TIHAA Day Trip to Wendish Heritage Museum - May 22, 2017

by Mary Brown

There is nothing like a rainy day trip to separate the tourist from the travelers. I'm glad to say all 17 on board the Bayland express were travelers.

Our bus driver Beth soon had us on our way plotting the best route to avoid the heavy traffic. I was calling bingo when just outside of Hempstead Beth said she was stopping at McDonalds. I guess all the rain had gotten to her. She barely had the bus in park before she was off in a flash. Everyone else soon departed and I was left with the running bus and everyone's belonging. Beth returned shortly and I did what all the others did, went in and bought food and drink. It was not like we had not had breakfast and we were not going to eat in a couple of hours. I believe our motto should be "Never pass up an opportunity to eat." With all aboard we were off again.

In just about an hour we were pulling on to the parking lot of the St. Paul Lutheran Church of Serbin, Texas (for all those that might want to go in the future on their own it is just outside of Giddings, Texas). We were greeted in the church by Jack Wiederhold. With that last name I assumed Jack might be of German descent. As it turns out I was right; however, he was married to a lady of Wendish lineage. Jack was a most knowledgeable docent, having grown up in the community and being an acting member of St. Paul Lutheran Church. Jack told how Wends had been persecuted in Germany. The ruler at that time said only Catholics and Protestants could worship openly. He denied the Lutherans this right. So many of the Wends went to Australia; however, that was a long and expensive voyage. There were about 35 that ventured to Texas and wrote home how wonderful it was. These letters encouraged a congregation of 588 lead by Rev. Johann Kilian from Dauban, Saxony to sail on the "Ben Nevis" to Texas in 1854. This was not an easy journey. Along the way they had a bout with cholera on the sea and yellow fever when they arrived in Galveston. Due to these illnesses only 500 survived the escape. After going to Austin to purchase the land in Serbin for the settlers 95 acres were set aside for church purposes. This is the property that we visit today. They started with humble beginnings. A dog trot log cabin served as home for the pastor, school, and church. However, these were industrious people. When their cotton crops during the Civil War should have produced no income they prospered by taking the crops to Mexico and shipping them to Europe and getting top dollar.

The Wends could not seem to escape the Germans because after the Civil War they also settled in the area and convinced the Wends the frame church should be converted in to a Christian Day School and a new church should be built. They started the church in 1867; however, it was not completed until 1871 due to differences between the Wends and the Germans. The Germans decided to build their own church and named it St Peter. They eventually reunited and completed the church you see today and named it St. Paul. The church cost $5,000 to build the price is so low because of all the donated labor. The beautiful 1904 pipe organ with its original hand-pump blower was made in Texas and still sounds marvelous as it was played by Jack. This was the first Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod in Texas. There are services at this church every Sunday and they support the day school from K-8th grade.

After the tour of the church Joyce made us welcome in their dining hall where the ladies of the church had made us a delicious lunch consisting of homemade noodles, sauerkraut, pickled beets, sausage, homemade bread and a delicious coffee cake. Joyce explained that the noodles we were eating were a labor of love from the ladies at the church to help support The Wendish Heritage Museum. They make the noodles every Monday. They use 72 dozen eggs and 200 pounds of flour. I believe everyone on the bus bought a bag of noodles. She said if we liked the sausage we would need to go to Weimer to Kasper's Meat Market and ask for the Wendish sausage. Joyce invited everyone to go back for seconds and when no one could eat another bite we went to the Heritage Museum. There you saw the artifacts from the travels from Germany to Texas along with the one from the early days in Texas. And of course there was a gift store. Our docent Jack turned out to be a most talented man as we found the beautiful wood carved item in the store to be his creations. If you plan to come on your own bring cash or a checkbook because no debit or credit cards are accepted.

If you plan a trip to see the Wendish Sunday, September 24, 2017 would be the day. They will be having their Wendish Heritage Festival. Joyce said there will be no arts and crafts or jewelry booths, only the art of weaving, old time games for the children and good homemade food. She also said if you have a group you could call ahead and she would save you some meal tickets because they do sell out.

Attendees: Thomas and Jeanette Johnson, Gwen Dickey, Della DuHart, Jean Houston, Tom and Cindy Croissant, Mary Brown and her friends: Sylvia Cruz, Patti Fletcher, Connie Fletcher-Powell, Paula Montieth, Brenda Moss and her friends: Bill and Marilyn Ragan and their out-of-town guest.

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