Umbarger, TX is an unincorporated community with a reported population of 327 people in 2000 and is located in Randall County. This small town is considered a part of the Amarillo, Texas Metropolitan Statistical Area and rests along U.S. Highway 60 about 10 miles southwest of Canyon. In 1930, the population of the town amounted to eight people and by 1940, the population grew to 150. Now there are over 300 people residing in the town, but it remains unincorporated. The growth of the community and survival of the town can be attributed to the distance from Canyon, Amarillo, and Buffalo Lake that Umbarger is located.
While there aren’t many attractions in the town or any points of interest that seem too exciting, each November, the town of Umbarger throws a German Sausage festival at the St. Mary’s Parish hall located in the St. Mary’s Church. Preparation for the festival begins well in advance. Local members of the church come together to use recipes aged over 60 years old to make sausage and sauerkraut while the women of the church bake bread to sell during the festival and in the “Country Store/Bazaar.” Other members are tasked with duties to make baked goods, gift items, quilts for babies, canned goods, and homemade religious items that will be sold on the day of the festival.
The St. Mary’s Church was built in 1929. It provides its services for the community of Umbarger as well as the broader Casto and Deaf Smith County areas. The church is adorned with fresco paintings and wood carvings that were done by Italian prisoners of war being held at Camp Hereford during the second World War. The citizens of the Umbarger community pitched in with this commission by posing as models for the frescos and providing the wood for the carving of Jesus’ last supper. In 1983, the National Register of Historic Places designated St. Mary’s Church as one of Texas’ painted churches.
The church’s structure that still has today was built in 1929 and dedicated on March 13, 1930 by Bishop Gerken who changed the name from the Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph, and Mary to the English translation of “Marienkirch” which is St. Mary’s. The pastor of the church, Reverend John J. Dolje, made a great sacrifice by not accepting a salary for the years the church was in debt for its reconstruction as well as the construction of a rectory that had taken place during the rebuilding of the church.
It was the time of the depression and the struggle to pay for the rebuilt church was a hassle since members of the church were too financially insecure to meet their pledges. In order to attempt to pay off the church’s debt, social events were held, members of the congregation went door-to-door in order to collect donations, and annual picnics were taking place. These picnics developed into the fall festival St. Mary’s Church in Umbarger, TX still throws today.
Map St. Mary’s Church to AW Broadband:
Map from St. Mary’s Church to Hereford Feed Yard: