The Discovery of J. H. Dunk

Last month I was reading through the post titled “Serbin in the News by Weldon Mersiovsky” on The Wendish Research Exchange website under the “Wend Blogs” on “Weldon’s Wendish Works”.  I found the information to be very interesting.  There were several references about some kind of disagreement between two doctors named Molette (also spelled Mallette and Molett) and Manning.  There were also articles about train collisions, train wrecks, history, crops, rain and deaths.  I found them all interesting but the one I did some research on was reported by the Hereford Register on May 31, 1901 and The Schulenburg Sticker on June 6, 1901.  Both newspapers reported the awarding of a patent to “J. H. Dunk, Serbin, wire fastening clip.”  For those of you who have read my blog in the past, you know that I am interested in patents and have written about several Wends who have been awarded patents, so I had to research this one further.  Finding the patent was easy, but the harder questions to find answers to: 1. Was J. H. Dunk German or Wendish, and 2. who was J. H. Dunk?

First, I tried to answer the question of was J. H. Dunk Wendish or German.  I looked through the list of “Texas Family Names” found on the “Forum” of The Wendish Research Exchange but the name Dunk was not there.  Then I looked through the books I purchased that contain the baptism and confirmation records from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Serbin.  There I found a baptismal record from 1860 that listed as a witness “Heinrich Wilhelm Dunk, only son of Johann Heinrich Dunk, farmer on Long Prairie Branch”.  Had I answered my second question while looking for the answer to my first question?  Was Johann Heinrich Dunk the J. H. Dunk who was awarded the patent in 1901? So I turned to Weldon Mersiovsky, the expert Wendish Genealogist.

While I waited for Weldon’s response to my email, I went on and searched for Johann Heinrich Dunk who lived in Serbin, Texas.  What I found was the grave of Johann Heinrich Dunk on which had some interesting information.  First, Johann was born in Germany on April 14, 1814 and died in Paige, Texas on June 12, 1890.  That ruled him out as the patent holder, but there was something else I found on the site: Johann Heinrich Dunk was born Johann Heinrich Dung, the name listed on the headstone.  There was also a document attached to the site that was originally typed in German that someone had written the English translation on it, stating that Johann Heinrich Dong married Anna Elisabeth Hempel on November 11, 1837.  That brought up a third question: when was Dung changed to Dunk?

About the same time as that discovery, I heard back from Weldon that Dunk is German not Wendish, but that John Henry Dunk is the great great grandfather of Joyce Bise, the Executive Director of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society.  I traded a few emails with Joyce trying to find out more about the J. H. Dunk that was awarded the patent.  I asked Joyce if she knew about the patent and if the Dunk name had originally been Dung.  Joyce shared some of her family tree with me and did not know when the name had been changed from Dung to Dunk.  I shared with her what I found regarding the name change and a copy of the patent.  It looks like the name was changed when the family emigrated to the U.S.  However, Weldon Mersiovsky spoke to another member of the Dunk family who had heard a story about the name change that had a different reason for the name change.

A first cousin of Joyce Bise by the name of Ray Mickan told Weldon that the family changed their name from Dung to Dunk during the Civil War because someone told him the difference between Dung and Dunk.  This person fought for the Confederacy, but it is unknown whether or not he volunteered or was drafted.  So I went to work trying to see if I could find this person.

While searching, I came across a record on of an H. Dunk who served with the “5th Field Battery, Texas Light Artillery”.  Having already written about Julius Seydler having served with Cruzbauer’s Battery of the 5th Texas Artillery, I went back to what I had found previously.  According to the book Victory at Calcasieu Pass by Michael Dan Jones, the 5th Texas Artillery was predominately formed by Germans from Fayette County in central Texas.  When I looked at the roster for Cruzbauer’s Battery, I found the name of Henry Dunk.  When I revisited the Ancestry record I noticed that for alternate names it had “Henry/Dung.”  Heinrich W. Dung/Dunk would have been about twenty three years old at the start of the Civil War so its possible that the story told by Ray Mickan is true.  Putting everything together I received and discovered resulted in the information below.

Johann Heinrich Dung (grave stone found) and Anna Elisabeth Hempel had five children:

Heinrich W. (August 14, 1838 – January 7, 1911) (witness found in 1860 Baptismal record, possibly changed surname to Dunk during the Civil War),

Anna Elisabeth (September 9, 1842 – July 9, 1937),

Maria (August 2, 1844 – March 5, 1927),

Johannes Wilhelm (February 2, 1846 – March 8, 1926),

Dorothea Elizabeth (June 27, 1851 – January 27, 1885).

All five children were born in Prussia/Germany and all five, at some point, immigrated to Texas.

Heinrich W. Dunk, the eldest son of Johann Heinrich and Anna Elisabeth, married Anna Kattner.  Together they had six children, three boys and three girls:

Frank (August 4, 1867 – March 3, 1947),

Pauline (October 1, 1869 – October 22, 1936),

William H. (September 1, 1872 – August 9, 1950),

John Henry (July 10, 1877 – August 26, 1950) (Patent Holder),

Bertha Marie (November 26, 1881 – May 6, 1958),

Amalie Mary (November 1, 1884 – February 5, 1960).


John Henry Dunk, the grandson of Johann Heinrich Dung and the son of Heinrich W. Dunk was the J. H. Dunk who was awarded a patent.  The patent was filed for on November 6, 1900 and was awarded on May 21, 1901.  The patent is number 674,403 with the title “Wire-fastening clip”.  It was designed mainly for metallic fence posts and the object of the invention was “to provide a cheap and simple construction of clip which may be adjustably secured to the fence-post in such manner that it may be readiy raised and lowered, whereby the wires may be spaced as desired without necessitating boring of the post.”

The mystery of who J. H. Dunk was has been solved thanks to the help of Weldon Mersiovsky, Joyce Bise and Ray Mickan.  I think all of us may learned a little something in the process.

I also tried to find the history of metal fence posts but I was unable to find anything definitive.  I did find two patents for metal fence posts.  The first was awarded in 1926 and the second in 1928.  The one awarded in 1928 looked like it could have incorporated J. H. Dunk’s patent but it did not mention it.  I do not know how long the rights to an invention last, but I do know that the licensing rights are limited and had probably expired for J. H. Dunk’s patent at the time of the 1928 fence post patent.  Click on the links below to see the J. H. Dunk patent and the documents showing the name of Johann Heinrich Dung.  The book Victory at Calcasieu Pass can be found online at





Five Wends in Texas

I’ve been asked to expand a bit on my earlier blog on the Wendish language in Texas.  I’m titling this “Five Wends in Texas.”

Albert Miertschin

The first I wish to mention is Albert Miertschin. There was an article in 1962 or 1963 in the Austin American-Statesman about Albert and the Texas Wendish community. When I decided to write my M.A. thesis on the Wendish language in Texas, I looked up Albert at his home in Giddings since the article said that he knew Wendish. I asked Albert for leads on Wends in the community who still spoke the language fluently. I don’t know why I didn’t use Albert as an informant. Maybe he admitted that he didn’t know the language well. At this point in time, I can’t recall. In any case, although he may have been fluent at one time in the language of our grandparents and great-grandparents, I wanted to find people “kiž hišće serbowali” (who were still keeping it up). He gave me three names. Before I go further, it’s interesting that certain families were better than others at keeping up Wendish. Examples are the Miertschins, the Mitschkes, the Bigons, etc. These were the three names he gave me. It’s also interesting that these families seemed to intermarry, and this helped keep their use of the language alive. In fact, I remember one of the old Wends (I think it was Martin Miertschin talking about Ben Mitschke) saying something like “on my father’s side, we’re cousins; on my mother’s side, he’s my uncle.” Or maybe the other way ‘round. I guess someone would have to draw a family tree for me to figure that out, but I’ll take his word for it. It’s like when someone asks me if I was related to the famous Austin architect, Eugene Wukasch (died about a decade ago). It’s easier to say “he was my uncle,” but he was actually my half first cousin, once-removed. (Confused? I’ll have to draw you a family tree.) Wotpočuj w pokoju, Alberto! Rest in peace, Albert!

Martin Miertschin

Albert said “Martin Miertschin speaks good Wendish. He reads the Bible in Wendish.” Martin and Carl were brothers, Carl being the father of TWHS member Monroe Miertschin. I believe Martin’s wife was the sister of Herman Bigon, an example of how certain Wendish families intermarried and kept the language up. I interviewed Martin on a couple of occasions. My technique was to sit down with my informants and ask them how to say something in Wendish. I used a tape-recorder and may have made notes at the same time. For example, I’d ask “how do you say in Wendish ‘I’m drinking water,’ ‘you’re drinking water,’ etc.?” Since Wendish is a more inflected language than is English, I tried to elicit complete paradigms. My informants would answer “Ja wodu pijem,” “ty wodu piješ, etc.”

Martin lived on his ranch near Winchester on the road from Serbin. One thing I remember was his saying “I’d drive fifty miles to hear a sermon in Wendish.” It’s a shame that by 1964, Wendish had long died out as a church language. I can’t remember if it was Martin who told me this, but there was also a Miertschin in the community (by 1964 deceased, probably) nicknamed “Bull” Miertschin. He had one arm, whether by an accident or a birth defect (probably the former), that I don’t know. I think Martin had a beard, because Dr. Reinhold Olesch referred to him once as “the bearded Miertschin.” Someone, maybe Albert, told me that a group of the old Wends would get together on occasion to sing in Wendish. I believe Martin was in this group. Wouldn’t it be lovely if someone had tape-recorded those song and hymn sessions?

Martin passed away in, I believe, 1971. Someone said he was at home preparing breakfast when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Wotpočuj w pokoju, Mjertyno! Rest in peace, Martin!

Carl Miertschin

Carl Miertschin, as I said, was Martin’s brother. Carl wasn’t as fluent in Wendish as was Martin because, unlike Martin, Carl married a German. I interviewed Carl on several occasions in the 70’s and 80’s, both about the language and about the folklore of the Texas Wends. Carl, like Martin, had a ranch near Winchester on the road from Serbin. I remember attending the German service at St. Paul’s Serbin with Carl on one or two occasions. Carl knew some interesting stories, some true and some folkloric, about the Wends. To give one example, he told about an exorcism which Rev. John Kilian had performed.

A little girl was playing in the St. Paul’s cemetery and acting disrespectfully. She was dancing around a grave and saying “popajń mje! popajń mje!” “Catch me! Catch me!” A hand suddenly came out of the grave and seized her firmly. She began to scream, so Pastor Kilian ran to the cemetery to see what the problem was. He prayed her loose. After that day, she always had the mark of a hand on her arm where the occupant of the grave had grabbed her.

As I pointed out in an article on the folklore of the Texas Wends back in 2000, stories like that have a didactic purpose. In this one, the lesson to be learned is that children should be quiet and respectful in cemeteries. It’s like with stories and warnings about the wódny muž (the water troll); the moral is that children should not go swimming without their parents’ permission and supervision. Carl had a sense of humor. He once told me that he preferred to read the Bible in Wendish. If he read it in English, he could sense Satan trying to get his mind off the text of scripture and onto some other subject. But Satan couldn’t succeed when he was reading the Bible in Wendish. “The Devil doesn’t know Wendish.”

Carl told me a cute story about him and his brother Martin. When they were in their late teens, they had a job working on the railroad in the Serbin-Winchester area. The armistice which ended World War I was announced. They asked their supervisor if they could take the day off to celebrate the end of the war, but were told no. Work had to go on. When Carl passed away, we lost one of the last remaining speakers of Texas Wendish. Wotpočuj w pokoju, Korla! Rest in peace, Carl!

Herman Bigon

Herman Bigon was a retired farmer who lived in Giddings. I interviewed him on a couple of occasions, once in 1964 and later in, I believe, 1967. I remember when I began my first interview. I asked him how one said “I’m drinking water” in Wendish, but Herman replied “ich trinke Wasser.” I told him I wanted him to respond in Wendish, not German. When I later played the tape of the 1964 interview to the chair of the Sorbian (Wendish) Department of the University of Leipzig, he said “dieser Bigon spricht sehr gut sorbisch” (this Bigon speaks very good Wendish). For example, in “correct” Wendish, there is a separate ending for words denoting two of somebody or something. For example, “ja a moja žona” (my wife and I) would require a different ending on the verb. Wendish is a very inflected language, meaning lots of endings. Herman once said about his knowledge of Wendish “nobody can sell me in it.” (Nobody can trick me.) Herman’s son Alfred, who passed away a few years ago, was, like Carl Miertschin above, one of the last Wends in the area who still knew the language. And by “knew,” I mean who had learned it at home, not from books as I did. Herman passed away in 1972, I believe. Wotpočuj w pokoju, Hermano! Rest in peace, Herman!

Ben Mitschke

Ben Mitschke, who like Herman was a retired farmer, lived in a little house in Winchester. I don’t know if his little house is still there. I haven’t been back to Winchester since Carl Miertschin died. I believe Ben’s wife was a Miertschin. Ben spoke fluent Wendish and was a cheerful little man. I remember his friendly chuckle (heh, heh, heh!) when he found something amusing. His wife still remembered their courtship days and the time he bought her a big box of candy. Ben passed Wendish on to his children, at least to his son Harry. I remember someone telling me that Harry spoke good Wendish. Ben passed away at the end of 1964. I believe that he was actually at the doctor’s office when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Wotpočuj w pokoju, Beno! Rest in peace, Ben!

These Wends were proud of their heritage and how one wishes that the language was being passed on today to the current generation. Wotpočujće w pokoju! Rest in peace!

Charles (Korla) Wukasch


From Wendish to German to English

This document was written by David Goeke in response to a question posed by Dr Charles Wukasch in his Blog, titled “Question on German Orthography.” It is presented here because it merits its own place in Dave’s blog.

I’m jumping into this conversation in a rather unorthodox manner (what else is new), but, I wanted to just add a bit of info regarding the question that Charles posed regarding the use of German in worship here in Texas, and when it ultimately died out altogether.

In the first place, I cannot speak with complete authority on when the language was no longer used in the various congregations in Texas. I can say with some authority, that German continued go be used in worship services where those congregations were located in Lee County, specifically, well into the 1950s and in some cases into the 1960s. There was such a heavy concentration of German/Wends in that area that German still remained the major tongue spoken in the home and in worship despite political and social pressures. Gradually, because it became so necessary that folk learn to speak English (from the perspective of business, etc.), that German gradually died out. I speak especially from the perspective of one Lee County congregation in particular, namely, Ebenezer, Manheim. I vividly recall attending German worship services in Manheim well into the 1950s. Gradually, the frequency of German services changed from every Sunday to twice a month…to once a month…to a total transition to English. It made sense because fewer children were speaking German, thus there were fewer “hearers” in the congregation who could understand German, and, finally, there were fewer pastors to be found who could speak/understand German…much less preach in the language.

I was blessed in a number of ways as I grew up. Having had German speaking parents (who, by the way were married in 1936…in Manheim…in the German language…and whose wedding certificate is in German), I was blessed to have had my German speaking, Wendish grandmother from Manheim, come to live with us on a “farm” (we lived a farm life, but with precious little land) on the edge of Austin. Being of an impressionable age (maybe six or seven), I was blessed to have German spoken to me on a regular basis. My responses were largely in English, because I had to use English in virtually every area of my life (school, church, stores, etc.). But, I was spoken to in German until adolescence.

But, I was blessed, too, to have had close relatives who were pastors who preached in German. Most notably was my uncle, August Horn, who pastored the Ebenezer, Manheim, congregation on two separate occasions…and who was the second to last pastor at Manheim who regularly preached in German. He did so up until the early 1960s. Another relative who regularly preached in German was my great uncle, Rev. Dr. J. A. Birnbaum. His story is somewhat different, however. He, too, grew up in the Manheim community. As a result of a “Mission Festival” sermon by Rev. G. Fischer, he became convinced that the Lord was calling him to ministry. This was well before Concordia, Austin, had been founded. He first attended a pre-seminary program at Clifton. Ultimately, he attended Concordia Seminary, Louis. In 1916, he received his first call to serve as a missionary in South America. The fact that he was considering this call greatly distressed his mother, Bertha née Kieschnick Birnbaum. J. A. Birnbaum declined the South America call and, instead, accepted a call to serve a newly organized congregation in Vernon, Texas, called St. Paul. This small congregation was made up of some Lee County Wends, with names like Teinert and Graf.

Dr. Birnbaum would be the first full time pastor of this congregation and would remain there for the duration of his ministry, 50 years hence. Dr. Birnbaum preached and taught school the German language…until.

I have been blessed and honored in many ways in my life. Among these are two occasions when I was asked to play an integral part in the celebrations of anniversaries of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, namely the 75th and 100th anniversaries. One of these occasions is germane to this email. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary, there were yet living a number of the “old timers”…teachers and pastors, who had wonderful oral histories and tales to tell of the early days of the district. I was tasked with the pleasant opportunity of interviewing a number of these old teachers and pastors. Why? Well, in the first place, I had a proclivity for that sort of thing. Secondly, I personally knew a number of these folks through their relationships and friendships with my family. Finally, I could converse in German, and some of these folks, in their old age, would revert to German instead of English. So, armed with a portable cassette tape recorder, I was sent around the state to interview some of the wonderful folks. Among them, was my great uncle, Rev. Dr. J. A. Birnbaum. It is from that perspective that I even mention all of this. One of the questions I asked him was regarding his preaching and teaching in the German language. The following is a transcript of a portion of that conversation:

Birnbaum: We had some excitement here in, you know, in 1918….war in Germany. One morning I stayed with Mr. Teinert, he lived only about ½ mile from the church. So, when I got there [to the church/school] I noticed that the windows had been knocked out…and a “ticket” attached to the front door of the school. [It stated] if you are wise you will leave Vernon. And, it was winter and I made a fire, to warm the school. I took that ticket and went to the Sheriff. And he looked it over and he said, ‘You just stay where you are.’ So, I went back and told the children to go home, it won’t be no school today. And, the sheriff told me, “Let’s go the editor, Mr. Nickleson, and see what he will say about this.” Mr. Nickleson, the Vernon Record editor, he told me, “Well, I’m going to put something, don’t know what it will be, but something has to be done”. He says, “This won’t happen. Nobody’s going to attack you.” And the next day the paper came out and the headline said (and I lost that piece of paper…I’ve looked high and low for it and I can’t find it). After that paper was printed, I got I don’t know how many calls…high officials of Vernon, preachers, editor of the newspaper, doctors, bankers…that I should stay right where I am. Nickleson made the statement in the paper, “The act of yesterday, destroying church property and giving threats, is in the highest degree un-American” and so forth and so on. I had no trouble ever since.

Goeke: “Was this because you were German?”

Birnbaum: “Ya, sure. Because I taught German school…taught German, preached German. But, that was the beginning. We had English services from that day on.”

Goeke: “And there was no more German?”

Birnbaum: “No.”

Birnbaum’s wife, Rosa, interjects: “Well, let’s see, did it break off entirely…right away, or for a while you had….

Birnbaum: “Well, we had a meeting. That’s when the editor of the Vernon Times suggested that we should pass a resolution to cease preaching German. We did.”

Goeke: “Simply because of outside pressure?”

Birnbaum: “Uh, huuh” [Then noticeable silence]

Birnbaum’s wife, Rosa, interjects: “It was quite bad during that time. People hated the Germans.”

Goeke: “Were you married at that time”

Birnbaum: “Ya.”

Birnbaum’s wife, Rosa, interjects: “No, not at the time when this happened we probably weren’t married.”

Goeke: “Do you remember your first Texas District Convention? Can you share anything about that?”

Birnbaum: “Let me see. I believe that first convention that I attended was held in Giddings. Rev. Moerbe was pastor in Giddings. You know that. I think that was my first.”

Birnbaum’s wife, Rosa interjects: “I thought that was in Serbin. We were just married.”

Birnbaum: “It could have been Serbin. I just don’t remember.” [There is some very short discourse between Birnbaum and his wife which is in quiet tones so that not everything discussed is not altogether intelligible.]

Birnbaum: “It was either Serbin or Giddings.”

Goeke: “Anything that stands out in your mind about that conference? Any memories that come to your mind when you think of that conference?

Birnbaum: [Birnbaum starts to laugh]. “Yeah,” and laughs even harder. “I maybe shouldn’t answer this.”

Goeke: “Aw, that’s fine. You go right ahead.”

Birnbaum (still chuckling): “Everything was in German, you know. That was, that was, uhh, understood. The Lord doesn’t understand English. (Continues to chuckle). We had a Rev. Allmann, a missionary at La Mesa. He was there. He had a delegate. The delegate had forgotten his credentials. And they wanted to join the Synod. But, they had to give credentials that they have the permission of the home congregation to become members of the Texas District. Everything went alright. And Allmann [next couple of words not intelligible.]. The delegate had forgotten his credentials…left them at home. And the committee decided that they will not take them in as members since they had forgotten, had no credentials. And they asked, the President asked (I guess Behnken must have been…no…was either Kramer or Studtmann). The president, the chairman, asked the pastor, Allmann, to give a little information about this matter. He [Allmann] got up and said in German (he answered in German…and he didn’t know any German).

Goeke: [ All those present at the interview, began to laugh] “He didn’t know any German? What did he say?”

Birnbaum: “Der Delegate hat vergessen sein Credentials mitgebringt.” [ Birnbaum, his wife and myself are now bursting out with laughter.]

Birnbaum: “And everybody laughed! And Allmann didn’t know why in the world they laughed. ‘Er hat sie nicht mitgebringt.”” [Birnbaum is laughing almost uncontrollably at this point in the interview.]

(End of this portion of an almost two- hour interview)

So, in the case of Uncle August Birnbaum, German preaching and teaching ended earlier than it did in Lee County. Again, I maintain that because of the large population of German/Wends in Lee County, the resistance against Germans was not as intense as it may have been in other parts of the state and/or country.

One other thing that I find of interest where the Wendish language is concerned is that it (the Wendish language in Texas) did not find its only home in Serbin. This is, of course, common knowledge. Chronologically speaking, the first “offshoot” congregation from St. Paul, Serbin (aside from St. Peter….which is, effectively, Serbin), was “Die Evangelische Dreieinigskeit Gemeinde zu Fedor.” I think that I am correct in stating that this was the name given to the congregation. I may be wrong about that, and, if so, I’d be happy if someone would correct me…but, I’m pretty sure that I’m correct. As said, it is common knowledge this congregation was made up of a goodly number of Wends.

In a history of the Fedor congregation, Rev. Michalk, in conjunction with the assistance of Rev. Gotthilf Birkman states the following: “Mittlerweile heilt John A. Proft, warscheinlich ein Kandidat des heiligen Predigtamstes, ein Wende, mit einigen Kindern Schule vom Herbst 1870 an. Er wurde dann der erste Seelsorger deer Gemeinde. Die Gottesdienst waren deutsch, aber vielmal des Jahres heilt er noch Abendmahlsgottesdienst in der wendischen Sprache.” Now, it is also common knowledge that due to health (and other) reasons, Proft would move to the San Antonio Prairie…and that a number of congregants from Fedor followed him and there organized the Eben Ezer congregation. Michalk, in his history of Fedor makes reference to this as follows: “Mancherlei kam in den nächsten Jahren in der Gemeinde vor, was Pastor Proft bewegte im Oktober, 1875 zu resignieren. Er hatte sich ein Pfarrhaus gebaut an der Lincoln Prairie [known later as the San Antonio Prairie], 5 Milen südöstlich von Fedor. Dort gründeten einige Glieder, die von Fedor mir Pastor Proft abgingen, die Eben-Ezer Gemeinde, die später sich auflöste.” Again, all of this is common knowledge.

Allow me to interject a bit of information here. Forty plus years ago, when I became intensely interested in not only Wendish history in Texas, but, also in the history of Serbin’s daughter churches, I made it a quest to learn about the daughter church that most interested me, namely, Ebenezer, because my forefathers were founders of this congregation. Way back then, I asked if I could see the old church records. Well, no one knew exactly where they were. After seeking these with the help of the then pastor and church leaders, the records were found…bedraggled, rat-eaten, etc. Back then, Rev. Reinhardt Wuensche was the voluntary archivist of the Texas District archives. I asked the congregation for permission to take those records to the Texas District in order to make copies, one copy for the District and one copy for me…and that I would then return the originals to the congregation. Permission was granted. This, then, became the catalyst for Rev. Wuensche to seek out other congregational records from early congregations and make copies of them. But, I digress.

Of particular interest in the Ebenezer congregation is the fact that the first congregation, located on the San Antonio Prairie, would ultimately go defunct and a “new Ebenezer” would be constructed in what is now Manheim (originally known as Schulzberg…though short-lived). Finally, I am coming to the point which I have been intending to make all along. In the original records of that earliest Ebenezer congregation, one reads the following: “Unsere Gemeinde soll den Namen führen: Deutsch-wendische Eben Ezer Gemeinde in Lee County, Texas“. Now, you ask, “So what?” Insofar as I know, this congregation was the only congregation, aside from St.Paul, Serbin, to have in her title the term “Wendish“…or “Deutsch-Wendische“. I find this significant in that both the Fedor and the original Ebenezer held to their Wendish form of worship…at least for a period of time. Ebenezer San Antonio Prairie was founded on April 2, 1876, and went defunct a few years later. But her name attests to the fact that Wendish was still practiced in places other than Serbin. I maintain, too, that it was because of this that the large number of Wendish immigrants from Germany in the late 1800’s, made the area around Fedor, Manheim and Lincoln their choice of settling. That’s my take, at least. Again, this may be common knowledge to all of you…and, if so, my apologies for taking up your time.

I’ll end this lengthy tome now. Seien Sie mir bitte nicht allzu wütend für meine Ausführlichkeit. (Please don’t be all too angry with my verbosity).


Question on German Orthography

Weldon Mersiovsky asked me to look through the 19th-century issues of Serbske Nowiny to see if there were references to  the Wendish migrations. I went through a number of them on-line and found a few things.  One thing that surprised me was that, although 99.9% of the articles, advertisements, etc. were in the old Fraktur script, I did come across one article from 1850 or so in the modern script. Did editors experiment with the modern script even back then, but decide that readers preferred Fraktur ?  What do you know about this?

As I’ve said, a fascinating topic for further research would be the loss of German in Lee and Fayette Counties.  Suppose a grad student came to you and said s/he was looking for a topic to do his/her MA thesis or Ph.D. dissertation on or at least for a paper at a conference.  Wendish died out in 1920 when Rev. Herman  Kilian passed away (why Rev. Herman Schmidt, who spoke Wendish, didn’t keep it up as a liturgical language is a separate question).  However, St. Paul’s discontinued German preaching on a regular basis (Wendish Fest doesn’t really count) in the 1990’s probably.  To the best of my  knowledge, the present pastor doesn’t even know German. 
How about the other Lutheran churches in the area?  Warda, Lincoln, etc.?  Did they at one time preach in German and if so, when and why was it discontinued?  The older generation dying off?  The pastor not knowing German?  The feeling during World War I that the use of German was unpatriotic? 
As I’ve said before, the loss of German in Texas parallels to a large extent the loss of Wendish in the Lutheran areas of Lusatia.  It’s the Catholics who are putting us Lutherans to shame by keeping up Wendish preaching.  In the Lutheran town of Lohsa, for example, the church warden told me in 2012 that they stopped preaching in Wendish in 1960.  The Rev. Handrij Zehler, a famous Lutheran poet who is buried there, is probably turning over in his grave now.