A Course Blog by Amy Schmidgall

Category: Apostolic Christian Church

The Swiss

On Wednesday, September 20th, Joy and I met with a local Apostolic historian.  In the interview, he explained to us that the first Apostolic to arrive in Morris, Chris Luthi (who happened to be his grandfather) was Swiss, not German as we (I) had previously been lead to believe.  This explains why Apostolics are still commonly, and somewhat derogatorily,  referred to as “Switzers” (prounounced swīt-z/er/).  While it is true that Germans Apostolics did eventually begin migrating to Morris, this ignorance of migration origin sadly indicates a loss of personal history.

After meeting with Mr. Luthi, Joy and I went to the public library to check out their selection of state and local resources.   It was there that we found the book, “They Chose Minnesota.”   What a gem!  It is loaded with information on nearly every ethnic group existing within our state’s borders.  For our study, the chapters of greatest interest in this book include: The Mexicans, The Germans, and especially The Swiss.   Perhaps it is just me, but when I read history books such as this one, it is easy to skim the through the facts (dates, names, maps) without grasping much of their significance.  However, because we were so fortunate to receive a brief history on Apostolic Swiss before hand, the historical data in this chapter took on much greater meaning.  Three points which I found particularly interesting, especially in conjunction with our study was that: 1. “Swiss emigration was not a result of overpopulation,” 2. “Emigration was stimulated by ‘American letters’,” and 3. there were “Government subsidies to remove poor people.1”  As I read each of these statements I compared them to what we  have already been told about Swiss history and I also considered how they applied to the emigration of the Apostolic peoples.  It is unfortunately to think that previously, I probably would have passed over these ideas.  To me, this reinforces the fact that Joy and I need to be diligent in bringing this history to life verses presenting dry facts.

This idea also rang true as I perused the the chapter,The Mexicans. Interestingly what immediately stood out  to me was a reference to migrant workers following the Red River and Minnesota River in search of agricultural work2.  Every study I have read on early Minnesota migration refers to the use of rivers as a means of land settlement.  The concept of “water highways” is not new to me, however, while reading this section, its significance in our history and the pure uniqueness of the Minnesota landscape really struck me.  We ARE the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”… 11,842 to be exact, 6,564 rivers and streams, and 10.6 million acres of wetlands.  Even more interesting is that Minnesota’s waters flow outward in three different directions: north into Canada, east to the Atlantic, and south to the Gulf3.  It is little wonder why our state has such a rich migration history.

Perhaps I’m being a little biased…


1deGryse, Louis M. “The Swiss.” In They Chose Minnesota, 211-219. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1981.

2Diebold, Susan M. “The Mexicans.” In They Chose Minnesota, 92-107. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1981.

3“Lakes, rivers, and wetlands facts.” Lakes, rivers and wetlands: Minnesota DNR, www.dnr.state.mn.us/faq/mnfacts/water.html. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.


Coincidence or Calling?

Over the weekend I spent a fair amount time gathering information to help create a contract for our team project.   And as research goes, one thing led to another and I found myself watching, for the first time, the promotional video for this course.   As I was watching the 3+ minute video of Dr. Dunn and Dr. Turner explaining the over all course objective, I was struck by a comment made by Dr. Turner.   He said, “Frontier: where cultures come together… clash, collide, and cooperate — leaving an enduring mark on the culture.”   As I contemplated his statement, I remembered a  Facebook post from that day of a couple wishing their “amigos” a “Happy Mexican Day of Independence.”   What was special and important to me about the FaceBook post was that the couple who posted are not only part of the Apostolic church ministry but also members of the family who was, and continues to be,  involved in the hiring of Mexican immigrants.

What a great example of what Dr. Dunn was talking about!  “A frontier… Where cultures (German Apostolic and Mexican) clashcollide (sometimes they do) cooperate , but most importantly,  COME TOGETHER!”

Was seeing both these things on the same day a coincidence or a calling?


Samuel Froehlich

Froehlich, Samuel. Writings of S.H. Froehlich. Fairbury: The Heritage Center Foundation, 1978.

The Writings of S.H. Froehlich is a digitally combined collection of eleven translated books and letters written by Samuel Froehlich dating from 1832 until his death in 1856.  These writing are supplemented with introductions and historical background information regarding Froehlich and the Apostolic Christian Church.

The eleven books which make up this collection include:

  • Baptismal Truth
  • The Epistle of Paul, the Apostle, to the Ephesians
  • Evidence Demonstrating Truth of the Word of God
  • Meditations on the Epistle of John: Volume 1-4
  • Meditations on the Epistle to the Hebrews
  • The Epistle of Paul, the Apostle, to the Philippians
  • Observations on the Entire Revelation of St. John the Devine
  • The Mystery of Godliness and the Mystery of Ungodliness
  • Matrimony According to the Word of God
  • Old Testament Meditations
  • Other Collected Writings

Each book in the collection is comprised of Samuel Froehlich’s teachings and meditation on religious theory.

Thinking these books were probably just topical sermons, I almost dismissed this collection as valuable to our research.  Now, I’m glad I didn’t!  As I skimmed the 1799 pages of lectures and personal letters I immediately discovered that it was packed with a rich history detailing the lives, struggles, and persecutions of many fighting for religious freedom in the 1800’s throughout Europe.  Thankfully, the producers of the digital compilation created a well-organized index and PDF search capabilities which will allow us to find the information most relevant to our research.  Because our ultimate goal is to compare Apostolic and Mexican migration journeys, I decided to search the document for all instances of the words “America” and “persecution”.   Before diving into his personal writings, the editor gives the reader a brief introduction and outline of Froehlich’s life, including his personal trials of persecution.  Froehlich writes,

“As long as I kept silent I was left alone… (page 41).”

Also what I thought was particularly interesting was the editor’s account of Froehlich’s negative publicity,

“All newspapers brought reports so that Froehlich became known and was reviled throughout Switzerland. He had to flee from Thurgau and on his passport it was noted that he had been expelled as a sectarian. Now the police watched him wherever he went (page 42).”

Additionally, in a letter, dated January 12, 1856, Froehlich addressed the Brothers and Sisters in Strassburg stating,

“In Pest they have been notified that they have either to leave off from their faith or to emigrate to America (page 649).”

How does this specific history compare to the experiences of the Mexican migrant/migration?

There may be some who would say that the persecution and “forced” emigration of the Apostolics in Europe cannot compare to present day conditions of migration/immigration.  By even asking the question I feel I must tread gently.  Our histories, heritage, believes, and ideals are what makes us who we are.  They manifest within us great emotion, passion, pride and sometime anger or resentment.  In comparing migrations, I am in no way intending to negate nor minimize either groups migration histories.  But by comparing and asking,

“How are we alike?”

I hope empathy and understanding will supersede.  Froehlich speaks of having to remain silent in order to be left alone, negative public sentiment, being expelled, and being watched/monitored by police.  Whether we want to admit it or not, Latinos/Mexicans have, for years, endured this same persecution throughout the United States.  Is it possible for us as a community to look past national rhetoric and see each other for who we are as sojourners, past and present?  I believe I have already asked this question in a previous post and I’m sure I will ask it again down the road, but as history continues to be revealed, I hope that people will begin to see themselves and their history in a little different light.

Social Darwinism

The theory that persons, groups, and races are subject to the same laws of natural selection as Charles Darwin had perceived in plants and animals in nature. According to the theory, which was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the weak were diminished and their cultures delimited, while the strong grew in power and in cultural influence over the weak. Social Darwinists held that the life of humans in society was a struggle for existence ruled by “survival of the fittest.” These ideas were embraced by the turn-of-the-century elites confronting the challenges of how to transform their “backward,” underdeveloped nations into modern, “civilized” republic.


In the article “Is Everywhere Nowhere? Nomads, Nations, and the Immigrant Paradigm of the United States History,” author Donna Gabaccia makes and important reference to the theory of Social Darwinism.  She writes:

Curiously, however, the immigrant paradigm of American history is not a product of immigration history; it originates in a critique of racial nationalism within the Chicago School of Sociology. Rejecting social Darwinist notions that an over-heated melting pot was unable to absorb immigrants from eastern and southern Europe, the Chicago School documented immigrants’ rapid “straight-line” assimilation in American cities.

In previous studies of race and ethnicity in Latin America, I have examined the theory and effects of Social Darwinism from a historical standpoint, but I never thought to considered its connection with US’s immigrant paradigm.   For myself, I often get caught up in the study of “history” as facts and events without taking the time to relate it to the present.   The idea of “survival of the fittest” is still alive and strong in our society and for many is quite ingrained in our subconscious thought.   The spread of Social Darwinism plays a huge role in how we compare the nations, lives, culture, and migration of non-Western European nations (primarily) in to our own.   In moving forward in our local study of migration I feel it will benefit us to consider the theory of Social Darwinism in our community.

  • What role did Social Darwinism play in the formation of Stevens County?
  • Why is the question of Social Darwinism important to our research?
  • Does this theory impact/exist in our community today ?
  • By whom and how are these ideas, consciously or unconsciously, perpetuated?
  • Does Social Darwinism play any part in the current connection between the migration of the past and the migration of the present?


Gabaccia, Donna R. “Is Everywhere Nowhere? Nomads, Nations, and the Immigrant Paradign of the United States History.” The Journal of American History, 1999.


Apostolic Christian Church

This week it was made pretty clear to us (Joy Stephansen and myself) the direction we are going to take on our research.   One of the first ideas that I presented to Joy was to look at the history of the Apostolic Church in Stevens County and compare their migration stories and experiences with that of the recent Latino migration.   To those outside the community comparing these two seemingly very different migrations, people groups, and cultures may not make a whole lot of sense, but in reality they are very closely related (this full story will unfold in this blog over time).   But, before we decided on a direction, we both wanted to see if there were perhaps better options.  However, this week we got our answer.  It was announced that a Church historian was coming to Morris on September 9th to give a talk on the history of the Apostolic Church.    Our project is now underway!

The Apostolic Christian Church was founded in the early 1830’s by Samuel Froehlich, a former vicar in the Swiss Reformed Church.

While Froehlich was at the University of Zurich, and later in seminary at the University of Basel, he was swept away by the prevailing rationalistic and liberal philosophies of the professors. His heart became hardened. Yet, the Holy Spirit worked on him through the good example of some true Christian acquaintances. In 1825, he surrendered his life to Jesus, repented of his sins and was born again.

This created a dilemma.

As his faith and understanding of the Bible grew, he increasingly found himself at odds with the state church. He was still wrestling with this when he was ordained, and then assigned, to his first congregation as vicar. His passionate preaching about the need to be born again created a great awakening in his congregation at Leutwil, and spread to neighboring Swiss villages, much to the displeasure of state church authorities.

Despite reprimand from state church leaders, Froehlich would not compromise his biblical convictions. One of the last straws was his rejection of infant baptism. The state church dismissed him in 1831.

Soon thereafter, as led by the Lord, Froehlich began preaching throughout Switzerland and other parts of Europe, drawing souls hungry for the life-changing truths of repentance and conversion through Jesus Christ.

During his missionary journeys, Froehlich associated with Mennonites and other believers who had separated from the state church. Anabaptist beliefs influenced Froehlich’s positions, particularly on military service.

Within 35 years of Froehlich’s first missionary journey, despite intense persecutions, there were 110 congregations throughout Europe where the church was known as Evangelical Baptist.

The faith arrived in America in 1847 and eventually became known here as the Apostolic Christian Church.

Our American beginning was by invitation from a group in another denomination in upstate New York, who wrote to Froehlich asking for help in settling some spiritual disputes. Froehlich commissioned a gifted young elder, Benedict Weyeneth, to make the journey.

Weyeneth’s arrival set off a spark that grew to a blaze. A great number of the people who received him responded to his message of new birth and left to join Froehlich’s church, creating the first base of Apostolic Christian congregations in the U.S.

From there, the church spread further inland, following first river and then railroad routes as members sought out economic opportunity, primarily in the form of available farmland. This resulted in many congregations being established in the fertile Midwest. As immigrants came from Europe (mostly from the Froehlich churches) and new converts were added in the United States, the church flourished. The believers were zealous in living and spreading the Word in America.

From the 1920’s on, most of the new churches formed in America were founded in metropolitan areas. This was because many of the church’s offspring sought occupational opportunities outside of farming. Thus, today the Apostolic Christian Church consists of a blend of city and rural congregations.

Apostolic Christian Church