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HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG (1711–1787)

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Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 956 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG (1711–1787), German-American Lutheran clergyman, was born in Einbeck, Hanover, on the 6th of September 1711. When he was twelve years old his father, a member of the city council, died. The son entered the university of Gottingen in 1735, and his work among the poor of Gottingen led to the establishment of the present orphan house there. In 1738 he went to Halle to finish his theological studies; he was a devoted worker hi the Franckesche Stiftung, which later served as a partial model for his great-grandson's community at St Johnland, Long Island. He was deacon at Grosshennersdorf, in Upper Lusatia, in 1739–1741. In 1742, in reply to a call from the Lutheran churches of Pennsylvania, he went to Philadelphia, and was joined from time to time, especially in 1745, by students from Halle. Muhlenberg occupied himself more particularly with the congregation at New Providence (now Trappe), though he was practically overseer of all the Lutheran churches from New York to Maryland. In 1748 he organized the first Lutheran synod in America. Muhlenberg married in 1745 Anna Maria Weiser, daughter of J. Conrad Weiser, a well-known Indian interpreter, and herself said to have had Indian blood in her veins; by her he had eleven children. Throughout the War of Independence he and his sons (see below) were prominent patriots. He died at Trappe on the 7th of October 1787. The importance of his work in organizing and building up the American Lutheran Church, of which he has been called the Patriarch, can hardly be exaggerated; but his example in preaching in English as well as in German was, unfortunately for the growth of the Lutheran Church, not followed by his immediate successors. He had no sympathy with the Old Lutherans and their strict orthodoxy—on the contrary he was friendly with the Reformed congregations, and with George Whitefield and the Tennents. See Life and Times by William J. Mann (Philadelphia, 1887).
End of Article: HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG (1711–1787)
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