Centennial Moments

Researched & Written by David Goeke


Henry Kunkel was born in Posen, Germany. He came from a large family. It was a family of twelve. . .mom and dad, Henry, seven brothers and two sisters. In 1871, Henry, a seventeen year old young man, decided to come to Texas. He arrived in Galveston and made his way to Brenham. There he worked as a stable boy. Two years later, in 1873, Henry’s parents, two of his brothers and a sister also came to Texas. . . .and they moved to Brenham. In 1874, the other five sons and the other sister came to Texas. And they moved, yes, to Brenham. From 1881 to 1883, for reasons not certain, the whole family decided to move to north Texas...to a "place" called Salt Creek, in Young County, Texas. It needs to be classified a "place" because there was no town, no church, no school, "no nothin'". Several of Henry's siblings had married and had children by the time they all moved north.

Well, as God would have it, in 1884, a relative came to see the family. He was from Lee County, Texas. With him, he brought a Bible, a prayer book and a book of sermons...all in German. He left the books with the Kunkels. So, the Kunkels, who had by now grown into an even larger family, started having church and Sunday School in their home...among their own family. Henry led the services and his brother taught Sunday school to the children. Gradually other people started coming, too. But, there was no Lutheran pastor around. Then, in 1886, the family learned of a Lutheran pastor by the name of Bartels who was serving a small congregation in Clifton, Texas. So the Kunkel family invited Pastor Bartels to come to Young County and baptize the children.

Pastor Bartels traveled the nearly 150 miles, stayed for a week, baptized eleven children...and the Kunkels kept worshiping and inviting others. By 1897, the "place" had a name...Olney, Texas. And the mission board sent a missionary, Rev. F.H. Rudi, to organize what up until that time had been known as the "Kunkel Congregation" into what now is known as St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Olney, Texas. If ever there was a "church family", St. Luke's started out that way.