Saturday, March 27, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 28

Carl Urbantke Opens Mission Institute with Three Students, March 28, 1883

The origins of Blinn College in Brenham can be traced to the efforts of the Southern German Conference of the MEC to provide theological training for young Texans of German heritage so their could become preachers. Although Blinn College is no longer affiliated with the United Methodist Church, its predecessors, the Mission Institute and Blinn Memorial College, filled its role in ministerial training splendidly.

The Southern German Conference, authorized by the MEC General Conference of 1872, depended upon transfers from the German Conferences in the northern states. Retention was always a problem. Carl Urbantke reported that many of the wives of the preachers were unhappy in Texas far from family and comfortable parsonages and settled communities.

An obvious solution was “grow your own,” but lack of opportunities for theological education stood in the way. Rev. William Pfaeffle approached Urbantke with the proposal to begin a school. Urbantke was reluctant. “. . .I, who had received only an elementary school education, and who had lived fifteen years in the woods and studied while following the plough, was expected to establish a Mission Institute.”

Pfaeffle brought his plan before the annual conference which met in Seguin in December, 1882. He would be Brenham District presiding elder and act as financial agent for the Institute. Urbantke would be stationed at Brenham and also run the Institute. The conference accepted the plan.

On May 28, 1883 three students began their studies under Rev. Urbantke. He used the German Bible, commentaries, dictionaries, treatises, etc. and led those students in lessons from 8:00 to 12:00. In the afternoon he did his pastoral work. At night he prepared the lessons for the following day.

He began with Matthew, then moved to Paul’s epistles, and then included one of Peter’s. Many nights he worked until midnight. One advantage was that such a regimen always meant he had a text for a sermon on Sunday.

Pfaeffle solicited funds as he visited churches in his district. By summer he had enough to buy a lot and build a building. When the September term started, it opened in its own quarters.

The Institute prospered. The curriculum expanded beyond theology. Rev. C. Schuler was appointed to the church and Institute so Urbantke could devote full time to teaching and administration.

In March 1887 the Rev. Christian Blinn, preacher from New York, arrived for an extended visit. Blinn became an enthusiastic supporter. He offered $750 to hire a third teacher. He personally paid for and supervised the construction of a new building with three classrooms on the first floor and seven student rooms on the second. The building was completed by the end of April, less than two month’s of Blinn’s arrival in Brenham. The next year he sent $10.000 for the endowment. The Mission Institute became Blinn Memorial College.


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