History

Take A Lone Star Road Trip to Serbin, Texas: A Unique Hill Country Town

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We’re off on another Texas day trip, driving east from Balcones Escarpment Region on highway 290, almost in the emerging rolling ranch hills of the Texas Blackland Prairie. Early pioneers once grew cotton, corn, and peanuts in this fertile farmland, now replaced by scores of cattle ranches.

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Photo: Paul Fronczek

The small town of Paige served as a landmark for the CR 2104 turnoff to Serbin, the capital of the Wendish German immigrants. Back in 1855, 600 Slavic pioneers led by Pastor Jan Kilian charted the Ben Nevis Clipper Ship bound for Galveston and seeking religious freedom. Each family was allowed one sizeable wooden trunk, with their name painted on its side, brimming full of their worldly possessions. Artisans were permitted an additional smaller chest for their tools.

During the voyage, 73 of their members were buried at sea. The survivors were left to face a raging yellow fever epidemic in Galveston before they were permitted to leave for Houston in early December.  Some members decided to remain in Houston while the remaining 500 Wendish settlers venture overland by oxcarts. In the dead of winter, they arrived at their new homeland along the banks of a creek near Giddings.

Take A Lone Star Road Trip to Serbin, Texas: A Unique Hill Country Town

Photo: Paul Fronczek

Some say Serbin is ghost town, but that depends. Perhaps the Wendish townfolks like it that way.  Standing under a hot blistering Texas summer sun, you’ll find one of the 17 historical, painted churches in Texas. St. Paul Lutheran Church was founded in 1870. A walk inside the church reveals to your eyes the highest pulpit in Texas.

The Wendish community center sits on 95 acres of church property, composed of the original log cabin church and schoolhouse, the painted church, a functional Lutheran school, the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum, and the largest well keep cemetery I’ve ever set eyes on in Texas. The original one-room log cabin with a new roof once served as the church, schoolhouse, and later the home of Pastor Kilian.

Take A Lone Star Road Trip to Serbin, Texas: A Unique Hill Country Town

Photo: Paul Fronczek

There’s no better place to experience the heritage and history of the Wendish settlement, than the Texas Heritage Museum, the only one of its breed outside of Germany. Picture boards and actual artifacts display the story of the immigration of the Wendish into Texas.  The estate of Louise Peters, granddaughter of the late Pastor Kilian, bequeathed the money to build the museum.  Alongside the main museum and gift shop, another building houses artifacts depicting the early life of the Wendish settlers. These exhibits showcase period antiques of a typical bedroom, kitchen, living room, general store, pharmacy, and a unique display of authentic wedding dresses dating back from the 19th century.

One can’t help but notice that early Wendish pioneer woman wore a simple black wedding dress which symbolized the hardships she would encounter during her married life. Marrying in those harsh times was more out of necessity than love.  If love developed later, that was well and good. A good wife was expected to help with the farm chores and bear at least fifteen children. Since the settlers were frugal at first, the black dress was the wife’s nice outfit worn on special occasions, mostly funerals judging from the size of the cemetery near the church. By the 1920s the black wedding dress gradually changed to grey than to cream white. A few daring ladies wore light blue dresses.

Take A Lone Star Road Trip to Serbin, Texas: A Unique Hill Country Town

Photo: Paul Fronczek

Every Monday volunteer ladies gather together to make German egg noodles, the best I’ve ever eaten. Be sure to shop for a bag or two.  Proceeds from the noddles and donations go toward the maintenance of the museum. And don’t forget to mark your calendar and attend their annual Wendish Fest on Sunday, 23 September.

There’s no town in Texas I know of that doesn’t have a fine restaurant. Serbin is no exception. We recommend The Bullpen. After eating our fill, we left for home happy as a gopher in soft dirt with one more stop in Giddings for an old-fashioned root beer float at Reba’s.