August 28, 1938 – Memories of a Visitation Trip I Made in the Fall of 1893

This article by G. Birkmann, pastor emeritus, was written in German for the 28 Aug 1938 edition of the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt. It was translated by Ray Martens.

As Visitator [older counterpart to the current circuit counselor, but with more responsibilities] at that time, I had the duty to visit our congregations in Texas, and this time I intended to go to Dallas, Honey Grove, Fort Worth, etc., and then, finally, to a conference in Clifton.

My trip first took me to Waco, where I met with Rev. Fr. Wunderlich [whose sister he had married recently], whom I had informed of my coming, and he had invited Rev. Torrison, a Norwegian who had a Danish congregation and church in Waco, to join us for a while. Wunderlich had been pastor in Riesel, Texas, for nine years, or in Perry, as we identified the congregation back then. Torrison was a capable pastor whose efforts were blessed, and he associated with us Missouri Synod pastors regularly, attended our conferences, but, sadly, soon was called back up north.

Rev. Rische was a missionary for our synod in Waco since the fall of 1892, served as missionary in another place as well, but was not present in Waco during this visit of mine.

I traveled to Dallas the same night, but, because the hour was late, did not go to Rev. Heyer, who served our congregation in Dallas, instead took lodging at the St. George Hotel and saw James Stephen Hogg, our governor at the time, the next morning. He was an excellent elected official who had done much good for our state. I could have spoken to him because he was alone and appeared friendly enough, but I was too shy and awestruck before such a prominent person. He had a rather tall frame and appeared to be healthy and well- nourished and a worthy person, just as one assumed of him. Soon, then, I went to Rev. Heyer and told him that I wanted to travel to Honey Grove first of all to preach there on the following Sunday and to be present at a congregational meeting the same afternoon, after which I would come back to Dallas and speak to that congregation on the following Sunday. I had preached in Honey Grove already in 1882, when I was still pastor in Dallas, and, in the year following, I made the trip back a number of times, until Rev. Theo. Kohn was installed in Dallas as pastor and missionary for north Texas in the fall of 1883. After Kohn, Herm. Ruhland visited Honey Grove from Dallas. The first resident pastor in the Honey Grove congregation was A. Donner. Donner was scheduled to preach on Sunday afternoon at the first convention held in Klein, in 1889. As we were going to the church, President [of the synod] Schwann asked who would preach, and I answered, “Donner.” [The name Donner is also the German word for thunder.] The president responded immediately, “Who will add the lightning?” I thought that everything would move along without thunder and lightning, and that is what happened. Donner preached a good, constructive sermon, just as he always did also in his congregation in Honey Grove.

In the meeting that I conducted, the people complained a bit about the fact that the pastor they received after Rev. Donner left them so soon, as he took a call to a congregation up north after only a short time. This time they wanted an older pastor. Just such a man was staying with Rev. Heyer in Dallas, namely, Heyer’s father-in-law, Rev. H. Schmidt, Sr., a well deserving older pastor. He had helped Heyer for the last couple of years in serving his many mission stations, preaching in Olney, Wichita Falls, Fort Worth, and Clara, and Schmidt served Austin in 1892, where Candidate Deffner was called in 1893.

So it was that Honey Grove had Rev. Schmidt as their pastor for a year or a little more, but, because he was already seventy-five years old and could no longer keep up with the demands on him, he likewise soon resigned, and Honey Grove then called Rev. G. P. A. Kirschke, who had been in Giddings previously. They had asked for and received a young pastor again.

Before I went back to Dallas during my visit in 1893, I had a discussion with some people in Plano, where Heyer preached now and then. It was a weekday, and that makes for a difficult situation, especially in newly founded mission stations, trying to gather a large number. Our attempt at mission work in Plano was soon abandoned.

I came to Dallas, and, because I had a free day, I went to see a doctor about whom many recommendations were given back then by Rev. Heyer and my other acquaintances. He was a Lutheran who intended to join the congregation and was successful in his profession. He had gathered some patients for himself, among others, a Rev. Schedler from the north, the same man who had served as a vicar in Shiner four or five years earlier. I had learned to know Schedler and visited him in his room near the doctor, and Schedler told me that he had become ill up north and traveled to the south to become well again with God’s help. After he arrived in Dallas, he sought out this doctor and was being treated by him.

Because I thought that I needed medical attention, I allowed myself to be examined by this doctor, and soon heard the diagnosis that I was suffering from being undernourished, had to have something decent to eat, and all such. Then he opened the door and called out to his wife, “Make a good steak for this man.” She did that immediately, and a cure of this kind was fully welcome to me, and I devoured the beef steak with a real appetite.

Earlier I had written to Rev. Schulenburg in Fort Worth that I wanted to visit several of his places, and I did that still in the same week before I made my visit to Dallas. Schulenburg had been in Fort Worth for about half a year and had relieved Rev. Heyer of much of his work, for Schulenburg, who lived in Fort Worth, served additionally Bridgeport, Bowie, Iowa Park, Wichita Falls, Olney, and Vernon. He told me that there were Swiss people at Vernon living out in the country, people who were Reformed by birth, but were now studying the Lutheran Catechism, and Schulenburg visited them from time to time in order to explain the Catechism and, of course, preached there as well.

Schulenburg first took me with him to Bridgeport, where the service and meeting were to be held the following morning. We stayed overnight with a farmer. I sat up with Schulenburg late into the night, then, finally, lay down, but he remained sitting, refilled his pipe and said that he had a certain fear about the bed—so I got up again, and we sat and smoked and talked some more, until our eyes began to close, and I believe that finally we did in fact make use of the bed.

I preached at the service the next day, and at its conclusion a meeting was held. It was evident that Schulenburg had worked in Bridgeport with good results. As Visitator, it was my role to provide him a critique, but he gave me a friendly critique by saying that my delivery did not appeal to him. I had stopped from time to time, made some pauses, and the impression was that I was not well prepared. He went on to say that he never preached without good preparation, that he would rather read a sermon than step into the chancel not sufficiently prepared. I took note of this friendly reminder with regard to my delivery, and tried to improve. I had certainly not gotten up unprepared, would never have dared to do that. But with regard to whatever affects one’s delivery, it is good if someone says something about it, as did Schulenburg on this occasion.

We two arrived the same day at Bowie, another old mission station, which lies north of Fort Worth and Bridgeport. The small congregation was in the country, about six miles from the town of Bowie. Here, we likewise stayed overnight. At night, we talked with our friendly hosts, and I saw how skillful Schulenburg was in his association with his people. He took an interest in their doings and activities, in what went well for them and in their woes, and often knew how tell them a little story or a wise saying. One always liked to listen to him. The farmer there devoted himself a bit to growing grapes and gave his guests a glass of good wine to drink.

The service and then the meeting took place the following day. Schulenburg preached, and that quite well and fluently in a full-voiced way. He had a rare gift for speaking, also in meetings. At a convention in Rose Hill in 1895, he placed upon our hearts the problem of his congregation in Fort Worth, which still had no place of its own to conduct worship services and to instruct the children. Schulenburg’s speech resulted in the convention resolving to encourage the congregations to take up an offering for the construction of a church in Fort Worth.

Our route went back from Bowie to Fort Worth, where I spent the night with Schulenburg, in order to go on to preach in Dallas and likewise to conduct my visitation there the next morning.

That night I was back with Schulenburg, who preached again at a service which took place in a lodge hall, for the congregation, as pointed out above, had no place of its own until 1895. After the sermon, we held the meeting with the few families in the city which were attached to us at that time.

Schulenburg and I traveled to the conference in Clifton on the following morning. The Rev. Richard Oertel was in Clifton at that time, and, indeed, since the fall of 1891. Subsequently, the congregation built a church and parsonage, the latter after Oertel got married. As I was with Oertel in Clifton in April of 1893, I met with him in this new residence, also saw his wife and mother-in-law, both of whom I had had in my congregation in Dallas already in earlier years. Eight or nine pastors may have belonged to this conference in Clifton in the fall of 1893, that is, beyond Schulenburg and Heyer and Oertel, the local pastor, also Moerbe from Abilene, Kramer, Wunderlich, Rische, and Hopmann from Malone. Three of these, Hopmann, Rische and Moerbe, had entered the ministry in 1892. Kramer already in 1890. He lived in Coryell, Coryell County, where he had a congregation at the time—but one which turned to another synod for service in 1896—and also served Malone (at the time we called it the congregation at Hubbard) from Coryell, as well as Clifton. Kramer came to this conference in Clifton soon after he had been sick for weeks with typhoid fever, an illness in which his wife nursed him faithfully. Rev. Oertel had this disease in 1892, and, at that time, Candidate Joh. Buenger, who went as pastor to Willow Hole the following year, had taken care of Oertel’s work, for, outside of Clifton, Oertel served still other vacant congregations and mission stations.

While we were with Oertel at the conference, the first to be held in Clifton, we worked throughout the day and held a worship service at night with confession and Communion. Oertel had more guests at his house than he could keep overnight. A number of us took our night’s rest in the church; those were the times of beginning, and the work was pioneer work. We hoped, as happy and satisfied as we were then, perhaps we would become even happier and more satisfied.