St. Mark's United Methodist Church
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
ZION GERMAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH 1891-1924
The church sought a new location in a residential area of Houston and a site in the western part of the city was located. By a deed dated October 8, 1891, recorded in Volume 56, page 619 in the Harris County deed records, the church purchased lot 7 and 10 feet of lot 8, Block 415 in Baker’s Addition, facing 60 feet on Lubbock Street by 100 feet in depth along White Street. The cost was $750.
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The deed for the property shows the trustees to be August Miller, J.J. Altdorfer, Adolf Retzloff, H. Rolke, and Adolph Carl. The church also made a name change at the time - to Zion German Methodist Episcopal Church.
This new location was purchased from B.A. Riesner. Risener, a German, owned a large red-brick home with white columns on the north bank of Buffalo Bayou where Capitol Avenue crossed over the bayou to Riesner Street. The Houston Police Station now occupies this site.
The Assessor’s Block Book for the City of Houston, volume 14, page 102 shows the location of the purchased property as illustrated in Figure 2. (Tax rolls show this site was assessed at $29,100 in 1983).
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This white-frame church was constructed facing White Street during the pastorate of Rev. Ott.
After getting settled into the new building with the tall bell tower, the congregation sent Rev. Ott to St. Louis to buy a bell. A passage from the gospel of Matthew 11:28 was inscribed in German onto the bell - “Kommet hier su mir alle, die ihr muehselig und beladen sein, ich will euch erquicken.” Translated, it says “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
The bell tower was subsequently moved to the Norhill Methodist Church in 1925 and, in 1939, was moved again to be placed in the new bell tower at St. Mark’s.
In 1895, while Rev. William Buehrer was pastor, a parsonage was built at 609 White Street, next door to the church. Worship services were held at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. every Sunday with Sunday School beginning at 9:30 in the morning. Prayer meetings were held at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.
The first mention of a women’s organization of any kind at Zion was in the 1899 City Directory, page 359 - “Ladies Aid Society, Zion German M.E. Church, North, organized February, 1896. Membership 25. Meets 1st and 3rd Thursdays at the church. Mrs. Adolph Carl, president; Mrs. William Buehrer, vice-president; Mrs. Frederick Kopp, secretary; Mrs. George Frey, treasurer.”
The first automobile arrived in Houston around 1900 and by 1904, there were more than 80 vehicles in the city. The introduction of the auto was of profound significance to Houston. Not only did it allow for outwardly expansion of neighborhoods, the “car,” and subsequently the “truck,” provided an unforeseen, explosive impetus for the growth of the oil industry - an urban economic factor unparalleled in human history.
It is interesting to note, on page 161 of the 1904 City Directory is shown a “Zion German M.E. Church (South) located on the northeast corner of York and Magnolia Streets, Rev. P.H. Hensch, pastor.” The church name may have been a coincidence but the two churches were actually in different conferences in addition to being in different areas of town.
Several members of the Preston Street church did not make the move to White Street but the relocated congregation grew all the same. Hermann Rolke was Sunday School Superintendent for many years and prayer meetings were held regularly at 7:30 every Wednesday night.
During the pastorate of Rev. G.C. Brannies, the first mention of an Epworth League appeared in the 1910 City Directory. This notice appeared on page 39 - “Epworth League, Zion German M.E. Church (North), organized 1903, members 15, meets every Tuesday at the church, 8 p.m., Rev. G.C. Brannies, president; Charles Shaw, vice-president; Frederick Rolke, secretary; August Rolke, treasurer.” Also shown in the same directory is this listing - “Wesley Intermediate League, Zion German M.E. Church (North), organized 1909, members 27, meets every Friday at 4:30 p.m. at the church. Mrs. G.C. Brannies, superintendent; Miss Etta Hall, secretary.” The Epworth League membership grew rapidly as reflected on page 40 of the 1912 City Directory - “…membership 60, meets every Sunday at 7:00 p.m. at the church. Daniel Klein, president…”
It has been 65 years since the church was in that location and only a few members of St. Mark’s (circa 1990) attended the old Zion church. After his retirement, Rev. Brannies (Zion, 1908-1911) returned to Houston and became affiliated with St. Mark’s. Mrs. Brannies, now 107 years old (circa 1990), continues her membership as do two daughters, Mrs. Lorena (A.W. Kobs and Mrs. Estella (James A.) Schmidt. During the pastorate of Rev. W.L. Froehner (between 1911 and 1915), his brother, W.J. Froehner and family joined Zion church. Two members of that family have continuously attended to this day (circa 1990) - Mrs. Lillian Froehner (Bland W.) Martin and L.E.“Buck” Froehner. Miss Hilda Scholl, another present member (circa 1990) of St. Mark’s, was also on the roll at Zion.
In the early years ministers’ duties were more varied than they are today. Besides preaching, visiting the sick and shut-ins, they were also the financial officer of the church and the custodian. The records kept by Rev. Brannies are still in the possession of his family and two pages are reproduced on pages 35 and 36.
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The young Rev. Brannies visits members of Zion in the horse and buggy day. Picture courtesy of the Brannies family.
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A page of the journal kept by Rev. G.C. Brannies showing four months’ expenses, courtesy of family.
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A page of the journal kept by Rev. G.C. Brannies showing income for the year, courtesy of the family.
Expenses for the year, excluding the salary and conference claims, for 1909 totaled $63.10. Collections for salary for 4 months were $122.50 and collections for that year were $640.50.
Although the H.E. Schmidt family were not members of Zion they wanted their children confirmed there and the family were charter members of St. Mark’s. Mrs. Ethel Schmidt (Jack) White was confirmed in Zion and is presently a member of St. Mark’s.
German-language services were discontinued in the early teens of the 20th century. By that time, the second and third generations of the original immigrants had become truly “Americanized,” and many did not speak or understand the old Mother Tongue.
It is interesting to note the Houston Post reported on February 8, 1922, that President Warren G. Harding had the first radio installed at the White House.
The church remained at the White Street location approximately 35 years but had less than 100 members. By the 1920’s, when Houston was experiencing rapid growth and prosperity, people continued to move “out” to the suburbs. In order to adequately serve more folks, the Zion Church leadership decided yet another move was in order - this time to a bustling new area, the Norhill Addition, east of Houston Heights. A deed dated September 15, 1924, records that at a quarterly conference held August 21, 1924, the following was approved, “A motion was made and seconded to sell the church property situated on the corner of White and Lubbock Streets, not including pews, pulpit, altar furniture, musical instruments and bell, to H.E. Blumberg for the consideration of $4,250. Said amount to be applied to the erection of the new Norhill Methodist Episcopal Church. The motion prevailed.”
The deed was signed by A.A. Leifeste, District Superintendent of the Brenham District of the Southern Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and W.L. Froehner, pastor, along with the following trustees - W.C.J. Marquart, W.F. Marquart, A.H. Marquart, H.F. Thuesen, Jacob Furrer, M.J. Adlof and Otto Gabler. The deed is recorded in Volume 588, page 377 of the deed records of Harris County. Thus, from humble beginnings and for nearly fifty years in two locations, the church was again ready to accept the call and move forward into greater works for the kingdom of God.
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Confirmation Class of Zion Methodist Church April 9, 1922. Top row, left to right: Wesley Schmidt, Harold Sonsel, Rev. W.L. Froehner, August Reuter, and Victor Kuhlman. Bottom row, left to right: Regina Schmidt, Lillian Froehner, and Ernestine Kuhlman.
PASTORS OF ZION GERMAN METHODIST
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