This article written by Reb. G. Birkmann first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt on May 20, 1937. It was translated from German by Ray Martens.
If in the following I once again report something out of my life, that does not happen with the intent of saying that I have had experiences unique from those of others. I know very well that similar things have happened to my brothers in the world. But I am pleased to hear from others how things happened to them, and so I believe that this and that in my history may also be of interest.
The year 1892 was for me a time of testing. First, I had to ask for a leave after Easter because I was virtually incapable of doing the work of my calling, and my dear congregation willingly granted me time for recovery. Therefore, I spent about a month with my relatives in Copperas Cove.
After that, I could resume my work in Fedor, and we hosted the Pastor-Teacher Conference in Fedor during August of 1892. But soon there came another cross of a much more serious kind. My dear wife, who was still well during the conference and worked hard to entertain the brothers, was stricken with a serious illness accompanied by a persistent fever. Relatives came from Serbin (she was a daughter of Rev. John Kilian), and members of my congregation were also with us one at a time to watch at night and the like, and the doctor from Lexington came almost daily. In spite of all that, she left us after four weeks, and by now she has been residing in the heavenly home for about forty-five years. She left behind to me three children, the oldest four and a half years old and the youngest just one year. The whole congregation participated in my grief and also paid for the doctor and other expenses. I was alone and isolated once again, for my children were taken and cared for in a very friendly way by the relatives.
I ate with our Teacher Doepke for seven months after that, and being in that house did much good for me. In that way I could satisfy the duties of my office. As is well known, work is the best remedy to move beyond such difficult days and hours. I had to tend not only to confirmation instruction and preaching, but also to helping out in school all week long because our teacher was ill just then.
Confirmation did not take place on Palm Sunday in 1893, but had to be postponed until four weeks after Easter. Apparently, children were being kept away from regular attendance at instruction because of illness.
During the week after Easter, we had a conference in Klein, Harris County, and my lodging was with Mr. Wm. Wunderlich, who lived with his remarkable mother. I also saw there the widow of the Rev. G. W. Behnken, who had gone to his eternal rest five years earlier. She lived with her three children near her mother and helped her, especially also during the time of the conference.
In the weeks following, I considered what, without a doubt, others already knew, namely, that I should have a life’s companion again. I considered the daughter of mother Wunderlich, whom I saw at the house of her mother during the conference, and of whom I had known previously that she was a good wife and helpmeet to her husband and an exemplary pastor’s wife for the congregation. I said, “In everything I do, I seek the advice of Him on high, the one who knows and has everything. He himself must give to all things, should they succeed in any way, his counsel and aid.” [This translation fails to reflect the poetic character of the original, apparently a hymn stanza which Birkmann quoted, but one which the translator does not recognize and cannot locate.]
Then, since I could not get away immediately—the confirmation was to take place within a week—I decided first to write a litter to the mother, who lived close to her daughter, to share my request with the question whether I would be welcome to visit.
Now a week full of excitement and troubles and worries of different kinds followed for me. A letter arrived from Rev. Oertel, who at the time served what was called a mission in Clifton. I should come at once and attend a congregational meeting in which very weighty matters were to be discussed. I was expected to be there. [Birkmann was then vice-president of the Southern District of the Synod.] The meeting was to occur on Wednesday, and so I would have to leave Lexington already on Monday night to be in Clifton to attend the meeting on Wednesday. But I had already announced that confirmation would take place in Fedor the following Sunday, and there still was such that needed to be reviewed with the children. If I wished to go to Clifton, I could not be back before Thursday afternoon. That would leave only a couple of days for the confirmands. I would have happily declined Rev. Oertel’s request, but, upon consideration, I did not like to do that, given the possibility that my presence in Clifton might be useful. So I let it be known that I would hold instruction after my return on Thursday afternoon, and then again on the next two days. I arrived in Clifton where the meeting was held on the next day, as had been determined in advance. The matters treated were not all that critical or difficult, and, yet, we did speak about much which was important to the people and so took advantage of the time and opportunity.
Then on Thursday afternoon I was back home with my confirmands. A letter had arrived from mother Wunderlich, who wrote that I should now come and speak for myself with her daughter. That sounded promising, and now I knew that I could not delay my visit. I responded by saying that I would drive to Giddings on Sunday noon after the confirmation in order to catch the train to Cypress, where I would like to be picked up. At that time, however, we did not have mail service every day, so, because of that, on Friday I drove to Paige to deliver the letter so that still on Saturday it would reach the hands of the mother.
In Fedor on Sunday, at about the time that the congregation and the confirmands should have been gathering, it rained and rained, a real downpour, with the result that those who finally did come found plenty of room in the church, but the confirmation, and, above all, the important preceding examination, could not take place.
Then I had perhaps one more hour to eat something and to harness my horses before it became urgent that I reach Giddings before the train arrived. The train came at about three o’clock, and I rode to Cypress, where I was welcomed by Wm. Wunderlich and stayed with him overnight. I spoke with the mother for the first time the next morning and then with the daughter. God had prepared her heart in such a way that she accepted my proposal [May 1, 1893]. After one month, we entered into our new status. [May 30, 1893] In her God gave me a wife to whom the saying applies fully, “If you are given a virtuous wife, she is much more precious that costly pearls.” [Proverbs 31:16] [This marriage was not entered so lacking in romantic courtship as this account suggests. The translator has in his possession five letters written by the widow Behnken to Rev. Birkmann in the six weeks prior to their wedding, each expressing her love in eloquent terms.]