Interview with Sister Mary Jean Louise
Conducted by Joyce Reinhardt Larson (JRL)
10 April 1996, St. Francis Convent, Hankinson, North Dakota
Transcription by Joy H. Stefan
Editing by Mary Lynn Axtman
JRL: We are at the St. Francis Convent in Hankinson,
North Dakota. I am Joyce Reinhardt Larson, a volunteer interviewer
from the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at NDSU Library.
At this time I am interviewing Sister Jean Louise, and I will
begin by asking her her name, her date of birth and where was
JLS: I am Sister Jean Louise Schafer. I was baptized
Nancy Jean Schafer. I was born in Elgin, in the hospital at Elgin,
in Grant County, North Dakota and grew up on the farm in Flasher.
I was born on May 18, 1955. So that puts me in another generation
than you are used to interviewing, but I'm happy to share with
you about my family.
JRL: Well, that will be interesting. What is your
father and mother's name?
JLS: My father is Adam Michael Schafer and my mother
is Helen Elisabeth Engleman Schafer.
JRL: Do you know where they came from or where their
ancestors came from in South Russia?
JLS: My father's family came from the colony of
Schweier in South Russia. He told us Landowski County. They came
over in 1908, but that's another story. My mother was a German
Hungarian who came and settled in New England, North Dakota.
JRL: So your grandparents on your father's side
were German Russian then?
JRL: Did you get to know them?
JLS: My grandparents, oh yes. My grandparents I
knew all through my childhood, but Grandma died in 1973 and Grandpa
Schafer died in 1989. So I knew them quite well, especially Grandpa.
JRL: So you grew up in Elgin, North Dakota?
JLS: I grew up at Flasher. I was born in Elgin.
JRL: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
JLS: I'm fourth on the list of eleven children.
The first two died in infancy, so we counted ourselves as nine
usually. Actually I'm the second oldest of nine living.
JRL: What made you decide to join the convent?
JLS: Well, I had the influence of religious Sisters
in my grade school. They taught me. Benedictine Sisters from Bismarck
taught in the Catholic grade school in Flasher where I attended
through the fourth grade. And I have an aunt, my father's sister,
who is Sister Charlene Schafer, who is a Sister in Teckne, Illinois,
and my grandfather, Michael Schafer, had two sisters who were
Benedictine Sisters at Richardson, at Sacred Heart Monastery.
So we knew.... Sisters were a big part of our life, and prayer
and the church was a big part of our life. So it wasn't any real
surprise for me to have that desire to follow whatever the Lord
wanted me to do. And once I knew it was to be a Sister, then that
was simply what I was going to do.
JRL: At what age was that, when you knew for sure?
JLS: Well, I knew for sure, I'd say when I was in
high school I knew for sure. Now I didn't want that in high school.
I didn't really think that that's what I wanted to do. But I knew
that's what God was calling me to do. I remember when I was in
high school and we'd be praying in church and I would say, "Lord,
I want to love you better. I want you to show me how." Then
when I was a senior, an assignment in a composition class was
write in a paragraph what you're going to be doing in five years
from now. And I wrote, "I'm going to be a Sister." I
didn't know where or how it was going to work out, but I just
knew that that's what I was going to be.
JRL: So you know you're in the right place.
JRL: Then that's neat. Not a lot of people do.
JLS: Then when I went on to college... I went to
a public college at Dickinson State. I was very involved in the
church, but I didn't really make a decision until I met the Sisters
here, when I was already working.
JRL: Doing what?
JLS: As a professional high school librarian. Up
at Lakota, North Dakota. I was there for two years and then the
Lord got me.
JRL: Through the influence of the Sisters here at
JLS: Yes. The Sister who is the Mother Superior,
the Provincial Superior here right now, was at that time, the
Youth Director for the Diocese of Fargo, and she was in charge
of a program for youth 16 to about 25, called the Search Program.
It was a program of pure ministry on a weekend that involved about
80 to 100 kids, about seven weekends a year. I often worked on
the team, helping to put on that retreat for new upcoming students,
and there I met her. I was involved with that out in the Bismarck
Diocese when I was in high school and college. Then when I moved
to this part of the state, I got involved up here with it, and
met her. About the second time I met her, I said to her, "I'm
interested in your community." And she said, "Great,
come down and visit." At that time I did not know that there
was a Hankinson, North Dakota. I didn't know that there were Franciscan
Sisters in North Dakota, because I had that influence of the Benedictines
out in the Bismarck Diocese. But then she invited me to come and
visit, and it was maybe five or six months later that I got up
the courage to come. And then after that first visit, about two
months later I made a commitment to enter. So it was a couple
of months before I did actually enter, but I knew that this was
where I belonged.
JRL: When was that?
JLS: That was in 1979-80. So I entered here in June,
June 7th of 1980.
JRL: And when you came here, then was it hard to
get back to see family? Were you restricted to stay here?
JLS: I'll tell you about the steps in religious
life and that will help you a little bit to understand about the
family visits. The first step is anywhere from six months to two
years, and it's called the Postulancy. And that comes from the
Latin word meaning "to ask." I asked the community if
they will look at me and see if I could live here. They looked
at me, and then I looked at the community and asked, "can
I live here?" So during that six months time I did not go
home, but my family could come to visit me. Now my family lives
300 miles away, so they didn't come often. But they probably came
once that summer. Then we have a two year period called the Novitiate,
which is a more intense period of prayer and study, where we get
back... first years do not go out, and rarely leave the city of
Hankinson. So that's a more cloistered time, part of the initial
formation but it's necessary so one can really concentrate on
the task at hand and not have all the distractions. During that
time we were not allowed to go home. Before I entered that Novitiate
period, I had a two week vacation at home, and that was in December
of 1980, around Christmas time. And then I entered the Nobitiate
on January 1st, 1981. Or January 2nd, I guess it was, in 1981.
And then that two year period of the Novitiate, the first year
is spent here at the Mother House. The second year is called an
Apostolic year, where we go out more to work in our Apostolates
or our Missions. For example, schools, or nursing homes, or hospitals
that are run by our Sisters. And we begin to work more integrating
religious life, the prayer life along with the work life and community
life. All very much a part of our way of life. I worked at St.
John's School in Wahpeton as a professional librarian that year,
during that Apostolic year. Then, at the end of those two years,
that would take us to January of '83, I made my first vows. We
make our first vows for three years, and then renew them ordinarily
for two years, so it's about a five year period of temporary vows
before we make our final commitment. Now then, during this time
of temporary vows our family may come to visit us and I went home
every summer to visit for two weeks, so that's about what it amounted
to. However, if I happened to be in the area for work, and at
that time I had a brother in Fargo, so I could go and visit my
brother for a half a day or stop into see them. There weren't
any restrictions on that, as long as it was feasible.
JRL: How did your family look at that, when you
made this commitment?
JLS: To join the convent?
JLS: They were happy, at least my parents, I should
say, were very happy about it. But they were very cautious. They
did not express that to me very much, so I didn't know whether
they were pleased, whether that was something that they thought
I should do, or knew I would do. I just really didn't know their
reaction, although they were very supportive of me in terms of
praying. You know, just keep on doing what you're doing. But not
something big and grandiose, which is very common in our family.
Not until I made my final vows, did they really make some expressions
to me of commitment, or applauding my commitment. And that was,
I'm sure because, they said, "well, we don't want to pressure
her. It's her life, she has to make her own decisions." But
I know interiorly they were very happy. My brothers and sisters
found it a little bit more difficult, since I'm the second oldest.
Some of them were at home when I had already left for college
and working. So I didn't know them quite as well, particularly
my youngest sister. Since I didn't know her too well we didn't
communicate too much. She only told me later on that it took her
a long time to get over anger because I had left the family and
made this decision not to come home all the time. Now of course,
she is very happy. They are all very supportive of me. Very happy
for me. But they all had to work through their own initial reaction
to it. I think it was easier in a way, in our family, because
I also have a brother who is a priest. So they followed him through
all of those steps of his preparation for the priesthood too,
and they realized that this is something very important in our
family. So they were then very supportive. And now they are very
supportive, although I don't see them often, but I talk on the
JRL: And your brother is younger than you?
JLS: Yes, he's three years younger than I. He is
a priest at Mott.
JRL: So your influence, really, for this religious
way of life came from your family... you were always involved
JLS: Yes. Family, and from teachers I would say...
those early teachers in school, a very strong parish community
on campus at the college, and this search program that I mentioned
before, was a very strong influence in keeping my faith alive
and spurring my faith development that led me to pursue whatever
the Lord was calling me to.
JRL: What are some of the distinctive religious
customs practiced in your home?
JLS: In our home we prayed together often. Everyday
at mealtime, of course. We always ate every meal together. I grew
up on a farm. So in a rural family you just arranged your schedules
that way. So we prayed together before, at meals all the time.
Morning prayer... and prayed the morning offering which was really
something special. Our evening prayers were private. Our night
prayers that we said for ourselves, we didn't do those in common.
During Lent, during Advent, we prayed the rosary together, followed
the stations of the cross, reading from the Bible, so we did that
specifically during Advent and Lent. And sometimes May, because
May is the month dedicated to the Blessed Mother. So we prayed
the rosary together on the evenings in May. So those three times
of the year specifically when we prayed formally together.
JRL: What about Name Days?
JLS: We did not have that tradition, and I think
since I'm already one generation removed, the only thing we did
for Name Days, was I remember that my father, whose name was Adam,
would get a gift from his dad on December 24th, because we grew
up knowing, or hearing that it was a German custom that Adams
celebrate... the Name Day for Adam was on December 24th. Now I've
heard that from other Sisters here too, in this community, but
I've not heard it formally from people who are not of German background.
Anyway, the Feast of St. Adam, or Adam, would be December 24th,
because of its connection to Christmas and the Holy Light coming
into the world and the rebirth of civilization, Christianity.
So Grandpa would bring Dad a gift on Christmas Eve. But other
than that, in our family we had no Name Day customs.
JRL: And I think it has gradually gotten less through
JLS: However, in our religious community here, we
celebrate Name Days as much as birthdays. In fact, even more.
It's still a German custom from the native Germans, to celebrate
Name Days. Very much, even more so than birthdays. But at home
I know we did all know our Name Day. We knew what day our Patron
Saint was. But we didn't do anything.
JRL: So were the German traditions practiced in
your family? Was it talked about? The German Russian?
JLS: Not really. See, because my mother was of German
Hungarian descent. And my father German Russian. So we, in my
generation, spoke only English. And I know we would ask Mom sometimes,
"How do you say this?" It was for a certain word. And
"say it in German." And then we'd ask Dad "say
it in German" and they'd have two different dialects. And
so we just all said, well, I guess they don't really communicate
with each other, and we just kind of dropped it. So we really
did not talk at all about our German Russian heritage, because
we knew that they were a little different.
JRL: There wasn't that community in that area.
JRL: So are you familiar with the Anti-Garb legislation
that happened in the 1940s? Or you were too young.
JLS: I wasn't even born. No... not until the mid
'50s, so I really have no experience with that at all.
JRL: So what was it like in your growing up years
on the farm?
JLS: It was fun to have a large family. We got along
very well. To this day we're a very close family. A number of
the brothers and sisters were living out of state, but all have
moved back except one family who is in Wisconsin. But the others
have all moved back, so that we could be closer together. And
most of them are in western North Dakota. We were a very close
family. We spent a lot of time together; our recreation mostly
was together. Every Sunday afternoon from March through October,
practically every Sunday, we would take a drive to the pasture
to check the cattle. And we would all get on the back of the pickup.
One kid would get in front with Dad, and Mom and the rest of us
would get on the back, and we'd sing and just have fun. Those
were really family community times. We would have lots of fun
on the back of the pickup... drive two or three hours... just
drive out there, have fun, check the cattle and come back.
JRL: So you did some singing. Were you in a musical
JLS: Not formally. Just singing, oh, "Red River
Valley," those kinds of things... "Home on the Range."
That was a favorite of my dad's.
JRL: As you were driving on the range.
JLS: Yes. It was great. So the pastoral life was
very important to us.
JRL: Did you have to work pretty hard?
JLS: Well, yes, we did our share of work. We milked
cows, so we had to... some of us did morning chores and some of
us did evening chores. My mother had a big garden. I was the baker
and cook during the summers, because my oldest sister... the oldest
one in the family was a girl, but she loved to be outside did
all the raking and mowing until the boys got big enough. And then
there were five boys and a little girl. But she still went out...
Kathy and all the boys were out in the fields and Mom was in her
garden, so I was the one who did most of the cooking and baking.
JRL: Did you do a lot of canning and preserving
JLS: My mother did all the canning and preserving.
She did can and freeze vegetables and fruits and berries... rhubarb...
JRL: Do you remember picking berries?
JLS: Yes. We had choke cherry trees on the west
side of the house in the yard, and several patches out in the
pasture. Juneberries, mulberries, or were they buffalo berries?
JRL: Did you really do something with those mulberries?
JLS: Oh, yes. They make the absolutely best jam
or jelly. Mulberry jelly.
JRL: And you waited until late fall when they were
JRL: Even then, I think they were, but after a frost.
JLS: Yes. Yes. Dad said never before August 15th.
You never pick those until August 15th. Because, I suppose, it
wouldn't freeze before then. But once it froze, they were easier
JRL: They weren't so easy to pick, were they?
JLS: No they weren't.
JRL: With the little prickly...
JLS: So we didn't can quarts and quarts of that.
Just enough to get a little taste for Dad because he loved the
jelly and jam.
JRL: And Juneberries. Wasn't that a treat? What
did you make from Juneberries?
JLS: Well, we hardly... we couldn't preserve them,
of course, because they didn't last that long. But my mother would
make a custard pie, a Juneberry custard pie. That was, to this
day, makes my mouth water.
JRL: Even Juneberry kuchen. You freeze the Juneberries
JLS: Oh yes, that's right. Or else put them in ice
cream. My dad loved ice cream, and so he'd just throw some, or
even frozen ones into the ice cream after you'd dish it out there,
for a topping.
JRL: We're not going to get that now, are we?
JLS: No, no.
JRL: What was your school experience like? You went
to a town school?
JLS: Yes. I went to St. Lawrence grade school for
the first four years, through fourth grade. And then it was the
time when Sisters were leaving, getting out of the schools and
going into other Apostolates, about '65, '66. There were fewer
Sisters, plus there were more kids in our family and we couldn't
afford the tuition. So by the fifth grade, I had to go and went
over to public school. I think when I was in sixth grade that
school closed. It closed just because of lower enrollment, and
because of the fact of the Sisters leaving. My dad drove the bus
for quite a number of years when I was in grade school. In the
early days for the fact that, if he drove the bus then he could
pick up us kids and take us to the Catholic school, even though
he drove the bus for the public school, so that we would have
that transportation. And when I was in first grade, my older sister
and I stayed with Grandma and Grandpa in town, so that we could
go to the Catholic school, because we had no bus. So we would
stay with Grandma and Grandpa from early Monday until about 4
o'clock on Friday.
JRL: How far were you from town?
JLS: Thirteen miles. But bad roads, muddy roads,
and we lived on the edge of a county, so sometimes it was the
last one to be plowed out or kept up or something.
JRL: Were there kids of other nationalities in your
JLS: They were mostly German or German Russians
as far as I know. There were some German Lutherans in the public
school. Missouri Synod, I think it was, Lutherans in our school.
And the Congregation... Congregation United Church of Christ,
and American Lutheran. But I think most of those were at least
partially German background. There were a good number of Hansons
and Johnsons and names like that.
JRL: Scandinavians down there too.
JRL: What did baptism and confirmation mean in your
JLS: That was always a very important time, signal
in one's life. We weren't too aware of it as children. We just
knew it was very important to be baptized. It wasn't very long,
or you didn't hesitate. You just did it as soon as Mom came home
from the hospital, and the next Sunday was baptism. I remember
confirmation was very important. I, myself, was confirmed in third
grade, which is not the tradition now. Now they are at least 15
or 16 before they are confirmed. But I was confirmed in the third,
or fourth grade, excuse me. Because I remember the play that our
teacher wrote about the gifts of the Holy Sprit and all, so that
we could get it all in our minds. As a teaching, then we presented
that play to our parents. It was a very big day. I was confirmed
in May. It was very muddy. These are my recollections of it. It
was very muddy and everyone else was disappointed because they
could not go. The only ones who could go to my confirmation were
my parents and myself because we had to go in the pickup. So the
rest of them stayed home. But otherwise, had we been able to go
in the car, everyone would have been there.
JRL: And you probably would have had a big dinner
at the house.
JLS: Right. Right.
JRL: Did you have a lot of relatives close by too?
JLS: We had one set of cousins in Flasher, and then
my grandparents lived in Flasher. But we had about five or six
sets of cousins on my dad's side in Bismarck and Mandan. And every
year, in the summers they would often come out, different ones,
and sometimes we'd have everybody together for a family picnic.
And my mother, to this day, is very adamant about having family
picnics in the summer. We don't call them reunions, but whoever
can come comes. This is a day when all of the A.M. Schafers are
getting together, and this is the day when all of them... Adam...
A.M. would be our family, but M.J. is my grandpa's family, so
it is "the M. J. Schafers are getting together this Sunday,"
and "the A.M. Schafers are getting together this Sunday."
JRL: A strong sense of family. That's neat.
JLS: Oh yes.
JRL: Are you familiar with wrought iron crosses.?
Is that something in that area?
JLS: I really couldn't say, although I know that
we visited the cemeteries, and I know that there are some, but
I really don't know too much about them. I don't even know if
they have them on the graves of my grandparents. I don't know
much about that.
JRL: Who are the keepers of your family treasures?
Do you have some old things in the family?
JLS: Yes. We have some things right now that are
stored in my parents' house, stored in their basement, from Grandpa
Schafer when he died in '89, and he was 93 years old. Since my
father lives in the farm home that all of his brothers and sisters
grew up in, they would be the keepers of the family treasures.
I remember when my grandpa died, the word was spread to me, or
told to me, "now you're going to be the one in charge because
you are a librarian and you can put everything in order."
Well, that never really materialized because we didn't know what
we were going to do with the things. But Grandpa's daughters live
in Bismarck, three of them, and two sons up there, so I'm not
sure whose got all the photo albums and things, but I know some
of the other things, my parents have.
JRL: Are you related to the governor, by any chance?
JLS: No. Our names are spelled exactly the same,
but there's no relationship.
JRL: There are a lot of Schafers.
JLS: Many Schafers, but not many who spell theirs
like we do.
JRL: More with two "f"s?
JLS: Yes, or "ae". But ours is just plain
S-c-h-a-f-e-r. I did look on an old map of North Dakota that we
had in our house when Medora became popular, I supposed we'd be
back in the '60s when I was becoming map conscious and things
like that... I noticed on a map a little town out in western North
Dakota called Schafer, and it was always my desire to find out
about that. Then when I read about Harold Schafer restoring Medora
and all of that, I thought there must be some connection, because
it's very close to Medora. Well, it may have been one of those
early post offices that was on land on the farmstead of a Schafer,
and that's why it got the name Schafer. And it probably was the
family of Harold Schafer, the governor. But we have no relationship
JRL: Did you get to Medora?
JLS: Oh, yes. I've been there a couple of times.
JRL: Do you remember going to wedding dances when
you were young?
JLS: Oh yes. I grew up learning to dance at the wedding dances.
Now, my family... my father is somewhat shy and retiring. I wouldn't
call him shy, but he just doesn't like crowds. He would much rather
be at home on his little domain, on his little land. My mother,
however, is just the opposite. She would like to go more often.
But many of us inherited that tendency of my father's, to like
to stay on the land, and if we get out, that's okay. So we didn't
go to many wedding dances that were not our relatives. For all
of our relatives we were there, but we didn't go to many others
in the community. And consequently, I learned to dance with my
uncles at these wedding dances.
JRL: And what did you dance?
JLS: Oh, the Butterfly, the Two-Step... what else?
I don't really dance the Polka very well. And waltzes, of course.
I love to watch them dance the Polka.
JRL: Yes. It's very tiring. What kind of foods were
served at weddings, then?
JLS: Well I remember at the reception, we'd have
the bottle of that little... was it Red Eye, or was it...
JRL: Yes, hochzeits schnaps.
JRL: But it was Red Eye.
JLS: Whisky. Burnt sugar, Grandpa would say, it
was just burnt sugar.
JRL: With a little alcohol.
JLS: And we didn't know what it was as children,
but we were very happy that they included us and that we got a
little drink. That was the only time that we ever had any alcohol
in our house. We just didn't have anything in our house, but we
saw it at the weddings. Other than that, I don't remember any
specific foods. I know that Grandma did make kuchen, but not that
this was the famous Wedding Kuchen. Although it may have been,
but I was not aware of it when we were growing up.
JRL: And they always had such good kuchen, like
at Midnight Lunches, I do remember that, and probably sausage.
JLS: Now see, I don't remember that we were there
long enough to be at a Midnight Lunch, because the cows probably
had to be milked, so we had to get home and do it.
JRL: Or at least get some rest before you went.
So what about German foods in the home? Did your mother cook anything
JLS: Yes. She made homemade sausage when I was very
young. But it's very interesting how one's life is influenced
by the preferences of a parent. Now my dad hated to butcher, hated
that job of butchering, and so they would put it off until the
very end, until there was absolutely no meat in the house. Then
he'd butcher again. But he hated to make sausage, so we didn't
always make sausage. Maybe we had someone make it for us in town,
but I don't really remember that. I can only remember two or three
times that we made sausage. And my dad didn't like dough dishes,
made out of dough. Or he just simply couldn't eat them, couldn't
digest them or whatever. So my mother brought all these recipes
from home when she was married. In her recipe box, she has all
these recipes that she wrote out to make all these dough dishes
that her mother made that are just wonderful. And us kids love
them, but my dad couldn't eat them. So she rarely made them, unless
my dad was gone. He was a rural milk carrier substitute, when
we were growing up, as well as an electrician. He would sometimes
be gone on trouble-shooting calls for the neighbors. If he was
gone over a noon meal, like in the summertime or something, or
on Saturday when we were home from school, then we would talk
Mom into making one of those dough dishes.
JRL: Like what?
JLS: Well, like schoop noodla. That was our favorite
that Mom made. People talk about Käseknepfla (Cheese Buttons),
and we didn't have that because Dad didn't like it. So really
the only thing that I can think of is those schoop noodla, or
else, when we make scent dough to bake bread... then Mom would
take off the top, pinch off a bit of the raw dough and cut it
off, and then fry it, I think, or boil it.
JRL: Fry it. Deep fry it.
JLS: Well, no, not deep fried. She would steam it.
She would have potatoes and onions steaming, and then she would
drop these little balls on top to cover the potatoes, and then
that would steam it in a big black frying pan.
JRL: Like dumplings.
JLS: Yes, dumplings, but they're made out of that
JRL: Oh, I know, and not everyone makes them like
that. I did another interview and the lady gave me the recipe
for her dumplings, but they are way different. My mother made
them from dough too, and usually on wash day. I don't know why,
on the busiest day, that she'd have to make a kettle of maybe
pork chops and then lots of potatoes and onions. And then she'd
also make bread and cut off that dough and maybe roll it like
this, or maybe round, lay them on the top, and that was dumplings.
JLS: And then you couldn't lift the cover on the
kettle because they would fall. So we grew up not liking those
things you make out of Bisquick... like dumplings, bread biscuits
or whatever you call them. Because after you ate those bread dough
dumplings, what else... you can't eat anything else.
JRL: Nothing takes its place. What about Käseknepfla?
JLS: We did not make that in our family either,
and I think it's because my dad did not like it. We didn't, that
I recollect, make sauerkraut, which was really rare. But I don't
ever have a recollection of them making it. I know once in a while
we would talk Mom or Dad into making some rhubarb wine. But I
can say maybe two or three years we made that and then we'd just
have a little sip of that. Other than that, I can't remember other
things that we made.
JRL: Were there barn dances in your day?
JLS: No, no. That was earlier.
JRL: What are some of the games that you played
as a child? There were so many of you in the family.
JLS: Oh, we played Red Rover. And I heard someone
mention Anti-Over. Dad taught us that, I remember. There was a
little game called Nep? Just with Sister Alberta...
JRL: Oh, the one that might be interviewed.
JLS: Sister Barbara Marie. We played that, especially
when my uncles, my dad's brothers would come. They would carve
the... whittle the sticks and whittle the little "nep"
that you played with, and someone would say, "Let's go. Let's
start a game of Nep." So they taught us that when they'd
come home for these family picnics. But I can't say that us kids
sat down and played that by ourselves. We played baseball.
JRL: How do you spell Nep, do you know?
JLS: I don't know. Probably just how it sounds,
JRL: Do you remember anybody in that community who
did Brauche, or folk medicine?
JLS: No, I don't know anything about that.
JRL: Did your parents use any expressions in any
JLS: Oh, once in a while they had a few little German
things that they said in German, but we didn't know what they
meant, and it wasn't very much, no.
JRL: Did your family watch Lawrence Welk?
JLS: Yes. For some years. We couldn't always get
it on the television station. So it wasn't a common thing in our
house. Although, when we could get it, after a while, oh I just
mean for two or three years we could get it. But often at noon
after dinner would be ready and we were waiting for Dad to come
in from the fields, Mike Dosh played organ music, polkas and waltzes,
over KFYR in Bismarck. The Mike Dosh Hour.
JRL: You remember that?
JLS: I remember that, and Mom would pick one of
us kids up and dance around the kitchen with them, while we were
passing the time waiting for Dad to come in. When I was very little
I remember that.
JRL: I can't help but think how that instilled the
rhythm in you as young children. When you're older, if you didn't
have the experience, it's just harder to learn.
JLS: Right, right.
JRL: So how was your family history and culture
being passed onto the next generation?
JLS: Well, it's hard to answer that. However, my
grandfather told us these wonderful stories. Not such a variety
of them, but every time we'd see Grandpa in his later years, he
would tell us the same stories. So I remember when I left for
the convent; I left in June and then came back in December as
I mentioned before, as a Postulate... during that home visit there
in December of 1980 I said to Grandpa when I saw him, "Grandpa
would you please tell me all the details, because I don't know
of anybody else who is going to write it down, and I want to know."
So he gave me this, and I have it dated here, 12-15-1980. And
it was actually about three times as many slips of scratch paper
that I wrote down all these notes on, from stories that he said.
I said, "Now Grandpa, you always talk about all the different
jobs you had after you retired from farming. What were they?"
So he made me a list of all the things that he's done. And he
had this wonderful story about when he was in the war.
JRL: Which war?
JLS: First World War. He came over from... do you
want to hear all this, about when he came over and all this?
JRL: I think so.
JLS: Okay. Michael J. Schafer came over from the
colony of schweier in 1908 they immigrated. He was born in 1896,
so he would have been 100 in February. And he died in 1989. But
when he was about... well it was in 1918. He was inducted into
the war in February of 1918. He was a blacksmith and in charge
of about 104 men. He said they were in an Infantry Supply division,
where they would do the horseshoing, the shoeing of the horses
for the Army, for the Infantry. He was a foreman in that blacksmith
shop. So there were 52 forges and two men working at each forge,
and he was in charge of them. Well, when the influenza came, it
swept through the camp too, and he felt it coming to him one day
that he needed to go to the doctor. So he took his registration
papers and his identification and he had them in his hand, and
he was standing in line to see the doctor. While he was there,
he collapsed in line. So there was such a large number of people
who needed attention, that someone saw him, that he had fallen...
they took his papers out of his hands and pinned them to the inside
of his shirt and took him to the warehouse where they stored the
dead. Because they said there are others who need more attention
than he does. He woke up after three days, is how I remember he
told me this story. Now, that's what we heard as children. But
when he gave me all this information for sure, he said he woke
up after a day and a night. He moaned in there for a day and a
night, and he thought, "By God, I'm too young to die. I got
lots to do in my life yet." So he caught the attention of
someone who was bringing in more dead bodies, and got their attention
and told them he wasn't ready for this place. By that time he
had double pneumonia, was checked into the hospital, and spent
31 days in the hospital. In fact he was so close to death that
the chaplain was asked to come give him the last rites of the
church, the Sacrament of Anointing we call it today. But after
31 days he was better, and they didn't actually discharge him,
but they made him an orderly. Gave him a First Aid course, where
he was taking temperatures and respirations and so forth. He said
he was finally discharged from the hospital on Armistice Day,
on November 11th, 1918. So then he went back to his Infantry company,
and later spoke to the same chaplain who had given him the last
rites. He was discharged from the Army in February of 1919.
JRL: Where was he at?
JLS: He was at Camp Custer in Battle Creek, Michigan.
That's where he was working in the Army.
JRL: That's a very interesting story.
JLS: We heard it hundreds of times as children.
That was Grandpa's story. He has another story he told about when
they came over from Germany, or from Russia. They came over in
1908, so he was about twelve, or he was fourteen years old. There
were eight people in their party: his parents, John Louie Schafer,
and his mother Magdaline, and then his older sister, Mary Eva,
and then there were these three boys - Michael John was my grandpa,
Louie John, and then Jerome John. Did you ever hear about that
custom about naming all the sons in the family... giving them
the middle name of the father?
JRL: Well, even my family... the males didn't even
have middle names.
JLS: Oh. This I find in all of the records that
Grandpa gave me. He was Michael John, and then his brother was
Louie John, and Jerome John. And they always see John as their
middle name because their dad's name was John. Now in my dad's
generation, the same thing happened to some of the boys. Grandpa
was Michael, and so my dad was Adam Michael, and there's Otto
Michael and Leo Michael, and the youngest son, James Michael.
But about three boys in between there did not receive Michael,
so it was already starting to change in the late 20's and 30's.
[end of side 1 of the tape - do not reset counter]
JRL: Your grandpa told you this story.
JLS: Yes. When they were coming over from the old
country, that there were these three boys, Michael, Louie and
Jerome, who were about... Grandpa was fourteen, so I suppose the
others were twelve and ten or something.
like that. When they were in Canada... the records say they came
to Halifax, but I always heard it was Regina, so I'm not sure
exactly where this happened, but I think it happened in Regina,
that they got separated from the rest of their family, at the
train station, I suppose it was. Grandpa says that he and his
two brothers wandered around that city for three days, and finally
found their way back to the train station, just as their family,
who had not given up hope, was ready to board... was waiting for
them there at the train station. So then they all got on together
and came on down to St. Paul and then came out to Mandan. And
then south to conclear was where they homesteaded.
JRL: Is that out there by Carsonz?
JLS: It's west of Mandan and south of St. Anthony.
If you follow No. 21down there, you pass St. Anthony, and there's
a junction of No. 21 and 6, and then west yet on that highway
about three miles north, there used to be just a big church yet,
and that was the site of the city of Belham. Now in the last ten
years, they've even moved the church, so there's actually nothing
there. But my grandparents homesteaded down there. That was in
1919 when my grandpa and grandma got married. But my dad was born
in '25 and he was born west and north of Flasher. So somehow they
had a fireplan there, by that time.
JRL: Well, that's very interesting. Did any of your
family succumb to that influenza then, do you know?
JLS: No. Not that I know of. Because I never heard
anything else about those who were living out here. Of course,
our family only started with Grandpa here, in 1919 when he got
married. Just let me say this too, about who he married. He married
a woman named Barbara Fix is ok and she was from the same village,
the colony of Schweier in South Russia. He knew that her family
had come over here, and they were settled up north by Halliday
and Werner. There was a little town called Werner, and Anton Fix
was her father's name. Genevieve Wanner was her mother. I suppose
Grandma was about... if Grandpa was 22, so she must have been
about 18. They did not know each other, but Grandpa knew of their
family. This is the story I heard, that he went up to Halliday
one day to get her, to decide that she was going to be his wife.
He was discharged in February and then they were married in July,
so sometime between February and July, he went up to Richardton
and got her. So it must have been just in July, because they were
married at Richardton Abby, in Richardton on the way home. Then
he brought her back. But they lived at Flasher.
JRL: Well this has been a most interesting interview.
I sure thank you for taking your time to do this for NDSU, and
we'll get this transcribed and get a copy to you.
JLS: Okay, thank you very much.
[end of taping session]