This is a story of Julius Urbantke, his early life in Bielitz, his coming to the United States in 1859 at age ten, and of his life and experiences as a pioneer preacher in Texas. The story he wrote was in German script on three pencil tablets. Many idiomatic expressions that make the German language so colorful and expressive are lost in translation, but every effort has been put forth to pass on the meaning Julius put into words as closely as possible.
Texas was chosen by many German speaking people in earlier days as the place to go to be relieved of pressures from military, industrial, and religious hardships in Europe after the middle of the nineteenth century. Julius Urbantke's mother and father heard of the opportunities which the New World to the West afforded through Carl Urbantke, an older son, who had emigrated to Texas in 1853, and who later sent his father enough money for their trip to America.
When one reads the most interesting account as Julius Urbantke, in his autobiography, told of the many hardships that were encountered in the early days in Texas, one is truly amazed in the thought of how the world has changed since 1859: from travel on horseback and ox wagons to space-age travel; from straight one-row plowing with oxen or mules to contour multi-row farming with tractors and other machinery; from starched and ironed homemade shirts with celluloid collars to short-sleeved permanent press open-collar shirts; from country roads rough and impassable especially in rainy weather to four lane freeways with three, four, and five decked interchanges; from one-room schools with one teacher trying to educate several grades to the present consolidated elementary and high schools with busses gathering its students in the surrounding area; from Methodist preachers who tried to serve three or four churches in a circuit to Methodist churches with several pastors and some with women ministers. These are just a few of the drastic changes that have come about since grandfather came to America in 1859. One has to wonder just what Julius would have to say about our country and world today over a hundred years after his arrival in Texas.
Julius Urbantke was a man of childlike faith, a man with an heroic spirit and great missionary zeal. Although the education of ministers in the pioneer days did not have to be extensive, some training was necessary. Even though Julius' formal education was very elementary, he was willing and able to put himself to any hard task. After giving his life to the service of the Lord, he endeavored to live up to the highest Christian principles and spent much time in prayer.
A short synopsis about Julius E. Urbantke was found in the superannuated preacher's listing in the Jubilee Edition of the Southern German Conference in Texas and Louisiana printed for the conference session in Seguin, Texas, in November, 1922. This synopsis gives a bit more information and shows grandfather's standing among his fellow workers in the conference. Following is the translation from German to English of part of page 91 in the Jubilee Conference Journal: "J. E. Urbantke was born on September 29, 1849, in Bielitz, Schlesien, Austria. After he came to this Land (America) in 1859, he joined the church in 1868. As a thoroughly converted, talented young man, he received his local preacher license in 1873. Since 1879 he has been a member of the Southern German Conference. In the 27 years of his successful active ministry,
he served seven different fields. He was the builder of three churches and enlarged four parsonages. Never did he leave behind any debts. No one knew the story of the Southern German Conference as well as he. Since 1903, he lives with his gentle and noble wife and family near Copperas Cove, Texas, where he, despite his high age, is still a powerful pillar in that congregation."
It is the wish of the undersigned that the heretofore introduction of the man who wrote the story of his life, and who truly lived his life with all possible physical and mental energy that a Christian pioneer of his day needed, will inspire you, the reader, to be eager and enthusiastic to delve into the pages of this remarkable autobiography.
Estelle Kattner Froehner
MY LIFE'S JOURNEY
By Julius Edward Urbantke
Several years ago, I wrote my personal record, but by mistake it was destroyed. Time and again since then several of my children requested that I write another report of my life. So I will try again. Will I succeed? My eyes are getting very weak, and my hand is unsteady, but in God's name, "Forward"!
I was born on September 29, in the year 1849, in the town of Bielitz, which was at that time in Austria, Silesia, but which now belongs to Poland. My father's name was Friederich Urbantke. He was born on August 21, 1798, also in Bielitz. My mother, Auguste, née Bisiner, was born February 12, 1824.
I was baptized in the Evangelical Church and went to school and church in a Christian environment. I was fairly well instructed in the basic school subjects, and to this day I am thankful for the Christian foundation and understanding and the basic book learning that was imprinted in my mind there in the Evangelical Congregation until I was eleven years of age. Even today the school house and the church stand distinctly before my eyes. If I were an artist, I would, from memory, be able to put them on paper or canvas.
I was an only child of my father's second marriage. Four brothers, Frederich, Wilhelm, Carl, and Gustaf, as well as two sisters, Johanna and Augusta, from his first marriage, were still living.
My father, as well as practically the whole town of Bielitz, was engaged in the weaving of wool, and in this trade had acquired comfortable prosperity. But now hard times began to enter into this trade of weaving. My father had come into prosperity during the time that each thread had to be spun by hand. Every journeyman weaver also had to learn how to card and spin wool. During the winters, very little weaving was done, for everyone had to spin. Nov the use of the machine came into being, and with it the revolution of 1848. During the violent revolutionary years in Austria and Germany, my father lost a shipment of finished cloth on the way to Pest in Ungarn. This shipment represented most of his material wealth. What a terrible blow that was! There was nothing left for my father to do but to declare himself bankrupt, and to work as a wage earner in the weaving mill in order to make progress. This was difficult. The wages for the workers became lower and lower. The machine could do the work much cheaper. Brother Carl had also learned weaving but did not find any pleasure in this trade, especially since the position and life appointment of the small weaver became more difficult every day. The factory began to crush the small weavers. At that time the newspapers brought articles and reports about Texas. As a result, Carl quickly conceived the idea to seek his fortune in the New World. He could not get a passport, but my father succeeded in getting for him a traveler's pass for six months. With a very light money purse, he departed from his hometown, Bielitz, on August 10, 1853, and reached Bremen on August 15, 1853. There he boarded the sailing ship, "Frederick the Great," which, on the same day, lifted the anchor to sail directly to Galveston, Texas.
The beginning in Texas was not easy. Carl was, however, able to get his own piece of land in Lower Millheim. There he built a log house and brought part of the land under cultivation. Since he was still unmarried, he took a tenant family in to live with him. This family took care of his scanty necessities, and so, with hard but effective work, things went quite well for him.
Brother Wilhelm had been taken into the army in Austria. The two sisters were married. Brother Gustaf was approaching draft age. In spite of all the strain and faithful work and thrift, it was now difficult to keep poverty away from the door.
Carl reaped a very good harvest on his farm in Texas, and since my father's entire possessions did not provide enough to pay for the passage to Texas, he offered to send my father $100 so that we could go to Texas. Finally, my father decided to do so, even though he was now over sixty years old. Brother Gustaf could not get a passport because he was too near the age for military service. So, about the middle of August, 1859, my father, my mother, and my humble self, set out for Texas.
The journey was via Bremen. The sailing ship, "Geshner," with Captain Lankenau, took us to Galveston. We had a very good trip, and on November 3, 1859, we landed in Galveston. The ocean voyage will remain as a sweet memory to me until the end of my pilgrimage on earth. When near the end of our journey, the captain once asked me, "Wouldn't you like to become a cabin boy?" I immediately went to my father and assailed him with requests to allow me to be a sailor. I did not give up with my requests until, in Galveston, a nice oleander switch ended my dreams of being a sailor.
During the night, a little steamboat took us up the Buffalo Bayou to Houston. When we arrived there, an ox wagon picked us up, and we were comfortably on our way to San Felipe. On the fourth day, in the afternoon, we crossed the Brazos River, and after about two more miles, our belongings were unloaded on the prairie. Brother Carl's home was another four miles away. Early the next morning, my father and I started out toward his home. Mother, alone, had to watch over our possessions. After we had gone about half way to the farm, two riders came toward us. One of them was brother Carl. And so, on the broad Texas prairie, father and son greeted each other after a seven-year separation.
What were the first impressions that the new home made on us? I can still see the saddened countenance of my father as we entered the log hut. He was very depressed, and spoke very little. Carl had immediately hitched up the oxen to the box wagon in order to fetch our mother. The tenant family prepared a meal which was ready when Carl came back with the possessions. To the table we went! There was fine beef, sweet potatoes, and cornbread. Whee! I had never seen such a piece of meat on my plate before.
I had ridden back with Carl to fetch our mother and our belongings. I was amazed at the enormous number of wild rabbits that covered the prairie. On our return trip, the sun was about to set. Mighty flocks of wild geese constantly came and flew in a systematic way over the flat prairie. Oh! It must be the greatest pleasure to go hunting there, and come home loaded with booty. Indeed, I later experienced all these pleasures. Not until a late night hour did we arrive at the farm with the whole "Caboodle."
Brother Gustaf could not get a passport because he was too near the age for military service, so he did as brother Carl did seven years earlier. He came alone a few weeks later than we, and arrived "safe and sound". Soon he found employment with adequate shelter and wages with a local farmer. Father, Mother, and I lived with brother Carl.
Millheim was a fairly large, completely German settlement in Texas. The people were mostly well educated. Also, many a person had had control of important financial resources. All of them remembered and withstood the riots and afflictions against the governments before the revolution broke out in 1848 in Germany and Austria, and now they had sought and found refuge in Texas. A goodly number succeeded, without difficulty, in obtaining a fairly nice home while others had a miserable existence. They were all people who, in Germany, had moved up in higher society. Indeed, all opposed God's Word and the church with indifference and even hostility. Several miles east of Millheim, eight families had settled very close together because of the economic situations of that time. Carl was one of these. The others were all people from Mecklenburg of the poorest day laborer class with practically no education. My father or Carl often had to play the role of secretary when a letter arrived from the Homeland, or when such a letter had to be answered.
Without tiring, these people did the hardest work in the field and in the woods. All lived in log huts which they had built themselves. At least these log huts provided shelter from rain and cold.
What was our life like under these circumstances and associations? It was surely not easy or pleasant for my father. All that he had left over there — the church, the congregation, and his remaining corresponding cultural refreshing, stimulating society — were lost. Not only were the people in the neighborhood far below my father in culture, but also, they spoke the genuine Mecklenburger Plattdeutsch (Low German), which we did not understand at all. How could a good conversation be possible? For miles around, there was no talk about church or divine services. Our nearest surrounding acquaintances must have had miserable experiences with pastors and churches in the old country, about which they often informed my father whenever he turned the conversation toward religious fields. So, as far as spiritual nourishment was concerned, we had truly run into a wilderness. The nourishment for our bodies was not much better either. In the old country, the scanty rations had been far from extravagant. Often they had been measured out stingily, however, so we had been accustomed to that since childhood. Many vegetables, which only the German women knew how to prepare, and that splendid German rye bread were absent altogether, and the glass of beer that even the poorest man in the old country had enjoyed, was lacking. Perhaps you say, "Could you not make your own gardens and raise vegetables?" Oh yes, but, under prevailing circumstances, it was practically impossible to put up a fence compact enough to keep out the wild rabbits and other enemies of the vegetables. It was very difficult to order vegetable seeds, and, also, the newly broken land of the prairie did not lend itself to the use of raising vegetables. In addition, my father possessed a genuinely critical mind, and he often made plans that, under the prevailing conditions, could not be carried out, and he soon got into arguments with brother Carl. This often led to many unpleasant scenes. Brother Carl also had a head of his own.
And how did things go with me? Very quickly, I had found myself to be at home in the new situation. The dining table set with beef, sweet potatoes, and cornbread always pleased me greatly. These foods had previously been very scarce. Besides that, I would much rather go with Carl to the fields and woods, where the work was often hard, than to go to a bad-tempered, disliked teacher in school. Carl even carried the fishing pole and rifle along. Oh, what a pleasure! — a real picnic! Many a hunt also brought wonderful wild game into the kitchen. Soon I also felt completely at home on the back of a Texas pony. Everything was to my wishes, and all the farm work pleased me greatly, and at the age of 13 years, I could swing the ax quite well. I had a strong, healthy body, which was much in my favor. Nothing was lacking to fulfill my satisfaction except a good comrade of my own age. In the whole settlement, there was only one young man who was very friendly to me; however, there was an age difference of ten years.
Now, our mother was the good spirit in our house. Quickly she adjusted to the new surroundings. It was surprising how quickly she made a noteworthy improvement in the kitchen, even with the most meager of means. She was very angry at the birds of prey and the animals of the forest that often stole her young chicks and eggs. These robbers carried away much from our farmyard, and we led a bitter war against them. With the coming of Spring, a fresh milk cow soon made it possible for mother to set a genuinely appetizing table. We lived much better during the second Spring. Vegetable seeds were now available, and soon the much-loved and long-awaited German potato appeared on the table, as well as cabbage, beans, and other vegetables in abundance. Oh what wonderful joy at the table when mother had charge of the kitchen! She had, indeed, been in maid service in the higher middle class, even rich homes, in the old country. There she had learned much and did not forget what she had learned. This was good for her, and very good for us.
Our wardrobe was in terrible condition. The greatest part of our clothing had been stolen on our overseas journey. It had been taken out of the trunk and replaced with worthless rags. In this situation my mother also proved her ability and cleverness in the best manner by producing shirts and trousers with her skillful hands that were always suitable. Hats were also soon produced. The palm tree grew in large quantities in the wilderness and in the Brazos swamp. The wide center leaf, plucked at the right time and dried and bleached, provided good material for all kinds of braid work which one could then sew together to form hats of all shapes, and mother did make real pretty hats for herself and others. I, too, braided palm, but I left the sewing together of the braid for my mother to do.
At this time, a very unwelcome guest appeared. It was the angry, but not highly dangerous malaria fever. The months of May and June had been very wet. As a result, this guest came in August, and so it happened here. As mentioned before, it was not a highly dangerous disease, but the patient felt as if he would rather die, since strength and the desire to live had been taken from him. Usually, with appropriate medical assistance, it disappeared in October, though sometimes it showed up again at irregular intervals during the whole winter and weakened the body so completely that the affected one was not capable of doing any kind of work.
My father yearned for the religious establishments and divine worship that were missing. Father heard of a German minister, and wrote to him, asking him whether he would visit us at least once and preach for us and administer the Lord's Supper. Soon the answer came. Yes, he wanted to come the distance of 45 miles, and for $45 he would make the round trip. For an additional $5 he would preach on Sundays and administer Holy Communion. At this point, the minister's letter fell from father's hand. There probably was no $50 to be had in the whole settlement!
Now another very evil guest appeared. The Civil War broke out. Oh, what a sudden change! As soon as the first shot of the revolution had cracked at Fort Sumter, the call went out throughout the land for volunteers in the Southern Army, and very agreeable promises were associated with this call, about how wonderful the Southern States would reward the fighters after a victorious war. The young men followed this call in great numbers, most of them being of the opinion that the entire war would last no longer than six or seven weeks and, at the most, that many months, and then the victors would return home crowned with honor and rake in the reward for their heroic deeds. My brother, Gustaf, had run away from Austria in order to avoid the military duty there, and here he went as a volunteer in the Southern Army. These gentlemen were violently disappointed, for, instead of weeks or months, they had to remain for four years in the war, and then came home as captured, beaten, and ragged men. Oh, to get home!
From day to day our situation became more dismal. No one wanted to buy our main product, which was cotton. The North immediately closed all ports of the Southern States and would not allow our products to leave, and would not allow the necessities, which we had received, partly from the North and partly from Europe, to enter. Many of the supplies that were on hand in our area were confiscated by the States. This was followed by two very dry years, one after the other. Whatever could still be grown was taken by the government for the army, and so the price of corn rose to $3. per bushel and more, and often one could not buy it for that. We did not starve during the whole war, but our scanty rations were very different from that of the previous years. Very few vegetables had grown during the drought, and those that did grow were imperfect or defective. Soon we came to the table and there on each plate lay a little piece of cornbread hardly as large as two soda crackers. On the table stood a large pan of beef. We were given the signal to help ourselves. Whenever we ran out of meat, it could always be replaced with more with a little work. A real good ox was obtainable for $6. A day's wages for work was from fifty to seventy-five cents, or sometimes even a dollar. There was, however, no money. consequently, soon there was meat in the house again as our pay for the work we had done.
During the middle of the war and some five miles northerly from us, a memorable, — I must say, — a peculiar episode, occurred. An evangelical minister drove around at Piney, near Bellville, for some time. His faith must have suffered shipwreck in the old country. Some of the farmers of that area asked him to preach for them, and to administer Holy Communion on one of the following Sundays. On the next Sunday, it happened, and he received a worthy compensation for it. He spent that afternoon and a part of the evening with other company, playing cards and drinking. During the night, as he became aware that all of his money was missing, he began to rage fearfully and to curse God shamefully. A woman who had earlier participated in the Lord's Supper heard this, and when she heard the minister curse blasphemously, a sort of religious madness came over her. She screamed and declared that this ungodly man had not served her Christ's blood, but devil's blood, and now she must go to hell. She held fast to this erroneous impression, and no one knew what to do. One day the husband of this woman met a free thinker of the area, and after they had spoken with each other about the condition of the woman, the man, with a strong mocking sound in his voice, said, "Why don't you ride to Industry? A Methodist preacher lives there. They are, indeed, the best exorcists. Go get him and let him try his cure!" The next day this man, the husband, rode to Industry. At this time. Rev. Schneider served Industry as pastor. He was a little, unimpressive figure body-wise, nevertheless, he was a hero in faith and prayer, and in proclaiming God's Word. As this man finished telling of his concern, Brother Schneider first prayed with him, and had another short conversation with him. The next morning, the minister rode home with the man. As soon as the woman saw him, her raving and lamentation stopped. Rev. Schneider prayed and read to her from God's Word. Often neighbors came and together they held little prayer meetings. Brother Schneider stayed until the end of the week. Meanwhile, he could notice a distinct change for the better in the woman. Pastor Schneider came again the middle of the next week, and some of the members of the Industry congregation came with him. They all stayed through Sunday, when they all celebrated divine worship, and the Lord's Supper. The woman praised the grace of God which had come back to her. She served God faithfully until the end of her life. Yes, where sin had become powerful, the grace of God became even more powerful.
A sort of invigorating revival came over the area, and soon a small congregation was created. The strong congregation in Industry helped, so the new congregation could purchase an adequate house for a parsonage and worship services. Late the following Fall, Rev. Schneider was sent there as preacher.
Ammunition was practically impossible to attain, and the State had confiscated most of the good rifles. Even fishing hooks were scarce. For three years, we had not seen even the dust of white flour, and often even salt was missing. All wagons were seized by force, for now the State began to haul the cotton to market the long way through Mexico. The scarcity of guns and ammunition pressed heavily upon us. One could observe the increase of thieves (birds and rabbits) that afflicted our gardens and chickens, and the game which existed in abundance, whizzed by right under our noses. The scarcity of white flour was remedied somewhat by the yield of potato flour. The grinding process was a very wearisome transaction. One bushel of potatoes yielded not more than seven pounds of flour.
Day after day, the relationship between my father and my brother, Carl, became more gloomy, so my father decided to rent a small farm in Cat Spring, and we moved there in the winter of 1861-1862. A neighbor sold us a good yoke of oxen and waited until harvest time for his pay. The owner of the farm, a widow, owned the necessary implements, and let us use them without pay. We gathered a very good harvest in 1863.
The need for clothing was now very severe, and as it became known in the neighborhood that my father was a weaver, the neighbors pressed him to take up his old job again. "If you will give me a weaver's loom, I will weave again," was his answer. A weaver's loom was built and a few weeks later, father sat behind the loom and wove cloth. We others carded and spun the cotton from which we had plucked the seeds with our fingers. This plucking and spinning pleased me very little.
I have probably omitted a lot that I ought to make up for. In the year 1860, Carl built a new house. Brother Carl, Mother, Father, and I moved into it, and turned the log house over to the renter, who later moved away, and in late Autumn, 1863, my father, mother, and I moved into the old log house again.
Father wove as much cloth as possible. Mother and I worked a part of Carl's land. By this time, I had naturally become a grown man — big and strong. I had spent the year in a good school in Cat Spring, for there we had lived among the oldest and most experienced farmers of that area. One day there was quite a lot of excitement in the settlement. A pastor had come without invitation or calling, and invited the people to attend worship service on the following Sunday in the home of one of the neighbors who had offered his home for that purpose. This preacher was our beloved Brother Schneider. The worship service was held, and what an assembly! The female sex of all ages was well represented. Among the male sex only the very young and the elderly were present. The strong, stable men were entirely absent. They were either in the army or hidden from the patrol who continually roamed through the land in order to drive the manpower into the army. The Kenney congregation, which Pastor Schneider now served as resident pastor, and the Industry congregation belonged to the same English Conference. Although the representation was poor, the worship service was held. I did not attend it and don't know what was discussed there. After the service the assembly made mention of the question
of money, and to the surprise and astonishment of the assembly, the preacher said, "Come and hear God's Word. If it is beneficial to you, the rest (money matters) will find a way. In two weeks I will be here again and preach. Come again and invite others and let us work out our soul's salvation with fear and trembling during these earnest, hard times." He then visited several who were ill and then rode home. In the following weeks, practically all of the conversations changed to the subject of the pastor's visit. As pastor Schneider came the second time, the news about him also went to Millheim, and the big intellectuals there immediately took harsh position against him, and intimidated the people so that no one wanted to offer his home for a worship service, and so Pastor Schneider had to discontinue his visits to the settlement.
Here I want to report something that pertains to me personally. I was much in need of suitable company. In the whole settlement, I had no person my age to associate with, and often I said to myself, and once even to my mother, "Why don't I have a brother or sister?" Hunting and fishing were my only entertainment and pastime. In time I also felt much at ease in the saddle, but I was much in need of suitable fellowship. I could also swing the lasso quite easily. I found the need for ammunition to be oppressive. Therefore, all pleasure hunting and game hunting were cut off, and our situation became very depressing.
One of our neighbors owned a fairly large herd of cattle and also some very fine horses. Especially in the springtime, he often had me to help with the spring drive, for indeed, he was not at ease in the saddle. Once I had helped him several days, and after supper he came and paid me my contract pay of 35 cents for a day's work. The man had a reputation of greediness, and worse yet, a bad name, but on this evening came a "dessert" that could not have been more wonderful, and that almost lifted me into heaven. The man still had a good double-barrel shot gun, which he brought out, along with about two pounds of gun powder and several pounds of suitable shots, and with it a box of percussion caps. He said, "I will lend you the gun until the war business is over, until one can buy things again. I will give you the ammunition, for you have often done a service for me." Believe me, I did not walk home that night, but felt suspended as in Heaven. I thought, "It certainly is good that some people never learn to be at ease in the saddle," and as he himself said, "On the hunt, there is always too much room beside it" (meaning the thing one shoots at). For that reason, such a wonderful treasure finally came to this poor wretch. I found Mother still busy sewing at home. Father was already asleep. Mother made a very sad face, and after the first greeting, she got up and fetched the cornmeal sack and said, "See here, son, that is the last thing that is edible that we have in the house." There was barely a quart of meal in the sack. "Say, Mother, look at my treasure. All our want will be helped," was my answer. Immediately the gun was carefully cleaned and loaded. "And, Mother, wake me at five o'clock." The game bag which had long hung quiet was carefully put in order. Mother awakened me on time, and away I went to find a turkey roosting place. On the way, I found a recently perished cow, cut off a piece of it, and as soon as I got to Mill Creek, I fixed several fishing hooks with the bait, and then went to hunt turkeys. I did not have to hunt long, for there were many on hand. In the dark, I sneaked under the tree on which they sat. Now I had to wait until it was light enough to be able to aim accurately, for not one grain of the ammunition should be squandered casually. I was successful in getting two very excellent turkeys out of the tree. Oh, what wonderful joy in hunting! Quickly, with the turkeys on my back, I was on my way home. But my fishing lines! I had killed enough game, but as I got to my lines, there hung at least a fifteen-pound fish on one line, so I had a rather good load to carry home. The neighbor, owner of the gun, received one of the turkeys and a generous portion of the fish.
At this time, we did not have worship service any more. In the first place, the opposition from Millheim exercised a great influence. In addition, Pastor Schneider was not satisfied. No house was offered to him anymore, and the people did not assemble any more. But the congregation in Piney grew and was added unto, and soon an exchange of preachers occurred. Brother Carl Biel became the new preacher for the congregation at Piney, and tried hard and faithfully to find entrance in Millheim, as well as with us. In Millheim, everything was fruitless. With us more progress was made. It developed into a sort of revival. Some of the people stood determined on the preacher's side, and others withdrew themselves completely. Soon, my brother, Carl, was profoundly converted and became very active in the up-building of the congregation. A congregation of from twenty to twenty-five members was founded. This membership held regular worship services and prayer meetings, even when Brother Biel was not there. Carl soon became class leader and local preacher. I, however, was looking far ahead. I had at that time grown into a rather strong youth, and there was danger that the Patrol, which roamed through the land in search of new man power, would one day simply take me with them, for during these times, the men asked few questions pertaining to the ages of those concerned. So I decided rather
to take the oxen whip in my hand and to become a freight driver. I was employed with 19 others by a wagon master. We received $10. a month wages, and board was promised us. The swindle that accompanied the approaching end of the war was very imposing. The wagon master was probably one of the main swindlers. He had us twenty boys under formation and command. For some time, we, with our valuable freight, drove from Alleyton around the country. Each one drove a wagon with five or six yoke of oxen loaded with ten bales of cotton, and as it appeared, we were supposed to carry the load to Brownsville on the Mexican border. Soon, at a suitable place, we made a sort of camp, and we had nothing to do but to watch out that the oxen did not go astray. Then, one morning the wagon master came to us, paid each one $12 and simply told us that we had been dismissed from our jobs. What? How come? Why? Somewhere, halfway to Mexico on the prairie! Finally, he gave us a little instruction as to what we could do. About five miles from our camp was a big ranch where a man had a large group of young ponies that he would sell us cheaply. We were supposed to stay in camp that day, were allowed to cut a wagon sheet to pieces and make ourselves some knap-sacks, in which we could provide ourselves with food as far as the provisions in camp reached. The next day we could go to the ranch, buy ponies, and ride home. Each one of us had been required to bring a saddle along. We did as he advised, and on the next morning, twenty boys, each with a knap-sack and a saddle on his bark, and $12 - in his pneke.t, started out. Everyone can guess how we felt. Soon after noon, we reached the ranch. The owner seemed much amazed over our visit, still he was not quite lacking in knowledge of the situation. Yes, the boys were immediately supposed to break a number of ponies, and the next morning some more. Then we could select. Every pony that was not yet broke for riding could be bought for $8 a head. We would also be permitted to stay at the ranch for several days until the fellows were a little at ease in the saddle. He (the owner) would also butcher a yearling (for our food). On the next morning the fun with the Spanish ponies began. Have you ever seen boys roll in the sand? It was good that the whole area was deep, loose sand. This circus was carried out without harm to the riders. On the third day, the company started homeward. For a few days, they were still in a united group, but as we reached an area where there were signs of civilization, we heard that the war was over. We also found out where we were, and now each one inquired about the nearest way to his home.
The war was now over, but not its consequences. Oh, the misery! They made themselves known. Many a home had lost its master. He did not return. Many parents waited in vain for their son's return. He did not return. No one knew where many of the young men had found their last resting places. Others returned, but in a savage and desolate and wild state. Still others were crippled and with seeds of death in heart and mind, and the Grim Reaper of Death gathered a rich harvest during the post-war years. How did the people now look upon the tidings of peace? You see, the greater part of them had no God. Instead of thanking the Lord for the final end of the war, they indulged more each day in vile lust, balls, and dancing. Drinking bouts of all sorts, such as had never been before the war, caught hold all around. A part of the cotton which had been picked during the war was still lying in raw condition in the houses since it could not be taken to market during the war. Now the gins were quickly put into working order. The cotton now brought from 20-25 cents. From the North and from Europe, all kinds of clothing materials were brought, but also some terrible trash, and at prices that were not at all a match for the 25 cent cotton.
Our situation also improved remarkably. Some bales of cotton that had been picked during the war brought a great deal of money. Therefore, sufficient clothing and other necessities could be provided for. Brother Gustaf returned from captivity in the North.
Soon after the end of the war, Carl became acquainted with a young widow in the Industry congregation. He married her and moved to Industry to live with her on her farm. My father, mother, Gustaf, and I now rented Carl's farm in return for adequate compensation. The young man whom I mentioned before returned from the war unharmed, and was now my only companion. We spent many a joyous day hunting together, but since he soon married, this companionship also ended.
Brother Gustaf now also went a courting and found a young widow with a tolerably well improved farm. And so, soon I was alone with my father and my mother on Carl's farm in Lower Millheim. Farming pleased me quite well. but I could not say that about the companionship. It seemed to me as if Millheim was much more refined after the war than before, and companionship with the cattle drivers at their campsites became more vulgar from day to day. Under prevailing conditions, I could not completely withdraw myself from them, but they disgusted me.
As the Methodist soldiers returned from the war, bad-tempered morale in the Industry and other German congregations was observed. Preachers from the Southern Methodist Church had come to them, but they did not preach the Christ, the Prince of Peace, but told them how skillfully they should beat the Yankees, who wanted to rob them of their negro slaves. The Germans were practically unanimous against slavery, and did not, until now, find out that they belonged to a church which supported slavery to the end. According to public affairs, slavery had now been abolished, but among the people of the South, it lived on. The North had robbed us of our labor, that being the opinion of the South. Our German people simply said, "We do not want to belong to such a church anymore," and steps were taken to unite again with the Mother Church in the North. Brother Carl had played a leading role in this achievement. There had been dissension over the question. The greater part of the membership rejoined the Mother Church, while the smaller part stayed with the church of the South.
Brother Carl was greatly encouraged to accept the appointment of itinerant preacher. More and more congregations in Texas had joined the Mother Church and they were short of preachers. So Carl sold his farm in Lower Millheim, and entered the active ministry. Father, Mother, and I moved to his wife's farm in Industry. This move was not according to my wishes. The Industry area was too thickly settled to allow opportunity for hunting, and there was simply no suitable water for fishing. Likewise, cattle breeding on a large scale was out of the question, and the Spanish pony, with all the fun and pleasure he afforded me, had remained in Lower Millheim.
I did not as yet belong to the Methodists, but I found here among them immediate union and fellowship that suited me, and they accepted me. I found here for the first time a person of my age who found in me, and I in him, true friendship. The bond lasted as long as the good brother lived. Too soon the faithful brother went to his heavenly home. At this time my father still carried on some weaving. He dirt not concern himself with farming any more. Mother and I understood each other well and had fairly good success with the farm work.
Brother Carl was sent to Industry as a prospective preacher. He worked in the congregation and the surrounding area with very good success. Father was now attacked by the painful malady of old age which at times caused his life to be real agonizing for him. He died in September in the year 1875. Now I was alone with Mother, and I gradually desired to establish my own home. Carl, as preacher, had again taken up confirmation instruction for the young people and examined a nice class in church. Soon after the examination, at an evening meeting, some of these young people, without invitation, came forward and requested the public prayers of the congregation. There was a renewed revival in the congregation, and my heart and mind too, were powerfully moved by these actions. I now joined the church and was admitted into full association. I was immediately approved and accepted for work in the Sunday School. It soon became clear that I was supposed to show the children a way that I did not know myself. It now also became clear to me that it took more to be a Christian than a religious doctrine and prayers and to learn the confession of faith. Deep were the impressions that I received at the aforementioned revival. Often my friend and I had long conversations pertaining to the state of our souls. We both felt that we could not enter the Kingdom of Heaven as we were. Although we did not participate in heavy active sins, our minds and wills were directed to worldly and sinful things. We heard powerful sermons and their basic sound was always, "You must be born again." Yes, we heard them say as Nicodemus, "How can such a thing come to pass?"
Brother Carl was transferred to Brenham and Brother Stroeter became his successor. He was still a young man, had attained a university education in Germany, and was also excellent in music. With the passing of time, he made a name for himself in German Methodism. I was practically fearful before this man and his learning. However, I was amazed at how such learned men can understand how to step down and meet the unlearned half way. Truly, from that man I learned much. He had a powerful gift of sympathy and he understood the questions which often burdened my heart and mind, but which I could not put into words. He put the thoughts into words himself, and then answered the question. I learned much from him. During the second year of his ministry in Industry, the first camp meeting was held. It was not very successful in bringing new members, but it had a great influence on the otherwise completely non-Christian neighborhood. After two years, Brother D. Stiehl, also a young man, followed him. Now I also experienced what is called being born anew, through the light from the Spirit of God, and attained the peace that passeth all understanding. Costly gifts were obtained for us sinners
at Golgotha. He died for me so that I may have forgiveness, redemption, and complete peace. Hardly had I made a confession of my profession before the congregation, when he, (Bro. Stiehl), without warning and against my will, gave me license to preach, and immediately assigned me to conduct meetings.
I refused, but it didn't help. I had to get out into the public, and I succeeded, too, and I must have given satisfaction in the congregation. At the next quarterly conference, license was given to me, against my will, to be a local preacher. I felt no desire or pressure to enter the ministry. Very enthusiastic, however, was my desire for my own home. Through the years I had done a good amount of carpenter work for which I had much desire and from which I derived pleasure. I had also learned enough to meet the needs of carpentry in the country, and I dreamed now of a little piece of land and a house, a little farming and cabinet work! Yes, that would be nice. In the good harvest of the past year, we linr1 saved $100. had loaned it to a member of our congregation for interest. This brother came to me one day and said, "I don't see how I can pay you back this money. I have heard, however, that you would like to buy a little piece of land and to build your own home. I want to sell you twelve acres of my farm for the customary land price of $25. per acre, and with that pay my debts. The land is good and nicely located for a little home." I grabbed at the offer and built me a modest, charming little house, and in the Spring of 1876, my mother and I moved into the new home. Mother was pleased with everything.
Since my conversion, and especially since I had been pressed from all sides to enter the ministry, I prayed often, "Lord, show me your way and will for me!" I did not have a call to enter the ministry. I gladly helped in the congregation where and how I could. Also, I made devotional experiences in my heart whenever the spirit brought home to me the given word, but a clear call into the ministry I had not.
The question of a life's companion now became obvious, but it seemed as if, in our congregation, none was available to me. I had also included this question in my prayers, and had received an answer to it without understanding it. Brother Daniel G. Stiehl was our preacher. He and his wife came from Fredericksburg. Shortly before Conference, her young sister came to visit with them. When I saw her for the first time, it was clear to me that "She was IT" — not love at first sight, but as an answer to my prayer to God. I accepted it, and I proposed to her and she accepted. A few days later, I introduced my mother to her future daughter-in-law, whom she heartily accepted.
I went immediately to her parents to ask for her hand in marriage. Gladly they gave their consent. This was in March, 1876. Our wedding was on September 12, 1876. Brother Pluenneke tied the knot, and it held well.
A few days later, we went on our honeymoon. No greater or richer man of the world could march off more proudly. A powerful freight wagon took us up, hitched with oxen and two brown mules on the shaft, with my brother-in-law, (Ludwig Kneese) in the saddle as guide.
First station: Yonkers Creek: a wild romantic area, all kinds of music from the animals of the prairie. In the morning, early departure and a romantic drive.
Second station: Miller's Creek: There was no more danger of Indians in this area. They probably, even at the time of the wedding, had carried out their last sudden attack westerly from Fredericksburg.
Third station: Night lodging in open country with early departure the next morning, and in the afternoon we reached Austin.
The next station: Just as long and as far as the stretch we had already laid behind us, we had reached that same night, found Brother Carl at the railroad station and soon drove to our home in Schonau, which we reached toward night. Mother heartily accepted her new and only daughter.
I had hoped that, with my marriage, the pressure from the preachers to draw me into active ministry would cease, but that was not so. Often the call of the Church as well as the call from God were present, but I could not approve the argument. Everything was directed to the establishment of my home and own house. I practically saw a sign from above that said, "Stay where you are." One thing was clear before my eyes. I cannot enter itinerant ministry until and unless I get definite, clear evidence that God has called me to enter the ministry. I can honestly say, I have often prayed, "Lord, show me the way." But silence remained in my heart and soul concerning this. I put the question out of my mind and, with my young wife and my mother, lived a very comfortable life in our home. Our life was rather pleasant. I had work, and earned good pay. I gladly helped in our church, and dreamed of a comfortable future. During the Annual Conference in 1876, which convened in Austin, I was employed as a carpenter in Schoenau, not far from our home. I did not, however, go home every night. One evening when I returned home, a big carriage stood in the yard, and in the room by the heater sat Brother Pfaffle. "Well, what good news do you bring?" I asked. Abruptly, but convincingly, Brother Pfaffle answered, "I bring for you by order of the Conference, a field of work for the coming year." I did not give a very nice answer, and do not want to write down here what I said. However, Brother Pfaffle would not let himself become bewildered, but spoke as if the matter had already been arranged for, and that my family and I would go there immediately. I could not agree, and made an appeal against what, in my mind, was a blunder which the Church had committed. A long discussion followed until late into the night. Brother Pfaffle said, "The Church is calling you as God's messenger." To this I answered, "The Church has often made mistakes and taken false steps which no one can deny."
I did not sleep that night. The next morning, I said, "Come, let us go to Brother Carl in Industry, and hear his advice about this question." So it was. The whole matter was talked over another time, and at last, I very abruptly said, "Here God calls, and there the Church calls. Which call shall I follow? Does the Lord want me in His vineyard? I do not know. The Church has often erred. I am willing to serve the Lord in any life's appointment to which he wants to call me." To this Carl said, "Julius, if you honestly want to have certainty, I will give you this piece of advice. It may cost you a sacrifice, but the Lord is rich in all things." "Well, let me hear it," I said. Then Carl gave me this advice: "If you are in earnest that this matter should clear up in your mind, leave your place, take the field that the Church has assigned to you, truly do your duty, and surely before the end of the year you will have certainty whether the Lord wants you or not." This was a good piece of advice, but one that did not please flesh and blood. I did not give Brother Pfaffle an answer immediately, but I felt that now I had a decision to make. When I reached home, I found my wife and mother both willing to leave our home and make a sincere endeavor in the new field of work. It was as if a stone fell from my heart. I had feared that there would be opposition to leaving our home, but this was not the case. I had told my young wife at our engagement that, if the Lord would call me to enter the ministry, she would simply have to go along. At that time, she gave her promise which she faithfully kept through all the changes of time. After three days of pondering, I said, "My Savior gave up the wonders of his Father and took up the cross. What is the greatest that we give up by trying this appointment? One year at the appointment, and if the Lord will say clearly and distinctly, 'I cannot use you', then we'll go home again, and another year of faithful work will make up for the lost Lord will make it right."
I wrote Bro. Pfaffle that I would go to the appointment as quickly as possible, and do my best. At the same time, I proposed that, under the condition that, if, at the end of the year I came to him and said, "Brother, I am now certain that the Lord does not want me," he would let me go home without further ado.
The field of work which the Conference had assigned to me was located about four miles west of Brenham in post oak woodland. During the beginning of February, 1877, I made the move. Brother Gustaf and another brother in the congregation came with their wagons. It was not a nice morning when we departed from Schonau, and the weather got colder and colder. By noon, it began to rain, mixed with ice. Brother Gustaf asked, "Aren't you regretful about your decision?" A short "No" was the answer. About dark, we reached Brenham, and now we still had four miles of terrible roads to travel in pitch dark night. I went on ahead with my lantern. At the worst places, I had to help direct each wagon individually. Later in the night, we reached the parsonage without any mishap. The gloomy night, and the likewise gloomy outward and inward appearance of the parsonage brought a few tears to the eyes of my wife, but I must say in her defense that, throughout my career in the ministry, she held up as a champion and seldom cried or complained or blamed me for leaving our nice home in Schonau.
My reception in this congregation was not the best. My predecessor had not been able to pass his examinations after three years of study, and now had to be dismissed. The people spoke all kinds of German dialects. They had little German blood and spirit.
The congregation was small and there was little opportunity for mission work. The area was at that time thinly settled, so the work was very hard. I had much opportunity and time to improve my imperfect knowledge through diligent study, especially with Brother Stroeter as teacher. He had been preacher and teacher for two years in Industry, and was now supervisory preacher in Brenham. Truly, I could not wish for a better teacher for myself.
During this year all kinds of summer meetings were conducted to which my presiding elder often took me. These meetings were especially stimulating and beneficial, not only to the congregations, but also to me. I had heretofore not been stirred about the religious framework of the world. I always had to travel the roads to the meetings on horseback. At the meetings one came in contact with all kinds of people. There was often conversation that was very exciting, but which drove us to prayer about certain issues. During the summer, God's spirit gave me the distinct sign: "You shall be my messenger."
Now I had to sell, at a great loss, my home in Schonau, as well as all the stock and equipment. I could not report any great progress in my congregation. To the contrary, I often had to wonder why there was so much quarreling and fighting among the members. It was not easy to keep my head above my shoulders and to preserve, to some extent, peace among them.
The next Conference session was in Houston. There I was admitted on probation and sent to the Giddings Circuit. The move took place soon after the Conference, and was very "watery." My old bosom friend, Adolph Niebuhr, was now a blessed family man, farm owner, and steward in the congregation in Grassyville, which was a part of the circuit, this being where a church was located, as well as a parsonage. That was a joy. He helped with the moving with one wagon, and I drove the other. We were both tough country boys, but when the last ditch had been passed, and last load taken from the wagons, we said, "Thank God!" from the bottom of our hearts.
There was no lack of work here. I had six locations in which to preach, and there was only one Sunday in a month when I did not preach two or three times, and put from ten to eighteen miles behind me on horseback. During the week, there were prayer meetings and numerous other meetings to conduct. I had and needed a good saddle horse since the paths in the area were too bad for buggies. Soon the first year had passed and the next session of Conference was in Grassyville. Giddings was my assignment for another year. Brother Carl now became my presiding elder. At this Conference, four young men were admitted. One of them was sent to Williamson County. Brother Carl was also his presiding elder. After the Conference, Carl came to me and said, "Julius, you must go with young Wiebusch on a mission trip to Williamson County. In all his life he has not been loose from his mother's apron strings. I will write him to come to you, and then you go together through the area and see what there is to do, and whether a suitable place for lodging can be found for him. None of our people have ever been there." The young brother came, and the next day we went on our trip. We took the Central Railroad as far as Elgin. From there we went to Brushy Creek. Near this stream, we found a fairly large number of German settlers, most of whom admitted us in a friendly manner, but sometimes not. On Friday evening we arrived at Taylor, and saw a German name on a sign at a blacksmith shop. We dropped in and were received in a friendly way. The good man immediately took care of our horses. Now his wife also approached with a child in her arms, and said, "Look here, dear men, now I can really be happy about this child. These preachers shall not leave Taylor without our child being baptized." There I stood as if I had been struck. I was as yet not even ordained. I slept very little that night. Mister Hannes took care of our lodging as well as location for a worship service on Sunday. Saturday we rode into the country and invited people to the worship services. On Sunday, about forty people attended the service, and we had a very nice meeting. At the close of the meeting, two men came to me and asked me whether I could baptize their children that afternoon. They had lived in the wilderness for several years, and no preacher of their church had been concerned about them. I promised, and that Sunday afternoon, I baptized a number of children — don't remember exactly how many. Many laughed over my doubt about not being ordained, but not I, especially since I later experienced through my often grievous conscience, that many parents are doubtful that their children were not baptized by ordained ministers. Such old regulations should not be thoughtlessly handled as is often the case today, and certainly not a blessing to the Church. The Church ought not send her workers to work for which they have not been fully endowed or qualified. For me this regulation passed over without further consequence.
On Monday morning, we continued our trip. Williamson County was still sparsely settled. Also, land was offered us for $1 an acre. Wood and water were lacking, and fence wire had not yet been developed. We found practically no more Germans. We finally came to Rockdale. Then I directed my way homeward, while Brother Julius Wiebusch headed toward Taylor, where through the negotiations of Mr. Harmes, his lodging had been provided. That afternoon, we left Rockdale, and reached Lexington at pitch dark and found lodging for the night. The next morning, two German businessmen heard that we were on a sort of missionary trip, so they asked us whether we could also include Lexington as a place to preach. During the last years, a goodly number of Germans had settled in that neighborhood and more and more were coming. I told them that such a thing was not possible for me, since my Sundays were all arranged for. For Brother Wiebusch, the distance was too great. During further progress of the conversation, I made the suggestion whether people would come to worship service on a night when there is a full moon. Then I could come once a month at full moon time to conduct divine services. They snatched up the suggestion and promised their support. They were both members of the English Baptist Church in Lexington, and offered their church for the worship services.
Two weeks later, I preached for the first time in that very place to some 50 listeners, and was urgently invited to come back again.
The year 1879 was a year of drought in the region, if not also in the whole land. There was practically no corn, and very little cotton. The whole region was in post oak forest, and these old oaks were loaded this year with acorns as not often before. A well-organized band of thieves had their union from Texas to Missouri. At first they aimed only at horses and good mules. Soon, however, the men also attacked hogs, and as the beef cattle went up in price, they attacked them also. The government seemed powerless, and whenever a swindler was captured, dirty lawyers soon helped them to gain freedom. Impoverished slave holders and their offspring, who were too proud to beg and too lazy to work, supplied the band in this way. There were not many families who did not lose one or more horses to the thieves.
One day a good brother came and brought me a quarter of a young hog. "Brother," he said, "Money will be miserably scarce this year. We have practically no harvest. I hope, however, that we will not be lacking in meat. I have sixteen excellent "grunters," and you shall have one of them. The older brothers said, hope we will butcher them ourselves, isn't that right?" He had earlier had bad experiences, and the cunning ways which the swindlers possessed in order to carry out their pranks astonished everyone. The hogs had become ready for slaughter this year because of the acorn crop. Slaughtering time was here, and all were waiting for cold weather appropriate for butchering. On a Sunday during the afternoon service, a dry norther blew up. After the service, the brothers said, "Tomorrow is butchering day. This morning they (the hogs) were still all there. I hope they will still be there tomorrow," but he never saw a single one of his hog's again, and had to buy his own supply of meat.
The stork had come to our house with a weak little boy child, and as the ladies came to see him, they returned home with a gloomy look. However, soon the little one developed into a right robust namesake, full of life and foolish tricks. Toward the end of the third year, a strong and healthy daughter also arrived to the joy of the grandmother, who truly did not lack in attention to her, but who also practiced good rearing.
The next Conference took place in Industry. My three years in the Giddings Circuit had, so far, passed pretty comfortably, but poor. During my first four years in the Conference, my salary did not reach $300. Clothing was very expensive. Therefore, much miserable rubbish was consigned to us. Flour was always over $6 per 100 pounds, and occasionally reached as high as $9. So my previously earned few dollars soon vanished in spite of all modesty in the kitchen and in clothing. Here I want to remember mama (Sophia) and my mother. They were modest in all their promotions.
At the Conference, the bishop called out: "Seguin: J. E. Urbantke." That meant I had to move. I cannot say that I accepted this change with great joy. Until now, Seguin and Guadalupe Valley had been two separate fields. Now they had been thrown together. This made it one of the largest and also one of the most intelligent congregations in the Conference. I, with my little formal education, found it to be a most difficult move.
Brother Henry Dietz now became my presiding elder. We lived in Seguin and had very good brothers and sisters as neighbors. We had plenty of work, 'but it was mostly nice, agreeable work.
The quarterly conference allowed me $400. in salary. We would have lived on that too, but now a very evil guest came to the parsonage — a sickness which did not leave during the three years we stayed in Seguin.
The church and the parsonage were quite incomplete. During the first year, I succeeded in completing the church, and to adequately enlarge the parsonage. Since the next yearly conference was to be held in Seguin, these improvements were very necessary. A month before our Conference, the Southern Methodist Church also met here. The impression that it left in the town was not n good one.
At this, our Conference, Blinn College was now born under the name of Mission Institute. Brother Carl was elected to become leader of this undertaking, and a body of trustees was elected. A few days after the close of the Conference, a man named Jones came and said, "I am not a member of your church, but I attended several of the sessions of your Conference, and I heard you preach several times. It seems to me that you people still have a heart and are concerned about the want and sin of the people. In my neighborhood, it looks very evil. I have a nice piece of land which I would give to you if your Church would build a school on it similar to the one that you planned in your sessions.
I pointed out to the man that such a thing would be impossible for us, and it would be nonsense for them without contact near a railroad. Schools that were built before railroads were built all had to either move to another location or close up, for the near vicinity alone cannot support
such a school.
The man left, promised to return, which he did. He let himself be persuaded to sell said piece of land, and send the money to Blinn College, which at that time was still a Mission Institute. The amount was $800 which formed the ground work for a maintenance and preservation fund for this school. Our Conference bishop and preachers must have made a very good impression in the city of Seguin, especially our Bishop Bowman and also our missions secretary Fowler.
In the year 1882, the congregation held a wonderful camp meeting on the Guadalupe. The Spirit of God worked wonders, especially among the youth of the congregation.
I was blessed the third year with this congregation. During this year, the congregation built a new and nice big church in Guadalupe Valley.
I had a heavy heart, for my burden of debts grew steadily and alarmingly heavy, and I could not understand that the people loaned, yes, even offered me money when they knew my situation and financial position. I don't deny that at that time my thoughts were that the Lord did not want me in His work anymore because He did not provide better for us. We certainly could not cast our lives unto fast living.
The debts had come over me from I knew not where. There were doctor bills and prescription bills, and the cost of convalescence rose steadily even though our own demands were small. The next session of Conference was in Brenham, and there I received notice to move. Hedwigshill and Llano was the next appointment — a large field with five places to preach, and members living in four counties. I went there with much concern and fear, for my $400 debt was pressing me hard.
We were heartily received, but that field of work gave me a very uncomfortable or disagreeable difficulty. I had no kind of vehicle, only a good saddle horse. Until now we had always had a store nearby where we could get our necessities, but here the nearest one was seven miles away. It was no pleasure to bring a sack of flour home on a horse. The service round gave Beaver Creek only three of the five Sunday services, and on the other two Sundays, my wife and my mother had to stay at home alone. Still, we were of good courage although the sun did not shine. In the congregation, rays of hope could be seen.
One day, I sat at home alone in the morning. Mother and my wife had gone to neighbor Brandenberger's home to quilt. Suddenly Father Pluenneke stood beside me, and began to speak in a business-like manner as follows: "Listen! You must have a vehicle. Without it, it just won't do. We have done very well up here with our cattle industry. Here I have brought along $100. that I want to lend you. We will not write a note and we will not even mention interest. If you can pay it back later, fine, and if not, well, that is all right too. So go over there and buy yourself a vehicle. A few people have offered their old family wagons for sale." He directed his eyes to one of them. I thought for a while about the unexpected offer and then said to him, "First of all, thanks for your friendly offer, but I simply cannot accept it, for the Discipline is not only for the members, but also for the preachers, and it says, 'Don't make any debts without good prospects to pay them.' I don't have any prospects of paying." "But", he said, "You can't go on like this. You are hindered in your work." We argued and discussed the situation a while longer. Brother Pluenneke himself withdrew his first offer to buy an old wagon, for one can just as well borrow a couple of hundred dollars and pay the interest as to have a worn out carriage constantly standing in the repair shop. Also, the owners, who previously probably had to pay a big price, had now also set a big price on the used vehicle. The same kind were now being sent down from the factories in the North, and at reduced prices. For a while we sat quietly beside one another. Then Brother Pluenneke said suddenly, "Just what is going through your head?" "I wanted to ask the same of you," said I. "You are the older, so speak." "No," he said, "I see that my plan has fallen through, and I think that is good. So you speak." "Well, good. What is the cheapest for which I can get a suitable vehicle?" He immediately told me that for about $175. I could buy another horse, double harness, and a good wagon. "Good," I said. "Now I want to make a suggestion. You take this money back home with you, tell no one about our discussion here, and if the dear Lord should reveal to another the same or similar thought that he gave to you, then I will consider that the Lord wants me to have a vehicle, and I will come and get the money which you have offered me. To be quiet about it is a command, so it will be sure to be kept secret." Brother Pluenneke went home. He had been gone only a short while when Brother Brandenberger came in and made me the same offer with $50. I gave him the same information, and he also went home again. The prayer meetings here were held right after noon, and it was now time for me to be on my way to the prayer meeting, which was supposed to be held at the home of Brother Pluenneke's second son. On the way, close to Brother John Brandenberger's, a little shower of rain overtook me, as so often happened. Quickly I galloped to the house and found Sister Brandenberger at home alone. "Well," she said, "That hit us just right. I have been wanting to speak with you alone. When our mother died last fall, she gave each of us girls $20, but she said we should not spend it on ourselves, but should do something good with it. My sisters all gave theirs to the missions. I have still kept mine. I am probably a little more hardhearted than the others. Now I hear that you are desperately in need of a wagon, but cannot buy yourself one. Now take this money. It can help you some. If you ever can afford it, you can give it to a good cause. And since I have been so hardhearted, I will now add five dollars of my own to it." There I stood! Lord God, how can you direct people's hearts? How you acknowledge your children who walk in religious faith! When I soon thereafter arrived at the prayer meeting, I found Father Pluenneke already there. He had gone in at his son's house because of the same shower of rain that had caused me to stop at Sister Brandenberger's. Brother F. Brandenberger now also came to the prayer meeting. I called them into one corner alone, and informed them about what had happened. Both stood there full of amazement and praised God for his revelations of grace. Each one still had his money with him, and admonished me to take it immediately.
A few days later, a promising young man came to me and wished for a conference with me. He told me what a rough life he had as a youth. His father had been a mocker of everything holy. The children had grown up under strict discipline. The father had died, and he himself, (the young man), because he felt a tug at his heart to do so, had hired out to a member of the congregation. There he had become acquainted with a devout girl of the congregation. She was an orphan along with her three sisters. He had married her, and established a small home. A
short time before my arrival there, she had died. The grief over his loss was still apparent on his otherwise nice fresh face. "The first thing I want to do is follow in the faith of my wife and my Savior. My deceased wife has led me to Him. She has gone on ahead. I want to follow. Oh, believe me, I have learned the Christian truths of salvation from her and with her and would now like to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am indeed willing to undergo a test." The test was in the form of an instructive and devotional conversation, and on the following Sunday, I baptized Brother Gustaf Schulze in the church at Beaver Creek. Later, I also baptized a grown brother and sister of his. Soon came the time for our district meeting in Guadalupe Valley. I met Brother Schulze in the store, and so, quite at random, I said, "Wouldn't you like to go along with me to the district meeting?" "I probably will not go. The cattle drive is not quite over, and the horses are about all exhausted, so a day to Guadalupe Valley would not be the right medicine," he answered. I said, "I don't want your horses to go along. I will arrange for a horse for you. We will ride to San Antonio, buy a new wagon there, drive in it to Guadalupe Valley to the district meeting, and when it is over, we will leisurely ride home to Llano." He answered, "That sounds like music to my ears. Certainly I will go with you."
In San Antonio we bought a wagon and harness and reached Guadalupe Valley the next day. It was a good district meeting. Much business was transacted, concerning the calling of preachers and preparation for work. Also, the Mission Institute was discussed. On the way home, I found the young man to be very quiet. As soon as the talk was of the above mentioned theme, he had an endless number of questions, and sought for answers to these questions. "Gus," I said at last, "I noticed how you stand. The Lord calls you to His work, but the flesh is unwilling. But when the Lord calls, one better follow immediately." After that, he spoke practically nothing more, but it was easy to observe that an earnest battle was going on in him. In his luggage, there was a suit which had been bought in San Antonio. In about a month, there would be a wedding to a sister of his first wife. But now came the call from the Lord: "Go out into the vineyard." Not right away, but after the district conference, on the next Saturday, he came to me and said, "I am in the clear, and if you, at the quarterly conference, can provide recommendation for my admission into the Institute, then I am prepared to go." "What does your fiancee say?" I asked. "She cried a little, but she knows, too, that God's way is the only way for us. We prayed then, and want to try it completely with the Lord."
The congregation had gone through heavy storms. The cattle thieves had visited the congregation, and then the neighborhood a great deal, and it came, so to say, into open war and shooting, etc., but probably also with secret settlements with defense protection. The government, it seemed, was, as mentioned earlier, powerless here as elsewhere. Soon after the war, a lynch court gained strong ground in San Felipe. Four men rode around there through all the war years, but the various patrols never succeeded in seizing them. They stole the people's livelihood, and it is said that they robbed much from the soldiers, and tormented them. Not long after the close of the war, all four were hanged on a tree on the banks of the Ballinger River, and when, two days later, no one had been concerned about the bodies, they were buried without coffins on the bank of the river. The present day thieves were of a different sort. Practically all were the descendants of one time wealthier slaveholders who had come down in their circumstances — too proud to beg, but too lazy to work — so there was nothing left for them to do but to steal. These men carried on their cattle stealing, not by sneaking around like a pack of hounds and grabbing here and there a pair, but they drove herds up to 2000 head together, and then defended themselves as only thieves and robbers do it. The area was at that time very thinly settled. There was many a bad dispute and quarreling with fatal results. These horse thieves helped dishonest lawyers when they were freed, and they stole so much more in order to pay the lawyers.
Some very energetic sheriffs of the land did some good deeds during these times. They made short process, and shot the swindlers down at the least resistance. They knew the crowd and their doings exactly. Many probably also encountered the condemning lynch group.
One morning as an old Welchman near Giddings wanted to fetch his mules to work, he found four of the worst horse thieves hanged on a tree. He sounded an alarm. The day before, the sheriff had caught them in action and put them in jail. When the old Welchman sounded the alarm, all of Giddings became excited when they got to the jail and it was empty. No door or lock was harmed, and the key was in its place. The sheriff had probably loaned it for a while, and knew why. He was tired of staking his life for retaliation. And so it was with judges in surrounding settlements. Farther in the west, a few capable sheriffs with help from a Ranger captain, established orderly conditions, but, as a result of all the events and experiences lived through, many deep wounds were cut into soul and heart, which often bled again and again under certain circumstances.
The Quarterly Conference (in Llano) set my salary at $500. Life up there was simple and cheap for us, but my horses were very expensive to keep up. I had to keep them in good condition, and the feed for them was always expensive, since very little was raised there. The health condition of my family and my mother improved very quickly, and we had three years of good health up there.
The first seven months that we lived up there were exceptionally wet and rainy, and often the Llano River roared more madly than the herds of cattle. All kinds of vegetables and fruit grew exceptionally well in this valley. Then, however, the drought set in, which lasted 23 months. During this drought, however, the mesquite bushes produced a huge harvest. All cattle and wild creatures liked to eat these beans and pods, except the old creatures, which, since they could not chew with their bad teeth, could not benefit, for the beans are very hard. The price of cattle fell to less than half of what it had been. As a result of the water shortage, the cattle could not be driven to market, because the watering places were too far apart, and many were completely dried up.
Each year the congregation conducted a camp meeting. Because of the fact that the members were so greatly scattered, this meeting was at the same time a sort of reunion, and always proved to be a blessing. The First Quarterly Conference came to the decision that the parsonage should be enlarged. This was very necessary and was immediately carried out. At the last Conference in 1884, it was decided to build a new church in Hoersterville. This church was dedicated on Pentecost in 1885, free of debt. I had three years of work on horseback, and also at the work bench, planing and sawing, but there we received from the Lord of the vineyard many blessings to body and soul.
Until this day, I cannot explain how I proudly brought my debt of $600, which I had had on my mind and shoulders in the Spring of 1884, down to a small balance by the end of the three-year period. Truly, we lived very cheaply in many respects, and received, in addition to the $500 salary, much friendly support, but as I have already mentioned, my horses were a great expense to me. The blessings of the Lord make one rich. We must travel the paths of faith if we want to have experiences in faith. I did not, however, write that last sentence to encourage the making of debts. The Lord had proven himself favorably to his people in a spiritual manner, and especially at the before mentioned camp meetings, where many a burning battle of repentance resulted in glorious victories and reconciliations. Indeed, many a time the preacher's family had to wait a fairly long time to begin their ride home. After the meeting, he (the preacher) had to meet with two or three to have another meeting alone under a tree where no one else could listen in. Many good fruits grew from these experiences.
The next Conference gave me Paige, Lexington, and Caldwell for my field of work. Giddings and Grassyville (congregations) had perished during the last six years. The church from Giddings was moved three miles west of Paige and the Grassyville church was built into a parsonage beside the church. Truly, it was not a very inviting field. For that reason, there was this huge expansion. From the parsonage (in Paige) to Caldwell was 55 miles, and all three Yeguas (creeks or streams) and their terrible valleys had to be crossed. Lexington had developed quite well during the last six years, and had built a suitable church. Part of their growth was through transfers from other congregations, and part through members won in the vicinity. In Paige, the congregation was practically a wreck, regretfully, greatly because of the failure of the preachers assigned there. It never did come to life and thrive. Here I found my old bosom friend again. Faithful at my post, however, I had to guide him to the grave after one year. Yes, the Lord takes the righteous before affliction. But what it means to lose such a friend must be experienced. I cannot describe it. In Lexington and in Caldwell, the work of the Lord developed quite well with the help of faithful local preachers. Also, under the leadership of my successors, and in spite of all the effort given to the work in Paige, the complete decline of the congregation could not be avoided. It soon perished completely.
The only time in my ministry that I ever said a word about my appointment was at the Conference in Freyburg. I had even spoken in earnest to the congregation without mentioning an opinion, but it seemed now that an opinion must be given. It seemed as if the impossible was going to happen, and it seemed to me as if I stood in the way. I mentioned this to my presiding elder, and that I was willing to move if he approved of it. Brother Matthai (the presiding elder) said: "Good! If you move, what do you say about going to Industry?" I told him that I never have chosen and never will choose my own field of work, but that I must remind him that a prophet is without honor in his own country. Industry was my mother congregation.
The Conference sent me to Industry, and this was the most difficult move that I have ever made. Much rain and muddy roads, and the increased family made it difficult. The congregation accepted us in a friendly manner, and did not cause her own pupil any difficulties. The congregation was in good condition, but it had a remarkably small group of youths, and a small Sunday School. The youths that were there were very good, and allowed themselves to be guided. Still, their number was very small in comparison to the membership. Some attacks of snobbery from worldly people were not hard to reject. Thank God, no one could recall any great faults of mine.
If I may use the expression, these were the five most comfortable years in my ministry. Here I could spend pretty much time in study and sermon preparation. I imagined that I did better, at least, it didn't hurt me. For years the best preachers in the Conference had served here, so it often seemed difficult to be their successor. I took great pains to bring the best messages possible from the pulpit of this congregation. I wonder if I always succeeded. Often, the presiding elder held me in demand to conduct protracted meetings and camp meetings because I had only one church — Industry. During the third year of my stay in Industry, the congregation celebrated its 25-year jubilee, and, at the same time, hosted the Annual Conference. Our previous pastor, Rev. Stroeter, and his wife, also visited us, which caused us much joy. During the fourth and fifth years, our Sunday School grew exceptionally. Not only did the members of the church send their children more than before, but several families who had been outsiders joined the church.
Now the five-year period had come to an end, and the five-year rule was still in effect. (At this time, a minister could stay not more than five years at one place.) The Conference took place in Brenham. It was a nice meeting. Brother Kienle had become presiding elder of the Brenham District. My appointment was Perry and Meier's Settlement. The move was very smooth, but oh, how the responsibility for my position and duty fell upon my soul as I was riding on the train from Marlin moving my goods, and I could see the church from the train.
We were accepted in a friendly manner. There were a number of members that we had known in Industry. No other congregation had transferred as many members as Industry, and at the same time kept a good membership and financial strength.
Meier's Settlement also had a church for themselves, and on Sunday afternoons, the preacher went there for Sunday School and a sermon.
The Sunday School in Perry was large and well organized, to which the practically built church gave good opportunity for growth, and they also had a good teaching personnel. There was an equally good Epworth League in the congregation. I had fear in my heart. I did not go to people for advice, but to the Lord, the head of the church. He truly fulfilled his promise to me. "As your days, so shall your strength be" — specifically in regards to body and spirit. There was much work. There were also some capable assistants at hand. At both places, six classes were organized, and class leaders provided for each, but in one voice, they said, "We expect to see you as often as possible at the prayer meetings." From that time on, I had only Monday and Saturday evenings at home at my disposal, and often not even those, although I always fought for the Saturday evenings. The prayer meetings proved to be blessed occasions, and the Sunday worship services added considerably to the membership so that the big church was often too small. In the summer, we conducted a camp meeting, and the Spirit of the Lord worked powerfully outside the congregation. Twenty-five new members joined the congregation. At many places, one could feel the power of God, regretfully from many people through forceful grumbling about the Methodists, but the joy of conflict was broken by many, and later bore good fruits, even if such did not always become Methodists. They sometimes made it "pretty hot" for their unconverted preachers.
I never did really succeed in establishing unity between the members in Meier's Settlement and Perry. There must have been some evil things going on between the two congregations, even before my time, and no one was willing to confess or forgive.
The financial status of the land was very depressing. For three years, the price of cotton had stood at 5 cents a pound. It was especially difficult for the renters who were supposed to pay $5 per acre rent, and the owners would not come down, until here, too, a sort of court of justice Gained ground, and a number of owners of the land were frightfully beaten. No one could find out who had done it. Other renters left their fields, but first they sowed them with Johnson Grass seed, the weed plague of the South, so that no other renter would want to cultivate the place. Now, as in olden days, the owners began to take a part of the harvest for their rent.
A very earnest question now entered my mind. "What shall become of my children?" (There were 7 or 8 at this time.) The other preachers of the Conference were all so situated that their children could receive good school instruction so that they could become teachers or business men. For me, this was impossible. The state school was hardly established, and education made itself noticeable first in the cities. Also, it appeared as if the special authorities put obstacles in the way of the completely German settlements, like Industry and Perry. My family and I benefited very little from the state schools. At every appointment where I lived with school age children, I had to pay heavily and help otherwise in order to provide school instruction to some extent for my children.
It did not enter my mind to let fourteen and fifteen year olds leave home. I began to observe that the Lord of my life wanted to allow a turning point to come about, and I only prayed: "Lord, show me your path and I will gladly take it."
Toward the end of the third year in Perry, a piece of raw land was offered to me, to bring it into cultivation for Spring, and with the required work thereby to pay the full rent. Fritz (Fred) had now become a strong youth. The land lay near the parsonage. I took the offer, and in addition, I bought another pair of horses and the necessary implements. We went to work and were successful. The land produced a good average crop.
During the next year, we went to work in earnest with our farming, and the yield this year probably surpassed the crops of all the farmers in the neighborhood. In the summer, the presiding elder called me to help with a series of meetings (revival) at Copperas Cove. This was a field recently taken up by Brother Felsing. I looked at the region more closely and saw that it pleased me. I asked about a rent place, and found one that was suitable to my circumstances. I rented it for the coming year.
The circuit was now divided. Meier's Settlement built a new parsonage, and got a preacher of their own.
At the next Conference, I took the position of a superannuate, and went to the rent place at Killeen Prairie, which was about seven miles from our church in Copperas Cove.
Brother Schmalz was serving Bartlett and Copperas Cove. Bartlett was by far the stronger congregation, and the Quarterly Conference decided that the preacher should be in Bartlett two Sundays, and in Copperas Cove on the third Sunday, but that Copperas Cove should pay half of the preacher's salary. Bartlett was rich. Copperas Cove was poor in comparison to Bartlett. In spite of all protests, this arrangement was kept. There was no danger for me to get rusty as a preacher. Indeed, I had more work to do in Copperas Cove than the preacher in charge. The Copperas Cove congregation also laid the work of the Sunday School on my shoulders. I wonder if Bartlett did not have to blush with shame, especially since they also had a good local preacher!
My move from Perry to the farm went successfully, even though it was with several obstacles. Some of the members of the Congregation offered me their wagons, oxen, and a driver. We had spent the second night in Temple. The day had been gloomy with heavy clouds, and the snow which fell was heavier than any I had ever seen before or since in Texas. The next day we could go only as far as Belton. On the next day, we reached the place which should be our home for the next year. Enthusiastically, we went to work. We had enough work oxen. The Copperas Cove congregation accepted us wholeheartedly. Most of them were old acquaintances who had moved here from Paige and Grassyville. Everything was very cheap except beef cattle. Even the price of land had fallen greatly. In midsummer, my brother, Carl, visited us. He observed the region, and on the second day, he said: "Julius, if you can find something worth having, and can buy it at a reasonable cost, I will lend you $2000 at 5% interest. The region does not appeal very much to me. However, it is possible that you and your children can find land here." I started hunting for land. A 400-acre piece of land was offered to me for $2000. I made the purchase. About 30 acres of the land were under cultivation, and about 70 acres more were fit for cultivation, but that meant for us to grub out rocks and haul them away. The remainder of the land was pasture, but there was fire wood on a great part of it. I don't want to say much about hard work. I knew it would be hard work. The children helped faithfully and sincerely. The harvest on the rent place was good, and from that profit I built a stable and enclosed the land. Wire and posts were needed in great quantities, for everything had "gone to the dogs," as was found to be the case on most American farms at that time.
During the first year on the farm in 1900, there was a tremendous harvest. All grain, vegetables, fruit, and cotton bore prodigiously, and the price of cotton began to rise. By the beginning of November, it had reached 20 cents per pound. The farmers could shout with joy, and so they did, too. But was it always in the right tone? Copperas Cove was indeed a rugged terrain, with many rocks and gravel hills, but in 1900 the entire area made its nicest appearance and many a person who saw it had the desire to live there.
Out of the proceeds of the harvest, I could pay for all the improvements on the farm, and that was significant, and I could also pay the interest on the purchase price of the land.
Until now, the family had continued to grow to the extent that we regularly sat thirteen around the table. The table was always set simply, but set with sufficient nourishing food.
Now the number began to dwindle. Fritz was the first one to leave the parents' home, in preference to a business and town life in Marlin, not to his advantage. In the Spring of 1901, Anna married John Haug, and went to Perry. The year 1901 was a contrast from the year 1900. The drought was so powerful that one could call it a real harvest failure. It did not cover the needs of the year for humans and animals. The scarcity struck everywhere.
One day Brother Winkler from The Grove visited me. This was a side station of Waco, which was just as displeased with its service from Waco as Copperas Cove was displeased with its service from Bartlett, and both had reason for their dissatisfaction. We talked about the condition, and came to the conclusion that it would be better if Copperas Cove and The Grove would be put together, and a preacher be sent to serve the two places, but then a parsonage would have to be built. There were no funds for this. The congregation was quite unwilling to give, but they didn't have anything either, because of such a failure in harvest. Brother Winkler said: "If that is all, I am willing to make the congregation an advance loan of $800 to $1000. There will be good harvests again, and then they can pay it off gradually. Bring the situation into discussion at the last Quarterly Conference. If the Conference can send us a preacher, then we will see about a parsonage." So I did just that. The presiding elder gave no firm promise, but said that he would do his best to send us a preacher. The session of Conference was again in Brenham, and on the second day of the session came a telegram: "Secure a parsonage, for you will have a preacher."
Immediately I went to Copperas Cove and searched for a house to rent, but there was none to be had that deserved the name house. My heart practically fell into my shoes. Close toward evening, a retired railroad agent came to me and said: I cannot rent out my house, but I will sell it to you for $800." This was reasonable. It was not a parsonage as one must be today, but it was right livable. When the man heard that he would get the whole price of the house in cash, he subtracted $50 from the price, and the purchase was closed.
Brother Jacob Ott was sent to be our preacher — or did he choose Copperas Cove? During the year before, he had made a lengthy visit with his relatives here, and had seen the country in its bounty and fallen in love with it. Now he got to see it in its poverty and bareness. I have never seen such a dissatisfied person as our brother Ott. The congregation did everything possible for him, but it was more poor itself than the good brother. The affliction became still worse. The whole landscape offered a very sad view. In the Spring of 1902, a few light rain showers fell, and the corn developed quite nicely. Wheat and oats were again a complete crop failure, and did not grow tall enough even to be cut for feed. Corn stood somewhat promising, but one night an electrical storm came, and it must have lowered everything to the ground, for from, that day on corn and every other kind of grain stood still and did not grow anymore, and could not be dried and kept for the winter. One had to let it lay in the sun so long to dry, and even then, when one set it into stacks, it began to ferment and rotted. Finally, in early July, abundant rain came. The cotton recovered somewhat and produced a small harvest. Grain plants produced a fairly good second cut for winter feed, and what was best of all was that the prairie was soon covered with green grass as in Spring. Still, a fairly hard, lean winter lay before us. The gardens had failed us completely. For the Germans, that is always a difficult loss.
Brother Streit was our presiding elder. He managed the office quite well. However, I clashed with him in regard to the question of money between Copperas Cove and Bartlett. My last word was: "The situation cannot remain thus for another year or I will discontinue all the work that I have been doing until now." Then the good man finally softened, and volunteered to ride home with me. That night a long session was held. Brother Ott had told him specifically: "I will not stay in Copperas Cove another year." Then I said to him: "Then you see about the $51 moving cost and the $6. traveling expense here for us." Bartlett said: "We have already paid for a move this year."
At last, after much pressure and reprimand, we agreed that I should take over the supervision of Copperas Cove for a year, but then Copperas Cove must have a preacher again.
The session of Conference was in Lexington. The dearth of the two arid years showed itself everywhere. Nevertheless, there was no noticeable decrease in the Conference collection, particularly from the small congregations. Also, the Conference session was nice and pleasant. The field of work that was given to me for a year included Copperas Cove, The Grove, and Ballinger. Good enough! The Grove, discouraged with the treatment from Waco, took new courage. Ballinger, however, was different. Most of the Methodists that went up there during the drought said: "I first want to secure for myself an excellent piece of land from this soil, and then we want to 'see how the world turns!' "
From the beginning, it seemed useless to me to work further there. Also, the people were widely scattered in the area. I could not see how any sort of impulse could come to improve the condition of the congregation.
The year 1903 was a blessed year. The members proved to be thankful. I remained in my house on the farm, and the newly acquired parsonage was rented out. Two Sundays a month belonged to Copperas Cove, one to The Grove, and one to Ballinger.
I have forgotten a few important happenings of the very first years, and I want to review these occurrences here. Whoever is interested in it will, indeed, find the conclusion of the entire thing and comprehend it.
Indeed, at the very beginning, I mentioned how difficult it was to get vegetable seeds. This difficulty was remedied in the following manner: Mr. F. Engelking, whom I have already mentioned in another place, found, in a newspaper that he subscribed to, the advertisement of a garden seed catalog. The name, as I can best remember it, was Landareth and Son. We wrote to the seed house and soon received a gracious answer. Soon thereafter, an agricultural association was formed. In fun, it was called the Kraut Association, and the members were called Kraut Junkers. Each member paid 50 cent dues, and received for that an abundance of vegetable seeds, more than he needed, especially in the variety of vegetables. The seed was good. Unfortunately, now came the deplorable Civil War. The seed came from a house in Philadelphia, and with the coming of the war, all business to the place was canceled. At the end of the war, the Association immediately revived, and took up its useful activity, not only in Millheim, but also in Cat Spring, Industry, New Ulm, Frelsburg, Roedershume, and Round Top until the seed supply developed into its present state. Surely this was a very useful undertaking for the circumstances of those days.
The Germans brought their German thirst along from over there (Germany), but did not find a way to quench it over here. Beer breweries were tried, but so far they were not successful, because the sparse settlement did not pay for itself.
As previously mentioned, there were, indeed, many well educated men among the first German settlers. Among them was a completely experienced university professor, a wonderful person, by the name of Hagemann. He was a chemist and nothing else. He was among the very first settlers.
In the cultivated fields at that time, the little red tomatoes came up in masses. Indeed, no one had planted them. The settlers who had already lived there during the early 1830's related that, at one time, a mysterious migration of wandering pigeons had flown over the area. Their droppings fell as thickly as a pretty strong rain shower, and whoever did not want to become stained, had to take an umbrella with him, if he had one, or remain under roof. The usual day's work was supposed to have remained undone for many hours. Since that pigeon flight, the little red tomatoes grew in the fields, and often out on the prairie, in large quantities. Mr. Hagemann took notice of these tomatoes and immediately began to make experiments with them. "Wine! Wine! Wine!" his red nose shouted! He had come from the Rhineland. Soon he was successful, and when we came into the area, Mr. Hagemann's tomato wine was fairly well known. Instead of cotton, he planted only tomatoes. The new ground seemed to encourage tomato growth, and the yield was large. Children gladly saw to the picking. He built an adequate press, and, at appropriate times, he always ordered a load of sugar direct from the sugar farms in the lower Brazos Valley, and adequate containers came from Houston. He would not allow anyone in the press room or in the store room except his son, and his wife, and kept his entire activity a secret.
It seems as though the Civil War itself did not hinder his undertaking. Both son and father were very determined Union people, and the son refused, with determination, to join the army of the South, rode on horseback to Mexico, and from there traveled to Germany. There he learned the art of beer brewing, and, at the end of the war, came back to Millheim, where something happened to the peace between father and son. The father wanted to make wine, but the son, beer. The family left their home and moved to New Ulm, and now the son should direct the brewing of both wine and beer. However, the wine would not be made from tomatoes, but from Herbemont Grapes. This was entirely against the father's will, and it was rumored in the area that there was a violent scene in the family that resulted in a complete splitting up. The father said: "My wine recipe I have burned, and no one can take it from my head and memory." Soon after, the father died. The son wanted to carry on both wine and beer brewing, but had little success therewith. Beer brewing was not very successful. It seemed as though he could not satisfy the tastes of the masses. The grape plants (grape vines) grew quite forcefully. They were all superior tendrils that he had grafted onto our native wild grape roots. The yield of the grapevines was huge. Many people had laid out up to six acres in vineyards, and Mr. Hagemann, Jr., rejoiced. As now, even a railroad came to New Ulm, everything overflowed in glory. But then came the end of the “80”s and the beginning of the “90”s. That was the “end of the song.” The superior vine which was grafted on the native root grew too fast in all directions, and could no longer be nourished by the root stock. So the wonder gardens died away very quickly.
The alcohol content of the tomato wines must not have been very high, for one did not see any drunks very often. Now and then one could see a few tipsy ones. Yet for others, they did not remain quite so guiltless. I once was a witness to such a case myself. A so-called gang of cowboys came by Hagemann's one day toward noon, and made their noon rest stop there. They had brought along a few strayed beef cattle for Mr. Hagemann, and delivered them to him. They did not want to take any pay for that, so Mr. Hagemann sent them a portion of fine wine right after noon. I do not know how full the container was in which he sent the wine, but there was probably a good one and one-half gallons in it — maybe more. The contents flowed well, and soon the empty container came back. But oh dear! What did it look like at the campgrounds? No one has probably ever seen a sicker group of cowboys, in which every one of the whole company doubled up in pain, as was seen here. No more cattle were driven that afternoon, and Mr. Hagemann was given thanks in all possible sounds and mumbles.