A History of the New Wehdem Church and Community
Originally named St. Jacobi, St. James Lutheran Church of New Wehdem was organized by residents of the area who came to the United States primarily from West Prussia, or Wesphalia. Those particularly instrumental in establishing the church and school were Christian Emshoff, Sr., Christian Ringener, C.G. Stern, Ernst Mahlmann, Fr. W. Meyer, Wm. Remmert, F.W. Bosse, Christoph Richter and John R. Stern. A 15-acre plot of land on which to build a church, parsonage and cemetery was purchased.
On November 7, 1869, the first organizational meeting was held with fifteen members present. The first church building was dedicated on December 26, 1870. The church and parsonage were built at a cost of $1665. It was noted in the church minutes that bricks cost 1-cent and nails were 6-cents a pound.
As the congregation grew, so did the community and a larger school was needed. The cost of the building came to $405. A post office operated from 1904 until 1906, after which time mail was delivered over a rural route from Brenham. By 1919, New Wehdem celebrated its 50th anniversary and changed the name from St. Jacobi to St. James and while English was spoken and used in some services, German was the common language in the community and at church. The present sanctuary was dedicated on February 26, 1928. The congregation incurred a $15,000 debt and took approximately 10 years to pay it off in full.
In the early 1930s the church, school, and two stores were in the community. In 1936 the population was estimated at ten. By 1949 this figure had risen to twenty, and one business was reported. In 1962, the last year for which statistics are available, the population remained an estimated twenty.
St. James has had the honor to have two "sons" of the congregation in the ministry. Herman Dannhaus, son of Theophilie and Adolph Dannhaus, was ordained at St. James on October 11, 1943. Ray Tiemann, son of Margaret and Melvin Tiemann became St. James' second son to enter the ministry, being ordained on June 24, 1979. Today he serves as Bishop of the Southwestern Synod of Texas.
From 1927 to the middle 1990s, the basement served the church in many ways. There were Sunday School classes, funeral meals and many years of Chicken Stews. On the church's 125th anniversary, ground was broken and the Family Life Center was built, having been dedicated on April 14, 1996. The sanctuary was refurbished in 2002, for the first time since construction. All pews were removed and the floors and pews were refinished and carpeting was replaced. In 2007, the school building, now used for Sunday school was restored to its original condition. Wood floors were redone and wooden furniture like that used in the original schoolhouse was purchased. Every effort was made to retain the integrity of the building. In 2009, the Texas Historical Commission designated the St. James Lutheran Cemetery as a Historic Texas Cemetery
As of August, 2013, St. James has recorded 2,359 baptisms, 1,252 confirmations, 619 marriages and 883 funerals.