This article by Rev G. Birkmann, in the form of a letter to the edtor, first appeared in German in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt on 1 September 1932. It is presented here translated by Ray Martens.
Submitted by the Rev. G. Birkmann, em.
August 26, 1932
Dear Mr. Proske: [publisher of the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt]
I believe that you surely know that I am staying with my son, the Rev. Paul G. Birkmann in Harris County, Texas. I have already written a number of contributions to your newspaper from here (Hufsmith, Route 1). But today I would like to report local events, and so you will forgive me if some remarks appear which relate to me and my family. My son Paul has been pastor here for ten years. He serves two congregations, Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church of Rose Hill and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hufsmith. Both are in the northern part of Harris County, very near Spring Creek, which forms the northern boundary of the county. The Rose Hill congregation observed its 75th anniversary five years ago and so is now eighty years old, the oldest of our synod (Missouri) in Texas.
Its first pastor was Ebinger, who came to this region from Chrischona in Switzerland (an institution for the preparation of missionaries named after a saint). He spent a number of years here under much privation and illness and was one of the founding members of the Texas Synod, to which Rev. Braun in Houston also belonged eighty years ago. Later Ebinger served as pastor in Galveston, then went back to Switzerland, and finally served a congregation near Brenham. After Ebinger, a certain Rev. Werner came to Rose Hill. He returned to Iowa, from where he probably originated. In 1868, the Rev. Johann Zimmermann, who had studied at the seminary of the Missouri Synod, came here and was ordained and installed by the Rev. Johann Kilian with the assistance of Rev. Braun. Kilian made the long trip here from Serbin by carriage, which required a number of days to accomplish. Zimmermann, like his successor exerted significant effort in behalf of the congregation and, at least from time to time, taught the children in school. A number of families also came from Big Cypress (now called Klein), an area twelve miles away, to hear the sermons and to have their children baptized and instructed. Zimmermann left Texas again in 1876, and the Rev. Paul Roesener stepped into his ministry here during the next year. During his time, the first teacher (Hennig) was called. He stayed here four years and conducted the congregation’s school regularly and also took care of the young people and formed a choir.
Also, because they considered themselves to be in good condition, they built a large church during Roesener’s time, in 1880. They did not need to go far for the lumber. Pine trees are very common here, and at that time much lumber was being cut in the area. It cost about nine dollars per thousand [board feet?]. For this reason, wood was used extensively in building, and it was of the best quality.
After Roesener, who already accepted a call to New Orleans after three and a half years, the Rev, E. H. Wischmeyer came here and served for seven years in church and school faithfully and effectively. Illness in the family led to his call to the north in 1888. His successor was Gotthold Mueller, and then, after three years, Rev. Gaus, who persevered for eight years and who also found his congregation willing to invite the convention of the Southern District. That happed in 1893. That may have involved seventy to eighty guests, who for a week were well cared for, and the congregation was happy to be able to provide this service.
The Rev. R. Oertel came here after Gaus, and the congregation became vacant again after four years, and that for a full year. In 1906, the Rev. C. W. Rische accepted the call to Rose Hill, and he served longer than any of their pastors, namely fifteen years (1906 to 1921). For ten years, as reported, my son Paul has occupied this ministry. As did Rische before him, Paul Birkmann also serves the smaller congregation at Hufsmith, near Rose Hill. It has existed for twenty-seven years since it branched off from the old Rose Hill congregation. It has its own building, but no weekday school. The children of that congregation in part attend the school of the Rose Hill congregation.
The roadway connection between the two is good, allowing the pastor to drive from Rose Hill to Hufsmith in less than half an hour. Nowhere here are there any highways, but there are also no hills and valleys here in that this entire region of Harris County is level prairieland. We are thirty-five miles from Houston, which can be reached in an hour, and, as a result, especially on good roads, those who own cars are not dependent on country stores but do their business for the most part in Houston. Two of my daughters were married in the Hufsmith congregation, namely, Alma, to Abe Hillegeist, and Ella, to Alfred Martens. Abe has many milk cows and so operates what is called a dairy, and Alfred manages a farm, where he raises corn and cotton, peanuts and melons, and Ella has many chickens, etc. That the market has been weak and partly in trouble is well known. But most of the people here have been raising the type of product which they could take to the city in order to get the money they needed [apparently, truck farming]. This is much more nearly the case here than in Lee County.
The political pot has also been boiling significantly here this summer. The farmers here are fairly well organized. Most of them attend a community hall in Tomball on certain evenings, a place where they can hear political speeches, and many farmers belong to a group called the Taxpayers Association. It is organized in such a way that they can more effectively raise their objections to the political office holders with their own plans and demands.
A word frequently heard here is the word “dipping.” The people in Giddings know what the word means. Everyone here in this area must dip their cows and calves, and one sees again and again entire herds being driven on the highway to the dipping vats.
The climate here is not altogether different from that in Lee County. Ordinarily, if we have to suffer through a drought, that is also the case in Lee County. But, in general, we do have a wetter climate, by which the area is also better suited for producing products for the market in the big city of Houston. Harris County is rather large, and most of the land is still not under cultivation. One drives for miles through stretches largely unpopulated. But when the city finally begins, there is plenty of it, almost unending.