May 2, 2012

Rev. Gottlob F. Krotel's Civil War

Location: 31 S Duke St, Lancaster, PA 17602, USA
Another post in preparation for my upcoming presentation at Trinity Lutheran Church on Sunday, May 13...

Portrait of Rev. G. F. Krotel, c. 1880s?
Trinity Lutheran Church Archives
As one of the oldest and largest congregations in Lancaster, Trinity Lutheran Church has a long and complicated relationship with tradition.  The congregation is uniquely positioned to view the glorious Christian Tradition passed down through the generations, but it is also challenged by the stifling tendency of tradition as "the way things have always been."  Digging deeper, "always" more often than not dates back to the 1850s and in particular the pastorate of Gottlob F. Krotel.

Born in Wuertemberg in 1826, Krotel immigrated to Philadelphia early in life and came to Trinity Lutheran Church from Lebanon in 1853.  Recognized for his excellence in the pulpit, the young Krotel led Trinity through a time of major remodeling and expansion and by all accounts endeared himself to the congregation.  In a post-war sketch of Trinity's history, the Intelligencer fondly remembered Krotel's time in Lancaster: "Dr. Krotel is a learned and eloquent divine, and was universally loved by his church."  [1/12/1870]

Remodeling the almost hundred year-old sanctuary defined Krotel's tenure at Trinity.  More than a little dusting or painting, the remodeling involved a ninety-degree rotation in the sanctuary's orientation, an upgrade to the organ, and a new peal of bells.  As part of the resurgence of conservative Lutheran Confessionalism in the 1850s, Krotel translated a biography of Philip Melancthon, and introduced the congregation to the wearing of the gown and a new liturgy.
Pulpit of Trinity Lutheran Church in 1866, about ten years after it was remodeled.
I believe G. F. Krotel--who was President of this particular meeting in 1866--is in the center behind the chancel rail.  Note his name in the list Trinity's pastors on the right-hand side. (vws)
When the citizens of Lancaster rallied at the courthouse after the firing on Fort Sumter, it was Krotel who opened with "a most thrilling and patriotic prayer," according to the Examiner and Herald [4/24] which continued, "The tremulous but powerful voice of the speaker reached the farthest limit of the audience and produced a profound impression."  A week later, Krotel also addressed the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster at their organizational meeting. [Intell 4/30]

A memorial book published after Krotel's death in 1907 recounts--somewhat questionably--his experience in Lancaster and a prayer that offended President James Buchanan, who happened to be attending that day:
Grave of G. F. Krotel
Woodward Hill Cemetery
Rev. Dr. Krotel's work at Lancaster was done in troublous times.  They were the times immediately preceding the War of Secession, when men were compelled to take sides.  Lancaster, the home of President James Buchanan, was intensely anti-Unionistic, and most of the ministers there were in sympathy with that feeling.  The two Lutheran Pastors, Rev. B. W. Schmauk and Rev. Mr. Krotel, intimate friends, did not sympathize at all with the general feeling, and decided to pursue their course.  As a result the life of the former was threatened, and both had many unpleasant experiences.  Dr. Krotel told the writer that during this time he preached a strong Unionistic sermon when President Buchanan was in the Church and that during the General Prayer, in which he prayed for the abolition of slavery, and Union, the President rose and walked out of the Church.  At Lancaster they both lie now, in the same cemetery, their resting places not a stone's throw apart.  When he left Lancaster in 1861, to succeed Rev. Dr. C. P. Krauth, as Pastor of St. Mark's Church, Philadelphia, it was with great regret and with many pleasant thoughts of the kindness which he had received from the people of Lancaster.  To the day of his death he always cherished the warmest feeling for his many friends and for the Church in that city, and wished to be buried within the sound of Trinity's bells.
A month after the war's outbreak, Krotel presided on May 19, 1861, over surely one of the most elaborate celebrations in the church's history, the "Centenary Jubilee."  The occasion was the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone at Trinity Lutheran Church.  A day's worth of services and festivities went off without a hitch, and the commemorative volume for the day's events contains a fantastic 100-page history of Trinity written by Krotel, who claimed such a treatise was necessary to fill out the book because the lithographic frontispiece procured for the occasion was too big.  
On July 4, 1861--perhaps one of the most enthusiastic Fourths of July in our nation's history--Krotel then had the honor of giving a historically-oriented "Oration of the Day" at the courthouse.  Krotel main theme was that "When we look back to the principles on which the republic was founded...we are struck by the growth and strengthening of the principle of unity of government which has made and kept us a free people."  Other noteworthy elements include an international consciousness that America was the world's testbed for democracy, blame for slavery as the "weapon in the hands of those whose desire has been, is, and will be, to set up for themselves and destroy the best government the world has ever seen," and a belief that secession would lead to nothing short of anarchy.  From the July 5, 1861, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

In December 1861, Krotel left Trinity for a church in Philadelphia whose pulpit had just been vacated by Charles Porterfield Krauth.  He revisited Lancaster fairly frequently for the rest of his life, even giving a benefit lecture during the war.  In Philadelphia, Krotel became heavily involved with new Lutheran seminary that was established in 1864 as a moderate-conservative voice in the debate over future directions of the Lutheran church in America.  Later, he moved to New York City and served a congregation there. Krotel died on May 17, 1907, and even though he only spent eight of his eighty years in Lancaster, his remains were interred at Woodward Hill Cemetery--within the sound of Trinity's bells, in accordance with his wishes.

For Further Reading:

No comments:

Post a Comment