[This is a portion of an article written by Rev. Arthur Repp titled, St.Paul's and St Peter's Lutheran Churches, Serbin, Texas, 1855-1905. It was first published in the Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly, Vol. XV, No. 2, July 1942.]
A number of Germans were scattered in the Pin Oak and Rabbs Creek region before the Wends came into the territory. A certain Mrs. Ch. Eisenbach and her young son, John Rabe, by a previous marriage, had formerly attended the Methodist church in La Grange during a short stay there. This family eventually joined the church of Kilian. John Rabe has left a personal record of the time, though written many years later:
“A large number of Serb or Wend families had settled in our vicinity. These had their own preacher, who also preached in the German language. Since there was an absence of any other church group, my mother joined this congregation. When I was 14, she also sent me there for confirmation instruction. Mr. Kilian made every imaginable effort to show me that the Lutheran religion was the only true and correct one, that it was the only correct middle between the extreme of the Roman superstition and the pietistic enthusiasm [Schwaermerei]. He had me learn many passages and funneled into me [trichterte] with great zeal the dogmatics of his Church. Of the living, saving faith; of the sincere confession and the complete change of heart; of the assurance of the forgiveness of sins and the testimony of the Holy Spirit; of all these great and elevating things of the Christian religion, not one dying word. Of course, I did not know anything else, as though there were no more to religion, and these proffered powerless hulls seemed a comfort [Labsal] to me. I looked with wonder and awe to my Gamaliel and marveled at his comprehensive Bible knowledge. Naturally I felt at this time a strange emptiness in my heart. A need did make itself known temporarily, which satisfaction, were I to follow the lead of my spiritual leader, I would have to look for in the foggy distance.
The day of my confirmation arrived [The second German confirmation performed by Rev. Johann Kilian in the Low Pinoak Settlement, 24 May 1857]. I felt the importance of the same, and during the act tears streamed down my cheeks. Not with a careless heart but with earnestness and humility I went to the Table of the Lord for the first time. Yet I found in all this no satisfaction, no rest for my soul.”
Since this was written years after its author became a German Methodist preacher, we realize that much of it is subjective. Nevertheless it gives an interesting view of a difficulty which was already beginning in the latter part of 1856. During this year a certain Rev. E. Schneider preached on the Pin Oak and Rabbs Creek, later organizing the present Grassyville congregation.
Sixty-Seventh Annual session
West Texas Conference
Methodist Episcopal Church, South
Laurel Heights, San Antonio, Texas
October 28th to November 1st, 1925
WEST TEXAS CONFERENCE MEMOIRS
J. A. G. RABE
John Andrew Gottfried Rabe was born February28,1843, in Pommern, Prussia, his parents being John Gottfried Rabe and Julianna, née Peterson.
In the year 1851 his parents emigrated and came to LaGrange, Texas, and sometime later to Bastrop County, where his father died, and where he spent his boyhood days. On March 18, 1867, he married Miss Augusta S. Pfeil, of Cibolo, Texas. This union was blessed with six sons, namely: Julius, Ben, Willie, John, Charles and Cornelius; and two daughters: Emma and Julia. His wife died in the year 1888, and his daughter, Julia, also preceded him in death.
On December 3rd, l889, the deceased entered into a second marriage, with Miss Katie M. Merkel, who bore with him the joys and hardships, for 35 years, of an itinerant life, and who now mourns his departure.
Brother Rabe joined the Methodist Episcopal Church but when a boy fifteen years old, in what is now the Grassyville congregation, in the year 1858. He received his education at Soule University, Chappel Hill, which is now Southwestern University. He was licensed to peach in 1868, and received on trial in the Texas conference in 1869. He was ordained a deacon by Bishop D. S. Doggett, in New Orleans, La., in 1871, and ordained elder at the same place, by Bishop J. C. Keener, in1873.
Brother Rabe served the following charges in order as given: Bastrop; Mission; Craps Street, New Orleans; Dryades Street, New Orleans; Cedar Bayou, Texas; Agent for Fredericksburg College; Galveston; Houston Mission; District High School at Industry, Travis; Bellville; San Antonio; Cuero; New Braunfels; East Bernard; Grassyville; Senior Assistant Preacher at San Antonio; Cibolo; Landa and Floresville; Editor of “Der Mission Freund" from 1894 until his translation from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant. In the year 1919 when the German Mission conference, of which body he was a member, was merged with the West Texas Conference, Brother Rabe became a member of this conference.
Brother Rabe translated the following works into the German language; Summers’ "Life of Wesley;" "The United Standard Catechism of the M. E. Church and the M. E. Church, South; Junior Catechism" and the "Discipline of 1898."
Deceased was the second oldest member of our conference and leaves a record of fifty years of active itinerant life, and of editorial work of thirty years. Thousands were blessed under his long ministry, and now is the promise fulfilled in him, which says: They that be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that have turned many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever.”
On Sunday, July 5th, at 6:30 P.M., the summons came gently and sweetly, and while the sun, clothed in resplendent glory, sent his last rays through the evening sky, this servant of the Lord passed into eternal rest.
Besides his wife and seven children, the deceased is survived by a step-brother, Mr. Anton Eisenbach of Grassyville, Texas, and 22 grandchildren.
Brother Rabe served in the Confederate Army, in Kreuzbauer’s Light Artillery, stationed at Brownsville and Rio Grande City.
The funeral service was held in the Prospect Hill Church, conducted by the pastor, Brother Rowland; Dr. Hawk, presiding elder of the San Antonio District, led in prayer; Brother Rector, presiding elder at the Kerrville district, paid a high tribute to the noble work and character of the departed one. Interment took place in "Confederate Rest" where the Chaplain of the local chapter officiated at the grave.
P. H. Hensch