Wendish culture area
On a bleak December day in 1854, almost 600 Wends landed at Galveston after a dangerous Atlantic voyage on the sailing ship Ben Nevis. These men, women, and children had left their homes in the part of Saxony and Prussia called Lusatia in search of religious, economic, and political freedoms in Texas.
Drought, crop failures, and economic hardship in the mid-19th century motivated both Wends and Germans to migrate to America (some Wends went to Australia). Forerunners in Texas wrote encouraging letters which praised the new land. Coupled with their religious and social discontent, the Wendish farmer and craftsmen and their families left for Texas with Pastor Jan Kilian on the Ben Nevis. Disease and shipwreck during the journey became a part of their migration lore.
Their strong Lutheran faith reinforced the Wends’ ethnic and cultural identity, setting them apart from their Catholic Slavic cousins, the Czechs and the Poles. When German church and government policies pressured them to abandon their language and culture and to accept the State’s Calvinist Church, the Wends resisted and faced discrimination in land ownership, membership in professional guilds, and living accommodations in cities.
The Wends who protested openly formed a devout and conservative congregation of Pure Evangelical Lutherans and built their own church. Their constitution set forth their plans to migrate to a new land, presumably to practice their conservative and evangelical Lutheran religion.