July 7, 1935 – Letter to the Editor About the Wunderlichs

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt on July 11, 1935. It is actually a letter to the Editor written during retirement in Hufsmith, Texas. It was translated from German by Ray Martens.


Dear Mr. Proske,

            On Monday, the first of this month, Mr. Wilhelm Wunderlich of Klein expired at the age of seventy-nine years and three months. He died on the same farm on which he was born in 1856 as the son of Peter Wunderlich and his wife, Katherina née Hofius. In 1864, during the Civil War, his father perished in an explosion of a powder mill which provided ammunition for the southern army. Mother Wunderlich now saw herself in a sad situation with her five young children (Wilhelm, the oldest child, was only eight years old at the time) to provide for their progress. But she had a firm trust in God’s gracious help to see her through all of this—and our faithful God did not allow this trust to be frustrated. A sixth child was born shortly after the death of his father, the only one of the sisters and brothers still alive.

            One daughter became the wife of the Rev. August Hofius—he died in Nebraska in 1919. Another married the Rev. George W. Behnken, pastor in Cypress, Texas, from 1882 until the end of 1886—he died in Klein in 1888. He left his widow with three children: John, who now is the well-known Rev. Behnken in Houston, also Meta, the wife of Gust. E. Steglich in Giddings, and W. F. Behnken, residing in Houston. The widow Behnken in 1893 became the wife of the undersigned, who also produced three children in his first marriage (George, Paul, and Alma).

            A brother of the now departed was the widely known Friedrich Wunderlich, who served as pastor in Texas for many years and then almost as long in Nebraska. He went to his heavenly home in January of last year.

            Wilhelm, who just died, earned the status of one who was thought of with respect. In our local congregations, that is, those in Harris County, he was generally liked and held in esteem, but that especially in his own congregation, where he served as chairman and otherwise served faithfully and tirelessly.

            Because of the absence of the local pastor, Rev. Steger from Westfield and Rev. Meyer from Houston conducted his funeral on July 3. The deceased had expressed the wish that no flowers or wreaths be placed upon his casket and grave, so none of this was done. But the large crowd of participants at his funeral showed in what rare esteem the deceased was held. He left behind his widow, Wilhelmine née Wilder, seven children, twenty-five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

            I would also like to report a happy event, which certainly does not seem to fit well with the preceding. It was an event which had already been planned and could not be postponed of it was to occur at all. It was the assembling of the families of my children, which took place at Herman Park in Houston on the fourth of July. Such an event in the language of our country is called a “family reunion” or “family gathering.”

            Thirty-three appeared, my children and their children. Eighteen could not come, mostly because of distance. Paul from Rose Hill with his family was the first to arrive at the place, although he had forty miles to travel. Then came Karl Birkmann with his wife and child, and I came with them, for I had spent the previous night with Karl. Then came George and his wife and daughters, along with Abe Hillegeist and his wife, Alma, and Perry, their young boy. The Behnkens also arrived, namely, Will with his wife and three children and John with his wife and seven children. From Giddings, Meta Steglich and daughter Valeria appeared along with Frida, my daughter.

            At first the sky was dark and it rained a little, and I wondered what might become of it all. Papa should have brought along his raincoat. I was taken under a roof where there were seats, and that is where my children first greeted me. Meanwhile, some tables and benches were set up under the trees, and, as the weather then became better, we spent our day there almost entirely undisturbed and ignored by the many people in the park. Herman Park is well suited for children, who can engage in all kinds of games and amusements. That is what the nineteen grandchildren who were with us did. Vincent, Paul’s oldest son, had now arrived from Henderson. I shall divide the nineteen into two groups. First, I count the seven who are seventeen or more. That group is what is called young people, who like to play and be on their own. The second group consists of the twelve littler ones, who, for the most part, are still supervised by their parents or, at least, are brought to places where they can have their fun.

            Beyond these, there were the twelve Behnkens and Birkmanns who were the parents of these children, and these, for the most part, met together and enjoyed themselves to the fullest. The women were happy to have a free day for a change and had brought along big baskets. I saw three on one table, covering the table almost entirely, and another three on another table, and the thought came to me, “Who is going to eat all of this?” Then, as soon as noon arrived, when I saw how heartily everyone set himself to the task and showed himself willing, I was satisfied.

            I also had my share and more. After the meal, a couple of benches were placed together and a quilt placed on them with the instructions that papa should lie down and rest. I said, “How am I going to get in there,” because the backs of the benches faced the outside. Will then said, “Just sit on the end here and lie back and we shall push you in.” And that is what happened. Now that they had put the grandfather to bed so quietly, they all went away, for they had a free hour and could look around the park. After some time, they came back, and all afternoon I had a cheerful assembly around me. Karl talked about an elephant in the park to which he and Weldon had fed peanuts, as children in the park do. The elephant extends its trunk, the boy places a peanut in it, and the elephant shoves its trunk into its mouth and swallows the peanut. And then the process is repeated.

            John Behnken told me things of interest about the convention from which he had just returned. I was thankful for every bit of information, but it went for me as it did for the elephant. I received peanuts, but my hunger was not satisfied. The family reunion did not offer enough time to speak at more length about the convention. We spoke mostly about what the children had experienced when they were still at home in Fedor. My children back then at times helped the neighbors in the fields during school vacations, chopping cotton and then picking it. They liked to do this and could make themselves useful in that way. They told me about many things, happy and otherwise, which had remained in their memories. That was a good time, the time of one’s youth.

            So the day in Herman Park proceeded, and, toward evening, another search was made for what was still in the baskets to be fairly divided, and they we made our departure for this time.

                                                                        Respectfully yours,

                                                                                    G. Birkmann