This article by Rev. G. Birkmann first appeared in the Texas Lutheran Messenger of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in July, 1928.
SALEM’S EV. LUTHERAN CHURCH AT BRANDON, TEXAS
Here the Texas District of the Missouri Synod will convene from the third to the tenth of July, gladly accepting the invitation of hospitable Salem’s congregation. The place has a fairly central location in our farflung district, and is accessible by train and automobile.
The hospitality of the congregation is known to Synod, for during the World War in 1916 and immediately after in 1919; it entertained Synod, at a time when some congregations doubted their ability to do so, all the more since the crops too were short in places. In those days Pastor Gaertner and Teacher Wilkening approached the president with the request and invitation of their congregation, “Come to Brandon. The congregation will be glad to have Synod meet in their midst.” And we came in 1916 and again in 1919. Many of those going there this year have been there before. They will remember the fair and fertile farm region, the wide prairies decked out with beauty by the Lord’s hand, and still retain the good impression they received of the people living there, whose guests they were.
In behalf of the Messenger the undersigned was asked to impart some information concerning the history of this congregation. Now, while it is true that I once visited the congregation with Pastor Kramer as early as 1890, and on this I will write presently, nevertheless as to the early beginnings I was in the dark myself, and therefore asked Pastor Gaertner for information. He reports as follows: “The founders of our congregation came to us from Washington Co., and the Texas Synod. After their arrival they looked about for a church. In West there was an Evangelical pastor, J. G. Rieger by name. He came here and founded the congregation in 1886. No doubt the people asked him to come. They were told that he was a Lutheran. A church was built, which later (1907-1921) was used as a school-building. In 1888 three men, F. E. Schulz, H. Maass and Wm. Schrank, came and located here with their families. Schulz is still here; Maass died here last year; and Schrank returned to Hamilton where he died several years ago. These families induced their pastor, Rev. Barthel, to come from Hamilton to conduct services for them and to act as their minister. At first the services were conducted in the homes. Soon, however, the other people who had been supplied from West joined with them – Huse, Meyer, Lents, Piel, Reinke, Degener, and others, recognized Barthel as the rightful Lutheran pastor, and called on him to conduct his services in the church. And then there was trouble. The affair was taken to court. But the people remained Lutheran and loyal to us. A new constitution was adopted (if I am not mistaken, written by Pastor Kramer.)
In 1889 Pastor Barthel accepted a call to Houston. The pulpit was now filled by Pastor F. Wunderlich, who was stationed at that time at Perry, Falls Co. Then Pastor Seils, since 1889 Barthel’s successor in Hamilton, took charge of Malone (or Hubbard as it was then called) in addition to the twelve places he had already. In the fall of 1890 Pastor Kramer came to Coryell, whence he took care of McGregor, Clifton and Hubbard (later Malone.) He and I met for the first time in Hubbard Station when I had come from Dallas on a trip for the purpose of holding visitations. Hubbard is on the Cotton Belt, the only railroad by which our congregation in Hill Co. could be reached. Kramer and I waited for a man who was to come and get us. Since we were hungry and had a long way ahead of us, we took a meal together in a so called restaurant. A certain Mr. Huse took us out, and with him we stayed during the night. The next day there was a meeting. I don’t recall what was discussed, but I remember that Kramer greatly impressed me by the assurance, the clearness, and the ability with which he spoke, and I felt pleased that we had acquired so able a man for our mission work. We spent another night at Huse’s, and were taken back to Hubbard. With Kramer I visited on the following days Coryell and Clifton, where we were quartered with one Henry Schumacher who had a fine place on the Bosque River. There we spent some time in the beautiful woods, especially admiring the pecans.
My journey went on into the territory of Pastor Seils, over rough roads, but we are bound for Hubbard or Malone. Kramer and Oertel (the latter in Clifton since 1891) took turns in supplying Hubbard. In 1892 this congregation received its own pastor, who, however, also had charge of Corsicana with its four families. Hubbard numbered according to Pastor Hopman’s report in the Statistical Year Book of 1892, 149 souls, 64 communicants, 17 voters, 27 school children.
Concerning Pastor Hopman’s blessed work in this congregation various items are contained in the reports of the Southern District. In the Synodical Report of 1894 we read : “Hubbard where Pastor Hopman is employed, has a good church attendance.” In that of 1895: “The congregation in Rienzi (Pastor Hopman) has 26 voting members. The school has 30 children. Henceforth the congregation contributes $15 monthly for salary.” Synodical Report, 1897: “The congregation under good care has progressed steadily. The congregation in point of attendance on public worship and the Lord’s Supper as well as in good school attendance has grown from year to year. Souls 175, communicants 85, voting members 25, hearers 80, pupils 35. Subsidy before becoming self-sustaining $310.00.” From this it is evident that as early as 1896 the congregation was self-supporting. Pastor Hopman remained till 1902 when he removed to Wilcox, Neb., where he continued his labors twenty-two years. He died in 1922. The congregation will hold this faithful pastor in grateful remembrance. The congregation, moreover, was fortunate in enjoying many years the good and conscientious service of the later pastors Hodde and Gaertner.
Pastor Hodde was in charge for 13 years, from 1902-15, and the present incumbent likewise rounded out thirteen years of service.
Pastor Hodde reports for 1902: Souls 290, communicants 142, voting members 38, school children 30. Ten years later, in 1912, he could give the following statistics: Souls 478, communicants 286, voting members 62, school children 66. A fine growth such as we seldom experienced in our missions. From this we see what a blessed work we are doing by ministering faithfully and regularly even to little flocks, especially by taking care of the children in Christian Day schools. The pastors of the Malone congregation taught school diligently, and so the number of the pupils rose steadily from 17 to 30, from 30 to 60. And when the congregation called its first teacher, (E. F. Wilkening 1910-20) the school naturally enjoyed still better growth because of professional care. In 1907 a new, beautiful church was built, in which Synod met in 1916 and 1919. The old church, built 1886, housed the school from 1907-21. In 1922, however, the congregation erected a new school building with three rooms. Teacher Mantey (since 1920) and a lady teacher, at present Miss Esther Gaertner, are the instructors.
This school is a good illustration of the blessings land benefits a congregation can reap if it carefully cultivates its school. The figures show that the congregation grew not only from the outside through influx of Lutherans, but also from the inside through the confirmation of numerous classes of children who had gladly and regularly attended the parochial school.
Since 1915 when Pastor Hodde accepted a call to the North, Pastor H. C. Gaertner assumed charge. In the Year Book 1927 he gives these figures: Souls 604, communicants 356, voting 107, school 81. Value of church property $16,000. Outside purposes $1112. Home purposes $4850.
G. BIRKMANN. Giddings, Texas, June 9, 1928.