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The Lutheran Emissary

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

New Hanover Lutheran Church, prior to 1768

William Penn was the instigator of German immigration. As a zealous propagandist of the Quaker doctrines, he visited Germany in 1671 and 1677, focusing on regions where converts had been made by prior missionaries, such as Frankfort, Lübeck, and Embden. The proclamation of 1681 which invited settlers to Pennsylvania and stated the conditions of immigration, was immediately translated to German and circulated in Germany. In 1682, a Frankfort company purchased twenty-five thousand acres of land from Penn, and the next year the agent of this company, a young jurist named Pastorius, traveled with his family and a few associates to Pennsylvania. A town was laid out in 1685 and named Germantown (Germanopolis), which is now a part of Philadelphia. It was incorporated in 1689. Within five years, fifty houses had been built.

The German immigration began in earnest in 1708. Germany, as a country, did not exist. It consisted of many petty principalities, whose rulers wielded arbitrary powers. In addition, the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) had depleted some area populations and property by as much as sixty percent. While the northern, eastern, and central parts of Germany were able to rapidly recover from the ravages, the western portion and the Rhine Valley were kept in a constant state of desolation either from actual war or the threat of it. These provinces were also made the battlegrounds or the subjects of France and, therefore, subject to levies of money and cruel conscriptions. This was especially true for the Rhenish Palatinate. It was the object of the rapacity and cruelty of the unprincipled King Louis XIV and his general, Turenne. The population also suffered severe winters and crops failures.

Johann Daniel Schöner was born on 24 Jan 1686 in Ehrstädt, a village in the south of the Rhein-Neckar district in Baden-Württemberg, the son of the mayor, Hans Adam and Eva Maud (Urel) Schöner. He married Maria Catharina, daughter of Jörg Horn on 17 May 1707 in Ehrstädt. They had five children before emigrating to America around 1717. He had definitely arrived by 1723, when he signed a petition for a road from Limerick Township to Oley, PA.

Before 1720, the number of Lutherans who settled in Pennsylvania was very small. The church at Falckner's Swamp, Montgomery County, afterward called New Hanover, had been formed and in 1719 had received the gift of fifty acres of land from John Henry Sprogel of the Frankfort Company.

The emigration to Pennsylvania occurred in successive waves, first various German sects, such as the Quakers, the Mennonites, the Dunkers, etc., then the Reformed, and lastly the Lutherans. The Lutherans not only came from the Palatinate, but in large numbers from Württemberg, Hesse-Darmstadt, and Elsass. Those that arrived were, as a rule, desirous of having their religious wants provided for, but were without pastors and teachers, and were too poor to send to Europe for them.

On 25 September, Reverend Johann Christian Schultze arrived in America aboard the "Loyal Judith" and immediately took charge of the three congregations in Philadelphia, New Hanover, and Providence (Trappe). However, he did not remain long in America. A joint effort was made by the three congregations to collect funds at home and abroad, to obtain pastors, and to erect substantial churches and schoolhouses for the respective congregations. For that purpose, Pastor Schultze and two laymen, Daniel Weisinger and Johann Daniel Schöner, were sent to solicit the necessary monies from fellow Christians in England, Holland and Germany.

They were provided with subscription books so that the names of the benefactors could be recorded therein, as well as the amount of their charitable contributions. They also received a certificate of authority, written in Latin, and endorsed by Patrick Gordon, the Governor of the Province of Pennsylvania and signed 1 May 1733.

This must have been an incredible honor to be selected for such an important and prestigious mission, which must have been a reflection of his status in the church and the community.

Rev. Friedrich Michael Ziegehagen (1694 - 1776)

They departed on their journey, making their first stop in London. They were most likely cordially received by Reverend Friedrich Michael Ziegenhagen, the German chaplain at the court of King George II. He highly endorsed the effort, but expressed his distress at his inability to provide any important relief.

However, the results were not very encouraging. Johann Daniel and Weisinger returned to America, but with very limited amounts. Schultze seems to have abused the confidence reposed in him and applied to his own uses the funds collected by him under the above quoted authority. So notorious and disgraceful did his conduct become that at last he was arrested at Augsburg in March 1736, and deprived of his credentials and license to collect money.

Weisinger was also severely criticized for his conduct and his character was enveloped in infamy. On his return from Germany, he seemed to have large sums of money for investment in private enterprises. As a result, suspicions and accusations that he had used some of the collected funds for himself were circulated. These were never proven. Weisinger purchased five town lots, plus suburban acreage in the new town of Richmond in Henrico County, Virginia. He eventually moved to an area just below Richmond, leaving all controversy from his mission with the Pennsylvania congregations behind.

However, Johann Daniel received no criticism. He traveled as far as London. It is unknown why he did not proceed to Europe with his colleagues. Maybe he had become aware of their unworthiness at this stage of the journey. He was viewed as a man of conscience and spirit, devoted to his Church, willing to undertake a hazardous journey on its behalf across the ocean. Johann Daniel Schöner died on 25 November 1741.

A long delay followed, but it was not a wasted effort. Representatives of the Pennsylvania congregations continued to write to Reverend Ziegenhagen and inquire about a pastor, following up on Johann Daniel's mission. Their pleas were finally answered when Reverend Heinrich Melchior Muhlenberg was sent to America. On 28 December 1742, Muhlenberg presented his credentials to Deputy-Governor George Thomas of Pennsylvania, who received him with the greatest kindness. The reverend that the Pennsylvania congregations so desperately needed had arrived.


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