A Brief Accounting of John Henry Graffs Ministry
St. Bartholomews and St. Nicholas Lutheran Churches
In the 1870s Reverend G. D. Bernheim was asked by the Lutheran Synod to write a book about the early Lutheran Church in the states of North and South Carolina. He was given access to all of the records then held by the Southern Lutheran Synod and composed his book from those records. The complete title of Bernheims book is History of the German Settlements and of the Lutheran Church in North and South Carolina, From the Earliest Period of the Colonization of the Dutch, German and Swiss Settlers to the Close of the First Half of the Present Century.
The following excerpts, which are included in Bernheims book, were originally from an account written in 1813 by a Reverend Franklow of Orangeburg District. In 1812 Reverend Franklow had been requested by the Lutheran Synod of North Carolina to visit the Lutheran Churches in the Salkehatchie (Saltketcher) region of South Carolina to assess the situation of Lutheran congregations in that area.
On page 11 of the minutes of the North Carolina Synod for 1812, the following record may be found: The Rev. Mr. Franklow was hereupon requested to make one or more visits in a part of South Carolina called Saltketcher, there to inquire into the situation of the residue of our members, who formerly had a well regulated congregation, and report the results of his inquiries to the next Synod.
This duty Rev. Franklow performed faithfully, and reported at length, which report was greatly abbreviated and inserted in the minutes; but the original document having been found some twelve years ago among Rev. G. Shobers papers, in a garret of one of his grandchildren in Salem, North Carolina, it is now presented, and reads as follows:
Sunday, March 28th, 1813. I set out on my journey from my church after Divine service, and arrived in the evening at Mr. Moss, on Edisto River. Here I made an appointment to preach in a new Methodist meeting-house on my return on Thursday, April 8th. The next day I crossed the Little Saltketcher through a long swamp and deep water, and came in the evening to Mr. Shobert, a church-warden of St. Bartholomews Church. I made my appointment to preach in this church on Friday, April 2d, and on Sunday and Monday following at St. Nicholas Church, and again at St. Bartholomews on my return on Tuesday, April 6th.
March 31st. Today I was introduced to several members of the church, when I was informed that they had a minister, who had lived and preached nine years among them, named John Henry Graff, a native of Saxony, in Germany, and who labored there ever since the death of Rev. Mr. Bamberg. Graff was ordained by the Rev. Mr. Wallern to the ministry of the Gospel. For two years the members of St. Bartholomews Church had not employed Graff any longer as their pastor, and in St. Nicholas Church his time expires in three weeks. I found that the minister and people were opposed to each other, and upon inquiry as to the cause of this division, I was informed that Mr. Graff could not speak the English language so as to be understood, and that his sermons were three and four hours long; that he had no energy and life in his discourse; that he spoke too low to be heard distinctly; in short, that they would engage him no longer as their pastor. Mr. Shobert desired me to go and see him, which I had intended to do.
April 1st. I visited Mr. Graff, and stayed several hours with him. I found him at home, expecting to see me, from the report of some of his neighbors that a strange minister was come to visit him and the congregations. He received me in a friendly manner, and I found him well informed in religion and the Scriptures. He told me of the dislike which his congregations had against him, which he said proceeded from the family in which his daughter had married, who was then a widow, and now they were maliciously affected towards him. He showed me his letter of ordination, signed by Rev. Mr. Wallern and church-wardens, dated September, 1800. He works at his trade, being a shoemaker, to support his family.
April 2d. I went to St. Batholomews Church, which is in sight of their ministers house, and preached in the German and English languages to a small but attentive congregation, one of whom, Mr. Copel, asked me to baptize a child for him on my return next Tuesday. I was surprised, and told him I did not wish to do it, as they had a minister; to which he replied, that Graff was no longer their minister, as he had not been engaged in that church these two years, and that if I would not baptize his child, Mr. Graff should not do it. The next day I crossed the Big Saltketcher at Rivers Ford, nearly three-quarters of a mile wide and very deep, and arrived at Mr. Jacob Hardees one of the wardens of St. Nicholas Church. He has a mill, and by that means most of the people were informed that divine service would be performed the next day.
Sunday, April 4th. I went to St. Nicholas and preached to a serious congregation; the people were very attentive, both to the German and English discourses. After service I published, as I had promised, that the Lords Supper would be administered on Easter Sunday by their minister, but not one offered to give in their names, and wished that I should administer it to them on that day; to which I replied that it was impossible as I had two appointments to fill, one at Sandy Run next Sunday, and at my own church on Easter Day. They then begged me to visit them again, and administer the sacraments, as Mr. Graff was not worthy to administer any sacrament. I told them that, if possible, I would pay them another visit in the fall, and would make my appointments by letter before I came. On Monday I preached again at St. Nicholas, to a tolerably full congregation, part of the members having been prevented from attending on account of the session of Barnwell court, which commenced this day. The people complained that whilst Mr. Graff lived among them, no other minister would come to be their pastor.
Tuesday, April 6th. After having crossed Broxtons Ford in a canoe, and swimming my horse, I arrived yesterday at my old lodging-place, Mr. Shoberts. I went today to St. Bartholomews Church, where I met Mr. Graff, who promised to preach in English after my discourse. He informed me that a neighbor of his baptized children without license or authority, and that the people employed him in preference to Mr. Graffs attending upon this duty. After my discourse Mr. Graff preached in the German instead of the English language, although it was contrary to his promise and the peoples expressed desire. After service I baptized Mr. Copels child, rather than suffer it to be baptized by an improper person. Here I took my leave of this people, exhorting them to reconciliation and unity with their minister. They answered that this could not be, but that they were now as lost sheep without a shepherd; that they went to hear the word of God among the Methodists and Baptists, but would not join them, as they wished to keep to the religion of their fathers. They hoped that some good minister would soon be their pastor, and begged me to state their condition before the Lutheran Synod, and that they would appoint me or some other minister to visit them again . (Bernheim, 384-388.)
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