This article by Paul Freier appeared in "Looking Back" in the Port Arthur Wave, November 13, 1980.
Of genealogical and historical interest was the dedication and opening of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society Center at Serbin, in Lee County on Sunday, November 9. The event was attended by 300 Society members, friends, and descendants of the original founders of Serbin and its St. Paul Lutheran Church.
In order to encourage the public to use the research center, as many books on Wendish history as possible are being ordered from Europe and a rare book from Rice University. "Bei den Sorben."
The creation and progress of the Center was due to the hard work of the community and by donations. Already donated to the museum have been emigrant trunks containing crochet work, bedspreads, pictures, toys, and old dolls. Other donated articles have included old books, newspapers, family Bibles, magazines, clippings, old maps of Texas, Lee County, and the Wendish region of Germany called "Lusatia" ... "Sorbia" ... or "das Spreewald," and copies of material in the original Sorbian language.
It is hoped that every Texas Wendish family will be represented in the museum by some artifact used in the home or from Europe. No item will be loaned to researchers but copies will be freely available upon request. Family trees and family histories are wanted for filing and safekeeping for use in the Center.
The dedication of the museum on Sunday was preceded by a service in German, in the historic church, founded in 1854, that became the mother church for the Missouri Lutheran Synod in Texas. According to its "Brief History" pamphlet, it was constructed of red sandstone 70 feet long and 40 feet wide. The walls were 24 feet high and 30 inches thick with a tower and steeple rising above the structure. A weathervane with a metal ball contains the history of Serbin written in 1871. The cost of the magnificent church was $5,000
A balcony extends around the church inside with a pulpit said to be the highest in Texas. The pews in the balcony were originally occupied by the men while the women sat downstairs.
Beautiful pastel shades, colorations, and feather paintings adorn the walls and pillars that support the balcony and roof with gilded ornate chandeliers. Oil paintings of Biblical scenes are about the altar. On the rear wall of the church is a painting of the "Ben Nevis," the ship that carried the Wends and other Germans to Galveston from Europe. A pipe organ in the rear has become of historic interest in that it still uses hand pumped blowers.
Rev. Johann Kilian. a graduate of the University of Leipzig, became the pastor and leader for a group of Wendish Lutherans at Dauban and Bautzen in today 's East Germany for the purpose of emigrating to Texas in 1854. 588 set sail on the "Ben Nevis" but their number was reduced to 500 while at sea and in the fevers at Galveston and Houston. Once acquiring land in Lee County, the group set aside 95 acres for the church.
The Wends are a people of Slavic origin united by the Wendish or Sorbian language with a strong adherence to fundamentalist Lutheranism. The language is extinct today in Texas, and only a few study it. Oddly enough the language is alive and thriving today in the Wendish regions of Germany. The former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Max Schmeling, was a Wend.
The Serbin community in Texas is populated by the descendants of the Wendish and German settlers, remaining a close-knit community with its activities centered about the church. Visitors may be surprised at the church, well-filled by the older generations for German services. The rules of conduct printed and posted in 1866 are still enforced: men are forbade wearing hats in church, chewing or smoking tobacco in church, or wearing a six-shooter into the church.
Children of the first colony of Wends in Texas have become a significant influence over Texas. Many of the names that appeared on the original ship-list of immigrants aboard the "Ben Nevis,'' names like Lehmann, Noack, Schultz, Kurio, Wukasch, Moerbe, Krause, Miertschen, Tschatschula, Schmidt appear in Calhoun County today.