A Statement of Life and Work ofFriedrich Wilhelm Fiegenbaum, a Minister of the Gospel
I was born in KirchenspielLengerich Grafschaft Tekelburg Bezirk Muenster Koenigsreich Preussen Germany,the 11th of April 1830. I am the fourth child and third son. I was baptized inchildhood and received the name of Friedrich Wilhelm. When I was four years old,we left the old country, set sail for New Orleans, North America. Nine weeks wewere on the sea where we saw nothing but the blue sky and water and ship inwhich we lived at that time. The last part of June 1834 we landed in NewOrleans. Then we went up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Missouri which wasthen but a small town where we landed about third or fourth of July 1834. Fromthere we traveled west by wagon and about sixty miles crossed the Missouri Riverat St. Charles, then west on the north side till we struck the line of WarrenCounty, or near it, where we lived about seventeen years. The first night or twowe camped in a sugar camp hut, and in the morning Father saw a great big greywolf, sitting on a large box which served us as a door because there was no doorto the hut. God protected us. Now what was to be done? Seed time was over. Nomoney. Nothing could be done but work by the day. Wages were four to five bits aday. In the fall of this year, we moved to another house in the Missouri RiverBottom. A log house, one room. The next summer we all took down very sick withthe ague. No doctor at hand. No money to pay one if there had been. So we had tostand it without help or sympathy of anyone but God. After cold weather came,the ague stopped. After some four years we moved south about twelve miles, andFather bought forty acres of congrefs land in the bluffs where it was morehealthy1. This was our bodilycondition, but what was our spiritual condition? No schools, no church, fortymiles to fifty miles. This is the beginning of my life, children. Don’t beashamed of me. Remember what God has done for me and you too. Serve the God ofyour grandparents and your parents too and you will do well. At the time all wasEnglish with few Pennsylvania Dutch mixed. But by and by more Germans came overfrom the Old Country and settled near us. About this time schools wereestablished, English. Then the rule was the child that came first recited first.Three months school in year in winter was about all. Then came a German schoolteacher over from the Old Country and we started a German school. I had to gofrom two to five miles to get there. O, how poor the people were; not only we,others no better than us. I went to school in wooden schools, think of that? Wecould not buy better schools. Had no money. Went four winters, each winter aboutthree months. That was about all the school I ever had. All the rest I know Ilearned at home, a self-made man. O, what a poor one? Corn sold for ten tofifteen cents a bushel. Smoked ham and shoulders two to three cents a pound. Wehad by this time plenty to live on, but O, our poor souls. My mother would workand weep, a week or two at a time. Then again she would sing old German churchhymns. Then at such times I would ask her, “Mother, why do you cry?””O, child,” she would say, “I can’t tell you.” Then againshe would say to Father, “I know I am called to be saved.””Yes” Father would answer, “and to be damned.” There I firstheard about ordination. I could not understand it, that God should have createdsome people to be saved and others to be damned. My parents were reformed orsame as Presbyterian. Now days early I was taught in the bible and that thebible was true. Heaven and earth might pass away, but the bible would remainforever. About this time when I was fifteen years old, I went away from home tofind work. I went to St. Louis. It was the first time I left home to work out.
Mother and Father bothexorted me to fear God, serve him. Father gave me his hand and said “Fredrich,have God before you and in your heart,” which I never forgot. I found workin a brickyard, and board in a common boarding house where there was a bar-room.I was much tempted to drink with the company, but God helped me to withstand. SoI did not become a drunkard, thank God. In the fall I took sick, typhoid fever Ithink it was. I had to leave St. Louis, went home. Got very sick. Parent’sdoctors all had given me up to die. I heard them say so, in the room I was in.Then I thought — O, where am I going if now I died? I tried to look into thefuture,. O, how dark it was. I saw no light, not a bit. Then I turned over inbed and prayed to God to spare my life, and I would do better. After, I made asolemn vow to God that I would do better if he would let me get well again. Iasked Mother why they did not pray mornings and nights, as they had done before.She broke out in tears and said, “O, Friedrich, you are so sick, and thoseprayers we read out of that prayer book are for well persons, and to read forsick, Father don’t like to do.” I kept on praying as best I could and knewhim. And God heard my prayers and I recovered my health. But now came a smallvoice, “Do better.” But how could I do better? At last a thoughtstruck me, I would kneel down before my bed, before I lay down at night, andpray.
That I did, so this act led me to the conclusion of the family I worked for. That next or same winter following my sickness, there came in the neighborhood a German Methodist Preacher by the name of Franz Horstman. He was a man of God. Started a protracted meeting, many were converted. In February 19, 1846 I attended it, and on Sunday, February 19, perhaps midnight, I found Jesus as my personal Savior. I was saved from my sins. Then that Sunday before I was converted, I joined the M. E. Church. O, never doubted my conversion, never backslide. For all this I thank God, who by his power kept me, hallelujah. I was happy the next morning. O, how everything had changed. I thought the sun had never been so pretty as now. Everything was new, I was new. Born again. I never doubted it. The devil tried to make me doubt; but no, I knew too well. I praised God today that I had such a clean experience. Thank God, amen. Soon after this time the preacher made me a class leader of a class seven miles away from home, where I went two Sundays out of three to hold class meetings. Then I was made an exhorter, and before two years was made local preacher. Had to lead some kind of meeting nearly every Sunday. Then I got afraid that the church would make me a regular preacher. I did not want to be a traveling preacher. Two reasons why not: I saw by this time that preachers were poorly paid, perhaps $150 to $300 a year; and was kind of a beggar life I would work, was willing to work and make an honest living. Second reason was the responsibility was too great. Therefore, I refused to go. Said “No.” I felt the call from God, as God had done so much for me. I should do something for him and his kingdom, yes. Then came the third reason and a strong one. I was not educated for the ministry. Therefore, “No — No.” About this time my parents sold out in Warren County, Missouri. Moved north to Iowa. We settled at Wapello, Louisa County Line. We found a small class of German Methodist, but in bad shape. They were glad of our coming. All seemed to rejoice. Yes, did rejoice. We had good times in meetings for which we thanked God. We rented a farm and after the crop was planted and tended, I went about to look up a suitable place for us to locate permanently; but could not find a better place than Wapello for farming. So Father bought land. So did I determine to be a farmer. Still had the call, that small voice — “go and preach the gospel.” Again got very sick. The devil was after me. God permitted it. Then again I promised God, if he and his church wanted me yet, I would go. I got well. At that time young preachers must not get married before they had successfully worked in the ministry two years. But I had found a girl that I liked and got married. So now I was safe not to go. The church would not want me with a wife. But, about Christmas time came a letter from the President Elder that I must go to Peoria, Illinois and preach for those people else they might be lost and I would be responsible. O, what would I do now? It was a good thing that I had told my girl, now my wife, if God and the church wanted me to go preach, if she would be willing to go with me, she said “Yes.” So I did get married on the 11th of April 1852, when I was 22 years old.
Her name was Louisa Otto, wasborn in Hanover, Germany, August 13, 1833; now nineteen and one-half years old.A young couple indeed, both converted and members of the German M. E. Church.Well, we rented a farm, raised one crop, made about $200 besides our living. Shewas to be a good helpmate, for which I have often thanked God. Then in thespring of 1853 we started out for our field of labor. Got there all right, founda few members, six in all. Stayed with them one and one half years — two yearsbeing the church rule. We had eighteen conversions. Built a brick churchthirty-four feet by forty-four feet all paid for except $300, and lefttwenty-four members in good standing. Here came a little baby girl to stay. Wenamed her Wilhelmine Christine Elizabeth. When our time wasup we moved to Clear Lake, Indiana, forty miles south of Chicago in Lake County,Indiana. Here we stayed onlyone year. I could not stand the lake air. While here we had another increase ofthe family — a boy. We called him Adolph Henry. A very good little son. Wouldnot cry even if hungry. We had a blessed year. Many conversions and additions tothe church. Thank God we had a great victory at camp meeting which I shall neverforget. Well, from here we again crossed the state of Illinois in the fall of1855 with a horse and buggy. The baby Adolph had the chills every day on hismother’s lap. We started Monday morning and the next Friday we got to Galena,Illinois where my brother Henry lived. I left my wife and children and proceededto Dubuque, Iowa where I found my appointment ten miles west Charles MountCircuit. Preached Sunday, then on Monday I went back to Galena and got myfamily. We found a log church and a log parsonage with two rooms. Glad to findthat. There was another preaching place thirty miles west of this place Ifeared, because there were some members that protest santification (or holings).O, what should I preach them? But to my surprise, they were very kind andfriendly. I preached them repentence, faith in Jesus Christ as our savior,justification by faith, then santification. I told them and the bible said so,but I have not got it. I asked them one evening in a prayer meeting, which I hadappointed for that purpose, to all pray for me. I wanted that blessing, neededit, could not do without it. There and then, God heard our prayers and filled mewith himself, his love and a full cup. Yes, a full cup indeed, thank God. Heretoo we had a blessed meeting and many were saved. I built two churches and hadthem paid for — bless the Lord, O, my soul and forget not what he has done forthou. Here again a son was born to us, but died when but a few days old. Weburied him at Cincolo Mount, Iowa. He was layed, his little body, and had an iron fence around his grave to protectit, and the infant spirit gone above where we will find him again. At this timeMother suffered very much. We had a bad house to live in. While I was outcollecting one morning for a new church, which I was building, a big shower cameup. O, how it did rain. I was away from home about four miles, but hurried homeas fast as my horse would take me. I found Mama crying in bed. I took myumbrella, held it over her to keep her dry, for it was raining on her. Then Ikindled a big fire. The whole house was swimming with water. God only saved herlife, but she never recovered her usual health. It was a hard time. God onlyknows. After our time, two years were up, we had to move again. This time backto Freeport, Illinois. A place where the P. E. [Presiding Elder] said nobodywanted to go. Yes, it was a hard place. No house to live in could be found thatsuited. There were four appointments on this circuit. But even here we had oursuccess. One time when I came home, Mama set the table and put on what she had– dry bread and black coffee. I looked at it and said, “Is that all yougot?” “Yes,” she said, “all.” Well, I told the membersif they did not do better in our support, I’d go and work on the street; I couldnot, would not, see my family starve. Then they did better. O, what hardships wewent through, God only knows. Well, here again my health failed. I built achurch here too in the city of Freeport. Three male members: one a wagon maker,one a shoe maker and a lame tailor. But got the church built and paid forbesides. We had another increase in our family. A girl we called her Lydia. Herewe stayed full time — two years. Then my health was very poor. I asked to besent north to Minnesota. In the fall of 1859, I was sent to Salem, Minnesota –eighty miles south of St. Paul. A large circuit. Five appointments. A sick man,broken down, but the change of climate and our blessing helped wonderfully. Ithanked God for it. Amen. Again success. Fifty to sixty-nine souls wereconverted and added to the church. The church built up the Holy faith in Jesus.One year on this circuit. Here again a son was born to us. We named him LouisStepfan. Then we were called to St. Paul, First Church. That for me was a hardfield of labor. In the city times hard. Banks and businesses failed. Depressionall around. It was 1860, just before the war broke out. Here too, God blessed mylabor. A good number. Twenty were added to the church. Here we stayed two years.Another son came to us to stay. We named him Theodore John. Atthe end of two years we moved to Woodbury — eight miles northeast of St. Paul.A circuit of six appointments, and for more money. I started over in Wisconsin.Here again we stayed our full time — two years. Thirty-five were added to thechurch — fine. Minnie was converted in our house one Sunday afternoon. Mama andshe were reading the Sunday School lesson and had prayed together. Here again wereceived another addition to our family — Emma we called her. Then wetransferred to the Southwest German Conference, which had just been formed.There we had German Conferences. Before we all belonged to the EnglishConferences. This was 1864 — just at the end of the Civil War. I was madePresiding Elder of the Burlington District. Lived at Wapello, Iowa — my formerhome, from where we went preaching. Took care of Father and Mother Fiegenbaum. Iworked the district two years. When I resumed, the work was too hard for me; Itoo felt that it was not my place. At about the end of these two years, anotherboy came to our home to stay with us. We named him Benjamin Fredrick (B.F.).Grandma said that was the last one. This was 1866. Then I took the Wapellocircuit. I again was in my element and taught catechism school; had successfulyear. I was persuaded by one of my stewards to hold a protracted meeting inEnglish in my German church. The Germans wanted me to. I did the best I could inthree weeks. Five were converted, but had to baptize the majority by immersion– something I had never before done, but I did it. Well, as the people said.Then next year twenty more converted and also some Germans. So here we stayedtwo years. And sometime in January — the twenty, 1868, another boy came tostay. We called him Henry. In the fall of 1869, we went to Des Moines, Iowa.this was a hard field of labor. I wish today I had never seen it as my charge.We stayed two years. Fifty-one members added to the church, and old debts of$1,500 was collected and paid off. The last boy came to our home. We called himWilhelm Edward — in 1870.
Seated, from left toright: Friedrich Wilhelm Fiegenbaum, Louisa (Otto) Fiegenbaum,Wilhelm Edward Fiegenbaum. Standing, from left to right: BenjaminFriedrich Fiegenbaum, Theodore Johann Fiegenbaum, Lydia Maria Fiegenbaum, AdolphHeinrich Fiegenbaum, Louis Stepfan Fiegenbaum, Wilhelmine Christine ElizabethFiegenbaum, Emma Maria Fiegenbaum, Heinrich F. Fiegenbaum.
The Des Moines circuit wasdivided. My health failed again. I was not able to take charge and do full work.For that reason I took Polk City and a settlement appointment as my field oflabor. What they would give as my support amounted to perhaps $250 to $300. Imoved in a small house on the open prairie eleven miles north of Des Moines –160 acres which I had bought as a home as I did not think I could ever do fullwork again. I again took up three new appointments; had then five appointments.The first year all went well. But after conference, part of the church membersrebelled. Said it was again the discipline. This would be four years. The rulethen was three years. But a large part of my field was new territory so I couldstay. But the real cause was something else, which I could not control nor wasit my fault. God knows. Then in the spring I was struck by paralysis of thehead. I still preached as best I could. I had hard time fearing all the time, itmight be any time. I had to take one of the boys with me to drive the team, if Ishould fall over. I, with the help of the boys and girls too, farmed the best wecould. Nine children, all small and at home, but we lived through the firstyears as best we could. God was good. God was our friend and help in time ofneed. That second year was better. We had good crops — made hay and sold it.Stock cleared $300. I did not preach regular, but we had good prospect to makemoney — at least $1,000. All this time I tried to get reconciled with therebellious people, but the devil would not let them. My health was poor againand we concluded to move away to get peace. Our daughter Minnie got married toMathew Sexauer — a farmer.
We had to leave her. Then wemoved to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa to educate our children. I did some farming, myhealth then recovered. I felt better then. Here the same old call again. Gopreach the gospel; let others feed hogs and cattle. At about the same time lostthe enjoyment of sanctification. Through all that trouble we went through therewas this time held in the English M. E. Church a meeting of holiness evangelistwhich I attended. I asked him one night what advice he could give one who hadlost it. He said “Sick it again.” One night, while myfamily was to church, the little ones asleep, I knelt to pray for renewal of theblessing. But here came the small but powerful voice, “If the Lord bless,will you go and preach to poor sinners?” I stopped. Voice again, “Willyou go and preach?” Stopped again. What was to be done — preach or not. Berestored. Blessed with tears, I said “Preach, Lord, yes. If the church willoffer me work.” There and than I was restored in the blessing ofsanctification. Nothing was said about it till the summer when the P. E. asked meif I would take work again. He had need of me. “Well,” I said,”If you give me a place where I can school my children.” He said yes,he had a place, so it was settled again, to go out to preach. I did go –Wilton, Iowa in 1876. Here again God wonderfully blessed my labors. Eightypersons were converted and added to the church. In three years we had a goodschool. All went well. I recognized God’s hand in it all. Here at a campmeeting, Ben was converted. Henry, too, was moved to seek Jesus and later madean experience in Wathena, Kansas. Here it was in Wilton when Louis left us forthe West with a Mr. Gabriel to start a drugstore. One day Mr. Gabriel asked meto let Louis go with him in partnership. Asked him in return, “What are yougoing to do with him, he don’t understand anything about drugs.” He said”I do, and will learn him. Louis can talk German, against my knowledge ofmedicine, and so equal sharing half and half.” Then I agreed to let Louisgo. Catch — $300. So Louis went West, not yet twenty years old. They went toGeneva, Nebraska — has been there ever since. Some three to four years laterLouis bought out his partner. Here too at Wilton, Adolph left home and went toDes Moines to work farm which we left. Have it yet. Where we — Mother and I –get bread and butter in our old age. Thank God that we have that yet. Lydia alsoleft home. Went to Ankeny. Made her home with Minnie. So did Theodore, stay herein Wilton to teach a country school. Emma was converted here in English church.Thank God. And we moved to Canton, Missouri in 1880 where we stayed three years.Had good times. Twenty were added to the church. Here it was when Ben steppedfrom a stable ruff, fell about ten to twelve feet, broke his right limb, hurthis body and left wrist. What a dreadful time we had. I was at a conference inBurlington, Iowa at the time. Mama with smaller children at home alone with him.I was called by telegram. Found Ben in that condition. Mother weeping. Then thedoctor set his limb. We parents had to set up with him day and night. Ben wouldhave no one else. Well, he got well again in due time — five or six weeks. Hisright leg schant a little. At this time I had much trouble with wine biblens andlodge men. I dare not, will not now go into details. O, have mercy on these twoclasses. Some twenty were added to the church. Otherwise we had three goodyears. In the fall of 1882 we transferred to the West German Conference and werestationed at Wathena, Kansas. Here again God blessed my labors. Twenty-nineconverted here. Henry and Ed were converted here of which they gave a cleantestimony. In the fall of 1884 we left Wathena and moved to Eudora, Kansas. Herewere promised good school. Yes, houses good but no good schools for my boys.Stayed two years. Forty joined the church. Had a very good catechism class. Emmaleft us and was married to Jacob Miller from Wathena. In 1886 we moved to ClayCenter, Kansas. Found the church in good condition. Good house to live in. Goodpublic schools. Thirty-one joined the church. We stayed but two years. The boysgo on with their studies. Ben in Pharmacy; Henry and Ed in General Education.Lawrence, Kansas was offered me but only $400 support. What would we do, acceptor go and live on part of our pocket fund? 1888 til 1891. We had some successhere. Eight were added to the church. At the end of four years, we bade themfarewell. I was asked to go to Topeka, Kansas, but on account of lodge members,I refused to go. Oregon, Missouri was my next appointment. For ten years welabored in Kansas. 1892 we went to this place, Oregon. Labored here four yearswith some success. There was very little German material here; therefore, couldnot do much. In the year 1896 I again took sick with Lagrippe or Malaria Feverand was past 66 years old. I could not keep up the work. Half work I might havedone, but such was not to be had. So at conference in Sedalia, Missouri, August1896, I asked for super annuated relation and was granted my conference. Beforeconference I prayed to God to let me know what to do. This is your last year,and I am satisfied, I can rest, quit, have no doubt about it. God answered myprayers and let me know. Now — my dear children, let this be my last generalletter and statement to you all. You may think a long letter. May not beinteresting to you, but to me. You see by this your whereabouts, what stock yousprung from. Not to be ashamed of it, if God honored us as parents and blessedour work and kept us. Your Grandfather Fiegenbaum lived till 85,Grandpa Otto 85 or 86 and Grandma Fiegenbaum was 76when she died. Grandma Otto died some 20 to 30 years before. And now, may the Lord bless you. All your training has been mostly in the handsof your mother. What you are, you thank her for, and God. I was always busy inthe church work and its affairs. One dying request I have yet. Keep away fromlodges. It will at last pull down into hell. Please, my sons, with the home andchurch is all you need. Grant me this request before I die.
Your Father in Love, F.W. Fiegenbaum.