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Author: Subject: 2. Diary of Rev. John J. Trinklein, 1882-1889
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[*] posted on 12-15-2015 at 10:15 PM
2. Diary of Rev. John J. Trinklein, 1882-1889


This article first occurred in the February 1940 and subsequent editions of the Texas Lutheran Messenger, the official newsletter of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Notes of an Itinerant Missionary in Texas
1882 - 1889


Pastor emeritus, John J. Trinklein of Detroit, Michigan, has favored us with an account of his life and labors in Texas more than 50 years ago. Since this is of great interest, especially to Texans, the Texas Lutheran Messenger takes pleasure in passing on this information, in summary form at least, to its readers.

Meets J. Kilian

When Missionary Trinklein arrived in Texas, Pastor John Kilian of Serbin was still living. However, only on one occasion, at a conference in Serbin, Trinklein enjoyed for a brief hour the companionship of the man who in the wilds of Texas lifted up the banner of the Reformation and deserves to be ranked among the heroes. What Sam Houston was to the Republic of Texas, Kilian was to our Lutheran Zion in this state. Kilian agreed with Trinklein when the latter stated that the removal of the Wends to other localities in Texas would serve to extend the kingdom of God, for he knew the determination of the Wends to have both church and school wherever they might settle. It is doubtful whether our mission work in Texas would have gained so firm a footing without the good reputation and sound Lutheranism enjoyed through the work of the intrepid witness of the Gospel, Pastor John Kilian. Trinklein found that the esteem in which the Serbin congregation and the St. Louis Synod were held smoothed his path and gained him admittance wherever he went. Of greatest service by way of opening hearts to him was the influence which Luther exerted through the Small Catechism. As other aids he mentions Dr. C. F. W. Walther's "Evangelienpostille" as well as the "Missionstaube" and the paper of the Southern District.

In Repute of Texas

Pastor Trinklein graduated from Concordia Seminary in May, 1882. At that time two candidates were designated for Texas, which was regarded as a most difficult and forbidding field of labor, though there was with them a living oracle from Texas, Herman Kilian, the son of the Lutheran pioneer. It was generally supposed that the bad reputation of Texas conformed with the facts. The exciting and adventurous history of the state may have given rise to this impression. Old settlers with whom the missionary sat at the log fire conversed only on three themes: Sam Houston and the War of Independence, the Settlement of Prince Solms, and the Civil War. All this interested them far more than the One Thing Needful. With the Latins he had but little dealing except on his first trip of exploration through the domains of the Texas Synod when in 14 days he covered 612 miles on horseback. He visited a number of pastors of that Synod. With President Merz, also a traveling missionary, he made an agreement that neither of them would interfere with the other. For this reason the Texas Synod kept Caldwell, Bartlett, and a congregation in the Post Oak region. Also on Pastors Gerstemann and Neidhardt he called and talked things over with them.

So this was the Texas to which Trinklein was to go as missionary at large. The other candidate called to Texas was Louis Lange, who succeeded Pastor E. H. Wischmeyer at Swiss Alp, and died in 1919.


"Through the Piney Woods''

On August 27, 1882 our missionary left Frankenmuth, Mich., his home community, for Houston, Texas. In St. Louis he visited Dr. Stoeckhardt and confided to him his misgivings with regard to his ability to approach people properly and received the laconic but comforting assurance, "Es wird schon gehen. [It will be ok.]" He came through then the Yellow and Longleaf Pine Region of Texas and Louisiana, which at that time covered an area of 300 by 4-600 miles, and furnished the lumber for his first church at Riesel at a cost of $3.50 for a thousand feet. The building cost only $50 and is still used by Trinity Congregation as a school. What we saw on the way were sawmills, great piles of lumber, mountains of sawdust, burning slabs, box houses, tiny primitive towns, and platform-less huts serving as depots. Forty years later he therefore read with pleasure in the January, 1923 number of the Texas Lutheran Messenger that our first resident missionary had been placed at Tyler. Trinklein made a reconnaissance trip there in 1884. He also went to Corsicana, through which he now was traveling southward. The heat became more oppressive right along. The woods on both sides of the track intensified the heat and there was no change until the prairie 25 miles north of Houston was reached. For 24 hours straight the train had raced continuously through dense forests, and the traveler had tried in vain to slake his consuming thirst, a symptom of the cholera morbus attack which he was to endure that very night at his quarters in Houston.

Arrival at Houston

Before the train pulled into the depot a rather interesting episode happened. The train was halted on the trestle-work of Buffalo Bayou, and the passengers had to make an affidavit that they did not come from a yellow fever district. At that time there was a yellow fever epidemic in Biloxi, Miss., hence these precautions were taken by the health authorities. In the Pullman there were two fever patients with lemon complexions. They claimed to hale from Indianapolis, but it developed that they were fugitives from quarantine and themselves afflicted with the dread disease. The officers finally agreed to isolate them in Houston instead of quarantining all the passengers.

As our immigrant set foot on Texas soil he beheld flying high in the humid, sultry atmosphere, dozens of turkey buzzards or carrion police (Aaspolizisten). "Alas, thou land of death!" he mused.

Whither now? Pastor T. Stiemke had just moved to New Orleans. His successor, Pastor Gotthold Kuehn, had not yet arrived. He had only the number of Stiemke's former place of residence, between Preston and Prairie Streets. Houston then had 7,000 inhabitants, half of these colored. It was no metropolis. Nevertheless, to have no address at all in an utterly strange city was not a pleasant sensation. He took a street car to the vicinity of Washington and Prairie Streets, entered a grocery to inquire and a certain Mr. Proetzel, himself a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, referred him to Mr. Hoof, an elder of the church who invited him to supper and brought him to Mr. Hildebrandt where he was to have his quarters. Both the mosquitos and the aforementioned attack of cholera disturbed his rest. In the morning he beheld the glad and friendly faces of his hosts. The night before he had heard them as they in very lively fashion together with Mr. Hoof entertained him on the veranda, but had not seen them. They were good Hessian grand-parents, but of youthful disposition and cheerfulness. He enjoyed their southern hospitality for a whole week, and learned much from them concerning Texan ways and conditions.

His Ordination

On the following Sunday Pastor Kuehn, an old acquaintance and friend of his, was installed. Pastor E. H. Wischmeyer of Rose Hill officiated and Pastor G. W. Behnken of Cypress assisted. Student G. Schupmann, in charge of the school of 80 children, enhanced the celebration by a number of hymns sung by his mixed choir. In the evening there was a mission service, in which Pastor Behnken preached an excellent mission sermon on the epistle for that Sunday. Trinklein must have listened very intently, for after 50 years at his golden anniversary in 1932 he repeated that very sermon from memory.

The afternoon of his ordination day (Rev. E. H. Wischmeyer also ordained him in the service just referred to) he spent with Peter Arvesen, one of the deacons, of Danish descent, a very loyal and active member of the church. The chief subject of conversation was the territory the newly ordained missionary was to cover, 1200 square mile larger than the German empire of that time. For the first however, he confined himself to Harris, Waller, and Austin counties, because his instructions were to preach his introductory sermon and to solemnize a marriage at Pattison on the Sunday following the third of September, the date of his ordination.

During the week he helped Pastor Kuehn move in. At this time he witnessed the first rain in Texas, a downpour which amounted to a cloud burst, and within a short time made rivers of the streets and put the whole city under water. Not till nine o'clock in the evening was he able to get back to his lodgings by making use of the railroad tracks. "Texas is a semitropical state with extremes in climatic and weather conditions," be thought.

District Conference at Klein

Monday early he left for Sealy where he did not arrive till 7 p.m. although Sealy is only ten miles from Pattison. There was no safe bridge over the Brazos, and the river had to be crossed by boat. Sealy in those days had only about a dozen houses. The same night he took a freight to Belleville, where he made calls and arranged for services. From here he went over Brenham to Hockley, where in the home of Mr. Jacob Scherer he established his first headquarters. The latter was a member of the Mission Board by which the call of the Southern District had been issued. Wednesday morning Mr. Scherer took the missionary first to Rose Hill and then to Klein where the Texas District conference was in progress. The President of the Southern District was just examining his friend Pastor G. Buchschacher. In the same manner Pastor Zimmerman had come to us from the "Albrechtsbrueder." At this conference Trinklein was quartered with J. A. Klein, father of the former President of our Springfield Seminary, then about to enter the progymnasium at New Orleans. The brother of the latter, John Klein, and Trinklein saw each other again after a lapse of 50 years at the Detroit Walther League Convention and exchanged reminiscences. At the Klein conference Trinklein rode daily to church and back to his host with Pastor Lange, and thus received his preliminary training in the art of riding in a cowboy saddle.

On Sunday following the conference, the four Harris County rural congregations joined in celebrating a mission festival at Rose Hill. Missionary Trinklein preached on Isaiah 12, and as he found out later, his sermon succeeded in awakening a greater interest in mission work. After 58 years he still receives occasional greetings and tokens of love, and he assures all his dear fellow-Christians in Texas that he is prayerfully thinking of them, all the more since he received so much good at their hands. The majority of them are no longer here below, but he hopes to meet them again in heaven.

After attending his first conference in Klein and preaching at the mission festival at Rose Hill, which was observed in common by the four rural congregations in Harris County, Rose Hill, Klein, Cypress, and Neudorf. Trinklein established himself in the room assigned to him above Mr. Jacob Scherer's in Hockley.

Mr. Scherer, a member of the Mission Board, had charge of the mission funds, and was an able businessman. He roomed and boarded the missionary free of charge, and had his Negro servant take care of the missionary's horse. All the latter had to do on coming home was to throw the reigns over a post.

Furnishing his study involved no expense. A bedstead, mattress, chair and table were in the room, and a book shelf and wash stand he improvised himself. It seemed to him that he had the roomiest and best study In Texas. It was 18 x 18 ft. und accessible to the breezes on every side. It combined many comforts. However, when the store was closed and bolted at night, it meant that he, too, was locked in. Here he prepared his sermons, slept, and thrice daily heard the voice of Mrs. Scherer calling him to the meals.

From here be started out on his first trip on horseback. Over Hempstead and Belleville he rode to Mr. Abel’s in Piney Settlement to drum people together for the Sunday services. He stopped at a house for a drink from "the old oaken bucket.” The owner was not at home, but the daughter brought him a cup of water from the house followed by her little sister of 4 ˝ years. Suddenly there came a cry from the fence corner, "A snake bit me." It was a moccasin. The marks of the fangs showed clearly on the damsel's little toe which even now was swelling. Antidotes were administered immediately; and though the next day the whole leg was swollen and discolored, the little girl got over it.

Not so successful were the missionary's efforts to found preaching places at Piney Creek, Belleville, and Buckhorn Prairie. Another serpent had bitten and poisoned these people to the point of death, yet they cared nothing about deliverance from sin, death, and hell. In Piney Creek only the aforementioned Abel came. In Belleville there were a few seekers after curiosity. At Buckhorn Prairie the missionary was informed that it was no use for him to start as long as he was opposed to dancing. Here he could gain no foothold. Not one soul came from these parts when he began his work at Sealy. Mill Creek continued to be the border line between heaven and hell.

At Sealy there were ten families. In Hempstead and on Reed’s Prairie there were people who evinced a desire for the Word of God, and there he commenced at once to hold services and catechetical instruction. The catechumens were from 10 to 15 years old and 15 in number. So there were four preaching places in Austin and Waller Counties, of which he remained in charge even when he was pastor in Houston.

It was up to him to extend his field of activity, and he took advantage of every opportunity to do so. An important bit of information he picked up at Anderson, where Pastor Peter Klindworth had founded a congregation consisting of Lutherans from Westphalia. There the new church was to be dedicated, and pastors Trinklein and Wischmeyer were the guest speakers. Klindworth met them at Navasota. At Anderson Trinklein made the acquaintance of Miss Steinhagen who got married to a Waco baker and was hostess to the first conference of our missionaries later on. Anderson was the home of Mrs. Stone, owner of a block of 2200 acres of the best black waxy prairie land, 19 miles south of Waco, at Perry Station, P. 0. Paton. Of this item he made not only a mental memorandum, but entered it with some detail into his notebook, for Mrs. Stone had acquired that land speculating on settlers moving in from older districts of Texas.

But before advancing northward he resolved to devote 14 days to an exploration of that part of the state having the densest German population which for decades had been held by the old Texas Synod. He wanted to get acquainted with the pastors of this Synod and to find out with their aid where the best mission opportunities lay and also in which direction the main stream of people moving out and seeking new location, was flowing. He discovered that it was Hamilton, Bell, and Coryell counties which attracted many.

He started out from Pattison, which he had reached after a rather adventurous journey from Sealy. The Brazos River was at the time out of its banks flooding the country at places ten miles inland. He had a preaching date to keep at Pattison. It was impossible to cross the river the normal way. It would take too much time to get there via Houston. So he decided to cross afoot over the railroad bridge and hoof it to his goal, go "per Apostlepost," to use his expression. He got along nicely until he reached the last span of the bridge one side of which had been undermined by the raging waters, and was dangling threatingly over the torrent. However, he risked it and made his way over in the manner of a rope walker. By this time it had become pitch dark, but by eleven o'clock he arrived in Pattison where in Haemmerling's house he still found light and spent the night. The Pattisonians were surprised, for they had felt that their pastor could not get there in time. In his four years of service as a missionary he failed not even once to keep a preaching engagement.

From Pattison the missionary set on the trip which had for its object getting acquainted with the pastors and the field for the Texas Synod. On this trip he spent 14 days in the saddle and covered 642 miles. It resulted in no addition to our missions.

Cat Spring nearby was the first stop. Services! Yes, a pastor of the Texas Synod from Frelsburg had promised to serve them. On then! After three days he arrived in the evening at East Bernard, a staunchly Roman Catholic community. During the night he was awakened from his Lutheran sleep and somewhat dumfounded by the Ave Maria sung monotonously over and over again. There were people in sufficient numbers but no prospects for our church.

At Columbus he crossed the Colorado, and made his way up to Frelsburg, where he stayed overnight with Pastor Gerstemann, who received him very kindly and informed him about non-existent opportunities to found mission places in the vicinity. Conversion and election were the subjects of discussion in the study. Gerstemann was none too clear on conversion but friendly to us.

On the following day he met President Merz of the Texas Synod, a missionary, who in addition to his other offices functioned also as public school teacher. With him, too, Trinklein was welcome. They agreed not to interfere with each other in their work. Merz preached at Thorndale, Lyons, Caldwell, and Bartlett. They parted at the post office, but Merz brought Trinklein a glass of beer when the latter had already mounted his horse. Later Trinklein corresponded with him concerning Bartlett, which did not want the ''United" pastor Waring of Waco, but wished to stay a ward of the Texas Synod. This Trinklein reported to Merz after preaching at Zische’s in Bartlett, to which place Trinklein came later in the year when he was on his way to visit Pastor J. M. Maisch at Walburg. He preached also at Caldwell when work was begun at Lyons and Mound Prairie, and once stopped at Thorndale to inquire, but left immediately on being told that the people were affiliated with the Texas Synod.

Having taken his leave from pastor, president, teacher Merz, the missionary spurred his horse on to his next destination, the village Round Top. Here Pastor Neidhardt, once upon a time a Roman Catholic priest, then a member of the Texas Synod, now independent, that is without Synodical connections, was in charge of a flourishing congregation. He was a bachelor, a good friend of Pastor Roehm of Galveston, and stated that upon his death his congregation would revert to the Texas Synod. Hereabouts there were no prospects for us, Round Top had the neatest parish premises and the most imposing church the missionary had found up to this time in the State. Here there was also a boarding school for pupils and catechumens coming from elsewhere.

Trinklein's purpose was not to spy, but to reconnoiter. His visits were welcomed by the Texans and bore some good fruits. He is of the opinion that missionaries should make it a point to get in touch also with the people of another faith, not indeed to practice Unionism, but as a possible aid in opening doors for the pure Gospel, and that there is a false exclusiveness injurious to the cause of the Gospel and springing from a legalistic spirit.

From Round Top he proceeded to Swiss Alp to visit Pastor Louis Lang, who had no inkling of Trinklein's being in the neighborhood nor of his coming. Nor did Trinklein expect that Lange would give him a formal reception or that he had finished his preparations for the morrow's sermon. However, he was not prepared to be confronted by Lange with a loaded gun and be chased around at the point of a gun when he knocked at Lange's window and roused him from his siesta. It was just practical joke Lange played on his old friend and classmate. The next day Trinklein preached for him and went with him to Warda, where young Pastor Lang had his bride, a sister-in-law of Pastor Buchschacher's. In the Warda parsonage he received a kind of treatment which compensated him for the rather brusque style in which his exuberant friend Lang had received him the day before.

In Warda Trinklein was for the first time on Wendish soil, Serbin being only seven and Giddings nine miles away. On Easter Wednesday he preached the wedding sermon. Forty years later Buchschacher reminded him of that memorable day. Trinklein noticed at that time that the Wends observe the third Easter holiday according to the traditional custom and the assignment of periscopes for this day.

On the following Monday before daylight he trotted off and roamed through northern Austin and southern Washington County to Brenham.

He arrived at the conclusion that as long as he was the only missionary of our Synod in Texas it would not be the wisest policy to pick up a few grains here and there in the region he had just explored while letting a much more promising field lie fallow. His intention therefor was to draw a line of isolation in the shape of a horseshoe around the Texas Synod, and he laid his plans for his next circuit accordingly. And this leads to the next and most important chapter of the year 1882.

Following his exploratory tour of two weeks duration through the domain of the Texas Synod, the missionary met with the two members of the Mission Board in Texas, Pastor Wischmeyer and Mr. Jacob Scherer. He had in mind making a trip to Walburg, Williamson Co., and to Bartlett, Bell County, over Lyons, Mound Prairie, Caldwell, and Thorndale. This time he went by train. His plans included going up to Waco on the west side of the Brazos River and returning home to Hockley on the east side of that river. As a result of this trip he was able to add Lyons and Mound Prairie as well as the stations now to be described to his other places.

Dec. 3, 1882 he arrived on a Santa Fe train in Waco. He took a hotel and left for Perry Station the next day. In these parts not only the Methodists under Pastor H. Franz (later a member of the Minnesota Synod) but especially also a traveling evangelist by the name of von Schleembach were active. Here Trinklein had the privilege of gathering quite a number of settlers who had remained loyal to the Lutheran Church.

There had been a rather heavy frost the previous night, but the sun was shining brightly, and while walking 3 ˝ miles out into the country, Trinklein had to mop the perspiration from his face. This same evening, too, he made the unwelcome acquaintance of the red bugs, which infested the bluegrass in which he lay down. The redbugs kept him awake and busy scratching that night. Relief came when the lady of the house called from the adjoining room, and offered to bring him a little butter, an effective remedy whether fresh or rancid. He never again encountered these redbugs, and never again stretched out in the soft grass.

The first service at Perry was conducted in the home of Mr. C. Ebner on the fifth of Dec. 1882. Here is a list of those present: Gaskamp 3, Miloecher 3, Mann 3, Wenzel 2, Ebner 2, Wiebasch 3, Fellechner 3, Mueller Sr. 2, Mueller Jr. 1, Mueller (nephew) 1, Brueggemann 1, O. Rau 1, F. Fenske 1, John Fenske 5, Jacob Fenske 3, Mrs. Sander 2, and Schulz 4. Total number of souls 40. The missionary made it a point to effect an organization and to work for the establishment of a pastorate here. He promised people that he would serve them regularly, though for the first he would be unable to come oftener than once every four weeks. He also began instructing a class of seven catechumens.

Having completed his initial task at Perry, the missionary turned to Ca1vert in Robertson Co. Here, too, he called regularly and after two years confirmed a class of seven children. Five years later Calvert was abandoned, because Trinklein's succcssor, Pastor F. Wunderlich, had his hands full in Perry. This Trinklein deplores because there were many God-fearing women and children at Calvert, though the men were lodge members. However, he gives Pastor Wunderlich credit for working with great devotion at Perry for 20 years and with still greater success, unstintingly giving his strength and talents to his people.

Continuing this journey of December 1882, he next came to Bryan. Seven miles out from this town - at Kurten - there was quite a large colony of immigrants from Posen and Moravia. A certain Mr. Kurten had traded in his valueless confederate paper money for a section of land, on which he sought to settle poor folk from the old country. He began by paying passage for an adult girl whom he placed in Bryan as a servant girl, and then collected from her the money he had laid out for her. In a similar manner he brought other girls over, and afterwards these girls lent the transportation charges to their poor overseas relatives. These on coming over had less than nothing, but within a few years by dint of hard work managed to acquire property of their own.

Trinklein found 20 families at Kurten, brought up as Lutherans in Germany and very church-minded. The school building served as the locale for the first service on a week-day evening. The second story of a lodge hall did duty as church later on. Also Mr. Kurten, though a free mason and erstwhile Catholic, attended with his family. At first Trinklein was quartered with him, but afterwards he roomed in turn with his members. Mr. Kurten, though not a Lutheran, was among the regular attendants, and did not cause any difficulty whatever. However, the missionary was so busy teaching his class of seven confirmees, preaching, conducting meetings, and making calls that he found but little time to associate with him.

The Texas Home Missions by this time had grown to nine places. To the four stations previously held, five promising fields had been added. Besides, at this time he was placed in charge for an uncertain length of time, of Dallas, Arlington, Pottsboro, and Honey Grove, the North Texas parishes which had become vacant when Pastor G. Birkmann was recalled to Fedor. In planning his next missionary circuit, Trinklein therefore had to have an extra week to meet the requirements of the North Texas Field.
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