This article was originally written in German by Rev. G. Birkmann for the 15 October 1936 edition of the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt. It was translated by Ray Martens.
The Remarkable Growth of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States in Texas
During the Years 1886 to 1896
by G. Birkmann, pastor emeritus
In the issue before last of the Giddings Volksblatt, I wrote that there were twelve congregations in Texas that were being served by our pastors. In the next article, last week, ten congregations which were added to these were named. Today, I wish to point out that again in the next decade not fewer than twenty-six were gained, with the result that the number of our congregations at the end of 1896 stood at forty-eight. (The Yearbook of the synod from 1896 actually named fifty-one, namely, eighteen entitled to vote and thirty-three advisory, with thirty-nine pastors.)
Rev. Gottfried Buchschacher from Warda was a very zealous missionary. During the first fifteen years that he was pastor in Warda, he also served, in addition to his own congregation, other places where there was not yet congregations, but, yet, where a number of Christians who were waiting to be served.
Immanuel in Giddings came into being in 1883. [Cf. the previous article.]
1887 brought the dedication of a church in Winchester along with the founding of a congregation. Also in Winchester, at the beginning a building which had first been used for other purposes was purchased, remodeled, and then used. The congregation had its own pastor from 1888 forward. Especially to be named are Gresens (1890-1904), then Huge, Siebelitz, Bohot, Moebus, Sr., and now Rev. Trinklein is there.
The next congregation which Buchschacher gathered was the one in La Grange. Almost four or five years went by there before they called their own pastor, namely, at first, Rev. Zoch, who was there only two years, followed by Rev. Osthoff. He began his ministry there in 1896.
Also in 1896, Candidate Greif became the pastor of the congregation at Greens Creek, near Giddings. This congregation also had the work of Rev. Buchschacher to thank, for he had preached there for some time earlier.
The one in Shiner was organized in 1888 by Rev. Leimer from Swiss Alp, who had carried on mission work there. The first resident pastor in Shiner was C. Bernthal, who was installed there in 1890 and who then, two years later, was called to St. Peter in Serbin. In Shiner, then, Tietjen was the next pastor, then Oertel, and others.
Beside Greens Creek, there are two more congregations to count which had their beginning during this time in Lee County. First is Lexington, which was served [by Birkmann] from Fedor since 1885. Six years later, in 1891, the congregation was organized. They built a church in the little town of Lexington, after having met in a public school building two miles from Lexington for two years. Paul Schroeder was the first pastor of their own, followed by a list of others. Now Rev. Kautz is their pastor.
The writer of this article also served Thorndale and Hochkirch in the same years that he preached in Lexington. That happened from 1888 to 1891. I preached alternately in Hochkirch and in Thorndale. 1890 brought the organization of a congregation to Thorndale. A church was built and dedicated immediately, and, in the following year, Candidate E. P. Gesterling received the call to Thorndale and Hochkirch and, along with that, as missionary for this area. Hochkirch dedicated a church in December, 1891, and Gesterling and, after him (since 1891), Kramer have served Hochkirch, but the congregation did not achieve good order until Rev. Waech came there in 1896 and worked effectively.
The congregation in Loebau, Lee County, also came to be in 1893 and, in the next year, called Rev. G. P. A. Schaaf, who served them for three years. Huge, Bahr, and Durow followed Schaaf, the last of them working there faithfully for twenty-one years. Now Rev. Remmert is there.
The one in the capital city of Austin began in 1893, and Candidate Emil Deffner was called and continued to work in Austin until 1898. Tegeler was there for about four years, and Rev, Manz, who is still in ministry there, followed him.
Rev. Peter Klindworth, as I mentioned last time, did difficult and diligent work in missions, beyond what he had to do conducting his ministry and teaching in Wm. Penn. He proclaimed God’s Word in Lyons and Mt. Prairie in Burleson County, and Lyons came to the point of calling a pastor in 1896. Hodde worked there effectively for about a decade.
I could add much more here as well as to the other places named in this list, but space does not permit.
Kurten and Willow Hole were first served by Rev. Fr. Wunderlich, who served in Falls County. Rev. J. J. Trinklein admittedly first sought out the people in the area of Kurten, but then turned over the task of serving them to Wunderlich. I was with him in Kurten in 1888 attending a gathering, and so I know that a congregation already existed there at that time. But the one in Willow Hole was added later. A Mr. Zulch attended a service in Kurten and then invited Rev. Wunderlich to preach also in Willow Hole. J. Buenger was the first resident pastor of our synod there.
White Hall, Grimes County, also was first visited by J. J. Trinklein. Rev. Herm. Foerster had his home in White Hall as pastor of the congregation when I visited his mission station with him in 1894, and I attended a service and congregational meeting there.
Sealy was likewise first discovered by Trinklein. In 1895, Rev. August Wenzel served the congregation from Cat Spring, where he lived, and a church was built at that time. In the following year, A. R. Roglitz became the pastor there, and then in 1898, Rev. Herman Schmidt, who is now in Serbin.
I visited Wharton in 1900 when Leinhardt was there, but, already many years before Leinhardt, Wenzel provided the preaching in Wharton and other places, as he did again later when Leinhardt was gone. The people in Wharton had a church already in the 1890’s, one which a storm knocked down, but, in 1900 when I was there, they had a new one.
[Birkmann indicates frequently that he was visiting places where congregations were in the process of being formed. These were official visits in his capacity as a member of the mission board of the Southern District. Another source reports that the trip to Wharton was made by train, a trip on which he stopped for a number of hours at Galveston and tried to locate his sister and husband, who lived there. He failed to find them for lack of time. Later in the same year, 1900, they perished in a hurricane which devastated Galveston.]
In 1890, Rev. Adolf Kramer took me with him to his three congregations. We first went out from the Hubbard train station to the congregation which was called the one at Hubbard, or, as we say today, the one at Malone. This one previously had been served by pastors of the so-called Evangelical (better, United) Synod, but turned to our synod and asked us to serve them. Rev. Joh. Barthel, in Hamilton at the time, then preached there, and, later, Kramer, and then Rev. H. Hopmann from 1892 forward. Rev. H. C. Gaertner is now the pastor there.
The second congregation which I visited with Kramer back then, in 1890, was the one in Coryell City, Coryell County, where Kramer lived at the time. Later Oertel served there, and then Rev. Paul Riedel, who, like Kramer before him, lived there. When Riedel went back up north in 1896, the congregation no longer desired our service. We also visited Clifton at the time, where we stayed for several days as Kramer taught confirmands there. At all these places, we held a worship service and a congregational meeting.
We had a number of mission stations along the Texas-Pacific Railway at that time. Two of them which the readers will recognize, Clifton and Cisco, became congregations during the years in which Rev. Moerbe and, after him, Rev. Waech served them.
Rev. Kramer also served Copperas Cove beginning in 1892, but the congregation was not founded until the time that Huge was in The Grove and took care of Copperas Cove from there. In 1897, he moved from The Grove to Copperas Cove and served The Grove from there.
During the fall of 1893, I went with Rev. Schulenburg, who lived in Fort Worth back then, to Bridgeport and also to Bowie. After the service at both places, we assembled a meeting at which I expressed the opinion that both congregations already had organized themselves properly. Schulenburg also served Olney and Wichita Falls, along with Iowa Park and Vernon. I do not know whether Wichita Falls previously had declared itself to be a congregation, nor do I know about Olney and Vernon and Iowa Park. But, even if no formal organization had taken place, all of these places really were congregations. That is, according to the Holy Scriptures and our confessional writings, God’s church is everywhere that the Gospel is taught correctly and the sacraments administered in accord with Christ’s institution, and where people attach themselves to these and use them appropriately.
I do not find any particulars about Wichita Falls, Iowa Park, Vernon, and Olney in the Statistical Yearbook of our synod for 1896 and 1897. The reason for that may well be that Rev. Mehlborn, who came to Wichita Falls in 1895, expired already in the following year and that the pastor who then served these places sent in no report about them.