Unity Of The Brethren

Rev. Henry Beseda, Sr.

Rev. Henry Beseda, Sr.

by Joseph Maitland Beseda

published in The Brethren Journal for July/August 2000

The Rev. Henry Beseda, Sr. was born January 7, 1888, on a farm near West, Texas. His parents, Frank Will and Anna Barton Beseda, were immigrants who arrived in Texas as teenagers from Czechoslovakia. Born under trying times, under pioneer conditions, the oldest son of the new family was brought by his mother to be baptized by the Rev. Henry Juren of the Czech Moravian Church at West. Texas. She told the minister she was dedicating her son to the Lord in His work. Later the young man was confirmed in that church.
He spent his early life on the farm near West, and then the family moved to a small farm near Penelope, Texas. He attended the country school at Penelope, graduated from High School, and then the Douglas-Schuler Preparatory School in Waco, Texas. He enrolled in Baylor University for one year, and then Trinity University in Waxahachie, Texas. His senior year, he transferred to the University of Pittsburg, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree. He also studied Greek and Hebrew which were required for entry into a Theological Seminary.

While he was studying away from home, his father made a complete break from his Roman Catholic background and asked for acceptance in two Protestant churches. Both denied him membership based on their policy of non-admittance to ex-Catholics. He then studied the teachings and position of the Presbyterian Church, and was satisfied with their doctrine. He and his wife joined the Czech Presbyterian Church at Penelope, and remained faithful and dedicated church workers the rest of their lives. This also influenced their son to seek association with the Presbyterian Church. This is the basic reason we are Presbyterians today!

While at the University of Pittsburg, Henry E. Beseda responded to his call to be a minister. He was taken under the care of the Pittsburg Presbytery, and proceeded to study at Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburg, 1908-1910. During this time, he was also student pastor of the small Troy Hill Presbyterian Church on the outskirts of Pittsburg. For his senior year, he transferred to the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary at Austin, Texas. He was ordained on June 18, 1911, in the Penelope Presbyterian Church by the Waco Presbytery.

In August, 1911, he married the former Miss Julia Chernosky of Rosebud, Texas. It should be mentioned that Julia Chernosky was a well educated young lady. She graduated with highest honors in high school, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Industrial Arts in Denton, Texas; and following her desire to be a Christian missionary, enrolled in the Chicago Training School for City, Home, and Foreign Missions (deaconess training a specialty) in Chicago, Illinois. She then enrolled in the Chicago Bible School, and graduated in 1910. Because of foreign unrest and the approaching World War I, she returned to Texas, and enrolled in the University of Texas. Both Henry and Julia frequented the Czech Club at U.T., where they met. Julia was an ideal candidate to be the wife of a minister.

Rev. Beseda’s first pastorate was the little Czech Presbyterian Church at Six-Mile, near Port Lavaca, Texas. Later, the Presbyterian Church at Port Lavaca called him to also be their pastor. The family moved to Port Lavaca, where they remained until 1922. During this time, eight of his children were born. He preached and served in that area in both the English and Czech languages. He loved to fish and hunt., and was very active in community affairs. In the early 1920’s, the local economy began to slump due to drought, declining agriculture and cattle prices, and poor demand for seafood; and the congregations could no longer support a pastor.

During 1922, Rev. Beseda served as Interim Pastor at Sinton, Texas, awaiting the completion of the church manse at Robstown, Texas. During 1923 to 1926, he was Pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Robstown. It was here, in 1925, that his oldest son Woodrow, died of pneumonia and was buried at the Robstown City Cemetery.

In December of 1926, the Besedas moved to Alice, Texas, to a nice two-story manse next to the church building. These were tough years for this small Presbyterian congregation, but they were faithful and diligent, and survived by helping each other. Here, his ninth child, Robert Lee, was born. Rev. Beseda loved this rugged frontier country with its staunch townspeople, farmers and ranchers. In particular, he enjoyed his visits to the nearby great King Ranch. He served this congregation in Alice until May, 1928.

In 1928, he accepted a call to the Hunter Memorial Presbyterian Church at Holdenville, Oklahoma. Here, he contracted malaria and other health complications, and his doctor advised him to return to Texas to be near his relatives.

In 1928, arrangements were made for Rev. Beseda to be the Pastor of the English and Czech Presbyterian Church at West. Texas, and Pastor of the Czech Presbyterian Church at Penelope, and visiting preacher for the Czech Church at Rowena, Texas. It is interesting to note that these churches belonged to the only Presbyterian Czech Presbytery in Texas, and functioned under the Home Mission policy. But, in time, the Great Depression took its toll, and these churches could no longer support a pastor. It was here also that his oldest daughter died of a stroke and was buried at the family Presbyterian Cemetery near Penelope, Texas.

In 1937, Rev. Beseda was invited to join the ranks of the Czech Moravian Brethren Church in Texas. This denomination sorely needed ministers who were fluent in both English and Czech languages. After much soul searching, and because he had no other choice, he resigned from the Presbyterian Presbytery and joined the Brethren Church organization. But it was a good move-this denomination maintains a close relationship with the Presbyterians, and many of its pastors received their training at the Austin Seminary.

In June of 1937, the family moved to Caldwell, Texas. He served as full- or part time Pastor of Brethren Churches at Caldwell, Cooks Point, Dime Box, Wesley, Snook, Industry, Fayetteville, Alief, Smithville, Buckholts, Crosby, Houston, Rosenberg, New Tabor, and Pasadena. In fact, during World War II, he was a traveling minister; and because he was fluent in both Czech and English languages, his services were much in demand for sermons, revivals, funerals, weddings, guest speaker, etc. He was very instrumental in encouraging congregations to build new and more modern churches, fellowship buildings and manses. His favorite was the little petrified wood chapel with the stained glass windows at the little rural community of Cooks Point (between Caldwell and Bryan). He requested that, when he passed on, he would be buried under the pulpit of that chapel. As it happened, this chapel was dismantled and the ground converted into the church cemetery. A new and modern church was constructed across the road.

In 1957, upon his partial retirement, he wrote: “In journeyings oft, in labors abundant-45 years! It seems but a moment in the pages of history. Yet it is long enough to plant a seed that shall produce fruit for centuries to come; Long enough to kindle a light that shall shine far into regions of darkness and brighten a path for generations yet unborn.”

In late 1958, Rev. Beseda suffered a heart attack followed by a major stroke which left him paralyzed. He passed away on May 8, 1959, and was buried at the very spot where the pulpit once stood at the little chapel at the Brethren Church Cemetery at Cooks Point, Texas.

His ever faithful and loving wife died December 30, 1978, and was buried beside him. Their common tombstone bears the scripture from John 3:16.

His second daughter, Orbin Beseda Vance, died January 15, 2000, and was buried beside her husband, Quinn Dink Vance, at Bryan City Cemetery, Bryan, Texas.

As of this date (March 1, 2000), Rev. Henry E. Beseda, Sr. is survived by his three daughters, three sons, fourteen grandchildren, twenty-one great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandson. May his tribe increase forever!

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