This article by Rev. G. Birkmann first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Voksblatt on October 26, 1933. It was translated from German by Ray Martens.
I was installed in Fedor by the Rev. G. Buchschacher in the fall of 1882, after I returned from Dallas to Fedor. At the beginning of 1883, G. M. Schleier came to Fedor as teacher. At first we lived together in the teacherage because the parsonage just then was being reconstructed to some extent. My sister Hermine, who later married Ernst Zschech, kept house for us. After the completion of the reconstruction of the parsonage, I moved there with my sister, and Teacher Schleier remained in his house, but did have his meals with us in the parsonage. That carried on until Christmas of 1883, when the teacher married a daughter of Mr. Hoeldke of Sherman. So it is that the teacher and I both spent a lot of time together that year and established a friendly relationship, which continues unto this day.
During August of 1883 I received from Mr. Wm. Winkler another invitation to visit him and to preach and perform ministerial functions. I was with the Winklers already in February of 1878, then at Moffat in Bell County, now at The Grove in Coryell County, and I reported on this trip, which I made with Ernst Winkler, in an earlier edition of the Volksblatt. In the meantime, my driver from that time died already four years ago. I made my way to Mr. Karl Krueger in Lexington, whom I had come to know as a friendly, pleasant man, and he was immediately willing to take me to Coryell County. He himself did not have a buggy, but a neighbor happily would lend him one, to which Krueger wanted to hitch his own horses. Just then he had time for such a trip, and we both promised ourselves much pleasure from it, and my trip with Mr. Krueger turned out to be a pleasant memory ever since.
The first day we drove as far as Brushy Creek and spent the night with Mr. Peter Zieschang. I remember that it was rather hot and dry, and the horses were thirsty as we drove through the creek, where there only a little water, but Krueger said, “Even if they only get their snout wet, that helps them persevere somewhat.”
The next day near noon we were only as far as Taylor, at that time only a few years old and the few houses there all new, and the name was Taylorville, not Taylor. Krueger had an acquaintance there who had just arrived with a big piece of meat and said, “We can have a feast with this.” We did, in fact, feast, and then drove on through Circleville and over the San Gabriel River. In the woods there, five years earlier with Ernst Winkler, I camped out one night, which is to say, Winkler drove with a covered wagon and had prepared everything for such a night of camping in the open, bedding, frying pan, coffee pot, along with provisions, eggs and butter, bacon, and more. Krueger, with whom I was now traveling, however, had taken along nothing of that kind. Instead, we made our way to lodgings with hospitable people.
That noon, when we were not far from Taylor, we heard a strange sound, a rumbling, which seemed to us to be like heavy beams falling on each other, as though the sound were coming from the ground. Sometime later one could read that at that very time a frightful volcanic eruption had taken place in Java, on the other side of the world. The island was named Krakatoa. It was almost totally destroyed, and thousands of people lost their lives. Still months later, the air, even here in our country, was not entirely free of volcanic ash from Krakatoa.
Krueger and I then continued our trip, and we came through the little town of Granger and, farther on, Holland, in Bell County. Here we stayed with Mr. Heinrich Schneider, a blacksmith who formerly plied his trade in Fedor (where he was my neighbor), and his wife was the daughter of C. A. Patschke, the sister of Mr. H. Patschke in Fedor. I married this couple in 1876, my first wedding. I was certainly happy to visit this family, and among their children was a little daughter who later became the wife of our well-known Rev. Emil Moerbe. Moerbe is now a resident of Aleman in Hamilton County, and there too, at a very advanced age, are also his parents-in-law, Heinrich Schneider and his wife, who already seven years ago had occasion to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary, and still today, so I am told, are quite vigorous and lively for their age,
From Holland we drove to Belton and then on the third morning of our trip arrived at the home of Mr. Wm. Winkler, not far from Moffat (today called The Grove). I already knew Wm. Winkler, and, once again, he, along with his wife, extended warm hospitality, and we enjoyed ourselves very much there in The Grove. I found pleasure in their rather interesting countryside, especially on the picturesque, even if not exactly significant, Leon River very near Mr. Winkler’s place. I gained the impression that the area was hilly, even mountainous, but later I was told that beyond the hills along the river a good area for farming was to be found, and that probably is where now most members of the congregation have established themselves quite well.
I held a worship service with a number of people, whether in the Winkler home or in the public school I do not remember.
Last summer the congregation had quite a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. Wolfram had worked there effectively as a student or vicar, and after him Rev. Ernst from Walburg (back then one said Corn Hill) served the people in The Grove until the Rev. Friedrich Wunderlich, who had begun his ministry in Falls County in 1881, took over. Wunderlich then served them for years, and also Rev. Sieck from Walburg (from 1890 on) doubtlessly was often in The Grove. [All these before they had a full-time pastor of their own.]
On Saturday, Mr. Krueger and I started our return trip, going next to Walburg, where I needed to preach on Sunday, because just then the congregation was vacant (after the departure of Rev. Maisch). Krueger was acquainted with a Mr. Bethke, who earlier had also lived near Lexington, and so we went to his home and were his guests until our departure on Monday.
But I must also mention that on that occasion in Walburg I was called to an aged woman to give her the Sacrament. She was born in 1791, and so 92 years old. What her name was I do not know anymore, though it seems to me she may have been the mother of a Mr. Schneider, but I may be wrong. But what was told me [about her age] I remember quite well. We now write 1933, which means it is 142 years between then and now.
Then on Monday we drove to Thorndale, where I visited August Polnick’s mother, who had been sick for a long time. She had previously lived with him in Fedor where he kept a small store, and I often went to his house back then to visit the suffering mother. In 1882 he transported her along with his property and goods to Thorndale, and she strongly wished that I might come there at some time.
August Polnick was the first out of our congregations in Lee County to come to Thorndale.
Mr. Krueger and I spent most of the day driving from Walburg to Thorndale, and for half of the day the horses had no water. Mr. Polnick said that he could provide feed, but no water—it was six or more miles to the San Gabriel River and the nearby Brushy Creek had no water. Then, early the next day we drove away toward Lexington. Luckily, we soon saw a tank [pond] with water, and Krueger, who had a bucket with him, hurried to bring the horses at least a little water. The point is that it was a very dry summer. I have often been to Thorndale otherwise and crossed Brushy Creek, but have never seen it so dried up as it was then during our trip in 1883.
We arrived home—first to Mr. Krueger’s place, where I spent the night. He had a large family, one daughter married to a Mr. Diestler, still at the time in Lexington, later in Walburg. Then there was a row of sons in the family and two more daughters. Their home was plain, very plain. Immediately next to it stood a tree covered with vines (Mustang grapes). It looked pretty, like an arbor, and there were in the area a number of other beauties of nature of that type, but the fruit I would prefer to leave behind. I never would develop much of a taste for Mustang grapes, saying, “They are bitter and not worth anything.” The next day Mr. Krueger brought me to my home in Fedor. We had had an interesting trip, and the time of travel did not seem long, for Mr. Krueger was a man who liked to talk about everything possible. He was also quite well read and well informed or posted, as one says. In 1913 he entered his eternal home, and his widow followed him at the age of 90.