Trinity Lutheran Church may have witnessed change in the last century and a half, but the same church bell from the 1880s still rings out throughout the Klein community signaling time for worship. The tolling bell is the sound of a congregation whose legacy is imbedded into the fabric of the region.
Steve Baird, district historian for the Klein, Texas Historical Foundation, said the Trinity Lutheran Church story begins in the 1840s and 1850s when an influx of Lutheran German workers came to Texas. Most left their homes in Germany in search of cheap land to establish a new life in a new environment.
The original settlers were farmers who were forced to leave their farms, animals and livelihoods behind. These settlers grew tired of traveling by horse, mule, ox and wagon to attend the nearest church in Rose Hill, now Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball, according to the church.
“They got tired of traveling the distance all the way out to that area,” Baird said. “They wanted a local congregation they could meet at for all the laboring farms. That’s when a group of them got together and started to create Trinity Lutheran out [on] Spring Cypress [Road] in the vicinity of what used to be Big Cypress and what we now call Klein.”
In 1874, Trinity Lutheran Church was chartered by many founding families of the Klein region, men whose names are still recognizable in the community today. The church’s founders include Jacob Theiss, Henry Kaiser, Adam Klein Sr., John Brill, Jost Wunderlich, Henry Benfer Sr., Henry Bernshausen and William Lemm.
The congregation purchased 160 acres of land that year on which there was a one-room public school building, according to “Deep Roots, Strong Branches: A History of the Klein Family and the Klein Community, 1840-1940” by Diana Severance.
More than a church
Trinity Lutheran served as a house of worship and Christian day school.
By 1880 it had to be enlarged but continued to serve as a church and social gathering place, according to Severance’s book.
“They were coming here for better lives but at the same time [their denomination] played an essential part in their lives and it still does to this day.”
—Steve Baird, district historian, Klein, Texas Historical Foundation
“You didn’t have a whole lot of time for social activities when you were growing up on the farm,” Baird said. “Christianity was a big part of their makeup, work ethic, their morals and their upbringing. Sunday was the Sabbath and that was the day they came together.”
Baird said the church helped the settlers learn English as the catechism at the time was in both English and German. Church services were held in German until World War II when church members stopped speaking in their native language.
The church also served as a meeting place for families to see and visit with neighbors they had not seen all day long.
“The nearest farm was 200-250 acres per homestead roughly,” Baird said. “You’ve got neighbors, but you’re not going to go out and see them. You’re busy plowing. You’re busy planting. You’re busy butchering [and] making food.”
A lasting legacy
Baird said one of the 140-year-old church’s most enduring legacies is its spiritual foundation, the Lutheran denomination that the original German settlers brought with them.
“It was a big part of their lives, and that’s what gave them part of their work ethic and [their] drive,” Baird said. “They were coming here for better lives, but at the same time [their denomination] played an essential part in their lives and it still does to this day.”
Trinity Lutheran Serve Director Jean Smith said the church continues to serve the Klein community with various programs throughout the region because the congregation wants to be known as a church that cares about people.
Trinity Lutheran works with Klein ISD by providing meals to students who need them on weekends. The church also prepares meals for homeless individuals and helps pay for rent and utility bills of low-
income families in the area.
“We’re very traditional,” Smith said. “We definitely value our traditions but we want to be open to the community, especially with the tens of thousands of people [who] are moving to our area.”