October 1, 1936 – Memories of Congregations in Earlier Times I

This article, written in German by Rev. Gotthilf Birkmann and translated by Ray Martens frst appeared in the 1 Oct 1936 edition of the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt.

Dear Mr. Proske [Editor of the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt],

You are an old resident of Lee County, as I am. You were in Serbin when a conference was held there in 1878, as you have told me. I came to Texas two years before that, at just about this time during September of 1876. My ordination and installation at Fedor—at the time, one said “on the West Yegua”—were conducted by Rev. C. L. Geyer.

I do not wish to tell about myself, but, instead, about what interests me and probably you with regard to the circumstances of the congregations served by pastors of our Missouri Synod in

Texas at that time. I would like to report especially about the increase in the number of our congregations in the two decades following until 1896.

It should be understood in this connection that not all of these congregations already belonged to the Missouri Synod, but that they were served by our pastors and then became affiliated as members of the synod by and by, with only a few exceptions.

In our Lee County, there were four such congregations when I came to Texas, the oldest, naturally, being St. Paul in Serbin, which had immigrated in 1854 with their pastor Johann Kilian and made their purchase in February of the following year.

The second congregation was St. Peter in Serbin, which separated from the one above and whose pastor from 1876 to 1892 was L. Geyer [following Pallmer and Greif].

The third congregation in Lee County was the one on the West Yegua, now Fedor, founded in 1870 and first served by Rev. Pallmer, but which received as their own pastor in 1871 Rev. J. A. Proft, who resigned in 1875, but then gathered a fourth congregation in our county, namely, Ebenezer, which had its property on the north edge of the San Antonio Prairie and was able to dedicate its own church at the beginning of 1876 with Proft as its first pastor. He accepted a call to Sherman the following year, at which time Rev. Kaspar was called and served there in church and school for twelve years. Then this congregation moved its center to what is now Manheim and called Rev. A. Wenzel in 1890.

Congregations in Fayette County

First to be named is Warda, where Rev. Tim. Stiemke was called in the fall of 1874, followed in 1881 by Rev. G. Buchschacher.

Beyond that was Swiss Alp, previously named Louis Settlement. Father Johann Kilian had preached there in previous years, then Geyer, and Stiemke especially made himself useful in the founding of the congregation in Swiss Alp and ordained and installed Rev. E. H. Wischmeyer [Birkmann’s seminary classmate, who accompanied him on the trip to Texas in 1876] as their first resident pastor.

Stiemke also had a favorable influence on Rev. Kaspar. He had been a member of the Texas Synod and since 1867 had served the congregation at Engel—at the time the place was called Blackjack. Through reading Der Lutheraner and other periodicals and books of the Missouri Synod, and especially through Stiemke’s instruction, he was moved to leave the Texas Synod and to affiliate with the Missouri Synod. Kaspar, as noted above, became the pastor of Ebenezer in Lee County in 1877, and Suess became his successor in Blackjack.

In Washington County

We had only one congregation in Washington County, the one in William Penn, to which Rev. Greif was called—I should say that he was first called to Prairie Hill, but soon served also William Penn, to where he was called soon thereafter and took up his residence there—until he was called to St. Peter in Serbin after the death of Rev. Pallmer, where he served in 1874 and 1875. The congregation at William Penn began already in 1860, and so existed for ten years before Greif was called there. After Greif, it was served by Rev. Peter Klindworth until 1890. Then followed Schaaf, Foerster, Iverson, Bohot, Hellmann, and now Rev. Appel. The Texas District met in William Penn in 1910.

Harris County

We had four congregations there. Rev. Kaspar Braun was in Houston, a man who was received into the Western District of our synod in 1876. Dr. Walther had examined him in the presence of the assembled convention. Braun was already a rather elderly man who had conducted his ministry for twenty-five years in accord with his own opinion and confession, not able to find his way into our way of doing things. After a few years, he announced his departure from the synod. His congregation split, and one part turned to our pastors for advice and service.

Rev. Roesener from Rose Hill and Stiemke from Warda took charge of these people, held gatherings, and Visitator [a position staffed by the synod and given oversight of congregations in a specific area] Koesterling also involved himself in this subject. The result was that the newly founded congregation, named Trinity, continued and at the end of 1879 called Rev. Stiemke, who cared for them until 1892.

Gotthold Kuehn followed Stiemke, then J. J. Trinklein, Joh. Barthel, C. F. Brommer, C. A. Waech, and J. W. Behnken, who was in Houston for twenty-nine years, twenty-seven of them at Trinity. [He had at first been assigned as a missionary to Houston upon his graduation.] Now Rev. Oliver Harms serves there.

I name Rose Hill as the next congregation in Harris County. There Salem came into existence already in 1852, served first by Rev. Ebinger and Rev. Woerner, both of whom belonged to another synod. In 1868 the congregation called a candidate named Zimmermann from our St. Louis seminary. He preached and performed pastoral functions for eight years, not only in Rose Hill, but also in what is now Klein. He was also the founder of the congregation in Klein, which called Rev. M. Maisch at the end of 1874, followed six years later by Aug. Wilder and then by a number of other pastors. Rev. Fischer also worked there from 1900 to 1907, and, after him, Waech and Deffner and Hoemann. Rev. G. Naumann is there now.

The fourth congregation in Harris County which allowed itself to be served by us and where we still serve is the one at Cypress. Earlier the community was called Little Cypress, while the congregation at Klein was called Big Cypress. Cypress had a man named A. Schnidt as its preacher already in 1872, one who stayed there only a little more than one year. After that, the congregation was served temporarily out of Klein until Rev. Hofius was called to Cypress. He worked there from 1876 to 1878 and then went to Nebraska. Then Rev. Roesener served the congregation again, and then a student, G. W. Behnken, father of J. W. Behnken, conducted school and preached there, first as a vicar. He also attended the founding of the Southern District in New Orleans in 1882. During the summer of the same year he passed his colloquy examination and then became pastor in Cypress until the end of 1886, when he resigned due to illness and was called away to the rest of the people of God in 1888. A list of others followed him in the congregation at Cypress, among them Kaspar, Bierman, W. Dube, Lugenheim, and, since 1919, Rev. F. W. Lammert.

This was the extent of our congregations when the undersigned came to Texas sixty years ago. A full dozen congregations but only eleven pastors, for Zimmermann left Rose Hill in the fall of 1876. Ten years after the end of 1876, ten more congregations had joined the group, and I wish to report something about them later. Beyond that also about the twenty-six congregations which shaped the growth for our synod in the period 1886 to 1896.

With greetings from your old friend,
G. Birkmann