2011-09-23 / News

Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary 1830-2011

By Jackie Perrone


Home of Colonel John Eichelberger Home of Colonel John Eichelberger For the past 100 years the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary has been headquar tered in Columbia, S. C. This is the first of a three- part series describing the 181- year sometimes- chaotic history of this institution now permanently woven into the fabric of the South Carolina Midlands. Next week: From Civil War to 1911: The Seminary Survives. Third week: 1911- 2011: 100 Years in Columbia.

Part I: The Seminary Looks To The Future.

The writer gratefully acknowledges the information provided in A Goodly Heri tage: The Story of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, 1830- 2005 by Susan Wilds McCarver and Scott H. Hendrix.

For its first 81 years, the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary might as well have been housed in a house- on- wheels. From 1830 to 1911, this venerable educational institution was headquartered at the following places:  1830-1834: Pomaria, South Carolina  1834-1856: Lexington, South Carolina  1856-1868: Newberry, South Carolina  1868-1871: Walhalla, South Carolina  1871-1872: Columbia, South Carolina  1872-1884: Salem, Virginia  1885-1903: Newberry, South Carolina  1903-1911: Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina 1911-Columbia, South Carolina


Rev. John Bachman Rev. John Bachman Nine homes in 81 years. Only devoted and resourceful supporters could have kept the institution alive through such times. The Lutheran Synod of South Carolina and Adjacent States was founded in 1824, and because of an extreme shortage of clergy for the congregations, the Synod voted in 1830 to begin its own Lutheran seminary to train pastors.

Since the days of university professor Martin Luther, Lutherans had been led by an educated clergy. The Rev. John Bachman, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Charleston, pointed out to the Synod that giants of the faith, such as St. Paul and Luther himself, had been highly educated men. He noted that Peter, Andrew, James, and John may have started out as simple fishermen, but Jesus himself was “the instructor of the Apostles… it was three long years before he considered them qualified.”

With such a “professor,” one would expect that these men did not remain uneducated for long.

Bachman’s protégé, The Reverend John G. Schwartz, was engaged as the first professor of theology. He ministered in Pomaria and boarded in the home of Colonel John Eichelberger. Five young men arrived there in February, 1831, intending to pay $70 a year for “boarding and a liberal course of Classical study.” But the early promise dimmed, when Schwartz died only eight months later. His students dispersed. Soon, the board of directors took steps to reopen the seminary, deciding to relocate in Lexington, South Carolina.

Once again, Fate would align the Seminary existence with the lifetime of its primary, and for a while sole, professor, Ernest Hazelius, a highly educated and capable teacher born in Prussia. Until his death in 1853, the Seminary continued educating young men in what the students condescendingly called “one continued piney, monotonous, Saharan like level,” one- half mile outside the village of Lexington.

The church leaders considered whether the Seminary was “ what it ought to be, or where it ought to be.” Eventually, the Synod voted in 1855 to establish a new institution, “Luther College and Theological Seminary,” chartered as Newberry College in 1856.

At the end of the first academic year, the seminary could count only two theology students. By 1860, a new president of the college arrived, but the hoped- for progress was stymied with the events leading to the Civil War.

Southern Lutheran churches in the Carolinas, Virginia, and Georgia seceded formally from their national church body, the General Synod, and formed in its stead the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Confederate States of America, known as the General Synod, South.

Most of the student body and several of the faculty left to serve in the Confederate Army. Most did not return. By the fall of 1864, the college suspended operations, and in early 1865, the Confederate Army took over the empty college building.

Next week: The Seminary struggles to survive.

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