June 27, 1935 – Memories of Missouri Synod Pastors Called from Texas to Nebraska

The article written in German by Rev. Gotthilf Birkmann and translated by Ray Martens first appeared in the 27 Jun 1935 edition of the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt.

Now one does not hear much about changes of location for pastors or teachers. They no longer consider relocation as often, but, instead, persevere, which is often better, but it was different earlier. There were districts which were damaged severely by the frequent exchange of their pastors, the Western Canada and Southern Districts, for example. A mission had hardly begun at an individual place before the pastor received a call to a different district and accepted it, not always for good reasons. The stated reason was most often that the new congregation to which one wished to move was larger or something similar.

Sometimes it was the poor health of the pastor or his family which was cited as the cause. It is not appropriate to judge individual cases, but we can say in general those in question would have regained their health in most instances had they remained in Texas longer. [It may be noted that Birkmann reported repeated bouts of illness for which he took temporary leaves of absence, but stayed in Texas for the whole forty-six-year span of his ministry.]

But is good that now we have moved beyond the first stage, for surely most of our present pastors and teachers in Texas have become accustomed to their setting and have gained a love for Texas.

In what follows, the report is only about those pastors who were called away from Texas to the state of Nebraska during the last sixty years.

The first was August Hofius. He came from Germany as a boy to what today is Klein, to the Wunderlich family, for he was a nephew of mother Wunderlich (the mother of the Rev. Fr. Wunderlich). After he grew to be a young man, she sent him to study at the practical seminary in St. Louis. He finished in 1873 and then at first served several Lutheran families in Mills Creek and other communities in Colorado County, Texas. After two years, he tried to establish a congregation in Dessau, near Austin, and, already in the following year, we find him in Cypress, twenty-five miles from Houston. By way of a number of conferences, I became his friend. So it was that, when he visited me at the end of 1878 and told me that shortly he would be accepting a call to Nebraska, I did not understand that at all, for I believed that we had plenty of work here in Texas for our few pastors.

Hofius then explained to me what mission opportunities he could anticipate in Nebraska, for a significant part of the very large German immigrations during those years was going to many places there in Nebraska with the result that there were entire colonies, in part immigrants and in part Lutherans who originated in the state, who sought a pastor.

The situation was different here in Texas. Here there were older colonies which had gotten along without a pastor for years and now conducted themselves in a different way in their pursuit of religion, with the result that a pastor who tried to do mission work among them encountered opposition and obstacles. That was the experience of Rev. Hofius in Dessau and perhaps elsewhere. As a result, Hofius went to Nebraska, where he was installed in the congregation north of Brown Creek on the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, and his address became Fontanelle, Washington County, Nebraska. Then he continued to work in that state for forty years, including in Hooper, Nebr., then in Pierce, and finally in S. Amhurst, where he died in 1919 during a flu epidemic at that time.

The next to go from Texas to Nebraska was Rev. Louis Lange from Swiss Alp. He had come to our institution in Fort Wayne to prepare for the ministry from Montevideo in South America. One of his teachers there was Rudolf Lange, an uncle of Louis Lange. He studied for eight [six?] years in Fort Wayne, then in St. Louis, until he came as pastor to Swiss Alp in 1882. However, he had no real success there, through no fault of his own, and found it necessary to resign his ministry and received a new opportunity in Nebraska. But he did not prove himself there either and so went to California without a call and tried to earn his living by teaching Spanish. He died long ago.

Still in the same year that Lange left there, the congregation in Swiss Alp received an excellent replacement in the person of Rev. M. Leimer, who served not only Swiss Alp but also farther out from there. That is, Leimer was called to be missionary to West Texas at the same time. Of course, this term does not apply to the area which is called that today, but only to the communities in the neighboring counties, which Leimer wandered through on horseback. First, he served in Colorado County, where Hofius had been, and Shiner had Leimer to thank for the founding of its Missouri Synod congregation.

Because of poorly constructed roads, he had to make all of his trips on horseback, in rain and cold and in the heat of the sun, with the result that his health was threatened. A throat condition induced him to seek a change of location, and he was called to Nebraska in 1889. There he served faithfully for forty-five more years and became the father of many children, most all of whom are serving as pastors or teachers. Leimer and his wife are now living in a well-deserved retirement with one of his sons, who has a congregation in Chicago.

Until then, the departures to Nebraska were not exactly bad. But that would change to the point of becoming dangerous and threatening for us, as opposed to what would have been had we been able to keep the departing brothers with us longer in service to our churches here, as we would have loved to do. Within a span of nine years, so many—nine—departed and went to Nebraska, and, indeed, most of them of the kind who had proved to be excellent here.

Going first was Rev. W. J. Gans from Rose Hill, Texas, to Lincoln Creek, Nebraska. at the end of 1900. He had worked in Nebraska previously, recovered again, and then served in Rose Hill from 1892 to 1900. During his time, that congregation hosted the convention of the Southern District in 1895. Gans then worked in Nebraska for twelve years, until death released him from a very serious illness.

Rev. Brammer had first been a missionary in Florida (1891-96), then came to Houston, was host for the convention in 1898, and served the congregation very conscientiously and effectively until in 1901 he found it necessary to give up his ministry in Houston because of impaired health and to seek recovery somewhere in the northwest. After a brief recovery, he was called to the congregation in Cheyenne, Wyoming, but, soon thereafter, to Nebraska, Brammer’s home state. He was first in Beatrice, then in Hammond, and for twelve years has been the director of our teachers’ college in Seward, Nebr. The fact that our St. Louis faculty made him a Doctor of Divinity [honorary D. D.] testifies to his excellent work.

When we Texas pastors (of the Missouri Synod) were gathered during the spring of 1902

in Rev. Tegeler’s congregation in Austin, we did not in any way think that our Tegeler would leave us so soon and likewise find his way to Nebraska. But, indeed, that happened, probably in the same year, 1902. Tegeler soon had his address listed in Der Lutheraner as Beemer, Nebraska. There he became the neighboring pastor to Rev. Leimer, who had a large and rather well-to-do country congregation, while Tegeler’s congregation in the little town of Beemer was still small and in its beginning stages. Tegeler’s address today is Denver, Colorado.

            Rev. R. Oertel also left us and found work in Nebraska. Oertel first was a missionary in Clifton, Texas, in 1891, then in Shiner, and after the end of 1900 the successor of Rev. Gans in Rose Hill. At the end of 1904, he accepted the call to Malcolm, Nebraska, and stayed there for seven years, that is, until 1911. In that year, he accepted a call from Lutherans on Isla de los Pinos (Pine Island), which belongs to Cuba. During the summer of that year, Oertel visited the island, probably after he had read about mission opportunities there and now wished to examine. That led to the call. Oertel took into consideration the various aspects of this call and served on the island for seven years, just as he had done earlier in Nebraska. He died in 1918.

            Rev. Louis Ernst was called to Howell, Nebr., in 1903. He had served in the ministry at Walburg, Texas, from 1883, then in Lincoln, Texas, after 1889. Because of failing health, he found it necessary to resign in 1903, after which he lived for a time in Giddings out of the ministry, until he received a call to Nebraska, where next he worked in Howell, was transferred, however, to Pine Hill after two years, and died in 1923.

Rev. Hopmann served the congregation at Malone, Hill Co., Texas, from 1892 forward, moved to Willcox, Nebr., about thirteen years later, and died there already in 1922, when his friend and neighboring pastor Ernst delivered his funeral address.

Rev. Friedr. Wundrlich, a native Texan (from Klein) remained in Perry, Falls County, for twenty years, then three years in Lincoln as the successor to Rev. L. Ernst. Wunderlich went to Waco, Nebraska, in 1907 and served that sizable congregation until 1929. Then he lived in retirement with children in Staunton, Illinois. He passed from this life about a year and a half ago.

Rev. Immanuel Eckhardt, in Anderson, Texas, since 1886, resigned his ministry twenty-one years later and went to St. Louis, but likewise also soon moved to Nebraska and ministered there for about twelve years. He has been out of the ministry and living in St. Louis for the last fifteen years.

Rev. A. L. Gresens came to Winchester around the year 1891, served in church and school there for thirteen years, and then became the successor of the elderly father Rev. Suess. After a couple of years, we find him in Cisco, Texas, and again, some years later, in Nebraska.

The reader observes how our pastors left Texas one after the other and how this stirred up more than a little anxiety and regret. At the time, it was said that there must be a colony of Texans in Nebraska, but, in the real sense, there was no such colony, for the Texans in Nebraska lived spread out very widely and most quite distant from each other.

Rev. Emil Deffner accepted a call to Sterling, Nebr., after he has been in Texas for a long time, along with a number of years in Lake Charles. While in Texas, first in Austin, then in Hamilton, and later (after his stay in Lake Charles, La.) in Wichita Falls and Olney, and, finally, in Klein, Texas. In Nebraska, his address at first was Sterling and finally Auburn. He is living in retirement with his children in New Berlin, Illinois.

Rev. Hoelter, born in Swiss Alp and first stationed in Lyons, in 1918 accepted a call to Nebraska, where, only a few weeks later, he left this life as a result of the flu, which at the time impacted the entire nation.

Rev. Lobeck has been in Nebraska for about eight years and Rev. Falsken for five years. Both moved from San Antonio, Texas. Lobeck is in Scribener and Falsken in Beemer.

The list above contains the names of sixteen pastors, eight of whom have died, four in retirement, and four still in service.