The following article was written by L. O. Kasper, the Upper Class Teacher of the St. Pauls School in Serbin, Texas, in 1947 and first appeared in The Giddings Star. Subsequent to that it was translated by the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt into the German language for publication in that newspaper and appeared in the 19 June 1947 edition.
“Three Bouquets” was followed by “And Their Works Do Follow Them“
It is generally known, also outside of Lutheran circles, that the Missouri Synod is celebrating its 100th Anniversary on April 26 of this year. Less known still is the fact that three of the charter members of the Synod had touched base here in Serbin. They were Pastors Fick, Brohm and Geyer.
Pastor Fick in Serbin 80 Years Ago
Pastor Hermann C. Fick visited Serbin during the summer of 1867. He came at the direction of Dr. Walther in order to resolve certain matters between St. Peter and St. Paul congregations. On the way back, later teacher, G. W. Kilian, accompanied him in order to enroll in the Teachers Seminary in Addison, Illinois.
Pastor Fick and his congregation in New Wells, Missouri belonged to the founders of the Missouri Synod. He was a delegate to the first Synodical meeting. Later he accepted the call to Collinsville, Illinois, and also became the Visitor of the Western District of the Synod, which included the states of Missouri, Illinois, Louisiana and Texas.
Pastor Fick was a gifted poet and author. One of his books, the “Lutherbuch,” was used for many years as a school text book. After having served a number of congregations in and around St. Louis, Missouri, and in Detroit, he took a call to Boston, Massachusetts, where he served till the end of 1885.
Brohm in Serbin and Fedor in 1870
Pastor Theodore Julius Brohm, another founder of the Synod, came to Serbin in 1870, as a representative of the Synod, in order to help settle certain difficulties in the St. Paul Congregation. He also was in Fedor, since the congregation there was being organized on March 10, 1870.
Brohm was one of the fathers of the Synod, who helped to build the log cabin in Perry County. From there, he took a call to New York, where he served the Trinity congregation for 15 years, till he was called to St. Louis, where he was also active as a professor at the Concordia Seminary. He died on September 21, 1881 at Addison, Illinois.
Geyer in Serbin from 1876 to 1892
Without a doubt, there are still many people living in our area who were baptized by Pastor Geyer, during the 16 years that he served the St. Peters Congregation in Serbin, and it is therefore appropriate to report a bit more about this fellow founder of the Synod.
He is the man about whom the story is told as to how he became aware of Luther’s works in a hotel, when he found a page of Luther’s works folded in a piece of cheese that he was eating. When he inquired about this, he found the complete works of Luther in another room of the hotel, bought it cheaply, and had diligently studied them.
Pastor Geyer was Dr. Walther’s cousin (their mothers were sisters). Already as a youth, he had the desire to become a Lutheran pastor. That was also the wish of his godly mother. His father, Carl Friedrich August Geyer, who had a small tin business, died when Carl was only one year old. Pastor Geyer was one of the Saxon immigrants who came to America in 1839 on the ship, Johann Georg, and then came to St. Louis with Dr. Walther. He was the first teacher of a group of 120 Saxons who remained in St. Louis. He was the author of the first “Fibel,” or ABC Book, that was used as a school textbook for a long time.
Served First as a Teacher
A few days after the arrival of the Saxon fathers in St. Louis, on January 18, 1839, there was already a Lutheran Church School in full use. In the colony of 700 immigrants, there were 110 children of school age. The only trained teacher, named as such, was J. F. Ferdinand Winter. There also were several theological candidates who helped out. One of these was Geyer. He lived with his cousin Pastor Otto Hermann Walther (Dr. Walther’s brother and the poet of the Saxon colony) in a two-story building. Geyer lived on the first floor, in a corner of a room in which he ate and slept. Here he instructed 38 children daily for 11 months of the year. His salary was $10.00 a month.
After he had taught school here for a year, Candidate Geyer received a call as a teacher in Perry County, Missouri, in 1840, were he served for about 4 years. In 1844, there came a call from a number of Prussians in Lebanon, Wisconsin, close to Watertown, who wanted a Lutheran pastor. Teacher Geyer, who had already served as a home tutor in Germany, was ordained as a pastor on October 23, 1844, and started on his way to Lebanon. He had the good fortune to get on the last ship going between Chicago and Milwaukee. There, several of the congregation members met him and transported him to Lebanon in an oxcart. Now, Chicago is the largest railroad center in the world, but at that time had only 16,000 residents and not one railroad.
It was 50 miles from Milwaukee to Lebanon, and the road that the oxcart had to take was quite bumpy, Pastor Geyer made his initial sermon on November 21, 1844. The people were overall poor, and the pastor did not get a definite salary. The little money that he received, he shared with the people that were poorer than he. For a time, the congregation had neither a parsonage nor a church, and the pastor lived with congregation members.
Married by a Justice of the Peace
After about one year, Pastor Geyer became engaged to Miss Johanna Maria Schwefel, from a Salzburg family who had 100 years earlier immigrated to the state of Georgia. The wedding date was set for Epiphany Sunday 1846, but they could not find a Lutheran pastor. So the bridal couple and several elders of the congregation got on their way in bitter cold, again by oxcart, on the way to a Norwegian pastor 60 miles away. When they got there, they found out that the pastor was not an orthodox Lutheran, so the disappointed people started on the way home again. Here, Pastor Geyer held his Epiphany sermon, an elder reqd the wedding format, and a Justice of the Peace completed the act of marriage. Geyer was criticized for dealing this way, but what else could he do? His congregation members understood the circumstances and approved his way of dealing with it.
In Wisconsin, Pastor Geyer diligently carried on mission work. His activities reached east all the way to Milwaukee, and then toward the north to Freistadt. His mission travels were made on foot, on horseback, or by oxcart. He organized the congregation at Watertown, and installed their pastor, Anton Wagner.
Takes Call to Serbin
Geyer worked in Lebanon for 16 years. In 1860, he took a call to Collinsville, Illinois, where he worked for another 16 years, from 1860-1876. Then he was called to the St. Peters congregation in Serbin, where he then, till his death in 1892, had again worked for 16 years. All together, Pastor Geyer served for 48 years as a pastor, 9 years as a teacher, for a total 57 years serving congregations.
Pastor Geyer suffered a stroke on March 6, 1892, as he was distributing Holy Communion. Still on the same Sunday afternoon he entered the joy of his Lord. What a wonderful departure on the Day of the Lord, serving in the House of the Lord, as he was called away by the Lord of the Church.
At this year’s school celebration in Serbin, the old Synodical Fathers were remembered. For this occasion, the church was beautifully decorated by Mrs. G. K. Dunk. After the worship service, all went to the cemetery where the school children then placed a beautiful flower bouquet on the grave of Pastor Geyer.