January 24, 1935 – The Rev. Oswald Lugenheim, 1859-1934

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann, Pastor Emeritus, first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Voklsblatt on January 24, 1935. It was translated from German by Ray Martens.


            Lugenheim, about whom I wish to report here, always seemed to me to be a very peculiar character. He had in his nature firmness and softness, friendliness and sharpness, even bluntness, politeness and consideration, but then again rudeness. At times, things went well both at his home or in other association with him, but then one got the feeling that you were unwanted and that you would do well to avoid associating with him.

            Doubtlessly, there is something like that in each of us, but this double nature is more apparent in some than in others. Lugenheim certainly was a Christian, a child of God, one who allowed himself to be governed by the Spirit of God, and, according to Galatians 6, the fruits of that spirit include patience, friendliness, kindness, and gentleness.

            I first learned to know Lugenheim somewhat better at the convention in William Penn in 1910, for on that occasion the district recognized his twenty-five years in ministry and extended its congratulations. He spoke quite a lot with me then and, among other things, told me that in his youth he had been a wild lad, but that God had taken hold of him as he did the Apostle Paul, and by his grace had converted him. This probably happened in this country, for I learned from one of his daughters that in 1880, when he was in America, he came into a Lutheran church, where he was so moved by the sermon that he decided to serve the Lord as a pastor if that pleased the Lord.

            Lugenhiem was born on November 27, 1859, in Holberg near Wurzen in Saxony, not far from Hubertusburg, where peace was established some time after the Seven Years War. His father died before the boy was one-year-old. A relative then cared for his training and education. What types of school he attended in Germany I do not know, but I suppose that he became somewhat well acquainted with woodworking, for even in his old age he liked to work with wood, covering the damaged roof of his house and repairing broken chairs and the like.

            According to the report of a daughter, he entered the seminary in Springfield in 1881, though after a couple of years he continued his studies in Milwaukee at the seminary of the Wisconsin Synod, at which Hoenecke, A. L. Graebner, and Eugene Rotz were the teachers.

            In 1885, after finishing his studies, he became an itinerant preacher in northern Wisconsin as a member of the Wisconsin Synod. About fifty years have passed by since that time, and yet Lugenheim is still listed among the pioneers of that synod. He took part in its hardships. For example, he told me that once during a violent blizzard, when he could not get a train, he made his way on foot for ten or twelve miles along the railroad tracks to the next station in order to hold his service on time. Later he served a congregation in Minnesota, namely in Nicollet, and then again at a place in Wisconsin, the name of which I do not know.

            So, in the first twenty-one years of his ministry, he worked within two states. At the beginning of 1907, he took a call to Olney, Texas, and, with that, became a member of the Texas District of our synod. The congregation at Olney back then was still small and the region sparsely populated and barely developed. The parsonage was located at a distance from other houses, alone in the brush. Four years later, in 1911, Lugenheim accepted a call to Shiner. This was likewise a small mission, and along with it, he also served Gonzales. As he was coming home from a trip to Gonzales, he was stricken with a high fever, which required that he stay in bed for a long time. I visited him back then in the fall of 1911. I was picked up at the train station by his daughter, Lizzie—in front of the wagon two large, stately horses which Lugenheim had brought along to Shiner from Olney.

            Because of illness, he resigned from the ministry in Shiner after two years there and then lived in Giddings, which is to say, he rented a home there in which his wife lived. He himself took over the parish school in Fedor and operated it until the end of the school year. During that time, he lived in the teacherage, but took his meals with me in the parsonage, by reason of which we were able to engage in much conversation. After half a year, he had his wife come from Giddings and they lived together in the house of the teacher. In the fall of 1914, Lugenheim received a call to Cypress [as pastor], where he then worked for five years.

            At the end of 1919, for a second time he came to Giddings, where this time he bought a house. When Rev. Hermann Kilian died in January of the following year, Lugenheim served that congregation [St. Paul’s, Serbin] until the Rev. Hermann Schmidt was called in 1922. Lugenheim also preached for a year in the little congregation at Greens Creek.

            In the fall of 1924, he was placed again, temporarily, as a teacher in Fedor (alongside Teacher Schweder), and, in the spring of the following year took on the role of pastor in Fedor. He served there for three years, working faithfully and conscientiously. Near the end of 1927, he became 68 years old and felt that he was not up the performance required at Fedor. He resigned his ministry and from then on lived for about seven years in Giddings.

            Shortly after his entry into the ministry in 1885, he married Elsie Gerlich. God gave him a faithful and pious helpmeet. Five daughters and one son were born to him: Friedrich, called Fritz, who lives in Electra, Texas, and the daughters, all married, one to a Rev. Kirchner in Baraboo, Wisconsin, the next to August Lutze in Sheboygan, the third to Geo. Birkmann (the author’s oldest son, married to the aforementioned Lizzie] in Houston, the fourth to a Norwegian named Berdet, and the fifth to Wm Schneider in Giddings.

            As this newspaper already reported, Rev. Lugenheim experienced a concussion [stroke?] on December 2 of last year, only a few days before his seventy-fifth birthday, and on the following morning, December 3, was set free from all evil and transferred to the heavenly realm. He was a devout Christian, enthusiastic about his ministry, and by both his word and example also urged those who were in his care to fear God and to exercise good discipline. He was a friend and an adherent to the good, old order of things in the church and school and in his home, and he held to the rule, even in the smallest matters, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” [written as English words in German script.]

            I lived for years in Giddings at the same time as did Lugenheim, and we became members of the congregation there (the Rev. G. W. Fischer), where we took part in Word and Sacrament with our families. As a result, I always saw him in his place at the services, often heard him talk at congregational meetings, and often met with him, but we never walked along a path next to each other, for, as soon as it occurred to me that I might accompany him, the thought would disappear. Apparently, it was not possible for him to walk with anyone who could not match his stride.

            We often visited each other, and, if he did not find something to criticize, I was suspicious of him [these lines of the text are somewhat illegible]. He did not smoke. He asked me once whether smoking tobacco was not expensive. When I said that a cigar costs five cents, and the two pipes full of tobacco which I smoke every day about a penny, he had no more objections.

            Because he had spent his childhood and youth in Germany, had lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and had been educated in theological institutions, he had many things to tell about, and he was always prepared to talk about what was of interest to us as preachers or as citizens. The distress of war had affected his relatives living in Germany. A sister of his was gradually starving for lack of food. He was happy about the favorable changes in the situation in Germany through Adolf Hitler.

            Lugenheim was a diligent reader, not only of political periodicals, but also those of the church, even the quarterly journal of the Wisconsin Synod, and so he was quite familiar with the leading figures and happenings in state and church.

            He was not always fond of new inventions. He said of the radio that it provided only “Dudelei” [tootling, droning] and of the automobiles that they were not as good as, or, at least, not as easy to steer, as horses were earlier.

            He has now gone to the rest of the people of God and the joy of heaven. May his memory remain a blessing.