Johann Leonhard Georg
Mezger, called George, was born the son of a woodcutter in Brunswick
(Braunschweig), Germany, on 18 Dec 1857, and baptized in the St. Andreas church
there on 21 Feb 1858. George had brown hair and eyes, and wore glasses and, in
adulthood, a neatly trimmed beard. At the age of 18, George emigrated to the
U.S. alone, along with a group of other young men, to be educated at the
Lutheran Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He arrived in New York on 23 Aug 1875
on the S.S. Mosel sailing from Bremen.
George graduated from the Fort Wayne seminary in 1878, then went to St. Louis for further training. He was ordained in 1881. He apparently maintained contacts in the Fort Wayne area, for he married 23-year-old M.S. Margarethe Foellinger in Allen County, Indiana, on 13 Aug 1882.
Reverend George's first calling was in Waterloo, Iowa, where he remained only a short time, as he was installed in Okawville, Illinois on 1 May 1885. In Okawville, George's wife Margarethe died of complications from childbirth on 19 Dec 1888. Nearly two years later, on 14 Sep 1890, George married a second time, to the 30-year-old spinster Elizabeth Eirich, in St. John's Lutheran Church, New Minden, Illinois.
From a history of Olive Branch Lutheran Church in Okawville, Illinois:
"As the congregation sought a successor to (Rev.) Wolbrecht, her first call was returned. The second man to receive the call was the Rev. George Mezger of Waterloo, Iowa. He also declined the call. A second time the congregation extended the call to Rev. Mezger. Again he refused. Then the congregation sent representatives to St. Louis, and they sought the advice of the Rev. Dr. C.F.W. Walther, the first President of the Missouri Synod. Acting on his advice, a third call was addressed to Rev. Mezger. This time he accepted and was installed as pastor of Olive Branch on May 1, 1885. The young bespectacled Mezger was a studious man with the gift of preaching and of teaching catechism.
"In the passage of time, the rhythm of life changes. Tragedy is no respector of persons or positions. Heartache and hardship are equally real to those involved, no matter what household is touched. Yet in the life of each congregation, the activities in the parsonage have a far reaching effect. The winter of 1888 was to be remembered as a time of joy and sorrow. On December 14th a girl child named Anna was born to the pastor and his wife. The infant daughter was baptized on the following day at home. On December 18th, Pastor Mezger marked his birthday. This year he was 31 years of age. But his concern for his wife overshadowed these occasions for joy. She was critically weak from the complications of having given birth. The next day, December 19, early in the morning a frail woman of 29 years, 6 months and 11 days, beloved Margarethe, the wife of Pastor Mezger, succumbed. A memorial service was held on December 21 with the Rev. Michael Eirich of New Minden, a close family friend, officiating. Then the long train ride back to her native Fort Wayne, Indiana, for interment on December 23rd. The minister who had married her six years before, now buried her. The joy of Christmas, 1888, was all but forgotten in the cold of this winter. At the death of someone who is loved, a sense of wilderness returns.
"The shadow of death returned to bring additional sorrow in April of the following spring. The infant Anna, the last gift of a dying woman to her husband, joined her mother. In the months that passed Pastor Mezger devoted much of his time to the matters that he enjoyed: his work in the congregation, his studies, and his deep friendship with the neighboring Pastor Eirich and his family. Still living alone, the parsonage could seem big and empty. It should not be. So on September 14, 1890, the pastor was joined in marriage with Elisabeth, the daughter of Rev. Eirich, at New Minden. It was also in that month that he became a naturalized citizen of this country. The next four years brought the added blessing of a daughter and a son."
In the fall of 1896, George became a professor at the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, thus ending the phase of his career in the congregational ministry. George's wife, Elisabeth, passed away on 17 Sep 1921 at the age of 61, after an illness of two years, which might have been complications due to diabetes. In 1923, George left for Germany, to serve as a professor at the Seminary in Berlin-Zehlendorf, and also to serve as a representative of the Missouri Synod for Europe, in which capacity he traveled extensively around Europe. He never returned to America, and was buried in Klein-Machnow, Germany, upon his death on 3 Nov 1931.
I have several posthumous articles on Dr. George Mezger, but unfortunately none of them bear any mention of where they appeared. They are all in German. The translations are mine.
This one is probably from Der Lutheraner, early in 1932:
"Dr. Mezger's Funeral. The November 22 issue of Ev.-Luth. Freikirche from last year, which has just come into our possession, includes a warm and lengthy tribute to our blessed late Prof. Dr. Georg Mezger, who passed away on November 3, 1931. It was written by Rector M. Willkomms of the Free Theological Seminary in Berlin-Zehlendorf, who was Mezger's pupil years ago, and his colleague for the past eight years at the named institution. This tribute also shows in what high regard the departed stood in the church, and what services he rendered to it, as we have already detailed in our "Memories of Georg Mezger" in earlier issues of Der Lutheraner. Rector Willkomm also shares some details of the funeral, which our readers will certainly be interested to read:
"The burial of the blessed Dr. Mezger was solemn and fitting. The body of the departed was delivered from the hospital to our seminary and laid in state in the great hall, where the students took turns as honor guards. On November 6th, a funeral mass took place in the great hall. After we had sung the hymn, "Christ, Who is My Life", Pastor Dr. Koch gave the memorial sermon on Romans 14: 7,8: "When we live, we live in the Lord". He showed how the departed one's life was a life of faith on the Lord through God's Grace, and thus was an exemplary life in the service of the Saviour, and his death a blessed death. Then, following a short song by the choir, Pastor Petersen spoke on behalf of the council and our entire church. The countless assembled guests then sang "I Fell Asleep in Christ's Wounds", upon which the undersigned (Rector Willkomm) spoke on Hebrews 10: 23 and labeled the departed's theology as a theology which, based upon a firm testimony, praised nothing else but the faith of God in Jesus Christ. After singing the first three verses of "Jerusalem, Thou City on High", we accompanied the body of the departed to his last resting place in the cemetery by the church in Kleinmachnow, where we were received by the pealing of bells, a friendly gesture of the local parish minister. Pastor Dr. Koch, who was the departed one's minister, gave the graveside sermon, after which the assembled guests sang a few verses of the old Lutheran burial hymn, "Now Let Us Bury the Body". Then the students who had carried the coffin from the car to the grave sang a hymn, and their spokesperson called out words of thanks and praise to the departed. The pastors who had followed the coffin, including several external pupils of the departed, strew earth on the coffin, accompanied by fitting phrases from the Bible. Now his tired body rests in the lap of the earth until the day of resurrection of all mortal beings; his soul, however, is at home with the Lord."
"Rector Willkomm then
closes his report with the fine words, "But we, who are still in the fight
and in the work, pray with old Valerius Herberger, 'Lord Jesus, I want to do
what is ordered me, according to Noah's example, the best that I can; everything
else I leave to thee. What I do not understand, thou wilt do; thou dost know
how to keep me in the framework of my calling; I trust in thee and build on
thee. ...When I die, take my soul into heaven and include me in thy Kingdom, so
that no pain may touch me. And at the Last Day, take me to thee with body and
soul, lead me to the heavenly wedding which thou hast prepared for thy clever
virgins and rueful Christians with thy blood. Then shall the doors be closed,
Matthew 25:10, which means, nobody will ever again get after us and do us harm,
but we will live in eternal peace and quiet. Amen, Lord Jesus, Amen.'"
(signed, L.F.; probably Pastor L. Fuerbringer)
The following article on Dr.
George Mezger in my possession also has no mention of where it appeared. A
portion of one paragraph has been obliterated. I have noted this by the mark
[xxx] wherever part of the text is missing. The Concordia Seminary mentioned is
in St. Louis, MO.
A divine service in memory
of Dr. George Mezger, whose death occurred November 3 at Berlin, Germany, was
held at Concordia Seminary December 11. The service was attended by the
Faculty, the student-body, and representatives of the local clergy and laity. Suitable
hymns were sung, Prof. Heintze read a portion of Scripture, and the
liturgical part of the service was supplied by Professor Hoyer. Dr. L.
Fuerbringer made the memorial address, which left a deep impression upon the
audience. It was delivered with great earnestness, even solemnity, and those
who heard it will not soon forget its lessons. From it we cull the following
facts regarding the life of Professor Mezger:--
Born December 18, 1857, in Brunswick, Germany, he received his primary education in his homeland. Under the influence of Rev. F. Brunn he came to America, entered Tertia in Fort Wayne, and graduated in 1878. Completing his theological course at St. Louis, he was ordained in 1881 and for fifteen years served in the congregational ministry. In the fall of 1896 he became professor at Concordia Seminary. In 1923 he was sent to Europe as representative of our Synod and also as professor of theology in the seminary of our German Free Church located at Berlin-Zehlendorf. He visited, in the interest of our Church, groups of Lutherans in Denmark, Finland, Austria, France, and Russia. His labors were vigorously maintained until shortly before his death, which came not altogether unexpected and was painless.
In his address Dr. Fuerbringer pointed out the pattern of a true teacher and preacher of religious truth which we are able to trace in the life and teachings of the departed theologian. As a specialist in catechetics, or the art of instructing people rudiments of Christianity (especially our young in [xxx] and Sunday-school and in confirmation class), he was master, but was able to instruct others in the methods used with such signal success. A model was Dr. [xxx] especially in his emphasis on the unique value of [xxx] small Catechism as a work of instruction for those [xxx] church-membership. Dr. Fuerbringer at this point ap[xxx] continued recognition of the catechetical method [xxx]-and-answer method) as the ideal form for instructing [xxx] and old in the articles of our faith.
[xxx] tribute was paid to Dr. Mezger as a preacher and as [xxx]er of the art of making sermons and delivering them [xxx] pulpit. "He permitted no sermons 'about' a text, but [xxx] exposition, interpretation, applied to the needs of [xxx]cording to varying conditions and circumstances. [xxx] clear, comprehensible language, popular in dic[xxx] vulgar; devoid of all striving for rhetorical [xxx]stimony of the truth which lives in the heart of the preacher. Mezger loved to preach, but never failed in careful, conscientious preparation. His sermons originated in the study, as they should, with earnest prayer to God for light and guidance. Such sermons are as necessary to-day as they have ever been. But such sermons-making requires hard, patient labor. Especially in our day, when through the multitude of tasks which crowd upon the ministry the more essential duties of our office are apt to be crowded into the background, let us remember that the making of sermons and their delivery is the main task of the ministry."
With an earnestness that did not fail its appeal to heart and conscience, Dr. Fuerbringer closed his address:--
"Finally it counts for little if we bedeck the graves of the prophets, make memorial addresses, and listen to them. Rather let us prove our gratitude for men like Piper, Bente, and Mezger by a renewed dedication to serious labor, conscientiousness, loyalty, and in this manner do our share that theirs may be a blessed memory in our midst. May God perform this among us according to His gracce for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen."
The following likewise untitled article was the basis for, and quoted extensively in, the first article reproduced above.
the 25th of November.
Our Theological Seminary in
Berlin-Zehlendorf has suffered a great loss, in that Professor Dr. Georg Mezger
was taken from the midst of his activity by God on the 3rd of November,
entirely unexpectedly, without a long illness. Although his strength had been
ebbing for some time, and there were many signs of a serious illness, he had
always been able to pull himself together and give lectures up until the
Wednesday of the last week of October. Then, however, as his body and his feet
were beginning to swell up, the doctor advised him to undergo a drainage. So he
went to the new evangelical Martin-Luther-Hospital in Berlin-Schmargendorf on
Tuesday morning, accompanied by his daughter. He cheerfully said good-bye to
his daughter, who was to come back in the afternoon. The drainage was done and
took place without incident. However, immediately afterward, a serious weakness
of the heart set in, his daughter was advised, and returned to find him still
alive, but without consciousness. He then fell asleep in her arms, gently and
without a fight. According to the doctor's report, the cause of death was a
serious liver disease which, had he lived any longer, would likely have caused
him much sorrow and pain. On the day before his end, he spoke to Rektor Willkom
of God's loyalty, which was his only hope and salvation, with which alone he
could and would console himself, as our loyalty was nothing more than
disloyalty and was lost with all our deeds. At the same time, he gave voice to
the double wish that God's loyalty would keep him in faith on the savior until
the end, which the Lord had promised after all, and the other wish was that he
would be spared a long disease, if it were God's will.
Let the following be briefly said about the life of the departed and his work in the service of the Church: He was born on December 18, 1857, as the son of a photographer in Brunswick. On his mother's side he was related to the authoress, C. Jacobshagen, whose simple book, "Licht von eben" ("Light from above") was in the past much-read in Christian families in Germany. His father died early, and Georg came to Hannover as an apprentice to a book dealer. It was in Hannover that he was confirmed in the Christian church by Pastor Richard Greve. On his confirmation certificate are the citations of Matt. 11:29 and 1 Pet. 2:11-12. Through the aid of his confirmator he was able to come to the Pre-Seminary of Pastor Friedrich Brunn in Steeden, who was preparing young men for service in the Lutheran Church in North America at that time. From Steeden he traveled, along with other young people, to North America, to the High School of the Missouri Synod. Among the young men traveling with him was also the current Precess (?) of the Missouri Synod, Dr. F. Pfotenhauer, as well as Pastor Bruno Potzger, who came from our own Planitz congretation and is now long departed. He last resided in Hemlock, Mich. After completing his high school education, the departed came to the Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., where he studied theology under Dr. Walther and his colleagues for three years, with a break of several months which was caused by his being asked to serve a vacant congregation in Brooklyn temporarily. After he had passed his exams, he was called first by the congregation in Waterloo, Ia (1881). Later, he followed a call to Okawville, Ill., and in 1895 to Decatur, Ill. During these years, in which he was active in the practical office of minister, he was already able to serve the larger Church by giving lectures at conferences and meetings. In 1895, a longer essay of his appeared in "Lehre und Wehre" ("Teach and Defend") on the certainty of the resurrecton of Christ. In 1896 he was called to be a professor at the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., and worked loyally there for over 25 years with blessings, by instructing the future pastors in the practical subjects of homilism (giving sermons), catechism, symbolism, and more. A large number of the pastors of our Church were pupils of his. For many years he edited the "Magazin für ev.-luth. Homiletik" ("Magazine for Evangelical Lutheran Homilism"). He became known in a larger circle through the publication in 1902 of his book, "Entwürfe zu Katechesen über Luthers Kleinen Katechismus", and gave a big hand to many of those in the service of congregations, not only in this book, but also in other publications for religious instruction. For many long years he was also the head of the Committee of the Synod Conference for Negro Missions. In addition, he played a leading role in the unification discussions with Lutheran theologians from other North American synods. In 1921, the faculty of the Northwestern College of the Wisconsin Synod in Watertown, Wis., awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Theology. In addition to his activity as a theological teacher, he served several congregations during his time in St. Louis as an assistant minister, especially in the Holy Cross congregation, in whose boundary the Seminary lay.
The departed was married twice: first to Marg. Froellinger (sic) of Fort Wayne, Ind. Three children came of this marriage, of whom two are still alive. His first wife died in 1888. In 1890, he married a second time, to Elisabeth Eirich (daughter of Pastor M. Eirich). She gave him five children, of whom four survive their father. Their mother already went home in 1921 following a difficult illness.
In 1923, the departed was asked by the delegate synod over there to come to us in Germany, to serve as a professor at our Seminary, which at that time had just been moved to Berlin-Zehlendorf, and also to serve as a representative of the Missouri Synod for Europe. It was certainly not an easy decision for him, who had just lost his second wife, to leave the site of his activity up until that time, and to enter into our modest circumstances. He did it for the love of the work, and thus, as the temporary contract was turned into a permanent one, after a short trip to and around North America, he came back to us and stayed and served our school and our entire Church with his rich experiences and his beautiful gifts until the end, in great faith and generosity. He lectured here on the New Testament (lastly the Epistle to the Galatians, which he particularly liked) as well as on pastorism, homilism, and symbolism. He was always a diligent co-worker at the conferences, and his lectures on the little catechism at various regional meetings will remain a fresh memory for all those who were able to hear him. Despite his advancing age, he took on many difficult journeys in the service of the Church and served in difficult and important questions with his advice. Therefore, we owe God a great debt of gratitude for giving us this man.
The burial of the blessed Dr. Mezger was solemn and fitting. The body of the departed was delivered from the hospital to our seminary and laid in state in the great hall, where the students took turns as honor guards. On November 6th, a funeral mass took place in the great hall. After we had sung the hymn, "Christ, Who is My Life", Pastor Dr. Koch gave the memorial sermon on Romans 14: 7,8: "When we live, we live in the Lord". He showed how the departed one's life was a life of faith on the Lord through God's Grace, and thus was an exemplary life in the service of the Saviour, and his death a blessed death. Then, following a short song by the choir, Pastor Petersen spoke on behalf of the council and our entire church. The countless assembled guests then sang "I Fell Asleep in Christ's Wounds", upon which the undersigned (Rector Willkomm) spoke on Hebrews 10: 23 and labeled the departed's theology as a theology which, based upon a firm testimony, praised nothing else but the faith of God in Jesus Christ. After singing the first three verses of "Jerusalem, Thou City on High", we accompanied the body of the departed to his last resting place in the cemetery by the church in Kleinmachnow, where we were received by the pealing of bells, a friendly gesture of the local parish minister. Pastor Dr. Koch, who was the departed one's personal minister, gave the graveside sermon, after which the assembled guests sang a few verses of the old Lutheran burial hymn, "Now Let Us Bury the Body". Then the students who had carried the coffin from the car to the grave sang a hymn, and their spokesperson called out words of thanks and praise to the departed. The pastors who had followed the coffin, including several external pupils of the departed, strew earth on the coffin, accompanied by fitting phrases from the Bible. Now his tired body rests in the lap of the earth until the day of resurrection of all mortal beings; his soul, however, is at home with the Lord."