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The Early Presidents Collection

Identifier: S013
The bulk of these records consists of the correspondence recieved by the first four presidents of the Wisconsin Synod. The following men held the position and were elected pro-tempore:

Johannes Muehlhaeuser December 1849-June 1860

Johannes Bading June 1860-August 1863

Gotlieb Reim September 1863-June 1865

Wilhelm Striessguth June 1865 - June 1867

Johannes Bading June 1867 -June 1889.

The collection also consists of correspondence collected by from various personal collections as noted in Koehler's custodial history.


  • 1829 - 1878

Conditions Governing Use

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31 Box : 19 record cartons, 9 hollinger boxes, 3 cartons loose material.

Biographical / Historical

This inventory was compiled by Prof. J.P. Koehler as part of a research project for the Wisconsin Synod's fiftieth anniversary. The following description and inventory was prepared in Koehler's own hand and is found in a hand bound copy at the head of the collection. Koehler's preface:

Listing of the letters and documents which are found in the Archive of the Synod of Wisconsin and other States. In the year 1899, Professor Joh. Ph. Koehler, teacher at Northwestern University in Watertown, Wisconsin, recieved the Synod's invitation to complile the history of the Synod in order to celebrate the Synod's 50th anniversary the following year. To this end, he searched for the handwritten material which had been in the possession of the first two presidents of the Synod Muehlhaeuser and Bading, in the attics of the parsonages belowing to Grace and St. John's in Milwaukee. At his request, Pastor Joh. Muehlhaeuser of Rochester, New York also sent some items from his father's effects, among which was a description of his father's pilgrim-mission journey through Austrian lands in 1829. The [following] archive was thus brought together.

Custodial History

Koehler's collection was "rediscovered" nearly 80 years after it was completed. Two large wooden cases containing the entire collection were deposited, time and circumstance unknown, in the basement of the Northwestern College Library. Dr. Arnold Lehmann writes:

Soon after my retirement on Jan. 1, 1980 I decided to research and write a short book on the history of the music of the Wisconsin Synod, focusing on thehymnals and liturgical books used. I started researching the Gemeindeblatt, Northwestern Lutheran and other publications. It was then suggested to me that there were two boxes of old German papers, most in the old German cursive, in the "cage" in the basement of the college library. "Maybe something can be found therein." Apparently it was known at one time that these existed but nobody seemed to make anything of it. Prof. Alex Sitz, Prof. H. Vogel and Mrs. O. Schenk had translated a few of these, for what purpose I do not know. Their translations were filed alongside the origionals. To come to my experiences I found this Koehler Index and started looking through it. My first reaction, which excited me much, was to find the original minutes of the synodical meetings (now called Proceedings) in the first 50 or so pages. These included the first Constitution of the synod as composed by Muhlhauser. However, since I at that time had no interest in researching that topic, I continued to page on and found this index by Koehler. I went through the entire index copying down the information on each entry that contained any word referring to liturgy or music. I made photo copies of each of these entries, translated them and wrote my booklet which is still in manuscript form, because it was suggested that I wait with publication until the work with the new hymnal is completed. I then just casually began to scan the contents and came upon Muehlhaeuser's Pilgerreise - the account of his "vicarage" trip, which in translation is found in the WELS Historical Institute JOURNAL, Spring 1987. Further scanning brough one to Muehlhaeuser's history of the first 10 years of the existence of the Wisconsin Synod, foudn in translation in the WELS HI Journal, Fall 1985. Other interesting items were found, some of which have been published in various issues of the JOURNAL. There still are dozens of items that could be worked on with researching these letters. Lehmann took the lead in preparing the documents with translation assistance by Dr. John Sullivan and Prof. Erwin Schroeder. By 1995 translations of the documents up to April, 1864 were completed. Dr. Lehmann was then urged to devote his energy to transcription. By April of 2009 his transcriptions extended into April of 1870. Each processed document is foldered separately witha photocopied reproduction. Currently, all transcriptions and translations are kept in a separate series. The collection is housed at the WELS Synod Archives.

Repository Details

Part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Archives Repository