Ferdinand Massier

and the German Baptist Movement
in Bukovina and Galicia

Paul F. Massier

Copyright 1993, 1997 by Paul F. Massier, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Posted with permission of the author, March 1, 2003


For several days during the first week of April 1993 Professor Dr. Kurt Rein, Project Director for the Bukowina-Institut, Augsburg, Germany and Professor at the Institut für Deutsche Philologie, Universität München, as part of his tour of the USA and Canada visited Paul F. Massier at his home in Arcadia, California to exchange information on historical events of the Germans in Bukovina. Paul has a collection of letters written between 1900 and 1956 to his father, John Massier, by relatives and friends who remained in Europe, and also has old documents containing information which pertains to family events in Bukovina and Galicia dating back to the eighteenth century. Four generations of Paul’s direct line of family ancestors lived in Bukovina and Galicia. In addition, at this time Paul was nearing completion of a history of his ancestral families and their descendants and also had just revised a document on the genealogy of many Massier families dating back to the mid-1500’s.

After reviewing as much of this material as time allowed, Dr. Rein believed that portions of it were of general historical interest and recommended that certain parts be extracted from these documents and then packaged into specific articles for publication. One of the topics of interest pertained to the spread of the German Baptist faith into Bukovina and Galicia from Bessarabia and Romania even though the Baptists were only a very small minority compared to the other religious groups. Paul’s grandfather, Ferdinand Massier, pioneered the Baptist movement into these Austrian provinces. Without Dr. Rein’s involvement it is unlikely that this story would have been prepared and the author is deeply indebted to him for his interest, his thorough review of the documents, and his encouragement. In addition, Dr. Sophie Welisch of Congers, New York provided valuable comments which significantly enhanced the article. Her contribution is also greatly appreciated.

At least two other stories on the ministry of Ferdinand Massier had been drafted in the past and this article is based on records from the authors of both. One was written by Ferdinand’s daughter, Josefine Massier Zalan, who in one of her letters to Paul’s father stated that she. had completed about twenty-five pages; however, during World War II invading Soviet troops completely destroyed them together with all of Ferdinand’s masterful sermons and other papers as well as photographs and other items. Hence, all carefully catalogued records of people whom Ferdinand had converted and baptized were lost. Furthermore, the invaders confiscated anything that was of value. Those who were of German descent were treated most harshly. Since the family lived in communist-dominated Hungary after the war, they were discouraged from writing about their cruelties and even prohibited from writing long letters. Moreover, the censors promptly removed any items, such as photos or other articles enclosed within letters. It was not until the mid-1950’s that Josefine in her letters attempted to reconstruct a few of the events of her father’s life. However, her health, impaired by the war, had not fully recovered and it had been more than thirty years since her father had died and more than forty years since he had left Galicia to live with his daughter and her family; consequently, that which Josefine did write in just a few paragraphs consisted of only a very small fragment of her father’s experiences as a minister. Nevertheless, those few sentences revealed important events.

Another story of Ferdinand’s life was recounted by his son, Johann (Paul’s father, John). His account pertains to Ferdinand’s early years as a young man and his conversion to the Baptist faith. Johann, as a boy, sometimes walked with his father to attend services at his father’s mission stations but at age sixteen he left home to learn the trade of furniture-making in Prague. There he remained for six years before being conscripted into the Austrian army. Johann’s mother died when he was only fourteen years old and eight months later his father remarried and began raising a second family. After his army discharge Johann went to Bucharest where he lived for a time and then finally emigrated to the USA. Josefine, Ferdinand’s first child by his second marriage lived in her father’s home until the more mature age of nearly twenty-one when she married. Consequently, she experienced more of her father’s ministerial life than had her brother.

A brief story on the life of Ferdinand appeared in the German Baptist news publication Der Wahrheitzeuge, (Cassel, Germany), July 15, 1923, no. 28, p. 207. This article was an obituary prepared by student preacher Wilhelm Bretz (see Appendix, p. 8).

The information from these three sources has been enhanced by recollections written in letters from other relatives, including Adolf Massierer, born in 1883 in the town of Sniatyn, Galicia. Sniatyn was Ferdinand’s residence during most of his ministry. Adolf and his parents were personally acquainted with Ferdinand and his work.

Events Leading to the Baptist Movement in Bukovina

As late as the mid-1800’s the main churches in Bukovina were Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran. In all of these churches services consisted of monotonous routine rituals without life. These ceremonies did not arouse the human spirit but certainly satisfied some of the worshipers. To the doubtful this form of worship probably seemed quite boring and perhaps did not generate much enthusiasm for outreach. Although available, the Bible was not routinely studied by the Catholic or Orthodox laity; however, the Lutherans did read it. Nevertheless, prayer meetings and intensified biblical interpretation did not become a dominant aspect of a believer’s life until the time that the Baptist missionary movement extended into the region.

Not everyone who works for the Lord is capable of becoming a pioneer in spreading the Gospel. Such a person must develop special skills and possess the determination to follow through. One individual destined for this type of adventure in life who pioneered the Baptist movement into Bukovina and Galicia was Ferdinand Massier. He was born on April 21, 1842 in Alt-Fratautz, Bukovina, Austria the son of Georg Massier and Maria Margaretha Wagner. When he was still a baby just a little more than six months old, his mother died and his oldest sister, Magdalena, who had already married Christian Jäckle and was living in her father’s house, raised him together with six other children. Although Ferdinand was the youngest, most of the family chores fell on his shoulders as he grew into manhood. However, this developed in him inflexible obedience which became firmly established during his school-age years and continued to be enhanced throughout his life.

As a boy, in addition to his other duties, Ferdinand had learned the hatter’s trade from his family and upon reaching adolescence he occasionally traveled from his home in Alt-Fratautz to Bucharest, Romania to sell his hats. It was during one of these visits to Bucharest in 1860 at the age of eighteen that he became acquainted with Baptists. They consisted of a small congregation organized in 1856, only four years earlier. Here for the first time Ferdinand acquired a copy of the New Testament. He was so impressed with this different approach to Christianity and became so interested in the Christian faith that he decided to give up his hat business in favor of seeking more religious knowledge. This decision led him in search of greater religious opportunity. He heard of the larger congregation in Bessarabia and traveled to the village of Wisniowski in South Russia, near the Crimean Peninsula. There he found a church that was full of life led by its minister August Liebig. He gained more knowledge of the Bible and found fulfillment of his spiritual needs as well as good employment. While attending church services and church school, he made new friendships and in addition, learned how to pray from the heart. On June 5, 1865 Ferdinand converted and was baptized on June 15, 1865 by the minister, August Liebig, in Wisniowski. The Bible, prayer, and communication with the parishioners provided him with the understanding and knowledge that would eventually lead him to a lifelong total commitment to Baptist missionary work.

According to Josefine Massier Zalan, Reverend August Liebig was pastor of a church in Romania as well as in Bessarabia (perhaps at different times). In addition, she stated that her father, Ferdinand, was ordained by August Liebig to be the first Baptist missionary for Bukovina and Galicia. August Liebig had two brothers, Hermann and Helmuth, who lived in Germany and Josefine referred to Hermann as being a minister also.

In that era and in those countries where Ferdinand lived religious toleration was linked directly to the idiosyncrasies of the political rulers. Some permitted it whereas others did not and this created a very unstable lifestyle particularly for the German Protestants and the Jews. For example, during the reign of Czar Nicholas I (1825 – 1855) religious tolerance, granted by Catherine II (1776 – 1796) and her grandson Alexander I (1801 – 1825), was again rescinded. Eastern Orthodoxy was reestablished as the single dominant state religion. Mischief against the non-Orthodox including stealing livestock and contaminating their land with oil, followed. Thus, many of those of different beliefs and religious preferences sold what belongings they could and left the country to settle in other parts of the world. Some emigrated to the USA, some to Canada, and others to South America. There were those, however, who were very dedicated to local missionary work and under the slogan “every Baptist a missionary”, remained where they were and continued worshiping in their faith.

As a consequence of the Crimean War (1854-1856) the Ottoman Empire regained sovereignty of Bessarabia from Russia but the province became an autonomous entity within the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. In about 1860 Constantinople, desirous to benefit from the skills of the German colonists in Bessarabia and South Russia, extended an invitation to them to migrate into the newly formed province of Dobruja which extended southward from Bessarabia and the Danube Delta to Bulgaria with the Black Sea as its eastern border. As an incentive to migrate the colonists were offered free land and other privileges previously withheld. Thus, many German Baptists responded to this opportunity and participated in the building of settlements and churches in Dobruja. Young Ferdinand Massier was among those who took advantage of this occasion and settled in the village of Catalui. It was here that Ferdinand decided to become a missionary and it was also here that on April 21, 1867 he married Dorothea Engel. She became a very devoted supporter and contributor to Ferdinand’s missionary work.

The Engel family had lived in Neu Danzig, South Russia and they, together with other devoted Baptists, had experienced persecution themselves. In the autumn of 1851 Dorothea’s father, Martin Engel, a Deacon in the Baptist church, was suddenly arrested and imprisoned along with other followers. About a week later they were sentenced to cut timber in a forest in Siberia for the remainder of their lives and were transported there partly by train and partly by sled. However, the members of the German Baptist congregation were successful in petitioning the Czar, requesting the return of these individuals and miraculously after about a year all indeed returned home. After that there was more leniency toward the Baptists; however, some time after Martin had returned, the Engel family finally decided also to take advantage of the opportunities in Dobruja and relocated to the village of Catalui, where Ferdinand was living at the time. There, as the village grew in size, a Baptist church was built in a choice location at a street intersection as well as a parsonage for the pastor.

The Baptists Spread into Bukovina and Galicia

After their marriage Ferdinand and Dorothea remained in Catalui for five years and it was here that their first child, Franz, was born. When in 1872 Ferdinand decided to return to Bukovina to carry out his missionary work, he wanted to begin in Alt-Fratautz, the village of his birth; so the family moved to Alt-Fratautz. Here he converted and baptized some of his relatives but not all of them accepted the “new” faith. His initial missionary venture in AltFratautz may have been frustrating to him. People in general did not accept his teachings and some even accused him of heresy; nevertheless, he was determined to continue his ministry. After having survived in Alt-Fratautz for about three years, the family moved on to Radautz which contained a much larger population. There he distributed many Bibles to both young and old. However, not satisfied to confine his work to this locality Ferdinand extended his missionary outreach to include other villages, generally traveling on foot, sometimes to distant places. Then, about four years later, he decided to advance his missionary work into Galicia and moved his family to the town of Sniatyn. This finally became their permanent residence.

Using Sniatyn as a base Ferdinand broadened his missionary effort to include many surrounding communities, one being Bukovina’s capital of Czernowitz which was more than twenty miles distant. He continued to travel from place to place on foot, establishing eleven different mission “stations” that he visited regularly and as a consequence, became known as “The Walking Missionary”. Baptism by immersion was generally done after dark at midnight in nearby rivers so as not to draw attention to those who seriously opposed his work. For example, in the evening of September 20, 1888 Ferdinand walked with three of his children, son Johann and daughters Magdalena and Martha from their home in Sniatyn to the bank of the Pruth River where he baptized them at midnight. Johann was fifteen, Magdalena thirteen and Martha eleven. The following Sunday they were accepted as members of the church. The text was from John 3: 30, “He must increase but I must decrease”.

While living in Sniatyn Ferdinand once told his daughter, Josefine, about one of his experiences:

One time I traveled with Aunt Emelie to Alt-Fratautz and preached a sermon on ‘The Unfruitful Fig Tree’. After the sermon I asked Aunt Emilie to sing and she sang ‘Cut It Down, the Unfruitful Tree’. Everyone cried, they were so overcome with emotion. Suddenly a proud nice man named Peter Schmidt stood up and said, ‘Uncle Ferdinand, I am the unfruitful tree and from now on I will be another person. Help me to understand.’ Then after he was baptized, he became a Bible seller. Gods strength and his blessing followed him on all of his journeys.

There were other good experiences where people became practicing Baptists. In the German village of Augustdorf there was Jakob Mack and his family of three sons and three daughters, and Johann Daum and his family, Rudolf and Adolf. There was also Martin Massier and his family plus Johann Gauer and family.

However, not all of Ferdinand’s experiences were as rewarding as these. Once in the village of Stanestie, in northern Bukovina, Ferdinand was ridiculed, put in prison and bound, together with his relatives who lived there. But in the morning under severe threats all were set free. This incident did not discourage him nor the others. In a letter written by Adolf Massierer (son of Franz Massierer and Filipina Held) to John (Paul’s father) Adolf stated that the first person in Stanestie to be converted was his uncle, Georg Massierer, which occurred sometime before 1880. Others, including Georg’s wife, the Stein family, and Franz Massierer (who married Filipina Held), and their family also converted and accepted baptism. These people got together frequently and then later moved to Sniatyn where others also became believers. Adolf was born in Sniatyn and grew up there, living with his parents.

Not long after the mother church was founded in Sniatyn additional affiliated congregations were established in other communities. Ferdinand and pastor Jäckle of Stanislau, Galicia who apparently was also a Baptist minister, became good friends both personally and professionally.

On another occasion when Ferdinand began his missionary work in the beautiful village of Augustdorf, some of the residents became angry and threw stones at him. Then, in the night after the prayer meeting, they went to his house and harrassed him. Fortunately, no stones struck him. The Lord shielded him!

Throughout Bukovina and the southeastern part of Galicia where Ferdinand had concentrated his missionary endeavor he had converted and baptized 300 people to the Baptist faith including not only members of his family, relatives and friends, but also many others.

Ferdinand’s second wife, Josephine (nee Vove), died on November 28, 1916 in Sniatyn; his daughters, Josefine and Lidia, in 1917 took their father to live with them in their home in Sátoraljaújhely, Hungary. There, Ferdinand continued his ministry in a small German congregation to which he added new vitality. His daughters were active members also and one of them led the youth group. On May 28, 1923 at the age of eighty-one Ferdinand died in the home of his daughters in Satoraljaujhely.

Ferdinand’s ministry influenced the lives of all his family. It was his son Johann however, who perhaps became the most dedicated to the Gospel. When not engaged in earning the means to support his family, Johann devoted most of his time to worship, Bible study, prayer and missionary work.

After immigrating to Chicago, Illinois from the homeland Johann immediately joined the Second German Baptist Church and became involved by teaching a youth group and singing in the choir. There he met Kathryn Arki, married her and they had two sons before migrating to a homestead in southern Idaho near Taber. This was mostly a community of German farmers who got together and organized a Baptist congregation which grew to about sixty members. Johann became active in this group that met in people’s homes, and on occasion Sunday worship services were held at Johann’s place since there was no church building in which to meet. After several years of drought the families abandoned this area and Johann moved his family to Pocatello, about forty miles distant. There the few Germans who moved to the same town at first got together for Sunday services in Johann’s home; however, there were too few to form a congregation so they joined the First Baptist Church in Pocatello which held services in English.

For nearly forty years Johann was an active member of this church serving as a Deacon, teaching the adult Sunday school class and on occasion even leading the mid-week prayer meetings. At home thirty-minute family services (Andacht) were held in German every evening, and also in the mornings on Saturdays and holidays . These included Bible reading and study, prayer and also singing of hymns. Johann’s bi-lingual German and English Bible contained his own handwritten notes on many pages indicating his in-depth study of the text.

Thus, Ferdinand’s ministry impacted not only his own surroundings but extended to regions perhaps beyond his imagination to the USA including the central state of Illinois, the western state of Idaho and the south-central state of Texas.



Obituary of Ferdinand Massier in Der Wahrheitzeuqe,  translated and edited by Paul FMassier

Although the deceased was already in his eighty-second year of life, he was still quite vigorous and so his departure was unexpected. During the night of May 13 [1923] he didn’t feel well, enduring severe intestinal pain. However, for fourteen days it, appeared that he would improve, but suddenly on May 27 he developed a fever and died in the afternoon of May 28.

Brother Massier was the founder of the [Baptist] churches in Sniatyn, Galicia and Czernowitz, Bukovina. Both were casualties of the war [World War I]. Many former members are in America, more in West Prussia. Nevertheless, he believed in the perpetual heartfelt love of those who had emigrated. In them he missed the strongest segments of the congregations.

Brother Ferdinand Massier was born on April 21, 1842 in Alt-Fratautz, Bukovina, converted to Christianity on June 5, 1865 in Wisniowski, Bessarabia and was baptized on June 15, 1865 by Brother August Liebig. He married Dorothea Engel on April 21, 1867 in Catalui, Dobruja. She was born in New Danzig, South Russia. They had five children [Franz, Johann, Martha, Ferdinand and Dorothea] who emigrated to America and all of their families became followers of the Lord. [They also had another daughter, Magdalena, who died in Sereth, Bukovina at age twenty-two.]

His wife died on March 21, 1888. His work and children needed a mother; therefore, he married Josephine Boves [should be Vove not Boves] on December 8, 1888 in Prague. She was a faithful caring mother for their children and an intelligent helpmate. She died during the war [World War I] on November 30, 1916 in Sniatyn. There were five children by this marriage [Josefine, Lidia, Elisabeth (Ella), Friedrich and Eduard]. The two sons were killed by shrapnel [from a grenade] on July 29, 1917 in Sniatyn.

In October 1917 brother Massier went to Satoraljaujhely [Hungary] to be with his children. Despite his old age he served the congregation there until the end of his life. The founder of this church was brother O. Bretz who devoted much effort to its members. Both brothers had deep respect for each other. We felt God’s blessing during brother Massier’s presence here and needed him very much. The Lord, however, wanted it otherwise. For more than fifty years he carried God’s banner, and so the Lord released him from all his work. We all grieve for him. With him we lost one of the first pioneers of the Lord in Austria-Hungary. His work began under brothers H. Meyer and H. Novotny. He had a difficult and harsh territory. God, however, gave him courage and strength and blessed his diligence.

At four o’clock in the afternoon of May 30 [1923] Reverend Pissmann of Budapest led the memorial service. He [Ferdinand] had the opportunity to preach the Christian Word to many who heard him. His earthly grave was decked with beautiful hillside flowers that spoke of much love. We speak to him, “Rest in Peace” (2 Timothy 4: 7, 8). William Bretz, student minister.


For the heartfelt participation at the funeral of our loving father,
in-law, grand and great grandfather
Preacher Ferdinand Massier
Likewise for the many wreaths and flowers we wish to express
our heartfelt thanks to loved ones and friends

The grieving survivors


The photographs of the congregations and identification of the people in these pictures were donated by courtesy of Emil and Rosa Massier and Helga Gross. Their inclusion significantly enhanced the historical value of the document and is greatly appreciated by the author.

Baptist Congregation in Czernowitz, Bukovina, Austria, 1912

This photograph of the Baptist congregation in the city of Czernowitz was taken on one of Rev. Massier’s visits there. It was one of his mission stations when he lived in Sniatyn, Galicia, Austria. In the picture there are two men with white beards seated near the center. Ferdinand is the one on the left. There is a small plus (+) sign hand drawn in ink on his left shoulder. Unfortunately, the names of the other members of this congregation are not known.

Baptist Congregation in Fratautz, Bukovina, Austria, 1912

Children sitting in front. left to right: Karl Kuffner (leaning on elbow), Marie Massier (daughter of Johann and Karoline), Ella Kuffner, Johann Massier (leaning on elbow (son of Ludwig and Katharina)).

Children in second row. left to right: Ferdinand Massier (son of Ludwig and Katharina), Martin Massier (son of Ludwig and Katharina), Emil Massier (son of Johann and Karoline), Lena Kühl, Karoline Massier (daughter of Ludwig and Katharina), Wilhelmine Kuffner, Karl Massier (son of Johann and Karoline), Samuel Massier (son of Ludwig and Katharina). Adults in third row. left to right: Johann Massier (son of Johann and Karoline), Susanna Silzer (maternal grandmother of Emil and Erwin Massier), Three women wearing babushkas (names not known), Rev. Ferdinand Massier, Man with beard and mustache (name not known), Adolf Kuffner, Philipp Massier (son of Ludwigand Katharina). Adults in fourth row. left to right: Pastor Tolar (visiting), Frau Kurtz, Frau Schaeffer, Four women wearing babushkas (names not known), Katharina Mack Massier (wife of Ludwig), Peter Schmidt.

Adults in back row. left to right Two women (names not known), Ludwig Massier (in back, head only showing), Woman in white (name not known), Marie Kuffner Gross, Two women (names not known), Karoline Silzer Massier (mother of Emil and Erwin), Frau Kühl.


Baptist Congregation in Fratautz Romania, 1926

Sitting in front. left to right: Katharina Mack Massier (wife of Ludwig) holding grand daughter, Hedwig, Pastor George Teutsch (uncle of Emil Gross), Pastor Robert Schlosser, Erwin Massier (boy standing), Karoline Silzer Massier (mother of Erwin, Emil and Marie).

Standing. left to right: Marie Massier (wearing hat), Susanna Silzer (wearing babushka), Johann Massier (in back (son of Ludwig and father of Hermann)), Marie Kuffner (wearing hat (married Martin Massier five years later)), Karoline Massier (behind Marie (daughter of Ludwig)), Wanda Leisten (wearing hat, a visitor), Man with mustache (a visitor, name not known), Man in back (a visitor, name not known), Frieda Leisten (wearing babushka), Otto Leisten (with mustache wearing cap), Woman wearing hat (name not known), Emil Massier (in front of window wearing hat), Johann Massier (with mustache wearing hat (father of Emil, Erwin and Marie)), Philipp Massier (wearing cap and tie (oldest son of Ludwig)), Ludwig Massier (with beard, ten years older than his brother, Johann, standing beside him), Emil Gross (wearing hat and tie), Martin Massier(behind, wearing hat (son of Ludwig)), Samuel Massier (wearing Romanian soldier’s uniform (son of Ludwig)).