J. Frank Kiefer, Baptist evangelist and medical doctor, was born on August 13, 1833, in Milheim, Prussia, into a Catholic family. One of his older brothers settled in Texas, and Kiefer sailed to Galveston in 1850 to join him. He moved to Independence in early 1851, joined the Independence Baptist Church there, and was baptized on June 6, 1854. Kiefer began working as a minister among the German people of Washington County in 1855 and was licensed to preach by Independence Baptist Church a year later. He entered Baylor University at Independence as a student in 1857 and also taught German, but he never completed his degree. He married Amanda M. Allen of Huntsville on April 19, 1858, and they had thirteen children.
In 1858–59 Kiefer was a missionary to German Texans for the Baptist State Convention of Texas; he was ordained at Independence Baptist Church on December 19, 1858. He organized the first German Baptist congregation in Texas, the Ebenezer (now Greenvine) German Baptist Church in Burton on October 20, 1861, and served as pastor until 1867. Expecting the missionary board to be crippled by the Civil War, Kiefer studied at Galveston Medical School. After receiving his diploma in March 1867 he practiced medicine and preached on Sundays in Harris County for a year. He later gave up his medical practice because it took up too much of his time. In 1868 he was a missionary for the Union Baptist Association, and the following year, on November 20, he and Rev. Frank J. Gleiss organized Cedar Hill Baptist Church in Washington County. The home-mission board of the Southern Baptist Convention paid Kiefer's salary in 1876 to raise funds for the Indian, German, and Mexican missions in Texas.
About 1880 Kiefer invented a purgative, the Kiefer Pill, and opened the Kiefer Pill Company at Independence. Pill sales and special donations financed his work in Europe. Four weeks after assisting William E. Penn with a revival in August 1881, Kiefer had sold his farm and begun the first of four winter trips to Germany and Russia for revivals. In 1884 Waco University granted him an honorary doctorate of divinity. By August 1889 he had moved his family to Roby. His wife died on January 6, 1899, and he married Mrs. Eugene Evans, a widow, on June 19, 1900. In 1902 he was serving as a minister, doctor, and Fisher County health officer. He died in Abilene on November 25, 1909, and was buried in Roby Cemetery.
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Texas Baptist Herald, October 12, 19, 1876, February 26, 1880, January 26, 1882, August 14, 1889, June 18, 1890. Texas State Journal of Medicine, February 1910.
Health and Medicine
Physicians and Surgeons
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Samuel B. Hesler,
“Kiefer, J. Frank,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 26, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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