Martin Stephan and New Orleans

The brief layover in New Orleans was an eye opener. Within a month or more, the Saxons were introduced to an entirely new world. Many of them had suffered from the oppressive heat of the Caribbean–their dark coats and attire much more appropriate to a walk in freezing cold Germany. Nobody spoke English. Their mighty fortress of Lutheranism, hermetically sealed from the outside world in Saxony, was now exposed to a bewildering show of exotic foods, sights, tastes and smells. Outdoor vendors hawked pineapples and papaya replacing potatoes and pfannkuchen. Chicken broth and dark bread ceded to chicken gumbo and beignets. Names like Prejean, Brussard, Thibodeaux, replaced Fürbringer, Walther or Marbach.
Blacks bought and sold openly in public–Indians wrapped in blankets with rifles slung over their shoulders–the chaos of a melting pot town disturbed the German sense of order. New Orleans was “demoralized,” wrote one Saxon in a letter back home.
When the colony leaders debarked, power struggles shifted. Who would rule the expenditures, make allocations and keep decent records? There was a credit fund, an idea of Martin Stephan from which poorer passengers could borrow money at 8%, and more wealthy member contribute money in return for interest. at 10%. In addition, there was a common treasury, which paid colony expenses. Both sources risked depletion by greedy, dishonest, conniving men.
Fears also grew that the Amalia would never arrive, and the Saxons would have to leave for St. Louis without their friends and fellow Lutherans–devastating to morale. Even as late as Jan 30, at Stephan’s behest, Vehse instructed that money was to bet left behind with a ministerial candidate should the Amalia arrive.
Indeed, the smallest ship was chosen to carry items precious to the community: a pipe organ, musical instruments, a grand piano, part of a library, and hymnals for the entire colony. (The hymns sung on the Olbers were written specifically for the voyage.) This calamity added further anguish to the fear about the Amalia. How to replace the lost hymnals? Martin Luther had introduced congregational singing and hymnals for use in worship and home, containing his own and those of other Saxon contemporaries. Later, hymns by JS Bach and others were added. If these hymnals were gone it would be a devastating loss.
And the Organ? German Pipe Organs played an important role in church, both for their wonderful sound, and to accompany the congregation. Singing together with the organ gave comfort, inspiration and healing. Church services were now barren of all these treasures, further contributing to their sadness, and eventual rebellion.
Doubts arose about the emigration grew daily: several demanded their money back, doctors wanted to be paid for their work–even the one whose son had stolen watches. Constant worry sapped everyone’s energy. Infighting, sniping and finger pointing arose, particularly towards those in charge. Who was responsible for this mess? Would we ever make it to our promised destination? They were not happy campers.

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