Archive for the ‘Johannes Herbst’ Tag

Feast of Immanuel Nitschmann, Jacob Van Vleck, William Henry Van Vleck, Carl Anton Van Vleck, Lisette (Lizetta) Maria Van Vleck Meinung, and Amelia Adelaide Van Vleck (July 3)   2 comments

Nitschmann-Van Vlecks

Chart and Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor



German-American Moravian Minister and Musician

brother-in-law of

JACOB VAN VLECK (MARCH 24, 1751-JULY 3, 1831)

U.S. Moravian Bishop, Musician, Composer, and Educator

father of 


U.S. Moravian Bishop

brother of


U.S. Moravian Minister, Musician, Composer, and Educator

father of


U.S. Moravian Composer and Educator

sister of


U.S. Moravian Composer and Educator


With this post I add six members of one family to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  I had selected four people before I started taking notes.  Along the way I found a fifth Van Vleck and added a Nitschmann.  Reading about Immanuel Nitschmann has led led me to schedule another post–one about some of his other relatives, members of a leading family during the early period of the Renewed Moravian Church–for another month.  One should try to stay focused in each post, after all.

We begin, O reader, with Immanuel Nitschmann, born at Herrnhut, in Saxony, on April 2, 1736.  His parents were Bishop Johann (John) Nitschmann. Sr. (1703-1772), and Juliana Haberland Nitschmann (1712-1751), thus he came from a prominent family in the Moravian Church.  Immanuel, a minister, emigrated to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1761.  Fortunately, he had plenty of time to devote to music.  He played the violin and the organ, copied much music (including symphonies and string quartets by Franz Joseph Haydn) for the collegium musicum, led rehearsals of that ensemble, and arranged arias for three violins, viola, and figured bass.  Our saint led the collegium musicum at Bethlehem from 1761 to 1773 and from 1780 to 1790.  Johann Friedrich Peter (1746-1813) led the fifteen-member ensemble from 1773 to 1780.  Nitschmann died at Bethlehem on March 25, 1790.

Nitschmann married twice and had two children.  His first wife was Maria Price (1740-1783).  Wife number two was Maria Van Vleck (later Jones) (1757-1831), sister of our next saint, Jacob Van Vleck (1751-1831).

Jacob came from a Dutch family in New York.  He attended school at Nazareth, Pennsylvania, before studying theology at the Moravian seminary at Barby, Germany.  In 1778 our saint was back in the United States, serving as the assistant pastor in Bethlehem.  Two years later he became the superintendent of the girls’ school there.  From 1800 to 1812 Jacob served as the minister at Nazareth then at Lititz, Pennsylvania.  Then, in 1812, he succeeded Bishop Johannes Herbst (1735-1812) as pastor at Salem, North Carolina.  Three years later Jacob, a newly-minted bishop, returned to Bethlehem.  He died there on July 3, 1831.

Jacob Van Vleck–minister, musician, and educator–contributed to the lives of his communities.  He, a skilled performer of the violin and of keyboard instruments, led the collegium musicum at Bethlehem from 1790 to 1800, succeeding his brother-in-law, Immanuel Nitschmann.  Jacob also taught at Nazareth Hall, the boys’ school at Nazareth, from 1802 to 1809, and derived pleasure from studying the organ and playing for worship services.  He composed few works due to the demands of church duties on his time.  Nevertheless, Jacob’s compositions reveal his great talent.  Jacob’s wife was Anna Elizabeth Staeheli (1764-1829).  They had two sons, William Henry Van Vleck (1790-1853) and Carl Anton Van Vleck (1794-1845), both ministers.

William Henry Van Vleck, born at Bethlehem in 1790, was among the three original ministerial students at the Moravian Theological Seminary at Nazareth when it opened in 1807.  (Peter Wolle was also in that class.)  William Henry, ordained, served at Philadelphia, Nazareth, and New York City.  He, a bishop from 1836, moved to Salem, North Carolina.  He also served for a time a the Provincial Helpers’ Conference.  He, the husband of Anna Elizabeth Kampman (1785-1865), died at Bethlehem in 1853.

Carl Anton Van Vleck, born at Bethlehem in 1794, was a minister, composer, musician, and music educator.  He composed few pieces; his only known piano work was a brief rondo in F major.  Other compositions included “The Hope, the Star, the Voice,” “The Watch-Tower Light,” and “Early Friends.”  Our saint preferred, however, to teach music, so he focused on that activity.  He did at Greenville, Tennessee, on December 21, 1845.

Carl Anton married Christiana Susan Kramsch (1797-1877) and had four children–a son and three daughters.  After he died in 1845 Christiana and her children relocated to Salem, North, Carolina.  Two of the daughters–Amelia Adelaide Van Vleck (1835-1929) and Lisette (Lizetta) Maria Van Vleck (1830-1914)–became composers and music educators.

Rhode Island-born Lisette (Lizetta) was talented.  She sang her first solo at age two, in her father’s church.  Later she studied at the Moravian Young Ladies’ Seminary, Bethlehem.  In 1852, at Salem, our saint began to teach piano at the Salem Female Academy.  Sixteen years later she resigned then married Alexander C. Meinung (1823-1908), also a skilled musician.  The two of them taught music to many young people in Salem for decades.  She died at the newly-merged Winston-Salem on September 19, 1914.

Lisette (Lizetta) was a capable composer.  She wrote short pieces, such as polkas, waltzes, marches, and galops.  Her works included the “Nettie Galop,” the “Military Parade March,” the “Hannah Polka,” “Our Words of Love,” “Annie Schottisch,” the “Annie March,” and the “Laura Polka.”

Amelia Adelaide Van Vleck, born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1835, was also a prominent musician, music educator, and composer in Salem (later Winston-Salem).  “Miss Amy,” as people called her, matriculated at the Salem Female Academy in 1853.  She taught there after graduating.  For half a century our saint served as the organist at Home Moravian Church, Salem.  She also composed many works, such as the “Irma Waltz,” the “Centennial March” (1871, for the centennial of the founding of Home Moravian Church), the “Salem Band Waltz,” “The Unknown Soldier Boy,” “My Dear One’s Waltz,” “The River Waltz,” “Waltz,” “The Sky Lark,” “The Rainy Day,” “Colonel Belo’s March,” and “Lullaby”–all short pieces.  She died at Winston-Salem on August 20, 1929.

Music has long been one of the treasures of the Moravian Church.  The six saints I have added in this post glorified God in their lives.  Most of them did so, among other ways, via music.





Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses:

Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of your servants

Immanuel Nitschmann, Jacob Van Vleck, William Henry Vleck,

Carl Anton Van Vleck, Lisette (Lizetta) Maria Van Vleck Meinung, and Amelia Adelaide Van Vleck,

may persevere in running the race that is set before us,

until at last we may with them attain to your eternal joy;

through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 15

Hebrews 12:1-2

Matthew 25:31-40

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 724


I corrected certain details on April 19, 2015.  The Nitschmann family tree can be a difficult puzzle to solve, especially given certain contradictory information and the repeated use of some combinations of first and last names.–KRT


Feast of Christian Gottfried Geisler, Johann Christian Geisler, and Johannes Herbst (June 3)   1 comment

Moravian Logo

Above:  The Moravian Logo 

Scanned from the cover of a reprint of J. E. Hutton’s History of the Moravian Church



Silesian Moravian Organist and Composer

brother of


Silesian Moravian Organist and Composer

teacher of


German-American Organist, Composer, and Bishop

One reason human beings are on the Earth is to influence each other positively–to encourage and to build each other up.  Two ways of tracking such activity are to look for familial relationships and ways teachers have mentored students.  Both methods apply to this post.

We begin with two brothers from Toppliwoda, Silesia (now Cieplowody, Poland).  Johann Christian Geisler (1729-1815) and Christian Gottfried Geisler (1730-1810) served God and the Moravian Church in a variety of capacities, most notably as organists and composers.  They learned music and various instruments when quite young.  That early reality set the courses of their lives.

Christian Gottfried, the less famous brother, was a dedicated and capable servant of God.  He joined the Moravian Church under the influence of his parents and older brother.  Christian Gottfried was so devoted to music at an early age that he preferred not to pursue any “useful” trades, as others referred to them.  (Really, is music useless?)  The younger brother became a church musician and composer.  He lived at Neusalz (now Nowa Sal, Poland), then at Herrnhaag, in Hesse.  From there he went to Zeist, The Netherlands, where, for three years, he worked in the kitchen at the Single Brethren’s House.  A brief stint as an organist in London, England, followed; he disliked the climate.  Thus, in 1757, Christian Gottfried returned to Zeist, where he served as a school and church organist for over half a century.  And there, in 1765, he married Catharina Brandenburg.  He died at Zeist on June 3, 1810.

Christian Gottfried composed music and copied the works of others for his collection.  Among his original works were twenty-three sonatas for four translations and at least ten anthems for church use.

Johann Christian, the more famous brother, was a capable musician at an early age.  He learned to play the harp and the organ.  Then, in 1745, at sixteen years of age, he helped to form a trombone choir for the Moravian congregation at Gnadenfrei, Silesia.  He became a minister, the pastor the several European congregations, and the husband of a harpist.  He also knew Christian Gregor (1723-1801), the “Father of Moravian Music,” and other prominent Moravian Church musicians.  Johann Christian, who also served on the Unity Elders Council of the Unitas Fratrum, died at Berthelsdorf, Saxony, near Herrnhut, on April 14, 1815.

Johann Christian, who started composing in 1760, wrote about three hundred works.  His anthems included “Thus Says the Lord–We Can Never Describe It,” “O Dear Saviour, My Redeemer,” “The Fruit of the Spirit is Love…,” and “Glory to Him.”

Johann Christian Geisler taught Johannes Herbst (1735-1812).  Herbst entered the world at Kempten, Bavaria, on July 23, 1735.  His parents, unable to raise him, sent him to live in the home of his uncle at Hirschberg, Silesia (now Jelenia Gora, Poland).  The uncle sent him to the boarding school at Herrnhut.   Thus our saint found a new family–the Moravian Church–in 1748.  At Herrnhut Herbst apprenticed as a clock maker.  Later he lived in various places in Europe (mainly in Germany) until 1786.  For a time he served as the treasurer of the global Moravian Church.  Our saint, an ordained minister, married Rosine Louise Clemens at Herrnhut on June 30, 1768.  In Europe he started copying music, thereby starting an impressive collection of more than five hundred works.  That collection has become an essential resource for students and scholars of early Moravian music and a microcosm of early American Moravian music.

In 1786 the Herbsts emigrated to the United States of America.  His first ministerial posting in America was at Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  He transferred to Lititz, Pennsylvania, five years later.  Two decades later, on May 12, 1811, Herbst became a bishop.  Just two days later he left Lititz to begin pastoral duties at Salem, North Carolina.  There he died seven months later, on January 15, 1812.  He was sixty-six years old.

Herbst left a legacy of original church music–more than a hundred anthems and two hundred sacred songs, to be precise.  His anthems included “Seek Ye His Countenance in All Places,” “None Among Us Lives to Self,” “Lift Up Your Hearts, Rejoicing,” and “One Alone is Your Master.”

Herbst and the Geisler brothers served that master well.





Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring

Christian Gottfried Geisler, Johann Christian Geisler, and Johannes Herbst

and all those who with music have filled us with desire and love for you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior,

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728