Ahrens, J.B.A.


1836 - April 19, 1906
J. B. A. Ahrens was born in 1836, in Rinehausen, Germany. While but a lad he came to this country, and at Soule University, George-town, Texas, (subsequently the Southwestern) he completed his education begun in the primary schools of his fatherland. He went abroad and in the University of Gottingen pursued theological and linguistic studies. It was while a student in Germany that he wrote and sold for his maintenance a history of Mexico in the German language. I do not know the date of his license to preach, but it was after his return to America that his name first appeared in the minutes of the Texas Conference to which he was admitted on trial in 1863. Both date and place of meeting of the Conference are lacking in the scanty records that survive the period of Civil War. His first appointment was that of Army Missionary. In 1864, still on trial in the Texas Conference, his appointment was to the pastorate of Spring Hill Circuit in addition to that of chaplain of the Army Post at Hempstead. The following year he was admitted into full connection and ordained deacon by Bishop Andrew. His appointment was that of Professor in Soule University, where he was associated with three other members of the Texas Conference. In 1866 his name appears among those of the “deacons of one year;” but by transfer to the Louisiana Conference it disappears from the list of appointments of the Texas Conference, and reappears in that of the Louisiana as pastor of Dryades Street Church, New Orleans, at that time having a membership of 88 in a total in the city of 976. The occasion of his coming to Louisiana was Dr. Keener’s (afterwards Bishop) having been attracted by some of his writings in the Watchman,” of New York. Bishop Keener knew a man of talent, and with unerring judgment he laid his hand upon this young German prodigy of learning and energy for the important work of shepherding the flock in New Orleans. Mr. Ahrens was ordained elder at the Louisiana Conference by Bishop Paine. He continued four years at Dryades Street, and was appointed to Craps Street (now Second Church), New Orleans, in 1870. He was again pastor at Dryades Street in 1872 and 1873.
Of the German Mission Conference, including the German work in Louisiana and Texas, Dr. Ahrens Was a charter member, and in the minutes of its first session in 1874, of which he was secretary, his name still appears as pastor of Dryades Street Church. To his pastoral labors were added those of Presiding Elder of the New Orleans (subsequently known as the Louisiana) District and Editor of the Familienfround. With a change of pastoral charge to Craps Street during ‘77 and ‘78, and relief from the Presiding eldership in ‘79, his appointment continued the same until ‘83, when he became Presiding Elder without a -pastoral charge, but added the Kinderfreund to his editorial labors. In 1886 he was pastor of Craps Street and Presiding Elder.
By the incorporation of the Louisiana District of the German Mission Conference with the Louisiana Conference Dr. Ahrens found himself again, after twenty-one years of labor, in New Orleans, a member of the Louisiana Conference. Immigration having ceased, the German congregations were losing their distinctive of language, and Dr. Ahrens was again appointed pastor of Dryades Street Church, with Rev. F. G. Hocutt his associate, it being the purpose to effect a change to the use of the English language. The following year this great German church was served by Dr. C. W. Carter. The transition had been completed, and after twenty-one years of continuous charge as pastor or Presiding Elder, or both, Dr. Ahrens’ official relation to it ceased, though he was still for the remainder of his life held in love and veneration by its older members and occasionally called to serve in offices of the Church for the living and the dead. In 1887 (Conference ‘88) Dr. Ahrens went to Craps Street. The following year he had no pastoral charge; in ‘90 and ‘91 he was pastor of Craps Street and Soraparu Street; in ‘92 of Craps Street; in ‘93 and ‘94 without pastoral charge; in 1895 pastor of Craps Street again.
In 1896, health having declined, he located at his own request, preferring this to superannuation, as he was financially independent and did not wish to become a claimant on the Conference fund.
Dr. Ahrens was an invalid during the greater part of the period of his retirement, but continued to attend his personal affairs with his usual sagacity and to interest himself in current events. He died April 19, 1906, in the midst of his loved ones and the following day his body was laid away, freed at last from racking pain, and the
tribulations through which he had come up.
Dr. Ahrens had large original endowments of mental and physical constitution, and his accomplishments were proportioned to his opportunities, which were great. A bilingual, he probably preached with equal ease in German and English; a foreign accent added charm to his rare purity and force of diction. I suppose he wrote well in German. His literary product in this language was large, both in translation and composition in many forms—hymns, theological writings, jour-nalistic articles. His English style was sometimes purposely jagged, always terse, and, when his theme demanded, powerful. The letters of “Jean Paul” (his nom deplume) have few equals. His spoken discourse was little inferior to his writing in point of style, and was delivered with effective energy and enthusiasm.
I was acquainted with the details of his Christian experience. He was a man of simplicity of faith, who knew well the paths that lead to God in Christ. He was diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, steadfast in prayer.
Source: Journal Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1906, pages 50-51, by Fitzgerald Sale Parker.