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Luetgert's Hometown: Gütersloh, Westphalia
Gütersloh,the village in the German region of Westphalia where Adolph Louis Luetgert was born, had become a city in 1825, but its history stretched back centuries. One of the oldest businesses was the Kornbrennerei Lütgert whiskey distillery, which Luetgert's great-great-great-great-grandfather, Conrad Lütgert, had built in 1689.
Describing the people of Gütersloh, historian Hermann Eickhoff wrote:
"For most of them— especially the simpler people — the throne was equal beside the altar. They believed quite decisively 'With God for king and Fatherland,' so that they met every kind of rationalism and liberalism with great distrust. Moreover, as Christians as well as citizens, they regarded it as their duty to protect the continued existence of the allegedly God-wanted order. They were also encouraged in this belief by the speakers of the political and religious Ravensberger revivalist movement. Above all, this is what aroused the Ravensbergers. Gütersloh was smiled at by the agnostics as a small, provincial 'Nazareth,' but to the Ravensbergers it was a large 'City of the living God' in Protestant Prussia, similar to the Biblical Jerusalem, a radiant place in the surrounding countryside of Hell, symbolically similar to the Biblical Zion, the 'city on the hill.' "
In 1846, the year after Adolph Luetgert's birth, Gütersloh had a population of 3,072.
A month after Luetgert’s birth, work began on a rail line through Gütersloh. When he was one year old, the crops in Gütersloh failed. Food prices were high, and town was hit by famine. That October, on King Friedrich-Wilhelm IV’s birthday, the first locomotive from Cologne passed through the town, festooned with wreaths and flags. The town’s drivers grumbled that the rail line would be their ruin. The trains carried butter, salami, beer, and pumpernickel from Gütersloh farther and faster than their carts and wagons.
When Adolph was two, Gütersloh rioted. As democratic ideas were sweeping Europe, the people of Gütersloh staged what they would later call "the reverse revolution." Most of them were conservative, but liberal reformers had taken over the city council. On March 13, 1848, the council planned to draw up a petition to send the king, demanding rights for the people.
The people, though, were fearful this meant religion would be abolished, or at least taken out of the schools. Büskers and young people carrying cudgels crowded into the meeting hall. The liberal agenda lost by a vote of 5-4. A man proclaimed a cheer for the king of Prussia, provoking a tumult. The mob marched through the streets, signing, "I am a Prussian, know my colors," and threatening anyone who seemed liberal or democratic. They returned to the hall, wrecking the furniture and smashing the windows. They pried open the cellar doors and broke into the wine barrels. The büskers drank the wine out of their wooden shoes, while the railroad workers used their hanging pots.The incident became legend as Luetgert grew up.
© 2003 by Robert Loerzel.
Hans Hilbk, Gütersloh und Preussen: Eine Wahlverwandtschaft. 1818-1888 (Gütersloh: Flöttmann, publication date unknown.)
Hermann Eickhoff, Zur Geschichte der Stadt Gütersloh und der Nachbarstädte des Kreises Wiedenbrück (Gütersloh: City of Gütersloh, 1925).