He was a pastor, a professor, an author, a Synod president, an editor, a musician and hymn-writer, a theologian, a husband, a father, and even a cigar and pipe smoker. And today is the day when we commemorate the day of his death, May 7, 1887. His name was Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther, but he is most often called C.F.W. Walther. I do not often tell the story of a death and funeral, but that is what I plan to do today. In the case of Rev. Walther’s death, funeral(s), and burial, it is quite the story.
Before I get too far into this tale, I have decided to include a collection of photographs that I have managed to find over the years of C.F.W. Walther. The thumbnails are clickable.
First of all, there is a fascinating set of circumstances surrounding Rev. Walther’s death. From May 4 through May 14 in 1887, there was a Synodical convention taking place in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It was during that gathering that so many in leadership roles of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod found out that the first president of that Synod had died. It was also decided to delay C.F.W.’s funeral until many of the attendees of that meeting had the time to travel to St. Louis if they chose to be there for that event.
If you included the burial service, there were four separate funerals for Dr. Walther. The first was held on the evening of Saturday, May 14th. It was held at the request of the English-speaking community of that St. Louis neighborhood in the Seminary chapel. The Concordia Seminary building shown below is the one in which this funeral service took place.
The next funeral took place the next day, May 15th at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. That funeral also took place at the Seminary chapel. Rev. Stoeckhardt preached a sermon for this service based on I Corinthians 2:2, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
After that service, there was a procession of Walther’s body carried in a horse-drawn hearse from Concordia Seminary where he had been a professor since 1850, to Old Trinity Lutheran Church, where he had also been a pastor over the years. Despite stormy weather, an estimated 3000 people participated in that procession, led by about 200 students from Concordia Seminary.
Rev. Walther’s casket was placed in front of the altar in Trinity and laid in state from Sunday until Tuesday, May 17th, when yet another funeral took place. Here is a photo of that church.
That funeral was the largest, including about 250 of the pastors who had been in attendance at the Synodical convention in Fort Wayne. Rev. H.C. Schwan, the current president of the Synod, preached the sermon. F.A. Craemer, professor at the Springfield, Illinois seminary spoke on behalf of all the seminary and college faculties at the various Synodical schools. Rev. Schwan’s sermon was based on Psalm 90. A newspaper account published on the following day said that there were 2000 people in the church and masses of additional people gathered in the surrounding streets and alleys.
The procession to the cemetery was said to be about two miles long, and it stopped briefly in front of the Seminary building before proceeding to his burial service at the new Saxon Cemetery, which later was named Concordia Cemetery. Rev. C.J. Otto Hanser, the current pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, preached the sermon. It was based on Daniel 12:1-3. He ended that sermon with the words, “Let us remember his peaceful end and follow him in his victorious faith until we see him again face to face in eternal joy and blessed life in Jesus Christ. Amen., that will be true for all of us, Hallelujah. Amen, Amen.”
Walther died a relatively poor man. Much of the money he received for his services and sales of his books was donated to charitable causes. His will can be viewed on Ancestry.com. Here is one of the more than 90 pages of documents that can be viewed there.
Five years after his death, a mausoleum was built at the site of Walther’s grave. The intention was to dedicate it on May 7, 1892, exactly 5 years after his death, but construction delays caused its dedication to occur on June 12th. Here is an early photograph of that structure.
Almost ten years ago, on the occasion of the 200th birthday of C.F.W. Walther, a short video was produced about Walther’s mausoleum. The person interviewed was our friend, David Fiedler. It is only one minute long and worth a listen.
I now have referred to quite a few events in the life of Rev. C.F.W. Walther on this blog. Now, I have included his death and burial. Yet, I have not yet given him my “normal” treatment. Someday, I will have to follow C.F.W. Walther’s life including church and civil records like I usually do with other characters on this blog. When I do, I will have to describe his life from his cradle, which must have been located in this house in Germany….
…to his grave in St. Louis.
I was just about to publish this story when I decided to make a quick trek out to the Log Cabin College monument located in my pasture. The beautiful weather drew me out there. I will leave you with this photograph I took of this tribute to one of the men who was so instrumental in the establishment of Concordia Seminary. We remember his life…and death…today.
Daniel 12:3 “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.”