A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

The Church

by Dr. Viktor Pratscher
Translated by Brad Schwebler

   On the 23rd of April, 1903 the building of today's church began.  Already the year before 200,000 bricks were ordered from the St. Vrbas brick worker Stiefelmayer which cost 28 Kronen per thousand.  During the winter they started to transport the bricks and from the corner of the choirmaster's apartment to the corner of the church the whole street was piled with an overabundance of bricks.

   Behind the church there was a pile of bricks which alone was as large as the old place of worship.  The building plan and cost estimate were done by J. Cocek, architect in Novi Sad, for 300 Kronen.  The building of the church was handed over to architects Jakob Klein, Sr. and  Jakob Klein, Jr. from Novi Vrbas.  The community paid them 31,700 Kronen for it, without working overtime.  Ing. Leopold Berzeller from Novi Sad was entrusted as the construction foreman.

   The site where the old place of worship stood was too short and narrow.  So the community purchased the empty house lot behind the parsonage courtyard for it which was the private property of the local pastors.  The width of the church required that a room of the parsonage had to be torn down.  In place of this a kitchen was built on the yard side of the walkway and as compensation for the reduced size of the parsonage yard, a part of the house lot just purchased adjoined the parsonage yard.

    The foundation used up an enormous quantity of bricks.  There at the prescribed depth no solid ground could be found.  So the overtime work demanded a considerable amount of pay.

     A water source was found which could not be scooped out.  So more curves needed to be put into the foundation.  Not as many of the smaller bricks were used in the ground as above the ground.  The whole building required approximately a half million bricks.

    On the 1st of June, 1903, on Whitsunday, at 2 PM the solemn setting of the foundation stone took place.  With the foundation stone a small box was bricked in which had a document enclosed.  This document, written by Rev. Hamel, contained the development history of the Evangelical congregation up to the 1st of June 1903, as they just numbered 1,426 souls.  It says in this document among other things: "Many advise and worry and suffer and fight, but those who believed and were active participants of human love were visibly blessed.  Thanks be to the almighty, merciful God without whom we would not be able to do anything and whom we honor with the confession; this is the day that He made, makes us joyful and happy to be in it.  So now this church wanted the purchase of the foundation stone now set in place so there would always be a place for the care of the religion."  The document was signed by the following esteemed and venerable emn: Ferd. Hamel, Evangelical pastor,; Wilhelm Pratscher, secretary and Evangelical teacher; Peter Gutwein, treasurer; Georg Spies, Georg Karbiener, Jakob Häuser, Jakob Dietrich.  (Wouldn't it be beautiful if this certain document was also signed by women in the future?)

   An airtight baptismal container was introduced together with the foundation stone and the document to receive coins from the passing traffic.  It was built into the foundation on the left side of the entrance, 2½ meters from the parsonage and a meter deep in the foundation, so the hammer blows of the community members were accompanied by curses.

   Construction now progressed quickly.  Before the winter break the roof was covered and the brickwork for the tower was completed.  The 8 to 10 story high scaffolding enticed so many up on it to see the panoramic view of the surrounding area as far as Stari-Betschej.  The break in construction work only lasted 3 or 4 weeks.  The mild weather permitted work to be continued, mainly on the inside of the church, to work on the vault.  It is noticed that during the construction of the entire church no worker had an accident.

   During this construction church service in the first three months was conducted at the local German Reformed church instead. But because this was only permitted every second Sunday, afterward the church service was held every Sunday in the Evangelical school (in the big school), except during eulogies in the cemeteries.

   The benches were finished by the Vrbas cabinetmaker Johann Hamm for 1476 Kronen.  A. Konz made chairs for the pulpit, the pastor, and the pastor's wife for 600 Kronen.  The pulpit was decorated with a (Sämann?) which was donated by the Johann Dietrich family.

   Unfortunately little consideration was given to the interests of the native workers in employing them.  So the construction site often swarmed with foreign workers and our people were allowed to watch.  Even the kitchen and the cellar of the parsonage were done by workers from Vrbas.  If cheap foreign labor works more cheaply, there is a big question.

   There were about 60,000 Kronen left in the community, so many of the Groschen (pennies) flowed into the community treasury as a share of the cost, as value added tax or payment in arrears, so the taxpayers were always of assistance to each other.  And the depressing loss usually offset the savings.

   There was another large festival day in the community on the 15th of May, 1904.  The tower was finished, so the church tower button and cross could be placed on top of it.  This was the day of the Kirchweih (church fair).  A small box was encased in the button which contained the index of names of all the marriages which belonged to the congregation on this day.  Unfortunately a shot pierced through the button later in the year.  Certainly this was never expected!

   The consecration of the tower was held before an innumerable amount of people.  Ten schoolgirls dressed in white and decorated with flowers followed the tune "A Solid Fortress is Our God".  The girls came ahead of the cross from the school to the church where the village pastor addressed the crowd.  Then the cross was placed on the 40 meter high tower which is the highest spot in the village and it was slowly pulled up from the crowd.  Each was lucky who could pull on the long rope.  It was our father and mother who placed this great symbol of love for our Father's house.  The German music band accompanied this act in a solemn manner.  Carpenter Hartwein and son from Stari Vrbas and plumber Gutsohn from Paschitschewo (Altker) who were above on the peak quickly finished and from the dizzying height the latter held his oaths from the breath-taking crowd.  Reverend Engisch from Sekitsch said the blessing for the work that men's hands built to honor God.  "Our dear Evangelical congregation in Feketitsch, in memory of this day at a time when the Protestant heart willingly sacrifices to work hand in hand on this beautiful work in honor of the almighty.  In the aftermath our children were admonished that they should be as one people, as brothers.  But in the afterworld our children will be devoted to the admonition that they be one single nation of brothers.  One in belief, one in the love of one another, one in the hope in God."

   During the summer of 1904 an organ was ordered from the Rieger Brothers of Budapest.  It cost 2,728 Kronen, the sum of which was raised from donations.  The index of names of the contributors  is kept in the "Golden Book" of the community.  On the first line were listed the following with their donations: Nikolaus Weber (220 Kr.), Georg Bittlingmayer (210 Kr.), and Dr. Johann Scherer with 200 Kronen.  The brass pipes of the organ were sacrificed at the end of the world war.  In 1923 they were replaced with the same thing for about 4500 Kronen.  This sum was donated by American citizens.  On the altar the cross symbol came with the inscription "Honor to God on High".  The large altarpiece was a picture of Jesus in Gethsemene garden.  It was a generous donation of Georg Bittlingmayer and his wife Katharina, born Weber, which they endowed in memory of their daughter Katharina.  This was evident from the inscription.  The picture was painted by Dr. Geza Bðrsðmenyi, a lawyer from Groß Wardein.  The picture frame was donated by glazier Fritz Lehr.  The black cloths on the altar and the pulpit were donated by the women occasionally employed by Rev. P. Scherer.  The two vases were donated by the couple Anton Scheer and Margaretha Morrell.  The yellow altar cloth and the beautiful tablecloth for the wine jugs are gifts from the wife of Dr. Ferdinand Hamel of Crvenka.  She was the daughter-in-law of our pastor.  Of the 6 candle holders two were donated by brothers Philipp and Karl Häuser and Philipp's son.  These brothers also donated the altar Bible.  The four remaining candle holders as well as the crucifix were already in use in the old place of worship.

   The church was not completely furnished until fall and waited for the official opening.  There were 21 benches on the left side for the women and 18 benches on the right side for the men of which 5 stood along the length of the church.  Behind the pulpit was the bench for the pastors.  On the opposite side there was one bench for the female teachers and one for the female ministers.  On the right side there was a large side door to the side street.  The church floor under the benches was wooden boards but all the other areas were covered with beautiful cement slabs.  Twelve large windows with iron frames let all the bright light shine in.  On the windows on the south and west sides shades were hung up which were donated by Friedrich Dietrich in the name of his son Ludwig.  At the exit were two collection boxes, one for some church purpose and the other for the community's poor.  The towering church was supported by 4 columns and in the middle stood the organ with a lyre donated by Karl Spengler.  Four plaques served to display the song numbers. - The width of the church is 13.50 meters, the length is 31 meters; inside dimensions are 11.50 x 29.80.

   The cost of the church construction was put together by treasurer Peter Gutwein and would be put in print.  Te following expenses were noted:



To the architect Jakob Klein, Uj-Verbasz: 31,700 Kr. - H.



Supplement for gold-plating:  360 Kr. - H.



Supplement for roof gutters: 130 Kr. - H.



Supplement for the foundation:  450 Kr. - H.



To the architect for the altar construction: 589 Kr.45H.



For all 454,430 bricks: 11,613 Kr.94H.



For all 25,000 roof tiles :  342 Kr.72H.



Building plans from Taltarga and Cocek with expenses : 912 Kr.11H.



Included in above # 8



To the bell founder Seltenhofer for the new bell: 1,421 Kr. - H.



To revise the two old bells:   140 Kr. - H.



A bell cage of iron (700) and daily wages for the mounting: 760 Kr. - H.



Included in above # 12



To the cabinetmaker Hamm for the benches: 1,476 Kr. - H.



To the cabinetmaker A. Konz for the pulpit (400) and two benches (200): 600 Kr. - H.



Included in above # 15



For the organ (3,728) and the tower clock (1,100):  4,828 Kr. - H.



Included in above # 18



To the building foreman and engineer Berzeller:  400 Kr. - H.



Various other expenses : 1,015 Kr.31H.



Various objects donated in the value of: 1,133 Kr.66H.


Total: 57,828 Kr.39H.

   This was the end total presented to the planned Kirchweih (church festival) on the last Sunday in October 1904.  The cost included the 2 large cross beams and 4 columns with it which were needed to strengthen the choir loft.

   The official opening of the completely finished church unfortunately could not be planned.  There were objections to the weight of the choir loft.  The treasurer had concluded the column for expenses too quickly.  The church could not be officially opened until the 15th of January, 1905, after the desired crossbeam was installed.  It was a very warm, sunny Sunday, which seldom happened at this time of the year.  Everyone was back on their feet again and before the start of the church service the church was crammed full.

   The official opening was conducted by the following clergymen: Karl Petri, Consenior from N. Schowe; G. A. Famler from Torschau; G. A. Wagner from N. Vrbas and Ferd. Hamel village pastor.  The festival sermon was held by G.A. Famler.  He was the first to preach from the Sämann decorated pulpit.

   On this day Ludwig Jung and Philippina Hermann were married and Luisa Gerber, daughter of Heinrich Gerber and Theresia Fetzer, was baptized.  V. Pratscher and Theresia Müller were the first to be confirmed in the new church.  The first eulogy was held in the new church for Wilhelm Hðckel (Morell) on the 24th of January, 1905.

   It was decided that although they were forced to celebrate Kirchweih on the 15th of January, in the future Kirchweih day would be celebrated on the last Sunday of October again, as before.

   An exceptionally fine decoration in the church was the two chandeliers.  Its cost was generously sacrificed by the widow of David Rettenbach, born Mar. Elis. Weber.  The one chandelier had 30 electrical candle lights, the other had 16.  The practical chandeliers were ordered from Vienna in 1914 and cost 2000 Friedenskronen (peace crowns).  The church was thankful for the kind-hearted contributors for the introduction of the electrical circuits.  The third chandelier was already in use in the old place of worship and was donated by three brothers: Friedrich, Nikolaus, and Johann Dietrich.

   In 1929 new Venetian blinds of iron were mounted in the tower window at a cost of 9,800 Dinares.

   The winter of 1928-1929 was exceedingly severe.  On the 11th of February the temperature fell to -28ºC. It was for this reason that an attempt was made in the coming winter to heat the church with two ovens.  In the same year the congregation decided that the offertory money as a first priority should be used for the purpose of heating the church.

   With the end of the World War all Evangelical communities set into motion the goal to have the name of each church member who fell victim in the war immortalized on a commemorative plaque.  It is a beautiful virtue to prove their respect and be obligated to give thanks to those who gave their lives instead of us.

Commemorative Plaque

   To the honored memory of the fallen, dead, and missing brothers from the World War
between 1914 and 1918.




Johann Becker M. 

Johann Becker H.

Friedrich Häuser

Johann Gerber

Jakob Burmann 

Karl Häuser

Philipp Gerber

Peter Butscher 

Ludwig Häuser

Heinrich Gutwein

Nikolaus Gutwein

Philipp Häuser

Gottfried Hellermann

Philipp Gutwein

Georg Jung

Ludwig Henkel 

Philipp Häuser K. 

Heinrich Karger

Heinrich Kloß

Michael Karbiener

Johann Liebmann

Johann Wagner

Ludwig Kaipert

Peter Reiter

Philipp Weber

Stephan Meder

Philipp Ritter

Franz Weiß 

Andreas Roth  

Karl Roth

Friedrich Welker

Ludwig Schübler

Adam Ruppe

Heinrich Spieß

Wilhelm Welker

Johann G. Spieß

"Dedicated by the Evangelical congregaton to Feketic."

   The order of the church service in our Evangelical church is the following: 1) Opening hymn, 2) Altar prayer, 3) Gospel, 4) Main hymn, 5) Scripture with sermon, 6) Lord's Prayer with organ accompaniment, 7) Announcements, 8) Apostles' blessing, 9) Last verse of the main hymn, 10) Main prayer before the altar, 11) Aaron's blessing, 12) Closing hymn sung standing.

   Under the jewelry of our ancestor-settlers we find next to the Bible most also have a hymnbook. But in the different regions of the empire different hymnbooks were in use.  The Zweibrücken and Magdeburg hymnbooks were still the most widely spread in Sekitsch.  The number of old hymnbooks continued to decline.  This problem was remedied in 1832 with the publication of the Batschka hymnbook: "Christian hymnal for the public and domestic daily use in reverence to God for the German Evangelical community in the Batsch-Syrmier Seniorate.  Pesth 1832."  The compilation work on this hymnbook was undertaken in part by another pastor, Rev. Skultethy, who was pastor of the branch community of Feketitsch at the time.  The hymnal contained 469 songs and cost 1 Guilder.  When another edition of the hymnbook was done in 1863 the first supplement was added and soon a second supplement was provided.  The newest edition is the seventh and appeared in Neuwerbaß in 1923.  It contains 650 songs.  The songs of the previous editions are inserted in the appropriate place between the others.  The use of the old hymnbooks was made possible by providing the old numbers and also posting the numbers on  the song board in the church.  The prayer book most widely used in the home was Johann  Starke's prayer book and it is still in use today.  The congregation purchased 10 hymnbooks of the last edition which were placed on the pew in front.

[Published at 2004 by Jody McKim Pharr]

Heritage » Schwebler » Pratscher » Churches

Next: The Bell and the Tower Clock by Dr. Viktor Pratscher

Last Updated: 18 Aug 2020 ©2003 Donauschwaben Villages Helping Hands, a Nonprofit Corporation.
Webmaster: Jody McKim Pharr
Keeping the Danube Swabian legacy alive!