BLTC Press Titles

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The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting

The Characters of Theophrastus


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman

Four hundred years

by William Herman Theodore Dau


Arthur H. C. Both, Chicago, 111.

Among the low, wooded hills of Thuringia, in the very heart of the German States, lies the little village of Moehra. It probably received its name from the character of the soil around it, which is to a great extent moorland, and but poorly suited to agriculture. The villagers of Moehra eertainly earned their bread in the sweat of their brow, for the soil but poorly repaid them for their industry. Mining also was carried on here, as copper had been found; but the yield was not so great as at Mansfeld and other places.

As a village, Moehra was insignificant. It was affiliated with the neighboring parish, and though it had a little chapel, yet it was without a priest. The villagers were mostly independent peasants, who owned their homes and farms, while others worked in the mines. They were a hardy and sturdy race, and lived frugal, but honest lives. Their customs were plain and vigorous. They were ever ready to defend their rights with their fists, yet, withal, Christian's, as Christianity went in those days. Time and again the youngest sons had taken over their fathers' homes and farms, while the older brothers sought their fortunes in other places and other occupations.

From time immemorial Moehra had been the home of the Luthers, and here Hans Luther had grown to manhood, and entered the state of matrimony with Margareta Ziegler. However, as custom deprived him of the hope of some day taking over the paternal homestead, Hans thought he would seek his fortune in some other place, and so, together with his young wife, he emigrated to Eisleben, in the county of Mansfeld. Here he hoped to find a better opportunity of making an honest living by working in the mines, which in those days were flourishing in a way never known around Moehra.

Here in the miners' quarters at Eisleben, on the 10th of November, 1483, their first child was born to the young couple, and, agreeably to the custom of the time, baptized in St. Peter's Church on the following day. "Because it was the day of St. Martin, the child was named after that saint. Tradition still points out the house in which Martin Luther was born, though only the walls of the original house still stand. The church was later enlarged and called Peter and Paul's Church. It is said that the present baptismal font retains portions of the old. But so many miners were attracted to Eisleben that Hans Luther failed to realize his expectations, and when Martin was only six months old, he moved to Mansfeld, six miles away.

Mansfeld lies on the banks of a stream, is enclosed by hills, and above it stands the stately castle of the counts to whom the place belonged. The scenery is. more severe and the air harsher than at Moehra, and in general the people were rougher than the Thuringians. Hans Luther found employment in the mines, and his wife did all she could to help to support the family. "My father," the Reformer said, "was a poor miner; my mother carried in all the wood upon her back; they worked the flesh off their bones to bring us up." Gradually, however, things improved, and we hear that Hans Luther leased two smelting-furnaces from the counts for a term of years, and even bought a good dwellinghouse in the principal street of the town. Though his outward prosperity did thus improve, the maintenance and education of his family was a constant cause of anxiety.

Hans Luther bore a good reputation among his townsmen, and as early as 1491 was a member of the town magistracy. He associated with the best families, was personally known to the counts and was much esteemed by them. When Martin Luther had acquired fame, his parents frequently visited him in Wittenberg, and moved with simple dignity among his friends. Melanchthon describes Hans Luther as a man who by the purity of his character and conduct won for himself universal affection and esteem. "The mother," he says, "was a worthy woman, distinguished for her modesty, her fear of God, and constant communion with God in prayer."

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