- Collection Number: M-0021
- Collection Size: 0.3 linear feet
Heinrich von Rohr was born into an aristocratic family on 15 May 1797 in Billerbeck, Germany. At age eight he entered the Prussian military academy and served as a page for Emperor Friedrich Wilhelm III. At 18 he was commissioned as second lieutenant and fought in the Franco-Prussian disputes. He married at age 32 (first wife’s name unknown) and was converted to Christianity by his wedding sermon. His wife died in childbirth. On 30 March 1834 he was promoted to Captain in the Prussian Army and transferred to Magdeburg. Shortly before his transfer he married his second wife, Julia Mangold of Berlin. A controversy over the rite of the baptism (Lutheran or Reformed) of his son caused the formal discharge of v. Rohr’s army commission.
Through the death of his second wife and son he became very serious about religion. He helped Pastor Johann A. A. Grabau organize a large group of Lutherans opposed to the Prussian Union to emigrate to America in 1839. They became to be known as the “Old Lutherans”.
Von Rohr settled near Milwaukee and helped found Freistadt, Wisconsin, where he farmed for several years. Later he studied theology at Buffalo, New York, and became a pastor in Humberstone, Ontario. From 1846 to 1874 he served congregations in the state of New York: Berghold, Walmore and Martinsville. He helped Grabau found the Buffalo Synod in 1845 but sided against Grabau in the 1866 synodical that expelled Grabau from the Buffalo Synod. However, von Rohr did not follow the majority of Buffalo Synod pastors into union with Missouri after the colloquy of November of that year and served as Senior of the remaining Buffalo Synod ministerium until his death.
He married his third wife, Margarethe, in the early 1840s, and they had five children: Philip, Julia, Mary, Elisabeth and John. He died in July 1874(?).
Sauer, Philip von Rohr. “Heinrich von Rohr and the Great Emigration of 1839,” Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly 56 (1983): 65-70.
See also J.A.A. Grabau Family Collection.
Scope & Content Note
The Heinrich von Rohr collection is divided into three series. The first contains mainly Personal papers. The second series contains material related to the events leading up to the Emigration of Grabau and von Rohr’s Old Lutheran group from Prussia in 1839. The third series consists of papers related to the Buffalo Synod.
The Personal series is arranged in alphabetical order by type of document and consists mainly of correspondence, von Rohr’s military records, a handwritten diary and an autobiography to 1859. There is a series of letters dated between 18 November 1873 and 24 February 1876 (f.10), the majority of which are addressed “Dear Oskar” and were primarily written by a “Helene.” It is unclear how these names fit into the von Rohr family tree. Since Heinrich von Rohr died in 1874, the correspondence dating from 1874 to 1880 was most likely sent to his son Philip.
An original handwritten diary (f.12) belonging to Heinrich von Rohr has been transcribed but due to frequent gaps in transcription does not give a clear picture of von Rohr’s early life. He does, however, describe many misunderstandings with his second wife, Julia, and the childhood sicknesses of his son Max (first marriage) and his daughter Julchen (second marriage).
There is a photocopy of what may be an earlier diary (f.15), but no original was discovered in the collection. This photocopy has been used to reconstruct events in von Rohr’s life in the early 1830s. These are summed up in a cover sheet that is included with the diary.
The Fragments (f.17) and Study Material (f.29) folders contain some material pertinent to the doctrinal stand of von Rohr and the Buffalo Synod both with respect to the Missouri Synod and with respect to Grabau after the break.
The Emigration series includes a manuscript history of the emigration, unfortunately only in fragments. There is also a substantial dossier of legal papers dealing with von Rohr’s status as an officer, his prosecution for the baptism of his son, the status of the Magdeburg Lutheran congregation (including petitions signed by many of not all members of the group), Grabau’s imprisonment, and the emigration. Two copies of an index indicating the original organization of some of this material are found in the first folder (f.31).
The Buffalo Synod series includes a copy of an 1858 call extended by von Rohr’s congregation in Johannisburg, N.Y., to Christian Hochstetter (f.35). The bulk of the material dates from the 1866 split with Grabau and the following eight years during which von Rohr served as Senior of the rump Buffalo group. The papers are primarily von Rohr’s notes from meetings of the Buffalo Synod ministerium as well as some outlines of doctrinal positions vis-a-vis the Missouri Synod and in defense of the prosecution of Grabau and the ensuing legal battle over synodical properties. Finally, there is a manuscript copy of a portion of the 1866 Buffalo Synod Report detailing Grabau’s expulsion (f.36). An earlier note suggests that this was preserved through Pr. Hochstetter.
f.1: Biography (Philip von Rohr)
f.2: Birth Certificates, 1787-1823
f.3: Commissions (Military)
f.4-9: Correspondence: 1835-1880
f.10-12: Diary (30 Dec. 1834-7 Aug. 1836)
f.15: Financial Matters
f.16: Funeral Sermon for a child
f.17: Juliana Eleonora (Mangold) von Rohr
f.18: Last Will & Testament
f.20: News clippings
f.24: Study Material
f.25: Vita (Lebensbeschreibung), 1859
f.26: Emigration History
f.27-30: Legal Papers, 1835-1846
Buffalo Synod Series
f.31: Buffalo Synod Report, 1866
f.32: Call Document (Hochstetter), 1858
f.33: Papers, 1866-1874