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Munjor to Celebrate

Gasper-O'Brien, Diane. "Munjor to Celebrate." Hays Daily News, 24 July 2001.

A Volga-German Homecoming: 125th Jubilee Celebration


MUNJOR ­ Betty Pfannenstiel moved from her hometown a couple of times duirng the past 68 years, but she said she always felt a tug to come back.

Pfannenstiel returned to Munjor for good in 1953 and has lived here since.

Pfannestiel said she hopes that same pull draws hundreds of people for Munjor's 125th Volga-German jubilee celebration Thursday.

The celebration, part of a six-day event involving Munjor and five other surrounding communities, will begin at 10 a.m. with a Mass, followed by a visit to the cemetery and a blessing of the graves.

The rest of the celebration wil take place under and around a big tent on the church grounds.

Pfannenstiel, who has had an active role in planning the jubilee celebration, said she hopes the small town of 250 will overflow with former residents.

One who would be able to tell a tale or two about the history of Munjor is Pfannenstiel's mother, Regina Rohr.

Rohr lived the first 92 years of her life in Munjor before moving to Hays last October after being injured in a fall.

Rohr will note be able to attend Thursday's celebration, but Pfannenstiel said her mother still has a sharp memory and can tell a story or two.

With the anticipation of the celebration, Pfannenstiel said she has been thinking a lot lately about traditions and the way things used to be.

She plans to take part in several of those traditions on Thursday.

"I remember walking to the cemetery for burials all the time, praying the rosary along the way," Pfannenstiel said, explaining that the traditiion would be relived Thursday.

The foundation of the heritage that the immigrants brought with them from Russia was a strong and practical faith.

There had been no Catholic churches along the railroad west of Salina, but that soon changed with the arrival of the Catholic Germans to Ellis County.

After completing their simple homes for themselves, people began plans for a church.

The first church in Munjor, St. Francis of Assisi, was a 41-by-20-foot framed building completed in 1877. But from 1889 on, residents have been able to attend services in a large stone structure -- one of the many in the area.

A fire gutted the Munjor church in 1932, but parishioners immediately began work on reconstruction.

"Aside from their home and family, the church was the most important thing," Pfannenstiel said.

The church fire was before Pfannenstiel was born, but she still can remember the people of Munjor rallying around their residents in times of tragedy and disaster.

Pfannenstiel well remembers the flood of 1957. No one drowned, but threee people died in an explosion in the nuns' convent when sewer gas ignited.

Then there was the tornado of 1980 that roared through the town in the early morning hours and destroyed the home of Les and Linda Gross. However, there were no injuries, and once again the town rallied around their own as the Grosses rebuilt their home on the same lot.

Supporting family and neighbors was nothing new for Pfannestiel, whose roots run deep in Munjor.

Her late husband's great grandfather, Peter Stecklein, was one of the first scouts who came from Russia to Ellis County in 1875.

Pfannenstiel was born in the house built by her great grandfather, Johannes Rohr, and her granfather, Joseph Rohr. That home, just three blocks from where Pfannenstiel lives, now is owned by her brother, Lee Rohr, who lives in another house in Munjor.

"Munjor has always been home to me," Pfannenstiel said. "I really like it here; it's the reason I came back and have stayed so long."

Pfannenstield said she is looking forward to the reminiscing on Thursday, something she missed during the town's centennial celebration in 1976 when she was in charge of the food preparation.

"It was like an old-fashioned wedding dinner. We prepared it all, and it was a lot of work," she said.

This year, the noon barbecue meal is being catered, and there also will be food available throughout the day.

There will be games such as ring toss, bingo, bossy bingo, a cake walk and a dunk tank. Pfannenstiel will give tours of the church at 1, 3 and 5 p.m., and several bands will be playing throughout the day.

Munjor was settled in 1876 when founders came from the town of Obermonjour in Russia.

The settlers wasted no time in puirchaisng land and organized the Munjor Land Co., which in 1882 was renamed the Munjor Town and Grazing Co. and later was shortened to Munjor.

A history book mapping the original lot owners was printed for Munjor's centennial celebration in 1976 and has been reprinted.

That book and a cookbook will be available to purchase Thursday, as will be a new, updated addition of Munjor's history from 1976 to 2001. In addition, there will be jubilee memorabilia for sale.

Reprinted with permission of The Hays Daily News.

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