What Links St. Peter’s
By Gesine (Tschiedel) Koether
Growing up in Spring Branch, a suburb of Houston, I went to Spring Branch Elementary School and played right next door to St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church every school day. It was an old church with narrow windows, a tall steeple and was painted white. We were active members at Holy Cross Lutheran only a few miles away, so only visited St. Peter’s when they held their open house at Christmas. So as a kid, I did not think about St. Peter’s other than to think it was a pretty church, and they had a beautiful Christmas program.
As a member and tour guide for Round Top’s Bethlehem Lutheran, the connection between the St. Peter’s and Bethlehem churches were brought to my attention by Judy Matejowsky. She lent me her copy of the Bauer family book, A Goodly Heritage. It tells the story of Carl Siegismund Bauer and his descendants. It surprised me to learn that Bethlehem Lutheran was not the first church that Bauer had built. Ten-plus years earlier, Bauer had participated in the building of St. Peter’s in Spring Branch. My elementary school memories now beckoned me to find out more.
Carl Bauer, his wife, Christiana Malzar Bauer, and four of their children, who lived in Saxony, Prussia (Germany), boarded the sailing ship Neptune in 1848 in search of a less turbulent place to live. Carl and Christina were in their mid-50s when they set off on this journey. August, their second oldest, and his wife Emilie (Ficke) had emigrated in 1847 and sent back encouraging word of all that was available in Texas. The hurricane encountered on their journey, the scurvy-like disease that caused deaths on board the Neptune and the trip inland after arriving in Galveston all proved to be exhausting and dangerous. By 1849 they had made it across the mud flats and swamp-like land to a place approximately 10 miles northwest of Houston that other families had named Spring Branch Creek. The Bauers, along with the other German families, including the Rummels, Kolbes, Ahrenbecks, Schroeders and Hillendahls, held a Thanksgiving service for their safe arrival in the wilds of Texas. St. Peter’s Evangelical congregation had begun their plans. The oaks and giant pines were perfect for both their home and a church. William Rummel, who married Caroline Bauer, donated the land and cemetery for the building of St. Peter’s.
After the Christmas holidays of 1849, the men of those founding families went into the woods, cut logs and left them to season. These first logs were gone when they returned later to retrieve them. The next cut logs were kept under the watchful eye of the Rummels. The first church building was erected five years after the first service was held. In 1851, Carl Bauer left his Spring Branch property to his son, August, and moved with the rest of his family to Round Top, becoming one of the first settlers of the village.
Carl and his family were deeply religious and faithful in their endeavors to build a place to worship their Maker. The Bauers lost one child as an infant; their son, August, had preceded his family to Texas; one son, Karl, remained in Germany with all his descendants; four children were with them on their journey; and two daughters arrived a few years later. Like so many other families in the area, they had their joys and losses in the family due to illness and circumstances. Carl was driven to help establish and build the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Round Top. By the mid-1860s, Carl, now almost 70, led his sons, Carl Ehrgott and Carl Traugott, as well as his son-in-law, Conrad Schueddemagen, to complete Bethlehem Lutheran. His daughter, Wilhelmine Schueddemagen, was a strong asset as treasurer.
These two Lutheran churches are miles apart, but are connected by a family searching for a better place. Strong religious ties to their German Lutheran faith gave them the conviction to complete this task. Take a tour of these churches and cemeteries and you will find many of the same names in both St. Peter’s and Bethlehem’s histories and cemeteries. We are fortunate to have so many families in Fayette County, such as the Bauers and their descendants, who came to help build churches as evidence of their strong faith in God and family.
Marler, Isla Bauer. A Goodly Heritage; Printit Office Suppliers, Uvalde, Texas, 1959
Obst, Rev. Martin H. and Banik, John G. Our God is Marching On; Von Boeckmann-Jones, Austin, Texas, 1966