Between the World Wars: Articles from the Syracuse Union, available through the New York State Newspaper Project

January 27, 1928 page 8

Recollections of a Syracuse Pastor - Part One


During my last year as a student at the Berlin University I became acquainted with a German pastor from Chicago and because of this I developed a strong urge to go to America. Thanks to the many pastoral vacancies in the Berlin Church funds for travelling were provided.

Upon spontaneous decision a ticket was purchased and, equipped with letters of recommendation from a few Berlin professors to American colleagues, the trip commenced with other candidates. We had enough time on the ship, August Victoria, to play some pranks and soon we formed a tight little circle of like-minded individuals. There was also a woman from San Francisco on her return trip home. She told us a lot about her single daughter and her brother-in-law, Pastor G., in San Francisco, and so it occurred one evening on deck that we discussed all our hopes and wishes to become her son-in-law. The campaign was hard-fought but the daughter expressed no interest and the hope to become a son-in-law was dashed, but it was all great fun. Sixteen years later I preached in the brother-in-law's church in San Francisco. The ship mother-in-law was still there but the daughter was long-married in New York.

After a good voyage we arrived in New York and with a head full of German knowledge and a sizable number of books things should have proceeded smoothly. Processing was quick thanks to the immigrating pastor and I soon came upon the idea that here brawn without learning paid better than learning without brawn. Whenever a crate or baggage handler flexed his muscles it cost either fifty cents or a dollar. The fellows earned their money quickly.

The stay in New York was brief, and since children from Berlin are not easily fooled, there were few surprises. — Soon after I went to Columbus, Ohio to attend the university. The trip was enjoyable and diverse. Houses passed by us like matchboxes or children's toys. We stopped at each station in Pennsylvania. The smaller the town, the larger the number of young people at the platform. It was Sunday. The conductor was naturally the first on whom we wanted to break in our school English. That went well. After much discussion the conductor asked, "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" (Do you speak German?) That was grand of him. He let loose. We understood as little of his garbled German as he did our English. So I said, "If it's German that you're speaking, then tomorrow I can become a professor of the English language at Harvard." We smiled then went silent.

Sunday evening at 10 PM we reached Columbus, Ohio. Here we stood, three students in the huge train station, knowing not one human being, just the name of a professor whom we couldn't visit because it was 11 at night. So, as the Berliner of the group it was my assignment to go and look for a hotel. I left. The large State Street was fully lit. There was an arch over the street with bright electric lamps. There was a magnificent blaze of light and decorations. Many people were strolling along. I naturally imitated them and forgot all about my comrades, the baggage, and the hotel. After a considerable time I came back to myself and began to look for a hotel. Eventually I returned to the station waiting room after midnight. I was greeted with anxiety and reproach. Calm down! I've found a hotel! So we left the railroad station and at the first corner I pointed to the name of a hotel. We went in. What they wanted to know was why it had taken a whole hour to find a hotel next to the rail station.

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February 3, 1928 page 8

Recollections of a German Pastor - Part Two


After a restless night we prepared to go to the university in order to give our letters of introduction to the professors. Black frock coat, white clerical collar — the usual outfit we wore at home. We asked at the hotel for the way to Capital University then went on our way down long, wide State Street. I occurred to me that almost everyone on the street were looking at us and laughing. Several girls laughed out loud. We checked ourselves up and down. Everything was correct. The jacket sat well, the collar was in place. Why were people laughing? It was a long way so we asked in order to be sure. We learned that we were going in the opposite direction. Many times we had gone back and forth. How would we know there were two universities? We stood there clueless, but the laughing of the people remained. Finally one man spoke to us. Gentlemen, you're obviously from Germany. Can I help? My name is Pastor Hein. He was a true savior. We told our sad story. He smiled and took us to the streetcar. And thus we eventually arrived at Capital University. There were about 200 students before the main building, who let out a howl of delight beyond compare when they saw us. They said, Are you senators or undertakers? — Where's the speech, who's being buried? The frock coat and the collar. This was the reason for the persistent laughter out on the street.

The professors were very friendly towards us and I asked for an interpreter so I could buy local clothing. When I returned in the afternoon people no longer saw me as a German. I was American from hat to boots. It silenced the laughter.

As candidates we were allowed to live in private residences. The first night was exciting. Just around midnight there was howling and a racket outside our window. We were firmly convinced of what one man in New York had told us: The Indians live beyond Buffalo. Certainly they were here now. We were unaware of the rowdy customs during a wedding celebration. In the house next door a former student had gotten married.

We soon also learned the American academic high school and university way of life. So different, like boarding school. With it came the pains of the Boarding Club, which regularly drove us into the city to the "German Ratskeller" (where have they gone?) Visits to the Ratskeller were forbidden to all students of both universities. And, since what was good for professors couldn't be bad for students, they too were forbidden to go there. A few times we students sang German songs to Steel Magnate Schwab there.

Naturally on the first Sunday I went to the German church. Everything was very nice. After the church service an old, plainly-dressed woman spoke to me and asked about this and that then asked me to accompany her to a Sunday roast. To my very surprised facial expression she responded, "Oh, Mr. Candidate, you've come in America. You're supposed to have a good time." With hesitation, I accompanied her and the home of old Mother R. became my home in a foreign land. Later she said to me, "When you have your own home, take in a new immigrant. That will be repayment enough. I've held on to that belief for the past 20 years." She was the good old fashioned kind of mother.

Things often went wonderfully in my classes. There was one German professor, Dr. Phil from Leipzig, who had a through knowledge in everything except what would be tolerated. One day he commented on flowers in buttonholes. The next day all students wore giant sunflowers bound to their chests in class. The result: Classes were cancelled for a week.

Since so many German dialects were spoken here and I still didn't want to accept an official assignment, I decided to attend a strictly English language college in the west. I went to Midland College in Atchison, Kansas and I took an administrative advisor position there 6 years later.

Here we were two times too German. How we were needled about our Germanness. We were given names. "His Highness, the Kaiser" was the morning greeting. A couple times it came to shouts and blows. I remember how one day another German student, who was a reserve officer, hauled one of the criers onto the deans' carpet. That evening there was a fight. Then we had peace.

We learned much during our journeys through the city and surrounding area. We noticed how the workers went over the long Missouri Bridge every evening and then came back soon after. However there was nothing on the other side of the bridge. So we counted out our toll bridge money and went to Missouri and found twenty saloons and nothing else. People of Kansas quenched their daily thirst in Missouri. One day while outside the city we found a corn shed through which many farmers were driving. We once again discovered something new. People went in, had a beer, left a dime, and never saw anyone. No one knew who brewed the beer or collected the money, but it must have been a good business.

Not knowing where the barbed wire fences were made things unpleasant. Getting a rip in your unmentionables then having to ask for needle and thread so you were suitably patched up to return to college was even less pleasant. The money we'd brought with us was gone. Mowing grass for 10 cents per hour wasn't fun.

As exam time approached we took things all in stride and graduated. An unexpected call to San Francisco came from Pastor Gehke. I packed but in the interim the dean and the Synodal Committee came by. They had other plans, so I didn't get to see my ship mother-in-law. I was a favorite of the dean. He got me an appointment in the Sandhills of Nebraska with the cattle ranchers.

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February 17, 1928 page 8

Recollections of a German Pastor - Part Three


The journey to west Nebraska yielded new impressions. In the morning around 8 I exited the train into D. There stood a man, a railroad employee, otherwise there was nothing to see by way of reception committee. The entire town consisted of 4 or 5 houses and the railway station was the town capital. Circulating among the 3 people within sight I learned that my destination was 18 miles away and the next opportunity to get there was by postal wagon on Monday. However if a wagon from there were to arrive I could get a ride. They were willing to lend me a horse. That was the best and quickest option, but I wasn't up to that. I had luck when I eventually found a man who would drive me to Brewster. We left. It rained. Tired from the long journey, I fell asleep in the wagon. As I awoke I heard quite a scream. Where was the man taking me? There was no road, no tree, no brush, no house, no one in sight. Just a pair of wagon tracks snaked back and forth over the hill. In the distance I saw a couple of pitiable huts made of grass sod. Then there was a wire fence spread across the path. The wagon driver pulled part of it down and I had to stand on the wire while he drove the wagon over it. This happened a couple more times. Sometimes we came upon a vast number of horned cattle. They looked pretty witless to us. Then a herd of horses raced over the wagon tracks. I gathered my courage to ask a question of my rough-looking coachman. I didn't understand the answer!

After a few hours of quiet travel he nudged me and pointed to a few trees in the distance. Brewster was located beyond. He didn't want to abandon me here. From the hilltop I saw the entire township before me far behind the wide band of of the Loup River. I counted the houses. There were fewer than in D. There was a hotel, a bank and print shop, an office building and garden shed and a courthouse. We arrived in the town and saw people, a few wagons and several saddled horses. We stoped before the hotel. The same answer came from everyone: F. St. is 8 miles from here. You could borrow a horse and ride there. I stayed by the wagon. After several pleas the coachman was moved to make the trip. We thundered over the long wooden bridge. The scenery was the same as before — wagon tracks, no houses, horned cattle, wire fences, and hills. We saw a number of dead cattle lying about. Around 5 in the afternoon we came to a friendly-looking area in a large, long valley with a couple of houses scattered about. We were in German Valley.

Soon before us we saw a large estate with a huge residence and number of outbuildings nearby. As we reached the courtyard a man called out to us, "mind that you don't come any closer or I'll let the dogs out." The coachman looked at me. I looked at the giant wolfhounds and the man. The man at the residence did not want to be bothered. My coachman said gruffly, we'd better drive on. I yelled to the man that I was the new vicar. He took a moment before approaching the wagon. The dogs made a dreadful noise. It turned out that my announcment via post had not yet arrived since the mail only came once a week to Brewster and had to be retrieved from there. Here there were things that no one from Berlin could possibly imagine. What a difference: Berlin, the city to millions and this valleu in which one sees only one house. This was my work assignment. The reception was warmer in the house. These were such warm hearted, German speaking Lithuanians from the shores of the Vistula. How good one felt here.

The eyes of these people bespoke piety. Later on I also learned to my delight there was no ranch house in which morning and evening prayers were not conducted by the housefather. All of them were true "cowboys."

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February 24, 1928 page 4

Recollections of a German Pastor - Part Four


My first Sunday there was Pentacost. The housefather drove me and his wife to church. The young people rode. The small wooden church, all by itself in the middle of the field, was surrounded by a wire fence. The church service had begun without me. What astonishment as I came into the church wearing vestments. The singing stopped. But soon the service continued, however there were no readings.

There was always a Sunday service, even when there was no pastor and the little church was always full. There were people who came as far as 23 miles every Sunday. After the service there was always a meal at one of the ranches. Everyone was there. On Sunday afternoon there were horse riding stunts and the young people amused themselves by playing horse thieves and posse in the mountains. Then there was a group ride. I enjoyed this and often participated.

Soon I learned to ride after a fashion. When I spoke of purchasing a horse and wagon I received this answer: You don't need a wagon; You can have one of the horses which is saddled in the stalls. I was supposed to ride one of these animals, which could never stand quietly? These horses were mercurial. And so I was "broken in." The training was drastic. The housefather insisted on beginning instruction immediately. I had learned how to ride in West Prussia. He laughed. Early the next morning after breakfast I saw two saddled horses in front of the house. One for me, docile and submissive. The other less so. Finally I got into the saddle with difficulty. I wasn't quite seated when the nag bolted and left the ranch. My riding instructor, adult son of my host, rode off at a gallop. There was nothing I could do but stay seated. What exertion for man and beast. We seldom went at a trot. There were no paths here. We went over valleys and hills, through herds of cattle and horses which scattered when they saw us coming then raced off. Tired and busted up, I made it back to the ranch. That was Lesson No. 1. Oh, no, the next morning — Adamently I got up on the nag. The rides got longer and longer. Every bone ached. This went on another day. I was unable to move, stand, sit or lie down. On the fourth day I refused. This is torture! Then my host came up to me and got me on the horse. Everything was monotony, life or death, the dreadful cure. It didn't last long when I began to feel good on the horse. The pain disappeared. What pleasure and joy to race through the large ranch.

Always accompanied by two wolf hounds, I spent hours in the saddle. Two congregation members sent me two horses. One of them in particular was a wonderfully built animal. I kept that one and brought it home. I got it saddled with difficulty and then the fun began. The horse was 4 years old and had just seen and felt the saddle and halter a week earlier. Before I climbed into the saddle he bolted and crashed through the barbed wire, turned and went off. It was a good thing that I wasn't on the creature. A couple of the young men and I jumped up onto broncos and raced after the runaway. We found him among his old herd. Now the fun was over. Driving the herd, cutting out the runaway until we had my horse back in the corral. The barbed wire injured the shiny horsehair. There were a couple of serious wounds, including one on the shoulderblade where the hide was torn to sheds. It took weeks to heal. Then one of the cowboys, a giant of a man, broke the horse in. Afterwards I could teach the horse everything. He learned to jump over the wire fence a couple of times with me in the saddle. He had to learn to swim. It took a long time before he could stand still when I climbed into the saddle.

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March 2, 1928 page 8

Recollections of a German Pastor - Part Five


The congregation was very small. The area from which they came enormous. However as the only cleric in the entire area there was very little for me to do. So I spent much time with my horses and my constant companions, two wolf hounds named Castor and Pollux. These dogs took me on hunts for wolves. If they came across the scent of wolves on the path during our rides, nothing else mattered until they were hunted down. Each time it cost the wolf his life and often cost one of the dogs a piece of his hide.

There were large numbers of wild ducks in the many watering holes. The swine at the ranch trusted me and gladly devoured the ducks. No one in the house would eat them.

For some time I rode a gray horse. It had quite a remarkable habit for a horse. If we came to a region where the rattlesnakes, prairie dogs, and owls lived communally and peacefully in their holes, the gray horse would begin to prance. This was something new to me. It was as if the nag were possessed. I observed from the saddle that the horse was attempting to step on a rattlesnake! He kept at it until the snake was dead. I just sat pretty in the saddle and let the nag have his satisfaction. Shooting snakes is an especially strange kind of hunting when the prairie dogs whistle and the owls howl.

I had many more problems with my best horse. Jumpy, restless, unrelenting. You could look at gift horse in the mouth but not see what's behind it. After he was broken in and returned to me, I saddled him with my fine German saddle. Saddling him always required a special knack. I only took a short ride. The rancher said that horse needed a proper saddle, one that was firm and heavy. So we put a cowboy saddle on him. The horse liked it even less, but I liked it more. I stayed mounted. Soon I discovered a peculiarity. The horse liked to kick the stall with his hind legs at every opportunity. That wasn't good. I took a large grain sack, filled it with sand, and hung it behind his place in the stall. Whenever he kicked, he hit the sack. It worked out fine. The higher the sandbag flew, the more powerful the 150 pound sack came down. The sack responded so well to each hit that the horse almost flew into the hayrack. In only a few days the cure was complete.

Things went differently while shooting from the saddle. The nag didn't like that from the start. One time he jumped with me into the large cattle trough. It took a lot of work to get us both out. Eventually he learned to stay still and let me shoot my ducks while in the saddle. In order to keep broncos useable they must be ridden every day.

On my cross country rides we often got lost. This wasn't bad, it just took a lot of time. It's less pleasant when night's about to fall and one must stay out alone on the countless sand hills with the dog. You can't see anything and you can't build a fire because of the dry grasses. There's nowhere to go and then the wolves start to howl, the dogs bellow and this goes on until dawn.

I conducted a German school a couple days a week in the small, steepleless church. The children came from far and wide, almost all of them on horseback. One of the older boys made a joke by riding back and forth on a captured cow. It looked wild. Was I supposed to look amused or angry? I didn't know. One time a rabbit hopped through the open church door followed by dogs. This sent me and the class running off in all directions. Thus passed a summer filled with surprises and excitement.

You couldn't stay in the ranch courtyard for long. That was for other residents. Oh, how in the beginning the countless sandflies pestered me. They were all over. They were at their work all day and night. At first I didn't know what was plaguing me. In the house and at the table people laughed at my discomfort. I just couldn't talk about it. Then one day I heard, Pastor, calm down and let them get used to you. Then you won't notice them anymore. Small consolation, but after years spending time visiting families they left me in peace.

Anxious for a diversion, they took me to the railway in a long box wagon. They had made a proper Pullman car out of a wagon. I slept for the 6 to 8 hours of the trip. I liked Omaha and Lincoln. Here one saw fewer horses and cattle plus there were no sandflies. However I still went happily back to my people. They did everything possible for me and I treasure them all to this day.

One day I learned an interesting fact. The post came only three times a week. My rancher was the local postmaster. Who had suggested the name German Valley for the entire settlement I did not know. I was told, "Washington had approved the name for the new postal district. There were stamps and everything." I went to the map of Nebraska. There it was. German Valley Neb. was once called Scheding, Neb.

(Printed with permission — W.L.Sch.)

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March 9, 1928 page 8

Recollections of a German Pastor - Part Six


Fall arrived. Cattle buyers appeared and if there was an agreed-upon price for a particular season, there was a cattle drive whereby the purchased stock was separated from the larger herd. Exciting things which had to be learned. Then the cattle was driven to the railroad station. Only horses trained for cattle drive could be used and one had to sit firmly in the saddle. It might seem picturesque but it was hard work.

In late fall I noticed from my room am unusual cloud. My host saw it and called the fire alarm. This required quick movement. There were no phones. Water wagons were always at the ready. I was assigned to ride off and spread the word. Prairie fires in the fall travel quickly in tall, high grass. I crossed the fireline twice with my dogs. The fire singed the hair of the horses and dogs. Each ranch had its specific tasks. If the fireline remained 60 feet beyond the fences, there would be no danger to the ranch buildings. Ploughlines had been diligently dug to limit the spread of fire. They sent me off with a waterwagon and four horses. I had to rush over valley and hills to the watering hole then rush back. These were neck-breaking trips. How tired one became as night fell yet the fire had not yet died out. Black with smoke, tattered, so tired and hungry, we returned around 11 at night. And it was all because of Otto S., a ranch boy who had been negligent. The fire had destroyed many miles of land and it came right up to the courtyard of the only Irishman among the Germans. Everything was destroyed except for the residence. 600 gigantic stacks of hay, feed for the winter, were annihilated. The ranch was more or less burned to the ground. To this day I carry the gold watch given to me by the settlement with the inscription to commemorate the fiery devastation.

Soon after there was a snowstorm. Anyone who has been on the prairie or the Russian Steppes during a snowstorm knows how sense of direction is lost. It's best to just stay at home. Between Christmas and New Year while returning home with my host from a neighboring ranch I learned how one can keep moving yet not even cover a mile. Thanks to the horses and the hanging lanterns we found our way back.

During my cross country rides that summer I discovered many outlying ranches and new ranch settlements with squalid sod huts. Such beginnings are miserable. I also heard of an entire settlement 40 miles to the northwest of us. I decided to conduct church service there. My rancher warned me against it. So noted, a gigantic rancher offered to "drive" me. Why drive? We could always get a horse. We drove off. — The church service was arranged by a nice man. We dismounted at his house. He advised us not to stick around or hold the service in the schoolhouse. Soon after we learned the reason. There were twenty men there. My companion stayed close to me. When I wanted to go to an adjacent room I was pulled back. The entire situation was awkward. We took the advice to leave. Halfway home we encountered the sheriff with a couple of men who wanted to know where we came from. Days later the sheriff came and told us that there had been a man in the next room who had been shot. The men thought I was a scout. This explained the unpleasantness of the ranchers. They knew who committed the murder. No one else learned who did it to this day.

Tired of it all, I found a vocation with a large congregation in Wisconsin. I soon left for it. Lumbertown and lumberjack camps became my workplace for the next 8 years.

(Printed with permission — W.L. Sch.)

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March 16, 1928 page 8

Recollections of a German Pastor - Part Seven


On the trip from Nebraska to northern Wisconsin I passed through Chicago. I was also asked to serve there by a congregation which didn't have a minister, however by goal was M. in Wisconsin. On a bright, clear and cold March afternoon just about 20 years ago I was received by the church advisory committee in M. They took me to the secretary, who was also the county clerk, and then to a few of the congregation members. I wanted to see the church since I had never been in M. before. What a different impression this stately building made on me compared to the tiny Nebraska church. How spacious and comfortably churchlike it was. Behind the church there was a schoolhouse with a meeting room. Next to the church there was a vicarage, which looked somewhat neglected. I decided to live in the vicarage. For many months I stayed there as a bachelor. After the first service in the overfilled church we held our first congregational meeting. Every seat in the schoolhouse was filled with men. There was much to discuss, salary questions and other issues. I smiled and let the men decide as they settled on a generous salary of $40 per month. That was much less than my ranchers had set aside for me. Then I brought up the previously encountered but unfinished congregational resolution concerning the vicarage. Little by little they reached a decision.

Since the congregation had been pastorless for a few months there was much work to do. Easter was almost upon us. Many members lived in the country so I needed a horse and wagon. I had left my two broncos and my cow in Nebraska, so I bought a well-behaved horse and a wagon. Everything seemed so tame to me. Woodlands right up to the city limits. The city park on the corner of our street looked like a primal forest. The houses outside the city, especially the individual farmhouses were all block huts, but there were country roads. Against the wishes of the congregation I served at two nearby country filial congregations, 11 and 12 miles away from the city. The latter was an abandoned logging and saw mill camp still called Village P. In summer the trips there were delightful, traveling through thick forests and passed many lakes. The wagon stood ready after church service in the city to take me to the first congregation to perform service at 1:30 so I could get to P. around 5. The last 10 miles went through true primal forest. No one travelled through it except for wild animals and errant loggers. There was a strange feeling when someone passed alone through the still, snowy forest on a dark winter night knowing that there wasn't a soul far and wide. Bears, deer, wolves and other beasts never concerned me. I had more qualms for the rough and seldom sober loggers until I got a better look at them. I never carried a weapon. Sometimes the loggers weren't the best breed of men. However after a couple of visits we soon became good friends and they were always pleased when I stopped by, ate with them or stayed overnight. Sometimes there was some liquor in the camps and most of the men had weapons. There were many prodigal sons scattered within the logging camps.

In P..., the abandoned town, there were three, then later two inns which were gathering places for two groups of loggers. These inns were located opposite each other on the only street in town. On a Saturday evening I came quite late to P. It was pitch dark. I heard strange noises like clinking glasses, hollering, etc. I didn't know that another beer brawl had broken out with chairs about to fly back and forth across the street from inn to inn. I angrily went over. They were all my parish children. Lecturing would have made no sense, so I just looked. I had dismounted near the town constable's and went looking for him to reestablish peace. He always said, "Why? When they want to knock heads together, it's their heads. They don't need mine. When it's all over and peaceful again, then we'll take a look." Broken bones heal, though one often needed a doctor and a couple of times an undertaker.

(Printed with permission — W.L. Sch.)

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March 30, 1928 page 5

Recollections of a German Pastor - Part Eight


Work in the city parish piled up. There was little free time. It didn't take long until there were 4, then 5 filial congregations with all manner of folks to serve. Often in the city there was truly unpleasant work to perform thanks to the numerous bars and inns. Things were no better in the rural areas. It was a tough and steady battle with these family-destroying elements. Breweries sent me barrels upon barrels of beer and wine to the house which were sent back as unsolicited. At family gatherings no one would touch beer lest things degenerate into drunken revelry. It was always the women and children who suffered the most on such occasions. There were many mishaps and intemperance was always the cause. I have never been a foe of moderation but here among my congregation members the temptation was too strong. The church's death registry read like a bloody history. Among the circumstances concerning many deaths intemperance was often at fault.

It drove me to do battle with these elements, which made lots of money at the expense of women and children. It became a bitter battle. Peopke threatened to kill me, or to beat me up. Sometimes I officated in the churchyard under the sheriff's protection. It eventually led me into politics and civil servants, pathfinders (scouts,) school boards, fair directors, etc. I managed to stay out of political posts but I exercised enough influence to keep the bar interests out of official positions. Even got a declaration placed on the ballot each time.

All this led to many unpleasantries especially since I had other things to do. But what can a man do but object when many congregation members would otherwise stay out late boozing?

One day a man came to me with the news that N.N. attempted to kill his entire family. I went over to see him. While tying up my horse a neighbor came to me: Please, don't go in there. He'll shoot you dead. I went in. The house looked a mess. Things torn up, bullet holes in many places. Not a soul in sight. I gathered up all the weapons. There were quite a few hunting rifles. I carried them out to the wagon. Then 4 ??????????????? I sought out my man. I found him dressed and lying on the bed. Soon he jumped to his feet and let out a noise. What did one have to fear from such liquor soaked people? His respect for my office was still there. As I dealt with him and he became more subdued I wanted to know where his family was. In the end I gave him the choice of going with me to find his wife and children or to stay until I came back with the sheriff. That would mean going to jail. It took great effort to bring the family back together and to get a promise that this would not happen again. To help him keep his promise I drove out to his farmhouse early every morning and saw as my friend built his heavy stall walls. Hard work gave rise to other throughts. He has remained my friend to this day. I gave his neighbor, a saloon barkeeper, this warning: If N.N. comes back to his bar, he'll lose his license. A few weeks later when I drove by the bar, I saw my friend N.N. inside standing at the bar. I went in, dragged N.N. out and called the sheriff. The bar was closed. We had a few decent inns in the city and in the country, whose owners never gave me any grief.

Naturally with times one learns the difference between moderation and intemperance. With the intemperant I never minced my words. Despite everything I was happy to be in M. Lots of work. I brought my young wife here and my children were born here. My wife was often frightened but she left me to quietly perform my correctional work.

People are all the same; circumstances make some of them inhuman. We also had a large number of congregation members who understood the value that such work created. However the most remarkable thing was that the many who came under my particular brand of friendship, when they were sober, always shook my hand in gratitude. Years later if I returned to the city for a time unexpectedly their gratitude was still apparent.

My trips to the filial congregations were always joyful. All Sundays were exhausting. Often the trips through the still forest during the cold winter were creepy. I've never known true fear. If I came upon a wolf or a bear I was nervous but it quickly passed. Cattle never did anything to humans if one left them alone.

(Printed with permission — W.L. Sch.)

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April 6 page 8

Recollections of a German Pastor - Part Nine


Circumstances led me to care for a Norwegian congregation. It was located in the middle of a Slovakian settlement. Thus I also became the pastor for the Lutheran Slovaks. There were many comical situations. These people did not understand German and only the children spoke English. They came to me with all kinds of issues. They elicited my sympathy so I arranged for our Slovakian superintendent, Dr. R. to come. Then everything went more smoothly. There was great excitement among these people, who hadn't had church services in their own language for 15 to 17 years. The first visit the two of us made was quite moving. In one day I ate more food, or at least tried to eat, than I was accustomed to eating in an entire week. At every house the tables were set for us. What else was there? Eating was the ticket for the day. By evening we felt like a stuffed goose must feel.

The Sunday church service was unusual. The Slovaks were well versed. They'd been cut off from their rituals but every house had a bible, a song book, a prayer book, and a cathechism which were used daily. The service proved that. They were at home with the organization of the service and its forms. It was my assignment to act as organist. The Norwegian church had people of all sorts — all three kinds of Scandanavians, a few Poles, some Americans and a large number of Germans. Lutherans have the advantage of having all the same church hymns, so we sang our songs in 6 or 7 different languages and that worked out just fine even with the raspiness of the Slovakian singing.

When Dr. R. was here in the city last summer staying with us, he told me much about each settlement he still visited and cared for whenever he was in northern Wisconsin.

Since the congregation in M. wished to remain purely German it took patience to keep the English-speaking members. The church council eventually agreed to a monthly service in English. Confirmation instruction had already been given for a long time in the English language. There was a woman who had been born here for whom English was the language spoken at home. However she had received religious training in her youth in German and could never be persuaded to attend English services. She gave the following reason, which always impressed me since people always want to forcibly eradicate German without letting things run their course. She said, "Since I received religious instruction in the German language it seems to me that going to English services would make me feel like a cow. The cow eats the straw but doesn't give any milk. — There's a store load of wisdom there which we pastors should consider.

(Printed with permission — W.L. Sch.)

[Scroll down to Part Ten]


May 4, 1928 page 3

Recollections of a German Pastor - Part Ten


For a European like me the church set-up in Wisconsin was very complex. In Nebraska I was the only pastor for two regions. In the small Wisconsin township, apart from the non-Germans, we had three German pastors who, among others in the region, represented five different sects of Lutherans. Then there was a "pretty much Lutheran" sect. In the town itself we had this latter group plus a representative from a stricter sect and finally the General Synod. There were always theological differences between the groups. In the countryside there was one congregation in Sect One and two other, more distant in-between sects. We were aware of the historical development of the various sects. Some of the differences always seemed somewhat simple and too unimportant to deal with. However some had mysterious excesses which had to be considered.

The various German pastors rarely dared greet one another. If they socialized with each other it would have been deemed tantamount to theological merger.

As the pastor of an acknowledged sect which also had non-acknowledged sect members, I often suggested these members, called lodge members, give up their unacknowledged status. However I soon learned that even the strictest churches had non-acknowledged members in their midst. The solution was soon after discovered: Jesus always preached to the tax collectors, not to the Pharisees. Therefore I stuck by my lodge congregation members.

What seemed surprising to me was the colossal lack of consistency. All members of the various congregations came from Germany, were baptized, educated, confirmed in a church which did not belong to the official church. (People from here sent missionaries to the Lutherans in Germany so they could proclaim Luther's teachings according to the official church.) However here they were accepted into the strictest churches while we pastors who also came from Germay were deemed unorthodox, non-Lutheran, or something else. Understand it if you can. It goes beyond my comprehension. I know cases where brothers who belonged to different congregations treated each other as adversaries.

Despite this we all had basically the same songbook, and the same little cathecism, and the same procedures for church service. However one day I learned something coompletely new. A number of Germans in the neighboring town asked me to perform church services. I got off the train in the late afternoon of the agreed-upon Sunday. A pastor from the other camp was waiting for me. He surprised me. He was friendly and happy that I was caring for the people there. Like us all, he served in too many places. Now this became my 5th filial congregation.

Things went well there but I hadn't counted on the German pastor from the neighboring town who also belonged to a different camp. The time came one Sunday after church service that a good old father anxiously and dubiously asked me, Pastor, is it true? Do you have a false bible?

What kind of nonsense was this? A false bible? I've never heard such a thing. Where could someone buy one? I handed him my good Luther translation. It was the same as his.

The following came to light: That good neighborhood pastor from the other sect wanted to destroy my work and had made it his task to tell these simple people that we had a false bible. Yes, yes. This happened in the year of Our Lord 1911 in a German community in America.

There was only one response: "The cock crows from the midden heap without knowing that he's standing in one." So it is with many viewpoints.

(Printed with permission — W.L. Sch.)

[Scroll down to Part Eleven]


June 1, 1928 page 8

Recollections of a German Pastor - Part Eleven


The outbreak of the war brought much anxiety. German societies and other groups celebrated each German victory. They were better celebrated here because we did not feel the pain and loss. Such victory celebrations made for bad blood and contributed in part to driving this country into the war. Things went differently after Easter, 1917. So many daring societies became silent. They choked while so many brave ministers stood firmly for truth and a peaceful Germany.

Fall of 1916 brought me back West to Kansas. Few Germans were in the congregation. Here we had many bitter battles before us. In Nebraska and Kansas it was not unusual for people to paint the houses of many pastors yellow and sometimes even the churches. Even the pastors themselves weren't safe. They were dragged to public places where they had to kiss the US flag. And that wasn't the least of it. People forbade our holding church services or similar activities. This was the backlash to exaggerated enthusiasm. People had forgotten the importance of heeding the loyalty oath.

Many obstacles were put in our way. I was forbidden to preach in German to my 8 to 10 people. Since the ban meant nothing to me and it was illegal, people threatened to send the home guard into my church. I invited the whole company in for German church service. An entire groups came but remained quiet. I was conscripted for chaplain duty. So it was that I performed the burial service for my first soldier. He was a young German man. In the pack-filled church I spoke in German at the request of his mother. No one could do anything about it.

People had me speak at public festivals and patriotic ceremonies. I was happy to do it. It was reported to me one day that there was a picture of the Kaiser surrounded by 50 guards at the home of one of my church members. I immediately intervened and that cost the poor home guard major his commission. They searched the house of this Swiss citizen for the picture of the Kaiser in such a manner that it filled the farmer's wife and children, who were not German, with holy terror. They searched the house and confiscated the suspected picture of the Kaiser, which turned out to be a picture of the farmer's wife's father. Complaints submitted to the governor and the Swiss embassy by the farmer made things very unpleasant for the major. In this way I became more closely involved with the home guard and became their chaplain. In other regions events turned savage. One cannot imagine all the things that happened out west.

In Nebraska the following occurred: The farmers were forbidden to speak German over the telephone or to converse in Low German. One old farmer, who had actually fought in the Civil War, proposed that they quietly continue to converse in Low German even over the phone. That created more problems. Eventually the farmers were specifically forbidden to use German. They responded by demanding that all telephone poles delivered and erected on their land be torn down. The telephone company intervened and the farmers were allowed to speak in the tongue with which they had grown up.

Mission festivals were prohibited. Pastor K's people brought their rifles. No one bothered them.

Naturally the Germans created some foolishness of their own which differed from youthful folly. It was a totally crazy time. Our wheat farmers could not eat some of their own wheat. They were only permitted so much and there were no substitutes so long as they said that their grain was being sent to England to be processed into grain there.

I spent much time at Camp Funston but even this time passed. The war officially came to an end and peace came to the country. People began to feel ashamed for their degenerate behavior towards the Germans. Many soldiers returned home with the assertion that they found better reception in Germany and were treated miserably in France.

It was May 1921 when I thought I was completely finished with the whole war saga. Unexpectedly I was dragged into the post war turmoil. One day a telegram came from the National Lutheran Council in New York asking if I would accept a certain honorary appointment. Since I had worked with this committee before and knew that such appointment meant work for others, I accepted but had no idea what was involved with the post. I soon learned the particulars. They wanted me to go into the western portion of Kansas and Nebraska among the Russian-German settlers to collect funds for the famine in Russia. They sent a newly-arrived professor from southern Russia to my home. With this professor, C. Glöckler there followed another three Russian-German pastors. We formed an organization which extended from Chicago to the west coast and from northern Canada to Texas.

I got railroad passes for me, my three pastors and four assistants. Our quiet and peaceful parish house became a proper office with a clacking typewriter and other office supplies. As chairman of the committee I soon had to take solo trips. There was an incredible amount of work. My congregation needed care and it was sometimes neglected. Often I came in on Sunday morning before a trip and was away again by evening. Every day there were things to discuss, organize, negotiate, etc. It was a year of hard and hectic activity. There were regularly scheduled meetings in Chicago or New York. I was repeatedly in every western state but with no time for pleasure trips. This was no kid's game. An organization, which stretched halfway across the country, had to be created out of nothingness so as to drive out Communism and convince people to contribute. And the donations accumulated to more than twenty times the expected sum and they came far and wide from non-Lutheran groups.

Then came the propaganda work in the German newspapers. Almost a year later Catholic Bishop Kessler came and invited me to come with him, saying "Whenever I come to this country I hear about your commission and work. May God continue to bless you as you work for the poor in Russia." He sent his secretary to my house in order to learn the details. Later I met them repeatedly when I was a guest in Berlin, Germany. Naturally this work formed a strong bond with the American Relief Administration. Hoover was the chairman of this organization and thus became my boss. H. Hoover has done more for the German community than anyone else. He's credited with a saying which is quite characteristic for him. "I would rather see the American flag in the hearts of Europe's children than over the battlefields of the entire world."

(Printed with permission — W.L. Sch.)

[There's an indication that the story will continue, but no other articles appeared through the end of 1928.]


About the Author

"Printed by permission - W. L. Sch." probably refers to William (Wilhelm) L. Scheding, Lutheran minister from Prussia who, according to Federal Census data collected from Heritage Quest Online, arrived in the United States in 1906. Born January 10, 1883 in Berlin; died June 28, 1947in Syracuse. Full name first discovered in an obituary for Rev. Dr. Hermann G. Dattan dated September 21, 1928.

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Translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks