The corner stone of The Bethlehem Lutheran Church was laid on May 6, 1866, and it was completed in 1866. Pastor J. Adam Neuthard, my great, great grandfather, presided over the church dedication service on October 28, 1866. Carl Siegismund Bauer, a stonemason who had immigrated to Texas from Annaberg, Germany was the stonemason in charge of building the church, as well as the 2-1/2 story manse, which is no longer standing. The church building itself cost $2,400.00 (£1595) which was 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. Bauer’s grand daughter was the pastor’s wife.
Both Pastor Neuthard and Emma Rummel Neuthard, as well as three of their daughters (one of whom is my great grandmother) are buried in the cemetery behind the church.
The Bethlehem Lutheran Church has held worship services continuously since its founding, making it the oldest church still in continuous use in Texas.
The worship service was lead by it’s current pastor, John David Nedbalek (left) along with Bishop Mike Rinehart (right). The little church was packed. The congregation sang what Bishop Rinehart later jokingly referred to as “The Lutheran National Anthem” — the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The postlude was “Onward Christian Soldiers” played on the trumpet.
After the short worship service, the congregation adjourned to the Round Top Rifle Association Hall for a “community anniversary celebration and polka worship service.”
The Rifle Hall is a community center venue with a kitchen, other separate meeting rooms and a large central room with a band stand at one end, where an 8-piece polka band was set up (you thought I was kidding, didn’t you?): Two trombones, two trumpets, alto and bass tubas, drums, and accordion. Organist Jolene Wickel had an electronic keyboard set up nearby and lead the choir. In front of the bandstand was a communion table set up with flanking plant stands with vases of flowers, and the rest of the room was filled with tables and chairs set up for the lunch that was to follow the worship service.During the worship service the “hymns” were lyrics of a religious nature set to such polka tunes as “The Beer Barrel Polk,” “Du, Du, Liebst Mir Im Herzen” (which was misspelled “leigst” in the program) and “In Heaven There Is No Beer“! At one point in the service my mom got up and gave a short talk about being a descendant of Reverend Neuthard (her great grandfather) and her childhood memories of spending the night in the old manse (since demolished). Then we chose up sides and had communion. Lutherans intinct.
This service also ended with a rendition of “Onward Christian Soldiers” played on the trumpet.
Following the service, we had chicken fried steak and a bratwurst (did I mention this area was settled by Germans?) and a large selection of home made deserts. We ate and visited and had a good time. After the meal, a great number of pictures were taken of everyone who would hold still long enough.
That afternoon, GM’s daughter AM took us out to the Richter Cemetery to show us the graves of my great grandfather Paul Helmecke’s parents, F. A. Helmecke (1827-1907) (at right) and Mathilda Melchoir Helmeche (1832-1901). One of the other people buried in that cemetery was born in 1794, died in 1873, and fought at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. We then came back into town and wandered about.
We showed my cousin the restored Gate House. He is the son of my mother’s oldest sister, JJP. Our mothers’ mother was born in the Gate House back when it was the foreman’s house of the Schiege Cigar Factory. It is now part of the Round Top Inn bed and breakfast establishment.
It looks a little different now than it did the last time he had his picture taken in front of it in about 1950 (at left).
We parked by Henkel Square and took a little walk to see the historic buildings that were relocated to the square by Ima Hogg, daughter of Texas Governor James S. Hogg. These buildings now house art galleries, and antique stores.
The Haw Valley Church, a venue for weddings, with its pipe organ and stenciling.
Not to be confused with Royers’ Cafe across the way. (Did I mention I got a Royers teeshirt? I did. A black one to add to my burgeoning collection.)
Sunday evening, we had Mexican food at Los Padrones, the only restauraunt in Round Top that’s open on Sunday evening. I had tamales, and they were yummie!
We had gorgeous weather all three days we were gone. Sunday was sunny and almost hot, and I got a little sunburned around my neck. It was amazing that the flowers were still blooming all over town, and there were butterflies everywhere. Can you spot the bumble bees in these next two pictures?
Above, a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on some zinnias. Below is the Orange Sulphur butterfly (Colias eurytheme) on some Cape Leadwort (Plumbago auriculata)
We had an uneventful drive back Monday, with good roads and little traffic. We did hit one small stretch of construction, but that was it. The stretch of Highway 77 between Cameron and Giddings which we had never been on before was mostly four lane divided*, and all in very good repair with little traffic on a Monday. We made our customary stop at the Allsups in Comanche and missed the turnoff onto the interstate in Abilene — again! — but that’s practically a tradition — I’m 0 for 3 now. In my defense, there is construction and there are detours, and the roads are not well marked at that point. However, we got it sorted relatively quickly. But these were minor glitches in an otherwise great trip. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. A good time was had by all.
Beetil has now accrued almost 7200 miles on his odometer. He will be two years old this November.