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Saxon Immigration Collection, 1811-1962.

  • Collection Number: M-0015
  • 3.3 linear feet


In the first half of the ninetieth century, rationalism–an attempt to apply a new line of reasoning to religion–was very strong in the Kingdom Saxony in Germany. Rationalism was an effort to make theological truth self-evident by human reason. Confessional Lutheran doctrines like justification by faith were totally dismissed. As an emigrant put it: “The Book of Concord was only an empty comedy.” The hymnals, catechisms and other religious books were gradually changed to conform with the new ideas.

Alongside the rationalistic movement went a movement that became known as “unionism.” Neighboring Prussia under the ruling House of Hohenzollern tried to force a merger of its Protestants (Lutherans and Reformed) into one church and suppressed the confessional position of the orthodox Lutherans. Many congregations resisted the “Union” and went so far as to cross state lines to have their children baptized or to take communion from an orthodox pastor. The State Church of Saxony was Lutheran but was organized as a department of the state and was governed by evangelical cabinet members. With the highest secular court in charge of an ecclesiastical authority, rationalistic liberalism was felt more and more among the orthodox Lutheran clergy.

A middle-aged confessional Lutheran pastor named Martin Stephan became more and more opposed to the aforementioned teaching and practices and eventually developed a plan to emigrate. Stephan’s influence and support grew steadily. One of the most important sources for his followers was the University of Leipzig with its theological school. Several theological students and candidates came to look to him for spiritual leadership. In the eyes of his followers Stephan became the champion of orthodoxy and the defender of the faith. Stephan first mentioned his emigration plan to his followers in 1830. He contacted friends in Baltimore, Maryland, for possible sites of settlement. A final decision to leave the homeland was not made until the spring of 1836, when the first planning meeting took place.

From this time forward emigration to the United States became inevitable for more than one reason. Stephan was not only impatient with the development of the state church, but he was also arrested at various times in Saxony for holding secret conventicles and was accused of immoral conduct.

The planning phase intensified toward the end of December 1837, and the preliminary plan was sketched out mainly by Pastor Stephan; his attorney Adolph Marbach; the secretary Jaeckel; H.F. Fischer, a Dresden merchant and Stephan’s right hand man; and Dr. Carl Vehse, the curator of the Saxon State Archive. Financial arrangements were worked out, the planning committee adopted a list of conditions that formed the basis for permission to emigrate, and an “Auswanderungs-Gesellschaft” (emigration society) was formed.


The Saxon Immigration Collection contains an accumulation of materials created in conjunction with the planning and execution of the emigration of approximately 700 German Lutherans from the Kingdom Saxony in Germany to Perry County, Missouri. Other items in the collection include court documents brought along from Germany and material gathered by Dr. Walter Forster in research for his dissertation and book, Zion on the Mississippi. The collection has been arranged into six series: Pre-Emigration, Emigration, Post-Emigration, Centennial, Correspondence, and Financial Records.

The Pre-Emigration series is arranged in alphabetical order by topic. It contains transcribed court documents of Martin Stephan, with accusations dating back as far as 1811. In 1961 Pastor Kurt Spillner of Dresden, Germany, collected these documents. They are “new” to the Saxon Immigration picture, as they were not available when Dr. Walter Forster used this collection in his research. The Spillner collection may duplicate some of the transcriptions found in the Pastor Stephan Investiture Files (f.14, 15, 16).

The Pre-Emigration series also contains court records dated 1820-1835, known as the Hanewinkel notes. These documents were transcribed by a Mr. Hanewinkel for Dr. W.H.T. Dau. (It is not known whether Dr. Dau used these transcriptionr in any published writings. Note: Hanewinkel was the transcriber only and has no historical significance for the collection).

Furthermore, there is a history of the Langenchursdorf parish, where Otto Hermann Walther was his father’s vicar prior to the emigration, and C.F.W. Walther’s call document to Bräunsdorf. There is also a variety of “emigration codes” and court transcripts of an accusation against Pastor E.G.W. Keyl dated 1836. The 1836 investiture of Pastor Stephan consists of handwritten documents, which appear to be copies of the court documents and not the originals, since the word “Abschrift” (copy) is shown on almost every sheet.

The Emigration series is arranged in alphabetical order by subject. It consists of passenger lists filed by the name of the ship on which the emigrant(s) sailed, freight and insurance papers, lists of belongings of various people and a diary by T. J. Brohm written during the voyage on the Olbers (the same ship on which Pastor Stephan traveled). Brohm’s is possibly the best account of the sea journey available. It also contains an original copy of songs written by Otto Hermann Walther during the voyage.

The Post-Emigration series is arranged in alphabetical order by subject. It holds all material generated after the arrival of the emigration group in New Orleans in 1839 until the end of the 19th century. The series contains all the papers leading up to the deposition of Pastor Stephan in 1839 and his confession and lawsuit in 1841. File #43 contains the original and copies of the “Deposition of Martin Stephan,” the translation of which can be found in Forster’s Zion on the Mississippi (p. 418). This document marked the separation of Stephan from the Immigration Society; it also contains a complete list of the possessions he was permitted to keep plus an additional $100.00. It was signed on 30 May 1839.

Preliminary plans to establish Trinity Lutheran Church (of St. Louis?) are in this series. There is a blue print of the church’s plan, a draft of the first bylaws, and the vestry of the Christus Kirche (Episcopal) where the emigrants worshipped until their own sanctuary was built. It contains call documents for pastors Johann Friedrich Buenger, Otto Hermann Walther and C. F. W. Walther.

The Centennial series is arranged in alphabetical order. It combines the research done by Dr. Walter Forster for his book Zion on the Mississippi and bulletins and publications issued for the 100th anniversary of the Saxon Immigration.

The Correspondence series is the most voluminous part of this collection. It is arranged in chronological order. A large part of the correspondence consists of handwritten file copies; they are not the originals. In some cases, as many as three letters, all in the same handwriting, are found on the front and back of one sheet of paper but contain different signatures and dates; they represent copies of separate pieces of correspondence. A portion of the correspondence contains applications of prospective emigration participants. This series holds all dated and undated documents other than financial records and those clearly identified as court documents.

A note for the researcher: Although the collection includes typewritten transcriptions of the some of the correspondence and/or court papers, their quality varies considerably. They should not be relied on as totally accurate. The Institute hopes to provide new transcriptions of these documents as resources permit.

The Financial Records series iis arranged in chronological order with specific types of records appearing in alphabetical order at the end of the series. It contains all invoices as well as accounting ledgers from 1838 to 1853. Expenses incurred by either passengers or freight that could be linked to a specific ship are filed under the vessel’s name. Several “Sub-Reparations Lists” are available in this collection. These are detailed financial lists quantifying the exact amount of money allotted for certain expenses to a certain passenger traveling on a certain ship, i.e. Olbers.



f.1 Accusation toward E. G. W. Keyl(1836)
f.2 Early Court Documents of Martin Stephan collected by Kurt Spillner
f.3 General Material

f.4 Hanewinkel: Dau’s Transcription of Hanewinkel material
f.5 Hanewinkel: Notes 1
f.6 Hanewinkel: Notes 2
f.7 Hanewinkel: Notes 3
f.8 Hanewinkel: Notes 4 transcribed and bound
f.9 Hanewinkel: Typed Transcriptions 1
f.10 Hanewinkel: Typed Transcriptions 2

f.11 History of the Langenchursdorf Parish
f.12 Installation of a Vicar in Langenchursdorf (1834)
f.13 Insurance Policies
f.14 Investigation of Pastor Stephan I (1836)
f.15 Investigation of Pastor Stephan II (1836)
f.16 Investigation of Pastor Stephan III (1836)
f.17 List of People authorized to emigrate
f.18 Music written by Carl Maria von Weber
f.19 Pledge to the Emigration Code
f.20 Preparation for the Emigration
f.21 Various Codes established prior to the emigration
f.22 Walthers’ Call Document to Braeunsdorf and Nagel Quarrel (1836-38)
v.1 Ludwig Paul Wieland Lütkemüller, Die Lehren und Umtriebe der Stephanisten
(Altenburg: H. A. Pierer, 1838)


f.23 Diary (T. J. Brohm on the Olbers)
f.24 List of Possessions belonging to Martin Stephan and Louise Guenther
f.25 Freight Shipment Papers
f.26 General Passenger Material
f.27 List of Passengers (below legal age)
f.28 List of Possessions belonging to Johann Kokuschke
f.29 List of Possessions belonging to Johann Georg Meister
f.30 List of Possessions … (copy of f.24)
f.31 Music: Exulanten Lieder
f.32 Shipping Material – Amalia
f.33 Shipping Material – Copernicus
f.34 Shipping Material – Johann Georg
f.35 Shipping Material – Olbers
f.36 Shipping Material – Republik
f.37 Shipping Material – Selma

Post-Emigration Series

f.38 Bible Society Matters (ca 1866)
f.39 Blue Print (oversized)
f.40 Call Document for C.F.W. Walther to Trinity Luth. Church (8 Feb 1840)
f.41 Confession of Louise Guenther (4 June 1839)
f.42 Content of Cornerstone of Immanuel Luth Church (30 Jul 1847)
f.43 Deposition of Stephan (30 May 1839)
f.44 Der Lutheraner (Basic Idea for Publication)
f.45 Draft of Bylaws for a congregation (possibly Trinity)
f.46 Fragments
f.47 General Information
f.48 Hoeschel Sophie Interview
f.49 Instruction for a Sexton at Trinity Lutheran Church
f.50 Leipziger Mission (1852)
f.51 List of Communicant Members, 1840
f.52 List of Communicant Members, 1842
f.53 List of School Supplies and Furnishings
f.54 Miscellaneous
f.55 Poetry
f.56 Printed Material
f.57 Questions and Answers of General Ranney
f.58 Reclaimed Items
f.59 Separation from Stephanism, 31 May 1841
f.60 Statutes for a Vicar for a 2nd church in St. Louis
f.61 Stephan’s Confessions, 1841-42
f.62 Stephan’s Investiture, 1839
f.63 Stephan’s Law Suit, 1841
f.64 Synodical Conference Program, ca 1873
f.65 Time sheets and Requests for Compensations
f.66 Various Call Documents
f.67 Vehse Manuscript
f.68 Vestry of Christus Kirche

Centennial Series:

f.69 Book Plates – Zion on the Mississippi
f.70 Forster Research
f.71 Photos/Negatives
f.72 Saxon Immigration Centennial
f.73 Transcribed handwritten documents I
f.74 Transcribed handwritten documents II
f.75 Transcribed Material from Walter Forster

Correspondence Series:

f.76 1832-1836
f.77 1837
f.78 1838 (January-May)
f.79 1838 (June-July)
f.80 1838 (August)
f.81 1838 (September)
f.82 1838 October)
f.83 1838 (November-December)
f.84 1839
f.85 1840
f.86 1841
f.87 1842
f.88 1843
f.89 1844
f.90 1845
f.91 1846
f.92 1847-1850
f.93 1851-1852
f.94 1853
f.95 1854
f.96 1855-1863
f.97 No Date
f.98 Letter written by Teacher Winter, no date

Financial Record Series:

f.99 1838 (January-July)
f.100 1838 (August)-September)
f.101 1838 (1-15 October)
f.102 1838 (16-31 October)
f.103 1838 (November)
f.104 1839 (January)
f.105 1839 (February)
f.106 1839 (March)
f.107 1839 (April)
f.108 1839 (May-December)
f.109 1840
f.110 1841-45
f.111 1846
f.112 1853
f.113 Expenses paid by Buerger & Keyl
f.114 Freight Insurance
f.115 Repayment of Expenses
f.116 Ship: Copernicus
f.117 Ship: Johann Georg
f.118 Ship: Olbers
f.119 Ship: Republik
f.120 Ship: Selma
f.121 Shipping Cost to Hamburg & Bremen
f.122 Undated Records


The material in this collection has been accumulated from various donors and other sources over many years.

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