The Texas Road Runners !!!!!                

Road Trip Adventures, Roadside Attractions, Crazy DIY Projects, Texas Fishing, Rock Hounding and more......

Past Adventures

The Wends of Texas 2006

The sights include :  The Wendish Museum of Serbin, TX; Petrified Wood hunting at Lake Summerville, TX;  More Petrified Wood hunting near Lyons, TX, You guessed it, more Texas Courthouse Photos (Well, just one this time); and more Oil Well Pump Metal Art of of Luling, TX.

Forward : (As always, click on the picture for for a larger image and click on the links for photos surprises.)

          Can you believe it!  During the break between the last Spring semester and the upcoming Summer semester, I did not go on one major road trip.  However, I did take a day trip into East Texas for a petrified wood hunt and came back with a few good item to feed my tumbler.

Therefore, I decided to share a paper I did for a past Sociology class on the Wendish people of Texas.  It's a great story on another immigration group who settled into Texas and I hope you enjoy it and give Serbin, TX a visit. 

I did keep myself busy though.  During the last after Christmas sales, mom purchased a small white Christmas tree and decided to learn wire wrapping and make Christmas ornaments out of some of my polished rocks and gems laying around the house.  Not once did she ever pick up the wire and tools to work on them, so.... I got busy!  Check out the photos below :

Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 1, Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 2

Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 3, Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 4

Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 5, Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 6

Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 7, Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 8

Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 9, Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 10

Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 11, Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 12

Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 13, Mom's Christmas Tree Ornaments 14

After some encouragement from family friends and , I continue to make more.  So watch out E-Bay :

Wire Wrap Jewelry for Sale 1 , Wire Wrap Jewelry for Sale 2

Wire Wrap Jewelry for Sale 3 , Wire Wrap Jewelry for Sale 4

So you see, I did keep myself busy.  One last thing.  I finally updated the "About This Site" page.  Please check the link below for any new news since I really no longer send out notices on updates. 

About This Site - Updates found here.

Well, its time for the show.  Enjoy!!!!

Star Date 04/25/2006 - Tuesday

Although my paper was almost completed, I thought it best to visit the Serbin community first hand for more detail information on the Wendish people and especially their museum that preserves their past and traditions.

But, could I also make a rock hunt out of this excursion?  Of coarse, my appointment with Barbara Hielscher, one of the volunteers at the Wendish museum, wasn't until 2:00 pm.  Therefore, I found myself heading out, way before the crack of dawn.  I took Hwy 288 North, then the Beltway 8 to Hwy 290Watch out for those cops!!! I made it to Brenham in record time and then traveled on Hwy 36 North and made it to the Lake Summerville area for breakfast. NOT!!!!  No, I hunted for petrified wood around the lake at Welch Park.  This site is discussed at the below link and a few photos of the petrified palm wood that I found :

Lake Somerville Wood, Jasper and Agate

My Lake Somerville Wood 1 - Polished

My Lake Somerville Wood 2 - Polished

By the way, this is a good lake for fishing as long as they are not sick.  The wood here is part of the "Yegua Formation" and I decided to consult my "The Roads of Texas" atlas for any unpaved county roads in the area.  After leaving the park, I made my way back into Somerville and traveled North on Hwy 36 to Lyons, TX and then traveled East on Hwy 60.  After about 3 - 4 miles, I turned left on County Road 228.  After about a mile, I stopped at the following GPS coordinates and struck the mother load!

30° 26.029 N and 096° 32.855 W

I was able to find quite a bit of wood here, Both big and small pieces for tumbling, including some nice little logs.  Thank God for the Diamond Pacific 65 T, the Mother of all Tumblers!  Most of the wood I found were in the ditch than ran along the length of the road.  The report for this site is described on the below link and here's a few photos of what I found :

Lyons Petrified Wood Site

My Lyons Petrified Wood 1, My Lyons Petrified Wood 2

My Lyons Petrified Wood 3 - Polished, My Lyons Petrified Wood 4 - Polished

Ok, I'm starving now.  So I backtracked to Somerville and continued South on Hwy 36 to Brenham and found some place to eat.  After graving, I then left Brenham and I traveled West on Hwy 290 to Giddings.  I finally found somewhere to eat and after a late lunch I traveled South on Hwy 448 and then took Hwy 2239 West into Serbin.  Due to the small size of the town, I immediately found the museum and their church.  Since I was still a bit early to meet with Barbara, I took the time for a photo op. of the area :

The Wendish Museum

The Original Wendish School House

Kilian Family Grave (Read on to understand)

Reverend Johann Kilian Grave Site

Inside the Museum 1

Inside the Museum 2

Their Library for Genealogical Research

I finally met with Barbara and received a first class tour and obtained some great material for my paper.  Now, for my paper.  Enjoy :

The Wendish Who? :

 Texas has certainly been blessed with a rich mixture of cultures including the Spanish,  the Germans, the Czechs, the Italians, the Irish and of coarse the various native tribes of the American Indians.  With that said, can you answer the following question :

             What culture does not have a country, yet a unique language, customs and traditions?  In what culture, do traditional brides wear black as a reminder of the hardships that come with marriage?  Which culture celebrates Christmas with clownish characters?  Finally, what culture is known for beautiful artful eggs during the Easter celebration?  With no pun intended, can you use your noodle to answer the above questions?

 Answer : The Wendish people of Texas, Australia and Germany.

If you have never heard of the Wends or also known as the Sorbs in most European languages, then don’t feel too bad.  Not many people have, including the most culturally aware Texans.

One weekend last Summer, I had just finished prospecting for the famous, but elusive, Texas Petrified Palm Wood in the Lake Somerville area.  Having some success, I decided to make my way west to the Bastrop area in search of their petrified treasures.  As I passed through Giddings, TX, I stopped in town for lunch and noticed a special character to the community.  After passing a billboard promoting the Wendish Heritage Museum, I decided to investigate further.  I inquire for directions to the museum and soon found myself south of town in the small community of Serbin.  The museum was not hard to find due to being in the center of the community next to their historic church.  Unfortunately it was closed.  However, time soon passed and finally found an excuse to go back for further investigation.  It was here where I began my indoctrination into the Wendish way of life and culture by Barbara Hielscher who served not only as my most gracious host, but also that of my mentor into my new cultural endeavor.  

 A Historic Perspective :

Since the time of the Roman Empire, the Wendish people has always been around as one of the many Slavic tribes in northeastern Europe.  During the times of the Great Migration Period, the Wends grew as a nation of people in the northern areas of Germany and soon became a power to be feared.  As the Vikings left their lands to plunder and settle in other areas of Europe, the Wends made a play for Norwegian and Swedish lands.  The Nordic kings and tribal leaders soon united to not only push the Wends off of their territories but also decimated them a nation of people so that they were never able to challenge other surrounding Germanic and Slavic tribes and peoples.  Due to their weakened state, the early German tribes took over  their lands in which they soon became second class citizens in.  Despite being under German authority, the Wendish never really assimilated with the Germans and continued to retain their own language, customs and traditions.  However, though they did resist for a while, they did succumb to the Christianity, through the efforts of the Roman Catholic Church and then Lutheranism after Martin Luther’s efforts in religious reformation.

     Due to political turmoil, religious persecutions (The Calvinist Movement) and severe agriculture disasters of the mid-1800’s, many European peasants, skilled and semi skilled workers began migrations to the new world lands of Australia and America.  The German populations were among the first with many settling in the areas of central Texas including the Texas Hill Country.  The successes of the first German immigrations to Texas were soon feedback back home through correspondences and the government of Texas’ own pamphlets and advertisements to promote immigration to unsettled lands.  It was this type of encouragement which feed the Wends’ minds for their own lands in which to worship in their own ways and unite themselves as a people again.

Thus, where the Germans went, the Wends were soon to follow.  There were two main migrations.  One migration settled in Australia in which the Wends were quickly assimilated into the existing German populations who migrated there earlier and the ones to Texas.  The Texas migration of 600 Wends were lead by Pastor

Figure 1. Map of the Wendish Homeland in Europe.

Johann Kilian in 1853 aboard the Ben Nevis, the Texas counterpart of the Mayflower.  Disease running rampant aboard the ship was just one of many hardships endured through out the long journey until reaching Galveston just before the Christmas of 1854.

Once ashore, the Wends then made the 85 mile journey by foot to New Ulm and Industry which were already settled by the Germans.  While in New Elm, they negotiated for land and was able to purchase a large track of it in the southern region in what is now Lee County.  Land was then set aside for a church and a school and tracts laid out for farming and lots for the new city of Serbin.

The Wends prospered well and established close contacts and relationships with their German neighbors who continued to help them in their transition to their new country and the surrounding communities.  As time past, the Wends continued to migrate to other areas of Texas and the nation.  Although the Wendish leaders did their best to maintain their cultural identity, much was lost through each new generation assimilated to more and more German influences to the point where even they and their German counterparts assimilated into the American culture known today. 

Wendish Customs and Traditions :

Just as any other culture has its own customs and traditions, so do the Wends.  Due to the lost of much of the Wendish culture in Texas,  most of what we are now re-learning come from published accounts and visits to the Wendish homeland.

 Christmas

Due to their cultural relationship with the Germans and their strong Lutheran beliefs, Christmas is one of the high points for the Wendish people.  Although the celebration of Christmas is focused on special church services including religious pageants by the school children, a visit with the Rumplich is always inevitable.

Figure 2. A Rumplich’s Costume.  The Wendish version of Santa’s helper/s.

The Rumplich/s are clownish Christmas characters wearing masks who wander from house to house and pay visits to the children of the home.  They would ask the children if they have been good throughout the year and what they wanted for Christmas.   Sometimes a child would be ask to recite a prayer for which he or she would be rewarded with a handful of candy.  For those children who have been into mischief, the Rumplich/s would spank their little hands.  Their visits would include Christmas carols and the distribution of more candy, fruits and nuts.

      The Rumplich/s who made their visits were usually other family members or friends of the family.  Even today, one may meet an elderly Wend who will remember visits of Rumplich or even playing the role of Rumplich him or herself.

Easter

Easter is another religious holiday celebrated by the Wends whose traditions are both sacred and secular.  Like most other European and American cultures, religious ceremonies are attended followed with a general feast or festive meal.  Also, eggs are also decorated like many other cultures except they are of exceptional beauty and art. 

Being part of the Slavic peoples, decorating eggs and especially Easter eggs with intricate geometric designs is a folk art performed throughout eastern Europe including parts of Russia.  

The Wends share in this widespread tradition.  An art technique known as Batik in which molten wax is used to draw elaborate designs onto the egg.  Often Christian symbols are used as part of the art work.  The eggs are then dyed and the areas of the egg which have been waxed resist the adhesion of the dye.  The wax is then scratched or melted off. This process may be repeated many times until the final design has been completed.  The eggs are then kept as precious gifts rather than immediately broken and forgotten as is the case today.

In addition to the creation of beautiful eggs, the “Easter Water” is another traditional event.  The night

 Figure 3. Traditional Wendish Decorated Easter Eggs.

before, ore even very early Easter morning, young girls would travel to the closest water source such a nearby creek and fill a container or pitcher with water.  Then they would sprinkle the water on livestock, friends and family members at daybreak in order to ensure good luck for the rest of the year.  The tradition is still sometimes practiced in parts of Wendish Europe, however, the magical belief of the water bringing health and good fortune has faded.

Weddings

Weddings were another occasion for community festivities as were for many other immigrated cultures in Texas and elsewhere.   Obviously in today’s modern times, those who retain their Wendish heritage perform their marriage ceremonies in the usual modern traditions.  However, in the past, the Wendish had their own tradition of celebration in which some parts have been are revitalized and mixed in with modern traditions.

Figure 4. Traditional Wendish Wedding Gowns.  Note the black bridal dress.  As time passed, the Wendish brides gradually moved to the more traditional white dress.

In the mid-1800’s to the early 1900’s, the wedding date had to be announces in the church at least three times in the Church.  This process was also part of the invitations to friends and family.  The wedding almost always took place after Sunday services to make it more convenient and logistically for all who were invited in the community.   Usually, only the younger people attended the wedding at the church while the parents of the bride and groom met at the parents of the bride house to prepare for the wedding festivities which would occur after the wedding.

The only unusual difference in the Wendish wedding is that the bride’s  gown was black instead of white.  Not only was the gown black, but, also very tight fitting and uncomfortable.  According to custom, this was to symbolize the sufferings of the new life ahead of her.   As the Wendish marriage traditions moved with time, the black gown turned grey and the grey gown finally turned to white.

 

During the festive meal at the bride’s parents home after the wedding, the bride’s shoe was passed around in which the guest were to give money in to help them in starting their new life together.  A collection was also taken for the cook who burned her apron.  Obviously, the monies this time were used to help pay for the food and other consumables used for the party.   

Lastly, at the end of the night when the bride and groom bed down for the night, friends of the recently wedded would produce noises by beating pans a tubs from thirty minutes to an hours outside their window.  Then everyone went home so they too could get some sleep since they all had to get up early on Monday morning for work.

 Folk Medicine

In today’s modern society we don’t think twice about seeing our personal or family physician for any medical issue or even the emergency room for something of a serious nature.  However, for the Wends, the “lebenswecker” was a tool immediate relief for many ailments suffered by the Wendish peoples up until the early 1900’s.  This medical device was even used on livestock.

The lebenswecker was nothing more than a hollow tube with an internal plunger with needles at the end.  A spring mechanism forced the needles into a shallow depth into the skin.  Thus completes the first half of the medical treatment.  Next, special oil imported from Germany was then rubbed into the skin at the area that was slightly pierced.  Today, those who remember being treated with such medical devices, stated that the pricking of the skin was not so painful and that recovery from such ailments as malaria or arthritis was almost immediate or occurred over night.  The use of the Lebenswecker is now obsolete due to the specialized oil from Germany in no longer produced and without the oil, the treatment is incomplete.

The Wends also practiced other forms of folk medicine during the early days of their colonization of Texas such as salves and teas which were common for the times and that of Eastern Europe.  Of course the modern Wends of today obviously seek medical attention from their personal or their family physician.

The Bird’s Wedding

Another Eastern European custom which prevailed in Texas  well into the 20th century was that of the “Bird’s Wedding”.  It was especially customary for the children.  On January 25th, children would place empty saucers and plates on fence posts and other high places away from dogs and cats.  The next morning, the children would awake to find the dishes filled with candy and nuts supposedly left for them by the birds who were said to be celebrating their wedding and wanted to share with their human neighbors. 

Through the years, the Wends allowed this and other Slavic customs to fade away as each new generation became more and more Germanized and then Americanized.  Along with Eastern European superstitions and their folk songs, all disappeared in the early 20th century.

The Wends of Today :

The Wendish today have fully integrated themselves into the modern American culture.  However, as a people, together they did accomplish great things including their schools of higher learning such as Concordia University in Austin, TX.  Beginning in the 1950’s, a the Wends started a movement to preserve and  promote their heritage through the Wendish Heritage Society and representing their culture through various festivals such as the yearly Texas Folk Life Festival in San Antonio every year in June.  While visiting the festival, be sure too indulge in a meal of the “Wendish Noodles”.  Through the new interest in genealogy, the Internet and other factors where people are looking more and more into their past, the Wendish people will become more and more recognized in their contribution to Texas culture and history.

Not only is there a resurgence in the Wendish people and customs here in Texas, but also in Germany.  Though the current Wends in Germany have assimilated in today’s modern Germany, even after the fall of Communism, they too are researching their own roots in order to remember their own heritage in the homeland. 

 Resources :

The following resources were used :

The Wendish Texans, By Sylvia Ann Gridder, pp. 21-40, 57-89.

In Search of Home, Nineteenth-Century Wendish Immigration, By George R. Nielson, pp. 3-12, 64-112, 119-124.

So-Called Wends of Germany and their Colonies in Texas and Australia, By George C. Engerrand, pp. 0-42.

The German Texans, By Glen E. Lich, pp. 16, 67

Concordia University website : http://www.wendish.concordia.edu/html/about.htm

 Aftermath :

Well, there you have it.  That paper helped me to earn an "A" in that class.  I still had some time and I was itching for another Texas county courthouse photo.  I still had not obtained one for Bastrop County which was nearby.  So, I headed back into Giddings and and continued West on Hwy 290 to Paige and then followed Hwy 21 West into Bastrop.  Now for your viewing please, I give you :

Bastrop County Courthouse - Bastrop, TX

 When around the courthouse area, just be careful where you step.  My day was not quite over with.  I believe promised a roadside attraction or two.  Hum, how about some Oil Well Pump Metal Art over in Luling?  Maybe I can find some new ones.  So from Bastrop, I headed West on Hwy 21/71 and then took Hwy 20 South to Lockhart.  From Lockhart, I took Hwy 183 South to Luling and found the following pumps to add to my collection :

Luling Oil Pump Metal Art 1 - (An Airplane)

Luling Oil Pump Metal Art 2 - (An Eagle)

Now my day is over with.  From Luling, I traveled East on I-10 and then took Hwy 36 South again to home.  I got home just in time to get ready for my big date tonight.  Hum, my stomach is talking to me again.  I think I'll have some Wendish noodles for supper.

Folks, I also did a paper on the Mexican Free Tail bats of Texas for my Biology class.  Expect that paper for next month since I will be checking out the bat emergence at Bracken Cave this July.  Aren't you glad there's no Part II to this story? 

       So, until next time, take care and I'll  See you... on the road, or in the workshop, (which is really just my garage) !!!!

                                                     Francis                        

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 Copyright © 1999 by [The Texas Road Runners - Francis Kiefel]. All rights reserved.