This article by Rev. G. Birkmann, em., and translated by Ray Martens, first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt on 12 July 1934.
Conference in Fedor, Fall, 1881
Rev. J. M. Maisch was pastor in Fedor, and their teacher was Heinrich Nehrling, previously in Houston and in Fedor for only several months. He was the first teacher in the congregation who was trained at our teachers’ college. Until then, their pastors took care of the school. Nehrling was not merely a capable teacher, but also a great friend of nature with an excellent understanding of plants and birds, who later in life wrote a large work on North American birds. Very many of the observations reported in this work were made in Fedor.
I stayed with my friend Rev. Maisch, but I also visited a number of times with Nehrling, as did Rev. Stiemke with me, and he gladly showed us his collections, birds in cages and bird nests with their eggs—he gathered these to study them—and he knew how to tell of his explorations and excursions into the woods and along the West Yegua Creek in a most interesting way!
During that year, the Missouri Synod was engaged in the great controversy about election. That matter weighed heavily on our minds. So too at Fedor in the fall of 1881.
Conference with Rev. August Wilder in the fall of 1881 in Klein (Harris Co, Fall, 1882
In February of 1882, the Southern District of the Missouri Synod met for the first time at Zion Lutheran Church in New Orleans, and we in Texas were a part of that. From then on, we Texans held only one conference in the years in which our district gathered, always in the fall, for the district met early in the year. But in the years of the conventions of the synod, our conferences met twice because most of us could not take part in such conventions meeting up north.
In the fall of 1882, we came to Rev. August Wilder of Klein. He served that congregation for nine years, 1880 to the end of 1889. He was quiet and reserved by nature, friendly and gentle, but, on the other hand, wanting what was right and pushing for it bravely. His work was greatly blessed.
The father of Rev. J. W. Behnken was also present at that conference. He signed his name G. W. Behnken. He was born in Hannover, Germany, went to preparatory school there and in Watertown, Wisconsin, and then was at the seminary of the Wisconsin Synod in Milwaukee. But then, because of a serious illness [tuberculosis], he came to Rose Hill, Texas, probably in 1880, and stayed for a while with Rev. Roesener, who asked him to teach the children in the congregation at Cypress and to preach occasionally. After a successful colloquy examination, he was installed as the called pastor of the congregation in Cypress during the summer of 1882. He was a capable preacher and recognized as a conscientious pastor. Sadly, he had to give up the ministry so dear to him at the end of 1886 on account of illness and entered the rest of the people of God in February of 1888.
Conference in Warda, Fall, 1883
G. Buchschacher was pastor of this congregation beginning in February of 1881. Soon after his arrival, the congregation built a new church and parsonage at a new place, and, out of the demolished old church, built a school at the new place. The teacher was a Mr. Regener. Three new members appeared among us at this conference: Rev. Hermann Kilian, who shortly before replaced his father as pastor at St. Paul in Serbin, and two candidates who had been called as missionaries and were to be ordained on this occasion. They were Theo. Kohn, who was to serve Dallas and north Texas, and J. Schwoy, who was called for west Texas. President Stiemke preached and performed the ordinations. On Sunday a mission festival was held outdoors. Rev. G. W. Behnken and Rev. Theo. Kohn preached. Such a mission festival was a rare occurrence at that time. This conference was also important, not only because several new members were in attendance, but also because, Stiemke, who already lived in New Orleans, was recruiting students for Prof. Hoppe’s preparatory school in New Orleans. He managed to find two students in Warda, Zoch and Foerster, who later served as pastors in Texas, and Rev. E. F. Moerbe from Fedor, still at work among us, was back then a student of Prof. Hoppe.
Conference in William Penn, Spring, 1884
Rev. Peter Klindworth had been pastor here for ten years. He also taught school, and, apart from that was a zealous missionary for a number of years, in Lyons, Mound Prairie, and Anderson. In the latter place, a congregation was founded in the fall of 1882. Student Claus Sierks (Springfield) first vicared in Anderson, but already three years ago God called him to his heavenly home. Whoever traveled from Brenham to William Penn had to go on horseback or come to terms with a slow drive; it was sixteen miles, and the road was sandy.
But we were happy to go there, to see new things, especially in the spring, when nature awakes and the Texas prairies put on display the glorious decorative flowers.
Rev. Theo. Kohn was present at this conference, as was Rev. Trinklein, our first traveling pastor in Texas. Both had many important things to report, and we were happy about the good developments in our [mission] work. Along with that, we spoke about doctrine. Rev. Gotthold Kuehn came from Houston and a Rev. L. Lange from Swiss Alp, though he left Texas already during that year. Likewise, Rev. J. Schwoy, who had preached only briefly near Weimar in the settlement of Millers Creek and Neubielau, but very soon took a call up north.
Conference with Rev. Jakob Kaspar, San Antonio Prairie, Fall, 1884
Ebenezer congregation’s church was also the pastor’s home. Apart from some rooms for the family, there was a large room there which served for worship services and school during the week.
This conference was not well attended, but we who came had stimulating and blessed days anyway and saw the friendly, smiling face of our pastor Kaspar. A Rev. Samuel from Brenham (a member of the Texas Synod) visited with us and presented two students whom he wished to send to our college in Concordia [Missouri?]—one was named Kreth and I have forgotten the name of the other.
On Sunday was mission festival outdoors. The Fedor congregation and Ebenezer celebrated together, alternating between Fedor and Rev. Kaspar. One could also not get along without a brass band, which made the singing better, although also otherwise our people in Lee County sang gladly and powerfully. Rev. Wischmeyer preached in the afternoon in their language for the English-speaking people, a thing for which he was capable as a city boy. Rev. Suess gave a lecture on Africa, where he had served as a missionary among the blacks for thirty years. The collection may have brought in about seventy dollars, for the people had learned about generous giving to missions little by little, one of the outcomes of preaching the Word.
Conference in Fedor, Fall, 1885
At the end of 1882, the writer of this material again took over Fedor as his field of work, and, at the beginning of the following year, Teacher G. M. Schleier was called and installed. The year after that, the first school was built, one which had to serve us for twenty-seven years. At our conference in the fall of 1885, we had with us for the first time Rev. Wunderlich and Rev. Leimer. The former had come to the congregation in Perry, Falls County, just the year before, and he was accompanied by his brother-in-law from Cypress, G. W. Behnken. Trinklein and Kohn, the mission workers, also came. Their work was a success, and we were happy about their report. We also discussed doctrinal matters. Rev. G. W. Behnken could not commit himself to deliver the confessional address which the host pastor assigned to him, and so he [Birkmann] had to do it himself. Wischmeyer preached. Mission festival was on Sunday again. Wilder preached and Leimer delivered a lecture about mission work among the Wends, especially in Pomerania.
Rev. Kohn’s lecture was interrupted by rain. People hurried into the church nearby, and the speaker, as he said, had trouble putting back together the torn threads of his thoughts.
July 6, 1934