January 10, 1935 – Memories of Earlier Conferences in Texas, Seventh Continuation

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann, em., and translated by Ray Martens, first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt on 10 January 1935. Somewhere along the line the numbering system went from 4 to 7 for an unknown reason.

Conference with Rev. E. Deffner, Summer 1896

I first drove to McDade. Several miles north of McDade, near his parents-in-law, lived my friend, John Dube, who belonged to my congregation in Fedor and whom I visited from time to time, to perform a baptism a number of times, but also I visited happily with this hospitable family apart from that. That was the case also this time as I was traveling to Austin. I left my horse and buggy with John Dube and then took the train to Austin.

I stayed with Rev. Deffner during the conference. Deffner’s father once had been my teacher when I was still barely ten years old. That was in Monroe County, Illinois, where I was born and spent the years of my childhood. I remembered his father very well and also felt myself drawn to his son, the pastor, who entered his ministry in Austin in 1893 and so was the first pastor of our Missouri Synod in this city.

A number of pastors preached there before Deffner, especially Herm. Kilian, who was first invited by a Mrs. Sovitzky and a Mr. Heiermann, Sr., to come there and to serve them temporarily, along with Rev. Heinrich Schmidt, an elderly deserving preacher already in his seventies, but one with an unusual zeal for missions, who was commissioned by the convention gathered in Warda in 1892 to visit Austin, to take up residence there, to preach, and to gather a congregation. Things developed in such a way that Deffner was called as a regular pastor for the congregation, ordained and installed by Rev. Herm. Kilian. His installation sermon, as Deffner told me, made a deep impression on him and, at the same time, on the whole assembly, and he went to work with renewed courage. Deffner also enjoyed teaching school, and he had about thirty students at the time of the conference. Church services and school were held in a little building standing along Red River Street. This was also the site of the conference. We had a whole list of papers presented, but I recall only one, a sermon study on the Gospel lesson for the Third Sunday after Trinity, the account about how Jesus receives sinners [Luke 15:1-10]. Rev. Schaaf delivered the paper. A sermon was preached and Holy Communion was celebrated. Rev. Tietjen of Shiner preached. It was known that earlier he had found himself not ready to preach, probably out of extreme modesty, but this time he made an exception. He had a disease of the lungs and died in Shiner a few months later. I also remember that I was elected chairman at that conference in Austin and that, because the door frequently was standing open, it was possible for passers-by to look right in, if they wished, and see at once who occupied the chair. Rev. Buchschacher repeatedly shut the door to prevent this.

Deffner back then was devoted to rowing. He had a boat at the lake [Lake Austin] which had been created near the city by a dam on the Colorado River. The lake was rather large, several miles wide, and Austinites found much pleasure there. Deffner released his boat, which was chained, and took me across the water. We wanted to land in the direction of the opposite bank, where we saw mountains and woods. But, as we approached, we saw suspicious shapes on the bank and then moved on toward land in another direction, but there it was the same. Problematic features of nature had established themselves. So Deffner and I finally went back again to the place from which we had come.

There on the dam was a powerhouse with all kinds of electrical machines [generators]. The water streamed down and set the machines in motion, which then generated the power. Deffner wanted me to provide an explanation of these mysteries, obviously aware of how little I knew about it, or perhaps he only wanted to sound me out, and he did obtain from me the humble confession that I did not understand this subject and asked him to provide some explanation. Then I looked out for a while yet at the water which would unexpectedly flood the dam and already after a short time would cause the dam and the powerhouse and the lake to disappear. It would be said at the time that the dam was destroyed because its foundation had been defective.

Conference with Rev. L. Ernst at Lincoln, Fall, 1896

Very little of this do I remember. It was the second larger conference which gathered at this congregation. The first occurred in 1889, and I already reported on this one earlier. In 1896, Rev. M. Waechter was the traveling preacher on the Texas and Pacific Railroad (Abilene and beyond), where Rev. Moerbe had been active until 1895. M. Waechter was praised as a capable missionary, and especially for the fact that he had a very powerful voice. But he was in Texas for barely two years before he was transferred back to Minnesota—and, in less than two years, he died. At this conference present for the first time was the one who was later to become Rev. Heinemeier, but then a student, who offered pictures and books for sale, as did many other students.

Also at the time, Rev. Osthoff appeared in our midst for the first time. He had had a call to La Grange, where he worked for twelve years faithfully and successfully. Since 1907, he has been the pastor at St. John in Lincoln. I saw Rev. Osthoff for the first time in the home of Teacher Schroeder. Osthoff had chills and fever and was taking medicine, but, with all of that, was not quiet and distressed about such an introduction among us, but altogether lively and full of good courage, and he remained that way and worked valiantly.

Conference with Rev. J. H. Sieck, Summer, 1897

Rev. Wunderlich presented a solid paper about the spiritual priesthood of believers, and showed in a practical way how fathers and mothers should tend to this their ministry in their homes and in their families. As far as I know, this was the first of the larger conferences in Walburg, but since then the congregation has often had larger and smaller conferences, even the Texas District convention twice.

In 1897, a Rev. Mgebroff was pastor of the other congregation in Walburg, the one which belonged to the Texas Synod. Our conference sent a delegation to Rev. Mgebroff, about which subject I do not remember anymore, but I do remember that on the floor of his room into which we were admitted he had a full collection of issues of Der Lutheraner, all newly bound, and he told us that he read diligently in them. Mgebroff was very interested in history.