Serving Where Stephan Served

clayton-erdmannOnce again, today’s post was written by Clayton Erdmann.  His contribution is especially helpful because for the next few days, we at the Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum will be very busy with our International Immigration Conference.


Today, October 27, in 1848, two young German immigrants were married in Knox County, IN. They were Friedrich Erdmann and Henriette Rinsch. They probably met aboard the Kepler, during their voyage from Bremen, Germany to New Orleans.

Friedrich Erdmann – Kepler passenger list
Henriette Rinsch – Kepler passenger list

Friedrich made the trip with a cousin and Henriette came with her parents and brother. Both parties were headed to Indiana and that is where the newlyweds began their family.

To support his new family, Friedrich began selling books. He was a traveling salesman. As he traveled he met Pastor Ruhl who encouraged him to go into the Holy Ministry. After just one year of study, he was licensed as a Minister and received a call to Trinity Lutheran Church in Horse Prairie, IL. He and Henriette moved there with three small children. On September 11, 1853, Friedrich was installed as the pastor at Trinity and would serve that congregation for over 40 years.

Friedrich Erdmann Licensure

Friedrich and Henriette both faced many challenges. Even after arriving at Horse Prairie, life was not easy. Henriette often sewed for others, to make ends meet. In the early years she also had to use primitive cooking equipment and had very little furniture. Meanwhile, Friedrich was very busy. He continued his studies after accepting the call to Trinity. He was known for having a wide knowledge of all the church fathers, even those outside the Lutheran heritage. He served many Lutheran congregations in the Randolph County area during pastoral vacancies, which often meant long, time consuming journeys away from his home and family. He helped the Lutherans in Red Bud organize St. John’s Lutheran Church and for a 7 year period was the President of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Illinois and other states. However, in 1883 Friedrich joined the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and remained part of that church body until his death. (It is not uncommon to find Friedrich’s signature on wills and other legal documents at the Randolph County Courthouse. He would often translate the German text into English.)

Friedrich and Henriette had nine children. Sadly, three of their children died as infants or toddlers. A fourth child died in her twenties, after giving birth.

Unfortunately, Friedrich and Henriette were not able to enjoy a long retirement together. Friedrich died on July 18, 1895, only one year after retiring. He was only 67 years old. Henriette did reach old age. She lived with her son Rudolph and his family, in the home that she and Friedrich had purchased. She died on October 21, 1912 at the age of 86. Both she and Friedrich are buried in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Horse Prairie, IL.

Rudolph Erdmann farm
Rudolph Erdmann family


So, what is the connection to Perry County, MO? Well, in 1845 the members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Horse Prairie, IL called Rev. Martin Stephan to be their pastor. Yes, THE Martin Stephan, leader of the Saxon immigrants who settled in Perry County. Rev. Stephan was actually well regarded by the people of Trinity and he remained a pastor there until his death in February 1846. Martin Stephan is buried in Trinity Lutheran Cemetery.

Trinity Lutheran Church – Horse Prairie, Illinois

This is not the only way that Friedrich and Henriette are connected to Perry County, but the other connections will have to be shared some other time.

Rev. Friedrich Erdmann

Friedrich and Henriette are my ggg grandparents.

Link to map:

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