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Butler, Rev. Calvin
Autograph Letter Signed, Boonville, [Indiana] November 8, 1848 to Rev. Milton Badger, Secretary of the American Home Missionary Society, New York

quarto, 3 pages, plus stamp-less address leaf, in very good, clean and legible condition.

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Butler writes on behalf of Rev. Toelke, an evangelical Reformed minister who was taking over a congregation of Germans in Dubois County, 50 miles from Evansville. “I think he is a devoted and good man and is in a sphere of great usefulness. We learn that the German population of this state is nearly 200,000 – a class not to be reached except through the German ministration of the Word. For the supply he tells me there are about 20 ministers in this state. He said also that in the bounds of our Pres. There are about 40 congregations of Germans, some small and some quite large. Emigration from Germany is constantly pouring in upon us. At one time during the summer, he received 100 at Evansville from his own neighborhood in Germany, evangelical; they had singing and prayer as they embraced each other. He attended our Synod at Crawfordsville and there conversed with several of the Brethren, who urged him to apply to the A. H. M.S. for the renewal of its commission for $ 200.00 for one year in order that he might spend his whole time in missionating in this region, intending to receive from the different congregations where he labors, the rest of his support. If you can thus sustain him, I think it probable that no appropriation will be better expended. One of his converts from the interior is now an efficient Colporteur. Mr. Toelke is holding correspondence with several evangelical ministers in Germany in reference to emigrating to this country is expecting they will come and wishes to know whether he might encourage such, with a prospect of a part of a support for the time being, from your Society…”

Butler himself had “applied to your Society for aid for one half the time, the ensuing year that I might spend it very much the same way in English congregations in this region, as Dr. Toelke contemplates, and is doing among the Germans; but with this difference – I shall go – am going, to towns and villages where we have no congregations organized such as Cannelton, Troy, Rockport, Newbury etc. The application was made for $ 200 as my circumstances would require it, but with the promise to credit to you whatever I could receive from the people… Presuming that a Commission would be granted, I commenced my labors … at Petersburg; yesterday I returned from Troy having been absent almost a week. I also left appointments for Rockport and Troy again, designing to spend fully one half my time probably more in such destitute regions. While at Troy, I found 3 persons who were Presbyterians; one a very intelligent, warm-hearted man was urgent that the A. H. M. S. should sustain a missionary in such places, specially where there is no church nor people to sustain him … in visiting such places the question has been forced upon my mind, with an energy not to be told, ‘What can be done? What shall be done? Shall such flourishing towns continue to grow up, on the beautiful banks of the Ohio, with no moral and religious influence except a floating one – no Presbyterian influence? Though I have long been a pioneer, I sometimes feel the answering ‘No’ – it shall not be.” But still I am crippled, am poor, and almost alone. But I must hush. If you cannot send such a commission, please let me know immediately …”

The influx of German immigrants into the Midwest followed the revolutions that broke out throughout Europe, beginning in France in February 1848 and spreading to Germany in March. The middle class in that country sought liberal reforms, while the working class demanded radical improvement to their working and living conditions. This social division allowed the conservative aristocracy to defeat the uprisings. Liberals forced into exile to escape political persecution became known as “Forty Eighters”, many emigrating to the United States, settling through the Midwest and south as far as Texas. The emigrants were both Protestant and Catholic, though adherents of those faiths lived in entirely separate communities despite their common ethic heritage.

Rev. Heinrich Toelke, then 30 years old, was born in Germany and educated at a missionary school, came to America in 1843, long before the mass emigration from his country began. In the 1840s, he rode by horseback from his home to Evansville to minister to the spiritual needs of the German community. In October 1847, he organized 21 families as an Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed Church. He divided the congregations into four districts and held prayer meetings in each district, one each week, at the homes of members. The year this letter was written, a log church was built on 10 acres of land where he began to baptize children. The following year, Toelke settled at Freelandville in Know County, Indiana, northeast of Vincennes and organized a Presbyterian congregation.

He was more fortunate than Rev. Butler, who founded Presbyterian churches at Evansville and other pioneer towns but died in 1854, leaving behind a two year-old son to be raised by his second wife.