The Log Cabin College had its first day of school on this day, December 9th, 1839. That makes today its 180th birthday. That also means that today is the 180th anniversary of Concordia Seminary which is now located in St. Louis, because they use that day as the beginning date of their institution. Our museum will be using this day to have a birthday party. We have invited the 7th and 8th grade students from United in Christ Lutheran School and Altenburg Public School to spend some time at our museum to celebrate this special day. As a result, I do not have the time to research a new story. First of all, I will suggest that you may want to read a previous post written two years ago on this date titled, Happy Birthday, Concordia Seminary. I am also going to post Chapter 14 from my book, Mama Buenger: Mother of a Synod which gives a fictional account of the first day of school at the Log Cabin College.
There will also be a gallery of photos that I took today at the end of this post.
Monday, December 9, 1839
Ottomar Fuerbringer and Theodore Brohm had gotten up before dawn because this was going to be a very special day. It was a brisk, frosty morning, so Theodore went out to where they had their fire the night before, put on some new logs, and managed to get the fire started again. Plenty of logs lay nearby to keep the blaze going during the day.
The cabin was now ready. A roof was on it. Some benches were placed inside. The teachers had planned who was going to teach what. Some slate boards had been collected. An iron pan was sitting ready to hold some hot coals so it could be carried inside in an attempt to keep the cabin warm. Ottomar had walked down to the well and brought up a pail of water. All that was needed was for the students to arrive, and that would be happening soon.
Most of the students they expected to attend lived rather close to what would become known as the Log Cabin College. Three students would come from the Buenger home, Herman and Lydia Buenger and Theodore Schubert, the orphan boy living with them. Another three students would come from the Wurmb home, Marie, Theobald, and Sarah. Three more pupils would come from the Loeber parsonage in Altenburg, Christoph and Martha Loeber and Franz Julius Biltz, another orphan boy who was staying with the Loebers. Friedrich Mueller was the son of the tile and brick maker who lived in the Dresden area. Finally, there was Columbus Price, a twenty-five-year-old farmer from the nearby town of Brazeau who was married with two young children at home. That brought the total number of students, including Columbus, to eleven. It was Columbus that was the item of discussion that morning.
“I know I told you about the Englishman, Columbus Price, that we agreed to include in our school,” said Theodore. “He may not be here every day. After all, he has a farm to run. But he wants to be here for a couple reasons. He wants to have a better handle on German. He said the Presbyterians were somewhat familiar with German from their time in North Carolina where they lived near some other German Lutherans. He also wants to become familiar with how our school operates. He told me that his congregation is giving serious thought about starting their own school over there which they may want to pattern after the gymnasium.”
“I think it is great that Columbus is going to join us,” said Ottomar, “but you are going to have to do most of the communicating with him. You know English so much better than we do, Theodore. I do have one concern, though. The Englishmen in Brazeau are known to own slaves. In fact, I hear that Columbus’ father owns some. I just don’t think we should ever condone slavery.”
“Maybe we will have the opportunity to influence his thinking on that issue by having him attend our school. God has ways to make good things happen in any situation. And we don’t always understand what His purposes are, and we may never know what influence we will have on the people who are put in our path,” said Theodore.
“So true, Theodore,” responded Ottomar. “It makes a day like this so exciting. What we are doing here by starting this school may have a great impact on God’s church here in America. We may never know.”
The first three students, Herman, Lydia, and Theodore, arrived with Fritz. Theodore Ernst came with them too, just out of curiosity. “Guten morgen,” greeted Ottomar and Theodore. “Wie gehts?”
“Sehr gut,” they all quickly answered.
Lydia eagerly asked, “May I go over to the Wurmbs and see if Mrs. Wurmb would like me to walk her children to school?”
“Yes, you may, Lydia,” answered Teacher Brohm, “but if my guess is correct, she will still want to walk here with you and her children. Mothers always want to accompany their young children when they go to school on the first day.” Off Lydia went.
Ottomar instructed, “Herman and Theodore, how about carefully putting some coals from the fire in that pan and taking them into the cabin to start warming it up in there?”
“Yes, Teacher Fuerbringer.” Off they went to their task.
Three more students arrived from the direction of Altenburg. Pastor Loeber, accompanied by his two children, along with Franz Julius Biltz, approached their new school.
“I see we are blessed by seeing the Loebers this morning,” said Fritz. “Guten morgen. Wie gehts?”
Once again, they heard the standard response, “Sehr gut.”
“Where’s Lydia?” asked Martha.
“She went to help with the Wurmbs,” said Theodore.
“May I go join her?” She looked back and forth between her father and her new teachers, wondering who it was that she should be asking permission.
Theodore noticed her confusion and quickly responded, “Yes, you may, Martha. I’m sure Lydia would love to have your help.”
From the opposite direction came Christian Mueller, who was often called Ziegel Mueller because he was a tile and brick maker. He was walking with his son, Friedrich.
“Greetings,” Ziegel said. “It almost looks like we are gathering for church here this morning. We certainly have plenty of clergymen here.”
“What brings you here this morning, Ziegel?” asked Fritz. “I’m guessing that your son didn’t come up to you this morning and ask you to walk him to school. As big as he is, he certainly can make the trip by himself.” He glanced over at Friedrich, expecting him to be in agreement and received a subtle nod in return.
“You are right, Fritz,” Ziegel said. “I just came up here to check on the cabin. I wanted to see how the clay floor and the chinking on the cabin look. I guess you could say that I am a building inspector this morning.”
“We tried to follow all your instructions, Ziegel,” said Fritz. “You are certainly welcome to inspect.”
“I hope you are not offended. I just want all of your hard work to last. And if there’s anything I can do to help maintain the cabin, don’t be afraid to ask.”
“Danke,” said Fritz. “We accept any help. One thing we all admit here is that we are not qualified as builders.”
“Well, you are teachers, and teachers do their own kind of building, but not with logs.” Ziegel turned his attention to Pastor Loeber. “And just how is the building of your parsonage going, Pastor Loeber?” he asked. “Did they get my tiles on the roof yet?”
Rev. Loeber answered, “Yes, they did. We still have plenty of work to do on the inside of the house. Right now, we can only live in one room, and it’s quite crowded in there. But I can’t complain. We are better off than almost everybody here in the colony. God has been very good to us.”
“That’s good, pastor,” Ziegel said. “If there’s anything else you need from me, let me know. And if you know of anybody else that needs bricks or tiles, let me know.”
“You’re always the salesman, Ziegel,” commented Ottomar.
“I guess so. I’m going to check on the cabin, and then I must get back to my work. If my son ever gets himself in trouble, make sure you keep me informed.”
As Ziegel walked toward the cabin, Fritz told him, “And if you have any concerns about what Friedrich is being taught, make sure you keep us informed.”
Without turning back, Ziegel lifted his hand in the air, indicating that he had heard the comment.
Now the Buenger women, Clementine, Emilie, and their mother, showed up, making the gathering at the Log Cabin College swell even larger.
“It looks like there’s a party going on down here. We didn’t want to miss it,” said Emilie.
Meanwhile, Lydia and Martha, accompanied by three younger children, approached the school. No one could miss the joyful noises of the children. And sure enough, Mrs. Wurmb was trailing behind them, not wanting to miss this very special occasion.
“Well, Fritz, I’m thinking if Columbus is coming from Brazeau today, it will be later. He said he may not get here until after his chores are done at home. So I think we may have everybody here,” said Theodore.
He had spoken too soon. From the direction of the Dresden camp came Rev. Walther. Fritz pointed to him and said, “You didn’t expect to open a school without that good Reverend wanting to be here, did you?”
“How could I forget Ferdinand?” said Theodore.
Pastor Walther circulated among the people, giving them his greetings.
Ottomar decided it was time to get things started, so he went over to Theodore Ernst and said, “Theodore Ernst, why don’t you use that wonderful voice of yours and get all the people to come together?”
Theodore Ernst did not need to even answer. He just went ahead and let loose with his best voice and sang, “God Himself is present, Let us now adore Him. And with awe appear before Him.”
The young and the old all got the message. They gathered in front of the cabin around the warm fire. Ottomar was about to say something, but Pastor Walther beat him to the punch. He said in his best preaching voice, “It is meet, right, and salutary that we begin this school properly. I ask you all to bow your heads in prayer.”
The men removed their hats and all folded their hands as the pastor prayed, “O gracious God in heaven. You have brought us to a very special beginning today. You have provided all that has been necessary to make this day possible. You have provided the ambition which has been displayed by the young men who have toiled at building this school. We ask that you be present in this new school, guiding its teachers as they prepare their lessons, and guiding the students as they grow in their knowledge of You and Your world. Bless the teachers, bless the students, bless the parents, and bless this building where much learning will take place. We know we do not deserve Your bountiful goodness. Help us to always remember what Your Son has done for us sinners. And help us to proclaim Your Word to the world. Now we boldly ask for You to perform Your great acts here in this building. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Then Pastor Walther said, “Let’s all join in singing the Doxology.” He then led them in singing. It may not have been a large crowd, but their singing may just have been loud enough to arouse a hibernating ground hog.
When this was over, Fritz announced. “No more delay, boys and girls. It’s time for school. Go into the cabin and we will tell you where you will be seated.”
The students entered as a class into the Log Cabin along with their teachers for the first time. The parents milled around outside, enjoying the chance to chat with each other. Mrs. Wurmb could not resist. She had to go into the classroom with her young ones with the intent of especially consoling her youngest, five-year-old Sarah, who seemed a little fearful.
Though the children of the immigrants had been taught throughout their journey to America, this was the first time some of them were able to be taught inside a building constructed for the sole purpose of being a school. They and their teachers did not really understand how important this institution would become.
Here are two galleries of photographs I took this morning. It is a rainy, dreary morning here, but at least it’s in the 50’s. Tomorrow, however, it is supposed to be back in the 20’s, and snow is forecast to fall not far from here. These photos are from two locations. First, here are some photos taken at the first site of the Log Cabin College, the place where it was built in 1839. It happens to be on land that I now own. I might add that if you are ever in Altenburg, find me, and I would love to show you this site (as long as my neighbor’s bull is not in the pasture).
The second gallery is made up of photos taken at the present site of the Log Cabin College.
One other note: Our museum director, Carla Jordan experienced a cardiac event yesterday, and at last report was in the hospital. Although I have heard that doctors had things relatively under control, please keep Carla in your prayers.