Saturday, August 04, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History   August 5

Mourners Receive Body of Rev. William Pfaeffle at Train Station in Brenham, August 12, 1890

Rev. William Pfaeffle was born at Berghausen, near Karlsruhe, Germany in 1831.  He was converted to Methodism while still a young man.  In 1850 he immigrated to America, landing in New York but going on to St. Louis.  He then moved to Chicago and worked as a wheelwright.  He surrendered to the call to the ministry and served German congregations in Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

The 1872 General Conference of the MEC agreed to split the Texas Conference into 4 new conferences.  There would be two African American Conferences, the Texas and West Texas.  The new Austin Conference would service English speaking European Americans.  The Southern German Conference would serve German speakers in Texas and Louisiana. 

There was a problem with this plan.  There were not enough German speaking preachers to occupy the pulpits of the Southern German Conference.  One answer was to recruit German Methodist preachers conferences from New York to Minnesota.   William Pfaeffle decided to investigate Texas with the idea he might transfer to the new conference.   

In December 1872 he and a colleague, Philip Barth, came to Texas and stayed with the Brenham preacher, Carl Urbantke.  Urbantke showed them around German churches and ended up in Galveston in January 1873 for the conference that would create the split into 4 conferences.  Barth decided he was too old to transfer, but Pfaeffle cast his lot with the new conference and was appointed Presiding Elder of the Brenham District. 

He became a leader in the Conference and was elected a delegate to the 1884 General Conference.  

He is best remembered for his motion, offered at the 1882 session of Annual Conference to establish a school to train ministers.  He backed his motion up with a gift of $500 to the proposed school.  Pfaeffle put pressure on Carl Urbantke to head up the school who finally accepted.  Accordingly, in September 1883 the Mission Institute enrolled 3 students in Brenham under Urbantke’s tutelage.
Some years later, a MEC preacher from New York, Christian Blinn, was travelling through Brenham and was inspired by the educational effort and donated funds to support it.  In appreciation of his generosity, the school was renamed in his honor. 

Pfaeffle’s long service in Wisconsin and Minnesota created many friendships, and one of his friends had a lake cabin on Lake Gervaise near St. Paul.   Pfaeffle was invited to spend his vacation at the lake cabin so he went.

On the 13th of July a tornado struck the cabin and killed William Pfaeffle.  His wife survived.   

On Saturday August 12, 1890 mourners waited at the Santa Fe Train Station to convey the casket containing the earthly remains to the German Methodist Church in preparation for the Sunday funeral. 

The pallbearers put the casket inside the church.   Early arrivals on Sunday morning noticed that the casket had sprung a leak.  Embalming fluid was on the floor and a powerful stench filled the sanctuary.   They removed the casket to the cemetery only a few hundred yards away.  

At the 10:00 o’clock worship service Urbantke preached a funeral sermon, and then at 5:00 o’clock the rest of the funeral proceeded.  Rev. Heinrich Dietz who had also transferred to Texas in 1873 preached the funeral sermon.  The pastor of the First Baptist Church, Rev. J. L. Lloyd delivered a eulogy.  There is no record of the MECS preacher’s participation in the service.   He left behind his widow and three sons. 

1890 also saw the passing of Carl Biel and Edward Schneider, both of whom had been original members of the Texas Conference of the MEC when it was organized in 1867.  Biel was perhaps the most influential pastor in leading the departure of German MECS pastors into the MEC. 


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