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PETERS, CHRISTIAN DOMINIKUS [FATHER ANASTASIUS]

PETERS, CHRISTIAN DOMINIKUS [FATHER ANASTASIUS] (1844–1912). Christian Dominikus Peters, a Carmelite priest and colonizer in West Texas, was born on October 5, 1844, in Breberen, a Westphalian village, to Gottfried and Kornelia Sophia (Tholen) Peters. The elder Peters was a Catholic farmer. Upon reaching manhood, Peters decided he would become a teacher and entered college at Kempen, near Breberen. It is believed he was engaged to be married, but his fiancee died before the wedding. On October 6, 1869, Peters joined his younger brother, Peter Leonardus (who later became Father Boniface), at Boxmeer, Holland, to study to become a priest. He completed his studies on October 6, 1870, after which he was ordained a deacon and sent to Straubing, Bavaria. He became a Carmelite priest on September 23, 1876, in Regensburg, Germany, and changed his name to Anastasius Peters. In 1876 he and other Carmelite priests were sent to southwestern Pennsylvania. In July 1879 several of them were sent to Scipio, Kansas, where Peters was appointed prior and pastor; Father Boniface joined the group there.

On August 15, 1881, Father Anastasius, three other Carmelites, and Adam Konz moved to Grelton, a place at the end of a railway line being built by the Texas and Pacific, 280 miles west of Fort Worth. On August 29, 1881, Peters celebrated the first Mass in the area. Before long he petitioned the Texas and Pacific Railway to change the name of Grelton to Marienfeld; the site is now Stanton, Texas. On October 25, 1881, the priests completed a wooden church, which they named St. Joseph's. More priests were expected from Kansas, and in the fall of 1882 the Carmelites began erecting a two-story adobe building to be used as a school for boys and as a monastery for candidates to the priesthood. Father Boniface instructed the priests, and Father Anastasius was in charge of the church, the monastery, and spreading the faith to other places. The area assigned to the Carmelites included much of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Only the largest settlements could support churches, and in smaller towns Mass was celebrated in the homes of parishioners.

Father Peters was also a promoter of civic affairs, for which legal records indicate his name as P. A. Peters. He organized the settlers in Marienfeld into a society called the German Catholics of the Carmelite Association, and this group contracted with the Texas and Pacific to purchase land. Peters solicited money from Germany and tried to attract more German settlers. The railway and the priests tried to prove that Marienfeld was an attractive town by growing crops on a demonstration plat. Their crops did well, and they took them to New Orleans where they won a prize. In 1885 Marienfeld was at its peak of success, but in 1886–87 a serious drought forced most of the colonists to move. In April 1888 Peters and several other Carmelites moved to Bayou Pierre, near Mansfield, Louisiana. The entire Carmelite area in Texas and Louisiana was made into the Commissariate of the South on June 16, 1890, and Peters was appointed commissary general. He was also appointed United States postmaster at Bayou Pierre. The climate took its toll on the Carmelites, several of whom died. As early as 1892 Peters's health also began to fail, partly as a result of overexertion. In 1894 he tendered his resignation and moved, with several other Carmelites, to Thurber, Texas, where he was a local superior for a brief time. In 1895 fathers Boniface and Anastasius and some other Carmelites left America and settled at Maria Taferel, sixty-five miles southwest of Vienna, Austria. Boniface died there on September 30, 1902. Anastasius continued at Maria Taferel as father confessor until 1906, when he became Mass celebrant at nearby Maria Sessal. His health continued to fail, and on January 28, 1912, he had himself carried to the top of a hill to offer the Mass that was to be his last. He died on February 16, 1912, and is buried at Ybbsitz, Austria.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Pat W. Hull and Fay E. Smithson, Martin County: The First Thirty Years (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1970). Martin County Historical Commission, Martin County, Texas (Dallas: Taylor, 1979).

Jacob L. Williams

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Jacob L. Williams, "PETERS, CHRISTIAN DOMINIKUS [FATHER ANASTASIUS]," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpe79), accessed August 27, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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