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Henry Kurtz

Born in Binnigheim, Germany.  His father was an educated man, engaged part of his time in teaching.  Religiously he was a devout Lutheran; and with all the means at his command he sought to educate his son.  Henry pressed so far along in school work as to gain a fair knowledge of some of the dead languages.  He was reared in the Lutheran faith and looked forward to service in the ministry for which during his youth he was preparing himself.  When twenty–one he came to America and engaged in teaching.  June 10, 1819, he was admitted to the Lutheran Synod, and the following August, the 8th, took his first charge in Northampton County, Pa.  Four years later he moved to a charge in Pittsburgh.  Here he remained till 1823, when through change of belief on matters of religion he moved to Columbia County, and a few months later to Starke County, Ohio.  Three years later he located on a farm near Poland, Mahoning County, and there resided till his death.

The Old Spring House: First Home of the Gospel Visitor [Click for larger image]While engaged in his charge in Northampton County, Pa., he married Anna Catherine Loehr, in 1820.  To them were born four sons, who grew to manhood.

He inherited a deep religious nature and was sincere in his efforts to follow the Lord.  While engaged in his Pittsburgh pastorate he became dissatisfied on the subject of infant baptism.  Investigation and observation convinced him that faith was an essential to proper baptism, and therefore he could no longer baptize infants.  It created quite a stir in the Synod.  Some favored bearing with him, while others would excommunicate him.  Finally the latter prevailed.  This left him without means of support.  Some time after he located in Ohio he heard of the Brethren, and after locating in Starke County, began attending their meetings.  April 6, 1828, he was baptized; two years later he was placed in the ministry.  With a conscience clear and a great field in which to work he took hold in great earnestness.  In 1838 he visited his parents and sister in Germany, preached wherever he went, and had the joy of immersing some nine on that trip.  His labors extended as far as into Switzerland.  Nearly all these baptized ones came to America.  He returned after a year, and moved into the Mahoning congregation in 1842.  Here in 1844 he was ordained and given the oversight of the congregation, which charge he held for over thirty years.

Poland Spring [Click for larger image]Over this spring, near Poland, Mahoning County, Ohio, stood the house in which Elder Henry Kurtz first printed the "Gospel Visitor" in 1851.  Here the revival of printing in our Brotherhood took place.  The grave of Brother Kurtz is also located near here.In Starke County, near Poland, in the loft of the spring–house on his farm, Brother Kurtz began in 1851 to publish the Gospel Visitor.  Few were the conveniences within his reach.  He was editor, compositor, proofreader, pressman, mailman, clerk every position in the shop.  Brother Quinter was associated with him for a while and was a valuable assistant as editor, but no further.  If the conveniences were small, the sympathy and support on the part of the Brotherhood were less.  Amidst every kind of trial he published his monthly.  Conference thought to stop its publication, but at last concluded it was not in her province to meddle with the business affairs of the individual member.  And between meeting the adverse feeling on the part of the Brotherhood and financing the project through such meager support, our brother was tried to the very limit.  But it was worth while.  The Gospel Visitor is the first product of the revival of periodical literature in recent times, and a splendid forerunner of what is now enjoyed by the Fraternity.

Brother Kurtz was a leader in the Brotherhood and stood among the foremost in the conflict.  For fifteen years he was Clerk of the Annual Meeting.  He was a busy man,—overloaded with duties, one might say, yet happy in his work.  Of a strong German type, he labored abundantly for uniformity in all matters religious and was a fearless expounder of the truth as he believed it.

Gravestone of Eld. Henry Kurtz [Click for larger image]Gravestone of Eld. Henry Kurtz.His body lies in the cemetery near Poland, Ohio.

Extracts from volume 1, page 1, of the Monthly Visitor, April, 1851, the first periodical of modern times in the Church of the Brethren:

“Peace be unto you! Luke 24: 36.  Dearest Brothers and Sisters, Friends and Fellow Travelers to Eternity!  Peace be unto you!  Not the peace, which the world may give, but that peace, which cometh from on high.

“With this salutation we send the Visitor in the midst of you.  Will you bid him welcome?  We trust, that you are ‘not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.’  Would you then send away a stranger, who comes to you in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace? . . .  A long time has elapsed, since we sent out the queries, proposed in July, 1849, to the printer,—and also his views on the subject of a publication of this kind.  He wished to take advice of his brethren, and the result of the consultation was, that a majority of churches heard from was in favor of the measure, or at least a trial, that a respectable number of subscribers (more than three hundred) and even payment for more than fifty copies were sent in—Thus far we felt encouraged . . .  We have prayerfully considered every objection; we have already felt the difficulties; we shrink from the responsibility.  Yet there is one word of God staring us in the face, which will deprive us of our peace, unless we obey it.  It is James 4: 17.”

Following this the objections are answered, the reasons for publication given, revealing a broad outlook for a man in the beginning of publication.

Source:Daniel Long Miller & Galen Bernice Royer, Some Who Led, (Elgin, Ill.: Brethren Publishing House, 1912), pp. 41-43;  T. S. Moherman (Ed.), History of the Church of the Brethren — Northeastern Ohio, (Elgin, Ill.: Brethren Publishing House, 1914), pp. 38, 40, 297 [images].
Image Credits:© 2009, A. Wayne Webb
Copyright:© 2009, A. Wayne Webb