Edward Louis Arndt Papers
Scope and Contents
The family background, written by Edward Louis Arndt is called “Gottes Wunderwege.” It was transcribed from Gabelsberger (an old German shorthand not used anymore) into German longhand in 1949 and translated by his youngest son, Edward J. Arndt. There are numerous paragraphs called ‘Notes by Author’ that do not necessarily correspond with the page on which they appear. In some cases the processor of this collection wrote an explanation to guide the reader to the paragraph to which it belongs. In the later volumes of the family history the “Notes by Author” read more like a diary entry since important dates, feelings and thoughts are noted.
This collection also includes a variety of sermons dated from 1848 to 1898 in various handwritings other than Arndt’s. According to the note accompanying these sermons, it appears that Arndt collected them from various sources. They remain part of the collection and can be found in folder #84.
The Edward L. Arndt Papers are separated into two major series: his Autobiography and the China Mission. The first series includes also a genealogy of the Salomon family (his wife’s roots) and covers his upbringing, first call and time as a professor until 1910. The latter covers the period from 1910 to his death in China in 1929 and is easily accessible since E. J. Arndt, his son, arranged this part of the collection into binders by year. See the Finding Aid under the External Documents header.
- 1864 - 1929
Biographical / Historical
Edward L. Arndt was born on 19 December 1864 in Bukowin, Pomerania. He came from a strongly Lutheran family that left Pomerania (the Polish Corridor) to improve their living standard in America. They settled on the west side of Chicago where land was cheap. His father, Ferdinand Johann Arndt, was largely uneducated; he could write but not spell. By trade Ferdinand Johann was a shoemaker, yet he soon learned how to build houses. He wanted all his sons to be educated and to enter the ministry. He even hoped that Edward would serve as his pastor.
Arndt attended a parochial school where he had solid teachers who prepared him to enter the Quinta class at Concordia College (Fort Wayne, Indiana). His formal education was completed at Concordia Seminary (Saint Louis), at the age of 19 in 1885. His diploma was signed by C. F. W. Walther, G. Schaller, M. Guenther, F. Pieper, R. Lange and G. Stoeckhardt. After graduation he became an "autodidakt," increasing his knowledge by teaching himself. While studying science at Fort Wayne, he developed an interest in entomology and wanted to go to Brazil. Eventually he became a science professor.
Arndt was a devoted husband and father. On 1 May 1887 he married Johanne Marie Karoline Salomon in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He had met her when he was 13 years of age as a student at Concordia College. They remained friends throughout his years in Fort Wayne and Saint Louis. Notes later revealed that Arndt had secretly become engaged to Marie already on 1 September 1886. Eight children were born to this union: Joseph (13 March 1888–24 December 1906); Lydia Caroline Theodora (5 December 1889–21 August 1971); Paul Johann Ferdinand (18 June 1891–27 July 1969); Agnes Hermine Louise Christine (23 September 1893–17 March 1974); Walter Ferdinand Theodore (13 June 1897–8 October 1943); Christian Ottomar (3 November 1899–5 February 1966); Karl John Richard (17 September 1903–25 October 1991); Edward Hans Arnold (15 October 1909).
Arndt’s first call was to Michigan where he founded Trinity Lutheran Church, East Saginaw, writing out its constitution in longhand. He remained there for twelve years and blamed himself for delaying the congregation’s growth.
In 1897 Arndt was ripe for accepting a call to the new Concordia College, Saint Paul, Minnesota, which had just been founded three years earlier. He was installed as its first professor of science on 2 March 1897. Professor Arndt served this college faithfully for thirteen years. A controversy arose in the summer of 1908 that eventually led to his dismissal. The conflict erupted when Arndt recommended that three students not be promoted to the next grade due to low test scores. Among these students was Martin Pfotenhauer, son of Friedrich Pfotenhauer, the president of the Missouri Synod at that time. Later in the 1908/09 academic year more dicipline problems occurred, especially with student Karl von Schenk, son of one of the founders of Concordia College. Professor Arndt was not supported by the faculty, and on 20 February 1910 he was summarily dismissed. Forced to move into low-income housing in Saint Paul with his large family, Arndt felt exiled. A wealthy woman in his former congregation in Saginaw offered him a free home, but he would not accept it.
Arndt attended several missionary conferences that were being held in Minneapolis and Chicago. He became interested in China, which at that time was still an empire under the declining Manchu Dynasty. Arndt apparently did not expect favorable treatment from the synodical hierarchy for his idea to begin mission work in China because he created his own mission society, The China Mission Society, in May 1912. Only two months later Arndt was installed as missionary at New Ulm. He wrote and paid for publishing two books of sermons, one English and one German. These he sold to build up a reserve fund for the mission. He also edited a newsletter called Missionsbriefe, for which he charged 25 cents. Readers would pledge regular payments to support the mission society. Although there were difficult years ahead, the society remained alive for five years until it was taken over by the Missouri Synod. Arndt was already fluent in German and English, and he mastered the Chinese language although he was already 49 years of age.
Arndt was a man with strong convictions that often brought him into conflict with those who did not see things his way. He would not compromise on maintaining academic standards at Concordia College. In China he maintained close contacts with all Lutheran missions, and he supported German missionaries stranded in China during the First World War. He preached in the German Community Church during the war.
He held his own for six years against an onslaught of fellow missionaries over the “term question.” The Term Question was the biggest controversy the young mission society had to endure. It basically revolved around the Chinese term for God. Arndt continued to use the term Shang Ti, while his opponent, George Lillegard, favored the term Shen as more appropriate for depicting the God of the Scriptures. This controversy cast a pall over all of Lillegard’s missionary activities in China, yet he held to his views even after the faculty of Concordia Seminary (Saint Louis), took a firm stand against him in 1926.
Arndt refused to leave his post in Hankow in 1926-27 during the communist up-raising. Two of his trained evangelists were falsely accused and faced execution if he did not prove their innocence. He succeeded. During this unrest Arndt actually took steps to surrender his U.S. citizenship if necessary to remain with his flock. He never retired from his position as pioneer missionary. He outlasted the Hankow Chinese communist government in 1927. When rumors of his death circulated, the lowliest rickshaw coolie would know of the passing of “Hu-tze” (the bearded one). Arndt died on 18 April 1929. He was buried in the international cemetery in Hankow. In 1981 his son Edward visited the gravesite to pay his respects, but no trace of it remained. The cemetery may have survived the devastating flood of 1931, but when Mao took over, each grave was leveled.
7.66 Linear Feet (Six cubic foot boxes; Four bound volumes; Four 5" document boxes)
Language of Materials
A.01.09.3 to A.01.09.5
Donated by P.F. Arndt, March 1959; Karl Arndt, April 1966; Edward J. Arndt, April 1981, June 1984.
- Edward Louis Arndt Papers
- Concordia Historical Institute
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the Concordia Historical Institute Repository
804 Seminary Place
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