In 1998 the Indiana German Heritage Society was approached by a group from Adams County for help in saving the historic Wyneken house. They made a strong case for the importance of a restored Wyneken House and for its future use. Indiana Landmarks had taken an interest in the Wyneken House, and other noted historians and historic groups were beginning to take notice of this historic house. The Board of IGHS accepted the challenge and decided to support this great project. As interest in saving the Wyneken House built, the Friends of Wyneken was formed in 2004.
Following Wyneken’s death, the house had been sold and had a succession of owners. The Wyneken House suffered many indignities — at some point, the entire front porch was removed right off the House, the thick oak flooring was cut out, and the large oak floor joists were cut out of most of the House, and doors were taken too. Only the House was sold, not the land on which it sat. The landowners several times demanded that the House be moved off the property or they would tear it down.
As threats to destroy the Wyneken House cropped up again in 2005, IGHS, took ownership of the house. A house mover was contracted, and it was moved a mile across farm fields to get to a suitable road. It made it to the temporary site on the Winchester Road, where a few years later, the landowner, Dona Schaefer, donated the almost three acres to FOW giving the house a permanent home.
The Wyneken House is a unique, one of a kind piece of living history. On its own, being a surviving pre Civil War home would be enough to make it worth saving, but what makes it special is its connection with Pastor Wyneken, as it is the only known surviving home of an Indiana religious pioneer. The FOW believed that the Wyneken House could serve to teach not just about Pastor Wyneken, but about German migration to northeast Indiana, about life on the wild frontier, religious life on the frontier and about Lutheranism, as well as the unique features of the house itself.
To understand the importance of the Wyneken House it is important to understand Wyneken himself. Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wyneken was born 1810 in Verden an der Aller and died 1876 in San Francisco, California.
He had agreed to serve the congregations, St. Paul in Fort Wayne and Zion, Friedheim, but also as a circuit rider, in the region and beyond. He served for fourteen years as the second president of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and helped found and was the first president of Concordia Theological Seminary.
In August of 1841, Wyneken married one of Karl Buuck’s daughters, Sophie, some 13 years his junior. He took his bride for an extended stay to Germany, where he worked on getting pastoral help for the German settlements in the US.
During the summer of 1842, Wyneken compiled his previous written and oral appeals into a large pamphlet titled: Die Not der deutschen Lutheraner in Nordarnerica: Ihren Glaubengenossen in der Heimat ans Herz gelegt von Friedrich Wyneken (The Need of German Lutherans in North America: As Friedrich Wyneken Laid it Upon the Heart of Their Fellow Believers in the Homeland.) This pamphlet called the “Notruf” was circulated widely.
Wyneken’s missionary experience, method, and plan influenced American Lutheran missions for many years to come. His appeals to Wilhelm Loehe and other German friends brought many German pastors from Germany to America.
Karl Buuck, Wyneken’s father-in-law, was wealthy by this time, and in 1858 he built a new home for Wyneken and Sophie and their children in Adams County. At a time when many were still living in log homes, the house that Buuck built for the Wyneken family could easily pass for many rural Indiana farm homes today.
By 1876, Pastor Wyneken was not doing well; his strenuous involvements and all his ailments were taking their toll. He died that same year in San Francisco. Following Wyneken’s death, Sophie sold the home.
In 2004, the Friends of Wyneken was organized to save the Wyneken House. In the ensuing years, a plundered, abandoned, derelict house has been saved from certain destruction and largely restored to its original beauty. A unique historic German-American icon has been saved and once again made usable to teach new generations about our special history and heritage. All the work that has been done and remains to be done is dependent on donations, fund raising, and grants.
Two of the biggest milestones achieved this past year were the incorporation of the Friends of Wyneken and the awarding of the non-profit 501(c) 3 status from the IRS and the State. In conjunction with this new official status, the Friends of Wyneken were excited to announce that the Indiana German Heritage Society (IGHS) has decided to transfer ownership to the newly incorporated Friends of Wyneken Inc. They will continue their work inspired by the trust IGHS has put in them.
Heinz Roesch was president at that time and he wrote:
“And last but not least after successfully saving Pastor Wyneken’s home up in Decatur, IN from certain destruction well over 10 years ago the board of IGHS decided to transfer ownership of this historic structure to a newly founded charitable organization called the Friends of Wyneken Inc. The Friends of Wyneken, a large group of dedicated individuals under the leadership of Ken Selking over many years poured their hearts and resources into restoring this house. They were supported by many who donated materials, labor and funds. Especially Paul Wolf needs to be recognized for his very generous financial support. I wish the new organization much success in finishing this project so that soon an Interpretive Center can be established in this part of the great state of Indiana.”