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Serr Reunion Focuses on Family’s History in Emmons County

Burke, Allan. "Serr Reunion Focuses on Family’s History in Emmons County." Emmons County Record, 21 December 2005.


About 230 descendants of Henry, Sr. and Louisa (Grenz) Serr gathered June 17-19 for a family reunion that included visits to the Serr farms, the Emmons County Historical Society Museum in Linton and to Hot Spot Pizzeria in Linton for a family meal. The family headquartered at a Bismarck motel.

Their first stop on their tour of the area was the farmstead where Henry and Louisa lived. Henry’s parents, George, Sr. and Elizabeth (Enzi) Serr and his brother and sister-in-law, George, Jr. and Johanna (Stoppe) Serr, lived in the same area.

Only a few out buildings remain on the Henry, Sr. farmstead, and the land is now owned by Albert Weber of Linton.

Henry, Sr. and Louisa raised 14 children on their farm west of Temvik. Near the farm is the Sand Creek Cemetery where two generations of the Serr family are buried: George, Sr. and Elizabeth and George, Jr. and Johanna. Henry, Sr. and Louisa are buried in the Linton Cemetery. Also on the tour was the former St. Andrew’s Episcopal Rectory in Linton where Henry, Sr. and Louisa lived after they moved to town. Family members who visited the Serrs at the former rectory remember its cathedral ceiling and the lemon drops that Grandma Serr kept in a drawer in the kitchen.

Lucinda Schneider of the Emmons County Historical Society, which now uses the house as part of its museum, stocked the drawer with lemon drops as a treat for the Serr family.

At the museum, Henry Serr, Jr. and his children: Terry Serr and Candis Wagner, both of Hazelton, and Shelley Serr of Bismarck presented Schneider with a framed picture of Henry, Sr. and Louisa that now hangs in their former home.

Henry, Sr. died in 1952 and Louisa in 1974.

The Serr family paid their respects at the Serr graves in the Linton Cemetery and then to the Grenz relatives - Gottlieb and Johanna (Heer) Grenz - in the Temvik Cemetery.

In addition to the tours, the family especially enjoyed their meals together in Linton and in Bismarck.

Family history

Dorinda (Serr) Diede compiled a family history, which she presented to those attending the reunion.

Her history starts with George Serr, Sr., who was born in Worms, Russia, in 1849. He married Elizabeth Enzi in New Freudenthal, Russia, in 1874. He was 25, and she was 19.

George and Elizabeth had seven children, who ranged in age from 4 to 34 when the family immigrated to the United States in 1903. During his years in Russia, George, Sr. was taught the practice of herbal medicine, and he continued treating both people and animals after coming to the United States. He was known as a "braucher," a German term for a "laying on of hands" type of healing.

George and Elizabeth homesteaded on the NW 1/4 of Section 24-133-77 in Emmons County, which was four and a half miles southwest of where their son and his wife, Henry, Sr. and Louisa Serr, eventually purchased land and settled to raise their children. Elizabeth died in 1916 while George lived until 1931.

Henry, Sr. worked for the Harold Brothers, who were contracted by the Northern Pacific Railroad, to supply hay for the mules used in the construction of the rail line in Emmons County. The haying was done a quarter mile west of the Linton Cemetery.

When Henry was 23, as customs of that time dictated, a marriage was arranged for him. His bride was Louisa Grenz, also 23. She was the daughter of Gottlieb and Johanna (Heer) Grenz, and they were married in Zeeland on Jan. 27, 1908.

Louisa was born in 1885 in Gildendorf, Russia, and was a baby when her parents brought her to the United States. The Grenz family lived near Artas and Eureka in South Dakota for about 23 years, before moving to Emmons County. There were 14 children in the family.

Shortly after Henry and Louisa were married, the Grenzes purchased land in Emmons County from Gottlieb Schatz. The land came with a sod house built by Schatz.

Gottlieb Grenz was one of the founders of the Temvik Zion Lutheran Church in 1930. Gottlieb died in 1936, followed by Johanna in 1946. Following their wedding day, Henry and Louisa traveled west, crossing the Missouri River on a ferry with all their personal belongings, including a buggy and two horses.

They homesteaded near Lemmon, S.D., and returned to Emmons County about three years later. Their first child, George, died on the homestead and was buried in the Lemmon Cemetery.

Henry and Louisa had 13 children in Emmons County. Their births spanned 19 years, so all 13 were not living at home at the same time. The children left home between the ages of 15 and 18 to get jobs to support themselves and sometimes to help support the family.

Henry Serr, Jr., is the youngest child of Henry and Louisa. He and his wife, Edna, farm southwest of Hazelton. Henry has one living sister, Martha (Haas) Roe of Olympia, Wash.

Some of the family lore includes a story about Henry, Jr. and his older brother, Robert. When the boys wanted to use the family car, Robert would always have Henry ask their father for the use of the automobile, since it appeared their father would give in more easily to the baby of the family.

Once when Robert and Henry used their father’s car, Robert had an accident that resulted in a smashed fender. They put the car in the shed and didn’t tell their father. Henry, Sr. eventually noticed the damage but didn’t seem very angry; however, the boys ended up having to use their horses to go places for a very long time after that. The Serr family history tells about Henry and Louisa’s life on the prairie and raising their children in Emmons County. Both the hard times and the good times are included.

Descendants of Henry, Sr. and Louisa Serr pose for a family picture during the family reunion.
Serr Reunion guests enjoyed their visit to the site of the Henry, Sr. and Louisa Serr farmstead.
The summer kitchen, car shed and granary building and the chicken coop are among the out buildings that still stand on the former Henry, Sr. and Louisa Serr farm. Albert Weber owns the farm today.
After Gottlieb and Johanna (Heer) Grenz moved to Emmons County, they purchased land from Gottlieb Schatz that included a sod house, their first home in North Dakota. Henry, Jr. and Edna Serr lived in the sod house before moving to their present farm. Their first two children, Terry Serr and Candis Wagner, were born when the family lived there.
Emmons County pioneers Henry and Louisa Serr had 14 children.
Shelley Serr, center left, presents a picture of Henry and Louisa Serr to Lucinda Schneider of the Emmons County Historical Society.

Printed with permission of the Emmons County Record.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
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