George M. Grossmann

GEORGE MARTIN GROSSMANN, distinguished for his pioneer work as a Lutheran clergyman and particularly as the first director of the Wartburg College and Teachers Seminary at Waverly, was born in Germany, at Grossbieberau, Hessen-Darmstadt, October 18, 1823, son of Ludwig and Maria Margaretha (Rotenhaeuser) Grossmann. His father was a teacher. He attended normal school at Friedburg, engaged in teaching, and while thus occupied became interested in the missionary work in America, then being directed by Wilhelm Loehe, of Neuendettelsau. After studying theology he offered his services to Loehe, who chose him to conduct a training school for parochial school teachers at Saginaw, Michigan.

George M. Grossmann was ordained at Hamburg, and with his family and some young men who were to be hid pupils reached Saginaw in July, 1862, opening his school. The Lutheran pastors of Saginaw County were members of the Missouri Synod. Grossmann soon found himself unpleasantly concerned in a controversy between Loehe and the Missouri Synod over the nature of the ministerial office and its relation to the priesthood of believers. He sided with Loehe against the extreme congregationalism of the Missourians. Consequently finding his position at Saginaw uncomfortable, he decided to migrate to a part of the country unoccupied by pastors of that synod, and accordingly, late in October, 1853, he and his friend, Rev. Johannes Deindoerfer, moved to Iowa. Settling at Dubuque, he reopened his school, gathered a Lutheran congregation, while Deindoerfer went some sixty miles northwestward into Clayton County. On August 24, 1854, these two pioneer ministers and two other young men recently sent over by Loehe met in Deindoerfer's cabin at Saint Sebald in Clayton County and organized the German Lutheran Synod of Iowa. The synod during the years continued to grow, although handicapped by the polemical onslaughts of the Missouri Synod, and by some dissensions and intrigue within its own ranks. Loehe continued to send men and money for its work, and as German immigrants poured into the West and Northwest the synod gradually extended its activities east to Lake Erie and west to the Rocky Mountains. Rev. Mr. Grossmann was president of the synod from 1854 to 1893.

In the meantime his school was transformed into a theological seminary, of which he was president until 1874. In 1878, in vacant rooms in an orphanage at Andrew, Iowa, he resumed his training of parochial school teachers. In 1879 the synod established a small private school for boys at Waverly, and at the call of the synod Rev. Mr. Grossmann took charge of the school, which became the Wartburg Normal College, designed to prepare young men for teaching in parish schools. Thus he became the first director or president of the new seminary. The youngest of the thirteen students enrolled in 1879 was August Engelbrecht, who is now director or president. For a short time Waverly's first hotel was rented as a temporary home for the college. In 1880 work was started on the building of "Old Maine," a three story structure, in the building of which the students contributed much of the labor. In 1885 the college department of the synod's theological seminary at Mendota, Illinois, was transferred to the Waverly school, which thereafter was known as the Warthurg College and Teachers Seminary. Some years later it was decided to separate the seminary and the college department and in 1894 the college was removed to Clinton, Iowa, where it has since been known as the Wartburg College. This division seriously depleted the faculty and student body at Waverly, but in a short time the academy department, the commercial department and school of music were added, in 1905 a pro-seminary department was organized, and about two years later co-education was introduced. In 1920 the Junior College was added and the name of the institution changed to Wartburg Normal College. Between 1910 and 1926 North Hall was doubled in size, and the old Commercial Building, Grossmann Hall, Watburg Hall, Gymnasium and Luther Hall and other structures added to the campus. At the present time Wartburg is a fully accredited normal school and junior college, with the campus and modern equipment. During the fifty years the school at Waverly has had four presidents or directors: Director Grossmann, Director Lutz, Director Bergatrasser and Director Engelbrecht.

Director Grossmann took up his labors at Waverly on a salary of six hundred dollars a year and a house, and continued to direct the work until 1894, when the infirmities of old age made it necessary for him to retire. He continued to be a resident of Waverly until his death on August 24, 1897. He was the author of a book, Die Christliche Gemeindeschule, published in 1895.

During his early manhood in Germany he married Nannie Steppes, who survived him and passed away in 1912 at the age of eighty-eight. Of their eight children the only surviving son is G. A. Grossmann, Waverly banker and secretary of the Lutheran Mutual Aid Society.