Saxon Emigration in Historical Context

To understand Martin Stephan’s life and the SE story, we’ll first look at the web of historical/confessional/geographic/political conflagrations in Central Europe shaping German church history, the desire for religious freedom and the eventual founding of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS).
The SE came at a highpoint in 19th Century German emigration. From 1830-1850 Germans leaving for America swelled to 600,000. Reports of a Promised Land where people’s worries would disappear made their way back to Germany from relatives and friends who had left. America, they wrote, would represent deliverance from what ever beset them. Neighbors, people reasoned, were fleeing, why not us? The hope of a new world, the gold rush, expansive space, a better future and, our interest here: the search for religious freedom. Indeed, by the late 1830’s, many Germans chose to emigrate in groups to America for just this purpose.
If the new home in America failed to meet their hopes, then blame, anger and retribution ensued. Bewilderment, loss of homeland and the strangeness of a new culture often led to disappointment and frustration. Immigrant groups projected of their stress onto a scapegoat–usually the head or elected leader–with charges of adultery, mismanagement of money, deceit or theft. It also aroused revolt, posse mentality, and in the case of the Saxon Emigration of 1838, violence and outlaw behavior.

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