The following article by Rev. G. Birkmann first appeared in The Giddings News, Giddings, Texas, in a series of articles beginning on June 3, and following on June 10, June 17, and finally on June 24, 1932. It appeared in a part of the History of Lee County, Texas and also formed the basis of Rev Robert Koenig’s book, Pause to Ponder, A History of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Texas. A portion of it appeared in the Texas Lutheran Messenger of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in July 1933. It is reprinted here in its entirety.
The Lutheran (Missouri Synod) Churches in Lee County, Texas
By Rev. G. Birkman, retired
St Paul’s at Serbin
One of the most important events in the history of what is now Lee County was the settlement in 1855 of the Wendish colony at Serbin in Bastrop County, first, because it took place so many years ago; second, because of the large number of people who then made their home in Serbin, and finally, on account of the very interesting fact that they were Wends from Germany, a nationality of whom the general run of people know very little.
The Wends are of Slavic origin as their language clearly shows, being related to the Russians, Poles, Bohemians, and other Slavic tribes. The Wends settling in Serbin, Texas, belonged to the so-called Sorben-wenden – they called themselves Serbske, hence the name Serbin. These Serbske (Sorben-wenden) lived In Germany, most of them in Saxony (called Oberwenden, upper Wends) as over against the Niederwenden living in Prussia. These Wends have been dwelling in Germany for a thousand years. At first they were powerful, and many German rivers and cities still bear Wendish names, but the Germans managed to subdue them and to rule over them imparting to them German culture to some degree, and the Wends enjoyed the benefits of German rule and institutions. However, the Wends preserved their peculiar ways and customs, and, in particular, their language in a most remarkable way, and there are still a quarter of a million in Germany who use the Wendish language and have their Wendish preachers. They, however, have for years received their schooling in the German language and consequently most of them speak German readily and many of them married Germans, and adopted German ways of thinking. The melting pot has not been so efficient in the old country as in our own U.S. Here the Wends, after 78 years, have no more preaching in their tongue, there are now only a few of the old people who speak Wendish At first both Wendish and German were taught in their schools, and, as a matter of course, some English. Then, gradually German got the upper hand, and since 1944 Wendish was abolished in church and school, and services are now being conducted in German and English.
When Luther began his reformation in Germany, the Wends were among the first to accept Luther’s teaching, and up to this day are staunch Lutherans. Though I must state that there are still some Wendish Catholics in the old country.
Rev John Kilian was the pastor of the Wends colonizing to Serbin in 1855. We must try to get acquainted with this gentleman. He was born in 1811 of Wendish parents in Saxony, and educated in Bautzen and then studied theology at the University of Leipzig. He was thoroughly educated, read Greek and Latin and could recite poems in Latin. At the age of 25 years he was called as assistant pastor to Hochkirch and later to Kotitz, Saxony where he served as pastor for about twelve years and was married. About 1850 he was pastor at Weigersdorf, Prussia. Here he served a congregation which had separated from the “Union” in Prussia. By “union” is meant, an amalgamation of the Lutheran and the Reformed churches in Prussia which had been established by force of arms by the king of Prussia. From Weigersdorf, Rev. John Kilian visited a number of small congregations who were likewise opposed to the “Union.” On these tiresome circuit rides his companion was Mr. Teinert (died ninety years old at Warda, forbearer of the many Teinerts in Lee County and elsewhere).
Emigration of the Wends to Texas
Many Wends had emigrated to Australia, and also our Wends, who had called John Kilian as their pastor, at first thought of going to Australia. However, reports had come from Texas that this was a fine country to live in. good land for farming, plenty of grass for the cattle, a land of flowers and plenty of woodland. These reports had come from some few Wends who had gone from Europe the year before (1853), had been shipwrecked near Cuba, but by help from New Orleans had managed to find their way to Texas.
Rev. John Kilian left with his congregation for Texas in the fall of 1854. First they came to Hull, England, crossed England by rail to Liverpool, and took the ship called Ben Nevis. There were over 500 souls, but they were almost decimated by the outbreak of cholera on the ship, then they were quarantined at Cork, Ireland, for weeks. After release they went on, but the cholera again appeared on the ship, so that altogether seventy persons (old and young) were buried in the sea. In December 1854 the ship arrived in Galveston, and at Christmas the emigrants were in Houston where Rev. Braun, then a Lutheran minister having a congregation in Houston, did all in his power to help the immigrants, and Rev John Kilian never forgot the kindness he received from Mr. Braun and some of his church members.
There was not enough shelter, however, to be had from rain and cold, some of the newcomers being obliged to remain out m the open all night. At the beginning of 1855 those of the immigrants who had the means procured wagons and oxen, moved on from Houston westward, across the wet Houston Prairie, then crossing the Brazos, and so moving slowly towards their goal, Bastrop County, where they expected to make their homes, and on arriving in the post-oak hills and the piney woods (near Warda) they decided to stay, for there was plenty of grass at that time, and Rabbs Creek had plenty of water. The trouble was now to obtain the necessary papers for the league of land they wanted to buy. After getting this matter straight, in Feb 1855, they began building huts and clearing the wilderness and one of the first things they did was to get a home for their minister which was also to be the meeting place for services on Sundays. And as a small child had died, belonging to their minister, they assigned a place for their cemetery, and the parson’s child was the first burial in this sacred place. Now, there are three pastors Kilian (John Kilian, Herman and Theodore Kilian) and teacher Gerhard resting there with a thousand of others.
Some of the following years were a sore trial to the people at Serbin. 1856 and 1857 were years of drought and crop failure.
In 1869 the first church was built and dedicated on Christmas Day, Rev. Joh. Kilian preached in Wendish, German, and English. Pastor Kilian not only preached to his flock first in Wendish and then, immediately after, in German, but he also taught school for over twelve years, as regularly as possible. However, in 1868 teacher Ernest Leubner was called and Leubner taught St. Paul’s children for several years until 1870, when he withdrew with a number of members from St. Paul’s (Kilian’s) and organized St. Peter’s church in close proximity. Of this new church we will speak in another chapter, for the present we shall continue telling the happenings in St. Paul’s.
After the Civil War prosperity came to some degree and St. Paul’s in 1869 began making preparations for a new church building. This was to be of stone (rock) and the walls to be two feet thick, the floor also to be of stone, and to provide plenty of space downstairs for the women, and upstairs for the men. It was a big undertaking, this building of the Serbin church, and was performed within a few years, the tremendous mass of material having to be hauled from some distance. The church is doing good service now providing seats for from five to six hundred people. If I am not mistaken the edifice was dedicated in 1872. Rev. Casper Braun being one of the preachers on this occasion.
In 1872, Mr. Gerhard Kilian had finished his course of studies in the Normal of Addison, Ill., and was called to be the teacher of St. Paul’s. He remained in this position 44 years, dying 1916, having since 1886 Prof. Henry Werner as the second teacher. Several others have succeeded, of whom I will mention those at present teaching in the school. viz. Prof. Kasper and Prof. Weiser, and a lady assistant, a daughter of Rev. Herm. Schmidt.
The first pastor, John Kilian, died in Sept. 1884, having served the same congregation for thirty years. His successor was Rev. Herm. Kilian, born 1869, died 1920, who was thirty-six and a half years the minister of that church, having been ordained in the summer of 1883. Thus, for two thirds of a century, the church in Serbin had only two ministers, John Kilian and his son, Hermann. Many people of this country, of course, remember the son, Hermann Kilian, who was born and raised in Serbin, later studied in Fort Wayne, Ind., and at the Seminary in St Louis. He was a conscientious and able man, well-beloved by his church and highly esteemed in the Texas District of the Mo. Synod, being honored and elected to several offices, particularly being entrusted with directing the missionary efforts of our church.
Since 1922 Rev. Herm. Schmidt is the pastor of St. Paul’s at Serbin. He also is a native of Serbin, Texas, has entered the ministry in 1898, and after having had several important congregations in Illinois and Iowa, was ten years ago, entrusted with the ministry of his home church. The congregation has about 160 voting members, 450 communing members and over one hundred and twenty-five children are being taught in the parochial school.
St. Peter’s Church at Serbin.
This was organized in 1870 by a number of members who had withdrawn from Rev. John Kilian’s congregation. This new congregation (St. Peter’s) existed for forty-four years. In 1914 it was again united with the mother church, to which also was turned over all of its property, consisting of church and school building and a dwelling for the teacher and land of which quite a number of acres had been bought by St. Peter’s.
About fifty years ago, and for thirty years after, both Serbin churches were in a flourishing condition. Each had its pastor and teacher, and St. Paul’s membership was as large, or nearly so, as now after the two churches have been reunited. St. Paul (Kilian) had about 700 baptized members while St. Peter’s had about 300. So it seems, Serbin was more thickly settled at that time than now.
Quite a number of churches have their origin from the Wendish colony (Kilian) in Lee County, eight or nine in this county, and ten in other parts of the state. People from Serbin moved to Austin, Port Arthur, Walburg (Williamson County), The Grove and Copperas Cove (both in Coryell County), Thorndale, Vernon, etc. And wherever they went, they soon began organizing a church and calling a pastor, or if they went to a place where already a church had been under way, they joined this church without delay, and tried in every way to help things along.
St. Peter’s was the first fruit of this tendency of our Wendish people to multiply and start new church communities.
They at first had a pastor who was of Wendish decent. Rev. John Pallmer (1870 to 1873). He preached both in Wendish and German. He also preached at Fedor where in the same year (1870) a congregation had been started. Pastor Palmer was a faithful and very industrious worker, but he was soon released by death, resulting from fever, of which disease also his wife had died a month or two before, leaving him a child, and this child was later, after the death of Pastor Pallmer, adopted by teacher Leubner who sent the boy to college. Many of the older people in Serbin remember teacher Pallmer who for thirty years taught in St Louis and elsewhere.
Rev. A. D. Greif was the second pastor of St. Peters. He was a German, preaching only in German, and so Wendish forever has been dropped from the pulpit of St. Peter’s. In their school it never had been taught. Leubner being the teacher at first, and later also teachers were employed who did not know Wendish.
Pastor Greif was a gifted man, a ready speaker, who also tried to start a gathering of Lutherans in Giddings (1874 and 1875) and I have been told that he preached here at certain intervals.
Pastor C. L. Geyer was called in 1876 and remained until his demise in 1892. He had been a fellow student with Rev John Kilian at the German university of Leipzig and also with Dr. Walter and was a cousin of Walter. Geyer had been in the ministry in Wisconsin sixteen years, and after that sixteen in Carlinville, Illinois, and is stay in Serbin also covered sixteen years. He was a quiet and unassuming character, but a most faithful pastor and a good preacher, and he did very much in making of his people a well-informed and indoctrinated congregation. His end came most unexpectedly. While distributing the Holy Supper he suddenly exclaimed: “I feel badly,” and then sank. He was however, caught up by some men of the vestry, was carried to his nearby home, where he expired the same day, calling on the name of Jesus and stretching forth his arms, as if to embrace Him. Geyer and Pallmer are both buried in the Serbin graveyard, as is teacher Leubner and also the wives of these mentioned.
Rev. C. Bernthal was the next pastor of St. Peter’s. He was a young man, only two years in the ministry. But strong and healthy and kindly and hopeful, and he also was a good worker, also keeping school much of his time, when there was no teacher. He served the church in Serbin for thirteen years, and is well remembered by many. One of the teachers, his name was Herter, was fatally burned by the explosion of a gasoline stove, this occurred in 1896. Pastor Bernthal was visiting at his home in Michigan at the time and Rev. Herm. Kilian attended the dying man and buried him after his struggles had been ended.
Rev. W. Pott was the last minister of St. Peter’s. He came there about 1906 and left eight years later, and then St. Peter’s was served for a time by Rev. G. W. Fischer of Giddings. Much credit is due to Rev. Fischer that through his wise direction and persistent efforts the two Serbin churches again were made one. This happy event took place in 1914, eighteen years ago.
The Church at Fedor
Whan Rev. Theo Brohm of St. Louis visited John Kilian and his church at Serbin in 1870, teacher Leubner told Rev. Brohm of the intention of some families at Fedor (then called West Yegua) to organize a church there Rev. Brohm and Leubner rode horseback, perhaps the first time they had mounted a horse, to Fedor. There they found Mr. Boback who had bought a league of land to parcel out to new comers from Serbin, and in order to attract settlers, I suppose, he donated fifty acres of the league to the church which was to be inaugurated in Fedor. Besides Mr. Boback, there wore half a dozen other heads of families who agreed on the day that Brohm and Leubner were there, to be members of a new congregation. Among them Andrew Melde, Andrew Pillack, Matth. Domann, Ernest Lehmann, Gottlieb Schroeder, etc. This was the beginning of the Fedor church. Pastor Pallmer of Serbin was asked to preach to them for a while, 1871 Rev. J. A. Proft was called as pastor, and a modest dwelling was kept school for the parish. At first also Wendish was used in the services, after a year or two the Wendish was discontinued in church and school at Fedor.
In 1873 Mr. Jacob Moerbe came to Fedor, together with other families related to him, among them August Dube, John Wuensche, Carl Dube and others. These men did much to give the church a good start. Some of their descendants still live in Fedor, for instance, Ernest Moerbe and Herm. Dube and August and Emil Dube, sons of Ernest Dube.
About sixty years ago the congregation was admitted to membership in the Missouri Synod.
Pastor Proft and his family suffered much from climatic fever, as did some of his parishioners. This was probably caused by lack of good drinking water and by hard living conditions and at that time it was unknown that fever is produced by mosquitoes, etc. Proft, the minister, built himself a house some miles away from the church, a home with two stories, and used the second story for sleeping apartments in order to escape from the fever.
In 1875 the first church building was erected and dedicated, and after being enlarged in 1889 this same building is still in use. The first school house was built in 1884, which served for 27 years, and then another schoolhouse was built and a few years later this also was enlarged, and this two room building is still doing good service. The present parsonage was erected in 1894 and the teacher’s dwelling some years ago, after the first teacher’s residence had been doing service for over forty-five years.
We shall now return to the time of Pastor Proft. His wife had died and he himself was in poor health, so he saw fit to resign at the end of 1875. The next year the writer of these lines was called by the Fedor church, after having completed his theological studies at the seminary in St. Louis. I then served the congregation for three years, from 1876 to 1879, in the latter year accepting a call to Dallas. Rev. J. M. Maisch was my successor for the next three years, and after his three years of service in Fedor he went to Walburg and Fedor again sent me a call. I returned to Fedor in 1882 and then stayed with the congregation for forty years. In 1922 I was forced to resign on account of failure of my eyesight, and since then I have made my home in Giddings.
The Fedor church had a remarkable growth about fifty yearn ago, during the years of 1880 to 1885 when twenty new families came from Germany and from Serbin. In 1884 the number of people were almost double from what they had been eight years before. About fifty families were regular attendants at services, and from fifty to sixty children in school.
In the last years, however, of the last century Thorndale became the center of interest for many of our people, for there they could get good land, raise more cotton and corn, and the upshot was that we at Fedor had to give letters of dismissal to quite a number of our good members, and within a few years we lost some thirty families, going to Thorndale or elsewhere. Their places were nevertheless, occupied by others, and the Fedor people were always mindful of the saying: “Be fruitful and multiply,” and there was a lot of children and young people. So we see today that the Fedor church is still holding its own, they have two regular teachers instructing nearly a hundred children and over three hundred communicant members, etc. Pastor Adolf Michalk is at present the minister there, and Messrs. Schroeder and Buuck are the teachers. They have German and English preaching, and Rev. Michalk is also conducting a Bible class.
The Eben-Ezer Church on San Antonio Prairie, 3 miles West of Lincoln (now defunct)
Pastor Proft, the first pastor of Fedor, was also the first pastor of this congregation, which was founded in the beginning of 1876 as was told in my last article that Proft had resigned from the congregation at Fedor. He then lived in his two-story house near West Yegua and there in the fall of 1876 he entertained the conference of all the Missouri Synod pastors in Texas who numbered only ten at that time. One of these was from near Austin (Rev. Hofius), one from Wm. Penn. Washington County (P. Klindworth), three from Harris County, Zimmermann, Maisch and A. H. Th. Meyer, two from Serbin, Greif and John Kilian, one from Warda (Stiemke) and one from Freiburg also called Blackjack (Kaspar) and Proft himself. This was the roster of that meeting. When they had met a terrific storm came up which destroyed the town of Indianola on the Gulf. The ministers were confined in that house for nearly a week. They however did not suffer any. They had enough to subsist on, slept upstairs, one beside the other, working downstairs when day broke again, and making their sermons conjointly for the next Sunday. They had a good time together, on the whole. When Rev. Meyer went home, the prairie about Houston was all under water.
I would tell a little story here of Rev. Proft which is characteristic of those pioneer days. Proft related this to me: He was out on the road riding a horse one day when he was accosted by a man holding a pistol in his hand and inviting Proft to come with him. Proft followed this invitation which was backed up by the pistol. They soon came to a house where they got off their horses and went onto the porch of the house. Then the man ordered Proft to lie down and rest a little, and the man himself lay down beside him, holding his pistol in his hand. After some time, Proft ventured to take a look, and saw that the man was sleeping. Proft then look the pistol and rode off. Some years later when living in Sherman, he showed me the pistol and said he was carrying it in his buggy when going from Sherman to Denison to preach, but he had never had occasion to make use of it, although he seemed to believe that the road was dangerous enough.
I will now proceed with my story of the Eben Ezer church. There were some families on the south side of the West Yegua who had belonged to the Fedor congregation but who now joined Proft in gathering a new assemblage of people to start a church about five miles from Fedor on the road going to Giddings. The location was not far away from Henry Sckade who is a well-known old settler and who with his brother-in-law August Lehmann belonged to the Eben Ezer church. Other members were August Wurm who tells me that he went to church in an ox-wagon; others were, Wachsmann, Sr., John Kieschnick, Werner, Aug. and Sam Meissner, Theo. Tonn, Aug. Birnbaum, and many others. Only a very of these are now living, for instance, Birnbaum, Sr., Mr Wurm, Henry Schkade.
The church was dedicated in the early spring of 1872. Pastor Proft stayed until the next year when he removed to Sherman and Rev. Jacob Kaspar was his successor. He had served the church in Blackjack (mentioned above) for ten years. He now lived at Eben Ezer for twelve years, and there are still a few who remember him, and he is yet living at the age of ninety years near Anderson, Texas.
Pastor Kaspar lived with his growing family under the same roof with his church and school, which is to say that the people worshipped at his home and the school children had their lessons in the same place – just as had been the case in Serbin in the fifties before the first Serbin church was built in 1859. And so it had been in Fedor for three or four years, and the first parsonage at Manheim was united in one building with the meeting place.
This, of course, involved some inconveniences for the family of the pastor, but there were other difficulties to be met, and one did not much consider inconvenienced at that time.
The first mission-fest I ever attended was that at Eben Ezer church in 1878. Rev. Kaspar was one of those who introduced these festivals in our churches. Services were held under large trees near the church where seats were arranged for the congregation and the guests from other communities, and a platform was built for the speakers. Rev. Simon Suess who had long been a missionary among the Negroes in West Africa was one of the speakers. He had been roughing it in the dark continent for some twenty years, often without any connection with any missionary society and supporting himself from the products of the soil.
Rev. E. H. Wischmeyer was the preacher in English to the English speaking people at our mission-fest that day. Some had come from Giddings, among them Sheriff Jim Brown.
This mission-fest at Kaspar’s church was a novelty to the people and from that time up to now our churches in Lee County and elsewhere have kept up this mission-fest custom and have profited spiritually from it, besides collecting the money needed for missions.
Eben Ezer in 1884 numbered 295 baptized members and 180 communicants. There were 39 children in school.
Immanuel Church at Giddings
I am not pretending to give a full history of this church or of any other, my intention being only this, to give some of my experiences and facts that I know. For particulars, one will have to consult the pastors of the different churches and the records they have. I know Rev. Fischer has such records of his church here in Giddings, and as next year will be the fiftieth of the life of the Immanuel congregation, we shall probably then hear or read more specific data about this church.
I know, of course, that Rev. Buchschacher, since 1881 pastor at Warda, soon began to preach also in Giddings. In 1882 teacher Henry Werner instructed some children here in a private school which was under the direction of Rev. Buchschacher and his people here, the beginning was small, of course, of both church and school. In 1883 a house was bought, and remodeled to serve as church and school on the block now occupied by August peter’s residence. The membership in 1884 was only 15, which means voting members, there being 76 baptized members and 45 communicants.
During 1887 and 1888 the Rev. Theo Wolfram preached here temporarily, as also did Rev. L. Ernst in 1889, both serving the church at Lincoln. Then Rev. Krenke was for two years the minister in Giddings and after him Rev. Kirschke (1893 to 1895). At the end of this latter year Rev. E. F. Moerbe was called and was installed early the next year. He remained here for thirteen years (1896 to 1908) and under his faithful ministry in church and school the congregation made fair progress. Moerbe’s church in 1896 had 34 voting members, 280 baptized, 180 communing members, and twelve years later there were 54 voting; 375 baptized and 250 communing members. The number of school children remaining nearly the same for this period, about 50. In the year of 1902 the present church was built, the old one was moved to its present location, and was used for school, after having been somewhat remodeled, and during later years another room was added to the schoolhouse. The church has now a parsonage and a teacher’s residence.
Rev. Fischer has been the pastor for twenty-three years and witnessed a remarkable growth. According to the latest statistics there are 117 voting members, baptized 749 and communing members 530, school enrollment 95 (week-day school with two teachers). The budget for home purposes is over $4,000 annually and over a thousand for the work of Synod, besides the mission-fest collections will usually exceed $600. We are aware that large numbers of people attending church and great sums of money collected are not the main thing to look for, for the Kingdom of God is within us, as Christ says. Yet we have every reason to believe that Immanuel church of Giddings is also in this true sense a growing church.
St. John’s Church at Lincoln
The Ebenezer congregation had been in existence ten years when a new church was built on the San Antonio prairie in the neighborhood of what now is the town of Lincoln, which had its beginning in 1889 when the S. A & A. railroad was extended to those parts. The new church, however, was built in 1886, only two miles east of Ebenezer church. The members of the new church had in part belonged to Ebenezer and said they wanted a school nearer to their homes.
So at first they were supposed to be building a schoolhouse, but when they had begun they concluded that they might as well build for church purposes also, and finally they, as is to be inferred, got the consent of the mother congregation, and were dismissed in peace.
They dedicated their new place of worship the same year, and temporarily obtained a student to teach their school. Mr. Cholcher from Springfield was there the first year, and then Rev. Theo Wolfram was called as their pastor. Wolfram accepted the call to Iowa after one year (1888) and was later president of the Iowa District of our Synod. At the beginning of 1889 Rev. L. Ernst was called who served for almost fifteen years, and one year later teacher Herman Schroeder took over the school, both men working together for many years in harmony and with splendid results.
At the close or 1891 the present fine church was built, and the old one was used and is now still being used for school purposes. A parsonage was built and the teacher’s residence, both still in use. In 1888 the church had 138 baptized and 78 communing members and fifteen years later the number had risen to 440 and 227 respectively, and the number of voting members from 18 to 60.
The school had two teachers and over 80 pupils.
At the end of 1903 Rev. Ernst resigned on account of poor health, and Rev. F. Wunderlich was the pastor for three years. In 1907 Rev. R. Osthoff was called. The recent statistics are: Baptized members 500, communing 246, voting 73, enrollment in school 72. At present Prof. R. Winter is in charge of the school.
The church-school in Lincoln was started in 1886. The teachers were the above named Cholcher, now a well-known minister in Nebraska, Wolfram, and Ernst. In 1890 Prof. Herman Schroeder was called and taught school there for over twenty years, when he accepted a call to Serbin. He resigned in 1926 and died January 15, 1931 in Giddings.
The Ebenezer Church at Manheim
This is virtually the same organization as the Ebenezer church founded 1876 on San Antonio Prairie. For it happened so that after the Lincoln church was well under way, the older Ebenezer church or congregation saw that it would be best for them to change the location and build a new church and parsonage some three and one half miles southwest in the direction toward Paige, where the church would be more in the center of members.
Pastor Jacob Kaspar had at the end of 1889 accepted a call to Cypress, Harris County, and the Ebenezer congregation was temporarily served by Rev L. Ernst of the nearby St. John’s church, Lincoln. Pastor Ernst advised and directed Ebenezer in their new plan of selling their old property and acquired another site and built a new home for their services at Manheim. Mr. Theo. Tonn gives me a list of names of members at that time They were in part: Mr. Aug. Birnbaum, Henry Koslan, Theo. Tonn, Aug. Behrendt, Karl Schulz, Aug. Meissner, Andr. Kieschnick, and Aug. Pillack. The new church which included nine rooms for the pastor and his family was dedicated in the fall of 1890. Revs. G. Birkmann and Ernst preaching and Rev. Wenzel was the first pastor of Ebenezer in Manheim. Wenzel had joined our Synod only a short while before. He says in a report to Synod that there were in his congregation 97 communing members, 225 baptized members, 37 voting members, and the enrollment of pupils was 41.
After three years Wenzel left and Rev. Gesterling was his successor who remained for only two years. Then, in 1896, Rev. C. W. Rische was called who served for ten years, and by efficient work in church and school and through his kindly intercourse with his people the church was helped greatly.
After him Rev Streckfuss was the minister for several years and in 1910 Rev. L. Heinemeier took the charge at Manheim, remaining ten years. In 1921 Rev. Rische returned to Manheim, and was heartily welcomed by his former people. He is still there. According to late statistics the congregation now numbers over 320 baptized members, 184 communing, and 54 voting members. In 1909 a new church house was built.
The Church at Lexington
The writer was asked to preach to a number of people in and near Lexington already 47 years ago. We began our service on Christmas 1885 in the Germania school house some two or three miles west of the town of Lexington. I shall mention some few names to remember: Hartfiel, Seelke (two families), Rabe, Drews and his sons Fritz, Wm. and Charles, and Mr. L. Gest, who was Mr Drew’s son-in-law, Marquardt, Schiller, Meinhardt, John Hester’s family living close by also attended, and others. We had no organ, but those people were good singers, and altogether they seemed to like coming to our meetings. The room was generally well filled, and I never had more attentive hearers than these people from near Lexington. I enjoyed driving to the Germania schoolhouse on Sunday afternoons to meet them. They knew I would never fall to come, not in the worst of weather, and even when the Middle Yegua was up, nearly out of banks, or when the bottom was under water. I will not go on telling this kind of experiences, lest one might think more of me than I deserve.
I once had a class of catechumens in the Germania schoolhouse and taught them twice a week, Bible stories and Luther’s Catechism, and as we had no organized church at that time in Lexington, I confirmed them in my church before my people in Fedor. There were nine catechumens; Charles Seelke (our former county tax collector) was one of them, and his sister (now Mrs. Geo. Marquardt) and one other Seelke, and two Pasemann girls, and the girls of Mr. Schiller, also two of Mr. Meinhardt. This was a great occasion, not only for our people at Lexington, but also for those of Fedor, who were now more hopeful as to the usefulness of my labors near Lexington.
In 1891 an organization took place of those families who wanted to constitute a congregation, they subscribed to some articles of agreement which we called our constitution, and decided to build a church in Lexington, the name of the church to be St. James’. The new building was dedicated in Dec. 1891. Rev. Ernst and Rev. Gresens preached German, Rev. Krenke of Giddings English. A band of musicians from Serbin under the leadership of Wm. Wagner furnished our music. The first pastor of St. James’ was Rev. Paul Schroeder (2 years, the next Rev. L. Heinemeier (from 1897 to 1899), Kupfernagel (1 year), Jacob Mueller (from 1902 to 1904), 1905 Rev. Hellmann was pastor, and he was succeeded by Rev. G. A. Obenhaus in 1908 to 1910. Rev. Hellmann was recalled in 1916 serving three years, after him Rev. E. J. Steyer was the pastor for ten years. The present pastor is Rev. Kautz. Thus we see this church has been suffering some from frequent change in the pastorate and also from want of new accessions. There is, however, good reason to believe that it is now on a firm basis and under good leadership, having a faithful pastor and members of much experience.
The Church at Loebau
(Rev. C. Durow)
and Dime Box
The Loebau church was first called Jerusalem church, and had Rev. Mgebroff of the Texas Synod for its pastor. However, in the beginning of the year 1896 Rev. G. P. A. Schaaf was called as pastor of Loebau. He was a member of the Missouri Synod, the congregation also becoming a member of this connection. They then also changed their name and are now called Christ church. Schaaf was a man of much learning, and a lover and student of arts, particularly that of architecture. The fine Immanuel’s church in Giddings was built after designs by Rev. Schaaf. He left for St. Louis after three years, taking with him his tremendous library which cost him nearly a hundred dollars for freight.
After Schaaf, Rev. Huge was the minister at Loebau from 1899 to 1905. He was followed by O. Bahr, from 1906 to 1909 and then Rev. Durow was called who is still serving at Loebau. The congregation has had a considerable growth in membership, being numerically almost as strong as the church at Lincoln (St. John’s) which is but five miles distant. A new church was dedicated at Loebau in the spring of 1917. The week-day school under the direction of Mr. Wendland has an enrollment of 61. Rev. C. Durow has been doing faithful and successful work in Loebau for about 23 years.
The Lutheran congregation at Dime Box, served by Rev. Durow, consists of ninety baptized and sixty communicant members. There also is a small Lutheran congregation in the neighborhood of Green’s Creek, about 8 miles southeast of Giddings. This was first served by Rev. Buchschacher of Warda, but in 1895 a pastor Greif, Jr., was called, who remained one year, and was succeeded by Rev. A. Wenzel (until 1900). Rev. F. W. Lammert was the next pastor, serving until 1903 and in a later date Rev. Almar Mueller was called who stayed with the church for quite a number or years, until the end of 1916. Since that time the church at Green’s Creek has had no resident pastor. Pastor G. W. Fischer much of the time does the ministerial work, also Rev. Lugenheim, retired, and at present Rev. Eifert of Warda is preaching in this church. For many years students from theological seminaries have been teaching school and preaching at Green’s Creek.