St. John's Lutheran Church

[Ross Prairie & Ellinger, Fayette County, Texas]

Transcription and translation by
Willie Ann McColloch
W.M. Von-Maszewski

George Memorial Library
Richmond, Texas


With the help of Bill Stein at Nesbitt Memorial Library at Columbus, Colorado County, Texas and Rev. Karl Edward Johnson of the St. John’s Lutheran Church at Rutersville, Fayette Co., Texas, we received a copy of St. Johns’ Lutheran Church Records. Believing that the material would help others find records that I struggle for many year to locate, I convinced W.M. Von-Maszewski to help me with the German translations. I could never have gotten this job done without Von’s help. A person using this material should be cautioned that the entries were written in Old German script and some of the material was faded and hard to read. We have tried to keep errors at a minimum but we did copy the names and places as they were written in the records. If there is any doubt about the entries, the researcher should go back to the original document to check for errors. Many of the persons mentioned in these records came from Germany to Texas and settled in this area.

Willie Ann McColloch

The Beginning of Ministry (1851) which resulted in the Formation of
St. John Lutheran Church (1859)
Ellinger, Texas
And the adoption of the First Constitution (1861)

History that led to the formation of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Ellinger, Texas by Pastor Lee G. Eschberger

Today, Oct. 26, 1986, St. John Lutheran Church of Ellinger is celebrating the beginning of ministry which resulted in the formation of that congregation and the adoption of the first constitution in 1861. The celebration begins with a Worship Service of Praise and Thanksgiving. Lunch and fellowship will follow.

It all began in November of 1851, when six newly ordained ministers arrived in Texas from Pilgrims' Mission at St. Chrischona, Basel, Switzerland. As four of them traveled through LaGrange on their way to New Braunfels, one of them was asked to stay. Pastor Philipp Zizelmann accepted this offer. During the later part of November and through December, he contacted people in LaGrange and surrounding communities. In early January, he left LaGrange and went to San Antonio. Pastor John Roehm took over for him. After unsuccessful efforts in LaGrange and Black Jack, he went to the area of Ross Prairie, Fayetteville and Frelsburg. After an unsuccessful effort to build a church, he left in 1852. They couldn't agree on where to build. In 1855 he returned and finally in 1859 a church was built at Ross Prairie. St. John Lutheran Church moved to Ellinger in 1895. Had the first effort succeeded, it would have been one of the first in the state.

We are deeply indebted to St. Chrischona for the development of Lutherism in Texas. Almost ninety Pastors in all came to Texas from there. A number of them served at Ross Prairie and neighboring communities. Pastor R. Heise, who is known by many in the area, came to Texas in 1900 from St. Chrischona.

German immigration to Texas began in the eighteen-thirties. The first German settlement was Industry in Austin County. It was followed by the Biegel settlement, where the Fayette Power Project is now located. Soon there were many other settlements in the same general vicinity, which included Ross Prairie. What is important about this fact is that when the Lutheran church was planted in Texas she sprouted forth in nearly every one of these places which were settled by predominantly German immigrants.

These early settlements were served from time to time by various protestant ministers. The first and most prominent among these was the Rev. L. C. Ervendberg who came to Texas in 1839 from Illinois. In 1840, he established himself in Blumenthal and from there he conducted services in Industry, Cat Spring, Siegel Settlement, La Grange and Columbus. He left the area in 1844. Who has the honor of being the first Lutheran pastor in Texas is uncertain because their are no records to decide the issue.

In 1850, the Lutheran Synod of South Carolina sent Pastor G. F. Guebner to Texas to analyze the missionary needs and opportunities. He seemed to have remained in Galveston for a short time and organized a congregation. Also Pastor Caspar Braun arrived in Houston and organized a congregation that same year. His nearest neighbor was Pastor J. H. Braschler in Spring Branch. However, these were not enough to serve the many immigrants in Texas. Many letters written back to the homeland contained reports that, "The number and the dispersion of the immigrants are such that the pastors on hand are far too few to serve them in a new paganism is threatening and developing; there are no schools, no recognition of Sundays or other sacred days, no churches, no worship, no Bibles, no God in the hearts of people.”

During the winter of 1849, a letter was written to relatives in Switzerland by someone in Texas. In this letter, he wrote of the deplorable conditions in the settlements from the viewpoint of churchly life and Christian training. The contents of the letter was shared with the well-known friend of missions, Mr. Christian F. Spittler of Basel, Switzerland. He always had a warm, sympathetic attitude toward those who were in distress, bodily or spiritually. In fact, his concern for the distressing spiritual condition in Switzerland had prompted him to found an institution for the purpose of training men of all walks of life religiously, so that they might return to their respective communities as a positive influence in religious things. He expressed his thinking in these words, "While we labor to convert pagans to Christianity we must also be concerned lest Christians revert to paganism." This institution became known as the ‘Pilgrims' Mission at St. Chrischona. In the course of time circumstances somewhat altered the purpose of the institution and expand its usefullness. It began to train men for mission-work in foreign countries. America became one of the countries upon which it centered much of its efforts and into which it sent many of its men. Because of the above mentioned letter and other information on condition, in Texas, Mr. Spittler and his associates decided that in so far as America was concerned they would direct their attention to Texas. The institution was a supply base for manpower only. They trained the men, equipped them with a small library, and sent them to Texas. Many were the letters that flowed from the pen of Mr. Spittler requesting books for a necessary library for each missionary, inviting contributions to help pay for ship passage, and arranging the final and specific training for each of them.

Two men from the class of 1850 were selected to do the pioneer work, to acquaint them selves with the country, to learn the needs of the immigrants, and to evaluate the qualifications of those who were to be sent to serve among them. Those who were chosen were Theobald G. Kleis and Christoph A. Sager. In the fall of 1850, they arrived in Galveston. A number of people showed interest in their presence. With them they discussed future possibilities and it was decided that they should go inland. At Victoria, they made their first contacts and conducted services. However, a decision was soon made that Pastor Sager should remain in that area, and that Pastor Kleis should investigate the needs and possibilities further north. He established himself in the Neighborsville and Hortontown communities about two miles northeast of New Braunfels. As a result of his work, St. Martin Lutheran Church, Neighborsville-Hortontown was built in 1851. It is considered by some historians as the first Lutheran church built in Texas.

The reports that they sent back to the pilgrims' Mission were such that Mr. Spittler reported in his missionary publication early in 1851, "You will recall that last year we sent two of our students to Texas. Within a short time they gathered small groups about themselves and have found much work. Yes, they have seen a vision of so large a field of service that they consider it a necessity to ask that six brethren be sent to join them. As we received their report we also received a letter from a Lutheran pastor in Galveston. Together with certain families of that place, he thanks us for sending those two brethren and requests most urgently that others be sent in considerable numbers. We are convinved that the Lord has assigned our Chrischona a field of service in that land. Looking up to Him we have decided that this year's entire class, consisting of six members, shall go there." These six were John Ebinger, Christian Oefinger, John Roehm, William Strobel, Henry Wendt, and Philipp Zizelmann.

The early pastors faced a great deal of difficulty in establishing congregations, even though there were many immigrants with Lutheran backgrounds in Texas. This is evident from the fact that it took eight years before the first church was built at Ross Prairie. A number of other places had similar experiences. On Christmas Eve, 1851, Pastor Zizelmann wrote to Mr. Spittler from LaGrange: "Texas is now and always will be a mission field. The church of Jesus will be able to establish herself freely and fully. But such is the case also with rationalism and atheism. We have joined combat with these forces: Therefore pray for us that none of us fail or fall in this struggle.” At the synod meeting in 1855, the president reported, "Several of the brothers can report in praise to God, that a number of souls committed to their care walk in the ways of truth and honor their Christian profession. Predominating, however, is the lament because of this great carelessness and indifference over against everything religious, and this unbelieveable bog-down in things material and temporal."

Pastor R. Heise came to Texas and Ross Prairie in 1900 from St, Chrischona. He also served a number of other congregations in the area during the next 50 years. In reviewing his ministry he wrote, "So very many of those immigrants were most indifferent, hard, ungodly and defiant, as perhaps nowhere else in America. In this respect the mission work in Texas had its particular difficulty. As I look back over the years, I detect the spirit in which we gained the victory which we hold today. St. Chrischona taught us to be self-denying and humble, but also courageous and persistent in presenting God's law and gospel 'in Season and out of season'. It was a long, hard struggle. In it we endured insult and persecution. But I often said... I will not give up! There were those who did not have this humility or stamina. There were those who came, saw the situation, and went north. It was the Providence of God that assigned just this unusually difficult field to St. Chrischona. Her spirit alone was equal to the task."

Another problem that the pastors faced, along with the general population, was sickness. Pastor Zizelmann had a siege of typhoid fever in San Antonio in 1852. Pastor Kleis had to leave his post that same year for the northern states, in an attempt to regain his health. He died within the next two years. Pastor Jaeggli wrote to Pastor Sager, "Within a period of a few weeks near to 200 people were sent into eternity at nearby La Grange." There is also a statement of Pastor Roehm "A year of suffering, illness, and death lies behind us." Many fell victim to the terrific change from Europe's climate to that of Texas and the abject poverty under which most people lived. The exact years of the above statments are unknown but cover the general period of time covered by our story. The number of death among the pastors was very large in terms of the percentage of their numbers, due to their exposure to danger and contagion in response to the call of service under all these adverse conditions.

To illustrate the conditions under which the early pastors served, the following example of what was considered a "comfortable dwelling" for a Texas pastor is included in our story. When Pastors 0efinger, Strobel and Roehm arrived at Neighborsville it was at night so they had to wait until the next morning to inspect the house and premises more thoroughly. What they saw was most interesting but not so pleasant were the prospects that seemed to await them. At that time, an indescribable feeling of loneliness and homesickness possessed them. The house consisted of one room, eight by fourteen. It had one door which was an opening in the wall covered with a thread-bare curtain through which the wind and rain might pass at will. It had windows through which light and air might enter.

We end this part of the history of St. John Lutheran Church at this point. If you are further interested in the history of the congregation, please read the 125th Anniversary.booklet. If you do not have a copy, it is available through the church.

We owe a debt of graditude to our gracious Heavenly Father and His servants, through whom He worked, for not giving up on establishing the Lutheran Church in Texas. It is amazing how much he loves us in spite of our unworthiness.

125th Anniversary 1859 - 1984

St. John Lutheran Church
Ellinger, Texas

October 14, 1984 we commemorate 125 years of St. John Lutheran Church serving the Ellinger community. Following is a brief history of the St. John Lutheran Church, Ellinger, Texas obtained from congregational and other historical records. Growth and fruit have come slowly, but steadily.

Both Pastor Philipp F. Zizelmann, who made the first contacts in Ross Prairie, and Pastor Johannes C. Roehm who followed him, came from Germany. They had both attended the Pilgrim’s Mission Institute of St. Chrischona of Basel, Switzerland. They were ordained on June 29, 1851 in Loerrach, Baden, Germany. Pastor Zizelmann was born at Kleebronn, Wuertemberg, Germany on October 10, 1824 an Pastor Roehm was born at Metzingen, Wuertemberg, Germany on April 2, 1822. They and four other classmates boarded the Franziska at Bremen on September 2 and landed at Galveston on November 5. From there they traveled to Houston where they were received by Pastor Casper Braun. On November 10, 11 and 12 they participated in organizing the first Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Texas. Zizelmann was elected secretary and Roehm was elected treasurer. Later, this synod met in convention at Ross Prairie in 1862.

It was agreed upon that four of them, Pastors Strobel, Oefinger, Zizelmann and Roehm were to go to Pastor Kleis in Neighborsville near New Braunfels for further direction. He had in the meantime been working on establishing openings for them. Because of the depleted condition of their financial resources, they had decided among themselves to walk to New Braunfels but were advised against it because of what the weather could be like in late November and December. Therefore, Thursday, November 13 at four o'clock in the morning they left Houston by coach. They reached La Grange on Sunday evening, November 16, 1851 at seven o'clock. This was their second Sunday in Texas. The next morning they contacted all teamsters in La Grange in hopes of finding transportation to New Braunfels; however, none were leaving before Wednesday. Because of the cost of staying over, they decided to complete their journey on foot Repeated requests were made that one of them remain in La Grange and from there reach out into the surrounding settlements. Pastor Zizelmann responded to this request. Then the other three left their baggage with him and started out on foot at once. Pastor Zizelmann gave the following report on their departure:

At one o'clock on Monday afternoon, November 17, the journey began. I walked with them for an hour. The parting was the most difficult one I had yet experienced. Before they left we knelt out there on the prairie and sang:

Jesus, lead the way, Guide us day by day;
And although the way be cheerless
We will follow calm and fearless;
Guide us by thy hand, To our fatherland.

Six days later the three pastors arrived in New Braunfels. Winter rains had soaked them every step of the way on their ninety mile journey and they were unable to find any shelter, even at night. On the last stretch, two of them had to support the third one who had developed a fever.

Pastor Kleis left Pastor Roehm in charge of his school and congregation and went with Pastor Strobel to Victoria. Next he took Pastor Oefinger to Castroville and Quihi. Then he told Pastor Roehm that his place would be San Antonio. But he could not think of himself as a missionary "in so large a city." He felt that Brother Zizelmann is the man for that place.

He pawned his watch and some of his clothes for $18.00. He left on Sunday morning and was back in La Grange on Tuesday, January 6. Although he had walked 55 miles the last day, he still had time to go out to one of the settlements where he was told that he would find Pastor Zizelmann. He persuaded Pastor Zizeimann to take his place in San Antonio and he informed him that he would be expected to conduct his first service in San Antonio on the following Sunday. To arrive there on time he would have to go by stage since he was not a footman like Pastor Roehm. However, he did not have the necessary funds for a ticket, so Pastor Roehm gave him $16.00 of the $16.25 that he had left from the $18.00 mentioned earlier. At midnight on Thursday, January 8, 1852 Pastor Zizelmann left La Grange. Leaving so soon after having started working with them upset a number of the people and as a result they declined to support Pastor Roehm in his work at La Grange.

Before leaving, Pastor Zizelmann had shared with Pastor Roehm the contacts he had made. He had conducted his first service on Wednesday, November 19, 1851 in the courthouse. On November 30, he had borrowed a donkey and had visited the Biegel Settlement, Ross Prairie and Fayetteville. He was not encouraged with the situation in Biegel but of Ross Prairie he said, "Things look better there." Near Fayetteville he had found a Mr. Knippschehr who had decided he would try to get a pastor from Europe for his family. He would offer room, board, laundry and $100.00 per year with the privilege of serving other families and other settlements. On what happened after Pastor Zizelmann left we will let Pastor Roehm tell his own story:

It was midnight when the brother's omnibus left La Grange. The darkness of a depressing mood settled upon me. I was sad, discouraged and dissatisfied. In the following days, when I contacted the folks in La Grange in the interest of carrying on with church and school, I was advised not to do so. I went to a settlement about fives miles to the southwest, O'Quinn or Black Jack Springs. For two days I walked from house to house, inviting folks to a service on Sunday. With one exception, people listened quite willingly but the answer was an indefinite 'We'll see.' On Sunday, one woman came, and then she, too, withdrew bashfully.
My spirit sank to the bottom. But I was to learn that the bottom was still deeper down. But to cry from such depths gives courage and faith.

Back in La Grange, I soon learned that I had thought too little of my own welfare when I gave Brother Zizelmann all my money. But I did have 25 cents. But the folks there let me know that they could not go on supplying room and board. I offered to pay with a new cloth coat, but my landlord refused to accept that. I offered to do some work, but they advised against that. Finally they decided they would take turns at supplying meals. But the first day it did not suit the lady of the house to have it so. Quickly I decided I would fast. This gave me the satisfaction of knowing that I would not be a burden to anyone.

One thing was sure. Things could not go on like this. I decided to go out to the settlement at Ross Prairie, some 12 or 14 miles away. I had three family names from there. The first of these could not keep me. They simply did not have room nor even necessities for themselves. Their spirit was willing, as they demonstrated on later occasions. When I called at the second address, I was quickly polished off with “since Zizelmann did not stay, we do not care to keep you either.” But they gave me night quarters in an old, empty cotton house. The rain and wind beat through the roof and log walls. My clothes, which I piled on top of an old blanket, were soaked. A norther stopped the rain but increased the cold. By morning I was frozen stiff. At breakfast my heart was full to the breaking point! It was only with effort that I drank that cup of black coffee. It occurred to me that my descent had no bottom!

But I set out to contact the third family on my list. My pocket was empty, my stomach was empty, and I had no friend within a 100 miles. I stood out there on the broad prairie and above me the heavens were clear. And then and there that golden passage came to mind: 'The Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head.' How fortunate, how rich, how satisfied I suddenly felt. I jumped for glee and joy! Never had I been so like my Savior, at least in poverty. I fell to my knees in prayer, but I found hardly any words than these! ‘The Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head, and yet art Thou my Savior, and Thy Father is my Father too.'

In this happy mood, I started again, lost my way, and had to walk an extra seven miles. I was brought face to face with grim realities when I had to wade through the ice cold Cummins Creek. Settlers gave me direction from farm to farm... I arrived there shortly after one o'clock and I briefly informed the serious-minded but friendly head of the house of my true and unfortunate situation. After a few moments, he said” 'We bid you welcome, and so you will consider our house your home for the time being.” What help for me! The Lord reward those dear friends to all eternity! And it was high time I found help, for my frozen limbs were refusing to respond, and it was not till late evening that I was warm again inside and out. But why did the dear Lord let me make that seven mile detour? As I put the question to my new-found friend, he said, Had you come directly, you would have arrived three hours sooner; I would not have been at home; had my wife told you I would not return before evening, you most likely would have gone on; and with this weather getting colder and colder, you might have perished. And so I realized again, in the providence of God, there is always a 'Therefore!' for our 'Wherefore?'

And with new confidence I went to work. first to visit the dear members of the Lutheran Church within a radius of 12 miles, to invite them to a worship service and to a discussion of future possibilities. At this I worked almost every day for two weeks. And the result, in view of all circumstances, was favorable. I offered to serve them with the Word and the Sacraments for the next six months, for I hoped within this time or at the conclusion of the period to find a home among them. And they, on their part promised by personal subscription to remunerate me with $48.00. And for a while everything moved along well with the worship services, and the visits in the homes.

Then, according to the wish of all concerned, an effort was to be made to build a home for the Pastor. It was to serve also as a place where the worship services and school might be conducted. All agreed to build a block house with an annex. Among those present were about 10 men who said that one or two logs would be about the extent of their ability - or willingness - to contribute. The one had no wood, the other no wagon. And yet 36 to 40 logs were necessary. Finally our friend, Mr. Knippschehr, arose to say that he would furnish all needed logs for a 20 x 24 foot church and, if necessary, also those needed for a parsonage. However, he stated that since he had no wagon, he would not be able to deliver the logs to the building site.

That raised the question: Where shall we build the church? Some made the sensible suggestion that it be built in the center of the area to be served. Some three or four people who lived to the north of Frelsburg insisted on building it in that village. One of them said, 'We will not go down to the prairie!' He got as his reply. 'If you will not come down to us, we Will not go up to you.' Nothing was accomplished.

Since I found no other place to stay, since services were to be conducted in a private home on the prairie, since I had no place in which to teach school. I offered to work on the farm of my host. He was kind enough to teach me how to clear the forest, fell the trees, cut the timber, split the shingles, prepare fence rails. build fences, clear the field, plant and cultivate corn and cotton. This education served me well in later years.

But my many travels on foot, getting wet from the morning dew, being exposed to the noonday heat. made inroads on my health. I contracted fever which lasted for weeks. The customary cure of castor oil. calomel and quinine did no good. Attendance at services dropped off. Sometimes three to six were present: sometimes I was there alone. Then I preached the sermon to myself. And that was very valuable, too.

But circumstances convinced me more and more that I was laboring in vain. So I made my host a proposition. I would serve him full time in the field and with the cattle. He accepted my services on one condition, that if at any time I were to receive a call to serve in the ministry I would continue in that service. And lo, and behold! Just at that time I received the most urgent invitation from Pastor Wendt in Galveston that I join him in his church and school work. Since he was younger than I, I was none too happy at the thought of being only an assistant. But Friend Knippschehr urged me to go. 'I fear if you farm for a year you will have no more joy to return to the ministry. It will be better if you remain in practice' he said.”

As we consider his story, we must remember that his ministry covered a large area which extended from Ross Prairie to Frelsburg. In the fall of 1852, he left the area to help Pastor Henry Wendt, who was in poor health in Galveston. During this brief stay in Ross Prairie only one Pastoral act is recorded. This is the confirmation of Anna Meier in 1852. During the summer of 1853, he found a mission field in the hill country, serving Leiningen, CasteIl, Schoenburg and Mason. He stayed until the spring of 1855. From there he went to Comaltown and on April 15 he was united in marriage with Miss Louise Brandle. In May he brought his bride to Frelsburg, his new charge. There they lived and served for twenty-two years. From there he revisited Ross Prairie. This time they welcomed him and drove eight to twelve miles from every direction when he conducted services. On December 25, 1855 the first baptism was recorded. Other baptisms and official acts were recorded even though there was no organized congregation until December 26, 1859. This is the date given for the organization of St. John Lutheran Church of Ross Prairie. Before this date, records indicate that there were 80 baptized and 13 confirmed. Pastor Roehm continued to serve the congregation until 1861. He also helped establish many other congregations in the area. In addition to serving as the first treasurer of the synod, he also served as its president and secretary.

We close his biography by quoting a scripture verse from his obituary as it was printed in the church paper:
"Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth. 'Yea', saith the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them," Rev. 14:13. Considering the fact that we are today celebrating the 125th Anniversary of St. John Lutheran Church, his work did follow him.

Before a church was built, services were held in homes. On February 21, 1859 a decision was made to build a church. A decision was made to add a church-tower on August 21, 1859. On September 26, 1859, Jacob F. Dirr, John H. Meier, August Beyer and Henry Baumbach. Trustees of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ross Prairie Community, purchased five acres of land at Ross Prairie, near Ellinger. Three of these acres were sold on May 12, 1951.

On February 1, 1861 a German Constitution was adopted by the congregation. In the same year, Pastor Rudolph Jaeggli was called to hold worship services. He served the congregation until 1871. A parsonage was built in the year 1863. In the years 1871-1873, worship services were conducted by Pastor F. Wohlschlegel. Then Pastor R. Jaeggli again served the congregation from 1873 to 1883. In the years 1883-1888 services were held by J. Doerfier. Then Pastor August Wenzel served as minister from 1889 to 1890. Next, Pastor J. Frehner served as minister from 1890 to 1894. In 1895, Pastor Carl Baer came to St. John. In 1896 and 1897, the church was supplied by Pastor H. Juren, a Czech Moravian Brethren Pastor.

On February 15, 1895. a decision was made to build a church in Ellinger at a cost of $829.40 and to be forty feet by twenty-four feet by sixteen feet. In 1898-1900, the congregation was served by Pastor J. Herzig. Services were held twice a month in Ellinger and once a month at Ross Prairie and Shaws Bend. In September of 1901 a decision was made to build a church at Shaw's Bend. In 1900, Pastor R. Heise was called from Germany to serve this parish. He remained until 1912. His autobiographical data includes statements that during this time he also served the congregation of Swiss Alp and the newly organized congregation in La Grange. Also, that the people in Ellinger requested that he be satisfied with $200.00 per year instead of $300.00 and he consented. On January 8, 1908, Pastor Heise and his family moved to La Grange from Ellinger and thereafter became the center of parish work. He noted that the water was less healthy than that in Ellinger. In 1910 Prairie Valley asked that he conduct services there and in 1913 he was asked to come to Rutersville as well. A schedule was set up whereby he conducted services at La Grange at least three times per month, Prairie Valley twice, EIlinger once and Rutersville once or twice. Pastor Heise released the congregations of Ellinger and Shaw's Bend to Pastor H. Krause who served from 1914 to 1921. When Pastor Krause left the area, Ellinger again requested the services of Pastor Heise, at first in the afternoon and then at 8:00 a.m. on Sundays. On February 1, 1945, Pastor Heise resigned in La Grange, but continued conducting services at Prairie Valley, Rutersville and Ellinger. November 1, 1942 the English Constitution was adopted for the churches. Pastor Heise remained until 1951.

In 1951, the American Lutheran Church Yearbook indicates there were 40 confirmed members, listed no Sunday School enrollment, had local expenses and district dues of $370.11, contributed $56.40 to A.L.C. Benevolence and $26.50 to special appeals. Pastor H. T. Flachmeier supplied pastoral services in 1951 and 1952. The church in Ellinger was struck by lightning for the third time on June 6, 1952 with extensive damage.
On July 6, 1952 pastor Raymond Durst was installed. In October of 1952, the congregation hired Charles Neundorff to repair and improve the church. The renovation consisted of lowering the tower about seven feet, putting in new concrete foundation posts, painting the exterior and the roof and installing a celotex interior, also new altar, pulpit, lectern and chairs improved the chancel of the church. The pews, organ, and hymn board were all refinished. Rededication services were held after repairs and renovation of the church on March 15,1953. The membership then numbered 53 baptized, 36 of whom were confirmed. In November 1953 the congregation of St. John found that it would be to its advantage and best interest to incorporate itself into a private Religious Corporation. The original charter of the corporation was filed in the office of the Secretary of State of Texas on June 25, 1954.

The Women Missionary Society was organized on July 13,1954 with seventeen members. The constitution was revised on June 8, 1961 and the name St. John Women of the church was used. In 1963, the name of American Lutheran Church Women was adopted.

The St. John Luther League was organized July 1957. On October 16, 1973, the Rutersville Luther League became associated with the Ellinger Luther League. The Leaguers participate in various activities during the year such as hay rides, candlelight services, decorating the Christmas tree, Christmas Caroling and playing volleyball. The Luther League teams have won 65 trophies in the past years.

The Shaw's Bend Congregation joined with the Ellinger Congregation in 1958. In May 1958, the two church buildings (Ellinger St. John and Shaw's Bend) were moved to the present site. A lighted cross was placed on the church steeple as a memorial. On August 2, 1959 dedication of the parish house was held. Six classrooms, a kitchen and restrooms were added to the former Shaw's Bend Church which was renovated into the parish hall. The Shaw's Bend building was a gift of that congregation and after it was painted and a new roof added it was used for Sunday School and other meetings. The building committee consisted of the church council and Mr. Ewald Kansteiner, Mr. August Thiel and Mr. Milton Koehl. The membership in January 1959 numbered 120 baptized, 92 of whom were confirmed. The Sunday School was organized in 1953 with 16 members and by 1959 the enrollment was 26. Sunday School was also held in earlier years but on an irregular basis. Each year the students present the annual Christmas Program. Vacation Bible school was also begun in 1953 with 16 members and by 1959 the enrollment was 35 with 6 teachers. In 1984 the enrollment was 23 with 6 teachers. At this time our congregation was a part of a parish which also included Rutersville and Prairie Valley.

On October 25, 1959, the 100th Anniversary of the church was celebrated, with Bishop Vernon Mohr and Pastor H. C. Ziehe as guest speakers.

On March 11, 1962 Pastor A. E. Flathmann, Sr. was installed to aid in the work of the parish which included Ellinger, Prairie Valley and Rutersville. On September 22, 1963 the farewell sermon of Pastor Durst was held.

On September 29, 1963 the decision was made to make Ellinger and Prairie Valley a dual parish. Pastor Flathmann was installed as pastor of the dual parish on December 22, 1963. He remained until August 31, 1972.

An Altar Guild was organized on September 28, 1964.

An Attendance and Offering Register Board was donated and dedicated on August 22, 1965.

In 1966, individual communion ware and a baptismal bowl were dedicated as a memorial.

Roof repairs were made in 1967 and wall fans installed. An altar and a suspended cross were dedicated as memorials on March 24, 1967. Also on July 16, 1967 new green silk Altar, Pulpit and Lectern Paraments and Fair Linen were dedicated as memorials. On October 20, 1968 a new Pulpit, Lectern and two Chancel Chairs were dedicated as memorials.

Early in 1967 a new cedar shingle roof was donated which moved the congregation to paint both the exterior and interior of the church. A Memorial Book to record all gifts to the church was dedicated, being a gift from Pastor and Mrs. A. E. Flathmann, Sr. on October 20, 1968.
A Hammond Organ was donated and dedicated on April 14, 1968.

In 1969 the building debt was paid in full. In September 1969 white Paraments were made. The 110th Anniversary was held on November 30, 1969 with Rev. Don Vlasak as guest speaker.

On February 8, 1970, new pews which had been donated by members, were dedicated. All of the church records were microfilmed in 1970.
The stained glass windows were donated and dedicated as a memorial on June 20, 1971. Violet Paraments were donated in March 1971. A storage cabinet for altarware was obtained. The church floor was refinished and the center aisle carpeted. A new roof was put on the parish hall. A retirement social was held for Pastor and Mrs. Flathmann, Sr. in 1972.

Pastor Walter C. Probst, Jr. was installed as pastor on September 3, 1972. Ellinger and Rutersville formed a dual parish.

Rewiring of the church was done and three new heaters were added in 1973. Red Paraments and a Fair Linen were made and dedicated on June 10, 1973. Communion covers were made.

The Congregation was photographed into booklet form in 1974. Dedication of the Baptismal Font was on June 2, 1974 which was acquired from memorials given in memory of the late Pastor A. E. Flathmann, Sr.

Pastor Lee Eschberger was installed as pastor on January 4, 1976. On November 4, 1979 two flags, the American and the Christian, were dedicated as a memorial. Also dedicated were the new hymnals "Lutheran Book of Worship" some given in memory of relatives and friends.

On January 18, 1981 two new heaters were given as a memorial and the church was painted. On November 6, 1982 new lights were dedicated as a memorial and new communion linens were purchased with memorials. A trophy cabinet was made and presented to the church by one of our members. A new Pulpit Bible was dedicated as a memorial on July 10, 1983. During Advent, 1983 a lighted nativity scene was purchased and one stained glass window was repaired and two were moved from the side to the front.

On February 3, 1984 Blue Altar, Pulpit and Lectern Paraments and a Stole were dedicated as a memorial; also a new Fair Linen was bought with memorial gifts. A missal stand and Altar Book were dedicated as a memorial on September 16, 1984. A guest register book was dedicated as a memorial in October. 1984. During 1984, the parish hall, classrooms, kitchen and restrooms were repaired. This was all done with money left to the congregation by one of our members.

Since 1976 there have been 11 baptized and 12 confirmed. The December 31.1983 membership totaled 120 baptized and 98 confirmed. The total number of baptisms recorded are 1326: confirmations 735: weddings 239; funerals 426.

Many of those who were baptized and confirmed have moved to other places where they have become active members of other congregations. Thus, we may rejoice in the work that has been done in our congregation to further God's Kingdom.

The Ross Prairie Cemetery Committee
of St. John Lutheran Church

A Mini-History

The St. John Lutheran Church dates back to the 1852's. From that time until 1859, when the church was first built at Ross Prairie, services were held in homes.

The Ross Prairie Church Cemetery probably became in use before the church was built. A reference was found where Margaretha Dorothea Meyer, who died in May of 1864, "the beloved wife of Johann Heinrich Meyer", was laid to rest beside her husband at Ross Prairie. Johann Heinrich Meyer, one of the first settlers of Ross Prairie coming to Texas in the days ofthe Republic, and to Ross Prairie about 1843, died between October 1854 and August 1855. However, the earliest grave stone actually found was that of a child, George A.J. Mueller, who died in April of 1860. There may have been many more burials in the 1850's, as there are some stones badly deteriorated and difficult to read. Also, there are many graves where the stone no longer, or possibly never existed.

Although the decision to build the church in Ellinger was made on February 15, 1895, services were still held once a month at Ross Prairie, and the cemetery was still actively in use, at least until December 1931, when Julia Hattermann was laid to rest, which appeared to be the latest date found.

For over a century and until several years ago, this little cemetery was cared for by the loving hands of the children and grandchildren of these pioneers. Many of the families of these pioneers have long since moved away or, are now deceased. Shall all the labors of love and devotion by these families and the pastors who served them so well be lost to apathy???.. The decision lies with YOU!!!

Here is a list of some of the family names inscribed upon the stones at Ross Prairie. Perhaps this will help you determine some other persons who may be descendents of some of these families:

Bauer (Baur)




Floeger (Ploeger)

Glaner (Glomer? Glaeser?)


Hillebrand Hillmann



Longlotz (Langhotz)









Dear Friends:

In the old Lutheran cemetery of Ross Prarie, near Ellinger, Texas, therein lies sleeping many of our pioneer forefathers who came to this land while it was still in a raw and untamed state. They endured many hardships and privaties in their efforts to establish a place of lasting peace and freedom.

This hallowed and historic plot of ground has become sadly neglected, overgrown with weeds and brush, and almost forgotten - - - except for a few persons who dispair of its present condition and desire to correct this situation; however, they are unable to accomplish this task alone.

On April 18 1971, a committee, appointed lay the St. John Lutheran Church of Ellinger, met and voted unanimously to try to permanently remedy the deplorable condition of the Ross Prairie Cemetery by trying to contact ALL descendants, relatives, or ANY persons interested in preserving the memory of our noble and honorable heritage - - to give them the honor and privilege of participating in setting up a fund for the restoration and perpetual care of this historic cemetery, which is believed to be one of the oldest in Fayette County, and is deserving of Texas Historical Marker, which the committee hopes and plans to obtain.

The committee is now appealing to YOU, as a descendant of some of these brave pioneers, to help in having this final resting place restored to its former glory, and so that YOU can point to it with pride and say, without regrets, "there lies some of my forefathers who made this wonderful country what it is today."

W.E. Glanstone once said, "Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender sympathies of the people, their respect for the laws of the !and, and their loyalty to high ideals.

Any questions and/or suggestions regarding this project will be most welcomed by the committee. Or, if you know the names and addresses or location of any other descendants or interested persons, please forward this information to the committee.

For your convenience, and so that proper credit may be given, we are enclosing a form and a pre-addressed envelope that yon may use in sending in any Questions, Suggestions, Names and Addresses, and, of course, your contribution.

Please make all contributions payable to:
The Ross Prairie Cemetery Committee

Gratefully yours,


The committee is comprised of the Pastor, the St. John Lutheran Church Council, and three advisory members*.

Pastor A.E. Flathmann, Sr.
Mr. Leonard Baca, Chairman
Mr. Herbert Stork, Vice Chairman
Mrs. Roy Weishuhn, Secretary
Mrs. Leslie Fritsch, Treasurer
Mr. Allan Mueller, Council Member
Mr. John C. Divert, Council Member
Mr. Milton Koehl, Council Member
Miss Myrtis Brooks, Historian
Mrs. James W. Sager, Genealogist & Historian
Mr. James W. Sager, Publicity & Research

Transcription of deeds from Dirr and Hillmann families donating land to trustees of Evangelical Lutheran Church at Ross Prairie for a church, school house, and church yard.

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