Pommerscher Verein Freistadt
The Pomeranian Society of Freistadt
The Pomeranian Society of Freistadt

Old Lutherans

Alt Lutheraner

Originally this name was applied to Lutherans who refused to join in the Prussian Union. There was a similar reaction against unionism and rationalism in Saxony. Old Lutherans continued in Germany and Poland under various names including Altlutheraner; Breslauer Synode; Verein der evangelisch-altlutherischen Kirchengemeinden; Evangelisch-luth. Kirche in Westpolen; Evangelisch Kirche in Preussen, later & Evangelisch-luth. Kirche in Altpreussen, and since 1945 Evangelisch-lutherische (altlutherische) Kirche. The name Old Lutherans was also applied to confessional Lutherans who emigrated to America 1838–48 under such men as J.A.A. Grabau and M. Stephan.

Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III united the Reformed (Calvinist) and Lutheran churches in 1817 on the 300th anniversary of the Reformation.  A new church liturgy was introduced in 1827, and by 1829 there was a threat of a fine if this liturgy was not used in Pomeranian churches.  Initially about 2000 Lutherans and a growing number of clergy resisted this new Union church.  They formed the Free Lutheran Church in June 1830.  This group went by many names such as Breslau Synod and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Prussia. The nickname Alt Lutherans (Old Lutherans) came about after about 1845.

In the Lutheran dominated areas of Saxony, Mecklenburg, and Pomerania, it was feared that Lutheran beliefs were being replaced with Reformed doctrines.  Lutheran church services were banned, and clergy not accepting the Union liturgy were dismissed or arrested.  Children were to be sent to Union schools, and money was to be paid to support Union pastors even if they didn't attend Union services. Secret Lutheran services were held in homes, barns, forests, or quarries.

In 1835 a group of dissenters took refuge in Kreise Cammin, Stolp, and Greifenberg.  The group began discussions to emigrate to the United States to have religious freedom. In response to this threat to emigrate, the Prussian government became more lenient in 1842. The first group of Old Lutherans still decided to emigrate in 1843.

In 1837 other Old Lutherans from Kreis Naugard and Kreis Cammin left for America.  In 1838 a new decree stated that the Old Lutherans could emigrate only if they took with them a like-minded pastor.  In 1838 a small number applied for permission to leave from the island of Wollin. In 1839, 622 Pomeranians left, 52 of these without permission. None left in 1840, but in 1841 92 left from Kreis Cammin and another 45 in 1842. A larger group of 1,017 Pomeranians left in 1843.
Source: Herrick, Linda M. and Wendy K. Uncapher. Pomerania: Atlantic Bridge to Germany. Origins, 2005.

  • "Alt Lutheraner Auswanderung" or "Old Lutheran Immigration Fever" by Rob Bowe. (In English)
  • Camann, Eugene W. Background of the Prussian Lutherans Who Settled Wheatfield, Niagara County, New York in 1843 and Reasons for Leaving Prussia. Bergholz, N.Y.: Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York, 1983. The Prussians came from Brandenburg and Pomerania in Germany. Mr. Camann is deceased and the Society says that the cost of the book is $15.00. (26 June 2011)
  • Camann, Eugene W. Journey of the Prussian Lutherans to the U.S.A. in 1843. Bergholz [i.e. Bergholtz], New York: Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York, 1983, c1983. 
  • Camann, Eugene W. More Prussian Transplantings in Wheatfield (96 pgs). Discusses the 1846 emigration to Niagara County and lists 400 more immigrants that arrived there between 1844 and 1847 from Brandenburg/Pommern.  It provides additional details about the early German settlements in Wheatfield township of Niagara County. You can order it from: The Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York, Fern Suckow,  c/o Das Haus,  2549 Niagara Rd., Niagara Falls Ny 14304-2020. The books are $10 each, plus a mailing charge of $3.50. Please make checks/money orders payable to H.S.N.G.S.W.N.Y.
  • Camann, Eugene W. Uprooted from Prussia Transplanted in America (140 pgs).  Discusses the 1843 Old Lutheran emigration from Brandenburg/Pommern to Niagara Country, New York.  It discusses the reasons for leaving, preparation for emigration, describes the travel and voyage in detail, talks about the early settlements in Niagara County, and mentions further movements to Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois.  It lists hundreds of the 1843 immigrants by name, village of origin, and ship.  There is a diary that lists the details of the ocean voyage and a letter from one of the families left behind to her son in America. You can order it from: The Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York, Fern Suckow,  c/o Das Haus,  2549 Niagara Rd., Niagara Falls Ny 14304-2020. The books are $10 each, plus a mailing charge of $3.50. Please make checks/money orders payable to H.S.N.G.S.W.N.Y.
  • Catholic Encyclopedia: Lutherans and Lutheranism
  • Clemens, Lieselotte. Die Auswanderung der pommerschen Altlutheraner in die U.S.A.: Ablauf und Motivation, 1839-1843. Hamburg: Pommerscher Zentralverband, 1976. 
  • Clemens, Lieselotte. Old Lutheran Emigration from Pomerania to the U.S.A.: History and Motivation, 1839-1843. Kiel [West Germany]: Pomeranian Foundation, 1976. 
  • The first German religious refugees in South Australia The minority of people wanting to hold their church services in the old Lutheran way had to do this in secret. These people were known as Old-Lutherans.
  • Iwan, Wilhelm. Old Lutheran Emigration of the Mid-19th Century from Eastern Germany (mainly Pommern and lower Silesia) to Australia, Canada and the United States. Mequon, Wisconsin: Freistadt Historical Society, 2003. Iwan Translation.  The Old Lutherans. Provides information on the English translation of Pastor Wilhelm Iwan's in-depth work on the subject. These 570 pages tell about the events in Prussia, the trip to America, and the founding of the first "Old Lutheran" churches.  This soft cover book is printed in three volumes and sells for $60.00 plus $6.00 for shipping.   Send your check and order to: Trinity Lutheran Historical Society of Freistadt, 10729 W. Freistadt Road, Mequon, WI 53097. Telephone: 262 242-0653. The set includes two volumes of history and one with names of Lutheran emigrants from 1835 to 1854.
  • Iwan, Wilhelm. The Old Lutheran Emigration at the Middle of the 19th Century. Published by the Johann Hess Institute of Breslau, Volume II. Ludwigsburg, Eichhorn Publishing, 1943.
  • Johnson, Martin William. Old Lutherans in Wisconsin & Minnesota [microform]: membership lists, cemeteries, passenger lists, etc./ transcribed by Martin Wm. Johnson. Belvidere, IL: M.W. Johnson, [1990]  2 microfiches: ill. Includes records from Lutheran churches and cemeteries in Wisconsin and Minnesota, passenger lists of Lutherans 32. Arriving in New York, N.Y. and emigrating to upper New York State and Wisconsin in 1843, and the 1870 census for Pierce County, Neb. Title on header: 1842-1899 old Lutherans in Wis. & Minn. Includes passenger lists of Lutherans arriving in New York, N. Y. who emigrated to upper New York State and Wisconsin in 1843. 
  • Lieselotte, Clemens. Old Lutheran Emigration from Pomerania to the U.S.A.: History and Motivation 1839-1843. Hamburg: Pomeranian Society, 1976.
  • Old Lutheran Emigration. Das Konventikelwesen und dessen Folgen. Auswanderungen nach Amerika (1834-1844). Digitized images of the record books of emigration to America on MyPomerania.com.
  • Owen, Ralph Dornfeld. 1947. "The Old Lutherans Come". Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly. 20, no. 1.
  • Smith, Clifford Neal. Nineteenth-century emigration of "Old Lutherans" from Eastern Germany (mainly Pomerania and lower Silesia) to Australia, Canada, and the United States.McNeal, Arizona : Westland Publications, 1980.  An alphabetical list of names which appear in a 2 vol. work by Wilhelm Iwan, Die altlutherische Auswanderung um die Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts, published for the Johann-Hess Institut, Breslau (Ludwigsburg: Eichhorn Verlag Lothar Kallenberg, 1943). For surname index see Smith, Clifford Neal, Cumulative surname index and soundex to monographs 1 through 12 of the German-American genealogical research series (German-American genealogical research monograph no. 13). Includes index of place names. Emigrants are listed by year of emigration; surname index at end. 
  • Uprooted from Prussia, Transplanted in America by Eugene Camann. Describes how the 15 ships that carried Old Lutheran emigrants in 1843, 11 sailed from Hamburg and four from Stettin. Of those that traveled to Hamburg, most went by riverboats on inland waterways. One group from Plöwen in Kreis Randow traveled overland on wagons. Each riverboat accommodated between 120 and 150 passengers, and were driven by one large sail mounted on a sturdy mast beam. There was room for sleeping and cooking aboard.
    Jan. 2024