Birkmann, Gotthilf (1854–1944)

By: Horace R. Burke

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 2, 2016

Gotthilf Birkmann, Lutheran pastor and amateur entomologist, was born on June 4, 1854, at Waterloo, Illinois. He graduated from Concordia College in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1873 and from Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1876. He assumed his first pastorate in 1876 in West Yegua (now Fedor), Lee County, Texas. He served the Trinity Lutheran Church at this rural locality for three years and then moved to Dallas in 1879 to serve three years at the Zion Lutheran Church there. While at Zion, Birkmann organized a parish school. In 1882 he returned to Fedor, where he remained as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church until he retired in 1922. Birkmann served as secretary of the Southern District of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, in 1882–83. He also served as vice president from 1884 to 1889. In 1889 he was interim president of the district but returned to the vice presidency in 1891. He was also president of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, from 1912 to 1920. He was an avid, lifelong student of Hebrew and Greek. Birkmann published numerous articles on the early history of the Lutheran Church in Texas. They appeared in newspapers (mostly in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt, but also in the Giddings News) and Lutheran periodicals (the Texas Distriktsbote, Texas Lutheran Messenger, Missions-Taube, Lutheraner), and have been an important source for historians. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of theology by Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in 1936. A chapel at Concordia College in Austin is also named in his honor.

Birkmann began collecting insects about 1885 and continued to do so until 1920, when his eyesight began to fail. He apparently became interested in entomology when he visited Ludolph Heilingbrodt of neighboring Bastrop County and viewed the latter's collection at an exposition in New Orleans. Birkmann first started collecting butterflies but later changed his interests to wasps and bees, since they took up less space. Many of his specimens were studied by professional entomologists. In 1899 he published a list of 307 species and varieties of bees and wasps collected at Fedor. Many of his specimens were purchased by the Museum of Comparative Zoology of Harvard University. Birkmann attended the Sixth Annual meeting of the Texas Entomological Society in 1934, at nearly eighty years of age, and in 1936 his name was added to the honorary list of members. A considerable number of the bees and wasps he collected at or near Fedor proved to be new species, and others represented significant extensions of known ranges for species. Most of these specimens are safely housed in major collections. Birkmann died at Giddings on May 17, 1944.

William Henry Bewie, Missouri in Texas: A History of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Texas, 1855–1941 (Austin: Steck, 1952). R. W. Strandtman, "Rev. G. Birkmann," Texas Journal of Science 2 (1950).

  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Religion
  • Science
  • Scientists and Researchers
  • Lutheran
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

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

Horace R. Burke, “Birkmann, Gotthilf,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 24, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

April 2, 2016

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: