June 9, 1938 – A Confirmation in Shiner Texas, 1889

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann, Pastor Emeritus, first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt on June 9, 1938. It was translated from German by Ray Martens.


The congregation in Shiner came into existence through the diligent and difficult work of our missionary, the Rev. Michael Leimer, who lived in Swiss Alp, but spent much time in the saddle to visit the scattered members of the faith, to preach to them and to gather them into congregations. In Shiner this developed to the point of the construction of a little church, not far from the small town, as I recall, and a student named Schedler conducted school and instructed a class of confirmands in it—maybe eight or more. When Leimer accepted a call to Nebraska in the spring of 1889, he asked me to confirm those children. I set a Sunday on which to do that, and then considered how I could reach Shiner. The Aransas Pass Railway, which goes to Shiner, was complete only as far as West Point, several miles on the right side of the Colorado River. In order to use that train, I had to travel to West Point. That was not easy, for the train left early in the morning, around seven o’clock, and I would drive thirty miles in the dark to get to the river, and then, still at night, cross the river on a very primitive ferry boat with my carriage. And where should I leave my horses as I traveled farther on the train?

Then I had a good idea. With my family, I wanted to visit Mr. Albert Peter, my brother-in-law, who lived then at Pin Oak on his farm, and who then would take me early enough through Winchester and across the river to West Point.

So on Friday we drove to Serbin to my brother-in-law, the Rev. Hermann Kilian, and then farther along to Albert Peter and his wife, Therese, my wife’s sister. It was truly wonderful to be with these people once again. Mrs. Peter had several young daughters who were happy to see their dear aunt once again.

Mr. Peter awakened me early enough the next morning and drove me with his horses and my buggy. It was very dark, and, from Winchester to the river, the road was very bad, the wheels going through holes and over stumps, about which Peter said that a carriage as light as my buggy had not been made for a road like that. Some time went by at the river before the ferry boat came, and then more time before we made it safely across. When we finally arrived at the station, my train had disappeared. That was a bad situation. We stood there and considered what to do. The result was that I notified the people in Shiner that I had arrived too late to catch the train and asked them to expect me the following Sunday.

Mr. Peter then took me back to his house, where my wife had stayed, and we were able to enjoy our visit for another day. I was certainly not pleased with this, would much rather have been in Shiner to serve the people there.

The next day we visited our brother-in-law, the Rev. Hermann Kilian in Serbin, and on that occasion I attended the Wendish service. [The account suggests that this was on a Monday. There must be some lapse of memory about the occasion on which this occurred unless this happened to be Easter Monday or Pentecost Monday, both of which the Wends observed.] It was interesting to me to hear how fluently this young pastor could speak in the language of his fathers, since for the nine years he had studied [for the ministry] he could not practice or develop his skill. The German service followed the Wendish, a little shorter, but the sermon was the same as in the Wendish service. In this way, Rev. Kilian, like his father before him, for many years preached and performed other duties of his office in both languages Sunday after Sunday, and, during the last year of the war [1918?], Kilian preached also in English.

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again

The following week, then, I arrived in Shiner in timely fashion, already on Saturday morning, and I was welcomed by a member of the congregation named Morgenroth. The vicar also lived with him, Student Schedler, and I was very happy to converse with him and to discuss all the necessary details. Schedler was to examine before the congregation the children whom he had instructed. Mr. Morgenroth had his farm not at all far from the church, and Schedler and I rode over there on that Saturday because I wanted to take an advance look at the church. He liked to ride fast, preferred a gallop. Both of our horses belonged to Mr. Morgenroth. Naturally, one horse did not wish to fall behind the other—we arrived in a sort of a tie. On Sunday morning, we found a very nice number of people outside by the church, and we greeted and shook hands with all of them. I heard a man, obviously a Plattdeutscher [one who spoke the dialect of the far northern part of Germany], openly said to Schedler, “Sie sehen ja huet so schiederig ut.” {“Today you look so shiederig.”] That surely was an unusual greeting, no encouragement for the dear man who today would take care of such important work for the congregation. Yet, what the word “schiederig” means is still not clear to me today.

The children passed their examination quite well. Afterward, I delivered the address and confirmed them. That afternoon I held a service of confession and the Lord’s Supper. People had come to Shiner also from Swiss Alp. I remember that father Kaase, a well-known man from Swiss Alp, sat right in front of me as I delivered the confessional address. There were also others who had previously lived in Swiss Alp, but had bought land in Shiner, Sanders, for example. Rev. Leimer mentioned him and perhaps others in a report on his work in Shiner and also mentions that they were willing and soon tended to the purchase of the church property and saw to it that the church was built. Candidate G. Bernthal was called to Shiner in the fall of 1890 as the first resident pastor of our synod.

As I made my return trip on the train, I was able to ride up to the Colorado River, where I got off. A bridge for the train was being built at that very time. At the site was a kind of camp for the workers and a temporary building where especially those who managed the bridge builders, the contractors, found overnight accommodations. My train arrived at this place at night, and I was received by these people and assigned a bed. One of the men soon went to bed, and one could hear that he was soon in a deep sleep. He had worked all day, and now he was doing his night job, sawing beams and boards, from the way it sounded. I lay awake for a long time, but I finally dozed off and probably helped with the sawing.

Early the next morning, my brother in law- Peter came and picked me up. I crossed on the ferry boat and finally arrived home happy with my family.