Lott, Texas 76656
Church of the Visitation
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History of Our Parish
Soon after they settled in the area, Westphalia's first families named their community after the Westphalia province in Germany from which many of them had immigrated. They began having Sunday prayer meetings in the home of Theodore Rabroker, the first settler. These were times of worship and fellowship, and because they were pleased with the soil and location, the German natives purchased 100 acres of land for a church and school. Their efforts were thwarted, however, when the first two structures were destroyed by storms in the early 1880s. During a meeting on Christmas Eve in 1893, Rev. Michael Heintzelman recommended building a new and larger church. After Rev. H M. Simoni drew the plans and Andreus Fuchs of Tours was hired as contractor, work began shortly after the new year. All the stone for the foundation was shipped by rail to Lott from a quarry in Muldoon, Texas, and the timber was brought from Waco. Parishioners volunteered to haul, without charge, all building materials from the nearest railroad. As many as 80 loads were hauled with wagons from Lott in one day - a distance of eight miles.
The church was designed in the shape of a Latin cross with a bell tower on each side of its center area; it measures 120 feet long and 52 feet wide. To tolerate a strong wind, six inches of sway was built into the towers. The towers are covered with copper sheeting and each is topped with a nine-foot stainless steel cross. The middle section carries a six-foot cross.
The church contains more than 20 stained glass windows, all shipped to Westphalia from Germany. The largest stained glass window is directly behind the main altar and depicts the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin. The two side windows depict images of St Monica and the Archangel Michael. The main altar was purchased for $700 and was shipped from Germany. The 11-foot pews are pine, and are hand planed and hand joined with screws. Several pioneer families donated three large bells in the towers. Interior painting and decorations were originally done by H. A. Sokolowski, an artist from Bernardo Prairie, Texas.
The Church of Visitation was completed in February of 1895 at a cost of $8,000, as most of the carpentry was done by parishioners. The Most Rev. N. A. Gallagher, D.D., Bishop of Galveston, dedicated the new structure on May 23, 1895.
In 1914, a large, arched, dome-shaped structure was added to the east end of the building, enlarging the sanctuary.
Donated by Mrs. Theresia Bockholt, the large pipe organ was built in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1914 by Kilgen and Son, Inc. The choir loft was enlarged and the organ was installed in March of 1921. It was refurbished in 1979 and is played each Sunday as well as on special occasions.
On December 31, 1978, the historical Church of the Visitation, one of the largest wooden churches in the State of Texas, received official recognition with the erection of a Texas Historical Marker. On May 15, 1996, the community was recognized as a Rural Historic District, which encompasses 5,500 acres of farmland, the church, and many other historic sites in the area. The district is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The religious character of the community is evidenced from the 14 priests and 38 sisters who originated from the community. Today, the parish consists of 185 families with 500 parishioners. Just as in the beginning, the church continues to be the center of all community activities. The annual homecoming and picnic is held the second Sunday of October each year with a chicken and sausage meal along with games and fun for the entire family. This event provides the major support for the church. Contributions are always accepted to defray expenses of maintaining this historic church.