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3. Excerpts From Pastor Theo. Kohn's Diary, 1883-1885

mersiowsky - 12-15-2015 at 12:05 AM

This article first appeared in the March 1928 and subsequent editions of the Texas Lutheran Messenger the official newsletter of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Excerpts From Pastor Theo. Kohn's Diary, 1883-1885

Pastor Theo. Kohn's first mission trip in North Texas

After Missionary Kohn returned on the 21st of September, 1883, from the conference at Warda - for there he was ordained as missionary for North Texas - he started out on the following day on his first mission trip to Sherman and Honey Grove. In Sherman he was already known and quickly got his bearings. Here he preached on the 23rd of September and then proceeded east to Honey Grove. Not having been there before, he enquired his way. In the very first store, where he sought information concerning Germans, he met two honest Bavarians, Hoffman and Wellhoefer. They gave him the desired information, and referred him to M. Ohr. The news that the new pastor had arrived spread like wild fire in the town. The service was to begin at two o'clock, - many came already at one. Ohr and Ryser led the pastor to the "church." It was an old dilapidated church building with but a few window panes left, pigeons and chickens whirring out of the door and the windows, when the men entered. Ohr and Ryser began to sweep the floor and dust the tables and benches. Meanwhile the pastor gathered the people outside about himself to get acquainted with them. Then he entered the church, followed by all that had been able to come. The singing was good, as most of the people had come from Bavaria and brought their hymn-books along. Some thirty-five people were present - not so bad, considering that it was not Sunday and many could not get off from work. After the service Ryser invited the missionary and took him along with himself. Ryser lived about seven miles from Honey Grove on a nice farm. There the missionary was initiated into the history of this mission station.

In the "Ev. Luth Blaetter" Pastor Kohn reported in 1884 concerning the early history of the congregation at Honey Grove, in short, as follows: In 1878 G. L. Meyer and Jacob Ryser came to Honey Grove, the former from Michigan, the latter from Pastor Reid 's congregation in Peoria, Ill. Both families were loyal Christians. Mrs. Ryser wrote to her former pastor Heid, who referred her to President Stiemke, and Stiemke instructed Pastor G. Birkmann, then in Dallas (1882), to visit these people in Honey Grove. Birkmann went there in August, and found eight families, mostly Bavarians. He preached there repeatedly, and even from Fedor, he (likewise Missionary Franklin), went to see them at different times in 1883. Pastor Kohn visited Honey Grove twice in 1883 after the first visit; namely, Oct. 22-23 and Nov. 24-25.

Two festival days of Zion Congregation in Dallas

The tenth of November, 1883, the four hundredth anniversary of Luther's birth, was to be for Zion's congregation in Dallas a real rally day. Everybody was to speak to his friends about it, and invite them to come to the Lutheran church. The school-children were to practice Luther's songs; the pastor was to deliver lectures and sermons; the young people were to decorate the church with cedar and foliage. The school children were drilled, and Miss Birkmann told them about Luther. A young folk's choir prepared under the leadership of Prof. Haase, a music teacher. A nice program had been gotten up for the services in the morning and the evening. The good attendance and success amply repaid all efforts. Many in Dallas took notice of the church and school on Live Oak Street.

The other festival that was celebrated in grand style was Christmas. Also for this festival various numbers were practiced in school and among the young folk. A Christmas tree was set up and decked with ornaments. On Christmas Eve the church was packed. The children did fine, and the young people sang excellently. On Christmas day the services were not so well attended as on the foregoing evening.

The year 1884

For the New Year, services had been announced in Honey Grave. On Dec. 30th the pastor was with Schleiers, who lived northwest of Sherman near Pottsboro. Thence he went on the thirty-first to Sherman to catch the early train for Honey Grove. The train was due to depart at 6:30. It was bitingly cold. At Klein's, where he spent the night, everything was frozen, the water for washing as well as the coffee pot. This meant going to the depot unwashed and without breakfast in the face of a Norther. The train was late. At first it was said that it would arrive at nine. So the missionary had time to get breakfast.

Corn mush, breakfast bacon, and a much-coveted cup of coffee were served. Most of the people who had waited for the train gradually left. Even the agent went home. But the missionary stayed, for by two o'clock, the hour set for services, he had to be in Honey Grove. Twelve o'clock came, and still Pastor Kohn stood waiting at the depot in vain. Even if the train had now come, he could not have reached Honey Grove in time. The service had to be dropped. Later he told the people about his New Year experiences. A train arriving from the north, brought the missionary to Dallas in the evening.

The missionary goes in search of a new place

It was Plano, Texas, 25 miles north of Dallas. On January 15th I traveled first to Plano, Collin County. I visited Mr. Zuehl, whom I had met in Dallas. From him I had also heard of a Mr. Sonntag, said to live at Lebanon, 8 miles northwest of Plano. To him I had written, and he had promised to get me from Plano on the 15th of January. I was glad to be received in a friendly way by Zuehl. These people made a good impression. Zuehl called on me to pray before table. They also invited me to make my quarters with them when I would go out to search the country.

Immediately after dinner, Mr. Sonntag appeared. He had kept his word. The drive was by no means a pleasure. We had to drive seven or eight miles against a Norther. For the evening Mr. Sonntag had invited a number of families to his place for the purpose of holding services. Some had already arrived when we got there. When all had come we commenced the service, I got out my books, and urged all vigorously to join in the singing. I preached on Lc. 2, 41ss. The Holy Couple. How they themselves were zealous in the service of the Lord. How they early trained their child for church and worship. After the sermon two children were baptized.

The weather on the succeeding days was very unfavorable. It rained and snowed, and the roads got so bad that I had to stay at Sonntag's. However, I visited a sick neighbor and a certain Mr. R. On the 18th I rode accompanied by Mr. Sonntag to Allen, where I took the train to Plano.

On the next day the eastern part of Collin County was to be explored. The missionary got acquainted with Ueckert and with a family by the name of Kranz, in which there was a sick child that had not yet been baptized. He was asked to baptize the child, and he did so gladly. Everywhere he told the people that, in future, services would be conducted regularly in Plano, and invited the people to come. They all promised this. Tired and chilled after the long ride, he arrived in Plano at night, yet cheerful and happy; for the prospects were very bright that Plano would become a good mission place. There were four families in Lebanon, five in the eastern portion of Collin county (Decatur), one at Allen, and those that might be found in Plano itself.

At Mr. Zuehl's there met in a room the following: Netzer, Bonner, Lasse, Friedrich, besides Zuehl and his wife and Wieland - men, women, and children. They had been directed to come there, and were wondering what was about to happen. The missionary told them that he would conduct a service in Plano on the second of March, and that they should get ready for it. He distributed hymn-books, practiced a number of songs with them, addressed them at length, and prayed with them.

Denison, Texas

On the fifth of February the first mission tour to Denison was undertaken. The missionary held three names: Libbe, Mueller, and Uhlig. Mueller had previously lived at Sherman, and moved here. The missionary knew him, but not where he lived. Mrs. Libbe had a few years ago had her children baptized in Dallas. Her name was in the records. Uhlig was a shoemaker. His wife was a sister of Prof. C. A. Frank, D. D. Having arrived in Denison and walking down Main Street, the missionary beheld a large sign with the inscription Libbes Place. Entering he enquired for Mr. Libbe, who was an accommodating sort of a man, courteous and friendly. Libbe invited him to his home. Thus the missionary came to Libbe's and was kindly received by Mrs. Libbe, who hailed from Pastor Mennicke's congregation in Rock Island, Ill. About noon Libbe came home, and a splendid dinner was served. He told the missionary that he (Libbe) had neither interest nor time for things pertaining to the church, but that his wife would be of assistance to him, for she knew a number of Lutheran people and knew where they lived. The missionary then called on Uhlig, Stroemer, Klingmann, Lang, and others. In March 1884 the missionary was again in Denison and visited the people. He had hoped this time to be able to conduct worship in public. But a suitable hall was lacking. Nevertheless he met with the people at Klingman's, delivered an address, and with them considered where they might hold the next service. In May he again went to Denison, and he and Mr. Schellenberg succeeded in securing the Presbyterian church. About thirty-five persons were present. The church was in a good location. In June and the following months services continued to be conducted. The attendance increased.

Arlington, Tarrant County, Texas

In Arlington lived Mr. Klepper and his son-in-law, Lampe. They had been visited for years by our pastor in Dallas; by Kohn, for the first time on Feb. 15, 1884. In Lampe's home, services were held. In the evening quite a number of English-speaking families came, and the missionary expounded for them a chapter from the Bible, they sang, etc. Also this place was visited once a month. Every second Sunday the Word was preached in Dallas, on other Sundays, probably also during the week, at other places. Arlington is about 18 miles from Dallas, Plano 25, Sherman 64, Denison 74, Honey Grove 140.

The founding of St. James' Congregation at Honey Grove, Texas

On the 5th of June, 1884, the German Lutherans in and around Honey Grove met to consider the founding of a congregation. Missionary Kohn in a brief but impressive talk showed what the purpose of a Christian congregation is and pointed out the duty of every Christian to belong to such a congregation. The result was that 16 households were taken up into the organization. A constitution, proposed by the missionary and consisting of four paragraphs, was accepted. The following persons signed the constitution: Michael Bauer, George Ankele, L. Meyer, Jacob Ryser, F. Hoffmann, F. Hoehenberger, C. Fleischmann, John Edeihauser, John Lose, H. Hobach, F. Stiegleiter, and H. Vorholzer. On the 20th of June, C. Begdolt, J. Wellhoefer, and Andrew Messerer likewise signed. Messrs. Engelhardt, Loeschke, and Dram were present, but did not sign at that time. St. James' at Honey Grove accordingly became the second organized congregation in North Texas. Dallas was the first one.

Plano, Collin County, Texas

On Feb. 28, 1884, the missionary went to Plano to make arrangements for the first service. He received permission to preach in the Campbellite church on the second of March. On the three days preceding this date he once more visited all the people out in the c0untry asking them to come. The service was conducted on the second of March as announced. Not all had come that had promised to do so. Only eighteen adults put in their appearance, but the church was filled by Americans of Plano. The singing exceeded expectations, gladdening all hearts. The Americans were favorably impressed. They paid good attention to the sermon and said afterwards: "Parson, that was very nice." At night a Lenten sermon was preached in the house of Mr. Netzer. Also here English-speaking people attended. In 1884 thirteen services were conducted in Plano.


Will the rain abate sufficiently to allow me to preach in Arlington? It rained the whole night. The roads were rendered boggy. There was no getting through on the next day. The service at Arlington could not be held. And it kept on raining the entire week. Mr. Zuehl wrote by card from Plano asking me not to come on Sunday. It was simply impossible for the people to make it on those roads with their vehicles. I consoled myself with the worship I was going to conduct. that evening in Dallas. But even this hope melted away. As it had rained Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so it rained all day Sunday. Nobody came.

On Friday, the ninth of January, I traveled to Denison, and there conducted a service. Only a few had come, the roads being impassable. Saturday I drove to Pottsboro, where I intended to administer the Lord's Supper on the 11th of January. It was a strenuous trip, but I got there safely. The Pottsboro folk were a brave lot, and suffered neither rain nor bad roads to keep them away, desiring to partake of the Lord's Table. Unfortunately my wafers had become so soaked by the rain that I could not use them, and had to get some bread cut into small pieces. I gave the necessary information after the sermon, and have never heard that anyone took offense at this use of home-made bread.

I had them take me to Sherman, because I wanted to get the first train to Dallas, where I was to give catechetical instruction on Monday. Again it rained, and the roads were terrible. It took three hours to get to Sherman. My clothes were so drenched and bespattered that I had to be ashamed to be seen. I had myself conveyed to a rooming house near the depot. There I hung my clothes on chairs, went to bed, and slept till the porter woke me at two o'clock in the morning. But my clothes were not dry by then. I again had to slip on the wet apparel. At six I arrived in Dallas, where a cold rain was waiting for me, but I was glad that there were no people on the streets, who might well have marveled at the sight I presented.

My trip to the Synod in New Orleans, February, 1885

I had to leave my dear wife alone in Dallas. She was brave and confident. She said to me: "Just go ahead, and attend the synod. It will benefit you. You see, I am not alone. The Lord is with me."

On the second of February I departed from Dallas. When on the next morning I looked out, I saw that water was standing on both sides of the track. It looked like a large sea. The rivers had put all bottoms under water. Nevertheless, our train arrived only a little late in New Orleans. It was dismally dark in the depot. I was surprised. A metropolis, and such a depot! Not meeting any familiar faces, I went out and asked a cab driver how much he would take to bring me to Prieur Street, where Pastor Stiemke lived. He wanted to have two dollars. I turned away from him and asked a policeman for information. He told me which street car I had to take to get to Prieur Street.

The opening service of synod was conducted on the fourth of February in St. John's church. President Schwan preached on the basis of Lc. 9: 51-57 on legalism: 1-How it manifested itself in our text; 2-Why Jesus earnestly warns against it. In the first session that afternoon President Stiemke read his synodical address and his presidential report. Professor Pieper led the doctrinal discussions in the forenoon sessions on the theme: Living in the Faith. In the afternoon session Professor Hoppe read an essay on matters pertaining to clubs and societies. These were fine sessions. Not only Pieper and Schwan, but also other brethren talked freely and made the deliberations stimulating and interesting. In the afternoon the missions of the Southern District held the floor. The missionaries asked for more literature for free distribution. In the evening Pastor Geyer preached the pastoral sermon on 2 Tim. 1:13. Quite a number of those who attended synod stayed for the Cotton Exposition of the eleventh of February, an important event in the city of New Orleans.

On Feb. 22, a service was conducted in Honey Grove. At the close of the service a congregational meeting was held. I reported on the synod I had just attended. All paid close attention. There, upon one of the deacon arose, and reported with evident joy that the members had agreed among themselves to contribute seven dollars monthly for the missionary's salary. They hoped soon to be able to do more. I expressed my joy that of themselves they had come to this decision. It wasn't much they proposed to give, I told them, but it was a praiseworthy start.

Conference in Fedor, Sept. 1885

The missionary started out from Dallas Sept. 18. At 4 o'clock in the morning he had to change trains in Hempstead in order to get to Giddings. In Hempstead he became acquainted with a gentleman by the name of Keunicke, who invited him to his home, where Mrs. Keunicke, a Christian lady, welcomed and entertained him. Shortly past noon the train departed for Giddings. On it were pastors Wischmeyer, G. W. Behnken (1888), and Wilder. In Brenham, moreover, Pastor Wunderlich got on. By 3:30 we were in Giddings, where pastors Buchschacher, Kasper, Birkmann, Kilian (an old classmate of mine), Ernst, Leimer, Sierks (Anderson), and Suess met us. It was raining.

Sept. 20 a mission festival was held in Fedor - out in the open. In the forenoon Pastor Wilder preached on the call of the Macedonian, "Come over and help us." The collection totaled $42.05. In the afternoon Pastor Leimer preached, but it started to rain. Missionary Kohn was yet to deliver a lecture. At length, however, it rained so heavily that the people arose and went into the church. Kohn indeed continued his lecture in the church, but there no longer was any attention. The effect had been spoiled. $34.48 were collected in the afternoon.

On the following day the conference began. Pastor Wischmeyer was chosen chairman, Pastor Wunderlich, secretary. The main subject of the doctrinal discussions was the "Inspiration of the Scriptures." Pastor G. Birkmann was the essayist. In the afternoon the deliberations dealt with casuistic questions, matters pertaining to missions, etc. In the evening Pastor Wischmeyer delivered a pastoral address on the text: "Do the Work of an Evangelist." 2 Tim. 4, 5.

The Mission Board held a special session with the missionaries to adjust the salaries. They reduced my salary by three dollars a month. I shall hereafter get only $55. They owed me $137, but could pay only $37. What am I to do with that in a city of such high prices as Dallas? I had hoped that they would grant me at least $65; viz., $50 for salary, $15 for rent. But they subtracted. Debts I must not make. If my dear wife were not so circumspect and so economical a manager, we should be even now in debt. Besides, the Board wants to pay only the railroad fare. But how often a missionary must hire a horse and vehicle if he can't get on in any other way! True, the Board should not be extravagant, but this action does not further the cause. This very parsimony creates difficulties when calls such as I had two months since are received. One is asked to stay and would like to stay, but lives in a "big city where everything is high-priced and can't make ends meet. The missionary of South Texas (Schwoy is meant) stayed hardly half a year. He left at the first opportunity he had.

NOTE BY MESSENGER EDITOR REV PAUL G. BIRKMANN: We think it can do no harm, especially after the lapse of so long a time, to publish the above declaration. We can learn from it why we in Texas were subject to so frequent changes on the part of our pastors. Since the days of Kohn, however, the situation has improved. Our Mission Board forty or more years ago was so crammed with respect to funds and of ten in such dire straits, that it had to resort to the kind of economy Kohn experienced. But let the reader also consider that forty years go and long afterwards $55 could purchase as much as $100 can buy today.

On the Choctaw Creek

Oct. 26, 1885, the missionary went to see the people on the Choctaw. They lived five or six miles east of Sherman. In 1883 only two Lutheran families were there. These came several times when we conducted services at Schleier's west of Sherman. They then had to come a distance of 18 miles. Meantime other Lutheran families had settled on the Choctaw, and the missionary was asked to conduct services there regularly. Naturally, he was glad that the people wished to hear the Word of God. Still it was with reluctance that he acceded to their request. He had again and again advised the people east as well as west of Sherman to hold their services in the town of Sherman and to make this town a centrally located mission station. Thus a populous and live congregation could have come into being. But neither side cared to take his advice. The missionary considers it a mistaken policy to organize small mission places here and there in the country while passing by the cities. He knew very well that, once he started on the Choctaw, the prospects of getting a church in Sherman would come to naught for years to come. Sherman from the very beginning should have been made a preaching station, and not the rural district twelve miles away from it. In view of several families having bought land in Wichita County and being about to move there, it was resolved to conduct worship on the Choctaw on the 2nd of November. It was a fine, well­ attended gathering and the missionary found at that place: Hoeldtke, Tolkmit, Poenisch, Goetze, Sommerfeld, Paetzelhart, Mertens, Herm. Heinrich, G. Schwartzrock, widow Burbur, Miss Geissler.

November 16, the missionary had a funeral at Dallas. He had taken sick so that he could barely keep erect in the cemetery. He was burning with fever. His sickness was declared to be Dengue. For three days he had to take to bed. On the twentieth he got up again and made several sick calls. In the evening he packed a few belongings in preparation for a trip to Hamilton County.

Hamilton and Cisco.

Trinklein, the former pastor of these places, had removed to Houston. If services and confirmation classes had not already been announced, the missionary very likely would have followed the counsel of his physician and of others and stayed at home. November 22 at six o'clock in the morning he boarded the train for Morgan where he had to change. By noon he was in Hico, whence he traveled 22 miles by stage to Hamilton City. Mr. Schrank, Jr., took him out to his place on the prairie, six miles from Hamilton. Mrs. Schrank had provided a warm room and an appetizing meal. The 22nd of November was a Sunday, a cool fall day. Mr. Schrank said, "We ought to have a good attendance at church today." It was three miles to the school-house where services were to be conducted. We were the first ones there. Mr. Schrank proceeded to arrange things in the school, and presently it looked quite churchly. Still no people! The missionary asked Mr. Schrank whether he had invited the people to come here. He said: "Certainly. They are coming. It is not even eleven now." And sure enough, at a quarter of eleven the first wagon came, then the second, then a third and by eleven o'clock 15 families had appeared. Too bad that old document from which I am copying is damaged so that the names of those present cannot be deciphered.

When at the close of the service the pastor wanted the time set for the next meeting, an old man with a white beard arose and said: "Folks, we today have the preacher with us. If you all think like myself, I would move that we once more have services at 2:30 this afternoon." Mr. Schrank, Sr., rising to his feet, said: "That is a splendid idea of father. If the missionary is prepared to preach again this afternoon, I second the motion."

When the missionary had declared his willingness, it was unanimously resolved to come again in the afternoon. They drove home and returned. And behold, the attendance was larger than in the forenoon. The afternoon collection amounted to $7.

The pastor lodged again with Schrank, Sr., in whose house on the following day he instructed the class that was preparing for confirmation. On November 24 Mr. Schrank brought the missionary to Indian Gap, starting out at five a. m. so that by six o'clock we were driving through the streets of Hamilton, 27 miles from Indian Gap. The road led directly across the prairie, and I was glad that my driver knew the way. On Devil's Washboard Creek we halted. Devil's Washboard! How account for such a name? Mr. Schrank explained: "In popular speech there are striking expressions. The bed of the river is a large, broad layer of stone with wave­like grooves, over which the water flows. It resembles a washboard. And when the rainy season is on, the devil here is loose indeed." ''That may well be the case," the missionary mused as he contemplated the little phenomenon. Soon we arrived in Indian Gap. Here two mountain cones rose from the ground, the Twin Mountains, between which the road passes. Around them lie many flints, used by the Indians for their arrows. It is said that here was a large camping ground of theirs where they were encamped several months every year. At this place a man on horseback overtook us, a young fellow from McKirk, who was on his way to church. At 12:30 we reached Mr. Pflueger's place. We were hungry and needed no second call to come to the table. Services were held in a school-house. No benches were in it, but the people fetched the wagon-seats, on which the women seated themselves. The men sat or stood wherever they could. Nine or ten families were represented. Mr. Wasserman had come from a far (from Goldthwaite) to have his child baptized. He had set out the day before.

The missionary in Cisco

November 27 the missionary was home again in Dallas. However, the next day he made a trip to Cisco, where he arrived at 6 a. m. on November 29. Here he was a total stranger. All he knew was that he was scheduled to preach in the Campbellite Church. Going there at ten in the morning, he found nobody and the church closed. Next he went to the Baptist church. There he met a German who gave him information. At two in the afternoon we had services.