News From Terre Haute, Indiana

History

May 17, 2014

HISTORICAL TREASURE: Highly decorated records of Confirmation

TERRE HAUTE — On display in the current exhibit at the Vigo County Historical Museum are documents that many might normally overlook. The exhibit, That Old Time Religion, reflects the rich and diverse ethnic and religious history of Terre Haute and Vigo County, while these documents capture a sliver of that particular history. These are religious documents, but also represent an important early community within Terre Haute.

Some of the earliest immigrants to the area were of German descent, and their community was kept together through shared traditions and language. The local German churches were also central to this sense of community. As such, these churches not only served as a cultural center, but also as the record keeper for the community they represented. This was true for the various ethnic groups in town, each with their representation through the religious traditions that helped to preserve their unique culture.

In this case, these documents represent the Lutheran Church in Terre Haute. While old German cursive is quite difficult to read, these documents are records of Confirmation from 1865 and 1892 (if I have translated them correctly). Each is highly decorated, and both reflect similar biblical passages; however, they are also quite different. While the earlier of the two has more iconography, it is also more rudimentary in design. By 1892 the design has become more Gothic in inspiration. Of note, both include information as to the lithographer at the bottom the page and the year the lithograph was entered into the Library of Congress. While the 1865 document has a partial phrase in English at the bottom that mentions an “Act of Congress in the year 1859.” The more intricate 1892 document mentions the lithographer, Leopold Gast, as well as the St. Louis publishing house, Concordia.

While I have barely scratched the surface in describing these beautiful pieces of our past, they are worth more detailed study. Stop by the museum and see these and other pieces of our shared religious past while the exhibit is on display.

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