The motto of the Sons of Hermann has remained a constant through the years where it was present during the early founding days, the horrible days of the depression and both World Wars, through droughts as well as prosperity. This local band of German settlers formed a support group assisted by the Texas Hermann Sons Lodge.
The Hermann Sons Lodge # 216 located in Rowena, Texas was organized December 18, 1904. There were 10 charter members. By the second meeting 10 more members were added. By December of 1905 there were 27 on the roster. Monthly meetings were originally held at Schuhmann’s Hall. By 1908, 50 members had signed on.
In 1909 a campaign was begun to acquire land to erect a hall of their own. In late 1910 the present hall was built and membership had grown to a total of 86 members.
The following was taken from ‘Rowena Country’ by A.E. Skinner: The lodge’s minute books for 1911-August 1921 are missing. Since the minutes were kept in German in the early days, the volume may have been destroyed during or after World War I. As a result, the lodge’s history in this period has been lost.
Over the years, the lodge donated the use of the hall, time, labor, and money to helping various public causes. In 1921 & 1922, it responded to appeals from various relief organizations in Germany. They assisted Brother Paul Sturm in rebuilding his home in 1922 after it was destroyed by a tornado. 1923 saw more relief appeals.
At one meeting, the lodge members discussed pamphlets dealing with racial disturbances between black & white troops stationed in Germany. Ironically, Constable F.J. Kuhn was killed by one of his Negro tenants just 3 days prior to this meeting.
During the early 1920’s, the hall was prosperous and thriving. Dances were held on weekends. Card and domino games, held mainly on Sunday afternoons, for members were a time to meet and exchange various ideas and views as well as catch up on news. The ODHS hall was used for numerous political rallies or for organizations needing a meeting place. St. Joseph Catholic Church used the hall to have its annual Fall Festival until their parish hall was built.
The depression brought hard times to everyone-the Rowena Hermann Sons were no different. Many of the lodge members had to be dropped for non-payment of dues. The 1930’s were a time for changes. Many times the monthly meetings were not held. Because of the membership decline, Winters Lodge # 144 merged with Rowena in early 1936, followed by Ballinger Lodge # 269 in February 1938 and Miles Lodge # 211 in 1942. The minutes show routine business meetings were held throughout World War II. Mr. Skinner states that Lawrence Welk played at at least two dances at the ODHS Hall between October 1931 and March 1932. The Hermann Son members started having an annual summer celebration, usually a barbecue, and an annual Christmas party.
Beginning in 1948, the minute books began being kept in English. These show a decrease in activity in the lodge even though dances and card games were still held throughout the months. In a quote from ‘Rowena Country’, Mr. Skinner states: “As rural areas declined, radio and television made significant changes in the habits and lives of all Americans, and various social and fraternal organizations changed and generally declined. In an age of instant communications and entertainment, the significance of social organizations changed. No longer was the rural family dependent on local social activities, and these organizations declined somewhat in strength and importance.’
In 1971, the lodge obtained a Texas Historical Marker. It states:
Sons of Hermann Lodge # 216. Organized in 1904 as Rowena Chapter of the Sons of Hermann, worldwide benevolent fraternal organization.
Named for Hermann, national hero and tribal leader. Hermann the Defender (18 BC-19 AD), who helped break Roman power East of the Rhine River in 9 AD.
First officers of the Rowena Lodge were Michelus Feist, president, Julius J. Henkhaus, vice president, Walter Shuhumann, secretary and Ignatz Olsak, treasurer. There were 10 charter members. The Order maintains a youth camp and home for the aged for members, at town of Comfort. 1971
At each meeting since the lodge began, sick members and those who have died are always remembered. Prayers of thanks are given for what has been received. The Pledge of Allegiance is always said as a reminder of the great country where we reside. Few members are now active participants at the monthly lodge meetings, however, the main spirit remains.
Today, the Hermann Sons Lodge # 216 of Rowena still continues it’s benevolent sharing and giving. Some of the causes they contribute to are: the Youth Diabetes Fund, Flood Relief, the Hermann Sons Retirement Center in Comfort, the local Lions Club for mosquito spraying, and various other needy causes. The ODHS hall is loaned, free of charge, to members for funeral dinners as well as to various organizations for public meetings. The Lodge roster is presently at 287 members who reside in Rowena, other areas of Texas and several from out of state. The Lodge raises money by holding dances on the 4th Saturday of each month from 8:30 pm to 12:30 am, Polka dances on the 3rd Sunday of the month from 3 pm to 7 pm, and by selling Funnel Cakes at the Ethnic Festival in Ballinger during the last part of April. The hall can be rented for a nominal fee plus clean-up charge. Donations to the Lodge are welcome for Memorials or to help defray the cost of a new roof needed 2 years ago. These can be mailed to Box 302, Rowena, Texas 76875.
To become a member of the Hermann Sons Lodge, a Life Insurance policy is purchased. Annual dues for an adult are $3.00 and for a child $1.20. You can contribute to annuities and/or IRAs set up by the Sons of Hermann. See the web site for additional information.
From a small band of German settlers striving for social interaction and entertainment to a thriving active organization, the Rowena Lodge has seen it’s share of good times and hardships.
Through it all these good people have remembered God, country, and community.
Note: A.E. Skinner translated the Lodge minutes to English when he researched his book Rowena Country.
This article prepared with this book and information collected from Mr. & Mrs. Rodney Watson.