October 29, 1931 – St. James Lutheran Church, Lexington, Texas

This article was writtten in German by Rev Gotthilf Birkmann for the 29 October 1931 edition of the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt and translated by Ray Martens.

Before Christmas in 1885, a number of men from the surroundings of Lexington looked me up in Fedor and invited me to serve them by conducting services for them and a number of other families. I was delighted that they asked me, for already for some time I had wished that this invitation reach me because for certain reasons I did not wish to volunteer my services. To be sure, at the time I was already serving Thorndale and another place [Paige?], but still I hoped to be able to take over Lexington as well and to preach for them now and then—it could be done in the afternoon, and the distance was not too great. It was about six miles to what was called the Germania school house, where the services were to be held. This was a public school building about two miles west of the little town of Lexington on the Lexington and McDade road.

I held my first service there on Christmas, and from that time on I held services there for six years, namely until December of 1891, when the church in town was dedicated.

At first I rode horseback to get there until, in May of the following year, I obtained my first carriage, a buggy, but without a top, as we [Here and at other places in the article, the text, sometimes for several lines at a time, is illegible because the paper is badly damaged.] … as I held the first services in the school house, I was very surprised and happy that such a significant number of people had appeared. The benches were almost completely filled. Probably about twelve families came and, as a rule, with all the members of the household. The houses as the time were so isolated that even the dogs often came along to be in the company of their masters. And it also happened that these dogs sneaked into the school and hid under the benches with the result that it took some effort to get them out. Everyone who participated in that time of beginning will understand and know that only facts are being shared here.

The dear people were very friendly to me, and from time to time we had a most cordial conversation with each other after the service, even if only for a few minutes because time was limited. Evening usually was approaching when the service was over, and the people had to return home. Many had come from as far as I myself had, even though from different directions.

They were, for the most part, Plattdeutsche [people from lowland, northern Germany, where a most distinct dialect of German was spoken], and that was especially interesting to me since I had grown up among such people in Illinois. To some extent I knew the ways and temperament of these people and easily fit into their manner of life. [ illegible ] Among those still living in Lexington are Mr. Gust. [ illegible ], one of the first of them that I think about, along with the somewhat younger and still living Hy. Marquardt, both still members of St. James in Lexington. Furthermore, I mention as one of the old visitors to the Germania school house the deceased father Drews, who was always there with his likewise departed wife every time there was a service, and his children, Will, Fritz, and Charlie continue there. A daughter was married to Mr. L. Gest, and these two also were always there. Also father Seelke, the father of Charles Seelke, and his worthy sister, the wife of the Mr. Marquardt named above.

Also the brother of the aforementioned father Seelke came often, and Mr. Andr. Rabe belongs to the men who are of greatest interest to our subject, one who, however died five or six years ago. Furthermore, Mr. Pasemann came with his family, as did John Hester, who lived close to the school house, but especially his wife was a fairly regular visitor to our services. Helm, Schiller, Meinhardt, and others need to be mentioned, and probably I have overlooked several, not intentionally. And if someone from Lexington can and wishes to help me and provides for me a better and more complete list, I shall be very grateful and perhaps later shall write an article which covers everything for the Distriktsbote.

I must say that for me it was very agreeable that I could preach outside my congregation in Fedor. Surely, sometimes I was weary enough from my morning’s work in Fedor, especially on a communion Sunday, but the drive to the Germania school house [ illegible ].

Mr. Bill Symmank and his wife [ illegible ] connection with my friends in Lexington had something refreshing for me, especially when they provided for a bucket of fresh water in the summer so that the pastor, if he arrived and felt dry and thirsty, immediately would find the necessary refreshment. Then the coat was taken off, the robe put on, and the Baeffchen [white tabs worn at the neck of the robe] buttoned up—everything in view of the gathered congregation—there was no other way to do it—and then the hymn was announced. At first, when the people did not have our hymnals but, instead, their song books from Germany, they had to search here and there until the song finally was found. But the singing went well, for the most part, as people sang along willingly and happily, even if at first full agreement was not in evidence about the intended melody. For that reason, ordinarily I chose familiar hymns, and we soon achieved very beautiful congregational singing.

The sermon was listed to attentively, and I believe it was heard willingly and profitably, and I concluded from that that was why they came to the services, certainly throughout the six years that I preached in the school house, and then another three years in town, and also later, if the congregation was vacant, they repeatedly asked me to serve them again.

During the summer of 1889 I had a class of confirmands to teach in the school house. I did this during the week, taking them through a brief Bible history and having them learn Luther’s catechism, which I explained to the confirmands and tried to lay on their hearts. In September of that year, the Fedor congregation dedicated their enlarged church building, and it was there that the Lexington young people were confirmed soon after, nine of them, I believe.

E. L. Seelke was among them along with another Seelke, a cousin of the former. Along with them two of Pasemann’s daughters, one of whom is married to a Mr. Koehler, the other to a Mr. Leschber. Also two daughters of Mr. Meinhardt were among these confirmands, and a daughter (or was it two?) of Mr. Schiller, along with a daughter of the old Mr. Seelke, the sister of E. L. Seelke (Mrs. Marquardt). That was an impressive number of confirmands from our little Lexington mission, and the celebration made a deep impression on all of us, and my people in Fedor now saw that our activity in Lexington amounted to something after all.

A number of our regular attenders at the services in the fall of 1891 signed a constitution with a number of articles, which included the confession of faithfulness to the Holy Scriptures and to the symbols of our Lutheran Church and the conditions under which one could be a member of the congregation. Who those were who signed it I cannot say from memory, but it was a group who was satisfied with the conditions of the time, and these people now proceeded with the construction of a church in the town. In December everything was ready for the dedication, and pastors were invited to preach for the occasion. Rev. Gresens was one of them and Rev. Ernst the other. Rev. Krenke preached in English. A brass choir under the direction of Mr. Wilh. Wagner was also present. [ illegible ] who at the time lived in the house of Capt. Shaw.

In 1894 the congregation called a candidate for the pastoral ministry. Paul Schroeder was assigned to them. He worked effectively among them for two years, serving also at Lyons in Washington County, to which he had to make a long and often difficult trip, especially in poor weather and by way of bad roads, every two weeks.

Rev. Schroeder took a call to Wisconsin in 1896, and I served the Lexington congregation again.

In 1897, Candidate L. Heinemeier became pastor in Lexington. He served there a little more than two years and then went to Kingsbury. Kupfernagel came to Lexington in 1900, and, after a year, the congregation had to have a vacancy pastor again. As a recall, it was Rev. Ernst from Lincoln that they got to preach for them until they received their own pastor again in the person of Jakob Mueller in the fall of 1902. He too, after two years, took a call to Illinois. Finally, in 1905 Rev. Hellmann from Vernon, Texas, was called, and in him the congregation had an energetic worker who made a favorable impression also on people who did not belong to the congregation. Rev. Obenhaus followed Hellmann in 1908, staying there for eight years, until he resigned from the ministry, although later he was reinstated and now serves as pastor in Clifton. After the resignation of Obenhaus, Rev. Hellmann was called back, and he served the congregation during the critical time of the World War, 1916-18. When the war ended, Hellmann was called to William Penn, Texas, and Rev. Steyer was his successor in Lexington. He stayed there the longest time, namely ten years, before he relocated to Cisco, Texas. At present, Rev. Kautz is serving the congregation in Lexington, and at the Post Oak Conference held there recently we were able to see again the little church and the parsonage, both of which underwent several improvements and enlargements, and to my pleasure I saw that the congregation has a really nice number of communicant members and that the school is functioning well and that even a similar number of young people of the congregation belong to the Bible Class and are being taught regularly by the pastor. May God continue to bless their dear congregation!

Additionally, I wish to make mention of several sad occurrences. A man named Weber lost his life as he tried to ride quickly under a tree, probably herding cattle. He collided with a strong limb of the tree, and his neck was broken. He left behind a wife and children.

Another time, a Mr. Seelke traveled to relatives along the Little River in order to fish. It was during the heat of the summer. The men were swimming in the Little River. Seelke wandered into a dangerous place and lost his life by drowning. The word came to me that I should bury him. The body was already in Lexington. [ illegible ] during the fast ride with the man who had come to get me, first considering what I should say. When I arrived there, not only was the church filled, but the area around it was also full of people. I implored God for his help so that at least I could say something that would be salutary and worthwhile for those who had gathered, especially for the mourners.

            Such occurrences of and by themselves, however, already preach with an even more powerful voice.

                                                                        G. Birkmann, pastor emeritus

                                                                        Giddings, Texas