By Susan Shinn Turner
Rosalie Adams and her family have presented a Stirewalt family Bible for the St. John’s museum in Peeler Hall.
The Bible is from the Moses Stirewalt family, Rosalie’s great-grandfather. It was printed in 1784 and is written in German. It came to Rosalie through a great uncle, Hamp Stirewalt.
“It’s a big Bible,” Rosalie notes. “It looks like a church Bible.”
Rosalie’s great-great-great-great grandfather — if we counted it correctly — was Johannes Stirewalt (1732-1796). His last name was originally spelled “Steigerwalt,” and he came from Germany on the ship, the Ranier, and settled in Rowan County.
Hamp Stirewalt was a well known church organist and directed the choir at St. John’s during the late 1930s and early 1940s.
“Uncle Hamp was very fond of my mom,” Rosalie says. “After he died, the widow of the man who had looked after him sent the Bible to my brother, Perry.”
Perry didn’t want to keep it, so he, Rosalie and their brother, Gerald, discussed what should be done with it. They considered sending it to the North Carolina Synod Headquarters, or to Organ or Ebenezer Lutheran churches, where many of the Stirewalts are buried.
But because Rosalie is a lifelong member of St. John’s, and because her uncle worked here and her mother taught Sunday School here for 42 years, the family decided it should go here. Rosalie, who celebrated her 90th birthday April 9, was baptized at St. John’s at six weeks of age in 1928.
“My father never joined a church before he married,” she remembers. “He said he would go where his wife went.”
They initially went to Faith Lutheran Church, but moved to Newsome Road — near where Autumn Care is now — after their marriage.
“St. John’s was the logical church for them to go to,” Rosalie says.
The Bible is beautifully illustrated throughout with black and white engravings. There’s some information about Martin Luther at the beginning.
The Bible is on loan for two years, after which it will become a permanent addition to the museum.
“It’s an incredibly well-preserved Bible,” adds Pastor Rhodes. “It must have been carried by the family en route to America, with water stains I like to think are from the restless waters of the Atlantic — the dangerous but exciting journey of an immigrant family. There are definitely more stories between these pages than we’ll ever know.
“Throughout the Bible are large woodcuts, an old form of illustration unique to the era. I’m particularly interested in how much space is devoted to the Reformation, with a complete history of Martin and Katie Luther and full page illustrations of German princes who made a significant impact upon the success of the Reformation. I’ve never seen that kind of history in a Bible like this.
“Thank you, Rosalie, for sharing this treasured Bible with us!”