Saturday, April 10, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 11

Henry Young Organizes First German Methodist Congregation in Texas, April 12, 1846

Texas became a favorite destination for German immigrants in the 1840s. They came both as members of immigration companies, as family groups, and as individuals. On January 25, 1845 one of Isaac Addison’s sons already had reason to complain about not being able to find work in Galveston because “the place is overstocked with Dutch carpenters, no less than three brigs now lying in port from Bremen.” That complaint hits close to home since the following November 20 the author’s great-great-great and great-great Grandfather arrived in Galveston aboard the Strabo from Bremen. Although the passenger list records their occupations as wheelwright, they became carpenters in Texas.

German immigrants in New York and the Ohio Valley had already attracted the attention of Methodists. William Nast was already publishing a Methodist newspaper in German in Cincinnati in the 1830’s. Louisville also had a German mission. As German immigration increased in New Orleans, Galveston, and Indianola, it was natural for Methodists to look upon them as potential objects of evangelization. At the Mississippi Annual Conference of 1845 Bishop Soule appointed Henry Young (originally Heinrich Jung) as a missionary to the Germans in Galveston. Upon his arrival he announced that he would preach in the open on the shores of Galveston Bay. The sources claim that on January 25 he preached 1000 Germans. A modern reader might find that large number suspect, but there were enough serious Germans to think about organizing a church. That organization occurred April 12, 1846. By November they had finished construction of their church at 19th Street and Avenue H.

The next year Young was sent to Houston where he helped lay the foundation for what is today Bering Memorial UMC. His place in Galveston was taken by Ulysses Salis and then Karl Rottenstein. Neither of those men had a very successful ministry, but then Peter A. Moelling came to Galveston from New Orleans. Moelling had been educated for the Roman Catholic priesthood and was an accomplished writer and speaker. The congregation prospered enough so that it was able to build a parsonage beside the church. In 1855 Moelling began publishing the Deutsche Christliche Apologete (name changed three months later to Evangelische Apologete). He also wrote poetry and travel accounts. Unfortunately the mission report for 1855 also says of the Galveston German Mission, “much wasted by yellow fever.”

The church recovered so that Young was called back to Galveston. He and Moelling served together, and Moelling continued his journalism. .In October 1856 the congregation asked that its name be stricken from the list of MECS missions. It said it no longer needed denominational financial support.

Perhaps it was too much of a good thing. Young and Moelling had difficulties working with each other. Young became a Presbyterian and took many of the members with him. The 1860 Census shows Moelling living in Galveston with three daughters, 7, 5, and 3 years old, but with no wife.

The Civil War, paper shortage, increasing assimilation, and Moelling’s move to the north all contributed to the decline of both the church and the publishing effort. The church sold the property in 1870.


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