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Richard Gruetzner… (October 5, 1939. …): Thank you! An excellent and interesting article that adds a few small pieces to the family history p…
George Nielsen (2. Birkmann Lette…): I had not seen the letter before and it reinforces my envy of Birkmann’s memory. It also reminded …

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Welcome To the Rev. Gotthilf Birkmann Blog. Please read me first!

Monday 23 March 2099 at 5:21 pm

Rev Gotthilf Birkmann was the second pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Fedor, Texas. He was an irrepressible force in the life of the early Texas Lutheran church.  For a detailed account of his life I wholeheartedly recommend that you read Worthy of Double Honor, the Rev. G. Birkmann, D.D. by Ray Martens.

This blog is designed to be a repositiory of the articles and letters he wrote during his lifetime that pertain to the Wendish and Texas Lutheran experience. Most were published in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt of Giddings, Texas and then later other Giddings newspapers about life among the Wends and Germans of early Lee County as they were translated by his grandson Ray Martens. Some of these translations have appeared in Worthy of Double Honor and are reprinted with permission of Concordia University Press through David Zersen. Ohers have never been seen elsewhere in translated form.

In additon to being published in the Giddings Deutsches Voklsblatt the articles were published in English in other publications. These articles were found in his file at Concordia Historical Institute in St Louis, Missouri.

A complete list of all of his articles, as best as we can tell, compiled by Ray Martens is shown below. Clicking on the date will take you directly to the article in the blog.

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Accounts Written by Gotthilf Birkmann about his Fedor Days

Sunday 05 October 2098 at 4:49 pm

This article appeared in Worthy of Double Honor: The Rev G. Birkmnn, D. D. written by his grandson Ray Martens and published by Concordia University Press.

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The four accounts here following were composed and typed by Gotthilf Birkmann to record his experiences in Fedor. The first two, both preserved among papers held by Herbert Birkman, deal with his impressions of the members of his congregation in the 1870's and 1880's, predominantly Wendish in background, either by way of Serbin in the 1850's or directly from Upper Lusatia more recently. The reader will note that his observations are overwhelmingly complimentary and illustrate the love he had for his congregation in Fedor, which he served for forty three years. The third account was provided to me as a copy from papers retained by Paul Birkmann and now in the possession of Gerald Birkmann. It is a rather extensive report of Birkmann's interests and techniques in collecting insects, presumably intended to provide a Dr. Geiser with material for a biographical sketch.

"From the Pioneer Time of an Old Texas Pastor" suggests both its purpose and date in its opening sentence: "to portray memories and impressions" of a time between 1875 and 1890 from the vantage point of the 1920's. Form and content suggest that the writing was intended for publication or some other form of dissemination. Whether or how that may have happened is not known. Maybe this will be its first public appearance. The original is in German, here appended my translation. A copy of the last page of the original is reproduced at the end of this Appendix III (p. 321) to show how badly things can go wrong when you cannot see what you are doing.

The second is a report of Birkmann's personal observations of Wendish people in their Texas surroundings, written in English in the form of a nine-page letter addressed to a Prof. George C. Engerrand, who had solicited information from this seventy-five year old pastor, living in retirement in Giddings. The fact that Engerrand is the author of a book which appeared in 1934 ( The So-Called Wends of Germany and Their Colonies in Texas and in Australia, University of Texas Bulletin No. 3417, published May 1, 1934, and reprinted in 1972) explains the circumstances. (Prof. Engerrand was a member of the anthropology department of the University of Texas at Austin from 1920 until his retirement (and death) in 1961. He had been born in France (1877) and received his undergraduate education there. He held research and teaching positions in Belgium (1898-1907), Mexico (1907-17), and Mississippi (1917-20) prior to his time in Austin. Three articles in the Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 32 (1961) commemorate his life and contributions.) It is clear from what is said that the two knew each other, had met in person, and intended to meet again. Rather remarkable is the fact that the account was written on August 26, 1929, two days after the tragic drowning death of Walter Gersch, Freda's husband and his son-in-law. In a second cover letter, dated September 11, 1929, the date on which the material was actually placed in the mail, he explains the timing by saying, "I wrote to occupy my mind," after what in an earlier paragraph he described as "the most grievous experience of my whole long life." That second letter also acknowledges with thanks Engerrand's expression of sympathy, which has to mean that there was some intervening contact.

The text of this account is reproduced here only in part. Two of the original nine pages are missing entirely, destroying the continuity of several sections. Other material either repeats what is otherwise amply documented or covers subject matter not really pertinent to this family history. I have edited only slightly that portion of the original which appears here - to correct spelling, eliminate dittography, add punctuation, and the like - as surely the author would have wished to do in accord with his own explanation: "In reading my pages, please remember that I am unable to revise my writings on account of my poor eyesight."

The third is different in kind, dealing with the joys and challenges of his entomological pursuits, especially the limitations imposed by trying to be self-taught. It is the second installment of reminiscences being shared with the same Dr. Geiser identified earlier in these pages, presumably to provide further information for some anticipated biographical sketch of the kind that Geiser wrote about professional and amateur entomologists in Texas and the Southwest. If the earlier material was in response to a request for information about Birkmann's family background and education, along with his finds as a collector in Texas, then this installment may well be the response to a further request for information about how he informed himself about entomology and other scientific interests, what books he had, to which people he turned for help, and what finally became of his collection. (At least, those are the questions he seems to answer.) Although much of the account is technical, having to do with authors, books, and identification by species, the material also shares more of the personal fondness and satisfaction that Birkmann found in his beloved hobby than does any other source. My long array of notes at the end is not necessary for understanding the message, but it is included (to the extent that my research yielded suitable results) to give the reader a sense of the extent to which Birkmann knew the best available literature in several fields and was in touch with the top echelon of entomologists of his time, a compliment to both the tenacity and the quality of work of this country preacher.

Finally, the fourth item is untitled but clearly identifiable as Gotthilf's (it bears his signature) seven-page overview of the history of the congregation at Trinity, Fedor, presumably prepared for printing and distribution to members and guests of the congregation on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. Evidence that this was its intended purpose is twofold. He addresses such people directly, and the typed material has been rather extensively corrected by a hand other than his, which hardly would have been necessary if he were going to deliver the material orally. The bulk of what is written actually deals with the early days much more extensively than with the decades immediately preceding the celebration. Gotthilf was ideally suited to write such an overview not only because he had access to the congregation's minutes and other records, but also because he had been there for forty-one of those years.

1. From the Pioneer Times of an Old Texas Pastor

Saturday 23 March 2097 at 7:52 pm

This article appeared in Worthy of Double Honor: The Rev G. Birkmnn, D. D. written by his grandson Ray Martens and published by Concordia University Press.

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The following account was composed and typed by Gotthilf Birkmann to record his experiences in Fedor and is preserved among papers held by Herbert Birkman. It deals with his impressions of the members of his congregation in the 1870's and 1880's, predominantly Wendish in background, either by way of Serbin in the 1850's or directly from Upper Lusatia more recently. The reader will note that his observations are overwhelmingly complimentary and illustrate the love he had for his congregation in Fedor, which he served for forty three years.

"From the Pioneer Time of an Old Texas Pastor" suggests both its purpose and date in its opening sentence: "to portray memories and impressions" of a time between 1875 and 1890 from the vantage point of the 1920's. Form and content suggest that the writing was intended for publication or some other form of dissemination. Whether or how that may have happened is not known. Maybe this will be its first public appearance. The original is in German, here appended my translation.

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2. Birkmann Letter to George Engerrand

Friday 05 October 2096 at 5:43 pm

The second is a report of Birkmann's personal observations of Wendish people in their Texas surroundings, written in English in the form of a nine-page letter addressed to a Prof. George C. Engerrand, who had solicited information from this seventy-five year old pastor, living in retirement in Giddings. The fact that Engerrand is the author of a book which appeared in 1934 (The So-Called Wends of Germany and Their Colonies in Texas and in Australia, University of Texas Bulletin No. 3417, published May 1, 1934, and reprinted in 1972) explains the circumstances. (Prof. Engerrand was a member of the anthropology department of the University of Texas at Austin from 1920 until his retirement (and death) in 1961. He had been born in France (1877) and received his undergraduate education there. He held research and teaching positions in Belgium (1898-1907), Mexico (1907-17), and Mississippi (1917-20) prior to his time in Austin. Three articles in the Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 32 (1961) commemorate his life and contributions.) It is clear from what is said that the two knew each other, had met in person, and intended to meet again. Rather remarkable is the fact that the account was written on August 26, 1929, two days after the tragic drowning death of Walter Gersch, Freda's husband and his son-in-law. In a second cover letter, dated September 11, 1929, the date on which the material was actually placed in the mail, he explains the timing by saying, "I wrote to occupy my mind," after what in an earlier paragraph he described as "the most grievous experience of my whole long life." That second letter also acknowledges with thanks Engerrand's expression of sympathy, which has to mean that there was some intervening contact.

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3. Things I Enjoyed Collecting in Nature

Wednesday 05 October 2095 at 5:14 pm

This article appeared in Worthy of Double Honor: The Rev G. Birkmnn, D. D. written by his grandson Ray Martens and published by Concordia University Press.

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4. A Brief History of the First Fifty Years of Trinity Lutheran Church, Fedor, Texas

Tuesday 05 October 2094 at 4:34 pm

This article appeared in Worthy of Double Honor: The Rev G. Birkmnn, D. D. written by his grandson Ray Martens and published by Concordia University Press.

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Pioneer Days of an Old Texas Pastor

Sunday 12 October 2092 at 04:03 am

This article by G. Birkmann, titled "Aus der Pionierzeit eines alten Texaspastors" appeared in Die Missions-Taube in July 1930).

It was translated from German by Bill Biar, Denver, Colorado, April 8, 1991.

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News Articles Dealing with the Early Years of Birkmann's Ministry

Sunday 05 October 2092 at 6:04 pm

"G. Birkmann" served as byline for a great many articles which he contributed to the the Texas Lutheran Messenger of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and to the Giddings weekly newspapers, more by far written in German for the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt, but also some in English for The Giddings News. These appeared in print with reasonable regularity between 1926 and 1939, when he was between seventy-two and eighty-five years of age and living in retirement in Giddings, or in Rose Hill (near Tomball) for several years immediately following the death of his wife, Helene, in 1932. Some of the articles tell of his childhood and school experiences, but the majority share memories of his time in Texas from 1876 forward, telling especially of people and events in his beloved Fedor, though he could and did report with remarkable detail as well on other settings and people he knew, both near and far. One must suppose that a fairly large audience of readers appreciated what he had to say, for those in the Giddings area who could read German were virtually all Lutheran, and German Lutherans knew about Birkmann and Fedor families, features, and customs in the time about which he wrote. They could reminisce with him or gain useful information about how things they knew came to be.

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April 1926 Church Historical Memoirs of Pastor Emeritus G. Birkmann

Sunday 05 October 2092 at 6:03 pm

Ths article by G. Birkmann and translated by Ray Martens was originally written in German for the Texas Distriksbote (Messenger) of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in April 1926. It was also published in English for the Texas Lutheran Messenger supplement to the Lutheran Witness.

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January 1928, The Beginning of Home Missions in Texas

Sunday 05 October 2092 at 6:02 pm

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann first appeared in the Texas Lutheran Messenger of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in January, 1928.

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June 9, 1928, Salem's Ev. Lutheran Church at Brandon, Texas

Sunday 05 October 2092 at 6:01 pm

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann first appeared in the Texas Lutheran Messenger of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in July, 1928.

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November 14, 1928 The Synodical Convention of the Southern District in Houston

Sunday 05 October 2092 at 6:00 pm

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann first appeared in the Texas Lutheran Messenger of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri synod in January, 1929.

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April 2, 1931, Reminiscences of My Arrival and First Years at Fedor 1876-1879

Friday 12 October 2091 at 03:32 am

This article by G. Birkmann, titled "Erinnerungen an meine Ankunft in Fedor and an die ersten Jahre daselbst - 1876 bis 1879" first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt, Giddings, Texas on April 2, 1931.

Translated from the German by Bill Biar, Denver, Colorado, July 31, 1990.

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May, 1931, Synodical Convention in St. Louis, 1884

Friday 12 October 2091 at 03:31 am

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann first appeared in the Texas Lutheran Messenger of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in May, 1931.

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July, 1931, An Outline of the History of the Texas District

Friday 12 October 2091 at 03:30 am

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann first appeared in the Texas Lutheran Messenger of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in July 1931. Subsequently it was published in the Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly of the Concordia Historial Institute, St Louis, Missouri in October 1934 and October 1935.

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March 23, 1932, In Memory of Former Pastor Hermann T. Kilian, in Serbin, Texas

Friday 12 October 2091 at 03:29 am

This article by Rev. Birkmann and translated by Ray Martens first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt, Giddings, Texas, on March 23, 1932.

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June 3, 1932, The Lutheran (Missouri Synod) Churches in Lee County, Texas

Friday 12 October 2091 at 03:28 am

The following article by Rev. G. Birkmann first appeared in The Giddings News, Giddings, Texas, in a series of articles beginning on June 3, and following on June 10, June 17, and finally on June 24, 1932. It appeared in a part of the History of Lee County, Texas and also formed the basis of Rev Robert Koenig’s book, Pause to Ponder, A History of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Texas. A portion of it appeared in the Texas Lutheran Messenger of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in July 1933. It is reprinted here in its entirety.

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July 14, 1932, My First Trip to Austin

Friday 12 October 2091 at 03:27 am

This article by Gotthilf Birkmann first apeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt on 14 July 1932. It is translated here for you by Ray Martens.

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August 19, 1932, Partial List of Giddings People As I Knew Them 50 Years Ago

Friday 12 October 2091 at 03:27 am

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann first appeared in The Giddings News, Giddings, Texas on August 19, 1932.

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September 2, 1932 Rev. Birkmann Writes an Interesting Article

Friday 12 October 2091 at 03:26 am

The article by Rev. G. Birkmann first appeared in The Giddings News, Giddings, Texas on September 2, 1932.

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September 22, 1932 About the Wendish Colony in Serbin

Friday 12 October 2091 at 03:25 am

This article by G. Birkmann appeared in two or three parts in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt, 22 September, 29 September, and 6 October 1932. It is presented here translated by Ray Martens.

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February 2, 1933 Yes, It Certainly Was Pleasant in Fedor

Friday 12 October 2091 at 03:24 am

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann and translated by Ray Martens first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt, Giddings, Texas, on February 2, 1933.

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February 23, 1933 Teacher Gerhard Kilian in Serbin, Lee County, Texas

Friday 12 October 2091 at 12:30 am

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann and translated by Ray Martens first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt in February 1933.

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August 10, September 14, 1933 Rev. Birkmann Reports His Experiences in Dallas More Than Fifty Years Ago

Sunday 07 October 2091 at 06:15 am

This article by G. Birkmann first appeared in the Giddings Deutches Volksblatt, Giddings, Texas, on August 10 and September 14, 1933. It has been translated from German by Ray Martens.

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October 6, 1933 Reminiscences of Fifty-seven Years Ago

Saturday 06 October 2091 at 01:16 am

This article by G. Birkmann first appeared in The Giddings News, Giddings, Texas on  October 6, 1933.

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