A Lament in the Midst of My Dilemna

A “Poem” that flowed forth from my typewriter, in Odessa’s parsonage, on Saturday afternoon, November 18, 1967, when my ‘morrow’s sermon – after hours and days of work, study & meditation – consisted of a blank sheet of paper!

                                 A LAMENT IN MIDST OF MY DILEMMA

Help me, O God, off the horns of my dilemma!

I cry unto Thee every day, O my God.

Is there no relief, My Savior?

                The horns viciously pierce my side,

                My internal organs churn and tighten

                In agony over my nervous tension.

O God, I have sought Thy will and counsel,

Help me, O God, to see clearly the path I am to walk.

                O My God, I would serve Thee with unstinting loyalty.

                Please, may it not be in midst of sorrowful bitterness.

                My antagonists are unwittingly grinding me to dust.

But why, O God, must I endure the affliction of being

Frustrated in doing the task

Which should be my greatest joy???

                Why, O Creator,

                Who has confiscated me for Your noble service,

                Who has touched the hot purging coal to my lips,

                Who has given me the Good News to herald,

                Must my lips prove to be so dumb because

                My pen fails to flourish with the remembrance of Your Spirit?

O God, I can no longer bear the pain and the bitter agony of such frustration…

O Thou God of my undeserved salvation:  Show me a way out!

                My whole being screams out its fervent protest

                At the torture of my seismic sermonic

                Mental block.

Why, when my hands eagerly quiver to unleash

The artistic desire and talent You have implanted within them

Must I wait amidst this dilemma

To artistically pour out my heart at Your feet?

                O God, for the sake of your forgiving Christ

                Saw off the horns of my dilemma;

                Show me Your way,

                And, grant me not relief, but hope;

                Not a bed of ease, but satisfaction in doing that

                For which You have fashioned me.

For you see, my Lord,

You have molded my mind to be

That of a homiletically-misfit theologian,

But – and for this I sing my thanks to You –

You formed me in my mother’s womb

With the soul and heart of an artist.

Copyright by Rev Dr Elmer M. Hohle.

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Pansies in August

On August 9, 1967 at 816 East 18th St. in Odessa, Texas, I was sitting at the kitchen table of the parsonage with a heavy-laden heart, for some antagonistic members were attempting to subvert our pastoral ministry.  As I looked out the window, I saw some pansies blooming under three sapling live oaks – all of which I had planted that spring in that arid soil.  It was my first ever attempt at composing “poetry” of sorts:

Lo, a pansy blooms in August

                Amidst the broiling sun.

I look from my kitchen window

                And count the fragile blossoms

                                One by one.

 

“We’ve been well watered

                The whole summer through!” …

I hear them chant.

                “The tender branches

Of three young oaks

                Have given us shameless shade

Against August’s noon-day sun,”

                Exalt the pansies.

 

“But why, you purple-faced gnomes,

                Have you not withered

As did your brothers?

                For it is August

And the broiling sun

                Should have driven you

The way of all flesh …

                Long ago!”

 

The Spring is gone,

                The summer’s hot.

And lo, a pansy blooms in August!

The fragile faces

                Smile up at me and cry:

“Thanks for the water!”

                And I reply:

“Only God can make you grow

                And only He can sustain you.”

 

Lo, a pansy blooms in August …

How much more shall God not grant

                Me His forgiveness

Won by His Son

                Who withered in the broiling

Sun long ago

                So that I might live,

Miraculously, freely!

 

Lo, a pansy blooms in August.

                So, God, sustain me too,

And guide me!

Copyright by Rev Dr Elmer M. Hohle.

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Old Lutheranism and the Wends

Most of the descendants of the Wends in the United States do not know the impact that Old Lutheranism had on their Wendish forefathers who came to Texas in the middle of the 19th century.

What is Old Lutheranism?  Who were the Old Lutherans?  Actually the Old Lutherans were just plain confessional Lutherans, but because of the forced union of the Lutheran and Reformed religions in Prussia, called the Prussian Union, those Lutherans who did not accept the union were ridiculed, and in many cases persecuted, and called “Old Lutherans” (Alt-lutherisch).  Old Lutherans were sometimes called Mucker by their opponents, that is, bigots, hypocrites and narrow-minded.

Following the Congress of Vienna  in 1814-1815 the King of Saxony, Friedrich August I, had to cede half of his kingdom to Prussia because of his loyalty to Napoleon.  The land lost to Prussia included all of Lower Lusatia and the greater part of Upper Lusatia.  Upper Lusatia is the place where the Texas Wends originated.  The King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm III, set about to re-organize his enlarged country.  His re-organization included the churches.  It did not affect the Roman Catholics very much, but it definitely affected the Lutherans and Reformed.  The church at that time was considered part of the state and the king saw the church as an instrument to help unify his newly-enlarged country.

As part of the  re-organization, and in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Reformation, the Prussian king issued a decree on September 27, 1817, which announced the union of Lutherans and Reformed into one Evangelical Christian Church.  He appealed for the voluntary union of Lutherans and Reformed in all of Prussia.  Lutherans under the leadership of pastors, such as, Dr. Claus Harms, Dr. Johann Gottfried Scheibel, Dr. Eduard Huschke and many others objected.  Many Lutheran pastors felt that serving in the union made them unfaithful to the Lutheran Confessions.  They strictly adhered to the Unaltered Augsburg Confession and the entire Book of Concord.  They could not, in good conscience, accept the Prussian Union’s form of the Lord’s Supper.  In the resulting controversy compulsory measures were adopted in 1821, and subsequently candidates for the ministry were required to pledge loyalty to the so-called Prussian Union.  In 1830 it was decreed that “Evangelical” be substituted for the distinctive names “Lutheran” and “Reformed.”  Lutherans also objected  to the new agenda which the union church prescribed in 1834.  Many pastors and lay people were persecuted and often imprisoned for their refusal to use  the official agenda of the union.  There were more than 40 Lutheran pastors, as well as many laymen, imprisoned in Prussia because they opposed the Prussian Union.  Some people fled to other German lands to avoid persecution.

In 1830 reaction against the union resulted in the formation of a Lutheran Free Church, called the “Evangelical Lutheran Church of Prussia.”  This church, composed of so-called Old Lutherans, was also known as the “Breslau Synod.”  It was headquartered in Breslau in the Province of Silesia.  Even to this day some Lutheran congregations in Germany still use Alt-lutherisch (Old Lutheran) as part of their congregational identification.  Two of these churches  are the Old Lutheran congregations at Weigersdorf  and Klitten, the two congregations  served by Pastor John Kilian before he came to Texas.
 
The Free Church movement gained a great amount of support and sentiment all over Europe, including the countries that did not have organized Free Churches.  One hundred years after the start of  the Reformation Europe was devastated by the Thirty Years War (1618-1648).  This war produced horrible economic conditions.  It took the German lands almost two centuries to fully recover economically from this terrible war.  The war also produced moral decay.  Many Protestants all over Europe found comfort in Pietism, which ignored many Biblical doctrines.  There were also those who succumbed to Rationalism, a philosophy that promotes, among other things, a  reliance on reason as the basis for establishing religious truths.  But thanks be to God that there were always those who followed confessional Lutheranism based on the Bible.
Beginning in the second half of the 1830s there was a tremendous increase of Lutheran emigration from Europe, one of the chief reasons being freedom of religion.  The provinces from which the Prussian Old Lutherans were to come were Brandenburg, Pomerania, Posen, Silesia and the new Prussian Province of Saxony (Provinz-Sachsen, not to be confused with the Kingdom of Saxony).  In 1946 the Province of Saxony was combined with Anhalt and is now the modern province of Saxony-Anhalt (Sachsen-Anhalt) in the Federal Republic of Germany.  Two pastors who led Old Lutherans from Prussia to Australia were Rev. August Ludwig Christian Kavel in 1838 and Rev. Gotthard Daniel Fritzsche in 1841.  In 1839 Rev. Johannes Andreas August Grabau led a large group of  Old Lutherans from Erfurt, Magdeburg and elsewhere in the Province of Saxony, to Buffalo, New York.  Many of these emigrants later settled in Wisconsin.  Pastor Leberecht Friedrich Ehregott Krause’s congregation from Silesia, a group of 265 people, settled in Buffalo, New York.  Pastor Krause, who came to America prior to this group, however never served his congregation in America.  He returned to Germany, and later came back to America, and still later went to Australia.  The above Silesian congregation became a charter member of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in 1847.

Rev. Wilhelm Iwan’s book Die Altlutherische Auswanderung um die Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts (The Old Lutheran Emigration in the Middle of the 19th Century), published in 1943, lists 7,134 Old Lutherans who filed papers in Prussia to migrate, 4,977 to America, 2,139 to Australia, and 18 to Russia.  He included the Texas Wends who came from Prussia.  His book identified only those who desired to emigrate from 1835 to 1854.  Many Lutherans from Old Lutheran congregations migrated to America and Australia in subsequent years.  The name Old Lutheran was also applied to the Saxon emigration to Missouri in 1838-1839, led by Pastor Martin Stephan, Sr.

Although not from Prussia, Wilhelm Löhe, a pastor in Neuendettelsau in the Franconian part of northern Bavaria, was an energetic confessional Lutheran, certainly akin to the Old Lutheran movement.  He began sending “emergency workers,” called Sendlinge, to America in 1842.  He trained his workers in his “parsonage seminary.”  Many of these “emergency workers” started congregations  which joined The Lutheran – Missouri Synod.  In 1846 he was instrumental in founding a “Practical Seminary” in Ft. Wayne, IN, and supplied money and many young men to study for the Lutheran ministry.  Over the years this seminary  was moved to St. Louis,  then to Springfield, IL, and is now Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne.

When the Old Lutherans arrived in America confessional Lutheranism was on the verge of disappearing in America.  They founded several new Lutheran synods.  As time went on, and after numerous alignments and some  mergers, descendants of Old Lutherans can be found in all three major Lutheran bodies: The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (via the American Lutheran Church) and The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

 
The area from which most of the Texas Wends of 1854 emigrated was still in Saxony until 1819 when, as a result of the Congress of Vienna, a new boundary was drawn right through Upper Lusatia, the original home of the Texas Wends.  The northern part was ceded to Prussia while the southern part remained in Saxony.  Thus well over half of the Texas Wends came from Prussia while the rest came from Saxony.  As a matter of interest, today, as a result of the unification of the two Germanys in 1990, the former Silesian and the former Saxon areas, where the Texas Wends originated, are in Saxony, a province of the Federal Republic of Germany.

How did Old Lutheranism come to the Wends in the panhandle of the former German Province of Silesia in Prussia?  First of all, it must be remembered that the Prussian Union was ushered in by decree by King Friedrich Wilhelm III and  its inauguration was not common knowledge.  Weigersdorf did not have a church at that time and the people belonged to the parish of Baruth to the south in Saxony before the new boundary was drawn in 1819.  After 1819 the people of Weigersdorf belonged to the parish of Gross-Radisch to the east.  When Andreas Urban (1790-1879), a shoemaker in Weigersdorf, went to Spremberg to buy leather he heard of the controversy that was going on at Hönigern, Silesia.  Urban alerted the Lutherans in Weigersdorf and surrounding area of what was going on in the church.  The pastor at Gross-Radisch stuck with the union and appeals to him fell on deaf ears.  The Lutherans in Weigersdorf and surrounding area rallied around Andreas Urban and Teacher Andreas Dutschmann, and in Klitten and surrounding area they rallied around a farmer by the name of Christoph Lehnig.

Weigersdorf  did not have a school until 1827 when Andreas Dutschmann, who was born at Rakel in Saxony on August 8, 1808, was engaged as their teacher.  The school was started on September 24, 1827 after the County School Supervisor, Superintendent Busch in Rothenburg, approved the opening of the school and Dutschmann as  teacher.  The school started with 57 pupils.  Over the years Dutschmann gained the support of the people.

The confessional Lutherans in and around Weigersdorf and Klitten took the matter to the Lord in prayer before many of them separated themselves from the Prussian Provincial Church, the so-called Prussian Union.  By January 17, 1846 one-half of the village of Weigersdorf  had left the union church.  When the County School Inspector became aware of the fact that Teacher Dutschmann left the union church, he immediately demanded that he return.  Dutschmann refused and was immediately removed from his office.  On May 5, 1846 the County Judge and two rural police-men from Rothenburg, the lord of the manor and the mayor of Weigersdorf, and several others from the local village, who were threatened with a 2 Taler fine, the fine for disturbing the peace, if they did not go along, came to Dutschmann’s house.  They moved Dutschmann’s belongings out of the house and into the nearby woodshed.  At that time the Dutschmanns had 3 children and Mrs. Dutschmann was highly pregnant.  After living and sleeping in the woodshed for some time Andreas Urban had them move into his retirement room (Auszugsstube).  The people in Weigersdorf asked Dutschmann to continue as the teacher of their children in Weigersdorf.  A room for a school was furnished by a local resident until a schoolhouse could be built.

In the meantime the Lutherans had quietly contacted Pastor Gessner from Freistadt, Silesia.  He had been held in prison for five years for not accepting the union, but by this time had been released.  The Lutherans met secretly in the house of Andreas Urban.  On May 1, 1843 fourteen members from Weigersdorf  and Dauban were received into the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Pastor Gessner could serve them only once every three months.  Even at that this group grew in numbers.

On July 23, 1845, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who succeeded his father as king of Prussia, issued the Generalkonzession (General Concession), which  permitted  the Lutherans, who remained separate from the Prussian Union, to organize free churches.  The confessional Lutherans of Weigersdorf and Dauban now met in a chapel in an upper room provided by Johann Schäfer in Dauban.  By January 17, 1846 over 100 members, who came from Weigersdorf, Dauban, Klitten, Zimpel, Kaschel, Förstgen, Gebelzig, Gross-Saubernitz, Prauske and other places, had joined this Lutheran group.  Since the chapel was too small and the congregation was very scattered, extending to Tzscheln and Spree, etc., to the north, it was decided to build two churches, one in Weigersdorf and one in Klitten.  The church in Weigersdorf was dedicated on December 20, 1846, while the church in Klitten was dedicated on October 3, 1847.

Andreas Urban, without a doubt, was the most influential layman during the formative years of the Old Lutheran congregation in Weigersdorf.  As  a matter of interest, Andreas Urban immigrated to Australia in 1851 and eventually settled in Gnadenthal near Mt. Rouse, in the vicinity of Hochkirch (now Tarrington), Victoria.  He kept in touch with the people in his native land via letters and gave the poor in Weigersdorf financial assistance.

Without a doubt the most influential personality in the early years of the Weigersdorf congregation was Andreas Dutschmann, who was a teacher in Weigersdorf for 58 years and a cantor, lector and elder of  the congregation for 40 years.  After Pastor Kilian came to Texas his friendship with Teacher Dutschmann continued.  They exchanged many letters.  They even exchanged flower seeds.

Pastor Johann Kilian, who had served a congregation of the Saxon state church at Kotitz, Saxony, accepted  the call of the Old Lutherans of the Weigersdorf and Klitten congregations.  At first he served as interim pastor from Kotitz until he had overcome many of the obstacles thrown in his path by the Prussian Union.  He moved to Dauban, near Weigersdorf, in 1848, and in 1852 into the parsonage at Weigersdorf.

On March 25, 1854 a new congregation was formed at Dauban by a group of Wends who desired to emigrate.  On May 23, 1854 the group called Pastor John Kilian to be their pastor.  In September 1854 the Wends started their long journey to Texas, and after many hardships, arrived  in Galveston in December and then went overland and settled in Serbin and surrounding area.

After the unification of the two Germanys in 1990 the two Old Lutheran congregations at Weigersdorf and Klitten are members of the Selbstständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche (Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church), a partner church of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  Both LCMS and SELK are members of the International Lutheran Council.

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German Immigration to the USA

The table shows the German migration to the United States from 1821-1900*.

1821-1830             9,987

1831-1840         157,265

1841-1850         439,270

1851-1860         976,678**

1871-1880         781,273

1881-1890      1,641,571

1891-1900         728,348

Total               5,552,946

* Taken from Deutsch-Amerikanische Geschichtsblaetter, Vol III, No. 3 on page 30.

** Includes the large Wendish immigration of 1854.

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Provinces (Länder) of Modern Germany After Unification of 1990

Names of the provinces of modern Germany in German and English.

GERMAN                                                      ENGLISH

Baden-Würtemberg                                      Baden-Wuertemberg

Bayern                                                        Bavaria

Berlin                                                          Berlin

Brandenburg                                                Brandenburg

Bremen                                                       Bremen

Hamburg                                                     Hamburg

Hessen                                                        Hesse

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern                             Mecklenburg-West Pomerania

Niedersachsen                                              Lower Saxony

Nordrhein-Wesfallen                                      North Rhine-Westphalia

Rheinland-Pfalz                                             Rhine Palatinate

Saarland                                                      Saar

Sachsen                                                      Saxony

Sachsen-Anhalt                                            Saxony-Anhalt

Schleswig-Holstein                                        Schleswig-Holstein

Thüringen                                                   Thuringia

See Map of Modern Germany after the unification of 1990.

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The Oder – Neisse Line

To better understand the Oder-Neisse Line, the modern boundary between Germany and Poland, please refer to Map I.

The 1937 eastern boundary is outlined by the heavy black line.  Hitler and Stalin divided Poland in 1939.  See Map II.  The light-shaded area in the east (four dark arrows) covers Polish territory that was annexed by the Soviet Union.  The rest of pre-World War II Polish territory (in the center) was annexed by Germany under Hitler.  Also note that Map I shows the 4 Occupation Zones (French, British, United States and Soviet) of Germany after World War II.

After World War II Polish territory annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939 was not returned to Poland.  Instead, the German territory covered by the dark-shaded area in the west and north (five white arrows on Map II), was given to Poland.  In other words, Polish losses to the Soviet Union in the east were compensated for by German lands in the west.  Thus the Oder-Neisse Line (Oder and Lusatian Neisse Rivers) became the boundary between Poland and what was up to 1990 the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik), usually referred to as East Germany.  All  the territory of the Provinces of  Pomerania (Pommern), Brandenburg and Silesia (Schlesien) east of the Oder-Neisse Line was placed under Polish administration.  That part of East Prussia (Ostpreussen) shown on the extreme northern part of Map II was annexed by the Soviet Union.  The larger southern part went to Poland.  The division of East Prussia is also shown on Map III, a more detailed map of German losses in the east.  Germany lost one-fourth of its territory as a result of World War II.

That part of Pomerania that was annexed by Poland was known as Hinterpommern.  That part of Pomerania west of the Oder River, known as Vorpommern (West Pomerania), is now a part of the newly-formed German Province of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Mecklenburg-West Pomerania).

The Province of Brandenburg was decreased by the territory it had east of the Oder River.

There are two Neisse Rivers in the south which flow into the Oder River.  One flows east of Breslau (now Wroclaw) and is often referred to as the Glatzer Neisse.  The other one referred to as the “Lusatian Neisse” (Lausitzer Neisse) is considerably to the west.  These two rivers figured in sometimes ambiguous discussions between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union concerning the fixing of the western boundary of postwar Poland.  In spite of Anglo-American protests, the line Oder-Western Neisse (Lusatian Neisse) became the boundary as the Western Allies caved in to the Soviets.

The pre-World War II German Province of Silesia had a panhandle that extended west of the Lusatian Neisse River.  See Map IV.  This former Silesian territory on the west side of the Lusatian Neisse River is now included in the newly-formed Province of Saxony.  Most of the Prussian Wends who migrated to Texas in the mid 19th century came from this area.  Thus nearly all the localities where the Texas Wends originated are now located in the modern Province of Saxony.  All the rest of pre-World War II Silesia is now a part of Poland.

All German nationals in the German provinces east of the new Polish boundary were forcibly expelled from their homeland.  They were forced to leave behind, for the most part, everything they owned, and became residents in German territory west of the new boundary.  They were limited to take along 42 pounds of their possessions.  The Allies called them “expellees,” while the Germans called them “Flüchtlinge” (refugees).  While the writer was stationed in Germany after World War II it was estimated that the number of expellees would be 6 million German nationals from former German provinces east of the Oder-Neisse line.  Mrs. Stefana Todt Biar’s parents and aunt were among these expellees.

In addition to these expellees it was estimated that 6 million ethnic Germans would be expelled from eastern European countries, such as, Czechoslovakia (now separate Czech and Slovak Republics), Hungary, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Russia, etc. 

Some time ago the writer’s attention was called to a book entitled “Nemesis of Potsdam.” by Alfred M. de Zayas, published in 1970.  Here are some statistics quoted in this book:

German population of the above mentioned areas in 1939    16,999,000

Excess of births over deaths from 1939 to 1945                    +659,000   

War losses from 1939 to  1945                                          -1,100,000     

German population at the end of the war                           16,558,000

Surviving the flight and expulsion from 1945 to 1950:

From eastern areas of Germany                                           6,944,000   

From Czechoslovakia                                                           2,921,000

From other countries                                                          1,865,000

Plus those who remained in former home areas:                                                                                 

Former eastern areas of Germany:                                         1,101,000

Czechoslovakia:                                                                      250,000

Other countries:                                                                  1,294,000

Plus those presumed still alive as prisoners of war:                         72,000

Total:                                                                               14,447,000

 Expulsion Losses                                                                   2,111,000

The question raised by the above-mentioned book is: What happened to the 2,111,000 who are unaccounted for?

Map V indicated the areas from which German nationals and ethnic Germans were expelled and shipped to what is now the Federal Republic of Germany.

Map VI is a modern map of Germany and among other things indicated the land ceded after World War I and World War II.

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Emancipation of the Peasants in Silesia and Saxony

The emancipation of the peasants of Silesia was set in motion by the Oktoberedikt  of 1807.

This edict brought many reforms which abolished the feudal system.  It freed the peasants as of St. Martin’s Day (November 11), 1810.  The emancipation set aside servile or compulsory labor and services of the peasant class.  Those peasants who did not have any or very little land and draft animals were no longer required to perform compulsory hand labor on the manorial estates.  Those with draft animals were no longer required to use them for the benefit of the lords’ demesne or other compulsory labor.  It did away with numerous rents and fees often levied by manorial estates and the redemption payments exacted for the freedom of peasants.  It set aside the peasants’ continuous adherence to the soil and their subjection to the will of the lords.  People were free to vote.  They could marry and bequeath, without manorial permission. It suspended the manorial estates from ownership of community-at-large property of the villages.  Manorial rights to forests, lakes, parks, etc., were dissolved.  Freedom of enterprise, first established in 1811, terminated the manorial estates’ monopoly of milling, brewing and distilling.  The emancipation established fundamental rights for all classes of citizens and set aside the special privileges of the nobility and the clergy.  This led to the abolishment of the patrimonial courts, the lower courts for the lower classes.

One of the last strongholds of the feudal system on German lands was the Saxonian part of Upper Lusatia, the place from where many Wends migrated to Texas and Australia.  After the emancipation was set in motion in Saxony in 1832 it took another seven years, until 1839, before a final covenant was consummated to repeal servile hand labor and compulsory labor with draft animals.  And even then, in the village of Guttau, it took another nine years (1848) before the final separation agreement was reached between the count and the peasants.

The transition from an agrarian to an industrial and market economy had widespread ramifications for the rural population of Silesia and Saxony.  The reforms led to an over-supply of rural inhabitants, resulting in a steady migration to the cities and a stream of emigration overseas, to the United States, Australia and elsewhere.

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My Foreign Born Ancestors Who Came to Texas

While searching for my roots I discovered that eleven of my ancestors were on the BEN NEVIS that brought the large immigration of Wends to Texas in 1854.  There were seven on my father’s (Otto Biar) side and four on my mother’s (Lydia Biar, nee Moerbe) side.

Three of the seven ancestor’s on my paternal side had the surname of Biar:

(1) Johann Biar (1823) – great grandfather

(2) Magdalene Biar, nee Moehle – great grandmother

(3) Andreas Biar – grandfather

One ancestor had the surname HATTAS (HOTTAS):

(4) Andreas Hattas – great great grandfather

The other three ancestors had the surname of KIESCHNICK:

(5) Johann Kieschnick – great great grandfather

(6) Agnes Kieschnick, nee Kalich or Kohli – great great grandmother

(7) Magdalene Hattas, nee Kieschnick – great grandmother

One of the four ancestors on my maternal side had the surname of MOERBE:

(8) Ferdinand Jacob Moerbe – great grandfather

The other three ancestors had the surname of DUBE:

(9) Michael Dube – great great grandfather

(10) Johanna Rosina Dube, nee Tanniger – great great grandmother

(11) Johanna Rachel Moerbe, nee Dube – great grandmother

One ancestor, on my paternal side, came to Texas with a small group of Wends in 1853:

(12) Johann Hattas (Hottas) – great grandfather

Note: After Johann Hottas married Magdalene Kieschnick he adopted her daughter, Maria Therese.

The last foreign-born ancestress, on my maternal side, came to Texas in 1879:

(13) Ernestine Moerbe, nee Michalk – grandmother

The baptismal records at Baruth, Saxony, list the surname of Mrs. Agnes Kieschnick, Kalich or Kohli (6) as BUETTNER.  In the marriage records the name is KOHLI.  In her obituary by Pastor Kilian the surname is KALICH.  For more details see FROM CHĔČNIK TO KIESCHNICK (Kieschnick family history).

One of the above did not make it to Texas.  He was Michael Dube (9), who died on the BEN NEVIS and was buried in Ireland.  F. Jacob Moerbe’s (8) first wife, Anna, nee Holfeld, also died en route.

All of the above were of Sorbian or Wendish origin and were born in Upper Lusatia.

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Some Observations about Researching the Wends

It is a pity that so much of the history written about the borderland between Slavs and Germans is steeped in bias and prejudice.  There were no early Slavic historians.

Much of the early history of the Slavs was written by Germanic writers.  Since Germany was not a  homogenous nation, the early writers represented Germanic tribes and cultures, such as, Franks and Saxons.  Many were clergymen and their records, written in Latin, represent the church’s point of view.  During the Germanic “surge toward the east” (Drang nach Osten), church and state worked together, thus generally a  pro-German stance was given to many historical events.  When Slavic historians appeared on the scene, they were pro-Slavic, while Germans continued to be pro-German.  Often objectivity was not observed by either side.  It is not unusual to find completely opposite views on identical events.  Most English historians portrayed a pro-German stance until World War I and pro-Slavic after that.  Since World War II some German historians have been much more objective, but Slavic writers continue to be pro-Slavic.

At times research is quite difficult because of all the distortion.  This writer feels that early Slavic and Germanic people were not all that nationalistic, since they lived in tribal and cultural isolation.  One tribe often engaged in warfare with a near-by tribe.  Sometimes a Slavic tribe joined the Franks or Saxons to fight against another Slavic tribe.  There  were numerous bribes and betrayals.  Most tribes appear to have been interested mainly in their own survival.  Later on, even during the German colonization of Slavic lands in the east, it appears that the movement was more economic than nationalistic.  This, however, does not excuse the exploitation of the poor Sorbian, as well as, German peasants, by the German nobility.  During much of the tribal warfare, German tribes were much more prone to unite than the Slavic ones.  When the chips were down, the failure of Slavic tribes in Germany to unite, made them vulnerable to attack, as tribe after tribe was subjugated and assimilated.

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Half-Timbered Construction

Early German and Slavic tribes did not know the art of construction with brick and stone as the Romans did, but used wood.  Later on as wood became scarce a method usually referred to as “HALF-TIMBERED” construction was employed.

In England it is also known as “WATTLE AND DAUB” construction and in Germany it is known as “FACHWERK”.  Vertical and horizontal frames of timber were erected for the walls.  These frames or compartments were then filled with whatever material was available, woven tree branches, twigs or similar materials.  Then both sides were covered with plaster, resembling what we know as stucco work. 

Many of the old houses in the villages from where our Wendish ancestors came were constructed in this manner, including the old Biar house in Gröditz and the old Moerbe house in Guttau.  Both of these were still in good repair in 1992.  At that time some of these old houses still had the old thatched roofs.  After World War II the writer observed in Bavaria when repairs were made to half-timbered buildings due to war damage the frames or compartments were filled with whatever material was available, small pieces of brick, mortar, etc.

There are still many villages in Europe, not damaged by war, that have many of these quaint-looking, often very picturesque, buildings constructed in the “Fachwerk” style during the 15th to the 17th centuries.  These buildings line the streets on both sides and are especially picturesque when timbers with various designs are left exposed and painted with a glossy dark color, usually brown, in contrast to the light color of the stucco.  Many of these buildings house shops, eateries, and the like, on the ground floors; while the floors above them are used for living quarters.  On many of the beams just above the ground floors the year of construction, quotations from the Bible, etc., appear.  One observation that the writer made in some villages, especially if the population is predominately Lutheran, is that if the buildings were built before the Reformation the texts are in Latin and if the buildings were built after the Reformation the texts are in German.

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