From Tragedy to Ministry

clayton-erdmann We are having a very busy weekend here at the Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum, so I put out a call for help.  Clayton Erdmann has answered that call, stepped up to the plate, and submitted a blog post for us to use today.  Clayton has written several articles for us in the past.  He is especially tuned into families that come out of the Uniontown and Friedenberg communities.  He also must have a remarkable collection of photographs of members of his own family’s past, and he shares some of those with us today.  Thanks so much to Clayton for his contribution today!


I am always inspired by stories of people that overcome great personal tragedies. Today’s blog will focus on the life of Rev. E.G. (Ernst Gottfried) Bultmann. Ernst was born on August 20, 1883 near Uniontown, Missouri. He was the second child of Ernst and Martha (Telle) Bultmann. Ernst experienced his first tragedy in November 1884. His mother died of a hemorrhage following the birth of his sister, Elsa. I am related to Ernst through Elsa (Bultmann) Kasten. She was my great grandmother.  Here is a photo of Ernst as a child.

Rev. E.G. Bultmann1

The second tragedy happened in 1897 when Ernst’s father died of tuberculosis, leaving him an orphan at the age of 13. His father’s death bed request was that the farm be sold and Ernst be educated at the seminary. As Ernst’s granddaughter, Betty Jane (Bultmann) Lohraff, writes in a biography about her grandfather, “This sad event constituted Ernst’s call to the ministry.”

Rev. E.G. Bultmann2

In some ways, it is not surprising that Ernst’s father would want his son to become a pastor. Both sides of Ernst’s family had been faithful members of Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown, including the Bultmann, Telle, and Hemman families. In fact, Ernst’s great grandfather, Johann Gottfried Hemmann, who was part of the “Gruber group,” was a charter member of that congregation.

Rev. E.G. Bultmann4

I don’t have documentation to prove that the family farm was sold, but Ernst did fulfill his father’s last request. After being raised by maternal family members, he received preparatory and seminary training at Concordia Seminary in Springfield, IL. One thing that probably made his time away from home easier was that his cousin, Enos Frentzel, was in his class at the seminary.

Rev. E.G. Bultmann3

Ernst went to Fort Dodge, Iowa for his vicarage, probably serving St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church.

Rev. E.G. Bultmann5

He graduated from Concordia Seminary in the spring of 1907 and returned to Uniontown to marry his hometown sweetheart, Miss Isabella Frentzel. They were married on August 14, 1907 at Grace Lutheran Church.

Rev. E.G. Bultmann7

Following their marriage, the couple moved to Pocahontas, Missouri where Ernst was ordained at Zion Lutheran Church.

Rev. E.G. Bultmann8

This was a convenient call, because Pocahontas is only 10 miles south of Uniontown.

zion lutheran church
Zion Lutheran Church – Pocahontas, MO


During his ministry, Ernst usually went by Rev. E.G. Bultmann. While serving Zion, Rev. E.G. and Bella had four children; Mildred, Olaf, Arnold and Gilbert. In 1913, when Gilbert was an infant, Rev. E.G. received and accepted a call to Immanuel Lutheran Church in Honey Creek, Missouri. Honey Creek is south of Jefferson City. It was an adjustment to move to an unfamiliar place and be away from family. However, one of Bella’s sisters came to stay with them, to help with the children and housework.

Immanuel Lutheran Church

A 5th child, Norman, was born in 1917. He followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a Lutheran pastor in 1943. During World War II, Norman conducted religious services for Nazi POWs being held in Nebraska.

After over 33 years of service at Immanuel, Rev. E.G. accepted a call to Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Cole Camp, Missouri in 1946, but following a heart attack, he had to retire in 1949.

holy cross lutheran
Holy Cross Lutheran Church – Cole Camp, MO

E.G. and Bella moved into a small house in Jefferson City. In retirement, he was able to continue his ministry by serving as a vacancy pastor for Trinity Lutheran Church in Jefferson City.

Rev. E.G. Bultmann9

In 1957, E.G. and Bella celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. E.G. was also recognized for his 50 years of service to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

Rev. E.G. Bultmann10

Early in the morning on September 28, 1961, E.G. got up to dig sweet potatoes at his son’s farm. While digging the sweet potatoes, he collapsed and died at the age of 78. The likely cause was a dislodged blood clot.

He and Bella are both buried in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Honey Creek.

Rev. Ernst Bultmann gravestone

As I said at the beginning of this blog, I am always inspired at how people can overcome personal tragedy. We give thanks to God that he gave Rev. E.G. Bultmann the strength to overcome the hardships of his youth and the opportunity to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ for over 50 years. May we too remember that God is working in and through the situations we face, never leaving nor forsaking us; and that these situations often give us additional opportunities to share the love of Christ with others.

*All the information and photos for this blog came from Rev. E.G. Bultmann’s biography written by his granddaughter, Betty Jane (Bultmann) Lohraff.

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