Early Conference Leaders
Earliest North American Baptist Conference Leaders
Earliest leaders in this listing include only the first generation men, the “fathers,” as Ramaker affectionately called them. This includes the 50 year period 1843-1883 when the General Missionary Society was founded.
The short sketches of selected men are in chronological order as much as possible with the content from an article written in the Baptist Herald (April 15, 1926) by Albert Ramaker.
Konrad Anton Fleischmann (1812-1867)
Born at Nürnberg, Bavaria, converted at 19 among Dissenters in Switzerland, baptized by immersion later, received theological training at Bern, pastor at Emmental, came to America in 1839 and began missionary work at Newark, NJ, with some success; found more fruitful field in Lycoming County, PA, where extensive revivals brought hundreds of German people to Christ. In 1842 he centered his labors in Philadelphia, A, where he founded the first German Baptist Church in the United States, July 9, 1843; remained its pastor until his death. He was a man of varied gifts – preacher, pastor, organizer, hymn-writer and first editor of the Sendbote.
August Rauschenbusch (1816-1899)
Born at Altena, Westphalia, received a most liberal education at several German universities, succeeded his father as pastor of the German State Church in the city of his birth, came to America in 1846 and settled with other German immigrants in Missouri, where he became an itinerant preacher. About 1849 he entered the services of the American Tract Society as superintendent of German colporters and became the editor of its German monthly; joined Baptists in 1850; baptized first Germans in Ontario in 1851; called to Rochester Seminary in 1858 as first professor of German department, where he remained until 1890. No one man exerted a larger influence on the life of our churches than he through his classroom, preaching, newspaper writing and books.
Philip Bickel (1829-1914)
Born at Wentheim, Bavaria; came to America in 1848; liberally educated in Germany, he found employment here at journalism and printing. About 1850 he came under the influence of gospel preaching, was converted and joined Baptist church at Waukegan, IL; entered Rochester Seminary in 1852—one of the first five German students to enter there—graduated in 1855; began missionary work in Cincinnati, OH, and founded a German church the in 1857; elected editor of the Sendbote in 1865; returned to Germany in 1878 to take charge of the “Wahrheitszeuge,” which position he held for 35 years. He was a newspaper writer of rare ability, a poet, hymn-writer and an enthusiastic Sunday School man.
Julius C. Haselhuhn (1829-1893)
Born at Altenburg, Saxony; coming to America in 1849, he was converted and baptized into the fellowship of the German church (First) in New York City; entered Rochester Seminary in 1852—as one of the first five German students–, graduating in 1858; held pastorates in Wilmington, DE, Newark, NJ, St Louis, MO, and Chicago, IL (First church); became editor of the Sendbote in 1878, succeeding Philip Bickel, in which position he remained until his death. Was a preacher of great forcefulness, a writer of recognized ability and a man of marvelous capacity for hard work.
Jacob Samuel Gubelmann (1836-1919)
Born at Bern, Switzerland; he came to America at age of 12, converted and baptized in New York City, entered Rochester Seminary in 1852 –one of the first five German students–, was graduated in 1860. Served churches as pastor for 25 consecutive years, in Louisville, KY, St Louis, MO and Philadelphia, PA. (First Church) when, in 1885, he was called to Rochester Seminary as teacher; this place he held for 30 years. Was a man of liberal learning, of unquestioned reverent piety, a model preacher and a most lovable Christian gentleman.
George A. Schulte (1838-1916)
Born at Neustadt-Goedens, Hannover; came to America when 12 years of age, settling with the rest of the family in Buffalo, NY, where he was converted and baptized; entered Rochester Seminary in 1860; graduating in 1863, he held pastorates in Buffalo, NY (2nd Church, now extinct) and New York (First Church) where he remained for 21 consecutive years. Was chosen Superintendent of German Missions under the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS), which position he held for 24 years. He did more than any other man to unify the missionary work of the German churches—an able and inspiring minister, a devoted pastor and an organizer of rare tact and ability.
Julius Carl Grimmell (1847-1921)
Born at Marburg, Hesse. Coming to America with his parents in 1852, he united, at the age of 1111114 years, with the Brooklyn Church (First) which his father, a lay preacher, had been instrumental in founding; entered Rochester Seminary in 1863 and graduated in 1868; he held pastorates in Buffalo, NY (First), which he left in 18763 for the church of his spiritual birth to which he ministered with one interruption for 35 years. He was editor of the Sendbote for 9 years. He outstanding gift was that of pulpit eloquence.
Hermann Moritz Schaeffer (1839-1910)
Born at Lage, Lippe-Detmoldl, Germany; came to America in 1854 and joined the Union Baptist Church, Boston, MA, by baptism. After 67 years study at Rochester Seminary (1861-1867), became pastor of the First Church, New York City; called to Rochester Seminary as professor in 1874, which position he held til his death. He was a man of tremendous energy and untiring devotion. Largely through his efforts the German department at Rochester came into possession of its dormitory and its endowment.
Peter Ritter (1837-1920)
Born at Algenau, Barvaria. Immigrated in 1857, he was converted in early manhood in western New York and joined the Baptist church in Attica. Entering the Rochester Seminary in 1864, he was graduated three years later. His ministerial services cover a period of 48 years, 36 of which were spent in active ministry and 12 years as head of the business department of the Publication House at Cleveland, OH. He held pastorates in Folsomdale, NY, Cincinnati, OH, and Rochester, NY. He was a great winner of souls and one of the most successful of our early ministers.
Jacob Meier (1839-1921)
Born at Oberschaffhausen, Bavaria. After a short course of study in Rochester, he became pastor at Muscatine, IA in 1873, when he was called to Chicago, IL (First Church), in 1878, as the successor of J. C. Haselhuhn. He spent 43 years of a most fruitful and successful service as preacher, pastor and organizer of Christian philanthropies. The Old Peoples Home, the Deaconess Home and the Benevolent Society of the Chicago German Churches, together with the upbuilding of a strong, vigorous church, into the fellowship of which he had baptized upwards of 1200 persons, are monuments of his untiring zeal and his masterful gift of organization.
Johann Heinrich Moehlmann (1845-1919)
Born at Aarsdorf, Hannover. As a son of a Lutheran minister he had the advantages of an early liberal training; coming to New York City in 1864, he was baptized by Johann Eschmann, joining the New York Church (First). Studied at Rochester in 1865-66 and 1872-73 and held pastorates in Meriden, CT, Racine, WI and Detroit, MI (First Church), in the later church for 18 consecutive years. He was a most accomplished preacher to whose devotion the great expansion of the German work in Detroit was a in a great measure due.
Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918)
Born at Rochester, NY, the son of the Seminary’s first teacher; converted in early life and joined the Rochester church. After a most liberal education in Germany and at Rochester, finishing his theological training in 1886, became pastor of the Second German Church, New York City; called to the Seminary as professor in 1897, at the death of Professor Schaeffer; joined the English faculty in 1902 where he served as teacher of Church History until his death. He services as pastor, editor, teacher, hymn-writer, and author cover a period of32 years, but into these years there was crowded much more than an average man’s accomplishments of 50 years. He was one of the most gifted men of his day.