This article by Lee Kelly first appeared in the Austin American Statesman, Centex Section, Friday, January 26, 1979.
Six valuable books printed in the 1500s and that could possibly be a priceless collection of the works of Martin Luther have been discovered in an old trunk in a farmhouse in Thorndale.
"They are excessively old books - there's no doubt that they are more than 400 years old but the question is, are they first edition?" Rev. Glenn O'Shoney, president of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, said Thurday.
The archivist for the Texas District, the Rev. Reinhard Wuensche Sr., has examined the volumes and said, "I honestly believe they are authentic." He has arranged to take the books to St. Louis for examination, by the church's national archivist, Gerhardt Kramer.
A national church spokesman Dr. August Suelflow of the Concordia Historical Institute, said that if the set were complete, it could be worth as much as $1,500. The six volumes discovered, however, are part of an eight book set, and Volumes 1and 4 are missing.
The books were found in the effects of the late Andrew Niemtschk, who was related through marriage to the late Andrew W. Kramer, a distant relative of the St. Louis archivist. Andrew Kramer served as the first fulltime pastor of the St. Paul Lutheran Church in the small East Central Texas town of Thorndale from 1894 until 1919.
Three children actually discovered the books in the attic of an old farmhouse leased by Reinhard Schneider. Mrs. Eileen Schneider said that she and Amy, 11, Neal, 10, and Karl, 8, were cleaning up the house prior to the arrival of a new tenant.
"The children ran up into the attic and began hollering that they had found all kinds of stuff," Schneider said. After the books were uncovered, Schneider said, she felt chills run through her body. "I keep getting more and more excited. When you find something old like that . . . when you've passed that old farmhouse for 15 years!"
The woman who owned the house, Ruby Niemtschk, told the Schneiders they could have the books. The Schneiders decided to donate them to the Texas District of the Lutheran Church, but legally Kramer's only surviving heir, A.T. Kramer of Wichita Falls, will decide where the books will end up.
The books, written by the German monk who led the Protestant Reformation and whose teachings were the foundation of the Lutheran Church, still have the brass fittings used to hold hem closed.