The Great Texas to Iowa to Missouri Excursion of 2010

A wonderful opportunity for two old Concordia University friends, David Goeke and Weldon Mersiovsky, to reconnect. Lots of potential plans made. The Lord kept us safe and blessed us with good times and new friends.

About 12:15 P.M. David Goeke arrived at Walburg, Texas, at the home of Weldon and Jean Mersiovsky. We load Weldon’s vehicle and travel to Dales’s Essenhause in Walburg, whereupon we meet Jean, who has pre-ordered hamburgers for “sending off.” To Dave’s surprise, his “niece-in-law” shows up at Dale’s in conjunction with a faculty gathering of Zion Lutheran, Walburg. We eat a tasty hamburger and then Dave and Weldon are off on our “amazing and wonderful” journey.

Upon our departure, Dave was apprised that he was to “navigate” – not an easy thing for one not well traveled. On the way out we passed the Schwausch place. Dave was also advised that he would keep a diary – the results of which you now read. Goeke and Mersiovsky are not known for their “quietness.” We talk of genealogy, the Delaplane League – of the Hilsberg family – and of German bank notes.

1:45 P.M. Stop in Temple so that Weldon can forward calls to his other office.

1:55 Back on the road. We talk of Weldon’s background. That he was in the army, that he was later a production supervisor for TI – that he then went with Aid Association for Lutherans – ultimately with Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

2:25 P.M. Passing through Waco.

3:50 P.M. Walter Dube called….out of the blue…actually accidentally. He was trying to reach Sylvan Mersiovsky…..but reached Weldon instead. Had good conversation.

Stopped for gas at West, Texas. Called the Hamres and Klein’s.

5:25 P.M. We’ve been talking so much, we didn’t realize that we had crossed into Oklahoma. Talked about Rudy Mersiovsky and Dave’s dad’s story. Talked until we got to Newkirk, Oklahoma, around 9:00 P.M. Had supper at Los Potros….then traveled to Hamre’s place where we would stay the night. We slept upstairs….pretty darn warm up there….but it was a place to stay…..and was very kind of them to put us up. Awoke around 6:30 A.M. and Rachael had prepared some pastry for breakfast. Had great conversation about Biblical archaeological findings. Weldon seemed well informed….but, ….. Dave will have to check him out.


Left Hamre’s about 7:10 A.M. for Des Moines, Iowa. 7:30 crosses Kansas line. 8:10 stopped at what once was St. John’s College, Winfield, Kansas…..mostly because Dave’s dad had been a student there in the 1930’s. Weldon was kind enough to drive there on Dave’s behalf. Dave got out of the car and took photos of the campus….and what he believes to be the spot where his dad once stood for a photo with his French Horn. Saw Baden Square (a well-known Texas name) and Rehwinkle Hall ( a great Lutheran theologian).

9:30 A.M. On to Augusta, Kansas. Stopped at McDonald’s and got “to go” breakfast. According to McDonald’s wait attendant, there was “no intelligent life here.” Believe it or not, Weldon and Dave have not stopped talking. Weldon advised Dave of an article Joe Wilson wrote about an archaeological did on his place where he is supposed to have found a Clovis point. Dave is skeptical….but, willing to accept the claim provided that there is verifiable proof. At some point in time, we made a call to Schiller’s in St. Louis to talk about the camera rental we would be making. Then called Ron Lammert , and he said he wished Dave would have called him because he would have flown us to Iowa in his airplane.

12:40 P.M. Stopped to use restroom and get snacks. Then back on road again. At mile marker 98, it looks really dark. Looks like a storm. In fact, just saw a storm chaser van from Texas pass us.

1:45 P.M. Entered Iowa. It’s raining.

3:00 P.M. Arrived at Jean’s cousin’s place. The Babcocks (Kent and Jeannette). Urbanville, Iowa. Nice folks. Jeannette had prepared dinner (baked chicken, potato salad and watermelon). Drank some Texas wine that Dave had brought as a “thank you” gift.

5:30 P.M. Heading to Clemons, Iowa, for the first event of the Worldwide Wendish Workshop….to be held at the Clemons cemetery….a cemetery surrounding by beautiful lush green corn fields. Upon arriving at cemetery, no one is there, so we park and walk to the cemetery looking for Wendish names. After a bit, a vehicle arrives and we walk toward it. To Dave’s great surprise, it held a film crew from Germany who had filmed Dave in San Antonio, 8 years prior…and the crew immediately recognized Dave by name. After a period of time, more people showed up, not least of which were Jan and Charlie Slack, Chuck and Vivian Dube, and Ray and Susan Matthijetz from Texas. Also met a Wendish lady from Canada. A bit later, Weldon introduced Dave to one Evelyn nee’ Neitsch who knew Dave many years ago in Austin, Texas. At the cemetery there was a skit of sorts, where three people dressed in black portrayed the characters of their deceased ancestors who were Wendish and who were buried in the cemetery. At the end of the portrayal, taps were played by to trumpeters playing from about 50 to 75 yards apart. The sun began to set and all went their own ways. A very nice evening.

8:50 P. M. Left cemetery headed back to Babcock home where we would spend the night. First stopped at Walmart to get lamp shields for filming project set for Monday in St. Louis. Then stopped to get something to eat. Weldon insisted on fried chicken so we meandered about the area, finally stopping at Popeye’s Fried Chicken. (Funny how he always got his way). Took that and some beer back to Babcock’s ….ate…and stayed up till midnight talking (as if we hadn’t talked enough).


6:00 A.M. Awoke and showered. Jeannette had made a light breakfast. Dave dressed in Wendish costume and Weldon would later put on Braschka apron.

7:50 A.M.

Left for State’s Center, St. Paul Lutheran Church, where festival would be held. Upon arrival, we registered. Met many people from all over…..Canada, Germany, Nebraska, etc. Listened to introductory presentation by Cathy Peterson. A couple from California (originally from Germany) had made authentic Wendish pickles that were for sale. Weldon was kind enough to purchase several varieties for the visitors to sample.

Listened to Sorbian choir from Drauchausen who were present. Very nice. Accompanied by accordion. Observed Wendish meal being prepared by Wendish chef Martin Jahn (cucumber salad, quark and potatoes, wedding soup, etc.).

After lunch was the “Frog Race” which was actually a chicken race. Baby chicks were placed in a ring made of an extension cord. Each chick was tagged with a label….each representing different places that Wends came from. There was a “Texas” chick. Folks would bid on the chick they favored. The Texas delegations collectively bid $100 on the Texas chick. It didn’t win. But, the Iowa Wends earned several hundred dollars.

Heard presentation on DNA and genealogy. Interesting….but, am uncertain as to its value.

During the course of the day, Dave heard Jan Slack reciting the Lord’s Prayer in an almost perfect Wendish. What a joy. So proud of her. She seemed a bit upset when Dave persuaded Dr. Toni Beuk of the Sorabia Film Studio to film her. Look for Jan in an upcoming video. She really did an outstanding job. Toni had filmed Dave some 8 years prior in a visit of San Antonio….after which Dave invited the film crew to his home for Texas Barbeque.

Participated in Nieder Sorbian language “mini-lab.” Very interesting. Wish it could have been longer. Came back with some phrases. Wish we had a learning CD. Asked that of Katrina, the presenter, and she agreed to try to make one up for Dave.

Had a mid-afternoon dinner of “Subway” style sandwiches.

Then had very well structured classes on Easter egg dying and stitchery. Both were hands on classes and very well instructed. The end result of some of our efforts weren’t so hot, but, we learned a lot anyway.

Plan was to hang around until George Nielsen arrived. Weldon called hotel to see when he’d arrive…and he had just checked in. Met up with George in order to make copies of the originals of the notes he took in Germany. Decided to go get something to eat with him. Got something to eat….if one wants to call it that. It was a Maid-Right, a loose meat sandwich. Again, at the insistence of Weldon. According to Dave, unpalatable without lots of ketchup. Granted it was fresh meat. Aside from that, it was like eating…well Dave couldn’t even describe it. George described it well when he called it a “Sloppy Joe” without the “Joe”. Took George back to his hotel and upon pulling into the parking lot saw the Slack’s and the Dube’s. Ended up talking with them for nearly an hour.

Headed back to the Babcock’s. Saw the absolutely most incredibly beautiful crescent moon ever. Like out of a fairy tale. Dave mentioned a German saying about the waxing and waning moon…..and Weldon insisted that Dave check out his German lexicon for the saying. Couldn’t find it.

Got to Babcock’s, brought in Weldon’s scanner and started to scan about 300 documents. Weldon wanted to stay up till it was done. Finally, (and despite what Weldon may say) Dave convinced him to quit at about 1:00 A.M. and get up early enough to get to State’s Center and finish up at St. Paul’s Church.


Woke up at about 6:30 A.M. Showered , etc. Ate last breakfast with the Babcock’s.

7:55 A.M . Headed back to State’s Center. Upon arrival, set up scanner in the church office and finished scanning Nielsen notes. (Told you that was the best way to do it, Weldon.)

10:30 A.M. Worship began. Entire service done in English with German translation. Young Peggy Kierstan (among the youngest of the Drauchausen Wends) translated the entire service (with no pre-translation) into English. Astounding. Very proud of her and Dave told her so. Dave had the privilege of offering the Aaronic benediction in Wendish, English and in German at the end of the worship service.

After worship, an absolutely wonderful meal was served. It consisted of smoked pork loin wrapped in bacon (simply wonderful), potatoes au gratin, corn on the cob (or off if one desired) and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Very tasty!!

After the meal, the Wends from Drauchausen danced for us. Then (profoundly impacting our image), we were asked to dance with the Wends. After a bit of instruction, we caught on…..sort of. Neither of us are ready for a stage performance any time soon.

Dave offered thanks to the hosts and to the German Wends. Weldon suggested that we sing “God Be With You Till We Meet Again”….which we did… harmony even. Nice ending to a nice time.

Strange as it may seem, we had developed some relationships…..especially among the Wends from Germany. With a bit of emotion, we bid our farewells….having exchanged email addresses.

3:00 P.M. Left States Center for St. Louis. Drove thru Amana Colonies at Weldon’s kindness….just to show the “untraveled” Dave. Stopped to get a snack thereafter.

6:30 P.M. Entered Missouri.

7:30 P.M. Went through Hannibal, Mo. , full of Mark Twain history. Got gas.

9:20 P.M. Arrived at the Craig and Becky Telander home (another relative of Jean Mersiovsky). Had a bite to eat and a beer or two. Telanders were so kind as to arrange for an overnight stay at La Quinta. Drove to motel…and crashed.


6:30 A.M. Woke. Showered, etc. Ate breakfast at Denny’s.

Tried to figure out how to get to Schiller’s Photo to rent camera for our excursion to the Concordia Historical Institute in order to digitalize the old German and Wendish obituaries (originals written by Jan Kilian). Found Schillers…..spent an hour making sure we knew how to use camera and copy stand. Wonderful help from the folks at Schillers. Went to LCMS International Center, thinking that documents were there….only to find out that they were at the CHI location at Concordia Seminary.

Drove to CHI at the sem…..and the documents had been laid out for us, thanks to Weldon’s having contacted the Institute before-hand. Started setting up camera, only to find that we really hadn’t fully understood the instructions given to us by the folks at Schillers. After a phone call or two to Schiller’s, we got it figured out and began to shoot the obituaries and other documents (we being Dave, at the outset….Weldon coming on later in the game). In the interim, Dave spoke with Marvin Huggins, retiring director of CHI, asking about other documents proported to have been in the archives. Huggins and Dave took a trip into the “depths” of the CHI…..literally… two stories deep underground….but found no other documents….though some may still be there. Stayed at CHI until closing….5:00 P.M.

5:00 P.M. Drove to Schillers to return camera and download images. After a couple of tries and the kindness of the folks at Schilller’s, project accomplished.

5:45 left Schiller’s. On our way to Muskogee, Oklahoma.

10:00 P.M. Stopped in Joplin, Mo. To eat at Cracker Barrel. Baked chicken….etc. Tasted good because we were hungry.

12:45 Arrived Muskogee. …at a -5 star motel. Dave mentioned to Weldon that he’d bet the hotel was run by an East Indian. Was confirmed when Indian attendant opened the window to register us and we smelled garlic (no offense intended).


7:50 A.M.

On our way back to Walburg.

10:00 A.M. Stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast. Still in Oklahoma.

10:30 A.M. Crossed into Texas.

About 2:30 P.M. Arrived Walburg. Heart-warmed to see Weldon’s grandkids welcome him home with a big hug. Unpacked Dave’s stuff to his car. Dave left Walburg. Headed to Austin…and stopped to see his 90 year old mother for a few minutes. Then he headed back to San Antonio.

All in all, a great trip. A wonderful opportunity for two old Concordia University friends to reconnect. Lots of potential plans made. The Lord kept us safe and blessed us with good times and new friends.

Soli Deo Gloria.


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