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 in childhood 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 we were on the sea where we saw nothing but the blue sky and water and ship in which we lived at that time. The last part of June 1834 we landed in New Orleans. Then we went up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Missouri which was then but a small town where we landed about third or fourth of July 1834. From there we traveled west by wagon and about sixty miles crossed the Missouri River at St. Charles, then west on the north side till we struck the line of Warren County, or near it, where we lived about seventeen years. The first night or two we camped in a sugar camp hut, and in the morning Father saw a great big grey wolf, sitting on a large box which served us as a door because there was no door to the hut. God protected us. Now what was to be done? Seed time was over. No money. Nothing could be done but work by the day. Wages were four to five bits a day. In the fall of this year, we moved to another house in the Missouri River Bottom. A log house, one room. The next summer we all took down very sick with the ague. No doctor at hand. No money to pay one if there had been. So we had to stand 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, and Father bought forty acres of congrefs land in the bluffs where it was more healthy. This was our bodily condition, but what was our spiritual condition? No schools, no church, forty miles to fifty miles. This is the beginning of my life, children. Don’t be ashamed of me. Remember what God has done for me and you too. Serve the God of your grandparents and your parents too and you will do well. At the time all was English with few Pennsylvania Dutch mixed. But by and by more Germans came over from the Old Country and settled near us. About this time schools were established, 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 gof rom 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? We could not buy better schools. Had no money. Went four winters, each winter about three months. That was about all the school I ever had. All the rest I know I learned at home, a self-made man. O, what a poor one? Corn sold for ten to fifteen cents a bushel. Smoked ham and shoulders two to three cents a pound. We had by this time plenty to live on, but O, our poor souls. My mother would work and weep, a week or two at a time. Then again she would sing old German church hymns. Then at such times I would ask her, “Mother, why do you cry?” “O, child,” she would say, “I can’t tell you.” Then again she would say to Father, “I know I am called to be saved.” “Yes” Father would answer, “and to be damned.” There I first heard about ordination. I could not understand it, that God should have created some people to be saved and others to be damned. My parents were reformed or same as Presbyterian. Now days early I was taught in the bible and that the bible was true. Heaven and earth might pass away, but the bible would remain forever. About this time when I was fifteen years old, I went away from home to find work. I went to St. Louis. It was the first time I left home to work out.
Mother and Father both exhorted 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 work in 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. So I did not become a drunkard, thank God. In the fall I took sick, typhoid fever I think it was. I had to leave St. Louis, went home. Got very sick. Parent’s doctors 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 the future,. O, how dark it was. I saw no light, not a bit. Then I turned over in bed and prayed to God to spare my life, and I would do better. After, I made a solemn vow to God that I would do better if he would let me get well again. I asked 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 those prayers we read out of that prayer book are for well persons, and to read for sick, Father don’t like to do.” I kept on praying as best I could and knew him. And God heard my prayers and I recovered my health. But now came a small voice, “Do better.” But how could I do better? At last a thought struck me, I would kneel down before my bed, before I lay down at night, and pray.
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, was born 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. She was to be a good helpmate, for which I have often thanked God. Then in the spring of 1853 we started out for our field of labor. Got there all right, found a few members, six in all. Stayed with them one and one half years — two years being the church rule. We had eighteen conversions. Built a brick church thirty-four feet by forty-four feet all paid for except $300, and left twenty-four members in good standing. Here came a little baby girl to stay. We named 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 only one year. I could not stand the lake air. While here we had another increase of the family — a boy. We called him Adolph Henry. A very good little son. Would not cry even if hungry. We had a blessed year. Many conversions and additions to the church. Thank God we had a great victory at camp meeting which I shall never forget. 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 proceeded to Dubuque, Iowa where I found my appointment ten miles west Charles Mount Circuit. Preached Sunday, then on Monday I went back to Galena and got my family. We found a log church and a log parsonage with two rooms. Glad to find that. There was another preaching place thirty miles west of this place I feared, because there were some members that protest sanctification (or holing’s). O, what should I preach them? But to my surprise, they were very kind and friendly. I preached them repentance, faith in Jesus Christ as our savior, justification by faith, then sanctification. 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 had appointed for that purpose, to all pray for me. I wanted that blessing, need edit, could not do without it. There and then, God heard our prayers and filled me with himself, his love and a full cup. Yes, a full cup indeed, thank God. Here too we had a blessed meeting and many were saved. I built two churches and had them paid for — bless the Lord, O, my soul and forget not what he has done for thou. Here again a son was born to us, but died when but a few days old. We buried him at Cincolo Mount, Iowa. He was laid to rest, his little body, and had an iron fence around his grave to protect it, and the infant spirit gone above where we will find him again. At this time Mother suffered very much. We had a bad house to live in. While I was out collecting one morning for a new church, which I was building, a big shower came up. O, how it did rain. I was away from home about four miles, but hurried home as fast as my horse would take me. I found Mama crying in bed. I took my umbrella, held it over her to keep her dry, for it was raining on her. Then I kindled a big fire. The whole house was swimming with water. God only saved her life, but she never recovered her usual health. It was a hard time. God only knows. After our time, two years were up, we had to move again. This time back to Freeport, Illinois. A place where the P. E. [Presiding Elder] said nobody wanted to go. Yes, it was a hard place. No house to live in could be found that suited. There were four appointments on this circuit. But even here we had our success. 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 you got?” “Yes,” she said, “all.” Well, I told the members if they did not do better in our support, I’d go and work on the street; I could not, would not, see my family starve. Then they did better. O, what hardships we went through, God only knows. Well, here again my health failed. I built a church 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 for besides. We had another increase in our family. A girl we called her Lydia. Here we stayed full time — two years. Then my health was very poor. I asked to be sent 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. I thanked God for it. Amen. Again success. Fifty to sixty-nine souls were converted 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 Louis Stepfan. Then we were called to St. Paul, First Church. That for me was a hard field of labor. In the city times hard. Banks and businesses failed. Depression all around. It was 1860, just before the war broke out. Here too, God blessed my labor. 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. At the 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 the church — fine. Minnie was converted in our house one Sunday afternoon. Mama and she were reading the Sunday School lesson and had prayed together. Here again we received another addition to our family — Emma we called her. Then we transferred to the Southwest German Conference, which had just been formed. There we had German Conferences. Before we all belonged to the English Conferences. This was 1864 — just at the end of the Civil War. I was made Presiding Elder of the Burlington District. Lived at Wapello, Iowa — my former home, from where we went preaching. Took care of Father and Mother Fiegenbaum. I worked the district two years. When I resumed, the work was too hard for me; I too felt that it was not my place. At about the end of these two years, another boy 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 Wapello circuit. I again was in my element and taught catechism school; had successful year. I was persuaded by one of my stewards to hold a protracted meeting in English in my German church. The Germans wanted me to. I did the best I could in three 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 stayed two years. And sometime in January — the twenty, 1868, another boy came to stay. 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 him Wilhelm Edward — in 1870.
Seated, from left toright: Friedrich Wilhelm Fiegenbaum, Louisa (Otto) Fiegenbaum, Wilhelm Edward Fiegenbaum. Standing, from left to right: Benjamin Friedrich Fiegenbaum, Theodore Johann Fiegenbaum, Lydia Maria Fiegenbaum, Adolph Heinrich Fiegenbaum, Louis Stepfan Fiegenbaum, Wilhelmine Christine Elizabeth Fiegenbaum, Emma Maria Fiegenbaum, Heinrich F. Fiegenbaum.
The Des Moines circuit was divided. 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 of labor. What they would give as my support amounted to perhaps $250 to $300. I moved 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 full work 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 members rebelled. Said it was again the discipline. This would be four years. The rule then was three years. But a large part of my field was new territory so I could stay. But the real cause was something else, which I could not control nor was it my fault. God knows. Then in the spring I was struck by paralysis of the head. I still preached as best I could. I had hard time fearing all the time, it might be any time. I had to take one of the boys with me to drive the team, if I should fall over. I, with the help of the boys and girls too, farmed the best we could. Nine children, all small and at home, but we lived through the first years as best we could. God was good. God was our friend and help in time of need. 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 make money — at least $1,000. All this time I tried to get reconciled with the rebellious people, but the devil would not let them. My health was poor again and we concluded to move away to get peace. Our daughter Minnie got married to Mathew Sexauer — a farmer.
We had to leave her. Then we moved to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa to educate our children. I did some farming, my health then recovered. I felt better then. Here the same old call again. Go preach the gospel; let others feed hogs and cattle. At about the same time lost the enjoyment of sanctification. Through all that trouble we went through there was this time held in the English M. E. Church a meeting of holiness evangelist which I attended. I asked him one night what advice he could give one who had lost it. He said “Sick it again.” One night, while my family was to church, the little ones asleep, I knelt to pray for renewal of the blessing. But here came the small but powerful voice, “If the Lord bless, will you go and preach to poor sinners?” I stopped. Voice again, “Will you go and preach?” Stopped again. What was to be done — preach or not. Be restored. Blessed with tears, I said “Preach, Lord, yes. If the church will offer me work.” There and than I was restored in the blessing of sanctification. Nothing was said about it till the summer when the P. E. asked me if 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. Eighty persons were converted and added to the church. In three years we had a good school. All went well. I recognized God’s hand in it all. Here at a camp meeting, Ben was converted. Henry, too, was moved to seek Jesus and later made an experience in Wathena, Kansas. Here it was in Wilton when Louis left us for the West with a Mr. Gabriel to start a drugstore. One day Mr. Gabriel asked me to let Louis go with him in partnership. Asked him in return, “What are you going 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 of medicine, and so equal sharing half and half.” Then I agreed to let Louis go. Catch — $300. So Louis went West, not yet twenty years old. They went to Geneva, Nebraska — has been there ever since. Some three to four years later Louis bought out his partner. Here too at Wilton, Adolph left home and went to Des 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 also left 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 stepped from a stable ruff, fell about ten to twelve feet, broke his right limb, hurt his body and left wrist. What a dreadful time we had. I was at a conference in Burlington, 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 the doctor set his limb. We parents had to set up with him day and night. Ben would have no one else. Well, he got well again in due time — five or six weeks. His right leg schant a little. At this time I had much trouble with wine biblens and lodge men. I dare not, will not now go into details. O, have mercy on these two classes. Some twenty were added to the church. Otherwise we had three good years. In the fall of 1882 we transferred to the West German Conference and were stationed at Wathena, Kansas. Here again God blessed my labors. Twenty-nine converted here. Henry and Ed were converted here of which they gave a clean testimony. In the fall of 1884 we left Wathena and moved to Eudora, Kansas. Here were 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. Emma left us and was married to Jacob Miller from Wathena. In 1886 we moved to Clay Center, Kansas. Found the church in good condition. Good house to live in. Good public schools. Thirty-one joined the church. We stayed but two years. The boys go 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 success here. Eight were added to the church. At the end of four years, we bade them farewell. 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 we labored in Kansas. 1892 we went to this place, Oregon. Labored here four years with some success. There was very little German material here; therefore, could not do much. In the year 1896 I again took sick with La grippe or Malaria Fever and was past 66 years old. I could not keep up the work. Half work I might have done, but such was not to be had. So at conference in Sedalia, Missouri, August1896, I asked for super an nuated relation and was granted my conference. Before conference 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 my prayers and let me know. Now — my dear children, let this be my last general letter and statement to you all. You may think a long letter. May not be interesting to you, but to me. You see by this your whereabouts, what stock you sprung from. Not to be ashamed of it, if God honored us as parents and blessed our 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 hands of your mother. What you are, you thank her for, and God. I was always busy in the church work and its affairs. One dying request I have yet. Keep away from lodges. It will at last pull down into hell. Please, my sons, with the home and church is all you need. Grant me this request before I die.
Your Father in Love, F.W. Fiegenbaum.
REV. and MRS. FIEGENBAUM CELEBRATE
50 YEARS of MARRIAGE