Life of Bishop Martin Stephan, Part 1

To prepare for the prose blog, I traced Martin Stephan’s path from birth to death, beginning with his life as a boy in Northeast Moravia. By dead of winter, sister Judith Stephan, Sue Moore and I drove to his home town Stramberg, (CZ). The sun rose at 8:30 a.m. and set at 3:30 pm. Cold fog rolled over the mountains. We saw the famous Sipka cave near Stramberg, where Martin and his sister Wilhelmina hid for two days from marauding Jesuits looking for Lutherans to kill. What must they have felt, in grief over the death of their father? Shivering in the dark, not knowing if they would survive for their faith? And then, their terrifying escape by dead of night towards Breslau, (Poland)! For the next five years, Martin developed his skills as a journeyman weaver, it is thought, in that Silesian area. How did they get there? We travelled the 280 kilometers, about 175 miles between that lovely city and Stramberg. Not an easy trek for youngsters. They probably followed the Oder River.
In 1802 Martin was invited by pietists to enroll in St. Elizabeth’s Gymnasium in Breslau. Where his sister ended up no one knows for sure. Martin then was able to matriculate at the University of Halle in 1804 at the age of 27. After the Battle of Jena in 1806 Napoleon closed that University. Candidate Stephan then moved to the University in Leipzig, completing his doctorate in 1809. I have a copy of the Latin certificate. On a return visit to CZ, my then partner Julie and I located Haber, a little village in North Bohemia where Stephan accepted his first pastorate. The following year, he received a call to St. John’s Lutheran Church in Dresden I visited al three cities numerous times over the years, beginning with my student days in Germany.
From Dresden Martin exiled to America in 1838.I visited Chester, Il, where Martin Jr. served as pastor., and his father I went to Perry County several times as well, obtaining court records on Martin Stephan’s acquittal. And finally, in 1996 I attended a family reunion and visited nearby Trinity Lutheran Church in Prairie, IL where Martin Stephan Sr. was Pastor for a half year before his death in 1846 at age 69.
Thus, I had come full circle with Bishop Stephan’s odyssey. I had a clearer picture of him. The time now beckoned for me to dig deeper.

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