Recently I’ve become interested in my family history, particularly as it relates to Lutheran pastors in the family.
My great-great grandfather was Friederich Wilhelm Gotthilf Matuschka. He was born on July 9, 1838 in Berlin, the son of Gotthilf Matthes Matuschka, a Wendish tailor. They had little money, and Wilhelm left home when he was sixteen years old.
At seventeen, he traveled to Liverpool, England where he met up with Pastor John Kilian’s expedition of Wendish Lutheran immigrants to Serbin, Texas. They were trying to escape religious persecution. Evidently his public school education served him well, as by the time he was seventeen years old, he was living independently and was qualified to work as a sailor and translator in German, Wendish, and English on the ship Ben Nevis. On the trip to Texas, he survived a significant cholera epidemic and other diseases that ravaged the ship and killed over 10% of the passengers.
He was part of the group that founded St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Serbin, TX, which is a principal example of Wendish architecture, and, notably, has its pulpit in the balcony of the church! This is also the first Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod congregation in Texas. Later, he returned to Germany via Queenstown, England (now Cobh, Ireland) and Hamburg.
Later he returned to New York City, where he became an instructor under Pr. T. J. Brohm at Trinity Lutheran Church on the Lower East Side, which is right on Thompson Square Park. Interestingly, Pr. Brohm was a candidate for ordination when traveling to America with Saxon Lutheran immigrants, including Prs. Martin Stephan (the first and only bishop of what became the LCMS) and C.F.W. Walther onboard the Olbers. Brohm and others eventually persuaded him to study theology, and he was sent to the “practical seminary” in St. Louis – this seminary later moved several times and is now Concordia Theological Seminary of Fort Wayne, IN. He graduated from seminary in 1861.
Friedrich served four congregations. He served at Christ Lutheran, Augusta, MO from 1861-1862, though it is uncertain whether he was ordained at that point. He is described both as “Vicar” and “called from the seminary.” This congregation is celebrating its 150th anniversary this week!
He was then called to be the first pastor of Immanuel Lutheran, Washington, MO, and was installed there on May 11, 1862. Some records indicate that he was ordained in this congregation by Fr. Ottmann and J. H. Doermann. He also married Louise Hoerisch in 1862, no doubt because it was quite unseemly for a seminary candidate to be married, but doubly unseemly for an ordained pastor to be unmarried. The congregation pledged $70 per year for his salary, plus $6 per month for teaching Sunday School! Sunday School was held in a rented two-story house, where Friedrich lived upstairs and classes were conducted on the main level. He served that congregation for just one year.
He then moved to New Melle, MO to pastor St. Paul Lutheran Church for 27 years. In 1890, he accepted a call to Holy Cross, Lake Creek, MO, where he served another 28 years. Friedrich Wilhelm Gotthilf Matuschka died of a stroke in Lake Creek, MO at 79 on March 4, 1918 after 57 years of ordained ministry.
- Matuschka, Ernest. Matushcka Family History. Dedication, pp. 3, 4.
- Texas Wendish Society. Website.
- Immanuel Lutheran Church, Washington, MO. History of Immanuel Lutheran Church and School.
- Der Lutheraner, vol. 18, p. 167.
- Numerous personnel records available through the Concordia Historical Institute.