100 YEARS ON THE CIBOLO
(1) During the 1870’s, an influx of German immigrants settled on small farms in the New Berlin community near Elm Creek. They were of peasant stock and chiefly from Birkholz, Dramberg and Faulkenberg, Germany. Practically all of them were of the Lutheran faith.
(1) One of the first undertakings by the Germans was the construction of the Elm Creek Lutheran Church; the congregation traveled to church on Sundays by wagon and buggy. By 1900, many of the Germans had established small businesses in La Vernia and found it difficult to make a weekly trip to Elm Creek for religious services; therefore, it was decided to start a new congregation that would meet in La Vernia.
(1) Samuel P. Wiseman, a devout Presbyterian and member of the La Vernia Presbyterian Church, arranged for the new congregation to have Lutheran services for one year in the Presbyterian Church downtown La Vernia on Chihuahua Street.
(1) On August 11, 1901, twenty family members of Christ Lutheran Church, Elm Creek, formed a nucleus to organize Immanuel Lutheran Church of La Vernia, Texas. Rev. H. W. Schmidt presided over the meeting with E. William Koepp as secretary. The meeting was devoted to making plans for erecting a church building and to select a permanent pastor. Those attending the meeting were; Julius Boeck, Hugo Knott, Franz Koepp, E. William Koepp, Gustav Schroeder, Karl Haese, William Mattke, Emil Koepp, Emil Lentz, Julius Schroeder, Henry Zunker, William Klatt, Samuel Jachade, Louis Strey, Albert Bender, Albert Bulgerin, Albert Gutz, Louis Barkmeyer, Henry Schwarz, Louis Wagner, Ferdinand F. Lentz, Carl Kallies and Wilhelm Boeck.
(1) Pastor William Hummel and Pastor Heinrich Schmidt from Marion, Texas were holding services on alternate Sundays; Pastor Schmidt was called as pastor. (1901 – 1903).
(2) The congregation purchased two acres of land in La Vernia near the banks of the Cibolo Creek on the old Seguin road to build their church. This land was of the Juan Delgado League and a part of what is known as the old McClung Homestead. The deed further states ‘in trust, however, that said premises shall be kept, maintained, and disposed of as a place of divine worship for the use of the ministry and membership of the Immanuel congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, subject to the discipline usage and ministerial appointments of the church from time to time’ . A total sum of $175.00 in cash was paid to Mrs. E. A. McClung and her husband, A. McClung, by E. W. Koepp, Gustav Schroeder and William Boeck, trustees of the Immanuel congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The deed was signed and witnessed in San Antonio, Texas, Bexar County, September 23rd, 1901. Recorded in volume 44, page 273.
(3) The building was completed by October 8, 1901 and dedicated by the local pastor and by president W. Steinmann and Pastor Nad. The first child to be baptized was Franz Wilhelm Julius Schroeder, son of Gustav and Bertha Bulgerin Schroeder. Franz was born December 9, 1901 and baptized March 2, 1902. The first adult confirmation recorded was Mrs. Hermine Zunker on March 31, 1902. The first confirmation class organized on April 19, 1902. Members of this class were: Anna Klatt, Edward Koepp, Lee Hormuth, Louise Stabenow, Martha Stabenow, Lothar Schievelbein, Felix Duelm, Lillie Brause, Auguste Schroeder, Thekla Schievelbein and Meta Klatt.
(4) By 1902, two acres of land had been donated (or purchased for one dollar) from Gustav Schroeder for a cemetery. The money was given by W. E. Koepp and William Boeck, trustees of the Immanuel congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The land was located on the old San Antonio-La Vernia road (FM 1346). The deed was signed and witnessed on January 30, 1902. Recorded in the deed records of Wilson county, Texas volume 34, pages 457 through 459. The deed further states ‘in trust, however, that said premises shall be kept maintained and disposed of as a cemetery for the use of the Immanuel congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church’ . The congregation placed a fence around the property and held a formal dedication service. The first funeral was held on October 22, 1902. Hedwig Gabriele Koepp, infant daughter of Franz Koepp and Augusta Schmidt Koepp was born October 14, 1902. She died October 21, 1902.
(3) October 14, 1903, Pastor Schmidt accepted a call to Des Moines, Iowa. Immanuel Lutheran united with Christ Lutheran at Elm Creek to call a pastor for the dual parish. From 1904 to 1911, Pastor Christian Volk served the parish until he accepted a call to a church in Colorado.
August 1911, Pastor Nic Frueh of Beitel Memorial Lutheran Church of San Antonio accepted a call to minister to both churches. Pastor Frueh and his family resided in Elm Creek until April 1917 when they moved to the new parsonage in La Vernia. August Fuessel contracted the new parsonage at a cost of $1,550.00. Following is a description of the new parsonage written by Pastor Frueh’s Daughter, Ms. Hermine Frueh Burow: ‘in April 1917, a new parsonage was completed for the pastor’s family. A brand new ‘airy’ home with spacious rooms, big windows, pretty wall paper, tiny closets and a large screened back porch was to be our new home. I was eight years old and brother, Milton, was four. The big excitement of the day was when we heard the train whistle. We would run down to the place where we could watch the train whiz by. There were two daily passenger trains, (morning and evening), an occasional troop train and many freight trains, some transporting cattle. So, we were getting accustomed to town living’ .
(5) August 10, 1919, a celebration was held at Immanuel Lutheran Church in La Vernia, celebrating the homecoming of WWI soldiers who were members of the church. All of those who served returned home: Ortwin Beutnagel, Otto Bretzke, Oscar Freitag, Louis Freitag, George Gutz, Lee A. Hormuth, Henry Hormuth, Valentin Koepp, Ernst Koepp, Hugo F. Lenz, Eddie Reuss, Edgar Strey, Adolph Beck. The program and welcome were composed in the German language by Pastor Nic Frueh and translated by Mrs. Nic Frueh for inclusion in the history of the church. ‘Welcome, you brothers, in the house of the lord. The day of your homecoming we celebrate it with joy. Often did we think of you with anxiety and fear as you stood on guard duty far from your homeland, encircled and threatened by constant danger, on land and on sea – by turbulent storm. With sadness our thoughts accompanied you as you left your homeland to answer your country’s call. We remained here, prayerfully imploring gracious protection against evil fate. Many a firm handshake bade you farewell and safe escort. Many a quiet tear was shed at the time of parting. God bless you now in your beloved homeland. Our faith was not built on shifting sand. All of you returned home, safe and sound, but how many others lie covered by a gravestone. Those who left at the same time as you did, now rest in foreign soil-so far away.
Soldiers! We greet you with the sound of church bells. Today is a day of joy and happy greetings. In foreign lands, the sound of church bells brought thoughts of home; today they peal forth because God gave us peace. ‘Glory to god in the highest – and peace on earth’ should sound forth today and be a blessing to us’
By 1925, the membership had grown to 104 families and had a budget of $1,437.00. On December 12, 1926, the congregation observed the 25th anniversary of the church’s dedication. Dr. Wm. Steinmann delivered the morning sermon. Dr. W. Goerner of Seguin addressed the confirmand reunion in the afternoon. Over four hundred people were in attendance.
By 1931, the 30-year-old church edifice had deteriorated badly so the congregation decided to build a brick building but the depression forced the congregation to postpone the project.
In 1932, during the Easter service, a strong, vicious wind caused the building to sway dangerously. Those in attendance at this service just knew at any moment the building would collapse, therefore, the building project was quickly revived. On April 13, 1932, the congregation voted to build immediately and to use materials from the old church to erect a frame for the new church. The cost of the building, (exclusive of the donated stained-glass windows), was not to exceed $3,500.00. The dimensions of the new building were 80 x 32 with an addition of 36 x 13. The building committee was composed of Paul Dieckow, Ewald Koepp, Louis Lenz, Frido Rawe, Alfred Linne, Sr., Julius H. Lenz, Fritz Mueller and Herman Rauch. August Fuessel, the contractor, supervised the building of the church for $6.00 a day. Members of the congregation working as carpenter helpers received $3.00 a day. Others worked for $1.50 a day. Cost of the church edifice was a little over $4,500.00. The stained-glass windows, pulpit, carpet, pulpit bible and ten benches were donated by individuals and organizations. The first shovel of concrete was placed into the ground on May 13, 1932 (in place of laying a cornerstone) and the new church was dedicated on July 24, 1932 with Pastor Frueh officiating, assisted by president E. A. Sagebiel, Dr. Wm. Steinmann and Pastor Wm. Durkop.
(11) Mrs. Hermine Frueh Burow, daughter of Pastor Frueh, wrote the following ‘recollections’ about her father and the church: ‘there was a time when Pastor Frueh rang the church bell to warn the town of a disaster. When the ‘big fire’ threatened to destroy all of downtown La Vernia in (12) 1918, he rang the church bell continuously to alert the ‘bucket-brigade’ volunteer firemen into action. They succeeded in saving part of the town from the flames. On other occasions, when the death of a member occurred, Pastor Frueh would toll the church bell, a somber ‘dong dong’ . People would ask: who died? When is the funeral?’
(11) Ms. Burow remembers quite well the ‘horse and buggy’ days. Pastor Frueh and his family traveled back and forth from Elm Creek to Immanuel Lutheran Church in La Vernia in a one-seated buggy drawn by a big brown mare named ‘Mollie’ . When the weather was pleasant, Mrs. Frueh would accompany her husband to church in the buggy. Milton Frueh was the baby so he would sit in his mother’s lap. Hermine would sit on a little box in front of the dashboard. Later when they moved to La Vernia, Pastor Frueh bought a two-seated buggy with a fringe on top. Some years later, Pastor Frueh put ‘Old Mollie’ out to pasture at one of his church parishioner’s farms and bought a brand new Model-T Ford.
(11) Pastor Frueh played the organ for church services until he trained several young people to play. He organized a Maener Choir of several grandfathers and some younger men. The lead tenor was Herman Brause with help from the Koepp boys, Mr. Volkmann and others. While visiting Texas congregations, Dr. Otto Mees, president of Capital University, heard the Maener Choir sing in La Vernia. He was so moved and inspired by their dedication that he later wrote a tribute to them in a book: ‘they sang their hearts out in praise to the lord’ . Throughout the years, Pastor Frueh assembled mixed choirs, children’s choirs, duets and quartets for special occasions.
(11) Another endeavor by Pastor Frueh was organizing and teaching an orchestra. Some ordered their instruments from Sears Roebuck with instructions for learning to play. 1st violins: Alvin Koepp, Milton Frueh; 2nd violin: Hermine Frueh; cornet: Erich Koepp, Christlieb Koepp, Siegfried Koepp; trombone: Theo Barkmeyer; saxophone: Burney Boeck. Hymns were arranged for these instruments as well as other music.
(11) Pastor Frueh felt there was a definite need for English evening services once a month. These classes were well attended, not only by members, but people of the community as well. The church orchestra usually played selections for these services.
(11) The ladies aid society always managed to come to the ‘aid of the church’ when something needed to be done. They usually met once a month with devotion led by the pastor. They relied on his advice and suggestions. They put their heads together and got things done! Under the capable leadership of Mrs. Louis Wagner and her daughter, Mrs. Lena Schroeder, the women got the cooperation of the men and soon accomplished the task at hand. In subsequent years, they became associated with the national organization, ‘the ALC Women’ and later referred to as ‘WELCA’ .
(11) The Luther League was important to those who participated. They worked with the national organization in the study and devotional program. They met with neighboring leagues for social and get-acquainted functions. Under Pastor Frueh’s leadership, they made a ‘safari’ once a year – visiting Randolph Field, San Antonio Missions and Landa Park in New Braunfels. In 1928, Alice Sacherer (Engelhardt), Milton and Hermine Frueh, went by train with Pastor Frueh to Columbus, Ohio to attend the Evangelical Lutheran Church Convention.
(11) ‘Across the street from the parsonage lived a dear elderly lady, Bertha Schwartz, widow of Heinrich Schwartz (one of the first council men). My sister called her ‘howdy’ because she always greeted Dorothy with the word, ‘howdy’ when she came over to our house. I enjoyed going over to Mrs. Schwartz’s house because she had a player piano. She would play some rolls and then let me work the pedals to make the music. Later, when my parents bought a piano for me, I stopped going over to play the player piano. When ‘howdy’ died, she left this piano to Immanuel Lutheran Church for use in Sunday School’ .
(11) It was customary to use the prepared Christmas program consisting of songs and recitations for our annual Sunday School presentation. One year at the pastor’s invitation for children who wished to say a Christmas piece, a tiny girl came running up and recited in German: ‘alle jahre wieder, kommt das christkind, auf die erde nieder, wo wir menschen sind’ ! Because she was so cute and had said it so hurriedly, Pastor Frueh asked her to say it again. She looked at him with an impish little grin and said ‘einmal nug’ ! (once is enough!) To the delight of the pastor and congregation – she spoke her mind! Who was the tiny child? None other than Elsie Witte Ferry.
(11) At the close of the Sunday School program, Pastor Frueh worked out a Tableau – a living Christmas scene with the Luther League. On a raised platform in front of the altar (in semi-darkness) assembled Joseph, Mary with the Christchild in the manger, together with angels and shepherds surrounded by large cardboard animals. Suddenly, the spotlights were turned on. The hushed audience watched in amazement as the soft strains of ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’ sounded from the organ, accompanied by chimes. The congregation was so pleased with the presentation and it was repeated for several years. At the request of Pastor Frueh, Irene Linne (Mrs. Ed Sagebiel), created some of the scenes for the program.
(11) While La Vernia and Elm Creek were still a dual parish, Pastor Frueh would spend every other Sunday with each congregation. On ‘Elm Creek Sundays’ , three of Pastor Frueh’s helpers would conduct Sunday School in La Vernia. Mrs. Frieda Strey (mother of Theresa Koepp) and another helper took care of the younger children’s classes. Mrs. Amanda Linne and her helper managed the intermediate classes. Miss Tillie Dieckow and Hermine Frueh conducted the opening and closing of Sunday School and lead the adult class. This continued for many years.
In august of 1936, the Elm Creek and La Vernia congregations honored Pastor Frueh with a special service and gifts on his 25th year of service in the parish. Another unusual service was held at Immanuel Lutheran Church on June 26, 1938 when Milton Samuel Frueh, son of Pastor and Mrs. Nic Frueh, was ordained into the holy ministry by Pastor Frueh and Dr. Paul F. Hein, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, San Antonio. (11) Guests from out of town included the family of Milton Frueh’s Fiancee’, Rev. George and Mrs. Muedeking and George and Melitta from Arcadia, Wisconsin. The women of the congregation served a potluck meal at the Radtke house across the street in honor of the occasion. Milton’s first call was to the dual parish of Salem Lutheran Church, Port Lavaca and St. James Lutheran Church, Ganado, Texas.
(11) David O. Luna, a young hispanic candidate, was ordained into the ministry by Pastor Nic Frueh, assisted by Pastor Kurt Hartmann who was working with the spanish speaking people of San Antonio. The ordination was held June 15, 1947 at the Arneson River Theater in San Antonio, Texas. Pastor Luna left for Mexico the day after the ordination wearing Pastor Kurt Hartmann’s robe. Pastor Luna did wonderful work as a missionary to the spanish speaking people .
Pastor Paul Geiger served as assistant pastor to Rev. Nic Frueh from 1943 to 1948 at which time he accepted a call to pastor a church in San Marcos.
Divine services were offered every Sunday in La Vernia: German on the 1st & 3rd Sundays; English on the 2nd and 4th Sundays.
(11) Martin Burow, husband of Hermine Frueh Burow, was ordained into the holy ministry, July 11, 1948. Participating in the service were Pastors Nic Frueh, Milton Frueh, George Muedeking and Paul W. Geiger. Both Martin And Milton were graduates of Capital University Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. Martin’s first call was to St. John Lutheran Church in Poth, Texas.
In 1944, Miss Tillie Dieckow established an ‘organ fund’ with twenty-five dollars that was given to her by the congregation in appreciation of her faithful services as organist of the church.
By 1945, the Lutheran standard was placed in every member’s home.
In 1947, the ‘Dues System’ was discouraged and members were encouraged to ‘give as the lord has prospered you’ . In August of the same year, a fund was established for an educational building with a donation given by Mr. and Mrs. Otto A. Schroeder.
German and English devotional booklets were provided by the Sunday School. Lenten self denial envelopes were given out for the first time. The organ committee purchased a new Minchell Estey Organ for $1,380.00. Miss Gertrude Strey was commissioned by the La Vernia and Elm Creek congregations as a part-time parish worker for the summer months. This was financed by individuals from both congregations. The Luther League made arrangements to establish a playground near the parsonage and church.
Pastor E. G. Knaak of Immanuel Lutheran in Pflugerville was installed as pastor on December 1, 1948. During that year, the present parish hall was added to the church facility. Pastor Knaak died may 4, 1957 and Pastor Kurt C. Hartmann was installed on September 1, 1957 by Dr. Vernon Mohr. Pastor Hartmann and his family moved into the new three-bedroom parsonage on Labor Day, September 2, 1957.
During Pastor Hartmann’s ministry with Immanuel Lutheran, the annex was added, expanding the worship space and adding additional classrooms. Pastor C. N. Roth was the architect and the Oscar Mattke Lumber Company of La Vernia was the general contractor. The annex included overflow space for worship, four classrooms and two restrooms. New pews, church furniture, heating, air conditioning and public address system were installed. A new study and office for the pastor were added to the parish hall along with two additional classrooms in memory of Wilson and Dora Perry. The cost of the addition was $12,838.00. The women of Immanuel Lutheran Church provided the new chancel and aisle carpet.
On august 12, 1962, 10:00 a.m., the dedication was held for the new Lutheran Church Annex. Local Pastor, Kurt C. Hartmann lead the dedication ceremony and Dr. George w. Krueger of San Antonio spoke at the morning dedication service. Dr. Otto R. Schawe of St. John Lutheran Church, Poth, Texas addressed the ‘service of thanksgiving’ at 2:30 in the afternoon.
Sunday, December 5, 1966, new church pews were dedicated. The total cost of the twenty-eight pews plus 3 screens and a chair for the chancel was $3,525.00. Most of the money for the pews came from memorials.
(6) September 27, 1973 is a date that most people in La Vernia will remember for a long time; ‘the flood of 1973’ . The last known date that the Cibolo Creek came out of its banks was 1913 when it destroyed the old ‘high water bridge’ (as local citizens referred to the bridge). The water was higher than the 1913 flood. It was estimated that thirty homes, including Immanuel Lutheran Church, had water above the floor level and in some homes it was as high as four feet. During the clean-up, everyone seemed to help. Ladies made coffee and sandwiches for the workers and flood victims. Seventy students from Texas Lutheran College helped clean the mud from homes and the church. The fire department from Lone Oak assisted in the clean up. The Red Cross assisted the victims by purchasing essential items, such as bedding, food and clothing. The city council and the Wilson County Commissioner’s court designated the area as a ‘flood disaster area’ .
The following information regarding the flood of 1973 and its effect on Immanuel Lutheran Church and parsonage was written by Mrs. Frances Hartmann with excerpts from Pastor Kurt Hartmann’s Diary.
(7) ‘The big flood came early on Thursday, September 27, 1973 after a five inch Rain. This rainfall, combined with the three inches that had fallen in San Antonio the day before, had transformed the usual sleepy, meandering Cibolo and the Dry Hollow Creek into raging floodwaters.
We were awakened at 6:30 by Mr. C. E. Scull honking his horn to alert people about the water already running in the street. We saw swift water on the church grounds and when the fire siren blew at 6:45 my husband wanted to go and help but could not get out because of the deep rushing water. By 7:30, we were warned of more water to come so we reluctantly left our house and were rowed out in knee-high water to higher ground at the Watco Tank Company location. This was my first ride in a rowboat and was telecast that evening on the news. Many of my friends from Fredericksburg saw the telecast and told us about it.
At the height of the flood, our street had four feet of water and the Cibolo, at fifty feet, was way out of its’ banks and over the bridge. By late afternoon we were returned home on the city fire truck driving through two and one half feet of water. The water had not entered our home, however, there was flooding in the church with watermarks of at least eight inches in the church and annex. Around sundown, when the water stopped running in the street, several neighbors came and helped sweep water out of the church building.
Mr. Eric Priest of Texas Lutheran University had phoned earlier in the day and offered to send students to help. Mr. Priest indicated that he could send fifty or sixty students.
A number of the men in the community patrolled the fifteen to twenty water-logged homes from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. the next day.
On the 28th, we had a beautiful sunshiny day. The TLC ‘guys and gals’ came and helped to clean up many homes as well as the damaged fence around the church property. Homes in the area that received help were owned by Irvin Morgenroth, Paul Mattke, Sr., Fritz Mueller, Carroll Reeves, John Pierdolla, Lilly Strey, Eddie Wyatt, Alfred Linne and others. Under the supervision of Mrs. Leona Vorpahl, the city provided a noon luncheon in the Immanuel Lutheran Church parish hall for approximately one hundred workers including those from TLC.
In the church, tiles had to be replaced in the annex and the carpet in the aisles had to be removed. The carpet was replaced with beautiful red carpet which cost nineteen-hundred dollars ($1,900.00) and was installed just before Christmas of that year. The pews, baptismal font and other furnishings were refinished from the eight-inch watermark, downward. In October of that year, the Junior Lutherans helped clear out more trash and debris in the back fence and mud and sand were removed from the legs of the chairs in the annex. Some library books also needed airing out. Debris caught in the parsonage yard and fence was removed and much of it was buried in a little garden plot.
Old timers said this flood was similar to the one in 1913, when after the torrential rains, the Dry Hollow and Cibolo Creek exploded into a raging flood.
On the Sunday following the flood, the pastor delivered a sermon titled ‘the benefits of floodwaters’ and stressed neighbor helping neighbor, community oneness and God’s protecting care!’
(3) Pastor Hartmann, not only active in his church, but also in the community, was honored along with his wife, Frances, by the church and community when he retired in the summer of 1977.
Pastor Herbert E. Palmer was installed to serve the congregation at Immanuel Lutheran Church in September of 1977. Sometime during the years between 1977 and 1981, the parking lot was paved. A new Baldwin pipe organ was dedicated on June 28, 1981. Some donations were made by the members of the congregation toward the purchase of the new organ with a major donation by Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Linne for the balance of the cost of the organ and pipes.
There were more improvements on the parsonage with the installation of central heat and air and the addition of a second bath, carpet and patio.
The Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery Association was established in 1980 for more efficient care of the cemetery. Willous Lee, Otto Baethge, Glen Andrews and Otto Rawe were elected to serve as officers of the association. The church council took care of the cemetery business from 1902 to 1980.
By January 1980, Immanuel expanded to two worship services and began celebrating Holy Communion twice a month. By the 80th anniversary celebration, Immanuel Lutheran had nearly six hundred baptized members and a budget of $63,000.00.
In 1982, Pastor Palmer accepted a call to Brenham, Texas. On October 3, 1982, Pastor Gary Goodson was installed as pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church. Pastor David Fetter, Jr. officiated at the installation service.
In 1983, the Carillon Bells were installed in the church. They were dedicated by Pastor Goodson on April 29, 1984.
September 1985, the first Sunday of the month ‘Potluck Fellowship’ began and the fellowship continues to this day.
During Pastor Goodson’s tenure at Immanuel, there was much more cooperation among the various churches in the community. In 1986, a good Samaritan fund and food pantry were established, later to be renamed the Rev. Kurt Hartmann Good Samaritan fund in honor and memory of Pastor Hartmann.
In 1987, Immanuel Lutheran voted to approve of the upcoming merger of three national Lutheran church bodies; the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. The merger officially took place on January 1, 1988 when Immanuel Lutheran became a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the fourth largest protestant church body in the United States.
In August of 1987, the Lutheran Social Service of Texas opened a satellite office in Seguin with the support of the area Lutheran churches. Pastor Goodson was a member of the board of the LSST (Lutheran Social Services of Texas) office in Seguin. In 1988 the Christian Service Center opened. It is open every Saturday morning and provides food and clothing for people in need within the community. In September of 1988, the confirmation-senior youth group reorganized with a strong group of youth. The group worked hard on many projects and took a trip to sky ranch camp in Colorado in June of 1989.
In August of 1989, Saturday evening worship services began. These services are held on the first and third Saturdays of the month. Holy Communion is offered at these services and are more informal.
On November 18, 1990, the ground breaking for the parish hall addition took place at the close of the 10:30 a.m. worship service.
Pastor Goodson left in December of 1990, having been called to serve as a chaplain in the U.S. Army. Pastor David Priem accepted a call to serve Immanuel Lutheran Church and was installed on July 7, 1991. The Rev. Lawrence Bade, assistant to the bishop of the Southwestern Texas Synod of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America), presided at the installation service.
In 1992, Immanuel Lutheran purchased a computer for the church office at a total cost of $2,952.38. Additional office space was added in 1993 at a total cost of $5,895.00. The builder was E. L. Kinsey.
(8) September 16, 1997, Immanuel Lutheran Church purchased 1.27 acres of land within the Francisco Herrera Grant in Wilson County, Texas from Bernie E. Ramzinski and wife, Laura F. Ramzinski and located on FM 1346 on the easterly corner of the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery. Otto Baethge, chairman of the congregation council for Immanuel Lutheran Church, was the acting representative for this transaction. Recorded in the deed records of Wilson County, volume 944, pp. 413, 414, and 415.
In October of 1998, another flood wreaked havoc on Immanuel Lutheran Church. The following article was written by Pastor David Priem regarding the flood:
(9) ‘ With the heavy rains forecast for San Antonio on Saturday, October 17, 1998, many La Vernia people heard the news but didn’t really let it be of huge concern to them. Many of the residents who had been around a number of years had seen the Cibolo rise and fall many times without unleashing her wrath upon the town; and no-one would have ever believed that it would flood worse than it did back in 1973. So people went to bed, with little worry, except those living along the creek who put a few things up off the floor and secured a few things from the yard on higher ground.
In the middle of the night the community awoke to the sound of rushing waters and sirens and helicopters rushing to rescue people from the rising floodwaters, which had just begun to unleash their fury on the residents of La Vernia. I, (Pastor Priem), had gone to bed early, sleeping hard through the night, preparing myself for Sunday services and was not fully aware of what had happened until trying to get to the church early Sunday morning. As I passed through the light and turned the corner by city hall, I saw people abuzz everywhere. Not the usual early Sunday morning crowd. As I slowly rounded the corner and turned onto FM 775 toward the church, I could see why; the water was flowing swiftly across the street right through Watco Tanks. It was still dark and I couldn’t see very far but my worst fears were confirmed as soon as daylight broke. All I could see was water down past Immanuel Lutheran Church. Obviously, we would not have services today, and so I returned home to call as many of my parishioners as I could to cancel services and to recommend that they stay at home if they weren’t already affected by the raging Flood Waters.
It wasn’t until Monday morning that I was finally able to get back to the church, past the police blockades, promising to stay only a few moments because the threat of more rain was on the way and fears were running high. My first sight as I walked through the front doors of the church is an image, which will forever remain in my mind. It was so ugly that it was almost beautiful. The beautiful red carpet was a solid mud gray. The veneer on the sides of the pews was so warped that it looked like curtains, which had been carefully placed at the end of each pew.
I could barely walk down the isle of the church because the floor was so slick and slippery with layers of mud. When I reached the annex of the church, I saw how the water had swirled in different directions, like a huge whirlpool, pushing folding chairs in an almost perfect circle around the room.
The parish hall and church office were in much the same shape. My books on the bottom rows of shelving in the office had been like sea sponges, soaking up so much water they had swelled to the point that they were permanently stuck in the shelves. Water had been two and one-half to three and one-half feet deep in all the buildings on the church grounds. The damage was extensive. Pews and chairs and office equipment and desks, along with hymnals, historic bibles and songbooks from the founding of the church were all damaged beyond use. Floors and walls were damaged in all buildings along with other furniture, as well as altar cloths and choir music.
All seemed hopeless for awhile, but by God’s grace and mercy, help arrived from all corners as we began the immediate task of clean-up. During the long process of rebuilding, members came forward to lend a hand and people we never knew stopped by to offer help, supplies and food for the weary workers.
Mr. Troy Finch, owner of our local funeral home, was kind enough to lend us use of his facilities for the following Sunday and extended the offer of continued use for as long as we needed the chapel. We had a short service that day, dedicated to building people’s hopes and turning to God for strength and guidance during this great time of need. Following the service, we had a meeting to decide how to proceed with everything.
A couple of weeks after the flood, we were back in the church building, worshiping on folding chairs on top of the bare, ugly, wooden floor. It was a sign of determination for us as we set our sights on restoring this historic church to its former beauty, while at the same time, helping people to understand that God had not abandoned us in this crisis, but had given us the hope and promise that through the worst of things, God was still with us, strengthening our faith and our resolve through this tragedy and making us better people because of it.
The building process began as we prioritized and set goals for rebuilding. Our obvious first choice was the church itself so that we could get our worship life back together. Our second priority was on classrooms so that we could get our Christian education back on line, and our final goal was the old parsonage, now also being used for classroom space because of our growth. All but a few minor things were completed within a years time and we had a re-dedication service on October 31, 1999 (Reformation Sunday) to give thanks and glory to God for everything.
We could not have done it had it not been for all the help we received, as well as all the generous contributions of the members as well as the generous donations from the Lutheran Disaster Relief Fund and from many churches and individuals in surrounding communities and throughout the state of Texas and from others around the country.’
(10) In the summer of 1997, during the time the church was being painted, a beautiful painting was found by one of the painters, stored in a closet behind the altar, rolled, wrapped in tissue paper, secured with metal bands and packed in a wooden box. The paper and a portion of the outer edge of the picture had been slightly damaged by silver fish. The parishioners were in awe as they viewed this beautiful piece of work that had been hidden away so carefully for so many years, but were in question as to its origin. It is the theory of the church that Pastor Nic Frueh may have brought this painting from Germany during a visit there in which he played the organ at one of the many beautiful churches. The painting is believed to be a turn of the century piece of art with over-lays of intensive colors. The art has a religious theme and the inscription on the bottom of the picture, written in the German language is taken from Luke 2:14 ‘glory to god in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’ . The parishioners agreed that this gorgeous piece of work should be framed and hung in the sanctuary. A committee was appointed to have this done. Numerous calls were made regarding the framing of the picture and eventually the painting was taken to the Witte Museum in San Antonio and ‘hall of frames: museum and conservation framing’ was recommended. The picture was beautifully framed and sealed so that the glass does not touch the painting. It hangs on the east wall of the church sanctuary and is truly a beautiful masterpiece.
The following article regarding the replacement of the kneeling pads that were destroyed in the flood of 1998 was written by Sheri Boos, a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church: (13)’the congregation of Immanuel Lutheran Church decided to replace the kneeling pads with cross-stitched handiwork depicting symbols of the church. A book entitled Church Needlepoint by Louise A. Raynor and Carolyn H. Kerr was selected as the guide for this project. The book contained all the patterns for the designs with the exception of ‘Luther’s Rose’ , which was designed by the Reverend David W. Priem.
The kneeling pads include a total of twenty-one designs. The first section of pads emphasize the four apostles – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The fifth design depicts Christ as the Lamb of God. The middle section contains symbols that reflect various historical crosses. Grace, the first symbol, appears to be an anchor with an ‘X’ behind it. This is actually the Greek letter ‘chi’ which is the first letter of Christ and a sideways cross. The next four symbols highlight the Apostles Cross, the Crusaders Cross, a Cross from an Ancient Coin and the Evangelists Cross. Included on this middle section is ‘Luther’s Rose’ which was designed by Martin Luther as his personal Coat of Arms. Each color and symbol within the rose is designated as a point in faith for Luther.
Beginning with Advent and ending with All Saints, the last kneeling pad represents the church year through symbolic interpretation. This particular section of handiwork is the largest section and contains ten pictorial representations. Each design is unique in that it is characteristic of a season in the church year and serves to inspire individuals as they grow in their faith journey.’
Following are the symbols and the craftsperson:
‘Christ’ , Patrice Lambeck; ‘Matthew’ , Iris Kiser; ‘Mark’ , Wendy and Nicole Roser; ‘Luke’ , Anna Waltisperger; ‘John’ , Debbie Morgan; ‘Grace’ , Iris Kiser; ‘Apostles Cross’ , Sharon Poarch; ‘Cross from an Ancient Coin’ , Mary Kahler; ‘Luther’s Rose’ , Pastor David Priem; ‘Crusaders Cross’ , Iris Kiser; ‘Evangelists Cross’ , Wendy and Nicole Roser; ‘Advent’ , Sheri Boos; ‘Christmas’ , Chrystal Coble (original) and Iris Kiser; ‘Epiphany’ , Willie Jean Boeck; ‘Purification’ , Mary Robinson; ‘Easter’ , Annie Coldewey; ‘Ascension’ , Dorothy Boldt; ‘Pentecost’ , Pastor David Priem and Sheri Boos; ‘Trinity’ , Sheri Boos; ‘Transfiguration’ , Laura Baumann; ‘All Saints’ , Terrie Goeth.
Pastor David Priem wrote the following article regarding the beautiful new doors for Immanuel Lutheran Church: (14) ‘Since my arrival at Immanuel Lutheran Church in 1991, people have commented about the ‘glass doors’ on the front entrance to the church and how they looked so out of place. ‘Glass doors belong on a brick building’ , was the comment most frequently heard.
In early 1997, the church council began to discuss the upcoming ‘100th Anniversary’ of the church. Several items were discussed in regards to sprucing up the church for the centennial event. One item in particular were the ‘glass doors’ on the front of the church. Several comments were made to the effect of saying ‘how nice it would be to have beautiful wooden doors on the front of the church’ .
After much discussion among the church council, Rick Morgan, a member of the council, volunteered to help design the doors and to find a craftsman who would be willing to build the doors. A plan was presented to the church council for the construction of two heavy wooden doors with an emblem of a cross in the middle of each door, designed to match the stained glass windows already on the church, along with some clear beveled glass in the center of each cross so that ushers could see through the glass and open the doors for parishioners. It was decided to replace the arch above the doors with a stained glass design as the previous glass had several cracks and holes from ‘BB’ guns. The design above the door was to match the stained glass pattern on the church windows and incorporate Martin Luther’s Seal (a black cross placed in a red heart upon a white rose in a sky-blue field surrounded by a golden ring).
The council agreed on the plan and the craftsman, Adam Gerbatowski, an old world craftsman from San Antonio, was hired to make the doors. The plan was brought before the congregation at the semi-annual meeting for approval.
The doors were to be installed by Easter of 1998. There were so many delays that we began to wonder about the reliability of the craftsman. The doors actually did not get installed until just before Christmas of 1998. Looking back upon the whole situation almost seems a bit humbling as the ‘big flood of 1998′ would have destroyed the doors along with the many other things which were lost in the flood. Even though we griped about the slowness of the craftsman, somehow God was watching over us from above and the beautiful doors became one of the first pieces of restoration in the church following the flood. Their beauty attests to the fact that God is indeed a very present help in time of need’.
Mrs. Hermine Frueh Burow writes the following: ‘we, who now live elsewhere, but come home occasionally, rejoice with you as you celebrate the founding of Immanuel Lutheran Church one hundred years ago. You have kept the faith through ‘thick and thin’ , through ‘storm and flood’ . May God continue to bless you through the coming years’ .
(1) Information on founding of the Immanuel Lutheran Church in La Vernia is taken from the minutes of its first year. Written in German, they were translated for D.L. Vest by Mr. Ewald O. Koepp. The information on the founding was taken from the book, ‘A Century of Light’ History of Brahan Lodge #226 A.F. & A.M., pp. 164-165. Written by D.L. Vest in 1959.
(2) Information regarding purchase of land for Immanuel Lutheran Church was taken from the deed records of Bexar County, volume 44, page 273
(3) Information taken from the booklet ‘Immanuel Lutheran Church’ , La Vernia, Texas, ’90th Anniversary’ , September 29, 1991. History translated from German minutes of the congregation and compiled by Mrs. Ursala Koepp and Mrs. Kurt C. Hartmann, 1976, and updated by Pastor Herbert E. Palmer in 1981, and further updated by Mrs. Adeline Linne and Pastor David Priem in 1991.
(4) Information regarding purchase of land for cemetery was taken from the deed records of Wilson County, Texas, volume 34, pp. 457, 458, 459.
(5) Information submitted by Mrs. Hermine Frueh Burow of New Braunfels. Message written by pastor Nic Frueh in 1919 on the return of soldiers from WWI.
(6) Information regarding the flood of 1973 was taken from the ‘Mayor’s Message’ , an article in the La Vernia News, 1973.
(7) Story regarding the flood of 1973 was written by Mrs. Frances Hartmann on May 10, 2000. Excerpts were taken from the diary of her late husband, Pastor Kurt Hartmann.
(8) Information taken from the records of Wilson County, Texas, volume 944, pp. 413, 414, 415
(9) Information regarding the flood of 1998 was written by Pastor David Priem, March 2000.
(10) Information regarding the picture was submitted by Mrs. Cherry Pierdolla.
(11) ‘Recollections’ by Hermine Frueh Burow, daughter of Pastor Nic Frueh
(12) Date of fire from an article in the Wilson County News & Shopper titled ‘La Vernians Reminisce’ April 1975 pp. 9
(13) ‘ Kneeling Pads’ written by Sheri Boos, a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church.
(14) ‘The Doors’ written by Pastor David Priem of Immanuel Lutheran Church.