures on The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, which were originally delivered during these Friday evening lectures; this volume is the only Lutherstunden notes that have been translated into English. The original Law and Gospel notes are part of this collection. Other Friday night lecture series were discovered in the course of arranging the collection. They are filed in chronological order within the Lutherstunden files.

Walther kept a Diary starting in 1828, which is part of this collection. This diary also contain poetry written by him. Both are transcribed.

Gutachten or Faculty Opinions: The Gutachten or faculty opinions consist of answers from one or more members of the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, to theological questions. They are also separated into originals and copies. Even though some of the opinions are signed only by Walther, they have not been included in the correspondence series since they clearly were written in conjunction with his position as president of Concordia Seminary. A chronological list of all Gutachten available, containing the original German question, has been prepared as an appendix (available in the CHI Reading Room) to this finding aid.

There are also a variety of notes in Walther’s own hand discussing various articles of the Formula of Concord. They appear to be notes Walther made in preparation for classes he taught; none of these recordings appear to have ever been transcribed, translated and/or published. Folders 402 and 403 contain dated notes and prayers, they are arranged chronologically by year only. The section ‘Student Notes‘ also includes notes that apparently were prepared by Walther as a student at the University of Leipzig. This identification has been made based on the date of the notes. One bound volume of handwritten commentary is written in Latin.


The photographs series contains many photos of Walther and some of his family as well as Walther artifacts. These photos were catalogued by Tom Egger, a student archives assistant, in 1995 and were given a TE # that is listed on each photo envelope. The photos are filed by size. They are divided into four subseries: “Young and Middle Age,” “Old Age,” “Artifacts, Rooms, Buildings etc.” and “Walther Mausoleum.”

A comprehensive list has also been prepared that includes other categories such as “Portraits, Framed Photographs, Certificates,” etc. This catalog includes all Walther oil paintings in the Institute’ possession. This list also forms an appendix (available in the CHI Reading Room) to the finding aid.


The financial/legal documents contain two folders of originals and copies each. The legal file contains two original handwritten examples of Walther’s baptismal certificate dated 29 July 1833 and 15 January 1836; his certificate of citizenship, 19 November 1844; a post-Civil War oath of loyalty dated 25 September 1865, etc. The financial papers contain statement for business travel Walther conducted on 22 July 1846 to Ft. Wayne, his funeral bill, etc.


The sermons of C.F.W. Walther are arranged according to biblical text. Only about half of the sermons are dated. Often the Sunday of the church year is given but not the calendar year. About 90 percent of the sermons reveal a biblical text; however, some sermons could not be clearly identified because of peculiarities in Walther’s abbreviations, including:

  • The gospel of John may be at times confused with 1 John and 2 John. There may also be some texts of Joshua and Jesiah (Isaiah) found in the John folder due to difficulties with the handwriting. It was hard to determine whether the abbreviation was “Jes,” “Jos” or “Joh.”
  • Walther abbreviated the letter of Paul to the Philippians as “Phil,” but this abbreviation could also apply to the letter to Philemon. Care must be used by looking through this folder.
  • For Hebrews Walther used two different abbreviations: “Heb” and “Ebr.”

The sermon section of the folder list includes several folders with the same title, e.g., “Matthew” or “Thessalonians.” These folders are differentiated by numbers in parenthesis after the title of the book. This does NOT indicate chapter number of the books but merely indicates that there is more than one folder with the same title.

Two bound volumes of Walther sermons are filed in the “Sermon” section. One manuscript was possibly collected and copied by Rev. Otto Hanser, who was a pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, St. Louis; he also provided the handwritten copy of the Lutherstunden. The other and smaller volume was written by Rev. J. R. Mayer.

Special Sermons: One box titled “Special Sermons” contains folders labeled Taufhandlung (baptism), Beichtrede (confession), Busstag (Day of Humiliation), Verlobung (engagement), three folders with confirmation sermons, Leichenpredigt (funeral), Abdankung (funeral, eulogy) and Traurede (wedding sermon). Two more folders contain sermons held on special occasions, such as the opening of a synodical convention, etc., with no year or biblical text given. The last folder in this box contains speeches or sermons of special interest, such as the sermon preached by Walther one week before the deportation of Stephan, etc. All of these addresses are separately identified and were selected for this folder in the arrangement process.

About 0.6 linear feet of sermons not in Walther’s hand were found interfiled with Walther’s sermons. Many of them appear to be in Wilhelm Sihler’s handwriting. The “Sihler Sermons” have been separated from the Walther sermons, as have the other sermons not in Walther’s handwriting. As they are better identified, they will be removed to the appropriate collections.

Other unrelated writings were found among the sermons. They have been filed under miscellaneous writings.



Letters From Walther

f.1-31 Originals, 1829-1887
f.32-60 Photocopies and Transcriptions, 1829-1887

Letters To Walther

f.61-84 Originals
f.87-346 Photocopies and Transcriptions


f.351-366 Lutherstunden Lectures, 1873-1886
f.367-372 Various Manuscripts
f.373-378 Walther’s Diary and Poems
f.379-385a Gutachten (Faculty Opinion), 1847-1887
f.386-411 Student Notes
f.412-421 Notes on Formula of Concord
f.422-425 Miscellaneous Writings

Financial/Legal Series

f.426-427 Financial Documents
f.428-429 Legal Documents

Photos/Pictures Series

f.430-438 Photos

Sermons Series

f.439-456 Old Testament
f.457-598 New Testament
f.499-503 Special Sermons
f.504-523 Various Homilies
f.524-563 Carl S. Meyer Translation Project, 1840-1885

Carl S. Meyer Translation Project, 1840-1885


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