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Stirewalt, Jacob

by Gary G. Roth, 1994

17 Aug. 1805–21 Aug. 1869

Engraved portrait of Jacob Stirewalt.  From J. C. Jensson's <i>American Lutheran Biographies</i>, p. 757,  published 1890. Presented on Jacob Stirewalt, Lutheran clergyman, was born near Salisbury, the second son and third and youngest child of John and Mary Elizabeth Rendleman Stirewalt. He was the grandson of Joannes Stirewalt, who emigrated from Germany in 1749 and built the pipe organ from which Organ (Zion) Church, Rowan County, gained its name. His father was a prosperous Rowan County farmer and a prominent member of Organ Church, where the infant Jacob was baptized on 3 Nov. 1805. Carefully reared and educated by his Lutheran parents, he "acquired that firmness of Christian character and those habits of persevering and systematic labor which marked his entire life." As a young man he tried his hand at farming and also taught school, but influenced by various members of the Henkel family, he resolved to enter the ministry and was licensed to preach by the Evangelical Lutheran Tennessee Synod in 1837. He preached his first sermon in Mount Calvary Church, Page County, Va., and was ordained by the Tennessee Synod in Salem Church, Lincoln County, N.C., in 1838.

From the day of his ordination, Stirewalt played an active role in synod affairs. He often preached at synod convocations and was elected treasurer of the synod in 1853 and reelected in 1859. At the same session at which he was ordained, Stirewalt, Ambrose Henkel, and Jacob Killian were asked to prepare a "Liturgy" for use in the churches. The synod approved their work at the session of 1839 and published the Liturgy in 1840. In 1848 the synod directed Stirewalt and several others to respond to certain "erroneous statements in regard to our body" that were made by Dr. Ernst L. Hazelius in his History of the American Lutheran Church. The committee asked the editors of the Lutheran Standard and the Lutheran Observer to publish corrections of these "errors." Five years later Stirewalt and others urged the synod to decline an invitation to unite with the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the United States which had been extended by the Pennsylvania Synod. An orthodox or confessional Lutheran, Stirewalt disapproved of the "American" Lutheranism of the General Synod. His colleagues shared his view and officially rejected the offer on the grounds that "under existing circumstances" such a union was not possible.

In the course of his ministry Stirewalt served many churches, chiefly in Page, Rockingham, and Shenandoah counties, Va., including Mount Calvary Church, Page County (1837–60); Rader's Church and Timberline Parish, Rockingham County (1837–39 and 1858–69); Soloman's Church, Forestville, Shenandoah County (1845–69); and St. Paul's Jerome (Orkney Springs Parish), Shenandoah County (1837–67). "In the 32 years of his ministry," his obituary recounts, "he preached 3132 sermons, of which 560 were funeral discourses; he confirmed 708 persons, and baptized 1259, and united in marriage 171 couples." A biographer described him as "energetic by nature, of a nervous temperament, and zealous in the advancement of everything in which he was interested." In addition to the Liturgy, Stirewalt translated Luther's "Large Catechism" for the first English edition of the Christian Book of Concord; or, Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (1851, rev. ed., 1854) and was the author of Grades in the Ministry, published posthumously in 1881. Both works were printed by the Henkel family press at New Market, Shenandoah County, Va.

Stirewalt married Henrietta Henkel at New Market, Va., on 8 Jan. 1833. They had six sons and four daughters. Seven children survived their father, and two sons, John Nathaniel and Jerome Paul, became Lutheran ministers. Stirewalt died at his home in New Market at the age of sixty-four years and four days and was buried at Emmanuel Church, New Market. An engraving of him appears in J. C. Jensson's American Lutheran Biographies, and an illustration of the home in which he was reared can be found in T. T. Waterman's The Early Architecture of North Carolina.


Charles L. Coon Papers (Manuscript Department, Duke University Library, Durham).

William E. Eisenberg, The Lutheran Church in Virginia, 1717–1962 (1967).

Evangelical Lutheran Tennessee Synod, Minutes (1837–69).

Socrates Henkel, History of the Evangelical Lutheran Tennessee Synod (1890).

J. C. Jensson, American Lutheran Biographies (1890).

Life Sketches of Lutheran Ministers: North Carolina and Tennessee Synods, 1773–1965 (1966).

Ronald W. Miller, letters to Gary G. Roth.

Jacob L. Morgan and other, eds., History of the Lutheran Church in North Carolina (1953).

M. L. Stirewalt, "Memorandum Books of 100 Years Ago Record Interesting Facts About Trips from Here to Virginia," Salisbury Evening Post, 24 June 1934.

Additional Resources:

Jenssen, J. C. American Lutheran biographies; or, Historical notices of over three hundred and fifty leading men of the American Lutheran church. Milwaukee, Wis.: [Press of A. Houtkamp & Son]. 1890. (accessed April 21, 2014).

Jacob Stirewalt License, 1818 (collection no. 05337-z). The Southern Historical Collection. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.,Jacob.html (accessed April 21, 2014).

Guide to the Stirewalt Family Papers, 1830s-1993.  Rubenstein Library, Duke University Libraries. (accessed April 21, 2014).

Image Credits:

Jensson, J. C. American Lutheran biographies; or, Historical notices of over three hundred and fifty leading men of the American Lutheran church. Milwaukee, Wis.:[Press of A. Houtkamp & Son]. 1890. 757. (accessed April 21, 2014).

Origin - location: 


Comment# 3:
(See refs at bottom.)
Find a shows john had a son "jacob b.," who matches up with the above article in ncpedia.

But it shows he also had a brother "jacob b."

The son born 1805. The brother born 1777. The brother is my great great grandfather.

UNC Library shows a license to operate milling machinery in 1818 but says was granted to the 1805 jacob, who would have been only 13 yrs old in 1818, and moved to VA as a young man and entered the ministry up there.

So UNC might have a mistake. The license would be more likely granted to his uncle jacob b, who would have been 41 then, and was in fact a wood miller, architect, and builder.

However the license says coddle creek which is
farther from mill hill than mill creek.
Coddle creek is behind the rankin farm, (was dammed to make a reservoir in the 1970s or 80s.) Mill creek runs right behind Mill Hill.

Maybe older jacob b. wanted a second millworks site, or maybe his namesake nephew tried to follow in his footsteps when only 13 y.o. ? He didnt marry up in Va till age 28, so I guess it could've been like that, back in those times.

The church website says the organ was built by Johannes for the original log church, which he and his brother Peter helped found, then it was later moved to the stone church. Both John and Johannes are buried at that church. not sure where the elder jacob b. is buried...probably at a presb church in rowan county, nc.

His nephew the younger jacob b.'s grave is up in VA. This jacob of your article would be my first cousin 4 times removed.

My mother lives in a senior home near new market va. A Henkel, now deceased, lived there too. He noticed a plaque on the lutheran church in new market about a stirewalt marrying a henkel so he alerted my mom, and i went to check it out.

Thats what led me to learn about the second jacob, but i didnt realize he evidently was a close relative, and our jacob's namesake, until tonight.

Hope i havent bored you!

All correct. Jacob Stirewalt was the uncle of the above mentioned 1805 Jacob who married a Henkel. We live in the original house at Mill Hill built c. 1821 . Fascinating family history and I’m always ready to learn more. I wish there was a picture of Mill Hill’s Jacob Stirewalt. He married Jane Johnston of Salisbury.

There are two Jacob Stirewalts of some prominence about whom descendants and scholars get confused. They are of approximately the same generation, and both raised in Rowan County, NC. The Lutheran minister is buried in New Market VA, behind the Lutheran church where he, his Henkel father in law, and his Stirewalt descendants were all ministers. This Jacob -- a missionary--is referenced in the UNC library's Southern History collection, and his family's papers are in the Duke Univ. library collection.

On the other hand, the Jacob from whom I am descended was a mill operator, architect and designer/builder of fine furniture. His plantation home "Mill Hill" near Kannapolis NC, on Stirewalt Rd., is in the National Registry of Historic Places. They ran a lumber mill and a furniture operation. His blueprints for that house are archived in the NC State Univ. Library in Raleigh, and can be viewed online. He also designed homes for other customers, at least one other also listed as historic. His furniture was studied for a PhD dissertation in the 1980's.

One of this Jacob's great-grandsons (my dad's cousin -- last name Rankin) still farms a half mile away. This Jacob's descendants were predominately Presbyterians through a marriage, possibly his own.

There were and still are a lot of distantly related Stirewalts in and around Kannapolis. These two Jacobs were cousins, exactly how close I don't know. They shared an ancestor in Johannes Steigerwaldt of Germany who built the famous church organ mentioned above.

The UNC library entry seems to have conflated these two talented men, with mentions of milling, architecture, a prominent self-built home, and Lutheranism. Although: it is entirely likely that there were numerous skilled artisans, trades- and craftspeople in the various descendant lines. For example, the Virginia transplant--the Rev. Jacob who followed his wife's Henkel family north--built a fine home in New Market VA near their church. If you visit, this is now the Civil War memorabilia store on Main St. and listed in town history as the Stirewalt House. Very possibly he designed and built this personally, with the skills he was taught by his own folks back in NC.

My grandfather, a physician raised in Kannapolis, and my Dad, a planner, also built and restored furniture, cabinetry, sheds, cages and such, as a hobby, but the true art has been lost now in our branch. We still have some of way-back Jacob's furniture, and we used to visit Mill Hill while my great uncle Jake still lived there, into the 1960's.

Uncle Jake's ( and my grand-dad's ) father died at 32 after a serious injury at his own father Jacob's millsaw operation. And besides two sons, that young man had the daughter, my great aunt, who married the neighbor on the still-active farm around the corner on Rankin Rd., where we also visited often as children.

Do you know much about the ownership of slaves on the property, or what the cabin was used for? I live in the cabin at the moment and I am curious to get more information on that.

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