The Other Altenburg Debate

fred-eggers-1***Thanks to Fred Eggers for his contribution of this article today.  Fred, in addition to being our local expert on the Farrar area, has developed a great interest in finding information in the old Der Lutheraner publications that we have at our museum.  This post is a result of that interest.

Just two days ago on Saturday my colleague Warren Schmidt, our regular blogger and the President of the organization that owns and operates this museum, wrote about the historical debate held in 1841 in his blog, The Altenburg Debate: Who Won?  Today I will discuss the other Altenburg debate that has been going on for nearly 100 years – is the log cabin college building that is on display in the park across the street from Trinity Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum the original cabin that was built in 1839?

Current Photo of the Log Cabin College

In 2015 and 2016 there were seven articles related to the history of the log cabin college and the Altenburg debate published in the Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly including Warren’s two-part study on the original students of the college and two articles that a significant amount of information on the question of the authenticity of the log cabin college building.  Rev. James M. Thomas wrote A Bethlehem Built in Poverty which strongly supports the position that the building now in Altenburg is indeed the original building.  Russell P. Baldner’s two-part article which gives a lengthy history of the known documents written about the log cabin college and the surrounding question of its legitimacy is entitled, Institution, Structure, and Place:  Revisiting the Historigographic Circumstances of the Saxon Lutheran Lehranstalt – Log Cabin College.  In his conclusion he states, “Regardless, however, of inconsistencies and conflicting views on structural pedigree, for several years during the Saxon Lutheran colony’s first decade in America the humble Log Cabin College at Altenburg, Perry County, Missouri, served student, teacher, and church alike, and stands yet today, preserved and uncontested, as a physical testimony to faith, dedication, perseverance and blessing in this 175th anniversary year.”

Log Cabin College Photo Before 18990001

Dr. Buenger died in 1899.

In this article he does ask the question, “Specifically, was the original Log Cabin College structure, erected in 1839 in Dresden, Perry County, Missouri, later moved to nearby Altenburg, where it continued to serve as an educational facility for that institution?”  I believe that I may have found documentation that may give us a clearer answer.  One of the research projects in which I am involved is the documentation of the history of the terms of service of the Pastors who have served at the Lutheran Congregations in the Perry County and Cape Girardeau County, Missouri region.  The best source of this information is the original editions of Der Lutheraner.  Recently I found a History of Concordia Seminary in five parts that was published in Volumes 38 and 39 of Der Lutheraner in 1882 and 1883 in conjunction with the building of the new (second) seminary building in St. Louis.

Der Lutheraner November 15, 18820001

In the second part of this history that appeared in Volume 38, Number 22 of Der Lutheraner dated November 15, 1882, is the following statement:

“Inzwischen war das Collegegebäude von Dresden nach Altenburg

geschafft und wieder aufgerichtet worden, und wurde nun wieder

als Lehrzimmer und auch als Wohnzimmer für Zöglinge benutzt.”

College Moved Statement


I have interpreted this statement as follows:

“Meanwhile the college building was taken from Dresden to

Altenburg and erected again, and was now again used as a

classroom and also as a living quarters for the pupils.”

In my opinion this statement gives a definite answer to Baldner’s specific question.  Although there is no clear answer to when this move took place, it indeed states that the building was moved and leads us to believe that it was again a college that produced the first five Concordia Seminary graduates.

Although some of the articles have one or more initials following the article, this one does not indicate who the writer was.  We all know that Rev. Dr. C. F. W. Walther served as the first editor of Der Lutheraner and I have read that in later years it was published by faculty of the seminary, so I thought that it would add some legitimacy to the article to know who may have been the writer.

Based on the listing of the Concordia Seminary Professors in Appendix I of Dr. Carl S. Meyer’s history of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis entitled Log Cabin to Luther Tower, the members of the faculty at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in 1882 when this article was published were as follows:

  1.  Rev. Dr. C. F. W. Walther, who was the Pastor of the Dresden congregation where the college was founded in 1839 and was very instrumental in its founding.  Although he moved to St. Louis in 1841 he was still very involved in its operation because his congregation there was a major financial supporter of the school and issued the call to Rector Goenner and paid his salary.  In addition, he and Rev. Loeber in Altenburg were very close friends since before the immigration.
  2. Rev. C. H. Rudolph Lange was a “sendling” of Pastor Loehe who studied at the Altenburg college for nine months beginning in August 1847 following his graduation from the Fort Wayne Seminary.  He is considered the fourth graduate of the Altenburg seminary and served at St. Charles, Missouri before coming to the faculty at St. Louis.  In addition, his wife was a daughter of Pastor Gruber of the Paitzdorf congregation in Perry County and her brother Theodore was likely a fellow student of his at Altenburg.
  3. Rev. J. M. Gottlieb Schaller was another of Loehe’s “sendlings”.  He served the Trinity congregation in St. Louis from1854 to 1872 before becoming a faculty member at the St. Louis Seminary.  Other than that I could find no ties to the Altenburg school.
  4. Rev. Martin Guenther was born in Dresden and immigrated with his family with the Stephanites.  Although his family remained in St. Louis, he was confirmed at Altenburg in 1855 which indicates that he was likely a student in the college at that time.  He was among the students that transferred to St. Louis in 1849 and was among the first graduates of the St. Louis Seminary in 1853.  He served congregations in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Chicago before joining the St. Louis faculty in 1873.
  5. Rev. Francis Pieper graduated from the St. Louis Seminary in 1875 and became a professor there in 1878.  I could find no ties to the Altenburg Seminary for him.
  6. Rev. George Stoeckhardt came to America in 1878 after being called by the Holy Cross congregation in St. Louis.  In 1879 he also began to teach classes at the St. Louis Seminary.  I could find no ties to the Altenburg Seminary for him.

Considering that three of the six professors in 1882 had lengthy and close ties to the Log Cabin College in Altenburg, it would be hard to argue that the statement about the college building being moved from Dresden to Altenburg was not true.

The Faculty of Concordia Seminary 1887-18920001

Four of the six professors from 1882 are in this photo.

Perhaps there is yet further documentation to be found among the records and correspondence of the early teachers or students of the Log Cabin College but it appears that this 1882 history is the earliest document that has been found to support the position that the original college building was moved.





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