January 25, 1934 – Rev. Friedrich Wunderlich

This article written in German by Rev Gotthilf Birkmann and translated by Ray Martens first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt on 25 January 1934.

On Thursday, the 17th of this month, a telegraph reached us, saying that the one named departed this life after a long illness. He had a stroke already a half year ago and had to stay in bed almost always since then, and his condition worsened gradually but constantly until the Lord finally took him home to his heavenly mansions.

When our Friedrich Wunderlich entered the ministry in 1884 in Perry, Falls County, Texas, there were only a few places in central and north Texas served by pastors of the Missouri Synod and only two organized congregations, namely, Zion Lutheran Church in Dallas, served by Rev. Theo. Kohn, and Trinity Lutheran Church at Perry in Falls County, to which Rev. Wunderlich had just been called. It had been gathered by the traveling preacher Jakob Trinklein in 1883 and soon built a little church at what then was called Friedensau—that name seems now to have become totally unknown, as also the name Perry, for one now says the congregation at Riesel.

Our church in Texas found quite a capable worker in Rev. Wunderlich. He displayed a very impressive character, with the willpower to stick to his convictions and to contend for them bravely. At the same time, he was one with a friendly disposition, sincere and pleasant. No one had doubts about his character for long, because already after a few words, just a short conversation with him, one recognized the genuine, sincere mind of the man. His natural good qualities were expanded and hallowed by the grace and the Spirit of God and used for excellent acts of service in mission and church, as will become increasingly evident in what now follows.

Friedrich Wunderlich was born on July 18, 1860, at Big Cypress [Klein] in Harris County, Texas. His father, Peter Wunderlich, died already four years after Friedrich’s birth and left behind his wife Katherina (née Hofius) as a widow with five or six little children. But she was a person who placed her trust in God, and, by the grace of God, she was able, not only to feed and clothe her children, but also to live through her difficulties with obvious success. There was no Lutheran church or presence at Big Cypress at that time, and so the mother, to the extent possible, had her children confirmed in the congregation at Rose Hill after their instruction in God’s Word. Rose Hill was twelve miles distant, but the Wunderlichs and some other families were not frightened away by such a trip, and often attended the service of Rev. Joh. Zimmermann in Rose Hill, and later encouraged him to preach also in Big Cypress.

After his confirmation in 1875, Friedrich was sent to our college in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he studied for six years, followed by three years at our Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. The eminent teacher of our church, Dr. C. F. W. Walther was in the employ of this institution at that time, and our Wunderlich, like his fellow students, as I know, felt love and esteem for him and for his instruction.

As stated, he was called to Trinity at Perry, Texas, in 1884, and he served faithfully there in church and school for twenty years. Out of small beginnings, the congregation developed and grew until it is now one of the largest of our Texas congregations. The major growth did not take place until later, to be sure, but, already at Wunderlich’s time, the congregation grew, not only in membership, but also in doctrine and knowledge. At the beginning, naturally, all external conditions were humble. The residence of the pastor was small and scant, barely providing protection against severe cold in the winter and against heat and other problems of the summer. The contents of the house were meager, and the wife often had enough to struggle with as she took care of the meals, no matter how bright here pretensions may have been. The congregation consisted mostly of settlers who themselves, in part, were barely able to fight their way through and who also were not accustomed to contributing decently to the support of the pastor. They learned better as time went on, and showed more willingness to give.

The first church, which had been dedicated at the end of 1883, was found to be insufficient after six or seven years, and the church still in use today was built in 1890. Better said, “twice built,” for a storm knocked down the building soon after its dedication, and gifts were gathered to help the congregation rebuild.

Rev. Wunderlich not only conducted school during the entire time that he served the congregation, twenty years, but he also helped out in other places, first in Kurten, near Bryan.

The people there, for the most part from Poznan, Germany [a city now in Poland], were sought out and served by Rev. Jakob Trinklein, but, already in 1884, Trinklein passed serving this place off to Wunderlich, who then preached and provided confirmation instruction to the children there for six years (1884-1890). He went there on Saturday before his [occasional] Sunday service in Kurten. Some from Willow Hole, east of Kurten in Madison County, also came to the service. One Sunday, a man who lived in the area of Willow Hole came to the service, one who took care of many landed properties [estates] and other things and who got many people to come from Europe and to settle in his vicinity. His name was Zulch. The solemnity of a confirmation service so impressed him that afterward he asked Rev. Wunderlich to come also to his area and to preach there. This did happen, and, from this beginning the congregation in Willow Hole, also called Zulch, came into existence. This happened in 1890 through Rev. Schleicher, who organized the congregation, according to what Wunderlich told me, but, soon others of our pastors followed: J. Buenger, Ernst Buchschacher, and others.

In 1889, Rev. Wunderlich assumed the care of the congregation in The Grove after Rev. L. Ernst. Ernst had served them from Walburg, but was called to Lincoln at the beginning of 1889. Wunderlich then served The Grove, with only a short interruption, until 1904. The interruption occurred in 1896, for at that time Rev. Huge came to The Grove and became their first resident pastor. But Huge moved on to Copperas Cove shortly, and then Wunderlich resumed his service at The Grove.

Wunderlich also preached on occasion in the congregation at Malone, Hill County, until the time that Rev. A. W. Kramer began to serve the congregation out of Coryell.

Rev. Wunderlich took the call to the congregation in Lincoln in 1904, where he was Rev. Ernst’s successor. Around Pentecost in 1907, he accepted a call to a large congregation in Nebraska. Because of the aftermath of typhoid fever, which he suffered already in Perry in 1889, he had continuing ailments and hoped for recovery in the Nebraska climate. [The German term for typhoid fever is Nervenfieber (English: “fever of the nerves” or “nervous fever”) so named because of the delirium suffered by the one afflicted, caused by extremely high temperatures and severe intestinal distress.] Already as a student, he had vicared in Nebraska for a while and gained a liking for the climate. He received a peaceful release in Lincoln and then traveled with his family to the area of Waco, Nebraska, where he was able to work under God’s blessing for twenty-two more years. So it was that he spent half of his time in ministry in Texas and the other half up north. He finally saw that he needed to resign near the end of 1929, and, since then, he lived in Staunton, Illinois, where a daughter of his is employed in the parochial school. He lived to be seventy-three and a half.

He was also a fortunate man with respect to his family, even though, like other Christians, he certainly also had to bear his cross. His first wife, Bertha Klein, from his home community, was married to him in 1885, and God blessed this marriage with thirteen children, nine sons and four daughters, from among whom one son preceded his father in death. Two sons, Traugott and Theophil, are parochial school teachers in Chicago. Two others, Lorenz and Harold, are in the parish ministry, the former in Indianapolis, the latter in Iowa. The daughters Ella and Frieda are employed as teachers, Ella in Staunton and Frieda in a public high school near Chicago. Renata also prepared to be a teacher, but was able faithfully to serve her aging father in Staunton and otherwise. The first Mrs. Wunderlich died in Nebraska after a little over thirty years of marriage.

After a number of years, the widower entered a second marriage with a daughter of a former pharmacist Buenger in St. Louis, one well known in our Missouri Synod circles as the brother-in-law of Dr. Walther and a brother of the likewise widely known Rev. Fr. Buenger in St. Louis. Sadly, I cannot provide the name of this second wife [she was Clara Yeager, a widow], still living. May God comfort her and her children and fulfill for her the promise made to all pious widows.

I have spread out more than a few strokes [of the pen] about the deceased, but I thought that the older readers who knew him would be pleased to receive what was shared, and, on the other hand, that younger readers would gladly want to learn something about the men who stood in service to the church in Texas fifty years ago. One of the best-known names among them is that of our now sainted Rev. Friedrich Wunderlich. [Not mentioned is the fact that this Rev. Wunderlich was Birkmann’s brother-in-law, the brother of his wife Helene, who had died about two year previously.]