Martin Stephan, Last Stop in the Old World

Tthe first and second ships, the Copernicus & Johann Georg, sailed on Nov 3. On Nov. 12, the Republik followed. The Olbers, number four in the fleet, was scheduled to leave two days later. Still no Stephans in sight. Martin Jr. arrived in Bremen on the afternoon of Nov. 14, and joined his anxiously waiting father. They grabbed a boat to Bremerhaven, arriving that evening. They learned that the Olbers had been delayed four days by a police warrant for C.F.W. Walther (the first president of the Missouri Synod in 1847). He needed to get out of town fast. Under an assumed name, Walther jumped ship from the Amalia to the Copernicus, the first ship, thus evading arrest for kidnapping.
Since the police were unable to locate their fugitive on the Amalia’s register, they allowed the Olbers to leave Nov. On that day, Stephan issued a farewell address, from the “Old Lutheran Congregation” to those staying behind. In a moving goodbye, Stephan outlined the details of the trip, assuring the Saxons that he would “preserve . . . the faith of their fathers.” Little did he realize how a chorus of condemnation, indignation and wrath would later spewed out of Dresden newspapers. That the Saxons’ need to emigrate was judged to be preposterous and unwarranted reached Julia’s ears soon enough.
A schooner brig of just 190 cargo tonnage, the Amalia followed two hours after the Olbers. Carrying fifty-eight passengers, it capsized and sank amidst a fierce storm extending from Nov. 18 to December 1.
Twenty four adults, thirty five children and young people plus crew perished before reaching the Bay of Biscay. Over half of the passengers were from Dresden, including two students of Theology, one candidate for the ministry, a family of seven, a teacher, tradesmen and other occupations invaluable to the community during its early years. The Amalia, however, did not capsize off the coast of Southern France, as was first thought. According to the Office of Marine records in London, the Amalia was not sighted beyond the North Sea, just two days into the sailing. Later some would say that C.F.W. Walther was saved by God. So much for God’s will for those who drowned.

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