Saturday, January 22, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 23

Henry Young (Heinrich Jung) Preaches to Huge Crowd on Galveston Bay January 25, 1846

The post two weeks ago was about John Wesley DeVilbiss and the first sermon he preached in German. He did so after having been appointed as Presiding Elder of the newly-formed German District of the Texas Conference.

The earliest German Methodist preacher who can be identified in Texas is Henry Young (Heinrich Jung) who was transferred from the German Mission in New Orleans to Galveston by Bishop Soule at the Mississippi Annual Conference of December 1845. Most Methodist work among Germans was around Cincinnati, but by 1844 both New Orleans and Mobile had German Methodist missions.

Young came to Galveston and according to J. A. G. Rabe in “The Work Among the Germans,” in the Texas Methodist Historical Quarterly claimed that about a month after his arrival, Young preached to 1,000 Germans on the shore of Galveston Bay. The text was Is. 55:1-3, (Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat, . . .) and the multitude listened in rapt attention. By April Young organized a church, and by November built a church building at 19th Street and Avenue H.

The German church in Galveston was one of the strongest in Texas. During the 1850s it was pastored by Peter Moelling who also edited the German Christian Advocate, Der Deutsche Christliche Apologete. Under his pastorate the church prospered enough to build a parsonage.

Certainly Galveston was an important German port of entry in the 1840’s, but is the claim of a congregation of 1000 believable? Perhaps. The period in question was during the heyday of immigration sponsored by the Adelsverein. Between 1844 and 1847 seven thousand Germans immigrated to Texas. They entered by the ports of Galveston and Indianola so perhaps it would be possible to assemble a congregation of 1000 Germans on the shore of Galveston Bay in January 1846.

It is even possible that two of that congregation of 1000 were Johann Wilhelm Hardt and his son Heinrich Christian Hardt, the author’s great-great-great and great-great grandfathers. They had arrived in Galveston aboard the Strabo with 167 other German immigrants the previous November 20—just two months before Rev. Young’s sermon on the beach. There is neither documentary evidence nor family tradition that they were there, but it is an intriguing possibility.


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