Around Perry County, the Fritsche name is often associated with the village of Farrar, and Farrar has an old nickname. It has been referred to as Jammerthal, which means “valley of sorrow”. Today, I will tell the story of another Fritsche (or is it Fritzsche) who helped found a city whose name means “valley of praise”. That city is called Lobethal. You will not find Lobethal anywhere near Perry County. In fact, you have to go to another hemisphere to find it. That is because it is found in Australia.
At about the same time that the Gesellschaft was immigrating to America, other Lutheran immigrants were moving to Australia. Under the leadership of Rev. August Ludwig Christian Kavel, about 200 German Lutherans arrived in Adelaide in South Australia in November of 1838. That was the same month that the five ships of Stephanites left Germany to travel to America. Here is an image of Rev. Kavel.
In July of 1841, Rev. Gotthard Daniel Fritzsche led a group of about 250 more German Lutherans to this area in Australia. His group made the voyage aboard the ship, Skjold, but their trip was not a pleasant one. About 50 of the passengers died at sea. Their ship arrived in Australia in 1842. I find it interesting that the ship landed at a spot called Port Misery. When he arrived, Rev. Fritzsche took many of his followers to an area east of Adelaide and founded both a church and a town there. Rev. Fritzsche named that town, Lobethal. He found that name in Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible. It can be found in 2 Chronicles 20:26.
26 Am vierten Tage aber kamen sie zusammen im Lobetal; denn daselbst lobten sie den HERRN. Daher heißt die Stätte Lobetal bis auf diesen Tag.
This is how that verse is translated in the English Standard Version.
26 On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah,[a] for there they blessed the Lord. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Beracah to this day.
My ESV Bible says in a note that Beracah means “blessing”.
The Lutheran Cyclopedia has this entry for Rev. Fritzsche.
Fritzsche, Gotthard Daniel(July 20, 1797–October 26, 1863). B. Liebenwerde, Ger.; student of J. G. Scheibel* at Breslau; invited by J. A. A. Grabau* to immigrate to US; declined; invited by A. L. C. Kavel,* he led a band of emigrants to Australia 1841 and founded Bethany and Lobethal 1842. See also Australia, B 1.
On February 12, 1842, Rev. Fritzsche married Dorette (Dorothy) Nehrlich. He had become engaged to her before they even left Germany. This description can be found online which tells a little more about the history of Lobethal, including a description of their original town layout which sounds very similar to that of East Perry County.
This map shows a few other locations near Adelaide where these early German Lutherans settled, including Lobethal.
Here is a painting which was done that attempted to show what Hahndorf looked like in its early days.
As I looked into this story, I discovered that there were an amazing number of similarities between the Lobethal history and our own Perry County history. I will share a few of those similarities with you.
An Early Seminary
Both of these Lutheran groups put an emphasis on education. Also, both realized how important it was going to be to train future church workers for what would hopefully become a growing church body in their new lands. We know that our own Log Cabin College was built and opened during the first year the immigrants settled in Perry County. In Australia, it was Rev. Fritzsche who pushed to start a seminary. That seminary was started in Lobethal in 1845. It was the first Lutheran seminary to be found in the Southern Hemisphere. I located this photo of that building.
Even though it was not a log cabin like ours, it does not look too different from the one built here. Like ours, it was a building consisting of just one room.
An Early Doctrinal Controversy
In both of these Lutheran communities, it did not take long for a doctrinal controversy to take place. In Australia, a dispute took place between the first two pastors, Rev. Kavel and Rev. Fritzsche. Rev. Kavel supported the doctrine of millenialism. Rev. Fritzsche was in opposition. It caused a split which resulted in two church bodies forming. In a similar fashion, the second pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg, Rev. Georg Schieferdecker, began teaching millenialism. It resulted in his excommunication, after which he went across town with several of his supporters and formed Immanuel Lutheran Church. In both locations, not only was there a split which occurred, but it was over the same doctrinal issue.
Both a Church and a Town Get Founded at the Same Time
In the cases of Altenburg and Frohna, you can point to the same year as the date of their founding. Those towns and their churches were founded in 1839. For Lobethal and the Lutheran church located there, the year of their founding was 1842. In 1914, Altenburg and Frohna, along with their churches, celebrated their 175th anniversaries. Lobethal celebrated their 175th anniversary just last year. Here is a photo of that celebration. The photo was taken in front of their Lutheran church.
First Permanent Church Completed in 1845
In both Altenburg and Lobethal, their first permanent church buildings were dedicated in 1845.
I happen to think, from the photos I have been able to find, that the area around Lobethal looks very similar to the geographical features of East Perry County. Here is a panoramic shot of a rural setting near Lobethal.
Look familiar? It’s just good that you don’t see any automobiles driving on the “wrong” side of the road.
Preserving Their History
Lobethal is another old Lutheran community that has considered it important to preserve their heritage. Amazingly, both have centered their preservation efforts around maintaining their original seminaries. This museum can be found in Lobethal.
The plaque you see on the wall near the door can be seen enlarged here.
If you enter this museum, you discover that the entire original seminary can be found there.
Here at the Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum in Altenburg, we, too, have preserved our original seminary, but is an outdoor exhibit. Here are some more photos from inside the museum in Lobethal.
Here we see the entrance to the old seminary.
I will just mention in passing that their original seminary did indeed have a window on the front. The Log Cabin College in Altenburg did not.
This plaque can be seen as you enter their seminary building. It commemorates the contributions of Rev. Fritzsche in the establishment of this seminary.
Upon entering this seminary, you can find other artifacts from its founding. This is an advantage of having the whole building inside their museum where they can keep these artifacts more secure and in a climate controlled environment.
Here is another feature you find in both their seminary and ours. In each one, you find a set of steps leading up to a loft. Their seminary may also have been used in its early days to house some professors.
Other Similar Names
When you look at the names on the passenger list for the Lobethal settlers, or the names found in their cemetery, you find names that are the same or similar to ones which have been found here in East Perry County. I found this gravestone in their cemetery to be of interest.
Speaking of gravestones, below is a portion of the gravestone for Rev. G.D. Fritzsche.
There seems to be some sort of confusion about the spelling of his name. On this memorial, you can see a small “z” that almost appears like it was added later. There is also this memorial that has been erected in another location in Lobethal in honor of Rev. Fritzsche.
One last amazing similarity. Found on this monument you can find the Bible passage from Hebrews 13:7. That is the same verse that was used here on a monument that can be found near the Log Cabin College. That memorial recognizes the contributions of three men so important to us: Rev. Gotthold Loeber, Dr. C.F.W. Walther, and Martin Luther.
I am fascinated by this Australian story. This post is a little late today because I kept finding more information about this town’s history. In this post, I have kept their story quite concise. I am going to include here a few other places on the internet which give more information about this special place down under.
Here is the website of the Lutheran museum in Lobethal.
Here are a few other sites that contain interesting information and photos.
You also might enjoy this video documentary of some famous races that took place in Lobethal many years ago. Even if you do not enjoy racing, you may get a feel for the Lobethal area and its history.
I also cannot resist sharing another video about the Lobethal Bierhaus, a brewery now located there. At the very beginning of the video are some photos of the Kleinschmidt Brewery that was started by one of the original immigrants to that town.