This letter was written by Rev. Stephen Albion Mealy (1800-1855) was pastor of the Lutheran Church of Ascension in Savannah, Georgia, from 1824 to 1839. Rev. Mealy later served in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then became principal of the Canton Female Seminary in Canton, Ohio. We learn that Rev. Mealy’s infant son was very ill at the time this letter was written in April 1834. His son died on 11 June 1834.
Rev. Mealy wrote the letter to Rev. Peter Rizer (1812-1886), the son Martin and Ann Catherine (Doward) Rizer. He studied at the Cumberland Academy and graduated from Gettysburg Seminary in 1832. The next spring, as part of his examination for approval to be a Lutheran licensed preacher, Rizer made a public address on the subject, “The Moral and Intellectual Qualifications of a Gospel Minister.” He was first licensed in the Maryland Synod in 1833 and was ordained in the same in 1834.
He later was ordained, and after serving a parish in Boonsboro, Maryland (1832-1833), became a missionary to the Cherokee Indians in South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia, translating Christian hymns into their language as well as parts of the Bible. He continued this work until 1836. The following is an excerpt from “History of the German Settlements and of the Lutheran Church in North and South Carolina: From the Earliest Period of the Colonization of the Dutch, German, and Swiss Settlers to the Close of the First Half of the Present Century” published by Lutheran Book Store, 1872:
In December, 1833, the Missionary Committee of the Synod employed the Rev. P. Rizer, “who arrived at Lexington, S. C., from the State and Synod of Maryland,” as a traveling missionary in the States of Georgia and Alabama. “He met with a very cordial reception from many Lutherans who had emigrated from Carolina, and found them still attached to the doctrines and usages of our Church.” In Monroeville, at Flatt Creek, and at Bogue-Chitto Creek, in the State of Alabama, the prospects for the immediate organization of Lutheran churches was so flattering, and the demand for a pastor so urgent, that on the return of Rev. Rizer, one of the theological students, Mr. F. F. Harris, was licensed, and sent at once to these people as their pastor. At the meeting of Synod in 1834, he was ordained as the pastor of this hopeful charge in Alabama, and remained in that State eight years, when he removed to Ohio. He was succeeded by Revs. Daily and Stoudenmyre, but nothing is now known of these churches, and no Lutheran minister is at present laboring in that portion of Alabama.
Here is an excerpt from “American Lutheran Biographies” by Rev. J. C. Jensson from 1890:
Upon leaving this mission field he immediately accepted a call to Indiana, but before going to his new home in the “far-west,” as it was in those days considered, he married Miss Margaret Peterson Rogers, a daughter of Col. John H. Rogers, of Baltimore, Md. (and descendent of John Rogers, English Martyr).
After serving congregations in Cumberland, Indiana, Dayton, Ohio, and Somerset, Pennsylvania, he moved to Sunbury, Pa., where he was stationed when the war began, and was appointed Chaplain of the 79th New York (Highland) Regiment of which Col. James Cameron had charge. He served this regiment some time, and was ordered south with Gen. Sherman’s expedition, and remained until contracting the Hiltonhead fever, and was compelled to resign his position. Recovering health he returned to church work, and after the war, labored in Oswego, N. Y., New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
In 1875 his wife died, a blow from which he never recovered, after which he wedded himself more than ever to his books, although he was always a close student. He was a prominent linguist, and could speak six languages, being particularly fond of the Hebrew, in which tongue, besides German and English, he daily read the Bible. A fine scholar and an able fluent preacher, yet our brother’s chief desire, his highest ambition was to win souls to Christ, and to work with all earnestness for Him, who had “called him with a holy calling.”
Thus peacefully, after more than two years of great suffering, he entered into “rest”, at the residence of his daughter, in Montgomery Co., Md., August 25, 1886, aged 74 years.
Addressed to Rev. P. Rizer, Augusta, Georgia
Care of M. Wagner, To remain at Augusta till Mr. Rizer arrives
April 22d 1834
My Dear Sir,
Your favor of the 3d inst. was received by this morning’s mail and gave me sincere pleasure to hear of your welfare. I am surprised to be informed that my letter did not reach you in Claiborne as I expected and am unable to account for the failure. I do not remember the date of my last, but should you finally obtain it and take this city on your homeward route, you will find on comparing it with the date of yours to which it was in answer, that whatever may be y other trespasses, unmindfulness of you is not one of them. Though I cannot precisely charge my recollection with the day on which I wrote, I am confident it was almost immediately after receiving yours. Whenever you get my former letter, you will perceive from the contents that I had heard you had preached in the Unitarian Church in Augusta. I have since understood that the report was unfounded in truth. I am glad of it and of course what I wrote under that impression may now be considered as a dead letter. You say you have written to me three times. I do assure you that I have received but two of your communications, wherever the third may be. You refer me to W. Scheck for an explanation of the circumstances which have induced you to visit Tennessee. Why! I have seen that gentleman but once since we parted and think it probable that I shall not see him again till he & I meet at our next Synod. He contemplates being in Lexington the last of this month, perhaps has already commenced his journey to that place — so you perceive that it is not unlikely you may see him before your humble servant.
Shortly after you left Savannah, two letters addressed to you were received at this office. Agreeably to your instructions, without an hour’s delay, I forwarded them to Milledgeville where I hope they arrived in time for you to get them. I beg to assure you that I never stand on cold formalities with my absent friends — particularly when situated as can have been during your missionary excursion. Could I have followed your peregrinations, as however I could not, I would have sent you the Observer regularly, and occasionally have obtruded a line from myself on your notice, even though I did not hear from you punctually in return. I have done all that the circumstances of the case would admit.
In the last number of the Observer, I read a letter from you to the Editor, the details of which I conceive will be interesting to the Lutheran Church at large, and with which I am much pleased.
You have experienced your privations and trials, my Brother, but they have been sustained in the best of causes. This, in itself, is a satisfaction of no ordinary character. And while they have not been without their benefit to our beloved Zion, I trust they will not have been unaccompanied with advantages to yourself. Like the father of the faithful, you have gone faith, scarcely knowing whither you went — but like him, one has travelled with you who is a present help in trouble to all that call in due season, restore you again in health & peace, to the home of your affections and the bosom of your friends. It was the experience of a saint of old and blessed be God! It is also the experience of every faithful disciple of Christ at the present day. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. He shall choose our inheritance for us.”
I had intended to devote the whole of this evening to my friend Rizer but company dropped in and remaining till ten o’clock, frustrated my wishes. You must therefore take the will for the act, as friends often have to do through life. I write in haste at a late hour and I know you will excuse my almost illegible scrawl.
Should you be able to take in Savannah on your return home, ,any friends here will be glad to see you, but none of them more so than myself. My son has been sick for the last three weeks, and is at present seriously ill. I am uneasy on his account but hope I can confide in the mercy of that Father in Heaven who has ever been better to me than my fears or deservings, and who, something whispers me, which is indeed my only comfort, that he will not now desert me in this hour of sore — O! how sore, trial.
Mrs. Mealy & my daughter are well & desire to be remembered to you kindly. Your friends in this city often speak of you with paternal & affectionate recollections. Should you not be able to visit Savannah, let me hear from you at Augusta. My best regards to W. Wagner & family.
Very sincerely your friend & Brother, — Stephen A. Mealy