From January to June 1940 a series of eight articles by Rev Gotthilf Birkmann appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt and have been translated by Ray Martens. The articles condensed the happenings of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in Texas year by year from 1854 to 1897. As you read these year by year accounts, from one line entries to many line entries, you might be struck by the same thoughts as mine as I recalled the words in the Acts of the Apostles, “…and the Word of the Lord grew!”
The commencement of a new year gives us an occasion for looking back into former years. Asaph says in Psalm 77[:5], “I thought about the former days, the years of long ago.” The psalmist then comforts the doubting and fearful souls by referring to God’s great help and to tremendous days in earlier years.
Tremendous days will not be the subject of what follows, but yet it will be about gracious leadings and about blessings of our God of which we were often allowed to partake through insignificant events like, for example, conventions and conferences, or through the providing of pastors and missionaries, or through the founding of new congregations and dedication of churches.
The word “Memories” in the title of this article naturally can apply only to what I myself experienced and took part in during my time in Texas, not what was reported from before my time. I came to Texas in September of 1876. What took place before then was reported to me, or I read about it in our church paper, Der Lutheraner.
It is not my intent that all notations in what follows are to be of equal importance. Much is noted here because it was of interest to me personally, and I thought that many others also would be glad to learn about these things. This list does not claim to be complete. It includes only what has remained in the memory of the writer until today. Perhaps, this or that person sees himself motivated to note down his own memories and to have them printed. That would please me very much.
The emigration of the Wendish settlers with their leader, Rev. Joh. Kilian. A December arrival at Galveston and then in Houston.
The arrival of the colony in what is now Serbin, then in Bastrop County, but now in Lee County. A league of land was purchased in February. In the same year, a parsonage was built, which was also used for services in the years following.
Dedication of the first church in Serbin at Christmas.
Rev. Johann Kilian travels to St. Louis to the convention of the Missouri Synod.
Visitator Herm. Fick visits Rev. Kilian and his congregation. On his return trip to St. Louis, accompanied by Kilian’s young son, who was to enroll at the teachers’ college in Addison.
Teacher Leubner becomes the teacher at St. Paul’s school in Serbin.
Candidate Joh. Zimmermann is ordained and installed in Rose Hill by Rev. Joh. Kilian, with the assistance of Rev. Caspar Braun from Houston. Zimmermann is the first in Texas to receive a teacher from the Missouri Synod.
Rev. Theo. Brohm from St. Louis visits Rev. Kilian and his congregation in Serbin.
In March of the same year, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church establishes itself on the West Yegua, now Fedor, in the presence of Visitator Brohm.
Candidate Peter Klindworth becomes Greif’s successor as pastor in Pleasant Hill when Greif moves to Wm. Penn.
Candidate J. A. Proft ordained and installed as pastor at Trinity on the West Yegua by Rev. J.
Rev. O. Schmidt installed in the congregation at Little Cypress by the Rev. Caspar Braun in Houston, who had been commissioned to do this by the president of the Western District.
Gerhard Kilian, son of Joh. Kilian becomes teacher in the school of the latter.
Dedication of the church of St. Paul congregation in Serbin. The old church continues to serve as the school.
Candidate A. Hofius ordained and installed by Rev. Zimmermann as missionary for all the Lutherans living in Colorado County. Hofius’s address was Columbus, Texas. Hofius soon serves people who live about twelve miles from Columbus, on what is called Mill Creek.
Rev. Pallmer dies in the summer of 1873, soon after the death of his wife. His little son is adopted by teacher Leubner and his wife, later becoming Teacher Pallmer.
St. Peter congregation then calls Rev. A. D. Greif from Wm. Penn, and Rev. Peter Klindworth comes as pastor to the congregation at Wm. Penn.
Beginning of Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church during this year at Rabbs Creek in the area of Warda. Rev. Zapf, not a member of the Missouri Synod called, and a church and a parsonage built.
Rev. A. H. Theo. Meyer installed by Rev. Braun as pastor at a congregation on White Oak Bayou, near Houston. This congregation had been served by a pastor of the so-called Texas Synod. Visitator Tirmenstein from New Orleans visits the congregations in Serbin, the one in Fedor (Rev. J. A. Proft), and comes also to Dallas—some who earlier were members of his congregation had moved there. In the fall of the year, Candidate Andreas Baepler was sent to Dallas to do missionary work there.
Rev. J. M. Maisch becomes the first resident pastor of our synod at Big Spring, Harris County, where the people previously had been served by Rev. Zimmermann in Rose Hill. Now it is no longer the congregation at Big Cypress, but the one in Klein.
Near the end of 1874, the congregation in what today is Warda received Rev. Timotheus Stiemke as their pastor.
Rev. Andr. Baepler in Dallas takes a call to Missouri.
Rev. Proft resigns his ministry in the congregation at West Yegua (Fedor) and gathers a congregation which built a church called Ebenezer on the edge of the San Antonio Prairie, five miles southeast of Fedor. In the fall of 1875, a conference gathered at Proft’s home, which he had built for him on the West Yegua. Just then a violent storm occurred, which did not allow those in attendance to go home for a number of says. This storm doubtlessly was the same on that destroyed Rev. Meyer’s church on White Oak Bayou.
The first church in Fedor is built during this year, the same one which later (1889) was enlarged and currently still serves the congregation.
Rev. August Hofius is active in Dessau, near Austin, since the beginning of the year.
Rev. C. L. Geyer becomes the successor of A. D. Greif at St. Peter congregation at Serbin in May. Greif accepted a call to Little Rock, Arkansas.
On October 1 of this year, Candidate E. H. Wischmeyer is ordained and installed in what was called Louis Settlement (now Swiss Alp) in Fayette County.
On the same day, Candidate G. Birkmann is ordained and installed in Fedor by Rev. Geyer, who had served the congregation during its vacancy.
Rev. Jakob Kaspar from Freiburg, Fayette County, previously a member of the Texas Synod, becomes a member of our Missouri Synod.
Rev. Simon Suess comes from Illinois, settling first in Winchester, accompanied by Karl Krueger, a farmer who later moved to Lexington.
At the beginning of 1876, Ebenezer’s church at the edge of the San Antonio Prairie, is dedicated, and, at the same time, J. A. Proft is installed as their pastor by Rev. Stiemke from Warda.
At the beginning of the same year, Rev. Hofius accepted a call to Cypress, at that time called the congregation at Little Cypress.
During the fall of this year, Joh. Zimmermann, pastor at Rose Hill was called away to a congregation in the north.
Rev. A. H. Theo. Meyer from White Oak Bayou, near Houston, accepted a call to Appleton, Mo.
Caspar Braun, pastor of the congregation in Houston, appeared in May at the convention of the Western District in St. Louis, where he was examined by Dr. Walther and taken in as a member.
The first conference that I was able to attend as a member took place after Easter in Warda with Rev. Stiemke. I had my lodging with Stiemke, with whom I was well acquainted from our Fort Wayne and St. Louis years of study. Present at the conference were all the pastors in Texas who served the Missouri Synod at the time, in addition to the local Rev. Stiemke, also the following: Wischmeyer, from Louis Settlement (now Swiss Alp), Jakob Kaspar, from near Freyburg in Fayette County, C. L. Geyer and Johann Kilian from the two congregations in Serbin, J. A. Proft from Ebenezer congregation on the San Antonio Prairie, Lee County, G. Birkmann, from West Yegua (now Fedor), Lee County, Peter Klindworth from Wm. Penn, Washington, County, August Hofius from Big Cypress, Harris County (now called Klein, Caspar Braun from Houston, and so eleven in all.
The fall conference took place in Fedor, where the writer hosted. We had only two teachers in our schools back then: Leubner at St. Peter parochial school and Gerhard Kilian at the school of the church of J. Kilian. They did not take part in the first conference, as I remember, but soon belonged to those who regularly attended.
In the fall of the year, Rev. Paul Roesener was installed in his ministry at the congregation in Rose Hill.
Already previously, Rev. J. A. Proft had relocated to Sherman, where he wished to do mission work, and Ebenezer congregation on the San Antonio Prairie then called Rev. Jakob Kaspar from Freyburg, Fayette County, as their preacher and pastor. In Kaspar’s place (at Freiburg) then came Simon Suess, who had been installed in Winchester about half a year earlier in order to gather a congregation there, but, yet, he soon accepted the call to Freyburg, and then worked there for many years, namely until 1904.
In February, Visitator Koesterling from Altenburg, Mo., visited a number of congregations in Texas, from Serbin, to Fedor, and to Ebenezer on the San Antonio Prairie.
In February, the writer of this article took a ride in a covered wagon for the more than one-hundred-mile distant place on the Leon River where the brothers Carl and Wm. Winkler had lived for a number of years, having moved there from Serbin. They had asked me to visit them in order to preach for them and to baptize their children, etc.
We participated in a free conference, as it was called, in the spring of the year in Wm. Penn with the Rev. P. Klindworth. Attending from the Texas Synod were Lieb, Paft, Rudi, and Pfenniger. From our side, apart from Klindworth, were Stiemke, Roesener, and the author of this article. We discussed teachings of the Holy Scripture, for example, about Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and were happy that in these matters we were so fully in agreement.
A number of months later, we were together again with Rev. Pfenniger in Brenham. One of the participants on our side this time was the worthy C. L. Geyer from Serbin. The doctrinal dispute concerning God’s gracious election, which shortly thereafter caused so much trouble in the American Lutheran Church, prevented such free conferences from continuing.
During the summer of 1878, I was asked to visit Dessau, near Austin, where Rev. Hofius had been two years earlier. I preached there in a private home, and in the afternoon conducted a meeting with people in the area in a public school, from which certainly came no wished-for result. The people would have liked to have been served by one of our pastors, but they expected him to conduct public school, as they had become accustomed to with earlier pastors, and to conduct a service every other week. We surely could not come in under these conditions.
We were invited to Houston by Rev. C. Braun for our spring conference, and we accepted the invitation and were accommodated there at the Sens Hotel. Naturally, we had the sessions at Braun’s church, not at the hotel.
We gathered in the fall with Rev. Johann Kilian in Serbin. On the Sunday following, Ebenezer congregation on the San Antonio Prairie held a Mission Festival jointly with my congregation. Wischmeyer preached in English in the afternoon, and Suess shared some of his experiences in Africa, where he had been a missionary earlier, sent by the Basel Mission Society.
Near the end of the year, Rev. Hofius accepted a call as pastor in Nebraska, and the congregation in Cypress then was served by Roesener (Rose Hill) and by Maisch (Big Cypress).
Conference at Rose Hill, at which Visitator Koesterling was present and delivered the sermon. He had come because of a difficult situation in Houston, where Rev. Braun announced his departure from our synod, and a large following of his, in part from the congregation and in part from people who did not belong to the congregation but who came to the meeting, refused to look into the complaints which were raised about Braun’s practice by a part of the membership. The result was that those who presented the complaints withdrew under the advice of Rev. Roesener and Rev. Maisch and Visitator Koesterling and formed a new congregation, retaining the name Trinity congregation, and calling Rev. Stiemke from Warda at the end of 1879, along with Teacher Nehrling, who at the time was residing in Texas. Koesterling published an article in Der Lutheraner about these proceedings.
In August of the same year, I received a call to Dallas to the newly formed Zion congregation. Rev. Proft had served these people from Sherman and then proposed that they form a congregation and call a pastor, who would also teach school. I received a peaceful release from my former congregation and went to Dallas, and there preached at first in a Baptist church for about six weeks until the building of our own little church was completed. Rev. Proft then preached for the dedication, which was also the occasion for my installation. During the weeks that the church was under construction, I lived in a rented house and conducted school there for a few children and taught the confirmands.
Still in the same year, Rev. Proft accepted a call to Missouri. With that, I began to serve Denison and Sherman every four weeks. A church had been built in Denison, but we had only a very few who came to the services, but in Pottsboro, nine miles northwest of Sherman, six or seven families turned up in private homes for services. Besides that, I served Arlington and also preached a number of times in Fort Worth.
In 1979, Leubner, until then teacher at St. Peter in Serbin, moved to Des Peres, near St. Louis, where he invested four years as director of an orphanage. Teacher Candidate Christian Braun became Leubner’s successor in Serbin.
Teacher Hennig was installed in Rose Hill in the same year, the congregation’s first teacher.
A conference in Houston with Rev. Stiemke, four or five weeks after Easter. The congregation held its services in a German Methodist church, and Teacher Nehrling taught in a rented location. The congregation built its own church during the course of the year near Buffalo Bayou, on Caroline Street, if I remember correctly. Dedication occurred later in the year with Roesener as one of the preachers.
Still in 1879, Maisch became pastor in Fedor. His former congregation (the one in Big Cypress or Klein) then in 1880 received Candidate August Wilder as its pastor.
In 1880, the church in Rose Hill was built and dedicated in September. Geyer from Serbin preached in the morning, and Stiemke preached in English in the afternoon. Nehrling brought his choir from Houston, and Teacher Hennig’s singers also presented some songs for us.
The fall conference took place in the congregation of Rev. Wischmeyer in what is now called Swiss Alp.
The Rev. G. Buchschacher was called from Algiers, Louisiana, to Warda, Texas. For a year, the congregation had been served by neighboring pastors. Then soon the new church was built, the one still in use, along with a parsonage, which now has been replaced by a new one. The old church building on Rabbs Creek was brought to the new site and went on to serve as the school.
In April of that year, we had our conference with Rev. Geyer in Serbin. Buchschacher preached on Sunday. At first, our conferences always included a Sunday because the congregations wanted that and our pastors were pleased to hear other brothers preaching and were glad to become better acquainted with the people in other congregations, for which Sundays gave us the best opportunity.
The second conference of the year gathered in the fall on the West Yegua with Rev. Maisch and Teacher Nehrling, who had been recently installed. He was the first teacher of the congregation. A house was built for him, but he had to hold school in the church, just as was the case almost everywhere back then.
At the beginning of 1881, Rev. Roesener was called to New Orleans, and Wischmeyer, from Swiss Alp, followed him to Rose Hill. Student G. W. Behnken, father of the present president of our synod, took over the school in Cypress. Student Behnken came south because of his health. Roesener provided room and board for him for a number of weeks and then allowed him to take over the work in Cypress. Student Schupmann went to the school in Houston upon Nehrling’s departure.
First meeting of the Southern District of our synod in Zion congregation in New Orleans (Rev. Paul Roesener). Rev. Otto Hanser represented the president of the Synod. Rev. Tim. Stiemke from Houston elected president, Rev. P. Roesener vice-president. Prof. F. Pieper delivered the essay on topic of the inability of human powers in the work of conversion. We were at the time in the midst of a controversy about this teaching of Scripture.
Attending this convention were eleven pastors, three teachers, and eight lay delegates from Texas, twenty-two in total, and about the same number from the other states, including ten pastors, the majority from the New Orleans area. Three congregations in New Orleans, two from the other side of the river.
The convention resolved to call two missionaries, one for Texas and one for the Gulf states east of Texas.
After a number of months, Tim. Stiemke was called from Houston to be pastor of St. John congregation in New Orleans, upon which the Rev. Gotthold Kuehn came to Houston in Stiemke’s place.
Student G. W. Behnken, who was conducting school in Cypress, Texas, and who gained the respect of the congregation through his ability, was ordained and installed there after successfully completing his colloquy examination. [His seminary training had been in the Wisconsin Synod seminary.]
In Honey Grove, a number of Lutheran families who, for the most part, had come there from Frankenmuth, Michigan, or directly from Bavaria, were sought out and served with Word and Sacrament by the author of this article.
The congregation of Rev. Wilder at Big Cypress (Klein built a new church, which was dedicated during the summer of 1882. Soon thereafter, the Texas Pastor-Teacher Conference met there. President Stiemke came from New Orleans. A theological candidate or, perhaps, one ordained earlier elsewhere, named Zimmermann, was examined before those in attendance at the conference and then received a temporary assignment. This man is not to be confused with the John Zimmermann in Rose Hill, named earlier. Teacher G. M. Schleier, who was staying with his parents near Sherman Texas, visited this conference.
After the conference, I rode to Anderson with Rev. Peter Klindworth, who had served the people there from Wm. Penn. The congregation then was organized and resolved to appoint a student temporarily to teach school and to teach. Student Claus Sierks then came there from Springfield, Ill.
The Mission Board in Texas called Candidate J. J. Trinklein as missionary for the state. His first address was Hockley, but soon he listed Hamilton as his place of residence. But he seldom sat still, was always on the go or, instead, always finding hew places which wanted his services and where congregations were gathering.
After a long wait, the position in the congregation at Swiss Alp was filled again by Candidate Louis Lange, who was ordained and installed there in the fall of 1882.
Rev. J. M. Maisch from Fedor also preached in Walburg (at the time, one said Corn Hill), and his guidance was sought by the people there to form a congregation. Later they called him, and he accepted this call.
At about the same time, Teacher Nehrling was peacefully released and went to Freistatt, Mo., where he was assigned the role of teacher of the congregation’s school. At that time, I received the call to Fedor, where I had been at the beginning of my ministry, 1876-79. I did my work in Dallas for three years.
Teacher H. Werner came to Warda.
Teacher G. M. Schleier was installed in Fedor. Teacher Christian Braun [who in the meantime had married Birkmann’s older sister] was called to Saginaw, Michigan. Teacher Hennig was called to Fort Worth, Ark. Leubner, who served the orphanage in Des Peres for several years, came back to his former place as teacher at St. Peter in Serbin.
Convention in Houston in April of 1883, the second gathering of the Southern District of our synod. Gotthold Kuehn was the pastor of the newly-founded Trinity congregation in Houston.
President H. C. Schwann represented the Synod, and Prof. Franz Pieper delivered lectures about the doctrine of justification. Also, the report on the mission work of Rev. J. J. Trinklein in north Texas, where the mission work already begun is to be continued, with an allowance for the support of the pastor called to the congregation in Dallas, currently vacant, to be received from the district treasury.
Negro Missionary N. J. Bakke reported about missions among the negroes in New Orleans. Prof. Hoppe from the same city was teaching students who wanted to be prepared to serve the church. In this particular year, four students from congregations in Texas enrolled in Hoppe’s Progymnasium [program for high school years], students who later continued in Fort Wayne and St. Louis: Herm. Foerster and a Traugott Zoch from the congregation in Warda, Emil Moerbe from Fedor, and Adam Klein from Rev. Wilder’s congregation at Big Cypress [Klein], the first three of whom later served as preachers in Texas, the last at other places.
Student Claus Sierks was ordained and installed in Anderson, Texas, after successful completion of his colloquy examination.
In August of this year, I visited once again our people in The Grove, whom I had come to know five years earlier, preached there and, on the return trip, conducted a service in Walburg. That congregation was vacant because Maisch had accepted a call as director of Bethlehem Orphanage in New Orleans. Then I drove to Thorndale in order to offer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, which she desired, to the ailing mother of Aug. Polnick, the first from our congregation in Fedor to go to Thorndale, already in 1882.
Our September conference took place in Warda. There was, at the same time, a Mission Festival, at which two missionaries were installed, namely, Theo. Kohn, who had been called by the congregation in Dallas, and Schwoy, whose work was to be in West Texas. Schwoy then sought out people on Mills Creek or Millers Creek in Colorado County, where Hofius had preached ten years earlier. Theo. Kohn went on to work faithfully and diligently for two years in Dallas and in the other places in north Texas, Honey Grove, Sherman, and so forth.
In August of this year 1883, Rev. Hermann Kilian stepped in as the successor to his father, Johann Kilian. Teacher Heinrich Werner was conducting school in Giddings at this time and Regner was the teacher in Warda.
Buchschacher was taking care of Giddings with Word and Sacrament in 1883 when it became time to found Immanuel Lutheran congregation there and also for the first church building of the congregation to be dedicated. This building stood not far from today’s public school in Giddings, but later was brought to the place where the present property of the congregation is located.
Toward the end of the year, the congregation in what was called Freidensau in Falls County (now Riesel) dedicated its first church building. Missionary Trinklein had gathered this congregation. Candidate Louis Ernst was installed in Walburg during December.
Rev. Kaspar began preaching in Paige in 1883. Then he asked me to take this over for him, and I took over serving the people in and near Paige, continuing for three years. The Grove was being served with preaching and school teaching by student Theo. Wolfram. Rev. Ernst from Walburg also visited them and took care of ministerial duties. This took place in 1884, however, and also later.
We enter the year 1884
We met in conference after Easter with Rev. Klindworth in the congregation at Wm. Penn. Trinklein was there, as were Kohn and Gotth. Kuehn from Houston, Wischmeyer from Rose Hill, Wilder from Klein, Buchschacher from Warda, Lange from Swiss Alp, and a number of others, including Behnken from Cypress, etc. It was during the beautiful springtime, in which the bluebonnets, abundant in that area, were in bloom. After the conference, Klindworth and a lay delegate from his congregation traveled with me to St. Louis to the general convention. There I also became acquainted with Candidate Fr. Wunderlich, who then shortly was assigned to the ministry in the new congregation at Friedensau.
The Rev. Louis Lange resigned in Swiss Alp at this time, and Candidate M. Leimer came to replace him. He served the congregation by preaching and performing pastoral duties, and, to the extent possible for him, teaching school. He also visited Millers Creek (or Mill Creek) and prepared confirmands. At Shiner, the time came for the founding of the congregation there. In addition to these places, he served Bastrop and other locations—making all of his trips on horseback under difficult conditions and often in very inclement weather.
Rev. Joh. Kilian, father of Hermann and Gerhard Kilian and of other children, died in September of the same year.
We had our fall conference with Rev. Kaspar on the San Antonio Prairie, and, at the same time, together with Fedor, the annual Mission Festival was celebrated outdoors. A visitor to this conference was a Rev. Samuel from the Brenham area. He had come with two boys with whom he was acquainted and whom he wished to send to our institution in Concordia, Mo. One of these was named Kreth, if I am correct, and he was later in Kansas as one of our pastors.
The congregation in Fedor built its first school building. Until then, school had been conducted in the church.
Vicar Amstein served the people in The Grove, where Theo. Wolfram had served the previous year.
During November of 1884, the first conference for itinerant preachers was held in Waco with Rev. Trinklein. Present were J. J. Trinklein, Theo, Kohn, and Louis Ernst, who in addition to his congregation in Corn Hill (now Walburg), took care of The Grove with preaching and administering the sacraments. Fr. Wunderlich from Perry (now Riesel) was also there, as was the Norwegian pastor Isaac Torison.
Meeting of the Southern District of our synod at St. John in New Orleans, where Tim. Stiemke was pastor. Professor Franz Pieper delivered the essay on the topic, “The Life of Faith.”
Professor Hoppe contributed to this work Pieper’s citations from Luther’s writings, which he read to the convention. Stiemke was elected president again, the author of this article vice-president, G. W. Behnken secretary, and G. W. Frye, a member of Zion in New Orleans, treasurer. The aged Rev. Geyer from Serbin preached a fine sermon.
Fr. Doepke became teacher at Trinity in Houston. Rev. Gotthold Kuehn accepted a call to the north, and J. J. Trinklein came to this congregation as its pastor. But until our fall conference, in which he participated, he was still a traveling preacher, and Kohn from Dallas, who likewise attended the conference, was still the traveling preacher in north Texas. Soon thereafter, both left these ministries as traveling preachers, Trinklein going to Houston and Kohn to Chicago.
A number of families moved from Fedor to Thorndale, among them Karl Michalk, and they asked the Fedor congregation to permit their pastor to serve them in Thorndale temporarily. Since May of 1885, I have ridden alternately there and to Hochkirch at the Zieschangs, for I was already acquainted with Mr. Zieschang in Hochkirch. I performed this service for six years.
Before Christmas in 1885, I was asked by people from Lexington to serve them. I preached there for the first time on Christmas in a public school two miles from Lexington.
Convention in Serbin in February. The first services were held in Rev. Geyer’s church, and, afterward, on Sunday, in St. Paul, where Hermann Kilian was the pastor. Those attending the convention were housed by the congregations. The essay, delivered by the author of this article as assigned by President Stiemke, dealt with the Introduction and First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. President of the synod, H. C. Schwann, opened the gathering with a sermon on Psalm 84 and also delivered a lecture on the importance of a parochial school for a Christian congregation.
J. Werner became the congregation’s school teacher in Warda in 1886.
During this year, what was called St. John Ev. Luth. Church came into being on the San Antonio Prairie, made up mostly of former members of Ebenezer congregation, who joined with others who lived farther east. A school had first been established, but, after the founding of the new congregation, it was also used as the church, in which then, to be sure, school was also conducted, as was common at the time. Dedication took place in the summer. Student Cholster conducted school and preached during the first year.
The Rev. Claus Sierks in Anderson died at the beginning of the year. Candidate Immanuel Eckhardt was called to Anderson.
Joh. Barthel was called by the congregation in Hamilton, which had organized itself during this year. He was ordained and installed in this congregation by Trinklein. Barthel, at the same time, had the call to be the traveling preacher for northwest Texas.
Candidate Hermann Ruhland became pastor in Dallas and traveling preacher for the places formerly served by Kohn.
The fall conference was with Wischmeyer in Rose Hill. Rev. Jesse, a long-time member of what was called the Texas Synod visited with us at that time. The number who attended back then was still so limited that at times we held our sessions in the study of the local pastor. As I recall visits to such conferences during my tour of duty, I did this in Peter Klindworth’s congregation (Wm. Penn), in Anderson, with Rev. Wischmeyer in Rose Hill, in Klein with Wilder, in Houston, and in Cypress, where, at the end of the year the faithfully serving Rev. Behnken had to resign his valuable ministry because of illness—afterward, he lived in Klein near his mother-in-law Wunderlich.
Teacher Werner from Warda, at the beginning of the [school] year, became the second teacher at St. Paul in Serbin. The people in Warda then called Teacher Schleier from Fedor, who took the call and moved to Warda.
Teacher Wambsganss came to Wilder’s congregation at the beginning of 1886, probably to enjoy the milder climate in Texas, but he also helped out in the school in Klein, and attended the convention in Serbin in February of this year.
Conference in Swiss Alp with Rev. M. Leimer. Rev. J. J. Trinklein presented a work out of Pastoral Theology [a book by Dr. Walther]. Ruhland and others preached. Missionaries reported on the places they served. Barthel was preaching in Coryell, McGregor, Jonesboro, Clifton—where a Mr. Kunkel told him about his brother living in Olney, whom Barthel then visited—and more places on the Texas-Pacific Railway which he cared for. In all, he had twelve places to visit.
Ruhland lives in Dallas, but also goes to Sherman and Honey Grove. He has an uncle in Wichita Falls whom he visits, and so it happens that Ruhland also preaches there and from there also visits Archer County (Baylor), etc.
Wunderlich preaches also in The Grove and in Kurten. Rev. Peter Klindworth rides the great distance to Lyons and Mount Prairie in Burleson County once a month. Trinklein too, in addition to his ministry in Houston, continues to take on those mission places which he visited formerly as a missionary and which are not very distant, for example, White Hall, Pattison, etc.
Buchschacher in Warda serves Winchester, where St. Michael Ev. Luth. Church is founded and buys a building and prepares it for their use as a church and school. This building was then dedicated at the end of 1887. Rev. Geyer and Rev. Suess preached.
St. John congregation at Lincoln calls Theo. Wolfram as their pastor. He is ordained and installed by the author of this article, assisted by the Rev. Jakob Kaspar.
The congregation in Fedor appoints Hermann Rohde as teacher of their school provisionally. Rohde had been examined in New Orleans and was recommended by President Stiemke. After several weeks, he is called permanently.
Teacher Doepke is called away from Houston to the school of St. Paul in New Orleans.
The fall conference was in Rev. Trinklein’s congregation in Houston. Rev. Imm. Eckhardt presented theses about the teaching of the Holy Scripture on authority. President Stiemke from New Orleans made us happy with his presence.
The Southern District gathered in Rev. Wegener’s congregation, St. Paul in New Orleans. Paul Roesener lectured on the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. The year before, Wegener had become pastor of this congregation, previously served by Rev. Roedinger for almost thirty years. Stiemke was elected president of the Southern District again, G. Birkmann vice-president, Rev. Aug. Burgdorf, at the time a missionary to the negroes in New Orleans, secretary, and Mr. Thormoehlen from St. Paul in New Orleans, treasurer.
This convention occurred during February of this year, the same month during which the Rev. G. W. Behnken died, the one who had resigned in Cypress a year earlier because of a decrease in stamina.
In May I visited Rev. Fr. Wunderlich in his congregation at Perry, then traveled with him to Kurten, where Wunderlich had been preaching for a rather long time. Furthermore, at Rev. Wilder’s request, I encouraged his congregation n Klein to call its own teacher for its school.
The fall conference took place this year in Rev. Wunderlich’s congregation at Perry, now Riesel. Rev. Theo. Wolfram took a call to Waterloo, Iowa. Rev. Stark, who had been in Cypress for one year, as called to Winchester as their pastor. Rev. H. Wischmeyer from Rose Hill, Texas, likewise accepted a call up north. Rose Hill called Rev. Gotthold Mueller.
Rev. H. Ruhland resigned his ministry as pastor in Dallas and missionary in north Texas, due to illness.
The missionary to northwest Texas, Joh. Barthel, took over the services to Hubbard, as it used to be called, now Malone in Hill County. This congregation had belonged to what was called the Evangelical Synod [a Norwegian group], but left it and sought out Barthel to serve them thereafter. Barthel also visited El Paso once.
Student Jank conducted school in Willow Hole in the year 1888-89.
Honey Grove receives A. Donner as pastor. Student Potzger had helped out there after Ruhland’s departure.
President Stiemke moved to Baltimore. As a result, the author of this article as vice-president had to step into this vacancy and take over the work of the president until the next gathering of the Southern District.
The District gathered in Klein during February with Rev. A. Wilder. The president of the Synod came, and once again, to our satisfaction, Professor F. Pieper, who served as essayist, as he had at the first three meetings of the Southern District. His instructional lectures dealt with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures about the church. There was no stove in the church building, so we had to meet a number of times in the school, where a stove delivered both smoke and warmth. But the weather was agreeable, for the most part, and the proceedings laid claim to our interest and were also important and valuable. Rev. Wegener was called home to New Orleans, where his church had burned down during these days.
We Texans had a great shortage of pastors just then, and certainly of teachers as well, though the latter shortage was not as evident because our pastors conducted school almost everywhere in Texas. There were pastoral vacancies in Corn Hill (now called Walburg) and in Cypress, but especially in Dallas and north Texas, because Ruhland had left, and in Houston, which, as we expected, would soon need to give up Rev. Trinklein, who had been suffering.
When I told President Schwann all of this and more, he said, “A remedy will appear in due time. God will take care of you.” Certainly, it also happened soon that Trinklein left Houston and that Barthel from Hamilton and northwest Texas was called to Houston, with the result that a large area was unattended, and Dallas and north Texas also had no regular care during this year—but here too a remedy was obtained shortly. Near the end of the year, Candidate R. Seils came to Hamilton and Max Heyer to Dallas, and in 1890, the following year, the other vacancies gradually were filled. L. Ernst was installed at St. John in Lincoln in 1889. Rev. Jakob Kaspar was called to Cypress and R. Seils to Hamilton, where, in addition, he served the area formerly served by Barthel, about twelve places. Rev. M. Leimer from Swiss Alp goes to Nebraska, and Rev. A. Schupmann comes as his replacement in the fall.
Student Schedler conducted school in Shiner and from 1888 to 1889 taught confirmands, who then were confirmed by the author of this article in May of 1889.
Rev. Stark resigned in Winchester, and the congregation called A. L. Gresens.
The Fedor congregation dedicated their enlarged church. Teacher Rohde in Fedor resigns and the pastor conducts school again. A confirmation class from Lexington, taught there by the author, were confirmed in Fedor in the fall. Also in the fall, there is conference with Rev. Louis Ernst in Lincoln, with a Mission Festival there on Sunday. Rev. Wilder from Klein and Gotthold Mueller from Rose Hill preach.
Teacher Candidate J. P Daenzer comes to Klein as teacher. Rev. Aug. Wilder is called away to the north.
Rev. Max Heyer, in Dallas since the end of 1889, preaches also in Honey Grove, Plano, and Arlington. J. H. Tietjen becomes pastor in Klein.
A conference in Warda with Rev. G. Buchschacher.
St. Paul Ev. Luth. Church is founded in Thorndale and a church built and dedicated. Ernst and the author of this article preached.
Ebenezer Lutheran congregation on the San Antonio Prairie resolved in conjunction with a number of people in Manheim to build their church there, a building dedicated during the summer of 1890, and, in the fall, Rev. August Wenzel, who had left the Texas Synod, was called and installed after successful completion of a colloquy examination.
The congregation in Walburg called Rev. J. H. Sieck, who likewise withdrew from the Texas Synod, and installed him after he too successfully completed his colloquy examination.
Candidate A. W. Kramer was called into mission work at Coryell (Coryell County), Clifton (Bosque County), and Hubbard, now Malone (Hill County). His residence was in Coryell.
Candidate G. Bernthal came to Shiner, Candidate Schleicher to Kurten and Willow Hole, Candidate Paul Heckel to Sealy, Cat Spring, etc.
Rev. Peter Klindworth found it necessary to resign because of illness, and then moved to Kansas among relatives. Rev. Hy. Geyer served the congregation at Wm. Penn temporarily.
Teacher Fr. Doepke was called to Fedor.
Rich. Krenke became the first resident pastor of our Immanuel congregation in Giddings.
Conference in Swiss Alp with Rev. Schupmann. Rev. Fr. Wunderlich submits a study on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. Still in this year, Schupmann accepts a call to the north.
Teacher Candidate Telger comes as teacher to our congregation in Houston.
I visited the following congregations and mission stations: Dallas (Rev. M. Heyer), Honey Grove (Rev. Donner), Hubbard, now Malone, Clifton, and Coryell (these three served by Rev. A. W. Kramer). Then I visited also Jonesboro and Hamilton, with Rev. R. Seils.
Wunderlich’s congregation built and dedicated a new church, which soon thereafter was destroyed by a storm—but was rebuilt with help from other congregations.
Convention of the Southern District at Zion, New Orleans. Rev. W. Heyne, President Schwann, and Professor Franz Pieper attended, the latter as essayist, treating the doctrine of church fellowship—correct church fellowship, that is, as opposed to false unionistic endeavors.
Rev. G. W. Wegener of New Orleans was elected president, the author of this article vice-president, Burgdorf secretary, and Teacher Reisig treasurer.
The congregation at Wm. Penn called Rev. G. P. A Schaaf.
I had installed Rev. R. Seils in Swiss Alp before the convention. Rev. Kramer had taken over the service of the mission stations in northwest Texas provisionally, and Schumacher was called to Hamilton and Richard Oertel to Clifton in the fall of the same year. Oertel helped out temporarily in Malone and probably also elsewhere. Rev. Emil Polster came to Honey Grove.
Rev. Meyer, who served the northern region around Dallas, received needed help from his father-in-law, Rev. H. Schmidt. The two divided the work of the widespread region, for Rev. Donner had moved to the north at the end of 1890, and Honey Grove was served temporarily from Dallas.
During the fall, a conference was held in Hermann Kilian’s St. Paul congregation. The subject of the essay was the confessions of our church and the commitment of our pastors and teachers to those confessions. Rev. Paul Heckel was still at this conference, but then soon left our mission field and accepted a call to another district.
Rev. Gotthold Mueller from Rose Hill likewise accepted a call to the north in this year. Rev. W. Gans was called to Rose Hill.
St. John at Lincoln celebrated the dedication of their church during this year. In the previous year, 1890, they received a teacher of their own, namely Hermann Schroeder. A large number of members had come to them from Ebenezer congregation, and so they needed to have both a residence for the teacher and more room for their church services. They prepared the former church as a school and built a beautiful church, which still serves them. A new parsonage was also built, and the teacher lived in the enlarged former parsonage.
The people in Hochkirch built a church in the same year, as did St. James congregation in Lexington, founded during this year. Both had their dedication in December, the one in Hochkirch on the first Sunday in Advent. Rev. Sieck and members of his congregation in Walburg took part in this celebration. Sieck’s band accompanied the hymns. He preached in the morning. The author of this article, who had been preaching in this area previously, then preached in the afternoon. Lexington had a celebration like this a week later. Rev. Ernst preached in the morning, Gresens from Winchester in the afternoon, and Krenke from Giddings conducted the service at night in English. A band from Serbin beautified this celebration.
Teacher Leubner was called to Addison and W. A. Herter to Serbin. Candidate E. P. Gesterling became pastor of the congregation in Thorndale that summer, and also was to manage the missions in Hochkirch and in Austin, etc.
The congregation in Lincoln (Rev. L. Ernst) dedicated a church bell.
District Convention in Warda (Rev. G. Buchschacher). President Schwann delivered the opening sermon. Rev. W. Heyne from New Orleans lectured on the Fourth Chief Part of our Catechism.
The congregation in Warda secured a pipe organ, the first of our Texas congregations to own such an organ.
Rev. C. L. Geyer died four weeks after the District Convention. He still had attended the convention. He served in Serbin for sixteen years, previously sixteen years in Carlinville, Ill., and likewise in his first parish in Watertown, Wis., for sixteen years. He was born in 1812. He was a cousin of Dr. Walther and studied with him at the university in Leipzig, and was one of the theological candidates who had emigrated from Saxony to America in 1838. His successor in ministry at St. Peter in Serbin would be the young Rev. G. Bernthal from Shiner.
We held the 1892 conference in May in Lincoln, in which the seventy-year-old Rev. Simon Suess also took part, having to ride horseback for forty miles.
I spent six weeks during the summer with relatives in Copperas Cove in order to recuperate. [Birkmann in other writings complained of repeated and persistent respiratory problems.] At the time, Rev. Kramer, who lived in Coryell, served Copperas Cove with Word and Sacrament. Back then, only a couple of Fedor families were in Copperas Cove, probably also a family from Warda, although I have no specific memory of this family.
Rev. Johann Schulenburg came from Minnesota to Fort Worth during this year, serving also Olney, Bridgeport, Bowie, Wichita Falls, and Clara (or Iowa Park, as it was also called). He also served at Vernon, and, as he told me, taught Reformed Swiss people the Lutheran Catechism.
Conference in Fedor at the end of August. On the Sunday of the conference, two candidates for the pastoral ministry who were about to and wished to serve as traveling preachers, namely Herm. Foerster and Emil Moerbe, were ordained. Moerbe went to take over the places on the Texas-Pacific Railway (Cisco, Abilene, etc.,), and Foerster the field which lay in Grimes and Waller Counties: Hempstead, White Hall, etc.
The aged Rev. Heinrich Schmidt preached the opening sermon, a mission sermon which resulted in two boys from the congregation [at Fedor] applying to study at Concordia, Mo., in order to prepare for the pastoral ministry, namely Wm. Dube, who later became a pastor in Texas, and Karl Dube, who later chose to be trained for a call as a teacher.
Rev. J. H. Tietjen came to Shiner in place of Rev. Bernthal, and, finally, Candidate T. Zoch began his work in La Grange, where G. Buchschacher had served formerly.
At the convention in Warda, Rev. Heinrich Schmidt was commissioned to preach and to serve and to gather a congregation in Austin. Herm. Kilian had preached in Austin earlier already, and several other pastors shared with him in this, among them Gesterling. Rev. Schmidt then complied with the wish of the convention.
Student J. Buenger vicared with Rev. Oertel in Clifton and also helped at his other places.
Rev. R. Krenke accepted a call to the north near the end of the year.
[Not mentioned is a significant event in Birkmann’s life during 1892. His beloved wife, Hulda née Kilian died in October.]
Rev. G. P. A. Kirschke became pastor in Giddings as Krenke’s successor.
The Texas Pastor-Teacher Conference gathers in Klein with Rev. Ziegenhain during the week after Easter. The subject of the essay was the nature of Christianity. This, as the essayist said, is not self-denial, but faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Scriptures declare to us clearly, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you and your house will be saved (Acts 16),” and Galatians 5, “In Jesus Christ, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any value, but only faith active in love.” Certainly, the Christian practices self-denial, for love seeks not its own, but the benefit of the neighbor.
In August, a conference met with Rev. G. Bernthal at St. Peter in Serbin. A place in the Epistle of James was the subject of the essay. When James says that Abraham was justified by works and not by faith alone, he is not talking about righteousness before God, but before men, as the context in the chapter clearly shows, “You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without works is useless? Show me your faith with your works, etc.” This is compared with the place in Romans where Paul writes, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. For what do the Scriptures say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Also present at the conference was Candidate Emil Deffner, who soon thereafter was ordained and installed in Austin by Rev Herm. Kilian. Candidate J. Buenger became the pastor in Willow Hole and Kurten.
The author of this article visited Honey Grove in September of this year. This congregation had been vacant for some time. Rev. Emil Polster had accepted a call up north. Then they received the already aged Rev. Heinrich Schmidt, who served them for about two years. I also visited in Dallas, as also with Rev. Schulenburg and his mission congregations in Fort Worth, Bridgeport, and Bowie. The pastors from north and northwest Texas came together for a conference with Rev. R. Oertel in Clifton. I traveled there with Schulenburg. We saw that the congregation had recently built a parsonage—the church had come earlier—built in 1890.
Rev. August Wenzel was called from Manheim to Sealy. He served also Pattison, Cat Springs, Wharton, etc.
Rev. Theo. Bretscher was called to McGregor. Rev. W. Ziegenhain resigned at the end of 1893. Rev. P. G. Heckel left Texas.
Teacher Doepke in Fedor resigns due to illness. Teacher J. P. Daenzer, formerly in Klein, comes to Fedor.
The Southern District gathered during February at St. John in New Orleans, with Rev. Karl Craemer. Dr. Graebner delivered the essay on the doctrine of conversion. One evening, an open dispute took place between the essayist and a past of the Ohio Synod in New Orleans. Graebner defended his theses which say that conversion is entirely the work of God, while his opponent asserted the teaching of the Ohio Synod at the time, namely that it depends on correct behavior rather than on grace.
Election results: President G. J. Wegener, Vice-president G. P. A. Schaaf.
Rev. Ziegenhain died in Klein during the course of the convention. Rev. E. H. Jaebker was called to replace him.
After Easter, Rev. L. Ernst and the author of this article—both of us were members of the Mission Board [which also explains so many of Birkmann’s travels otherwise reported]—traveled to McGregor, where Rev. Theo. Bretscher had given up his work as missionary a short time earlier. We discussed this matter with the people. Beyond that, we visited Rev. Oertel in Clifton and there had a meeting with the congregation. Also in Coryell, where Rev. Kramer had been, but moved to Thorndale shortly. We also talked with the congregation in Coryell about how they might be helped further.
Representatives of our congregations got together in Giddings during the summer to discuss what might be done to found a preparatory school, what was called a college. It was resolved to acquire in Giddings a certain property which was to be used for such an institution, and to call a professor. In September, this resolution was carried out, the property was bought, and Prof. G. P. A. Schaaf was called. About ten students were identified as prospects, but only two or there actually came. Professor Schaaf began with the instruction, but soon had to discontinue because he had no more students when the two or three did not come anymore.
The fall conference took place in Houston with Rev. J. Barthel. Candidate Paul Schroeder was ordained and installed in Lexington. Rev. Schumacher was called up north.
Teacher Telger from Houston resigned during this year. Rev. R. L. Mehlhorn came to Wichita Falls in the fall. Rev. H. F. Lange was installed in Hamilton by missionary Moerbe. Candidate Paul Riedel was ordained and installed in Coryell.
During the summer, the author of this article visited the territory of missionary Herman Foerster, that is, Hempstead, Hewth Station, and Yarboro, also called White Hall. A few months later, Foerster became Rev. Schaaf’s successor at Wm. Penn.
La Grange became vacant because of the departure of Rev. Zoch to the north.
Teacher W. A. Herter in Serbin died from burns. In the absence of Rev. Bernthal, the Rev. H. Kilian visited him as he endured his pain.
Rev. H. P. Greif is installed in the congregation at Greens Creek. Candidate M. Pott comes as missionary to Needville, but had to resign shortly because of illness and go north. Candidate H. F. Tiemann becomes the successor of Rev. Foerster in White Hall.
Teacher J. Kasper becomes the teacher in Rose Hill with Rev. Gans. Teacher R. Lorenz becomes the teacher in Klein.
Convention in Rose Hill with Rev. W. J. Gans. President Wegener, the essayist, presented the doctrine on prayer. Because of the cold—this was called our “snow conference”—the sessions were held in the school. This building formerly had been the congregation’s church, not exactly roomy and comfortable, but the number of convention goers was not very large at the time, and we were accustomed to simple conditions. We also always had interesting and satisfying discussions here. Many of us also had to walk some distance through the snow at noon to get to our quarters.
The congregation in Rose Hill is our oldest in Texas, founding in 1852 by Rev. Ebinger from Switzerland, who joined the Texas Synod. Woerner, who had no synodical affiliation, followed him. Beginning in 1868, this congregation was served by the Rev. Johann Zimmermann, who was a member of our Missouri Synod.
At the convention in Rose Hill in 1895, Rev. Schulenburg asked the convention to help the congregation in Fort Worth to secure a site for a church through the gathering of an offering. The building then came into existence in the same year. But, because Schulenburg went to the north soon thereafter, Mehlhorn then began to serve also Fort Worth, Olney, Bowie, and other places.
The fall conference was in Perry, Falls County, with Rev. Fr. Wunderlich. President Wegner from New Orleans was present. Deffner, Schaaf, Birkmann, and Gans all preached. Rev. Torrison, a Norwegian, visited our sessions.
In May of this year, our first church in Sealy was dedicated. The preachers were the author of this article, in German, and Gans, in English. The pastor of this congregation, Aug. Wenzel, took me to his home in Cat Spring.
Rev. Kirschke accepted a call to Honey Grove, from where the aged Rev. Schmidt had resigned. Immanuel, the Giddings congregation, then called Rev. Moerbe, who had visited Abilene, Cisco, and the other places on the Texas-Pacific Railway for three years, even El Paso. Prof. Schaaf became pastor at La Grange, which had been served by the Rev. Buchschacher and others during their vacancy.
Rev. Gesterling was transferred from Manheim to the north.
These memories of mine which have appeared in print in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt during this year until now all were written already in January. I was not able to write during the next few months, but, now that I am getting along somewhat better, I would like to continue with the series of memories as well as I can. Certainly, with the greater work and spread of our missions in Texas, it becomes more difficult for me to list everything from memory as before, and, for this section of my memories, I have consulted the Statistical Yearbook of the Synod and have taken from there a number of things—names and dates. I will need to do that also in the future if I wish and am able to continue publishing my memories. The reader, however, [if I cannot continue] will find enough that appears either in the Statistical Yearbook or elsewhere.
Many striking changes occurred in that year. Only a few workers in the vineyard of the Lord in Texas withdrew. J. Barthel, who transferred from Houston to Mobile, Mehlhorn in Wichita Falls died, and Paul Riedel from Coryell was called to the Eastern District. On the other hand, ten pastors entered our Texas field of activity.
Franz Rudi in Wichita Falls, Clara, and Vernon instead of Mehlhorn. Paul Lehmann came to Fort Worth. M. Waechter to Abilene and Cisco as Emil Moerbe’s successor. Candidate H. Huge to The Grove as their first resident pastor. C. A. Waech became the first pastor in the Hochkirch congregation, organizing the congregation and serving them with good results.
Rev. R. Osthoff became missionary in La Grange and its surroundings. Rev. C. F. Brommer came in place of Bernthal in Houston.
Candidate Langelett served Willow Hole and Kurten, where Rev. J. Buenger had worked the previous three years, but Langelett soon resettled in Honey Grove. Lyons received Candidate W. Hodde. Sealy and Pattison Candidate Roglitz. Rev. Paul Schroeder from Lexington, who also serve Lyons, was called to the north. Theo. Schmidt became the teacher at St. Peter in Serbin.
1896 is also in my memory as a [circuit] conference year. The first conference took place in Fedor in May. It consisted of the pastors of Lee and Fayette Counties. We gathered three or four times a year. Our essayist for this conference in Fedor was Bernthal, who dealt with the topic “Life Insurance” on the basis of an article by Dr. A. L. Graebner in Der Lutheraner. The sun shone kindly, the woods stood freshly leafed out, and one could also hear the song birds in the woods during the conference through the open windows. [This group became known subsequently as “The Post Oak Circuit.”]
Those who attended came in their buggies. Among them was also Rev. A. Kramer from Thorndale, who, of course, did not belong to our conference, but he knew, in spite of that, that he would be welcomed.
We had the large [state-wide] conference in June, the first to be held in Austin. It took place several weeks after that tornado in St. Louis in May of 1896 which brought such great terror and destruction, for example, reducing to ruins our beautiful, big Trinity church.
Rev. Deffner began his work in Austin in 1893, and immediately also began his diligent school work with the children of that congregation. At the time we were in Austin, he may have gained about thirty students already. His congregation sill had only a few members, and, yet, it could dare to host the conference, for the number of pastors and teachers of our synod here in Texas still had not become large. During that year, Austin had 106 souls, 41 communicants, and eight voting members [an example of Statistical Yearbook information].
During the fall of 1896, we had another [circuit] conference with Rev. Ernst and his congregation in Lincoln. This one was larger than the previous one, as pastors from north Texas made an appearance, for example, Waechter from Abilene and Cisco. He preached and I was told later (I had not been at the service) what a remarkably strong voice this man had.
Two congregations near Lincoln were provided preachers in 1896, Rev. Schaaf came to Loebau from La Grange—where previously he had served for only a few months—and Rische from Waco to Manheim.
The gathering of the Southern District of our synod was during February of 1897 amid St. Paul congregation in New Orleans with Rev. Wegener. Essayist was the Rev. G. P. A. Schaaf. It was the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Missouri Synod, and, instead of our usual discussions, we had theses which were first discussed at the twenty-fifth anniversary in St. Louis in 1872. They dealt with the blessings which God had given through our being united as a synod, and the dangers that could rob us of these blessings, and, finally, what we might do in order never to lose those blessings.
1897 was also the fiftieth year since the ordination of synodical President H. C. Schwann, who first had been in Brazil for three years, but then for the first time visited our synod’s convention in St. Louis in 1850 and there received a call to a place near St. Louis, but then was called to Cleveland shortly thereafter, where he served as pastor for thirty years. He was elected the Synod’s president in 1878 and served in this capacity until 1899. Schwann attended gatherings of the Southern District six times in Texas and five times in New Orleans.
This district elected the following officers in 1897: G. J. Wegener president H. T. Kilian vice-president, Nierman secretary, and A. C. Reisig treasurer.
Rev. J. H. Tietjen died in Shiner at the beginning of the year. His successor was R. Oertel from Clifton, and Buesching came [to Clifton] soon after Oertel.
P. Lehmann resigned as pastor and missionary in Fort Worth, and Karl Baepler was called there. Rev. Huge, who previously lived in The Grove and from there served Copperas Cove, now moved to the place last named [and served The Grove from there].
Rev. Max Heyer resigned in Dallas. This congregation was then temporarily served by K. Baepler. Fr. Rudi, who previously lived in Wichita Falls, took up resident in Clara, but continued to serve also Wichita Falls and Vernon.
Two of our congregations which in the following years took on importance because of growth and generosity, namely, Thorndale and Walburg, in 1897 had a conference in their midst for the first time ever—Thorndale the somewhat smaller conference and Walburg the district-wide conference. At the conference in Walburg, Candidate Huebotter, who was to serve as missionary in El Paso, was ordained. Vice-president H. T. Kilian delivered the sermon and conducted the rite of ordination.
Among the congregations of our Synod [in Lee County] stood a church of the Texas Synod, served by Rev. Mgebroff. In 1896, as he served what was called Martin Luther congregation in Giddings, he preached also in Loebau, and that developed to the founding of what was called Jerusalem congregation. This congregation soon—in 1896—called Rev. G. P. A. Schaaf of the Missouri Synod and changed its name to what is now Christ congregation.
Candidate Heinemeier came to our congregation in Lexington in 1897. Greens Creek, which had been served by Greif since 1895, received Aug. Wenzel as its pastor in 1897.
Tegeler was called as missionary for Taylor.
Rev. J. H. Tietjen from Shiner preached on the occasion of the conference in Austin, and certainly in an attractive and constructive way. He, the very one who previously always had refused to preach at such occasions out of modesty. None of us anticipated that he would die so soon, although we knew he suffered from a disease that sapped his strength.
Our first congregation in Port Arthur, Texas, was organized in 1897 under the leadership of Rev. Kappler from Lake Charles, La. Kappler had done mission work there from Lake Charles. Twenty-five years later, when he was pastor in Jacksonville, Illinois, he delivered the anniversary sermon there in Port Arthur, at the invitation of the Port Arthur congregation.
[Translator’s note: The sequence of Birkmann’s “Memories” ends with “To be continued,” but no more segments were ever produced. Birkmann’s intent doubtlessly was thwarted by his failing health. Just before he begins his information on 1896 above, he reports that all the material to that point had been submitted to the newspaper already at the beginning of 1940, from which we can infer that the material was published in segments as space allowed, and that he had discontinued work for a number of months because of his inability to carry on. Further information about the nature of this problem was provided by Mr. Proske, editor and publisher of the Volksblatt in his March 14, 1940 article which reads as follows:
Rev. Birkmann, who still has been enjoying rather good health in spite of his advanced age, has needed to seek medical attention for some time because of a problem with his eyes. Only one eye affected by the problem to the extent that the doctor had to bandage it. However, when the other eye was affected more or less as well, the pastor could hardly see at all. Under these circumstances, it is impossible for him to read or write. Yet, Rev. Birkmann accepts his fate and bears his suffering with great patience.
The Volksblatt wishes Rev. Birkmann a speedy and full recovery.
When he wrote and submitted the eighth and last segment in June of 1940, Birkmann was 86, virtually totally blind, and often ill with respiratory problems. He had resigned his ministry for reasons of failing eyesight already eighteen years previously. He died in May of 1944.]