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[Above: Friedrich Schmid—from a brief, untitled history of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Ypsilanti, Michigan, 1923. public domain.]

FRIEDRICH SCHMID was ordained in Basel, Germany, in April 1833. After a journey of several months, he arrived in Detroit, Michigan, in August that year. Two days after his arrival, he conducted the first Evangelical Lutheran Church service in Michigan, held in the carpenter shop of Mr. John Hais.

Schmid had come to the territory in response to a plea from German immigrants. (Michigan was still four years from statehood.) The Manns, Allmendengers, and Kromanns were staunch Lutherans. Arriving in the Spring of 1832, they did their best to maintain worship without a pastor. They gathered on Sundays to read the Bible, sing hymns, and pray. But they recognized they needed better-trained leadership and someone to officiate the sacraments. The wrote to a Lutheran mission at Basel which selected and sent Schmid. 

Continuing his journey from Detroit in a farmer’s wagon, Schmid came to Ann Arbor to minister to the Lutherans who had summoned him. He preached the first German Lutheran service of Washtenaw County where Ann Arbor would be the center of his ministry. The text of that sermon was 1 Corinthians 3:11, “For other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Before the end of the year, his congregation had built a church. 

At the start of his ministry, Schmid roomed with the Manns and soon married Louise Sophia Mann. The pair would produce twelve children: six sons and six daughters. 

Schmid’s spiritual offspring was also great. He continued to visit Detroit periodically to minister to its people and he established churches or preached in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Monroe (a fifteen-hour walk), Ypsilanti, Saginaw, Jackson, Marshall, Plymouth, Wayne, Waterloo, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Sebewaing, Genova, Saline, and Allegan. Altogether, he helped organize some twenty churches in southeastern Michigan and founded and served as the first president of the Michigan Synod (affiliated with the Wisconsin Synod, although some of the churches he founded would later transfer to the Missouri Synod). It took a while to place ministers in all these places, so he was often spread thin, traveling by foot and by horse to baptize, preach, and administer the Lord’s Supper. He also selected land for missionary-pastor August Craemer at Frankenmuth.

As if his load was not heavy enough, in addition to all those tasks, on this day 24 March 1842, he established a Heidenmission (Gentile Mission) to train young men to evangelize Native Americans. Three years later this effort bore fruit when three of his students, Auch, Dumser, and Sinke founded a mission among the Chippewas at Sebewaing. Eventually Auch parted with Schmid and joined the Missouri Synod.

Schmid continued to minister into the 1870s, relinquishing church after church as other pastors arrived to fill their pulpits and as age made it increasingly difficult for him to carry his previous heavy load. Some colleagues cooled toward him in later years, alleging he had embraced liberal doctrines. (Robert E. Erickson, who published Schmid’s English-language biography, disagrees.) Whatever the truth, Michigan Lutherans owe an enormous debt to Schmid’s willing spirit and hard work.

Dan Graves

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For more background on the introduction and spread of Lutheranism in America, watch People of Faith

(People of Faith can be purchased at Vision Video)

or read Christian History #102, People of Faith

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