Black Friday Fading To Grey

Five Day Forecst 11-27-2015Yep.  It’s colder than a wedge.  It’s 12:30 in the afternoon, and that’s the temperature outside ( That’s minus 2015_11_26-031.66 C for the Celsius crowd).   Good thing I spent Wednesday evening knitting up a pair of house slipper booties (see below).  Somebody brought a pattern for them to knitting group Tuesday, and after I finished all the ruffle scarves I was knitting for my mom, I knitted up a pair of these 2015_11_26-01booties.  (I made seven or eight of them for Mom to take her pick.  She’s going to donate the rest to auction off at this club she goes to.  They have a Christmas auction every year.  People bring stuff to auction off to each other, and the money goes to a scholarship fund. )

The booties were really simple to make.  Took me about four and a half hours to make them.  You knit them flat, fold them over and then sew up the sole and the back.  I used this bulky yarn I’ve had in my stash for probably 20 years and made them all at one sitting.  Now my hands are sore. It’s hard to work with that bulky yarn.

There’s so little humidity in the air that if I have my headphones in when I take off my lap robe, the static electricity generated shocks me in the ears — kind of like a do-it-yourself electroshock treatment.  Gets your attention.  Every time I do it, I think, “Next time, I’ll take my headphones out first.”  I never remember to do it, though.  Sigh.  When I work at my computer, I’m either listening to an internet radio station or one of my playlists from Rhapsody.2015_11_23-02 so I’ve always got my headphones in.  I’ve got speakers, but I like the headphones better.

And the fat cat is in a snuggling mood.  He’s so heavy that I have to brace myself when he jumps up on the footrest of the recliner or he will sit me up.  He always looks before he leaps — and I can feel his paws on my ankles, so I know to brace.   I have to encircle him with my legs before I sit up so as not to dump him unceremoniously on the floor — ease him to the floor.

I really need to shop for groceries, but today’s Black Friday, and the weather is crummy and cold.  If it’s not raining tonight, I might go late.  Freezing rain is not the kind of weather I want to drive in.

The Turning of the Year

It’s been below freezing for several nights this past week, and in the low 60’s F/16-17 C during the day.  Week before last, it blew a hoolie and thundered, rained and carried on, and was really windy all the next day.  After our little storm, I finally turned the heat on, but I set the thermostat to 65 — my wardrobe is a lot deeper than my pocket book, which is to say, I can put more clothes on for free.

IMG_0004I’m still trying to get my days and nights skewed around to where I’m on “day shift” again.  Went to bed last night at 7 p.m., woke up at 4 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up and fired up the computer.  I’ve been working on a knitting pattern for a triangular scarflet that I was having trouble getting to lie flat. I think I’ve finally got it now. It’s got a tricky combination of a yarn over, a slipped stitch knitwise, a slip-slip-knit, then pass slipped stitch over.  The slip-slip-knit with the pass stitch over gives it an interesting texture, and the yarn overs give it an interesting lacy effect.  The body is garter stitch.  It’s only a four-line pattern.

As I was sitting at the computer knitting earlier this morning, some Canada geese (Branta canadensis) flew over.  That’s the first time I’ve heard any flying over.  There’s a playa lake about a block away, which I’m sure is where they’re going. I might suit up and go for a walk outside and investigate it.  I need to walk. I don’t get anywhere near enough exercise.  I’d much rather sit at the computer, or sit in the living room knitting or reading.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I like semicircular shawls better than I like triangluar ones.  The long points of a triangular shawl that hang down in front tend to dangle into things.  I’ve been wearing my nine-bladed pinwheel shawl (folded in half) a lot more than I have my Citikas shawl for that very reason.  However, I’ve been wearing the Citikas shawl when I read in bed because I haven’t finished my reader’s shrug yet.  Got a long way to go on it.  The shawl doesn’t keep my forearms warm, though, which the reader’s shrug will do, if I ever get it finished.  The exception to the triangular shawl thing would be one with points long enough to cross over the chest and tie in back.

I’ve had the new car a year as of Saturday, the 21st.  Beetil.  It has 4850-odd miles on it, which includes two trips to Pearland, two trips to Amarillo, and a trip to Capitan, NM.  I’m just driving the wheels off of it.  It’s got a tiny nick in the windshield which we got going through some road construction between Comanche and Abilene coming home from Pearland last month. I was driving behind a dump truck full of caliche, which is what they use for road beds out here, and some rock bounced out and hit my windshield.  I’ve been dithering about having it repaired, or whether it’s serious enough to bother fixing.  There’s also a tiny chip out of the paint on the passenger side front door, probably from gravel.

Thursday is Thanksgiving.  Mom wants to go out to eat.  I can’t say that I blame her.  It’s supposed to rain. Friday, a cold front is coming through with rain and a predicted high of 37F/2.7C.  Think I’ll stay in Friday.

Things and Stuff, Revisited

Putting this here because it bears repeating.  Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite writers.  Particular favorites are Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles,  and I Sing The Body Electric.  Reading Bradbury is like being in a cathedral with fabulous stained glass on a cloudy day. You walk in, it’s dark, and you can’t see anything. And then the sun comes out.

I’ve been writing knitting patterns again.  Folks in knitting group had been doing this “Leaves” fingerless gloves pattern. and some were wishing that there was a scarf and hat to match so there could be a set. I had found a hat pattern with the same “leaf” motif and brought it to the group on the 3rd, but it was in bulky yarn.  We talked about how the lady who wrote the gloves pattern had highlighted the “leaf” part in red so that people could lift out that portion of the pattern and use the motif in other things. When I went to knitting group this past week, one of the ladies had tried to make a scarf using that motif, but she couldn’t make it turn out right because she had failed to take into account that the fingerless gloves were knitted in the round, and a scarf is knitted flat.  When you knit in the round, you are always working on the front or “right” side, and what you knit is what you get.  However when you knit flat, you turn your work over at the end of each row, so for every “right” side row you work, you have to work a “wrong” side row that is the reverse of what you want to show on the right side — if you want a stitch to appear as a knit on the right side, you have to purl it, and vice versa.  In order to convert the “leaf” motif to a scarf, which is knitted flat, you would have to convert every other line of the pattern to its opposite — change all the knits to purls and all the purls to knits. (It sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is.)

IMG_0002IMG_0004Since I have the “Leaves” fingerless gloves pattern on my computer, when I got home, it was a simple matter to copy and paste each line of the motif over into a Word document and “fix” every other line so it would come out right when knitted flat in a scarf. I put a border on and worked out a stitch count, etc., etc., with a couple of variations and swatched them to double check, and for picture purposes, and posted the result on my knitting blog here. Then I got to thinking, the hat pattern I found used a bulky yarn, and the whole idea of a set is that all the pieces are made from the same yarn, so then I got to figuring and wrote a hat pattern that would match the gloves and scarf. So now I have two new patterns to take next time.

I got three skeins of the Lion Brand Yarn “Heartland” in the color Glacier Bay (see left), which is a misty black-blue, and I’m making the hat from it.  I have enough to do a hat, the gloves, and a scarf out of the same yarn.  — like I don’t have enough to do already.  I’ve got scarves to finish for my mom before December, a scarf to finish for my cousin, a vest to finish before Christmas, and a baby dress to finish and another to do completely before February — as well as other assorted UnFinished Objects to finish.  Ah, well.  Idle hands are the devil’s playground. . . .

Made a big bowl of pasta salad yesterday with the Carving Board grilled chicken, small elbow macaroni, cherry tomatoes cut in quarters,  a small can of Del Monte peas and carrots (drained), chopped black olives, chopped white onions, chopped green onions, chopped celery, and mayonnaise.  Pure NOMS! (I think I hear it calling my name. . .)

Now that the weather is finally cooling down (highs in the low 60’s F/15-17C), I’m also back into making do-it-myself hot chai laté using Tazo chai tea with Creme Brulé flavor Coffee Mate — Equally NOMS! (I do have to say, this chills very well for your summertime drinking enjoyment . . .)

Finally got finished writing up our latest Pearland-Round Top trip from October (!) — I still have to edit the video of the lady playing the Wandke organ in the Bethelehem Lutheran Church at Round Top, but I’ll do it tomorrow. . . .

Jaks (the black kitty) is now on a kick where he jumps up in my lap and sleeps between my legs when I’m on the computer.  My computer is set on a large rolling table, with a recliner for my desk chair.  I’m wearing a lap robe here lately because November, and now I have this fat cat curled between my legs . . .  This used to be the grey one’s favorite hangout, but my baby girl has gone on ahead. . .  I miss my snuggly girl . . . Now that Jaks is an only cat, he has everything to himself, including me.

I really need to do some sewing. . .

Crossing Paths in Cross Plains

When mom and I went to Pearland in 2014, coming home through Cross Plains , I caught a glimpse of a sign.  Googling confirmed what I thought I’d seen.

Cross Plains was the home of writer Robert E. Howard.  His parents’ house, where he lived and wrote, has been converted into a museum.  Howard was most famous for his character Conan the Barbarian, and is widely regarded as the father of the Sword and Sorcery literary subgenre.

When we were planning our October trip to Pearland and Round Top, I said I wanted to stop in Cross Plains on the way back and see his house.  So we did.

2015_10_26-14 2015_10_26-15There was a time in the 1970’s when I read a lot of Robert E. Howard.  I also read a lot of Michael Moorcock, Robert Silverberg, A.E. van Vogt and Roger Zelazny at that time, too, because until I discovered C. J. Cherry and Anne McCaffrey, that was about all I found interesting enough to read.  However, “Literature” from the viewpoint of white heterosexual males and their male protagonists got a bit wearing, and thank goodness I outgrew it and discovered Cherry and McCafferty, and later Tanith Lee and Ursula LeGuin.   And of course, Bear.

I can’t wait until my eleven-year-old first cousin twice removed SEL gets old enough for me to turn her on to Cherry and McCaffrey, et. al.  Like me, she is an avid reader and loves scifi and fantasy, and I’ve been making a conscious effort to send her books that feature good female protagonist who have agency because major reasons.

Life in the Time of “Seegars”

Pearland - Round Top - 2015 121The Round Top Inn is not “a” place.  It’s a collection of places, six separate buildings, three of which are original to the property: the Schiege farmhouse, the cigar factory building, and the cigar factory manager’s cottage.  One assumes the other buildings were moved onto the site.  All of the buildings have been restored, but with a light and intelligent hand.  Apart from fresh paint, electric lighting and indoor plumbing (i.e., toilets, sinks and bathtubs), the buildings remain much as they were when they were built in 1885.

Round Top Inn map
Map of the grounds of the Round Top Inn
Charles Henry Schiege, Jr.
Charles Henry Schiege, Jr.

Schiege Sr was born Carl Johann Rudolph Schiege in Prussia in 1815 and was trained as a cabinet maker, chair maker, locksmith and machinist.  He had already been to Texas in 1847 and 1851, but had returned to Prussia.  His decision return to Texas a third time to live there with his bride Carolina Schubert Schiege in 1855 caused his Prussian family to disinherit him.  When he became a US citizen upon his arrival, he changed his name to Charles Henry Schiege. He and his wife’s first child, Gustav died at age 7 days; their second son Charles Henry Jr., was born in 1858 and was the only one of their four children to survive to adulthood.  In 1861, Charles senior bought the Round Top property and he and his wife and 4-year-old Charlesl Jr. lived there.  That same year, his wife gave birth to twins, Selma, who died at age 14 months, and Otto, who died at age 6 years.   Charles Sr. later purchased an additional acre of land from his neighbor, Conrad Schueddemagen (remember him?).

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Schiege House, built 1885 “The Main Roost”

Charles Jr. attended Neuthard’s day school, which was just down the street.

In 1881, (the year Neuthard’s wife Emma Rummel Neuthard and youngest daughter Laura died) Charles Jr., aged 23, started his cigar factory.  One of his employees was a 16-year-old boy named Paul Herman Helmecke, whose father Fritz A. and oldest brother Otto Heinrich were blacksmiths in Round Top. (Fritz and his wife Matilda Melchoir Helmecke and two of her brothers emigrated to Texas from Prussia in 1853.)

Scheige House

Schiege’s “seegars” sold for 6 cents (regular) and 7 cents (premium) apiece, and were made by hand.  Schiege used locally grown tobacco whenever possible, but also shipped in tobacco from Missouri and Ohio.

Schiege was a cigar producer for 48 years and was one of 56 cigars makers in Texas in 1885.

“Segars” must have sold well in the 1880s if, after only four years in business, Charles Jr. could afford not only to build a large, two-story house for himself,  but a second large building with finished attic to house his factory (the young men he employed slept in the attic which they reached by ladder), and a 386 square foot manager’s house with a finished attic.

Unfortunately, Charles Jr. and Emma had no children, and she died in 1892 at the age of 28.  In 1893, Charles Jr. married Marie Becker, and they had 10 children, nine of whom survived to adulthood.  Tragically, their first child, a son, only lived 10 months.

Schiege Cigar Factory
Schiege Cigar Factory Building “The Cigar House”

Charles Jr. served as town marshal and alderman of the Round Top Town Council.  He was mayor of Round Top from 1903 to 1908 and served as the Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 in Fayette County.  He was also a member of the Round Top Volunteer Fire Company for 30 years.

In 1885, Paul Helmecke was promoted by Schiege to factory manager.  That same year, Helmecke married Martha Mary Neuthard, the third of Pastor Neuthard’s five daughters.  Neuthard was not in favor of his daughter marrying the Catholic Helmecke, but married them anyway on May 24, 1885.  The groom’s parents were strongly opposed to his marrying the Lutheran pastor’s daughter and disowned him.  The groom was 20; his bride was 15.  Helmecke’s boss, Charles Jr., himself Catholic, apparently had no objection to the marriage for Helmecke continued as his foreman for the next nine years.

Martha Mary Neuthard Helmecke Noak Wolfe Pfardrescher 26 Feb 1870-16 Oct 1936
Martha Mary Neuthard Helmecke Noak Wolfe Pfardrescher
Paul Herman Helmecke 16 Sept 1864-16 Oct 1894
Paul Herman Helmecke











Managers House

Paul and Martha Mary had five children: Martha Natalie (1886-1970), Hulda Holina (1887-1902), Flora Lena (1888-1967), Gertrude Dolores (1890-1979) and Albert H. (1892-1970), all born in this house.

The manager’s house (“The Gate House”) is 385 square feet with a finished attic of 195 square feet.

2015_10_26-01The house is 130 years old, and the live oak tree out front which was large when the house was built in 1885 is now huge, and the galling on its trunk has become massive.

2015_10_26-10The house from the side showing the deep front porch.  The grounds are very nicely landscaped now with many areas where one can sit outdoors in the shade when the weather is fine.  Descriptions of the property in Schiege’s day mention vegetable gardens.
The rear of the house showing the back door and precipitous steps, which explains why the back door is not used. Pearland - Round Top - 2015 107The house is furnished sparingly but comfortably.

Pearland - Round Top - 2015 108This is the trundle bed where mother and I slept, she on top, and I on the trundle.  The wall on which the picture of cows hangs separates the ground floor into a large front room and smaller back room (kitchen).  While the loft above the front room extends the full width of the house, it does not extend the full depth and the floor joists of the loft are supported by this interior wall, which makes me suspect it is original to the house.

2015_10_25-59The loft was roomy and had a large king-size bed, but the stairs were steep with quite shallow treads, and neither I nor my 91 year old mother wanted to have to deal with them. The family would have climbed a ladder to sleep in the loft.

2015_10_25-62This area would have been part of the kitchen.  There was no indoor plumbing when the house was built. They would have had a wood-burning stove, probably where the lavatory sink is now. They would have had to haul water from a well. 2015_10_25-63The family would have bathed in a tin tub with water heated on the stove, and would have used an outdoor privy.  Now the house has been fitted with a modern bath tub/shower and toilet, and has both hot and cold running water.  2015_10_25-64The old back door of the house, which is no longer used.

2015_10_25-102The house now has electricity, which it wouldn’t have had when it was built.  The ceiling fixture in the front room was rather interesting and quite unique.

2015_10_25-69It was rainy and overcast when we arrived.  The Inn’s cat braved the rain to welcome us, and followed me around the grounds as I made a brief photographic foray.  Maybe she knew I had a black cat at home . . .

2015_10_25-75The “Retreat” where breakfast is served2015_10_25-01The dining area. 2015_10_25-73The Retreat has a covered outdoor seating area.  Note the cat in the lower right corner of the photo.

2015_10_25-81The “Farm house.” Either not original to the property or not Schiege’s.

2015_10_25-86The Farm House porch with friend.

2015_10_25-84The “Little Cottage.”

2015_10_25-13In 1893, Helmecke and some of his friends got into a friendly contest to see who was strongest.  In attempting to lift a large barrel, Helmecke injured himself, sustaining a strangulated abdominal hernia which was not treatable.  In  unrelenting and excruciating pain and unable to work, Helmecke took his own life on 14 October, 1893, aged only 30.  He left a wife and five children, all under the age of 8.

Because suicides were not permitted to be buried in consecrated ground,  he was not allowed to be buried within the Bethlehem Lutheran Church cemetery, but was buried just outside the fence.

Paul Helmecke 16 Sept 1864 - 16 Oct 1894Helmecke’s grave was unmarked until one of his eldest daughter Martha Natalie’s children had a headstone made for it some 70 years after his death.  The date of death shown on the headstone is incorrect.  It should be 14 October, 1893, and his name is misspelled as “Helmecker“.

Just past Helmecke’s grave is a retaining wall made of field stone shoring up the steep escarpment at the edge of the hill atop which the church and cemetery sit.

2015_10_25-11View of the cemetery from Helmecke’s grave.  The church is off to the right, out of frame.  The slope on which the tree is growing marks the old cemetery fence line.

Mary Martha Neuthard Helmecke Noak Wolfe Pfardrescher 1870-1936Martha Mary Neuthard Helmecke Noak Wolfe Pfardrescher died on 16 October, 1936 at the age of 66.  She died 42 years and 2 days after her first husband, and is buried at the foot of her father Adam Neuthard’s grave, beside the grave of her youngest sister Laura Neuthard (11 Nov 1879 – 23 Jun 1881)  She married John E. S. Noak in 1897, by whom she had three children.  Noak died of typhoid fever on 6 November, 1902 aged 31.  (Her daughter Hulda Holina Helmecke, aged 15, died 6 days later from typhoid fever which she contracted while nursing her stepfather.)   She married William Wolfe about 1903, by whom she had three more children.  After Wolfe’s death she married Paul Pfardrescher, who died in 1932.

Charles H. Schiege, Jr. died in 1935, aged 77, survived by his wife and all but one of his ten children.

2015_10_25-88Mom and I spent a wet, grey afternoon and evening in the home where her mother was born.  We could not travel in space owing to the rainy weather, but I, at least, did a goodly little bit of time traveling, trying imagine what life would have been like for the Helmeckes in that little house.  There were seven people, five of them children under the age of 8, living in about 580 square feet.  The noisy, tumultuous life of Round Top would have been going on all around them, but here’s the hardest thing for me to get my head around.  One of the subjects Adam Neuthard taught to the children in his day school and to their parents in his night school classes was English.  The elder Schieges, Helmeckes, Neuthards, Rummels and a good many other citizens of Round Top were all native German speakers, and their Texas-born children and grandchildren (my grandmother for one) all spoke High German as their first language, only learning English once they got to school.  My second-generation-Texan grandmother spoke English (after a fashion!) with a noticeable German accent.  The largest ethnic group in Texas may be Hispanic, but the second largest is German.

The Old Home Places

2015_10_25-28This is the stage on which important bits of my mother’s family’s history played out in the late 1800’s.  It’s not a lot of land.   On the left was the property belonging to the Schieges where a large farm house, a smaller farm house, a cigar factory and its attendant buildings stand.

Adam Neuthard home and boarding school
Neuthard Manse built 1866

In the distance on the right is the Bethlehem Lutheran Church.  It and the manse (pictured at left) were both built in 1866.  The manse would have been on the right in the foreground if it were still standing.  It  was a 2-1/2 story house that not only housed Pastor Neuthard and his wife and (eventually) 6 children, but also some 20 children boarding at Neuthard’s school.

Neuthard’s wife, Emma Rummel Neuthard was the granddaughter of Carl Siegismund Bauer, a stonemason by trade. (He supervised the building of the manse and the church)  In 1848, Bauer, four of his nine children including his daughter Carolina and son-in-law Carl William Rummel and their (then) four children (including 6 year old Emma and her baby sister Minna), emigrated from their native Saxony to Texas and settled near Spring Branch, joining his second son August, who had emigrated the year before.  Ten months after their arrival, Bauer’s wife of 37 years, Christiana Malzer Bauer succumbed to malaria and died.  Emma’s baby sister Mina also died that year, aged two.

Schueddemagen House built 1852

Bauer’s son Carl Ehrgott and his daughter Wilhemina both married and moved inland to Round Top.  In 1851, Bauer turned his Spring Branch property over to his  son August and joined them.  In 1852, Bauer built this house (at left) in Round Top  for his daughter Wilhelmina and son-in-law Conrad Schueddemagen where he lived with them until his death.  Emma’s father, Carl William Rummel later sold his property in Spring Branch and also settled in Round Top, opening a gin.  Unhappily, August Bauer and his wife, who remained in Spring Branch, both died leaving orphaned children, two of whom, Ottilie and John, lived at the manse with their first cousin, Emma Rummel Neuthard (in addition to the Neuthards, their children and the 20 boarding school boys!).  The Schueddemagen house is only about a 5 minutes’ walk from the church.

Wandke House built 1863
Wandke house at left and Schiege’s property at right

On the corner of the block which contains Schiege’s property (grey building in the picture below), sits the stone building Johann Traugott Wandke built in 1863 for himself and his wife, and to use as his workshop.  Wandke, his wife Christiane and two daughters immigrated from Prussia in 1855, and came to Round Top in 1860.  He was a machinist and cabinet maker, as well as an organ builder.  Wandke’s daughter Karoline married Zoellistin Pochmann, in 1857, who bought this corner lot in 1860. Pochmann died in 1862 of snake bite at the age of 26, leaving a 16-month-old son.

Some of the historic houses in Round Top sit where they were built.  Others have been moved in from elsewhere and resited around the town square.  As I have mentioned, the weather was not cooperative, and it rained off and on all day, and what pictures I have of the rest of the town were taken from the car window.  I can’t identify them or tell you who built them and when, but I offer a selection of them below to give you a feel for this picturesque little farming community.  The roads are paved, and the houses now have lights and telephones, but other than that, it’s still a lot like it was 150 years ago when my family’s history was playing out across it.

Pearland - Round Top - 2015 083
Dog Trot style log cabin
barn behind the Schueddemagen house

2015_10_25-22 2015_10_25-34 2015_10_25-41 2015_10_25-43 2015_10_25-44 2015_10_25-50 2015_10_25-462015_10_25-20Round Top is built at the edge of a valley, nestled in the Texas Hill Country about 40 miles southwest of Brenham.  It’s beautiful land, rich and fertile.  Many of the huge live oak trees that dot the area are at least 150 years old and many are older.   They have shaded five generations of my mother’s family, including, albeit only briefly, me.


I took this little video the morning we left to return home.  Genuine Texas accent included at no extra charge.

A Journey in Space and Time

We left my cousin EJ’s house at 6:30 on the morning of October 26, 2015, armed with a new route, and a fist full of dollar bills and quarters for the Beltway (Sam Houston Parkway), a toll road which was not as far north nor as close in to Houston as 610.  This route would skirt us further west before it swooped us around back to the north where we would pick up 290 West to Brenham, tootle just past Burton, and catch Texas 237 which would take us to south to our destination, Round Top, which we hoped to reach before 9:30, as that’s when the services began at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church there, which my mom wanted to attend.

We had been concerned Saturday night that the rain Hurricane Patricia had been pushing north and east across the Gulf of Mexico into Texas and Louisiana would be problematic, but luckily, the heaviest rainfall was on Saturday and by Sunday morning we had only a light rain to contend with.  We had also been concerned about traffic, which was why taking the Beltway was a good move.  There was very little traffic to speak of.  The road was clearly marked, and we only had to stop to pay tolls three times ($1.75/£1.16 a pop).  (There is a special sticker you can buy that is good for all toll roads in Texas, where you go through a special booth that scans your sticker and license plate and automatically charges your account.  It is a good value if you live in a large metropolitan area like Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston or Austin where traffic is often brutal and where toll roads offer you a better, less crowded route to work.)  We made excellent time.

I had previously researched the route from Brenham to Round Top on Google maps, where the street view showed me what the intersections looked like, and I had no trouble finding Texas 237, or where North White Street turned off it. I was able to take us right to the church with half an hour to spare before church.  The weather was overcast and it was raining hard enough that an umbrella was needed.

Round Top Inn at left with Bethlehem Lutheran Church at right, looking down South White street where it crosses Bauer-Rummel Road

The Round Top Inn where we were to stay Sunday night is about 100 yards from the church.  We picked a good time to attend the church as 25 October was Reformation Sunday, which commemorates Martin Luther‘s “95 Theses” which he is (apocryphally) said to have nailed to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517.  This was one of the sparks that ignited the Protestant Reformation, and the brouhaha and subsequent events eventually led him to form the Lutheran denomination.

Pearland - Round Top - 2015 076Based on the service, which I found unexpectedly moving, Lutherans are similar to Episcopalians and Anglican in their rites and rituals. My mom really liked their pastor, John Nedbalek and thought he preached a good sermon.  He wore an alb with a rope cincture and a red stole.  Mom had talked with him by phone before our trip to find out what time services were held, and he had mentioned that they have communion every Sunday, so we were not surprised by its inclusion in the worship service.

In the Presbyterian Church (the denomination I grew up in) and in other more “protestant” denominations such as Methodists, Baptists and Church of Christ, communion is “self service,” i.e., plates of bread wafers and tra2015_10_25-04ys of individual cups are taken up from the altar by appointed members of the congregation and passed along the pews, and members take for themselves a wafer and a little cup (typically of grape juice rather than wine since (a) it is being served to minors, some as young as 9 or 10, (b) some denominations are “agin” the drinking of alcohol for any reason, (c) there may be abstinent alcoholics in the congregation, or (d) there may be people who cannot consume alcohol because of adverse medication reaction or adverse effect on a medical condition).  Lutherans are similar to Anglicans and Episcopalians in that the members of the congregation approach the altar in groups (usually a pew at a time) and the rector/pastor serves each person individually with a wafer dipped in liquid, grape juice, in this case.

Pearland - Round Top - 2015 062
Organ loft at the rear of the church

The Wandke organ was not used during the service; rather a woman played piano for the congregational singing.  They did not have a choir, but a lady performed a praise song to guitar accompaniment.  There were only about 35-40 in the congregation. (For the purposes of population, the town of Round Top only counts those who live within a square mile area centered on the town, which yields a population of  around 90, so this was a good turnout.  Also, the church is quite small — I doubt it would seat more than 200 people if you packed them into the pews like sardines and put extra seating in the choir loft. )

2015_10_25-09 2015_10_25-08The Bethlehem Lutheran Church was organized by J. Adam Neuthard in 1861 (he is my mother’s maternal great grandfather).  The stone church building was designed and built by Carl Siegismund Bauer, who was Neuthard’s grandfather-in-law, and Bauer was also the head mason. Construction of the church was begun in May, 1867, and it was dedicated in October of the same year. The church building cost $2,400.00 (£1595), then a considerable sum, and despite the fact that this was just after the end of the Civil War and money was scarce, “they gave liberally” and it was not necessary to borrow more than $500.00 for the completion of the building. The first church service was held in January 13, 1867.  Next October they will be celebrating the 150-year anniversary of the church’s founding.  I think we are planning to return to Round Top for that.

Mom had let it be known that she wanted to see the organ, and hear it if possible, and after the service, someone introduced her to Jolene Wickel. who had played piano for the congregational singing.  She promptly got the key, took us up the precipitously steep stairs to the organ loft and opened it for us.  She then proceeded to play a couple of hymns on it for us.

2015_10_25-06The organ was built by Johann Traugott Wandke, who was born in Nikol Schmiede, Silesia, Prussia (now Kowalice, Poland) in 1808.  It was constructed from local aromatic cedar wood, including all the pipes.  Wandke was trained as a cabinetmaker and organ builder in Silesia, and emigrated to Texas in 1855 at the age of 47.  Only this organ and two others of the seven organs he built in Texas are still extant.  It is a tracker organ.  As you will note, the organ only has one manual (keyboard) containing 51 keys.  It only has 10 stops, and all of its 408 pipes are made from cedar.  Wandke died in 1870, three years after its construction.  The organ was completely restored by Friedmann Buschbeck in 2007.

(I have a video I made of her playing it which I still haven’t edited yet, which will go here.  Stay tuned.)

Pearland - Round Top - 2015 059
Jolene Wickel at the console of the Wandke Organ, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Round Top, Texas. 25 October, 2015.
placard detailing the restoration of the organ

2015_10_25-14 2015_10_25-16Mrs. Wickel ‘s husband was a “local,”  a descendant of German settlers in Round Top, and he helped us locate graves in the little cemetery behind the church, including those of Neuthard, his wife and three of his five daughters (one of whom was my mother’s maternal grandmother).

Portrait of J. Adam NeuthardConsidered the founding pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, J. Adam Neuthard was born 11 September, 1828, in Lauterbach, Baden, Germany. His family were Roman Catholic and educated him for the priesthood.  He attended the academies of Baden and Frelsberg, where he graduated with highest honors.  He studied Hebrew, Latin, French and Greek,   He attended the University of Heidelberg and obtained a doctorate of divinity.  While there, a Lutheran professor influenced him to convert to Lutheranism.  As a result, his family disowned him.  He then attended the Theologische Seminar St. Chrischona in BettingenSt. Chrischona, Switzerland.  Following his graduation, he was sent to Texas as a missionary to serve the burgeoning population of German settlers there.  He set sail from Bremen, Germany, landing at Galveston, Texas on 28 December, 1860, one of four missionaries being sent to Texas from St. Chrischona at that time.  He first traveled to Spring Branch, Texas, where he met and married Emma Rummel, granddaughter of Carl Siegismund Bauer by his daughter Carolina.

There was already a Lutheran congregation under the pastorship of Otto Hahn in Round Top when Neuthard arrived in 1861.  That congregation was combined with the congregation of St. John Lutheran church which was was located 3 miles south of Round Top under the pastorship of J. G. Lieb, to form a new congregation that was to be called “Bethlehem Lutheran Church.”  He took over the church and school at St. John Lutheran, and started a boarding school in Round Top.   In addition to pastoring the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Neuthard also preached to other small groups in the surrounding area.  In 1867, Neuthard withdrew from the Lutheran Synod because he was criticized for preaching the word of God to other religious groups.  He did not believe he should restrict his preaching to Lutherans only, but felt he should preach to any who were willing to listen.  Bethlehem Lutheran Church then became an unaffiliated and independent congregation.

Adam Neuthard home and boarding school
Neuthard parsonage and boarding school
Emma Rummel Neuthard 18 Jan 1842 - 30 Jan 1881
Emma Rummel Neuthard 18 January 1842 – 30 January 1881, aged 39

In 1865, Neuthard bought the two acres adjoining the church and built a parsonage and parochial boarding school.  The Neuthards had eight children: Five girls and three boys.   Emma Rummel Neuthard died on 30 January, 1881, at age 39, followed only six months later by their youngest child, Laura, aged 1 year 7 months.  Neuthard continue to serve the Bethlehem Lutheran Church as pastor, and as schoolmaster until he passed away in 1902 at the age of 74.J. Adam Neuthard 1828-1902

J. Adam Neuthard 11 October 1828- 26 February 1902 aged 74

Laura Neuthard 11 Nov 1879 - 23 Jun 1881
Laura Neuthard 11 Nov 1879 – 23 Jun 1881, aged 1 year, 7 months
Maria Neuthard 5 Jan 1862 - 11 Sept 1864
Maria Neuthard 5 Jan 1862 – 11 Sept 1864, aged 2 years, 9 months


Mary Martha Neuthard Helmecke Noak Wolfe Pfardrescher 1870-1936
Matha Mary Neuthard Helmecke Noak Wolfe Pfardrescher 26 February 1870- 16 October 1936, aged 66



Paul Helmecke 16 Sept 1864 - 16 Oct 1894
Paul Helmecke 16 Sept 1864 – 16 Oct 1894, aged 30















2015_10_25-19Following church,  it was still intermittently raining.  However, we found a delicious lunch at Lost Patrones Mexican Restaurant (one of only two places to eat in town and the only one open).  We had a combination platter with beans, rice, a cheese enchilada and a beef crispy taco.

The atmospheric Los Padrones restaurant and bar.

Because of the rain, we were unable to explore on foot as we had wanted, but we did drive around and take pictures out car windows and see what could be seen.   Supposedly, we could not check in at the Round Top Inn until after 3 o’clock, but they had only had one family guesting the night before and we were able to check into the Gatehouse early and get out of the rain.  Because of the length of this post and the number of pictures I’ve uploaded already, I am going to break up the Round Top portion of the trip into several posts.

Stay tuned.