Dakota Memories Heritage Tour

Heritage Trails

Isern, Tom. "Heritage Trails." Facebook. www.facebook.com.

The Dakota Memories Heritage Tour, organized by the NDSU Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, aimed to show the potential of grassroots heritage tourism in the German-Russian culture region. It certainly succeeded in that. The experience began with an orientation to the settlement environment of the GfR, presented at the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center by University Distinguished Professor Allan Ashworth, who did his usual outstanding job of combining expertise with accessibility. - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2339544540102406377oBRTho

Our hosts at the CGREC were Paul & Anne Nyren, who were gracious and knowledgeable as always. And of course, the ample luncheon at the center reminded us all how wonderful it was to be in beef country. - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2942945290102406377GnXHYN

The Dakota Memories tour called at a number of cemeteries in German-Russian country, beginning with Martin Luther Cemetery near Fredonia. One cast iron grave cross in the cemetery particularly caught my interest - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2058505090102406377VFMxPl

The compelling detail about this grave cross was the visage of Christ at center - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2038423920102406377sTYsiL

This design of cross had a structural weakness, however. There were two examples in the cemetery, and both, likely under the pressure of winter snowdrifts, had broken off at a certain weak point in the shaft, and had been patched back together to stand - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2782949570102406377QMpWsT

One of the interesting features of Martin Luther Cemetery is its Kinderfriedhof, that is, the section set aside for infant burials. Our hosts at the site were Ralph & Loretta Schultz of Fredonia. Here Ralph and participants in the Dakota Memories tour examine one of the many poignant inscriptions on stones in the Kinderfriedhof - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2896526340102406377eKaUYj

Loretta got into the spirit and showed her hospitality to the group by arriving at the site in period costume. She and Ralph are aunt and uncle to Acacia Stuckle, who capably organized the logistics of our tour - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2324560990102406377PtmZEN

One of the most fascinating stops on the Dakota Memories tour was the Lehr Tabernacle, near Wishek, a historic house of worship and public gathering place. It stands on a settler's tree claim that still bears some of its historic cottonwoods - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2105989330102406377XfHfom

The Octoberagonal design of the tabernacle resembles that of a Chautauqua pavilion - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2891721230102406377HJQXih

Farmers, no doubt familiar with barn construction, built the trusses and raised them themselves - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2615019430102406377lRXQTL

State Senator Robert Erbele, a rancher of German-Russian ancestry, a leader active in the preservation and management of the tabernacle, addressed the group and gave a stirring rendition of "Gott Ist die Liebe" - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2518328810102406377RmBhOK

"Gestern und Heute und in Alle Ewigheit" indeed! - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2527670470102406377EKoVFE

Cleo & Joan Boschee were wonderful hosts to a few of us tourists, as the Wishek Inn lacked the room capacity to house the whole Dakota memories Heritage Tour. Joan, too, is a grave witcher who locates lost graves with brazing rods and then determines the gender of the corpse with a carpenter's plumb. - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2888856720102406377MLZTlu

This got the attention of Dr. John "Paco" Cox, Head of the NDSU History Department. - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2758731750102406377qwtLqP

So John took up the rods himself and dowsed up a few graves. - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2186282150102406377AQMvLg

This is good. Now Paco won't have to ask me anymore where the bodies are buried around campus.

I need to write a lot about our visit to St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, near Zeeland. To begin with, alongside the wood-frame church built in the early twentieth century, itself historic, stands the church built in the 1880s, in a fine state of preservation. This is a slab-stone church, the walls, I suspect, clay-mortared, two feet thick. This is a building I'd like to know more about - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2799849920102406377NHERPz

The interior of the old church, with its cool, aquamarine walls and its deep window-wells, is a magical space - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2480042580102406377yOCvbB

The old church stands alongside to the east of its successor, and to the east of both stretches the cemetery - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2337992710102406377juAIpX

Although Protestant cemeteries seldom exhibit as much wrought iron on the grave sites as to the Catholic, the cemetery gates often are ornate - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2665650220102406377ndOzOp

Back to St. Andrew's of Zeeland - what we on the Dakota Memories tour didn't know was that Carol Just, whose roots are deep in this parish, had made arrangements for an unforgettable heritage experience at the church. She was prepared to deliver a splendid historical narrative of the place; here she is reading from the high pulpit - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2088588660102406377PaFQZS

Actually in this photo she isn't reading, she is looking down happily at the second element in the experience, the St. Andrew's choir, average age, well, advanced. - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2284371040102406377aOsGmb

Look at those faces! What lifelines of experience and knowledge! Hollywood could not cast such faces, only North Dakota can. And they sang the old hymns like they were born to it, which of course, they were. - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2388279230102406377cXzMoH

So Carol would deliver a part of her story, and pause, and the choir would sing - unforgettable. Ineffable.

After St. Andrew's, the Dakota Memories tour moved on to a Roman Catholic cemetery near Zeeland, St. John the Baptist - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2002062130102406377mhyCnl

There we were greeted by old Sebastian Meyer, long-time caretaker of the cemetery, and himself a son of the parish. This is one of those RC cemeteries that lies in the country with no church nearby, because the church was burned by the diocese. Anyway, Sebastian was wonderfully droll - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2543015910102406377KcLoar

This parish suffered catastrophic losses to a diphtheria epidemic in 1898-99, as attested to by this line of cast iron crosses marking diphtheria victims from the single family, the Feist family - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2646676740102406377nmxxbB

St. John the Baptist Cemetery also contained some splendid examples of wrought iron cross work. I was particularly fascinated by the details of some of the crosses, some of which exhibited motifs with which I was heretofore unfamiliar. Here are some examples of lovely details -


The Dakota Memories Heritage Tour had a great lunch in Hague, catered by the Hague Cafe, a community cafe, purveyor of German-Russian specialties on several days of the week - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2180203460102406377dDOCXy

Up the street I noticed this striking deco fire hall - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2689352700102406377AuZsWu

And across the street was the post office, housed in a modestly-falsefront frame building - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2140896700102406377jNEJFW

On account of the size of our group, lunch was catered into the Knights of Columbus Hall, where we all waited only somewhat patiently - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2194217810102406377bCAPxt

And the food - I'll get to that next time!

Now for the food brought over by the Hague Cafe. Centerpiece, local-product sausage, cut up before us on steaming platters - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2000842500102406377jouCAk

And then, roasters full of huge cheese buttons, some filled with the usual savory filling, but others, surprise, with a sweet cinnamon filling - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2010513310102406377CduKaP

And pie, of course. Altogether an amazing lunch.

Following the grand lunch in Hague, it was just a pleasant stroll over to the grand St. Mary's Church - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2604960700102406377fQnlgE

Coming inside from the windswept village street, the spectacular quietude of the church interior is humbling - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2589702770102406377jgmqmT

Altar art lifts the eyes and spirits - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2033384250102406377icxByk

to the stately Imhoff paintings affixed to the ceiling - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2155501160102406377ZqwyiK

Although beautiful funerary art is spangled across German-Russian country, the old St. Mary's Cemetery outside Hague is like a gallery of wrought iron grave crosses, a fabulous place in which to contemplate this distinctive genre of folk-art. A selection of images -


There was the requisite village to the Welk homestead, which seems to inspire puckish behavior. Here NDSU historian John Cox seems enamored of the WPA outhouse on site - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2766294570102406377URRlIa

Jessica Clark, coordinator of the Dakota Memories Oral History Project, emerges from the loft (I'm not sure what was going on up there) - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2887312210102406377TxVtCL

A cutaway in the Welk house wall reveals the batsa earth brick construction underneath the wood framing - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2771002720102406377hMDQQk

For the first time in many years, Welk Lake is full, lending picturesqueness to the homestead setting - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2307488510102406377ZPdcMR

Have you ever visited Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church, in Strasburg? The Dakota Memories tour did - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2187809930102406377yIMnei

Our visit included a splendid church-basement lunch, including Knoephla soup and Kuchen, prepared by bona fide church ladies - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2633373340102406377fCwmnf

What can I say about the ornate interior of this church? Astonishing - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2284718500102406377gpCJKl

From Strasburg the Dakota Memories tour made the short drive out to the Schwab house, a superficially nondescript and yet deeply historic building - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2868177050102406377oQUVjL

It looks like just another white, wood-frame farmhouse on a prairie knoll - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2700424150102406377ixezrq

The Schwab house is, however, a splendid example of German-Russian vernacular architecture - see the next posting for details.

The Schwab house, a German-Russian vernacular homestead house near Strasburg, is, in fact, constructed of batsa brick, that is, oblong bricks formed of clay and straw (and sometimes other additives, if you know what I mean) and dried on site.

This becomes evident when you go inside, and you notice that the walls are two feet thick. Here NDSU historian John Cox stands in a doorway, thereby giving scale to the massive wall - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2742850490102406377aPwGRB

The interior walls are neatly plastered - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2517923010102406377qjagIk

Window wells are particularly attractive features of earth houses--useful, too, because of their capacity to gather light and heat in winter - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2626443470102406377hhpqVm

The interior plastering and exterior siding of the house are historical features, too--part of the regular evolution of vernacular housing among the Germans from Russia.

The Dakota Memories Heritage Tour ended up at St. Anthony's Catholic Church, Linton - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2486224580102406377cXojqC

We were there to attend the annual fall supper. This is a big one, where they serve upwards of 1200 diners - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2996336740102406377gFPaDs

I love to nose into the kitchens at operations like this - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2284776030102406377ksngyH

The dinner is served in the round-top parish hall, with people lined up outside - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2978588630102406377HCdxgz

Home-grown vegetables are a plus - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2761722680102406377uYhWRI

And pie! - http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2000148970102406377AouVKy


Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
North Dakota State University Libraries
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
NDSU Dept #2080
PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Tel: 701-231-8416
Fax: 701-231-6128
Last Updated:
Director: Michael M. Miller
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