Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

German tombstones

with 51 comments

Because many of the early colonists in central Texas were Germans, it’s not unusual to find old cemeteries here with tombstone inscriptions in German. So it is for the cemetery at the Christ Lutheran Church of Elm Creek southeast of New Berlin—look at that name—which we visited (for I think at least the third time in the past decade) on March 25th, as you saw last time. Here are four of those German-language tombstones, along with translations. (If any of you German speakers catch mistakes in the translations, please let me know.) While the wildflowers surrounding the graves need no translation, I’ll add that the reddish-orange ones are Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa) and the yellow are Nueces coreopsis (Coreopsis nuecensis).


Here rests in God
Emilie Lippke
Née Koehler
Born 27 September 1853
In Falkenburg, Pomerania
Died 18 January 1889
In Wilson
Softly rests her [soul]
[The ending is effaced.]




Here rests in peace
Edward Lenz
Aug. 5, 1839
Dec. 17, 1929

People’s death is only a sleep.
He gives rest to the weary,
Relieves the burden of those who suffer,
Brings them to eternal peace.
Weep not that this is a farewell:
The dead will arise.



Here rests in peace
The son of H.W.M.
Born and died
The 27th of October 1900.



Here rests in peace
Anna Bargfrede
Née Holtermann
Born 26 October 1861
Died 14 June 1932

Farewell, sweet Mother
Farewell for all time
When we find each other again
It will be for eternity.
Psalms 4.9.



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2023 at 4:31 AM

51 Responses

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  1. how interesting, I never knew this about Texas. old tombstones are so fascinating


    March 31, 2023 at 5:18 AM

    • You’re not alone in not knowing about the German legacy in central Texas. Visitors driving around in San Antonio, that most Hispanic of cities, will occasionally come across main streets like Toepperwein Rd. and Kneupper Rd. Here’s an article about San Antonio’s German heritage:


      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2023 at 6:10 AM

    • I’ve never seen a graveyard as wonderful as this one ! Flowers all summer long.


      March 31, 2023 at 6:42 AM

      • I wouldn’t say “all summer long” but “all spring long” is probably right. Yes, we’re fortunate here to have some wonderful wildflower cemeteries. I wish we had more—all would be even better.

        Steve Schwartzman

        March 31, 2023 at 1:02 PM

  2. This is beautiful. I have never seen a tombstone with the word MOTHER like this. Wonderful graveyard.


    March 31, 2023 at 7:13 AM

  3. Growing up Pennsylvania Dutch, I have seen family grave markers in German. I really like that these included maiden names. I have also seen many of the little lamb ones. My husband was looking for a Catholic great-grandmother’s grave in a large city cemetery in San Antonio and it was interesting to see how it was divided by religion and there was a separate area for Germans.

    automatic gardener

    March 31, 2023 at 7:32 AM

    • Were maiden names not normally included on Pennsylvania Dutch graves? Now you’ve got me wondering how common it is on English-language graves in America. A search just now turned up many little lamb tombstones.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2023 at 1:47 PM

      • I have not noticed, but I will check the next time I’m at the cemetery. I know recent (1900’s) don’t have maiden names. Mine will include my maiden name. I do genealogy and found maiden names were often not included in obits.
        When we visited the cemetery, my grandfather would always point out the lambs were children.

        automatic gardener

        March 31, 2023 at 4:37 PM

        • Your genealogy experience is good evidence for the absence of maiden names.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 31, 2023 at 9:46 PM

          • I went back and checked some family markers. As a woman it bothers me their family ties get erased. Are you familiar with Find A Grave? It is a website that had photos of many markers all over the states.

            automatic gardener

            April 1, 2023 at 7:17 AM

            • I understand your annoyance that half a person’s heritage doesn’t get mentioned.
              Yes, I’ve run across Find a Grave plenty of times when I’ve pursued the identities of people buried in various old cemeteries I’ve photographed.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 1, 2023 at 7:52 AM

    • What you say about the separate German section in the San Antonio cemetery reminds me of Austin’s Oakwood Cemetery, which has two Jewish sections where many of the graves have Hebrew inscriptions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2023 at 1:50 PM

      • Jew were separated too in SA. I guess everyone wanted to be together. In my home town the big cemetery is the same way. Catholic and Jews have separate parts and I guess everyone else is in the rest of it. The branch of my family with the German headstones is at their Meeting House where they settled when they came over.

        automatic gardener

        March 31, 2023 at 4:31 PM

        • It’s normal for immigrant groups to stick together for reasons of language, religion, food, and culture more generally.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 31, 2023 at 9:50 PM

  4. I did not know about German presence in Texas! Beautiful sight of wildflowers and tombstones, a hint of recycling and renewal. In Brazil, the South, particularly Rio Grande do Sul, was heavily colonized by Germans. There are small towns there where German is still spoken.

    Alessandra Chaves

    March 31, 2023 at 7:40 AM

    • You’re the second commenter to mention not knowing about the German presence in Texas, and you’re hardly alone. I didn’t know about it till I moved here. In South America, I was aware of Germans in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. I’m not sure I’d heard about Germans in southern Brazil, but that’s close to those other countries. German was still spoken in some Texas towns into the mid-20th century.

      And yes, hooray for as many wildflower-covered cemeteries as Texas has. Unfortunately they don’t all stay that way. One that we checked out because it had been good a few years ago had been mowed “clean” of all wildflowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2023 at 1:58 PM

  5. Beautiful pictures. The first tombstone has, what I would call, a star of David on it, making me think that Emilie Lippke was Jewish. But the tombstone is in a Lutheran cemetery. Is this is a mystery or am I confused in some way? (or both).


    March 31, 2023 at 8:18 AM

    • I wondered about that six-pointed star, too. Maybe it was only decorative. A search just now for more information about Emilie Lippke didn’t turn up anything.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2023 at 2:02 PM

  6. The Lutheran immigrants faithfully kept their German spelling rules. They were not aware that ‘es giebt’ was no longer acceptable. The correct spelling is now ‘es gibt’.

    Peter Klopp

    March 31, 2023 at 9:34 AM

    • I also noticed the old “giebt” spelling. One online source says German spelling didn’t settle into its current standardized form till the end of the 19th century.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2023 at 2:10 PM

  7. That is interesting. I wonder if there are other languages too? I am not sure about old German, but might translate the end of the second one as ‘Weep not for we will meet again’.


    March 31, 2023 at 9:43 AM

    • I didn’t see any language other than German and English in this cemetery. Elsewhere I have; for example, northeast of Austin is an old settlement called New Sweden, whose cemetery (also Lutheran) includes tombstones inscribed in Swedish:

      Thanks for your condensed translation of the end of the second inscription.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2023 at 2:17 PM

  8. I love to find churchyards where nature is allowed to flourish (under control) rather than an uninspiring manicured setting.


    March 31, 2023 at 10:56 AM

    • Amen to that! I’m grateful to have come across a dozen or so in Texas over the years. Unfortunately some have gotten shorn of their wildflowers since I first found them flourishing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2023 at 2:20 PM

  9. Lovely to see all these wildflowers – much better than a formal cemetery with too-short grass and little wildlife.

    Ann Mackay

    March 31, 2023 at 11:56 AM

  10. You translated the inscriptions very well, Steve.
    The only one I would change slightly is Mr. Lenz’s. I would probably say:
    Weep not–there will be a reunion/we will see one another again:
    The dead will arise.


    March 31, 2023 at 3:18 PM

    • Thanks for your emendation. What threw me was the lack of punctuation between “nicht” and “es giebt.”

      One curious feature of the first inscription is the use at times of a capital letter for a lower case one and vice versa.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2023 at 3:59 PM

      • When sentences run into one another and lower and capital letters aren’t used according to today’s rules, it makes it challenging to figure out what goes together.


        March 31, 2023 at 4:02 PM

        • Especially when it’s not a language the reader is well versed in.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 31, 2023 at 9:43 PM

          • Especially, but not exclusively. Even a native speaker is challenged when spelling and punctuation aren’t standardized. As Peter pointed out, the spelling has changed over time. Many immigrants also spoke dialects, and I suspect that those dialects were reflected in their spelling as well.


            March 31, 2023 at 10:07 PM

  11. Graveyards are fascinating chronicles of local human history and this is a really nice combination with the local natural history

    Finn Holding

    April 1, 2023 at 3:21 AM

  12. I like the way the flower shadows decorate the concrete border in the last shot. What is the story with those concrete borders? Are they precursors to our modern burial vaults?

    Steve Gingold

    April 1, 2023 at 6:59 AM

    • I’m glad you called attention to those flower shadows.
      As far as I know, the concrete border is a way to delineate the grave and allow the earth over the burial to be built up a little higher than the surrounding land.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 1, 2023 at 7:20 AM

      • I thought that too but also considered a separation below ground. It’s a good way to specify the grave from the surrounds.

        Steve Gingold

        April 1, 2023 at 7:30 AM

        • I’ll also speculate that perhaps wildflowers didn’t originally grow free all over the cemetery and that the concrete border might have created a flower bed.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 1, 2023 at 7:49 AM

          • Yes, I can hear all those flowers yelling “look out below” as they made their escape.

            Steve Gingold

            April 1, 2023 at 8:30 AM

            • And I’m happy we were able to escape from Austin to see this prodigious wildflower cemetery 90 miles “below” us.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 1, 2023 at 12:21 PM

  13. I first learned about Germans in Texas because of my connections with the Lutheran Church. The first German congregation was formed in a place I think you’ve been — Berlin, Texas — in 1855. New Berlin was founded in 1868.

    During my time in the Victoria area, I knew an elderly German woman whose parents arrived by ship at Indianola, and then walked across the prairie to Victoria. As I recall, the woman was born in 1889, and Indianola was swept away for the second time in 1886, so I suspect her parents arrived in Indianola after the rebuilding from the first hurricane.

    Today, the Houston-area congregation I served continues to hold monthly German language services. A pastor from Germany was added to the staff at one point, and German language confirmation classes were offered. There’s a strong connection with the Goethe Institute, and the Houston Bach Society provides a musical link to the German heritage.

    In cemeteries around the Victoria area, wonderful stones like these aren’t only a link to the past, they’re a link to still-living descendents of Texas’s German settlers. That’s true across the state, of course. I can’t help thinking of Faulkner’s famous line: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”


    April 1, 2023 at 8:54 AM

    • I was waiting to see what you would add about Lutherans here. I had no idea German services are still held in the Houston area. Your mention of German graves in the Victoria area provides one more reason to revisit the place, which we’ve spent only a little bit of time in despite the fact it’s about as far from Austin as Houston, which we’ve visited a slew of times. Speaking of which, to get to Houston we take US 290 and pass through Berlin, which somehow I wasn’t aware of. If road signs announce the town, I’ve never paid attention. I always assumed the New Berlin in Texas was named after the old Berlin back in Europe. I guess is could be named after the Berlin in Europe as well as the one in Texas.

      That’s a great line by Faulkner. I see it’s from Requiem for a Nun, and the full passage is: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past. All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born, webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity. Haunted by wrong turns and roads not taken, we pursue images perceived as new but whose providence dates to the dim dramas of childhood, which are themselves but ripples of consequence echoing down the generations. The quotidian demands of life distract from this resonance of images and events, but some of us feel it always.”

      And look at this:

      Here’s the outcome:

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 1, 2023 at 12:43 PM

  14. My great uncle was German and was buried in Dallas.


    April 20, 2023 at 12:27 PM

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