July 5, 1934 – Memories of Pastor/Teacher Conferences in Earlier Times

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann, em., and translated by Ray Martens, first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt on 5 July 1934.

I made no written notes about what I am sharing in the following. It is what remains in my memory. Perhaps what I am sharing will interest many readers, but, in any case, I would like to give my readers a little insight into our conferences in times past. A number of details will be provided here, not only about the conferences themselves, but also about the congregations at which we gathered.

Not long ago, I reported in detail in The Giddings News about my first conference with brothers in ministry in Warda after Easter in l877, yet, I would like to repeat some statements. Tim Stiemke was the pastor in Warda back then, with his house near the first church close to Rabbs Creek. The following pastors accepted the invitation to this conference: from Lee County, Kilian and Geyer, Proft and Birkmann; from Fayette County, Wischmeyer and Kaspar (then at Salem, Freyburg); from Washington County, Peter Klindworth; from Harris County, Maisch, Hofius, and Braun (from Houston). With the host pastor, eleven were present. Rev. Suess had come to Texas the previous fall and was installed as the pastor in Winchester soon after Easter, but I do not remember whether he was at the conference.

At the time, we had only two parochial school teachers in Texas, G. A. Kilian and Ernst Leubner, but I do not recall that they attended our first conference. But the teachers were also expected at our later gatherings, and they did also participate, for the most part.

Conference on the West Yegua (Fedor) During the fall of 1879

I enjoyed the first conference, and the brothers became dear to me, so then I invited them immediately to come to Fedor with me the following fall. I knew that this would be altogether acceptable, and the guests would be accommodated easily with some members of the congregation nearby. My house was not roomy or elegant, but I could certainly accommodate two of them. This was our first conference in Fedor. One of my guests was the elderly Rev. Geyer, the other my classmate, Heinr. Wischmeyer. Some of the brothers did not come, and some of the people who had been promised guests were not happy about that. But we did have our discussions and worship service, as was proper, and the congregation was very pleased to have the conference.

Conference in Houston with the Rev. Kasper Braun

He had invited us to come after Pentecost in 1878. Most of the guests were housed in the Tremont Hotel, run by a Mr. Sens. We were very pleased to be in the hotel, for there we were well entertained and could be with each other more than if we had been housed in private homes. There were only a few other guests in the hotel, with the result that we had most everything to ourselves. We stayed in Houston over a Sunday, and Rev. Braun delivered the confessional address and Wischmeyer the sermon. Mr. Sens said that he knew the sermon would be good because he had heard the preacher reciting his sermon in the room next door the night before.

Rev. Kasper Braun was born in northern Germany, studied in Basel, was first in Pittsburgh after his emigration, then came to Houston at the end of the 1840’s, was first a member and also president of the Texas Synod [1851], but left it after a year and continued with no ties to a synod until in 1876 he was taken into the Missouri Synod in St. Louis [during a convention there].

He was there [i.e., in Houston] for about three years and then left. Because of that, disagreements and difficulties beset the congregation, leading a part to leave the congregation and form what for over fifty years has been Trinity Lutheran Church, of which Rev. Tim. Stiemke became the first pastor. He was installed in Houston near the end of 1879. He was followed by Gotthold Kuehn, Trinklein, Barthel, Brommer, and Waech. J. W. Behnken has presided as pastor of the congregation for twenty-six years.

Conference at St. Paul in Serbin Texas

This took place in the fall of 1878, when father Joh. Kilian was still there, and while his son was in Fort Wayne preparing for the pastoral ministry. I was hosted by father Kilian, and with me in the house were Roesener (than in Rose Hill), Hofius from Cypress, and Maisch from Big Cypress. (now Klein). Father Kilian’s worthy wife was still alive back then (she died in January of 1881), and also their daughters Therese and Hulda and their son Bernhard were at home with their parents at the time. They certainly had to make do in order to accommodate us, but they were very gracious and friendly, and we spent some good days there. [Eight years later, Hulda became Birkmann’s wife; this was likely their first meeting.] I had to preach on one night, and it was not easy for me to preach in that large church in front of a large gathering, and yet the friendly mother Kilian consoled me afterward and said that she had understood me quite well.

Conference in Rose Hill with the Rev. P. Roesener, May, 1879

At this conference, Rev. Koestering, our Visitator [a position in the synod for oversight in a number of congregations] was present from Altenburg, Mo. We were members of the Western District at the time, and every Visitator came from a great distance. Brohm [an earlier Visitator] was in Serbin in 1870, as well as in Fedor, where in 1870 Trinity Lutheran Church was formed. The Rev. Hermann Fink had been in Serbin already at the end of the 1860’s, and Tirmenstein from New Orleans came to different congregations in 1874.

But in 1878 it was Koestering who visited with us, and already in 1879 he was back, especially for investigating the situation in Houston [in Braun’s former congregation]. At Roesener’s church, Koestering delivered for us at the conference a fine, forceful sermon and took an active part in our discussions, and we wished that he could have been with us more often.

One day Mr. Kruz invited us for the noon meal, and we accepted the invitation happily. For Mr. Kruz it was a special joy to see a whole group of pastors with him, including the Visitator.

Conference in Houston After Easter in 1880

Rev. Tim. Stiemke had been called to the newly founded Trinity Ev. Luth. Church five months earlier, but, since there still was no church property, he preached in the German Methodist Church (now Bering Memorial Church), and the recently called Teacher Heinrich Wehrling conducted school in a rented room. This conference of ours took place in that room, and we held our Sunday services before and after lunch in the German Methodist Church.

Those who attended the conference were not as many as those at Warda three years earlier—nine pastors and several teachers. Two pastors (Hofius and Proft) had taken calls up north, but Rev. Paul Roesener, now for a number of years at Rose Hill, had persuaded his congregation to call a teacher (Hennig, 1879-83). Several of our pastors also now were located at different places in Texas. Kaspar went to Ebenezer in Lee County, Suess to Salem [Freyburg, also called Black Jack], Birkmann was called to Dallas, Stiemke to Houston, and Maisch to Fedor.

Conference in Swiss Alp with Rev. Wischmeyer, Fall, 1880

This congregation was organized by Rev. Stiemke in 1876. The Rev. Joh. Kilian earlier had served the people from time to time in what was called Louis Settlement, and also Rev. Geyer from Serbin had been active there before Stiemke. In the fall of 1876, Heinr. Wischmeyer began his ministry there and faithfully conducted school along with his pastoral duties. The congregation at that time considered itself to be in flourishing condition, the land was productive, and there was an imposing number of sound Lutheran people. I mention only the names Ritter, Kiesling, Knippa, Obenhaus, Placke, Hoelter, and Kaase, but there were many other names which have slipped away from me.

At the time (fall of 1880), we had arranged to stay over a Sunday, and it was agreeable for the people and useful for the members of the conference to hear different preaching and the like.

Conference in Serbin with Rev. C. L. Geyer, Post-Easter, 1881

The Rev. G. Buchschacher had been at work in Warda since February of that year, and on Sunday morning he delivered the sermon in Rev. Geyer’s church. His theme was the doctrine of absolution. I had not known him previously, nor had I heard him preach. His delivery was captivating and impressive, and I soon asked him how he had become such a fine speaker. He told me that in his school in Baltimore the students were required to go out to preach, sent first here and then there, and so they had enough practice in speaking freely.

In 1881, my brother-in-law, C. F. Braun, was teacher at St. Peter in Serbin. Therefore, I stayed with him and my sister Pauline. Braun was transferred to Saginaw, Mich., in 1883 and served there for another forty-three years.

Continuation follows.ouston with the