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Author: Subject: 4. Recollections of My Work in Texas by Rev. August Wenzel, 1887-1907
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[*] posted on 12-15-2015 at 05:01 PM
4. Recollections of My Work in Texas by Rev. August Wenzel, 1887-1907



This diary first appeared in the November 1937 and subsequent editions of the Texas Lutheran Messenger, the official newsletter of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Recollections of My Work in Texas

By Rev. August Wenzel


Editor's Note [Rev. Paul G. Birkmann] - Pastor Wenzel lives in retirement in New Orleans. Recently the Southern District observed his golden anniversary. He devoted almost twenty years of his life to the service of the Texas District. It is therefore appropriate at this time to publish his report on his labors in Texas. This report was written by request of Rev. Birkmann in 1923.

As a graduate of Ebenezer Seminary in Kropp, Schleswig-Holstein, and as an emissary of the General Council, in February 1887, I came to Brenham, Texas and stayed with a certain Pastor Kastner. The latter presented me to the president of the Texas Synod, Rev. E. Huber of Welcome, Texas, who sent me to Paige six weeks later. I was ordained, May 2, 1887 at Burton, while the Texas Synod was in session there.

Manheim

In the spring of 1889 I resigned because the congregation at Paige wanted me to teach the public school, and refused to re-embody a lodge paragraph into its constitution. I accepted a call to Ross Prairie-Fayetteville. I preached at both places and also at Ellinger and a settlement between Ellinger and Columbus. In 1890 I had to resign because I had meanwhile left the Texas Synod. After passing a colloquium at Giddings I accepted a call to Ebenezer, now Manheim, where I was installed by Pastor G. Birkmann, assisted by Pastor L. Ernst. The congregation numbered ninety souls. Twenty-five children attended school. Among the members were August Birnbaum, A. Kieschnick, August Behrens, Koslan, Meissner, Tonn, and the widows Paul and Fichte. One building served as church, school, and parsonage; the kitchen and dining room, however, were a separate building. At this time the constitution was adopted which most likely is still in force.

In October 1893 I came to be missionary in Cat Spring and Sealy, Austin County. My predecessor was Pastor P. G. Heckel, now in Tampa, Florida. I also took care of Pastor Foerster's former charge, Pattison. Cat Spring had a parsonage and so I lived there. Cat Spring was a former ward of the Texas Synod. In the constitution was a paragraph to the effect that everybody paying at least $2 dues annually was to be considered a voting member without having been received by formal vote. There was a surprised look on the face of the people when I advised them to make the paragraph read that voting members are to be received by vote and that only such are to be admitted to membership as professed adherence to Lutheran doctrine, even though they did not pledge a definite amount. When I explained that first the hearts have to be won for Christ, and then the money would come, I found but little sympathy with these views. This example shows at what a low ebb spiritual life was. Still here too, there was quite a few sensible, good people, such as the Stuessels, the Schwanbecks, the Michaelis, the Wilkes, and others. Deserving of special mention are the pious women Stuessel and Wilkes, who made themselves very useful to the Lutheran church at Cat Spring. The congregational cemetery was always kept in very good condition.

Sealy and Pattison

At Sealy, first served by Pastor Trinklein, I had a very dilapidated little church. At my time, however, a new church was built. But few of the people of the town came to church. Influential members of the congregation were Fritz Remmert, Geo. Eccarius, and Otto Nolte. The section foreman, August Beckmann, kept his doors open for me day and night, and often I availed myself of his hospitality. Later the families Hoffman and Koepke showed me great kindness. During one summer I taught school in the new church. Catechumen instruction was given by me also on the San Bernard River to save the children the long way to town.

In Pattison the services were conducted in the public school. They were well attended. Mr. and Mrs. Ferdinand Stenzel were very active in keeping the congregation together and furthering its interests. Instructions preparatory for confirmation had to begin with lessons in the "Fibel" to enable the children to read.

If in the forenoon I had church in Sealy I drove through the noon hours to Wallis, where I preached in private homes and in the public school.

Needville

In 1894 I began to do mission work in Richmond and on Rosenberg Prairie near Needville, Fort Bend County. Pastor Gans of Rose Hill, who had preached at Needville, called my attention to Mr. Cesinger. Before long I had a considerable audience in the latter's home. He went with me to look up new settlers and helped in many ways, as later on did his son Geo. Cesinger. Sad to say, most of my hearers joined the newly founded order of the Sons of Hermann. Only the families Cesinger and Albert Schmidt remained loyal when I raised my voice against the lodge evil. On Mr. Cesinger's removal to Richmond I preached there in his home to a small audience. Mr. Schmidt quite often fetched me to his home 15 miles beyond Needville for services. We hoped that after all some might return to our church or new settlers be won and thus the mission be continued.

In 1894 I made my first visit to Wharton. Harris County Lutherans had moved there. Several of these I found on the Bernard River, 18 miles south of Wharton, others 8 miles from Wharton in a community named Kriegel after the post office. I began by preaching at both places. Later I preached at Kriegel only, both in the school building and in the homes, the people of the former place having moved here. Occasionally I conducted services at Mr. Lampert's place on the Colorado River. Lampert, Leopold Teske, Geo. Chudalla, Henry Lucko, and others met me at the station whenever I could not come by buggy, and that was often.

From the Wharton people I learned of a Lutheran settlement desiring services on Boggy Bayou, 40 miles south of Wharton. Leopold Teske took me there. On Ascension Day, 1894 I conducted the first services in the home of Mr. Kaak, Sr. Then the others gave their home by turn for purposes of worship. Later we gathered in the school house. At that time rice was not grown as yet at Matagorda. Bay City and other towns now on these coastal plains were still non-existent. Large herds of cattle grazed on the ranges. Boggy Bayou lies 7 miles to the east of Bay City. Besides Kaak, also Tobeck, Beblich, Steinmeyer, and Huck were of great assistance to me.

In 1895, Orchard, 6 miles south of Wharton, was settled. As soon as I heard of it I visited the people, preaching in the houses and in the school. The families Wilke, Hintsch, and Bourne entertained me there.

The selfsame year I came to Ganado for the first time. A family from Nebraska had moved here and sought church connections. Their name if I remember right was Sprandel. The head of the house invited Lutheran people to his home and presented me to them. Following this, we used the Swedish Lutheran church in Ganado. When Sprandel left, Mr. and Mrs. Pagel took the lead. Among the families that came to church I remember Schmidt, Redmann, Hackbarth, Wolters. Some of them had to come more than 12 miles. In 1896 the Mission Board called Rev. Martin Pott to relieve me of my places in Fort Bend, Wharton, and Jackson County. I ordained and installed him at all these stations. However, he took malaria and returned to St. Louis after a stay of only six weeks.

For Sealy, Pattison, and Orchard (Wallis), the Mission Board in the following year called Pastor Roglitz. I continued to dwell in Cat Spring, the place with the parsonage, and from there looked after the stations in the southern part of the counties mentioned above. To make it unnecessary for the people to come great distances to meet me at the depot and to save the mission treasury traveling expenses, I often went by buggy in bad roads, in bad weather, amid great hardships.

Towards the close of 1897 I accepted a call to Greens Creek. I was not so good a musician nor so fluent in English as my predecessor Pastor Greif, and therefore the congregation felt rather disappointed in me, as I soon found out. In my former parishes I frequently had to function as both pastor and deacon, and accordingly failed to consult the elders sufficiently. Six days I had to be in school so that only Saturday remained to study my sermon and to buy the necessary sup­ plies. My family was large, my salary small. I had to make debts, not receiving my salary until the fall of the year. These troubles preyed on my mind and caused insomnia. My health failed, and I had to resign. This was in 1900. After this I lived in Frelsberg, Sealy, and Giddings on an allowance of $100.00 granted me by the Southern District.

Back to Wharton

In Sept. of this year the Mission Board assigned me to the parish which had become vacant by the departure of Rev. Geo. Lienhardt. Here I commenced work in Oct. The church, which the congregation had purchased from the Methodists, had been wrecked by the Galveston storm. This storm had also destroyed the crops, but help came. $1500 was collected within Synod for this parish. Of this sum about one-half was used to reconstruct the church, the other half was distributed among needy brethren. From Wharton I supplied Needville (Beasley), whither two families from Honey Grove and several families from northern states had moved. Not all these stayed. I taught catechumen classes at Wharton, Beasley, Bay City, and in the vicinity of Edna, where I had to begin by teaching to read. It was therefore impossible for me to start a parochial school as some of my colleagues wished. At Wharton the people lived so far apart and so far from town that a regular parish school was impractical. However, my wife conducted Sunday School in Wharton. At this time I discovered the families Wuttrich, Matthjes, and Heil six miles west of Wharton. Special mention should be given F. Ahldag, a merchant, who rendered distinguished service. I am also thinking of Lampert and Kaiser, a fine type. At Wharton my family and I were sick a great deal with malaria.

At Orchard I had to take a stand against lodgism and spiritualism. This caused most of the people to turn away from us.

Shelby and Willow Spring

In May the Mission Board transferred me to Shelby and Willow Spring. Shelby for more than 25 years had been in the charge of Pastor Moegli, a former pastor of the Texas Synod. Willow Spring had been the charge of Gerstmann, also of the Texas Synod. Moegli's successor, Pastor Frieling, a member of the Texas District of the Iowa Synod, insisted that children be brought to church for baptism, and declined to officiate at the funeral of a child which had died without baptism. This caused a split in the congregation. The dissatisfied obtained a pastor from the Texas Synod, but when he went over to the Methodists, they asked our Synod for a minister. I was sent to this congregation at Shelby, of which Wunderlich, Pfeiffer, and Eixmann were prominent members. There were many fine, likable people in Shelby. Church attendance improved, but alas, here also I found many lodge members. I started a parochial school with my own children, but no others came because it was more convenient to attend the public schools, especially in winter when the roads were bad. However, to Sunday School and to the catechumen classes the people would send their children.

In Willow Spring the public school was our church home. The main man here was Mr. Albrecht. The congregation had an old constitution containing a paragraph which stipulated: This congregation shall ever remain independent and never join a synagogue. Church attendance was uniformly good. I had many confirmands. The people loved God's Word, but in some respects they still were in need of much instruction. They also needed to learn to take a firmer stand.

Fayetteville

By request of acquaintances I went to Fayetteville. The Lutherans of that place had a new handsome church. For a while a Presbyterian had been their pastor. I preached there in the afternoon. The trip to Fayetteville in the heat of the day over rocky or sandy roads seemed rather fatiguing. Pastor Buchschacher once held a visitation here. A Presbyterian lady wanted to have Presbyterian Sunday School in the Lutheran church. I protested and said that only Lutheran Sunday School literature should be used and that the Sunday School must be Lutheran. She refused to accept these terms. My audience consisted almost exclusively of women, but Mr. Konrad, the justice of the peace, was always present, and took good care of me and also of my horse.

At these three places I worked with joy; and, so it seemed to me, with success. The people raised most of my salary. Nevertheless I was criticized at conferences for having lodge members and no school. I pleaded for patience inasmuch as these were no new settlements where everything could be ordered aright from the very outset, but old settlements for many years supplied by others, suffering from evils which through long practice had become entrenched. One cannot alter conditions prevalent for half a century within a period of two years. I pointed out that at Shelby I was unable to get any children except my own, and called attention to the difference between the people of a well-established, soundly Lutheran congregation and the membership of old neglected churches suddenly taken over by the Mission Board. In the Kingdom of God, a quick and phenomenal success like that of the apostles on Pentecost cannot always be expected. I testified against the lodge by word of mouth and through tracts. Following a visitation at Shelby I was called to Gillett, Ark. The salary was only $300 annually, but I was advised to accept the call in spite of this, since the Western District would not leave me in the lurch in case of need. So in Oct. 1907 I bade farewell to my missions in Texas. In Gillett I had a small congregation, but the people were sound in doctrine and practice, and I shall ever hold them in grateful remembrance.

Pastor Wenzel's last charge was at Bible Grove, Ill. In 1928 he retired from office and took up his residence in New Orleans. He was born in Gleiwitz, Silesia, March 26, 1866. He prepared himself for his holy calling at the University of Kropp, Schleswig-Holstein, and graduated in 1887. He was united in wedlock with Catherine, née Sieck. The union was blessed with nine children. Scarcely a week before his death the aged couple celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their marriage at a special service. Oct. l, 1937 the Lord called this faithful servant to the eternal reward. Burial took place in New Orleans.
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