Painter Pastor

I have seen some pieces of art which were produced by a man by the name of Rev. George Heinrich Hilmer over the years.  I have even included a few of them in posts on this blog.  Here are two of them.

Both of these paintings were made for the centennial celebration of the Saxon Immigration in 1939.  One is a painting of the Johann Georg and the other a painting of the Log Cabin College.

What I did not know is that Rev. Hilmer once served Zion Lutheran Church in Pocahontas, Missouri.  I will attempt to tell a little of his story today.  I also discovered that Rev. Hilmer wrote an autobiography documenting his life.

Rev. George Hilmer autobiograph title page

From the little that I have read from excerpts from this book, Rev. Hilmer went through several changes of location during his career as a minister.  He also experienced several challenges along the way.  I will use some material from this book and a family history I located on that seems to be a reliable source of information.

George Heinrich Hilmer was born in Germany and came to America with his family around 1885.  He is a birthday boy for today because he was born on December 27, 1879.  His parents were Christian and Fredericke (Wilberts) Hilmer.  Here is a photo of George’s parents.

Christian and Fredericke Hilmer

George was the oldest child in his family.  His family settled in Nebraska.  The 1900 census has them located just outside Columbus, Nebraska.  In 1903-1904, George served as a vicar in central Wisconsin.

In 1906, Rev. Hilmer was serving a Lutheran church in Nardin, Oklahoma, not far from Ponca City.  I calculate that it was while he was in Oklahoma that he was married to Mary Vanselow, who was from around Springfield, Illinois.  I also guess that George met  his future bride while studying for the ministry in Springfield.  This couple had their first three children in Oklahoma.  I only have a portion of their wedding photo that just shows Mary.

Mary Hilmer wedding photo

A story is told that while George was both pastor and teacher in Oklahoma, he confronted some young boys about harassing some girls.  As a result, he roused the ire of those boys and their parents.  On several occasions, he was ambushed, causing him to always travel while armed.

When the family moved to Kansas around 1910, their youngest daughter died.  In Kansas, he was the pastor at Shady Bend, in Lincoln County, which is the same county where you find Sylvan Grove, where several Perry County natives settled.  It is also reported that while in Kansas, he made his calls traveling on a motorcycle.

Around 1914, the Hilmers moved to Junction City, Kansas, which is near Ft. Riley Military Base.  We see him living there when he filled out his World War I draft registration in 1918.

Rev. George Henry Hilmer – WWI draft registration

It was while there that many young men training to become soldiers came down with influenza, and many died.  Here is a photo of a hospital ward there during that time.


That leads us up to the time that Rev. Hilmer spent in Pocahontas.  He was pastor at Zion Lutheran Church form 1921-1927.  Here is an excerpt from his autobiography that describes his time there.  It was a time when there was a lot of anti-German sentiment around Cape Girardeau County, and Rev. Hilmer’s military experience along with his ability to speak both English and German was very helpful.

George Hilmer autobiography p.16

We have this photo of Pastor Hilmer when he was at Zion.

Rev. George Hilmer Pocahontas

It appears that Zion made some changes to their parsonage right before Rev. Hilmer’s family arrived.  He came to Pocahontas with 6 children.

First Pocahontas Parsonage remodeled

The only family event recorded in the Zion church books is the baptism of their last child, Melva, who was born in December of 1922, but not baptized until New Year’s Day of 1923.

Melva Hilmer baptism record
Melva Hilmer baptism record – Zion, Pocahontas

As it says at the end of the above section of his autobiography, Rev. Hilmer then took a call to the Beck-Kimmswick area.  That is now mostly referred to as Arnold, Missouri, where we find St. John’s Lutheran Church.  He would spend the rest of his ministry in that area.  It must have been while there that he produced the paintings shown earlier.  I was able to find a few other paintings attributed to Pastor Hilmer.

George Hilmer painting 2

George Hilmer painting 1

We have this photo of Rev. Hilmer which is said to show him at about the time of the centennial celebration of the immigration.

George Henry Hilmer

Mary died in 1950 at the age of 69.  Here we see her death certificate.  She died while at Lutheran Hospital in St. Louis.

Mary Hilmer death certificate
Mary Hilmer death certificate


This form says that Mary’s mother had the maiden name, Drummer.  On, it indicates that this should be spelled Dummer.  However, if it indeed was Drummer, then you could say that Pastor Hilpert married a Drummer Girl.

Rev. Hilpert died about a decade later in 1960 at the age of 80.  Here we see his death certificate.  He also died while in Lutheran Hospital.

Rev. George Hilmer death certificate
Rev. George Hilmer death certificate

George and Mary are buried together in the St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery in Arnold, Missouri.  Here is their gravestone.

George and Mary Hilmer gravestone St. John Arnold
Rev. George and Mary Hilmer gravestone – St. John’s, Arnold, MO

If anyone knows where we can get a copy of Rev. Hilmer’s autobiography, I know we would like one in our research library.  Pastor Hilmer must have led quite an exciting life.  It is not often that you find the combination of pastor and painter……and biker…..and packing heat.



2 thoughts on “Painter Pastor

  1. An interesting fact you missed is that the world-wide “flue epidemic” of the 1918 timeframe has now been shown to have originated at Ft Riley, apparently during the time Pastor Gilmer was serving in the area. Further research to discover his role in ministering during this time may be warranted.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s