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MS-093: John Henry Wilbrand Stuckenberg Papers

Inclusive Dates: 1849-1953

Processed by Tara Wink, 2007

Summer 2007

Link to Full Finding Aid - PDF


The collection was willed to Gettysburg College by John Henry Wilbrand and Mary Gingrich Stuckenberg.


Johann Heinrich Wilbrand Stuckenberg was born on January 6, 1835 in Bramsche, Germany, the fifth of six children to Hermann Rudolph Stuckenberg and Anna Marie Biest Stuckenberg.  The Stuckenberg’s emigrated to the United States beginning with H.R. Stuckenberg and daughter in 1837; they were followed in 1839 by A.M. Stuckenberg and the rest of the family.  The Stuckenberg’s settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then moved to Cincinnati in 1843.  It was in America where his name became John Henry William Stuckenberg.  

J.H.W. Stuckenberg acquired his pursuit for knowledge and deep-seated religiosity from his mother.  Although the Stuckenberg’s spoke German at home, a fact which would influence Stuckenberg’s later studies in Germany, J.H.W. adopted English as his dominant language.  At a young age, J.H.W. was introduced and accustomed to comparisons of life in America and in Germany as well as religion and the issues of the day.  Sociology, along with Lutheranism and Philosophy became a special interest of study for J.H.W.  However, he was convinced to study ministry by his pastor Dr. William Henry Harrison.

J.H.W. Stuckenberg traveled to Springfield, Ohio where he entered Wittenberg College in 1852; there his writing talent was discovered and flourished.  While at Wittenberg he befriended then college president, Samuel Sprecher and the entire Sprecher family; a friendship, which would prove beneficial to Stuckenberg’s teaching and preaching careers.  In college, Stuckenberg pursued interests in theology, philosophy and sociology; all of which would play influential roles in his professional as well as personal life.  Stuckenberg graduated from Wittenberg College on June 25, 1857 as valedictorian of his class.  He continued his education at the Wittenberg Theological Department where he graduated in 1858.

After graduation, Stuckenberg served as a minister in Davenport, Iowa before traveling to Germany in 1859 to study at the University of Halle.  At the university he continued to study theology as well as work odd jobs as a tutor and teacher to earn money for his studies.  Stuckenberg pursued a doctoral degree in Philosophy and enjoyed close ties with his professors but lack of funds and the outbreak of the Civil War in America thwarted his plans causing his return to Cincinnati in 1861.

Upon his return, Stuckenberg accepted a pastoral position in Erie, where he led a newly formed congregation.  While at Erie, Stuckenberg became increasingly more respected by both his congregation and the profession.  He also met his future wife, Mary Gingrich, a member of the Erie Congregation.  At this time, President Abraham Lincoln called for 300,000 troops for the Union Army.  Stuckenberg sympathized with the Northern Cause and encouraged his congregation to accept the draft or volunteer; however, he felt some guilt for not joining the war effort himself.  Therefore, on September 10, 1862 he signed up for the chaplaincy of the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteers, a regiment of mostly Western Pennsylvanians

Stuckenberg served as the Chaplain from September 1862 until October 1863.  The regiment’s first detail was to bury the dead after the battle at Antietam; they also took part in the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.  Stuckenberg’s major accomplishment while with the 145th was the formation of a regimental church on October 5, 1862.  His day-to-day duties included serving as pastor for makeshift funerals, staying at soldiers’ deathbeds, and the spiritual guidance of the soldiers.  During his stint as Chaplain, Stuckenberg kept a diary, which details the events he witnessed as well as the overall disposition of his men.

After his discharge from the Army on October 4, 1863, Stuckenberg returned to his post as pastor of the church in Erie, where he remained until June 10, 1865, when he set out for Germany again.  In Germany he studied at the University of Göttingen for a year before continuing his studies at the University of Berlin.  In Berlin, Stuckenberg was first introduced to a meeting of Americans and British every Sunday evening, which would later become the American Church.  In April 1866 he began his studies at the University of Tübingen

Stuckenberg returned to the United States in the fall of 1866.  In January 1867 he accepted a pastoral position in Indianapolis, where he preached until he accepted another position in Pittsburgh in April 1868.  During this time he was also working on a book, History of the Augsburg Confession and attended the Convention of the General Synod at Harrisburg in 1868.  It was also at this time that the Lutheran Church in America was experiencing considerable disarray with the split of several leading figures from the General Synod to form the General Council.  Stuckenberg was greatly influenced and concerned with this rift in the church.

On October 27, 1869, Stuckenberg married Mary Gingrich a long-time friend in Pittsburgh.  The two courted through letters for many years but Mary was significantly younger than Stuckenberg and they therefore had to wait to wed.  In August 1873, the Stuckenbergs moved back to Springfield, Ohio, where J.H.W. accepted a position as professor of Theology at Wittenberg College.  While at Wittenberg, Stuckenberg extended the theological education from one to two years.  Stuckenberg, however, was forced to resign his position in 1880 because of ill-health.

In August 1880, the Stuckenbergs headed to Berlin.  They originally planned to stay abroad for two or three years but remained in Germany for fourteen years.  While in Berlin, Stuckenberg wrote books as well as articles for several publications, including the Luthern Observer, Lutheran The Lutheran Evangelist and Homiletic Review.  He and Mary organized and preached at the small meetings of Americans and British; he originally attended while a student, and eventually formed the American Church in Berlin.  The Stuckenberg’s also served as guardians for the children of several American families, who wished to educate their children in German culture and language.  Mary was also very active while in Germany: she worked to raise money for the founding of the American Church both in Germany and in the United States, raised awareness and funds for missionary work, and generally supported her husband’s work.  The Stuckenberg’s took several trips throughout Europe.

The Stuckenberg’s returned to the United States in September 1894 and settled in Cambridge Massachusetts.  Aside from the occasional lecture tour and guest pastor positions, Stuckenberg devoted his time to study and writing while in Cambridge.  His writings were often found in Christian newsletters and publications as well as newspapers with a focus on Sociology, religion, and Germany—both its culture and politics.  A controversy in the Miami Synod in 1895 caused Stuckenberg to become increasingly more estranged from his Alma Mater, Wittenberg College; this eventually resulted in Gettysburg College receiving his estate after his death.

In 1895, Stuckenberg’s citizenship was challenged because he had spent so much time in Germany.  The state of Massachusetts threatened to withdraw his right to vote.  However, the papers of Stuckenberg’s father affirmed his American citizenship and he was granted voting rights.  At this time Mary Stuckenberg was serving in various organizations supporting prohibition.  She held several leadership positions including the Superintendent of the department of labor in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.).  During these years, Stuckenberg became increasingly more interested in the college Gettysburg, then Pennsylvania College.  The Gettysburg education better fitted Stuckenberg’s religious beliefs.  As a result of Stuckenberg’s interest, Pennsylvania College created the “Gettysburg Philosophical Society” aimed at studying Stuckenberg’s Introduction to Philosophy.

In May 1899, Stuckenberg again traveled to Berlin, Germany for research.  While in Germany, Pennsylvania College honored him with the degree of Doctor of Laws.  Much of his time in Germany in 1899 was spent in social endeavors.  He returned to the United States in September, where he returned to his lecturing series and writing.

In May 1901, Stuckenberg made his first trip to England to study at the British Museum.  He returned in three months later.  In November 1901, Dr. and Mrs. Stuckenberg were acknowledged at the laying of the cornerstone of the American Church in Berlin, that both had worked so hard to establish.

In the spring of 1903, the Stuckenbergs again traveled to Europe; Mary traveled to Germany first in March followed by J.H.W. in April, who traveled to England.  While in England Stuckenberg continued writing and studying.  Mary continued her work for the W.C.T.U in Berlin.  In May 1903, Mary received a telegram from J.H.W. asking her to join him in London as he was suffering from laryngitis.  When Mary arrived in London, she received the news that Stuckenberg had died during a surgery meant to save his life on May 28.  A small service for Stuckenberg was held in London, where his body was cremated.

After Stuckenberg’s death, Mary returned to Massachusetts.  She continued to serve the W.C.T.U. and she organized and served as president of the Woman’s General League at Gettysburg College.  She worked on J.H.W. Stuckenberg’s biography along with J.O. Evjen until her death on February 3, 1934.

In a will written on April 25, 1901, Stuckenberg left his estate to Gettysburg College because of its ‘progressive’ curriculum.  The Stuckenbergs’ final resting place is in the National Cemetery, at Gettysburg

For further information on J.H.W. Stuckenberg please see:

John O. Evjen’s The Life of J.H.W. Stuckenberg. (Minneapolis, The Lutheran Free Church Publishing Company: 1938).

David T. Hedrick and Gordon Barry Davis Jr.’s I’m Surrounded by Methodists…Diary of John H.W. Stuckenberg Chaplain of the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. (Gettysburg, Thomas Publications: 1995).

Richard A. Hoehn’s Now we See Through a Glass Darkly – but we See: The Papers of J.H.W. and Mary G. Stukenberg. (Gettysburg, Gettysburg College: 1987).

Scope and Content Notes

The John Henry Wilbrand Stuckenberg collection consists of eighteen boxes of materials relating to the life and works of J.H.W. and Mary Gingrich Stuckenberg.  This material includes correspondence, publications, articles, newspaper clippings, and personal papers—such as diaries, biographical material, and photographs of both J.H.W. and Mary Gingrich Stuckenberg. The collection has been divided into nine series.

Series Description

The collection is divided into nine series.

Series I – Correspondence

Series I consists of correspondence.  The series is divided into four sub-series. Sub-series A consists of correspondence to and from J.H.W. Stuckenberg.  Letters in this sub-series discuss Stuckenberg’s works such as books and articles as well as personal correspondence with friends and family. Sub-series B contains correspondence between J.H.W. and Mary Gingrich Stuckenberg.  Sub-Series C contains the Stuckenberg Family correspondence, much of which is undated.  The Stuckenberg’s were originally from Germany; therefore, English was their second language and much of the Stuckenberg family correspondence is not in English and is possibly a form of German called low-German or “Plattdeutsch.”  Sub-series D holds third-party correspondence or correspondence that is neither to or from J.H.W. or Mary Gingrich Stuckenberg.  Most of the third-party correspondence is between Stuckenberg’s colleagues.  The correspondence is arranged chronologically. 

Series II – Chaplain of the 145th Regiment PA Volunteers

Series II contains materials pertaining to Stuckenberg’s service as Chaplain of the 145th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers during the American Civil War.  This series contains both official army records as well as diaries written by Stuckenberg during the war.  Included in the series is a lecture given by Stuckenberg following the Battle of Gettysburg.

Series III – J.H.W. Stuckenberg’s Work

Series III consists of work written by J.H.W. Stuckenberg.  This series is divided into four sub-series.  Sub-series A holds lectures and addresses given by J.H.W. Stuckenberg beginning with his Valedictory Address at Wittenberg College in 1857.  Sub-series B contains published and unpublished articles written by J.H.W. Stuckenberg for various newspapers.  Stuckenberg was an avid writer and wrote for several publications throughout his lifetime.  Sub-series C consists of published pamphlets.  Sub-series D are photocopies as well as unpublished manuscripts and chapters from Stuckenberg’s books: A Liturgy for the use of the Evangelical Church, The Social Problem, and Christian Sociology.

Series IV – Personal Papers

Series IV contains personal papers of J.H.W. Stuckenberg and the Stuckenberg family.  The series is divided into six sub-series.  Sub-Series A contains papers concerning Stuckenberg’s ancestry and professional life and is labeled biographical information.  Sub-series B is a diary while J.H.W. Stuckenberg traveled in SwitzerlandSub-series C contains composition books from courses J.H.W. Stuckenberg took while studying in Germany.  Most of these notes are in German.  Sub-series D holds newspaper clippings about the life and work of J.H.W. Stuckenberg.  Included in this sub-series is a scrapbook containing newspaper clippings about J.H.W. and Mary Gingrich Stuckenberg.  Sub-series E holds a postcard collection of souvenir postcards from Bramsche, Germany, where J.H.W. Stuckenberg was born.  The final sub-series, in this series contains notes made by J.H.W. Stuckenberg for his academic and professional endeavors. 

Series V -- Photographs

Series V contains photographs of J.H.W. Stuckenberg and the Stuckenberg family.  Many photographs are unidentified and others were taken in the Stuckenberg home in Berlin.

Series VI – Mary Gingrich Stuckenberg

Series VI is devoted to Mary Gingrich Stuckenberg’s.  This series is divided into three sub-series.  Sub-series A consists of Mary’s correspondence, which is arranged chronologically.  The topics of this correspondence ranges from personal letters to family and friends, to volunteer work done for the American Church in Berlin or Women’s Christian Temperance Union, to correspondence about J.H.W. Stuckenberg’s books and estate.  Sub-series B holds notes written for J.H.W. Stuckenberg’s biography.  Mary began the initial work of writing a biography for J.H.W. and many of her notes pertain to Stuckenberg’s correspondence.  Other notes in this folder contain actual working drafts of J.O. Evjen’s biography.  Also included in the folder are notes on the Goethe Album and Mary’s work for the American Church in BerlinSub-series C contains Mary’s written works, including unpublished poems as well as articles. 

Series VII – The Stuckenberg Estate

Series VII contains the legal documents of the Stuckenberg estate as well as correspondence from lawyers, Gettysburg College and Mary’s sister about the Stuckenbergs’ wills.  This series is divided into two sub-series, the first of which contains originals and copies of both J.H.W. and Mary Gingrich Stuckenberg’s last will and testament.  The second sub-series contains the correspondence dealing with the estate of the Stuckenberg’s.  The majority of the correspondence in series VII is between Gettysburg College President Henry W.A. Hanson, the Treasurer of Gettysburg College, President of Gettysburg National Bank C.A. Wills, the college’s lawyer Charles T. Lark and Gertrude Gingrich regarding the administration and transfer of the Stuckenberg Estate to Gettysburg College.  Some correspondence is a facsimile from the original. 

Series VIII – Alexander von Humboldt

Series VIII holds information about Alexander von Humboldt, a well-known German scholar and explorer.  The series includes artifacts, correspondence, biographical information and documents pertaining to the Humboldt Estate, which J.H.W. Stuckenberg bought. 

Series IX – General Materials

The final series, Series IX, contains general materials.  This series is divided into two sub-series: sub-series A, holds ephemera and sub-series B, holds publications saved by the Stuckenbergs.  These publications were not written by the Stuckenbergs but were of interest to them.  They are varied in content and language as well as type, including full newspapers, newspaper clippings, and pamphlets.

Link to Full Finding Aid - PDF