GHF will offer a choral concert, in commemoration of the 1891 Saengerfest, at the 1859 St. Joseph’s Church on Sunday, April 2, at 2 p.m. Admission is free with RSVP. The Saengerfest, literally translating as “singer festival,” was originally held as part of Galveston’s Deep Water Jubilee and was a multi-day series of concerts performed by German singing groups from all over Texas. The first Saengerfest was held in the 1850s, and after the Civil War it occurred every two years in different cities throughout the state.


The concert will feature a mass choir performance of 5 selections and hymns as well as small vocal ensembles and solos. Individual singers in the community as well as choirs from Ashford United Methodist Church, Moody Methodist Church and First Presbyterian Church will perform. For those interested in singing, please contact Michael Ekbladh.

“We are excited to work with singers from First Presbyterian Church, Moody Memorial United Methodist and the surrounding area as we celebrate the 1890 Deep Water Jubilee Saengerfest,” states the concert organizer, Michael Ekbladh. “It has been an honor and pleasure to organize this event, working with GHF and community leaders to make history.

“St. Joseph’s Church was built specifically so that German speaking families would have a place to worship,” explains Renee Tallent, GHF Collections Manager. “It’s a perfect venue to host this concert celebrating Texas’s German singing tradition.”


In 1890, Galveston finally received what it needed to become an economically competitive port: a 6.2 million dollar congressional appropriation to deepen the harbor. News of the appropriation sent Galveston into a flurry of spontaneous celebrations and a rush to plan six months’ worth of festivities called the Deep Water Jubilee. Join Galveston Historical Foundation in 2017 as it remembers the city’s triumph. Featuring personal stories of individuals, events, educational programs and more, GHF will celebrate Galveston’s Deep Water Jubilee throughout the first half of 2017. Details on the program are available here.

“The Deep Water Jubilee recognizes a little known historical point in our island’s history,” explains Dwayne Jones, GHF’s Executive Director. “For these few months, GHF will introduce residents and visitors to the story through a remarkable set of events. Join us to learn and have a good time doing it!”

Galveston did not successfully lobby congress alone. By working with other western cities and interests, they proved together that deep water at Galveston held national importance. As the farthest port with access to the Atlantic trade, Galveston and the West stood to gain handsomely from increased goods traveling through the harbor. Deep water meant larger ships carrying more cargo, making more money for the western states.

After over twenty years of planning, deep water was within Galveston’s reach. With banquets, oyster roasts and maritime excursions, Galveston set about thanking its many partners in November of 1890. In February, Galveston held one of her famous Mardi Gras events accompanied by a trades display parade. In April, Galveston hosted the biennial Saengerfest, which boasted three days of concerts by German music groups from across the state. The Deep Water Jubilee ended with the arrival of sitting President, Benjamin Harrison, who signed the bill into law, and all the pomp and circumstance befitting a presidential visit.


St. Joseph’s Church is the oldest German Catholic Church in Texas and the oldest wooden church building in Galveston and was built by German immigrants in 1859. Now de-sanctified and managed by Galveston Historical Foundation, the gothic revival church is distinguished by its elaborately detailed coffered wooden ceiling, delicately painted wooden sanctuary, original pews and hand-carved altars. GHF preserves the building as a museum and makes it available as an event venue.

One Response

  1. Pamela Cox Previte

    my Grandmother landed in Galveston in 1903 German she lived to be 90 and 1/2. And settled in Cuero, Texas. And lived most of her life there except for a few years in San Antonio.


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