This article by Rev. Gotthilf Birkmann, written in German and translated by Ray Martens, first appeared in the 14 Feb 1935 edition of the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt.
In the congregation at Fedor, Lee County, Texas, there have been from its beginning, that is, fifty or sixty years ago, a significant number of excellent people who read and listened to the Word of God with love, had their children instructed in the congregation’s school, came to the meetings, and allowed the welfare of the congregation and the church in general to be placed upon them. They gladly read our church publications, Der Lutheraner
Among them in a special way was Mr. Hermann Urban, who died a short time ago on February 2 [and for whom a brief obituary appeared in the Volksblatt a week earlier.], a man who gained great respect in our congregation and for whom I wish to put in place here a respectful memorial.
His father, Peter Urban, and his mother, who was a Schiller, came to Texas with their two sons, Hermann and Otto, at the beginning of the 1870’s, first to Serbin, Lee County, Texas, where Peter Urban had several brothers. Soon, however, in about 1874 or 1875, the family came to Fedor, where they immediately joined the congregation established already several years earlier. Peter Urban soon became one of the church council members [Vorsteher] and, besides, the responsibility for collecting money for the pastor’s salary and for other purposes was conveyed to him. He also took care of seeing to it that the worship service was conducted with the required good order. Taking care of these things made him happy, and he considered it an honor.
Peter had provided a good education for his children in Germany, and Hermann, the older of the two, to whom these lines apply, was well trained and skillful in German, as also later in English, and often in Fedor was given the job of writing the minutes of the congregation.
When father Urban became elderly, his son Hermann was elected to the council [Vorstand], and he held this office for a long time. Even though he probably once said that someone else should be elected, that helped him very little, for he was simply elected again. People invested much confidence in Hermann Urban. His name had a good ring to it. The congregation was never disappointed. He was qualified to an excellent degree for this task because of his natural and also spiritual ability. Beyond that, he was kind and gentle, remained calm and composed, even if sometimes the emotions of many were stirred up. He did not push himself forward, happily let others speak, but, if he did step forward, he stated his opinion in such a refined and winsome way that one most often had to say afterward, “Mr. Urban is correct.”
When the subject was to improve the salary of the pastor or teacher or to undertake a necessary building project, each time he stepped up for what was fair and reasonable and beneficial to the congregation and its school. He was not wealthy, but he never excused himself from or refused to contribute his part and more. I can say with certainty that during his time, embracing the almost sixty years that he was a member of the congregation, he gave several thousand dollars for church, school, missions, etc.
It is self-evident that such and upright and able man distinguished himself also as head of his household and as a citizen. He was not at all ambitious, did not strive for higher things, but kept himself much more to what was lowly, and, yet, he was repeatedly elected by his fellow citizens to county office, serving for years as county commissioner for Lee County, and for ten years he was one of our most distinguished election judges.
As a farmer, he was progressive, as one says. He read periodicals, including those dealing with agriculture, and was well informed in his calling. He tried many innovations, tested newly recommended grasses with good results, planted pecan trees around his house, kept his milk cows, at least for a while, in their stalls and fed them generously, turned his attention also to raising poultry, and took fryers to town if others were paying a good price for them. He also purchased a silo, that is, a large wooden container in which feed would be stored, which became then a kind of sauerkraut for the cattle. Up north, such silos were most everywhere, but they did not seem to be popular in the south, and it turned out to be a failure also for Mr. Urban.
Hermann Urban was also very blessed in his family. He entered into holy matrimony with Anna Melde in 1877. This marriage produced seven children, with the mother dying at the birth of the seventh. Three sons and three daughters from this first marriage are still living. Toward the end of 1890, he married Magdalena Krautschick, who likewise presented him a number of descendants, eleven if I remember correctly. The total, therefore, would be eighteen, all alive, except for one of the seven from the first marriage.
Mr. Urban sent children to our Fedor parochial school for thirty-five years, and he sent them regularly, not keeping them at home if there was cotton to chop or to pick. (But it should be noted here that in earlier times there was a so-called cotton chopping vacation, during which school was dismissed for fourteen days. I do not know how that is done now.)
Yet, physical crosses to bear did not spare our friend Hermann Urban. Count under that heading the death of his first wife, the lengthy illness of his second wife, the pain that she had to endure, the difficult care that her illness required. He, Urban himself, in general passed for a healthy and strong man, but he too endured a period of illness about twenty years ago, during which I visited him often, and every time I found that he clung to the Word of God confidently and calmly, as always.
Ever since I have been living in retirement, I have often had the desire to see my old Fedor acquaintances again, but I have managed that only rarely. Only a few of my very old acquaintances in Fedor are still among us, Mr. John Becker, Ernst Moerbe and his wife, Heinrich Patschke, and the ancient mother Nitsch, ninety-eight years old.
Of those now between sixty and seventy, maybe a dozen are still alive, among them Carl Melde, Ed. Pillack, Karl Symmank, etc. To all of them, as also to the children, grandchildren, and other relatives of Hermann Urban, I do herewith send my greeting.