Holy Cross Warda’s Link to a Past President of the LCMS Texas District

One thing that caught my attention when I was reading about the history of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Warda is that they were briefly served by a licensed ministerial candidate who is just listed as “F. Jesse.”

From 1959-63, the Rev. Albert Jesse, who was also pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Austin for may years, also served as the president of the Texas District. Could they be related? They do, after all, share the same fairly uncommon surname.

For various reasons, for about a year and a half after it was established in 1873, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod refused to recognize Holy Cross or send them a pastor. As a result, the congregation turned to the competing Texas Synod.

Their first pastor, the Rev. Eduard Zapf, died after serving them for a mere nine months. After that, the Texas Synod didn’t have an ordained pastor to serve them, so they sent F. Jesse, who at the time was only a ministerial candidate. Jesse seems to have only served at Warda for a few months.

Not everyone at Holy Cross was happy with a Texas Synod pastor, so they attempted to convince first Zapf and then Jesse to change horses in mid-stream and join the Missouri Synod. They did not, however, meet with success, and in late 1874 they made up with the folks in Missouri and received an LCMS pastor, the Rev. Timotheus Stiemke.

It took me a long time to figure out F. Jesse’s first name (it’s Frederick). Along the way, I discovered that F. Jesse then shows up in Pflugerville, where he’s present when Immanuel Lutheran Church is founded (for the second time) in April 1874. Then later he is pastor at Salem Lutheran Church of Brenham from 1884-1890.

Bishop Michael Rinehart of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (the successor body, through several mergers, of the Texas Synod) writes in a history of Lutheran in Texas that in 1890, F. Jesse and four other Texas Synod pastors left the Texas Synod (Jesse’s congregation stayed with the Texas Synod, and is an ELCA congregation today).

These five pastors were unhappy with the direction of the General Council (the larger Lutheran body with which the Texas Synod was affiliated at the time), and were unwilling to remain if it didn’t sever its connections with the General Council.

Well now, that’s interesting.

Another clue is found in a 1934  article by the Rev. Gotthilf Birkmann of Fedor (https://wendishresearch.org/historical/people/rev-gotthilf-birkmann/july-26-1934-memories-of-pastor-teacher-conferences-at-an-earlier-time-second-continuation/). He writes the following:

A Rev. Jesse visited our conference on that occasion [an 1886 conference at Salem Lutheran Church in Rose Hill, Texas]. He read a paper to us in which he professed correct doctrine. It was years, however, before he with three others transferred from the Texas Synod to the Missouri Synod. These were August Wenzel, J. H. Sieck, and a Rev. Schwan. This Jesse was the father of the current Rev. Jesse in Atchison, Kansas, and the grandfather of the Rev. Jesse in Houston.

That was enough for me to be able to find the Jesse from Atchison, the Rev. Frederick William Carl Jesse (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/54865781/frederick-william_carl-jesse), who also happened to serve as the second president of Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska.

The grandson mentioned as being in Houston was the Rev. Richard Jesse, the brother of the Rev. Albert Jesse.

Perhaps F. Jesse’s exposure to the Missouri Synod in Warda may have played a part in him switching synods after all!

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