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« William K. Ebers, Wag… | Home | Raesener Brothers of … »

William Makowski, Methodist Circuit Rider

by Edwin Makowski, (Mission, Texas) grandson of Rev. William Makowski

Wednesday 15 May 2013 at 11:40 pm.

Most of the facts related here were extracted from a booklet written in 1980 by Frieda Makowski Grusendorf entitled "The Life and Labors of William Makowski", reproduced and bound by Polygraphics, San Marcos, Texas. Frieda was the only daughter of William and Henrietta Makowski.

Reverend William Makowski, Methodist Circuit Rider

Albert Makowski, a carpenter, lived in Danzig, Prussia (now Poland). One very cold winter day in about 1879 he came home to find all members of his household very ill and without firewood. He left the house, presumably to find help, and never returned. Weeks later his body was found near a narrow footbridge crossing a stream. Thereafter his family lived in a severely impoverished condition relying on help from others and a meager income derived from the menial jobs the family members could find. 

His survivors were his wife Christiana, son Friedrich Wilhelm (age 10), Hanna (age 3), Clara (age 1) and stepdaughter Louisa Seifert from Christiana's first husband who died in a typhoid epidemic. In later years Friedrich Wilhelm (known as William) related to his children a story about the Christmas after his father’s death when again all of the family stayed in bed throughout the day to keep warm. The only food they had that day was a gingerbread man brought in by a neighbor.

In spite of this hardship, William apparently received a reasonably good education and worked after school at Kiekhoefen Manufacturing Co as a packager. Three years military service in the Prussian Army was mandatory, but after his discharge at age 22 he immigrated to New York. Upon arriving in Guadalupe County, Texas he found employment near McQueeny, Texas at the Blumberg farm and after two years saved enough from his earnings to pay ship passage for his mother and two younger sisters to join him. The half-sister, Louisa,  had already married and did not come to Texas until several years later. Their mother, Christiana, is buried near the south side of Lake McQueeny in a small un-named cemetery where some of the Blumbergs are also buried.

William Makowski was not a religious person and normally did not attend church service. He did enjoy music and one afternoon he heard singing and was curious enough to find its source. What he found was a Methodist Campground Revival. He returned again the next day to listen, but did not join the group. After several visits he began moving in closer to hear better and before the series of meetings ended he had joined the church.

From this experience he decided to become a Methodist Minister and in 1896 at age 28 he enrolled at Blinn College in Brenham. He earned his tuition by cutting wood at $1.00 per cord. Ministerial students were required to assist in church services as part of the curriculum. He was assigned to the Methodist Church at Phillipsburg near Brenham. It was there that he first saw the young lady who was to become his wife. She was Henriette Wellman, born 12 May 1878 in Wehdem, Prussia, to Friedrich and Henrietta Meier Wellman. William only completed one year at Blinn College. During his second year a need arose for a pastor at the Methodist German Conference church in Hondo, Texas. William was assigned to the task and left the next day carrying everything he owned in a small duffle bag. In 1899 William received an appointment to a church in Houston, Texas, but before going there he stopped in Phillipsburg, Texas where he and Henriette were married 7 December 1899. The wedding ring cost of $8.00 (eight cords of wood cut) depleted his total assets to $35.00. Their first son, William H., was born in Houston on 9 October 1900 just days after the great hurricane at Galveston, Texas had devastated south Texas; and their second son, Edwin Walter, was born there on 22 July 1902.

The next assignment was a circuit that included churches at Victoria, Tivoli, and Goliad, Texas. Since transportation

options were either walk or ride horseback , William became a Circuit Rider leaving him little time to spend with his young family in Victoria since completion of the circuit sometimes took as much as three weeks. During one of those occasions William discovered upon his return that his daughter, Frieda, had been born ten days earlier on 4 July 1904.

In 1905 the family moved to Hilda in Mason County, Texas where Makowski succeeded Rev William Buehrer. The community at that time consisted of church, parsonage, one-room school, cemetery, a few homes and a small store where the post office was located. Nearly all structures in the surrounding area were very durably constructed of native stone. Makowski also served the church at nearby Art, Texas except when high water made the Llano River crossing impassable. The salary at Hilda was $600.00, the parsonage had no furnishings, nor was a horse and buggy provided; but church members were generous in sharing their food. Deer, feral hogs, turkeys and other wildlife were plentiful and milk was easily obtained by milking a range cow. The family really enjoyed their stay at Hilda and I heard my father speak several times about the great times he and his siblings had during the seven-year tenure there. Two more sons were born into the family here, Walter on 4 January 1908 and Hugo on 28 July 1910. A 1962 Centennial Celebration document of the Hilda Church made note of Makowski's wood chopping skills, his thorough catechism classes, and of his sermons "strack von der leber."

In 1911 a new assignment sent the family in December during a terrible winter storm to Blue Mound near Ft. Worth, Texas.  Upon finally arriving in Blue Mound after three days and two nights, the family discovered that the parsonage was too small and had no food, no fire wood, and no barn or feed for horses; and Rev. Makowski was to preach the next morning. Later they learned that Blue Mound was not an all German community and the children would need to learn English in order to take advantage of educational opportunities there. They did this with zeal once they realized they could talk all they wanted to without their parents understanding what they were saying. On 24 February 1913 the fifth son, Milton was born. Because of the very small parsonage and ever increasing size of the family, Makowski requested transfer to a place with better facilities.

He was transferred back to Brenham, not to pastor a church, but to organize new churches between Brenham and Houston. In his first year he organized eight new churches, but the requirement of being almost constantly away from his family prompted him to ask for reassignment since he and Henrietta were expecting another child. He was then assigned to the German Methodist Church in Lexington, Lee County, Texas where Irvin was born on 28 Dec 1916. The family bought its first car, a two seated Ford, but Rev. Makowski never learned to drive. His sons and daughter did all the driving and Edwin became proficient enough as a repairman to keep the car functioning. Once a month Makowski preached at Cooks Point, northeast of Caldwell, in Burleson County, Texas. He always used his horse and buggy for the several hour journey. After Sunday night services he turned the wagon towards Lexington and occasionally went to sleep in the wagon. The horse knew the way back home. The three oldest Makowski children met and married the three youngest children of Heinrich and Bertha Ebers Grusendorf who were members and strong supporters of the Lexington church. William married Linda Grusendorf in 1923, Edwin married Bertha Grusendorf on 6 January 1925, and Frieda married Henry "Bud" Grusendorf in Industry on 21 May 1925. The church in Lexington paid $1,250.00 annually, the most Makowski ever made during his preaching career, and the last time the entire family lived together under one roof.

After great satisfying years in Lexington he was transferred in 1924 to Industry in Austin County, Texas. Will and Edwin stayed in Lexington. There was no established salary at Industry or at nearby Post Oak. It was necessary for the pastor to visit the homes of members each fall to ask for donations. If crops had been good, the donations were generous; if poor, the donations were very small. Makowski had realized the need for English to be spoken in church due to events in World War I. He began studying English and eventually one Sunday night each month in Industry he held services in English for the benefit of the young people who had learned the new language. Henrietta never learned more than a few phrases of English.

A 1928 assignment was to the German church in Fashing, Atascosa County, Texas. Fashing was a small community with a sparse population and a school taught only through the seventh grade. This really split up the family. Walter and Hugo had already completed the seventh grade, so they went to live with Frieda and Bud in Rockdale, Texas where they could continue their learning. Milton moved in with relatives in Lexington. In 1929 Walter married Iris Fleming in Rockdale. The only child still at home during the Fashing days was Ervin.

The next move was to Moody-Leon Church at the Buckhorn Community near the Bell-McLennan County line. This was one of his more difficult assignments. The church was divided into factions and it was difficult to appease the dissidents. Before he had been there a year a faction within the congregation tried to force him out by cutting his salary to $50.00 per month. He could have asked the district superintendent for a transfer but decided to see it through which he did for four years due to loyal members who helped by providing food for the table, feed for the livestock, and transportation as needed. During this time Milton moved back with his parents and met and married Cora Frase whose family lived in the community.

The next move was to Meiers' Settlement Church in McLennan County between Waco and Riesel, Texas. It was a small church with really pleasant, cooperative members. The big bonus was that the whole family was together again in the same area, all having moved to McLennan County for various reasons. In 1936 Henrietta died of a ruptured appendix and was buried at the Meiers' Settlement Cemetery behind the church. In 1937 Irvin was riding his motorcycle to work when he was in a fatal accident with a drunken driver. He also is buried in the same cemetery. Rev. Makowski soon thereafter retired and moved into the home of Milton & Cora in Bellmead, Texas. During World War II there was a severe shortage of ministers and when Makowski was invited to return to Meiers' Settlement he was delighted. He did not live at the parsonage, though; Will and Linda asked him to share their home in nearby Riesel. Rev. Makowski preached his last sermon on 17 December 1950. The following Friday night, while attending a Christmas program at the Riesel church he had a cerebral hemorrhage and died the next day. The funeral was held on Christmas Day and he was buried next to his wife and youngest son at Meiers' Settlement.

The churches at Hilda, Industry, and Meiers' Settlement still serve congregations. Most of the facts related here were extracted from a booklet written in 1980 by Frieda Makowski Grusendorf entitled "The Life and Labors of William Makowski", reproduced and bound by Polygraphics, San Marcos, Texas. Frieda was the only daughter of William and Henrietta Makowski.

Submitted by Edwin Makowski, (Mission, Texas) grandson of Rev. William Makowski.

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