October 20, 1938 – Memories of the Rev. A. W. Kramer, Who Died in 1920

This article was written in German by Rev. G. Birkmann for the 20 October 1938 edition of the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt. It has been translated by Ray Martens.

Twenty years have passed since Kramer resigned from the ministry in Thorndale in November of 1918, and the following lines are intended to remember the name of this truly deserving and gifted pastor of the Missouri Synod.

Adolf Kramer was born in Frohna, Mo., as a descendant of the Saxon immigrants to Missouri a hundred years ago. He prepared for the preaching ministry in Milwaukee and at the seminary of our synod in St. Louis and, in 1890, came to central Texas as one of our mission preachers, namely to Coryell County, from where he also served the congregation at Hubbard, now Malone, Hill Co., etc.

I was with him for the first time in Hubbard, where we were picked up by a member of the congregation, who then drove us twelve miles to his home, where we spent the night. There was a church service and a meeting in the church the next day. Kramer preached, and during the meeting I needed to inquire about the state of things in the congregation there and about how the pastor tended his ministry. On the occasion, I was immediately struck by his sure and self-reliant way of doing things. He had already made his plan as to how he should handle things there.

The next day we arrived at Coryell, Coryell County, where Kramer, still single, lived with a member of his congregation and seemed pleased with that arrangement. A happy note dominated the conversation. Kramer was, to the extent that I got to know him, mostly possessed of a happy nature, quick and sharp in his opinion, also loved jokes and witty sayings, and many of his jocular sayings circulated among his acquaintances. We had a worship service and a meeting also in Coryell, then drove to Clifton, where, if I am not mistaken, a church had already been built for our mission congregation. Because Kramer had to teach confirmands there, we spent a number of days with a member of the congregation named Schumacher, who had a farm on the Bosque River, where stately pecan trees were standing. When Kramer finished his teaching, we went walking in this area of natural beauty and, meanwhile, learned to know each other well and rejoiced with each other at the beautiful works of creation which the Bosque River and the entire landscape offered us.

Kramer worked in this mission field for three years. There was especially much to do when Rev. Seils was called away from Hamilton to Swiss Alp, Texas, in 1891. Then Kramer had the territory along the Texas-Pacific Railway to visit, along with his work already before that time.

Rev. Kramer was in Thorndale, Texas, from 1894 until near the end of 1918.

The congregation was still small for the first three or four years, with the result that they still had room in the little church built in 1890. But then the number of families grew so considerably from 1898 on that a new church needed to be built in 1900. The growth came out of the older congregations in Fedor and in Lincoln. One family after the other also come to Thorndale from Warda and Serbin. So it happened that what previously had been largely open prairies now were divided and sold to Wendish farmers, who could expect harvests there much richer than those in the sandy area of Lee County and Warda.

So it was that within a few years Rev. Kramer had a congregation of seventy or more families. He said, surely in jest, that a took a while before these newly arrived people became good members of the congregation. We know that he meant to say only that the people were from different areas and congregations and that it was now a question of whether they could be trained to be a uniform, working whole.

This did, in fact, happen with the passage of time, for the Thorndale congregation back then grew not merely in numbers but proved itself also in doing the work of the church and in giving for missions, etc., even if it had not grown all that much since Kramer’s time. In that period, it also had to hand over members again to later developing congregations, such as in Bishop, Texas. Nevertheless, I say that under Rev. Stelzer’s leadership the congregation developed further, especially also as concerns the parochial school, which, I believe, is now being tended by three teachers.

Rev. Kramer was often sought to preach at Mission Festivals and at church dedications and at anniversaries of congregations. I heard him, among other places, at a Mission Festival in the Lincoln church. His text was Isaiah 40[:9f.], “You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout. Lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’” The great spirit which resides in this text sounded out throughout Kramer’s sermon. His entire delivery was lively and forceful.

We observed the same thing at an anniversary service he conducted in Wm. Penn, where we had our convention in 1910 and where the congregation just then was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. Kramer preached in the afternoon at a time in July when it was rather sultry, but Kramer held us in suspense from beginning to end with his powerful delivery, and he taught and edified and encouraged all the hearers.

During two conventions of the Southern District, 1900 and 1901, he interpreted the Third Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, and to this day we are able to read these explanations with profit in the District Proceedings in question. Kramer was elected president of the Texas District at its founding in Houston in 1906. He then chaired the meetings in Walburg in 1907 and in Riesel in 1909 and opened both gatherings with encouraging addresses. Yet, at the wish of his congregation, he was not reelected because his health did not allow him to take care of the duties of the president along with his ministerial work in Thorndale. The district was not pleased with this development, but did need to submit to the wish of those in Thorndale.

Kramer was married twice. His first wife came from the same area in Missouri where he was born, namely, from Wittenberg, the daughter of a local merchant, whose name escapes me. She died in Thorndale in 1908 and left her husband a number of children, some of them still young at the time. One son has been a pastor in Minnesota for years, and another had been treasurer of our Texas District for a long time, living in Wichita Falls.

Kramer married again in 1916, this time to a teacher named Schwausch, who also bore him several children, and who now lives in San Antonio, I am told.

Our dear brother Kramer was then called away into our eternal home by the Lord of the church rather soon. He fell ill with a pulmonary hemorrhage at the end of 1918, soon after the congregation at Thorndale celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of his ministry there. In 1915 already, they had observed the fact that Kramer had been ordained as a mission preacher twenty-five years earlier in 1890, at the same time as the congregation also celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary.

When the congregation celebrated Kramer’s twenty-five years in Thorndale, he was already so sick that he had to resign, and Rev. J. F. Stelzer became his successor. Kramer was soon brought to Kerrville, Texas, where so many people with lung disease have found healing. Our director of the college in Austin, Rev. Studtmann, then pastor at Riesel; visited Kramer at the request of the Texas District.

On August 7, 1920, our dear brother Kramer was released from all evil through death. His last sigh was:

For me to live is Jesus,
To die is gain for me;
Then whensoe-er he pleases,
I meet death willingly
For Christ, my Lord and Brother,
I leave this world so dim
And gladly seek that other,
Where I shall be with him.

He died in Kerrville, but his corpse is at rest in the cemetery of his congregation in Thorndale.

Grant the body a small space in the grave of a pious
Christian until he has his rest at your side.

[These last lines translate the thought but not the poetic character of the German original.]