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They Wended Their Way to Texas

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Reading an interesting blog post about Danish genetic structure (they're very homogeneous), I came across mention of the Wends. Ignorant clown that I am, I had no idea what they were. It turns out the Wends really got around, as befits Slavic nomads. In fact, there's a Wendish Heritage Museum in rural Lee County, in South Central Texas:

The Museum is a complex of buildings which are connected by porches. In the center is a new facility with a display interpreting the history of the Wends. It also houses the Offices, Gift Shop, Library, and Archives. To the right and left are the old St. Paul school buildings. Exhibits include relics from the old country and Texas. Folk dress of Lusatia, the traditional Texas wedding dresses, and the beautiful Wendish Easter eggs are a few of the colorful exhibits.

Outdoor exhibits include two log buildings and farming equipment.The 1856 log room, built by the Kurio family, originally part of a dog trot home, is furnished as a bed room. A section of the earlier 1855 room is also preserved on the Museum grounds. The Mertink family log room is used to exhibit carpenter’s and farming tools.

The Lillie Moerbe Caldwell Memorial Library specializes in the history and genealogy of the Wendish people. It welcomes donations of family histories and genealogies.The Archives includes rare books in Wendish and German, manuscripts, personal papers, and a photographic collection.

The Texas Wendish Heritage Museum preserves the history of the Texas Wends, Slavic immigrants from Lusatia, an area in eastern Germany. Today the Wends of Lusatia are called Sorbs.

Wendish families began arriving in Texas in 1849, followed by a group of 35 in 1853. In 1854, a congregation of over 500 Wends immigrated on a chartered sailing ship, the Ben Nevis. This group founded a new homeland on 4,254 acres in Bastrop County (now Lee County) and named their new town Serbin. Other Wendish towns and congregations were soon organized.Many more Wends immigrated during the second half of the 19th Century.

The Museum is located in historic Serbin, near the St. Paul Lutheran Church, school and cemetery. The present Church building, built in 1871, is one of the painted churches of South Central Texas.

It's heartening to see how active the site is: the Wendish fest is coming up on September 25. Some highlights of last year's fest:

Wendish-Fest-2015-8-image-montage

And here's a recipe for Wendish noodles from 'The Noodle Lady':

[The] following is the recipe for homemade Wendish noodles that Hattie Mitschke Schautschick learned to make as a child cooking alongside her grandma – Anna Matthijetz Mitschke – and her mama – Louise Mertink Mitschke. Hattie, as I’m sure you well know, is known around here as the Noodle Lady and the one in charge of producing the noodles we sell in our gift shop.

Two things to know upfront about making noodles: (1) If you use yard eggs, you can usually eliminate the water; and (2) try to avoid making noodles when it’s damp outside – the weather affects how fast they’ll dry.

  • 3 eggs
  • Water to fill half-eggshell 3 times (about 6 tablespoons)
  • 3 cups flour plus additional for rolling out dough
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped parsley (optional)

Break the eggs into a large bowl, saving the most intact half-eggshell. Beat eggs and water together. Add 3 cups flour and the salt to form stiff dough. Roll out dough into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick on a well-floured cutting board or countertop. Allow dough to dry about 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

When dough is dry but still pliable, cut into long sections about 3 inches wide. Take 3-inch sections and cut into thin strips about 1/8-inch wide. Cut strips into preferred length for cooking. Place cut noodles on a dish towel and fluff noodles so air can circulate around them. Allow cut noodles to dry thoroughly, at least overnight or longer if necessary. If noodles won’t be cooked right away, store them in a sealed plastic bag in either the pantry or the freezer for up to six months.

When ready to cook noodles, bring chicken broth to a boil in a large pot. Stir in butter, parsley and dried noodles. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until tender. Be careful not to overcook. Remove pot from heat, leaving lid on, and let sit another 10 to 15 minutes. Do not drain. Makes 1 pound of noodles or 20 servings.

I love tiny museums, and I plan to visit this one next time I'm in the Lone Star State.

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