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Edward L. Arndt (1864-1929) Papers, 1864-1995.

Edward L. Arndt
  • Collection Number: M-0005
  • Collection Size: 9.3 linear feet


Edward L. Arndt

Edward L. Arndt

Edward L. Arndt was born on 19 December 1864 in Bukowin, Pomerania. He came from a strongly Lutheran family that left Pomerania (the Polish Corridor) to improve their living standard in America. They settled on the west side of Chicago where land was cheap. His father, Ferdinand Johann Arndt, was largely uneducated; he could write but not spell. By trade Ferdinand Johann was a shoemaker, yet he soon learned how to build houses. He wanted all his sons to be educated and to enter the ministry. He even hoped that Edward would serve as his pastor.


Arndt attended a parochial school where he had solid teachers who prepared him to enter the Quinta class at Concordia College, Fort Wayne, Indiana. His formal education was completed at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, at the age of 19 in 1865. His diploma was signed by C.F.W. Walther, G. Schaller, M. Guenther, F. Pieper, R. Lange and G. Stoeckhardt. After graduation he became an “autodidakt,” increasing his knowledge by teaching himself. While studying science at Ft. Wayne, he developed an interest in entomology and wanted to go to Brazil. Eventually he became a science professor.

Arndt was a devoted husband and father. On 1 May 1887 he married Johanne Marie Karoline Salomon in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He had met her when he was 13 years of age as a student at Concordia College. They remained friends throughout his years in Fort Wayne and St. Louis. Notes later revealed that Arndt had secretly become engaged to Marie already on 1 September 1886. Eight children were born to this union: Joseph (13 March 1888-24 December 1906); Lydia Caroline Theodora (5 December 1889-21 August 1971); Paul Johann Ferdinand (18 June 1891-27 July 1969); Agnes Hermine Louise Christine (23 September 1893-17 March 1974); Walter Ferdinand Theodore (13 June 1897-8 October 1943); Christian Ottomar (3 November 1899-5 February 1966); Karl John Richard (17 September 1903-25 October 1991); Edward Hans Arnold (15 October 1909).

Arndt’s first call was to Michigan where he founded Trinity Lutheran Church, East Saginaw, writing out its constitution in longhand. He remained there for twelve years and blamed himself for delaying the congregation’s growth.

In 1897 Arndt was ripe for accepting a call to the new Concordia College, St. Paul, Minnesota, which had just been founded three years earlier. He was installed as its first professor of science on 2 March 1897. Professor Arndt served this college faithfully for thirteen years. A controversy arose in the summer of 1908 that eventually led to his dismissal. The conflict erupted when Arndt recommended that three students not be promoted to the next grade due to low test scores. Among these students was Martin Pfotenhauer, son of Friedrich Pfotenhauer, the president of the Missouri Synod at that time. Later in the 1908/09 academic year more dicipline problems occurred, especially with student Karl von Schenk, son of one of the founders of Concordia College. Professor Arndt was not supported by the faculty, and on 20 February 1910 he was summarily dismissed. Forced to move into low-income housing in St. Paul with his large family, Arndt felt exiled. A wealthy woman in his former congregation in Saginaw offered him a free home, but he would not accept it.

Arndt attended several missionary conferences that were being held in Minneapolis and Chicago. He became interested in China, which at that time was still an empire under the declining Manchu Dynasty. Arndt apparently did not expect favorable treatment from the synodical hierarchy for his idea to begin mission work in China because he created his own mission society, The China Mission Society, in May 1912. Only two months later Arndt was installed as missionary at New Ulm. He wrote and paid for publishing two books of sermons, one English and one German. These he sold to build up a reserve fund for the mission. He also edited a newsletter called Missionsbriefe, for which he charged 25 cents. Readers would pledge regular payments to support the mission society. Although there were difficult years ahead, the society remained alive for five years until it was taken over by the Missouri Synod. Arndt was already fluent in German and English, and he mastered the Chinese language although he was already 49 years of age.

Arndt was a man with strong convictions that often brought him into conflict with those who did not see things his way. He would not compromise on maintaining academic standards at Concordia College. In China he maintained close contacts with all Lutheran missions, and he supported German missionaries stranded in China during the First World War. He preached in the German Community Church during the war.

He held his own for six years against an onslaught of fellow missionaries over the “term question.” The Term Question was the biggest controversy the young mission society had to endure. It basically revolved around the Chinese term for God. Arndt continued to use the term Shang Ti, while his opponent, George Lillegard, favored the term Shen as more appropriate for depicting the God of the Scriptures. This controversy cast a pall over all of Lillegard’s missionary activities in China, yet he held to his views even after the faculty of Concorida Seminary, St. Louis, took a firm stand against him in 1926.

Arndt refused to leave his post in Hankow in 1926-27 during the communist up-raising. Two of his trained evangelists were falsely accused and faced execution if he did not prove their innocence. He succeeded. During this unrest Arndt actually took steps to surrender his U.S. citizenship if necessary to remain with his flock. He never retired from his position as pioneer missionary. He outlasted the Hankow Chinese communist government in 1927. When rumors of his death circulated, the lowliest rickshaw coolie would know of the passing of “Hu-tze” (the bearded one). Arndt died on 18 April 1929. He was buried in the international cemetery in Hankow. In 1981 his son Edward visited the gravesite to pay his respects, but no trace of it remained. The cemetery may have survived the devastating flood of 1931, but when Mao took over, each grave was leveled.


The family background, written by Edward Louis Arndt is called “Gottes Wunderwege.” It was transcribed from Gabelsberger (an old German shorthand not used anymore) into German longhand in 1949 and translated by his youngest son, Edward J Arndt. There are numerous paragraphs called ‘Notes by Author’ that do not necessarily correspond with the page on which they appear. In some cases the processor of this collection wrote an explanation to guide the reader to the paragraph to which it belongs. In the later volumes of the family history the “Notes by Author” read more like a diary entry since important dates, feelings and thoughts are noted.

This collection also includes a variety of sermons dated from 1848 to 1898 in various handwritings other than Arndt’s. According to the note accompanying these sermons, it appears that Arndt collected them from various sources. They remain part of the collection and can be found in folder #84.

The Edward L. Arndt Papers are separated into two major series: his Autobiography and the China Mission. The first series includes also a genealogy of the Salomon family (his wife’s roots) and covers his upbringing, first call and time as a professor until 1910. The latter covers the period from 1910 to his death in China in 1929 and is easily accessible since E. J. Arndt, his son, arranged this part of the collection into binders by year.

Autobiography Series

When Arndt’s son Edward J. Arndt put this collection together, he interleaved “inserts” for better understanding of the subject and labeled these pages with his initials (EJA). These inserts have been given consecutive page numbers, for example, EJA-5, EJA-6, etc. These inserts consist of typed explanations, translations, original letters and photographs. All dates on ‘EJA’ and ‘China Mission’ insert lists are in the day-month-year style.

Binder # 1 (1812-1875) is mainly devoted to the background of the Arndt family and also serves as a detailed description of Pomerania, the part of Germany they came from. It ends with E.L. Arndt’s arrival at Concordia College, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Binder # 2 (1875-1885) deals with Arndt’s time as a student at Fort Wayne. It is also enhanced with pictures of the facility there and the faculty. A detailed description of the curriculum is provided as well as lists of classmates and their birthdays. The first examples of Arndt’s shorthand, an old German form of speedwriting called Gabelsberger, appears in this volume. There is also some poetry. Even as a student, Arndt kept immaculate records of his correspondence. Furthermore, a complete list of names of every recipient to whom he wrote a letter in the years 1883 and 1884 is part of this volume.

Binder # 3 (1885-1897) begins by giving a brief history of the congregations in East Saginaw as well as biographies of the various pastors who served there. It includes a variety of pictures of the two Trinity Lutheran Church buildings. The first couple of years in his ministry are covered, as well as his marriage to Johanne Marie Karoline Salomon in May 1887. Arndt started mission work in the greater Michigan area and went even into Canada, explaining the hardship it entailed. He was on the road sometimes four weeks at a time. Arndt was asked to deliver various papers at synodical conferences with mixed success. This volume ends with the call to Concordia College, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Binder # 4 (1897-1910) covers Arndt’s time as professor of science, mathematics and U.S. history at Concordia College, St. Paul, Minnesota. It specifically deals with his methods of teaching and introduces the faculty with small biographical descriptions. His elaborate bird and insect collection is described in great detail. His work as the assistant pastor at St. Stephanus Lutheran Church is mentioned, as well the his missionary work in the area. A detailed account of the missionary Vetter can be found in this volume. Pictures of the first graduating class are included, and a precise description of the early curriculum of Concordia College is provided. At the end of this volume one can find information and pictures of the dedication of the Arndt Science Hall in 1965.

Binder # 5. The content of this volume is slightly different from the previous four. It contains the history of the Salomon family (Arndt’s wife Marie’s family) as recorded in Arndt’s autobiography. It also includes family trees of the Salomons and Arndts, which are filed in Supplement I. Furthermore, additional research conducted by Edward J. Arndt is included, showing the history of the villages Quetzen and Lahde in Westphalia, Germany. The time frame of these histories ranges from 1265 to 1965. In Supplement II one can find a complete church chronicle of Lahde, including a shipping list of most Germans who emigrated to America from this area. This list is marked as insert EJA-307 to EJA-311 and can be found in folder #14.

During his time at Concordia College, St. Paul, Arndt collected material to be used for a “History of the Lutheran Church of Minnesota and Other States.” In this connection he compiled a variety of church histories and minutes. The following congregations are included:

  • Immanuel Lewiston, Minn. (the entire minutes 1863-67 are available in longhand)
  • Courtland, Minn., congregations
  • First Trinity, Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Immanuel, Chicago, Ill.
  • Nicollet County, Minn., churches
  • Holy Cross, Saginaw, Mich.

China Mission Series

A main difference between the Arndt Family History and the China Mission series must be noted. E. L. Arndt abruptly discontinued his autobiography after his dismissal from Concordia College, St. Paul, Minn., in 1910. The fourteen volumes called “China Missions” are not based on Arndt’s autobiography but were extracted from various diaries he kept, from correspondence and from other documents. The on-going story (labeled with black tabs on the side) was ultimately written by his son, Edward J. Arndt. The inventorying system used for the inserts found in the first series of this collection is basically repeated in the second series. Each separate insert is numbered. An insert can be a picture, typed material and/or original letters. To differentiate the two series, the initials “CM” have been used for “China Mission” in the 14 volumes. A chronological list of all “CM” numbers is available as a guide for the researcher. Bulky items, like diaries and record books, as well as annotated printed material that originally was found at the end of each China Mission binder, were given “CM” numbers in a chronological fashion. However, they have been removed from the original binders and placed in folders in separate boxes (folder #57-83).

A general explanation: Arndt and his family resided in the city of Hankow, China. Sometimes Hankow is spelled ‘Hankou,’ a newer spelling. The same thing is true for ‘Peking’ and ‘Beijing’. The modern name for Hankow is Wuhan.

The China Mission binders are only one part, though the largest, of the E. L. Arndt collection. Additional material, especially China mission correspondence, can be found in folders #39-50. The correspondence is arranged chronologically by date and year, without distinguishing the sender or recipient of the correspondence. These folders include correspondence written by Arndt, his wife, his daughters and sons, as well as official correspondence from the Board of Foreign Mission and other officials of the Missouri Synod. If papers could not be identified other than by year, they were placed at the end of each folder.

Many photographs were integrated within the China Mission binders. Other pictures can be found in folders #54-55.

The first page of China Mission Binder #1 describes the various stages in the development of this collection as well as the contents of the volumes.

CM Binder #1 (1910) gives a detailed account of Arndt’s alleged (official) reason for dismissal from Concordia College and the evidence for his doing what he did.

CM Binder #2 (1911-1912) informs the reader about Arndt’s change of heart and why no legal action was taken against President Pfotenhauer. Arndt instead has the entrepeneurial idea of writing, editing and selling a publication called Missionsbriefe. With this he raised a total of $2,000.00 and established the China Mission. This volume ends with the Arndt family’s departure for China.

CM Binder #3 (1913). The first volume of 1913 describes the historical background of the area (Hankow) where Arndt settled. The story leads into the China Revolution in 1911. A detailed description of the happenings in and around Hankow are added to make clear the difficulties in starting mission work at this time. It mentions Rev. Kastler, who was of great help to Arndt at the beginning of his work in China; he accepted a call the from the Mission Society.

CM Binder #4 (1913). The second volume explains the events of 1913 and also introduces Rev. George Lillegard from the Norwegian Synod. Pictures and a short account of the Norwegian missionaries in China are also included. A good part of this binder deals with the relationship between Arndt and Kastler, whose German church Arndt was still using. Kastler was earmarked as a potential missionary for Beijing. This volume ends in February 1914.

CM Binder #5 (1914). The first chapter in this volume describe Kastler’s resignation. This was a setback for Arndt but nevertheless four additional schools and two new churches had been opened. World War I started in Europe, and that had an impact also in China. The money situation was tight, and Arndt had not been paid for two months. An original letter from Arndt to the Mission Society asking for money is included. Copies of the Missionsbriefe for 1914 conclude this part.

CM Binder #6 (1915). This volume contains a composite photo of all students attending the four different schools. It describes the difficulty of teaching Chinese students basic Lutheran chorales. Rev. Riedel accepted a call as the second missionary to China. Arndt’s fifth child, Walter, goes off to Concordia Seminary. This is also the year when Arndt’s father, Ferdinand, died. Problems with the will made it necessary for Arndt to go to the U.S. Copies of the Missionsbriefe for 1915 can be found in a pouch at the end of this folder.

CM Binder #7 (1916). Rev. Erhard Riedel and his wife arrive in China. Arndt returned from the United States. Severe conditions in Hankow and the surrounding region make the mission work there quite difficult. Pictures and copies of Missionsbriefe conclude this chapter.

CM Binder #8 (1917-1918). This volume shows how World War I affected Hankow by closing various concessions. One can find a description of the method with which Arndt prepared his own children for college. Mission conferences in Kuling and Chikungshan take place. Mrs. Arndt became severely ill. Daughter Agnes was called from America to help out in the family. She brought about certain changes in the Arndt household. Again there was a very difficult time financially. A variety of correspondence concludes this volume.

CM Binder #9 (1919). The end of World War I in China is described in pictures and text. The German concession was forced to close, and its population was forced to leave. Arndt opened two girls schools. The volume also covers the completion of a Chinese hymnal and the translation of a variety of lecture material. Mrs. Arndt remained seriously ill. More new missionaries came to China. The Arndts moved into a new family residence.

CM Binder #10 (1920). Daughter Agnes takes charge and requests furlough for the entire family. The background of George Lillegard is described. A report about the situation in the schools is included. A new mission station in Shihnanfu was opened and staffed by the new missionaries. Dr. Elizabeth Shapleigh is the new missions physician (a Methodist). Finally Walter and Christian leave to continue their education in America.

CM Binder #11 (1921). Part one of 1921 explains the political and military situation in China. Arndt had very clear-cut methods of how to run his schools and chapels. He wrote very detailed handbooks for each institution.

CM Binder #12 (1921). Director Brand in charge of the Missouri Synod Foreign Mission Board visited China and attended the grand rallies as well as the Kuling Conference in August. Arndt’s furlough was approved, and the family prepared to return to the U.S. Arndt and his daughter Agnes take on extensive speaking engagements throughout the United States.

CM Binder #13 (1922). The Arndts toured the United States presenting a variety of lectures on China. Mrs. Arndt visited family and remained mainly in their temporary residence in Fort Wayne, Ind. Arndt returned to China in August; his family arrived later. This volume also includes the diary of Rev. Lundeen while he was in captivity.

CM Binder #14 (1923). Arndt took comprehensive language exams and completed them successfully. He continued and completed the translations of major Lutheran works into Chinese. The first Lutheran seminary was opened in Hankow. The Kuling conference took place without Arndt being present. The Lillegard controversy over the Chinese Term Question continued. Arndt attended the Shihnanfu Conference.

CM Binder #15 (1924). Lillegard and his followers succeeded in forcing the closing of the Hwa Pu Kai Chapel and school. They demanded higher standards for evangelists and teachers. Lillegard continuously attacked Arndt and his literary work and wanted him to teach only at the seminary so he could be more easily controlled. Son Walter Arndt married Rhoda Bente, daughter of Professor Friedrich Bente at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Arndt did not attend the Fourth General Conference due to continued problems with Lillegard. Dr. Kleid, a new mission physician, arrived and departed after a very short stay. This volume describes the start of the Chinese Term Question controversy.

CM Binder #16 (1925). This volume elaborates on the work in the Chinese seminary, which seems to go very well. It continues with the Lillegard controversy about the term question. During the summer Arndt became extremely ill, and it was thought he was near death. Despite this he still attended the Kuling conference. A very unusual Sunday sermon by Lillegard concludes this volume.

CM Binder #17 (1926). Political trouble combined with trouble among the missionaries made life difficult in China. The search for another medical missionary was still on. The first class graduated from Concordia Seminary in Hankow. Arndt and Lillegard were in disagreement over the pastor’s library. The term question controversy continued, and Lillegard suggested the excommunication of Arndt.

CM Binder #18 (1926). Lillegard asked the Missouri Synod Foreign Mission Board to recall Arndt to the United States. Prof. Theodore Graebner wrote a revealing letter to Lillegard. The Kuling Conference took place. Arndt and Gebhardt appeared before the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis on the term question. A meeting with Director Brand took place in Hankow. New missionaries arrived. The Nationalists took over the government in China. Son Eddie unexpectedly arrived.

CM Binder #19 (1927). There is extreme unrest all over. The British concession surrendered. Rev. and Mrs. Lillegard left China for good. Arndt was determined to stay in China; his daughter Agnes remained with him in Hankow. Mrs. Arndt, Eddie and all other missionaries left Hankow for Shanghai. Arndt applied for Chinese citizenship but soon withdrew the request. His evangelists Pi and Li were imprisoned. Eddie returned to Hankow for continued studies.

CM Binder #20 (1928). This volume features the conclusion of the Pi and Li story. Mrs. Arndt returned to Hankow, and Arndt served as “political reporter.” The faculty of Concordia Seminary re-evaluated the term question. Arndt remained friendly with missionaries of other denominations. He completed a large portion of his literary works with the help of a Chinese assistant.

CM Binder #21 (1928). Even after Lillegard’s departure from China the friction between the two continued. An extensive correspondence between the Foreign Mission Board (Director Brand) and Arndt took place. A decision in the term question was rendered. Lillegard’s final departure from the Missouri Synod came in early 1928. A report of Arndt’s literary work is included in this volume. Mrs. Arndt’s sickness and surgery called for a journey to the U.S. Agnes accompanied her mother. Arndt had to fend for himself.

CM Binder #22 (1929). Mrs. Arndt was operated on in the U.S. Arndt’s work continued in Hankow. He completed an article called “Remaining Pieces” and sent his last letter to his daughters. The circumstances of his death, the funeral, various obituaries and a scroll conclude the China Mission series.

Detailed lists of primary documents and/or photos for both series of this collection are available at Concordia Historical Institute. These lists catalogue all inserts added by Dr. E. J. Arndt to the Autobiography binders and to the China Mission binders.

A box of slides is located in Concordia Historical Institute archives, donated in 1962 by Concordia Publishing House. It contains 97 slides about the China Mission. According to Dr. Edward J. Arndt, these slides were used to illustrate the presentations Missionary Arndt gave to congregations throughout America while on furlough in 1922. The slide series has been added to the Arndt collection and can be found after folder # 84 at the end of the collection. The slides are numbered C-1 through C-99 with numbers C-2, C-7, C-25 and C-46 missing; one slide bears the number B-1, and one number is illegible.

Several books such as Arndt’s Green Pastures and Georg Stoeckhardt’r Passionspredigten were clearly annotated as Arndt’s personal copies. These were removed from the collection and placed in the CHI library, where they will be catalogued separately.


Some of the materials in this collection were donated to the Institute at various times by the following people: John Theodore Mueller (Feb. 1954); E.C. Zimmermann (Aug. 1955); Pritzlaff Library, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (Aug. 1956); Paul F. Arndt (March 1959); Karl J. R. Arndt (April 1966); Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis (Feb. 1962). The miscellaneous papers included copies of the Missionsbriefe; books from Arndt’s library, notebooks of miscellaneous sermons, a bundle of sermons by various other clergy and a mailing list for Missionsbriefe.


For more information on missions in China, the Institute has an unprocessed collection of China Mission Records available. This collection includes minutes of the Chinese Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Chinese Area Coordinating Committee, artwork, correspondence, historical information, linguistics and additional files on the Chinese Term Question. This material was donated by various individuals during the period of 1955 to 1992.

The Institute’s LCMS Foreign Mission Records also contain an extensive collection of E.L. Arndt and George Lillegard correspondence.

Dr. Edward J. Arndt, youngest son of Missionary E. L. Arndt, compiled all the material in this collection, translated a great deal of the information into English and explained the circumstances of the times. He also solely funded the project to arrange and describe the collection and to make the finding aids available in the Institute Reading Room and on the Internet. The collection was processed by Brigitte Conkling, who worked closely with Dr. Arndt in producing the final product.


Autobiography Series

  • f.1-14 Autobiography Binders (transferred to folders)
  • f.15-16 “Gottes Wunderwege” (ELA autobiography)
  • f.18-21 Sermon Outlines (1888-1891)
  • f.22 Church Histories & Minutes
  • f.23 Photographs from Saginaw, MI, 1903
  • f.24 St. Paul Papers, 1903
  • f.25 Materials for History of the Luth. Church of Minnesota and Other States, 1904
  • f.26 Slide Catalog (original), 1906
  • f.27 Articles, Papers & Sermons, 1907
  • f.28 Minutes of Luther Conference, 1901-1910
  • f.29 Biographies of Various Clergy
  • f.30-32 St. Paul Papers

China Series

  • f.33 Sermons from C.F.W. Walther Translated into Chinese
  • f.34 Other Sermons in Chinese
  • f.35 Chinese Exam, 1923
  • f.36 Chinese Hymnbook
  • f.37 Chinese Translations
  • f.38 Gabelsberger Writings
  • f.39-50 The China Mission Society Correspondence and Papers (1912-1929)
  • f.51 Term Question – Shang Ti versus Shen
  • f.52 Printed Material on Term Question
  • f.53 Article on Baal
  • f.54 The China Mission Photographs I
  • f.55 The China Mission Photographs II
  • f.56 Miscellaneous
  • f.57-83 China Mission Binders Inserts
  • f.57 CM-8: Diaries, 1908-10
  • f.58 CM-463a: Diary, 1916
  • f.59 CM-550a: Diary, 1917
  • f.60 CM-750: Diary, 1919
  • f.61 CM-867: Handbook on the Operation of Schools in China
  • f.62 CM-872: Handbook on the Operation of Chapels in China
  • f.63 CM-975-76: Diaries, 1921-22
  • f.64 CM-1111: Diary, 1922
  • f.65 CM-1142: Key to Chinese Gabelsberger Shorthand
  • f.66 CM-1194: Diary, 1923
  • f.67 CM-1329: Diary, 1925
  • f.68 CM-1330: Book on Homiletics Seminar
  • f.69 CM-1351: Seminary History
  • f.70 CM-1493: Diary, 1925
  • f.71 CM-1790: Diary, 1926
  • f.72 CM-2185a: Diary, 1927
  • f.73 CM-2342: Diary, 1928 and Various Papers
  • f.74 CM-2444: Annotated “Casual Predigten” by Mueller
  • f.75 CM-2498: Predigtentwuerfe
  • f.76 CM-2499: Addresses of Contributors to The China Mission Society
  • f.77 CM-2500: Names of New Readers
  • f.78 CM-2501: Annotated Matsuda Book
  • f.79 CM-2502: Chinese Hymnal
  • f.80 CM-2503: Mailing List for Missionsbriefe
  • f.81 CM-2504: “God’s Footsteps in Ancient China” photocopy
  • f.82 CM-2505: “God’s Footsteps in Ancient China” printed book
  • f.83 CM-2506: Chinese Bible personally owned by ELA
  • f.84 Various Sermons Collected by E. L. Arndt
  • B.1-22 The China Mission Binders (1910-1929)
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