Conducted by Michael M. Miller (MM)
November 8, 1993, Bismarck, North Dakota
Transcription by Dorothy Denis
Editing by Mary Lynn Axtman
This is Michael M. Miller, the Germans from Russia
Bibliographer at North Dakota State University in Fargo. It is
the 8th of November, 1993, and I am in Bismarck, North Dakota
with Eva (Gross) Schatz who was born on October 3rd, 1905.
MM: Eva, where were you born?
ES: South of Napoleon. At the home, my parents'
MM: What was the name of your father?
ES: Matthias Gross.
MM: Magnus Gross?
ES: Yes, Matthias and Barbara Gross. Barbara
Schweitzer, Matthias Gross.
MM: Matthias Gross. And you know when he
ES: I don't know.
MM: And your mother's name was?
MM: Barbara Schweitzer?
ES: Jah, Barbara Schweitzer.
MM: Now, were they born in the old country?
ES: They were born in Russia. Yah, in the
MM: Do you know the name of the village
ES: I think my mother was in the Straßburg
MM: And your father was in Mannheim, I think.
ES: Mannheim, yes. Jah.
MM: How old were they when they came over
ES: My mother was 17 years old when she
came with her parents, with John and Christine Schweitzer. And
she always, she said when she was here that she got so homesick,
if she could walk back, she sure would walk back. That is the
way, she always was homesick at the beginning when she was here.
She was 17 years old. And my father was a soldier in Russia. When
his parents.... John and Benedicta Gross was his parents. When
they wanted to come to the United States of America, then he had
two years still to go [in the army] and they wanted to wait until
he was done. Then he said, "He would advise [that] they should
go. If they would wait for two more years, then his next brother
Clements had to go in the army." So they went. And then he stayed
for two more years. And then he came and he brought his cousin,
Raphael Gross along. Raphael Gross and Agathe, they had no parents
anymore, so he took Raphael along. And later on, had Agathe, Raphael
had dene rüberkomme g'lasst, [they came over].
MM: What year was this about?
ES: I realIy cannot say.
MM: Say the exact year?
ES: Exactly the year? Yah. And the way I
had understand, my father was about 26 years old when he got married.
He was 25 when he came from Russia.
MM: Did he come alone or with his parents,
ES: Two years after his parents came.
MM: I see. So, your grandparents....
ES: Ja, my grandparents....
MM: Came first?
ES: Came first, yah.
MM: And were they invited to come over or
how did they get to North Dakota?
ES: Well, this I would have to look at the
history. I can't remember this.
MM: Now, the parents of your father and
mother both came to America? Your grandparents on both your father
and mother side, they both came to America?
ES: Yes, they both came. They both came.
They both were in good health when they came, yah.
MM: Did they come with families? How many
children did each have? About how many?
ES: Well, my father had two sisters and
four brothers. Yah. And my mother had more. My mother had about
twelve in all, brothers and sisters. Yah.
MM: They all came to America?
ES: They all came to America, yah.
MM: At different times they came?
ES: Yah, yah. But I think my parents, the
Schweitzer's parents, my mother's parents were here before. They
landed up in the Hague area, south..., north from Hague. North
from Hague. What we used to call the "Crik" there. They had a
farm first there.
MM: Now, did your folk's talk much about
the "old country"? What it was like back there in Russia?
ES: Well, in my time they didn't talk too
much anymore. I think not much in my time [but before], see. My
oldest brother was John. He was six years older than I because
two little boys died older than I. Jah. Then I am first. Jah.
MM: So they didn't talk too much about the
"old country" and you didn't ask too much about it?
ES: No, no. No, not too much anymore. Jah.
MM: Did your folks learn to speak English?
ES: No, no. They even... You know, we had
Father Stephen Stenger there in church. That was St. Anthony's
Church, south of Napoleon where we used to live, yah. And we had
Father Stephen Stenger there. I was baptized with him and went
to my First Holy Communion [also]. And when that came out, from
the English language to the United States of America, he was awfully
against that race. "You should keep your mother's language!" "Don't
listen to them!" That's the way it went at that time. Yah. And
I was the oldest of the girls. And my mother was always sick with
rheumatism and stuff, then I didn't get too much in the English
school. For German, they teach me German but nothing else at that
time. What the little bit that I know talking, I learned by myself.
Not in school.
MM: How many children were in your family?
Brothers and sisters?
ES: In my family? What I had?
MM: No, no. Brothers and sisters?
ES: Oh, in my family! Just John and two
other boys would be older than I, but those other boys died before
me. And I and we was 6 girls, we six sisters. One is not living
anymore. John does not live anymore and one of the sisters, now
Christine died. They both died from cancer.
MM: So your folks grew up in Logan County?
ES: Logan County, yes.
MM: Settled in Logan County?
ES: They used to live 15 miles.... Thirteen
miles south of Napoleon and two miles west. It was 15 miles [altogether]
where we used to live from Napoleon. And there was three quarters
of a mile, was to St. Anthony's Church there.
MM: So, the church was...? Church and religion
was very important in your family?
ES: Jah, jah. Religion, that was important,
MM: Did they...? Did you have all your prayers
ES: Yes. Everything in German, yah. I went
to First Holy Communion in German and came to [religion] school
`til I can read good German. At that time, they taught German
is important. Yah.
MM: Can you still read German today?
ES: Yes. Oh yah, I still can read German.
MM: Oh, wonderful!
MM: Now, when you went to the country school...?
ES: Not quite a full year to the English
school. Not a full year. In the fall, I had to stay home `til
everything is..., the work is done, and then in the spring, before
seeding time, I had to stay home, again. Not quite a full year
of the English school.
MM: So, schooling for you...? Much of it,
you had to learn on your own at home?
ES: I had to learn on my own. When we were
married already, the most I learned is [from] the TV. And two
of my boys [also learned] when they were married too and grown
up. Matt and Leo, they had to go, Matt in the army, and Leo in
the navy. And Matt had to stay in Korea, he was for two years
in Korea. It was after that, after that war, after the Korean
War. He always said, "He can read. If I write it, he can read
it." He understands. And then my oldest daughter brought me a
dictionary and by myself then, I wrote the English letters.
MM: Wonderful. So, still today you can read
ES: Read and write. And write German and
write English, I can.
MM: Now you remember, of course, going back
to the farm when you were growing up and so forth, and you had
a lot of chores to do?
ES: Yes, yes.
MM: What were your main chores?
ES: Well, we milked some cows with the hand
at that time. That was not easy, the hand milking. Because there
was only one brother, he was much older. And when he got married,
he went to a different farm. And then we, our dad and me, had
to do, did the farm work. Making the hay, and everything. I did
everything, I helped outside.
MM: Did they have some real good horses
on the farm?
ES: Good horses. We had good horses on the
farm. We worked with the horses at that time, yes.
MM: There were no vehicles at that time?
Everything was with the horses?
ES: Yah. And we worked with three, two plows
and one drill. I always had to work with one plow and the other
one, my brother, and my dad works with a drilling. Then after
my brother got married, I had to do the drilling and two of my
sisters, younger sisters did the plow. Field work, jah.
MM: What about in the home? Did your mother
do a lot of cooking?
ES: Well, she did the cooking, yah. She
does the cooking. Jah.
MM: Did you have to...? Did you learn a
lot from her on making meals and cooking?
ES: I learned everything early because I
didn't get to the English school. I had to stay at home and I
always had.... I say my mother had rheumatism so she cannot step
the sewing machine. At that time was no electricity, we had to
do with the feet. Yah, she cannot peddle that.
ES: Jah. And I was twelve years old, I made
the dresses already for me and for my sisters. I had to start
out and I could do it.
MM: Wonderful! And still today you can make
ES: Yes, yes.
MM: Because I see here in your home, you
have your sewing machine with you.
ES: That's why I took it along.
MM: Wonderful! So at 88, you are still making
ES: Yah. And if I bought me a pair of slacks
and there were no pockets in, I go to the sewing machine and put
some pockets in.
why I use the machine.
What did your mother used to make? What kind of special meals
did she make?
ES: Oh, special meals
MM: Oh, how did you
ES: With the pumpkins.
ES: With the pumkins,
yah. We scrubbed the pumpkins out and we scraped the middle out.
And we put some sugar, sugar and a little bit pepper, little bit
salt in, mixed it up. And onion, a little bit of onion and mix
it up. And make a dough almost like pie dough but not quite as
fat than the pie dough. Not as fat. That's the way to make Plachenta.
MM: So that means
you had to raise some pumpkins?
ES: Yah. And then
we made potato soup. Plachenta or they made.... They butchered
always their own meat, their own pigs. There was always this and
sauerkraut, the potatoes and meat. Different, different foods.
But they don't, I think only twice a year they came to the grocery
store. That's all at that time, with the horses. Jah.
MM: Is that right?
ES: About twice a
year, jah. They raised all their own food at that time.
MM: So there were
ES: Big garden, yes.
We had a big garden. We raised our own onions and string beans.
ES: Corn, everything.
MM: How did they keep
all of this through the whole winter?
ES: The meat? They
were out in the granary, in a big 'rut' barrel. In a Stand sagt
mer in Deitsch. They salt it and they kept. Was good.
MM: What about the
canning? There was a lot of canning I bet going on?
ES: On that... In
the earlier time, not too much.
MM: Not too much canning
ES: No. In the fall,
they always bought a few boxes apples. Big boxes apples and took
along home. And they took 100 pounds sugar, or 200 pounds sugar
MM: So on the farm, all these people, these
immigrants that came from Russia, they had to have big gardens?
ES: Oh, yah. They had to make their own
MM: Where did they get all the seed for
ES: Well, if they raised watermelons, they
saved the seeds. Everything what they raised, they saved the seeds
for next year. To put it in the garden, [to] put it out.
MM: And then they get to town not too often,
ES: My folks came about twice a year or
three times a year with a wagon in the first years. Yah, to town.
We lived 50 miles from a town with a wagon. Jah.
MM: That's far away.
ES: Ja. And always in the fall, when they
hauled the wheat in with the wagons, they brought us stuff. Boxes
[of] prunes they buy and a few boxes apples.
ES: I think cherries was not even at that
time. We didn't get the cherries at that time. No, no cherries.
MM: So, then you had to.... Later on then,
they started doing canning and so forth? Where did they store
all the canned goods?
ES: The cellar. They had a root cellar.
MM: They had a root cellar that was outside,
ES: We had a big root cellar outside. And
[in] that root cellar, we put potatoes on a pile. And there were
one barrel with pickled watermelons and one barrel with pickled
cucumbers. Those cucumbers at that time, they were..., in the
springtime still good. Still better than those canned nowadays.
ES: I don't know if it was in the water,
the chemicals what is now in or what. They kept so good. I know
some neighbors came with gallon pails in the springtime to get
some cucumbers from us. This I can remember, yah.
MM: Of course, that food that was in the
root cellar and the meat that was stored, that would hold you
for the whole winter?
ES: For the whole winter, yes.
MM: Now, what kind of house was built? What
kind of house was it?
ES: We had a sod house.
MM: You grew up in a sod house?
ES: I grew up in a sod house, yes.
MM: How was that sod house built? You remember
ES: Yes. I know good. There was two big
rooms and [in] each room was two beds and the middle was the kitchen.
Yah. And they had a little room [in] the front, a little entrance
on the front where the cream seperator is usually. And for heat?
For heating at that time, we didn't have coal. Coal? We couldn't
get coals. Coal. They made their own with manure they made. And
in the entrance for the wintertime, set the pile [of manure fuel]
to ;keep] dry. Stacked in there.
MM: Cow chips?
ES: Cow chips, yah. Yah, yah.
MM: And so, do you remember going out and
getting those cow chips?
ES: I even had to help pick up some when
I was young, yah. Yes. Oh, yah. One thing happened to me on [in]
that sod house. My mother was ironing in the kitchen and at that
time, they had to heat the cook stove for to make the iron hot.
There was no electricity. And she ironed and finally I think,
she took some of the ironing what she had done and it was hot
in there because we had to heat the stove. And she had to have
the door all the way open to get air in because it got so hot.
And I was about a year and a half old about. I was standing there
and watched and finally she took some clothes and went into that...,
on her own bed. I was standing there and then a bunch of the neighbor's
sheep, about 12 or 14 sheeps came running in through the door.
They came to our yard and our dogs chased them a little and they
just came into the kitchen and run around the table. I went back
to the wall and I watched them and I was scared. And then they
went out again. This I still can remember. I think I was not quite
two years old at that time. Yah.
MM: So the cow chips that was dried was
used for the warmth?
ES: You know, they put all the manure from
the farm, from the horses and the cows during the winter in one
pile. In the springtime, they had the horses run around and making
tight [packed] about a foot and a half deep. And then when it
was dry, then with the shovels they make pieces. Yah. And then
set them apart to dry. And then when it was all dry, then they
put them in a big pile. And in the fall, they put some in that
entrance so they didn't have to go out and get some when it was
so cold. That's the way they had to heat those sod houses. Jah.
And I think in 1912, they had a big crop. Nice big crop. My parents
had to hire two hired men for with a header box and then they
bought their first car at that time. And about in 1916, they built
a big house, a big, wooden house. Jah. So that house is still
down at that farm. My daughter's.... Then my youngest, when they
all married, my youngest daughter stayed on the farm. She was
married to Dick Brendel. Still one of her boys is on that farm,
with that place.
MM: Is the sod house still standing?
ES: No. They teared up the sod house. After
this was done [building the wooden house], they teared up the
sod-house. Hauled them away.
MM: Now was there a summer kitchen?
we had a summer kitchen. Not in the first years, but I still can
remember when they built the summer kitchen, yes. Just for cooking
or so. It was too hot always in the summer to cook.
Let's talk a little bit Eva, now about the holidays. About holidays.
Like now, soon we'll be approaching Christmas. What do remember
as a child about Christmas? Did your mother do a lot of baking
preparing for Christmas?
ES: Well, they have....
They gave us always a little box full of candies and peanuts and
that stuff and we really appreciated it. We really waited for
Was there a Santa Claus?
ES: Yes. There came
a Santa Claus around always.
MM: Now, how did he
ES: Some of the neighbors
got dressed like a Santa Claus. A Christkindl. They had the Christkindl
at that time.
MM: How did he arrive
in the farm yard?
ES: I think they came
outside with the sled but we didn't look out when we were young.
Later on, when I grew up, we went around with that. With that
Antone Welder, was the neighbor. Mrs. Antone Welder, she always
fixed that stuff for Christkindl and for Santa Claus. And then
the bunch of us with the sled with the horses [went] to some neighbors
who had little children. Yah. And played Santa Claus and played
Christkindl. Christkindl was.... At that time, was [what] the
MM: Was there a Belzenickel?
ES: Belzenickel? That's
Santa Claus! That makes the Belzenickel.
ES: Belzenickel und
Christkindl. Sometimes we didn't take the Belzenickel along. We
didn't want to scare out the children. Just the Christkindl.
MM: And angels, too?
ES: No, no. No, just
the Christkindl. See, they made the Christkindl with.... I want
to say a big hat and lot of ribbons hanging down at that hat and
had like a lace cloth or a white lace cloth over. That way was
that Christkindl made.
MM: And of course,
the children got scared then?
ES: Jah, there was
some [that] got scared. The Christkindl had in one hand a little
'Rut'[a switch] and when they [the children] want to pick up the
stuff [candies], make 'em with the 'Rut' a little scared. That's
MM: Yes. Was there a lot of singing at Christmas
ES: Yes, yes. All German singings at that
time. We all sang German songs.
MM: You don't remember any of those songs?
ES: The German songs?
ES: Yes. Maria zu lieben is one. I have
a copy someplace with German songs. Jah.
MM: And then of course, on Christmas were
you able to go to church then? Were you able to go to Midnight
ES: Yes, yes. We went to Midnight Mass,
yes. And the Mass was with candlelight in the church. Candlelights.
The Christmas tree was with all candles. There were no electric
bulbs at that time. All little colored candles on there.
MM: They were all lit for Christmas?
ES: Yah, yah.
MM: Did you have a Christmas tree in your
ES: In the first years, not. But later on,
we had one. Yah.
MM: You had it with the candles too?
ES: Yah, with the candles. A little one
with the candles, jah. Just for Christmas Eve, that's all. For
Christmas Eve we used it with the candles. We cannot use them
too long or we had to change the candles.
MM: When was the Christmas tree put up?
ES: Just before Christmas Day.
MM: On the 24th of December?
ES: On the 24th, yes. Was the Christmas
tree put up and in the churches and all over, always on the 24th.
Yes. And they kept it in `til the Three Kings [feast day]. That
was January 6th. January 6th was Three Kings and 'til after that
was always Christmas in church.
MM: Right. After Christmas Eve Mass, you
would go home and would they have a nice meal?
ES: In the evening before we went to church,
we had to eat.
MM: Before you went to church?
ES: Yes. And then when we came home at night,
we didn't eat anymore. We went to bed.
MM: What do you remember...? If you look
on the table for Christmas Eve, what kind of food would be standing
ES: Oh, special? Little bit special food.
I really cannot remember everything what we had.
MM: A lot of goodies?
ES: A lot of goodies and stuff, yah.
MM: What kind of kuchen did they make?
ES: Deutschekuchen with prunes, yah.
MM: Cheese kuchen and so forth?
ES: Yah. Cheese Kuchen and Deutschekuchen,
jah. That's what they made and apple pies. Apple pies we had,
MM: Did they have some soup, too?
ES: Yes. We always on a Sunday or on holiday,
we always had chicken noodle soup. Yah.
MM: And Borscht once in a while?
MM: Now, the Christmas Day after Christmas
Eve and so forth, the children would have their gifts for Christmas
Day. What do they usually do for Christmas Day?
ES: On Christmas Day? Well, we sang. And
on evenings, we with the walnuts, we played on the floor. That
was a wooden floor [at] that time. We played. I have on one end,
a few sat there and my brother had the other end a few and we
played like...? Try to get those that way. The way they play now...?
When they throw the balls.
ES: Like bowling. Almost like that with
the nuts. That's what we played in the evenings. This I can remember
when we were little kids.
MM: What other games did they play, do you
remember? When you were growing up, you remember any other games?
Of course, you played cards.
ES: No, no. We didn't play cards. Not too
much of playing cards. Did not play too much at that time.
MM: Did your folk's have a lot of entertainment?
A lot of people coming in to visit?
ES: Well, some. We lived on a farm. Then
it's not too close in the wintertime. Not too many. There is some
always came. Then later on, my mother's sister Anna, she was married
to Nicklaus Aberle and they had to get the mail in our place.
The mail was there were besides the church. There were mailboxes
and they lived quite a ways south from there and they always stopped
in and then they there for dinner. We played then with those kids.
We played outside with a little wagon and stuff later on.
MM: What about Easter time? What was Easter
like? Remember Easter growing up on the farm?
MM: What was special on Easter?
ES: We made little Easter nests when we
were little kids outside. Outside, in the evenings before. The
next morning, there was some Easter eggs in and we thought the
Easter rabbit brought those. That's what we had thought. We thought
the Easter rabbit brought those. We each got about 4 or 6 eggs,
colored eggs in the Easter nest. That's what I know.
MM: And then of course, there were a lot
of church services during Easter?
ES: Oh, yah, oh yah. At that time was more
holiday service than now. Yah. A lot more.
MM: And then of course, during the time
you were growing up, namesdays were celebrated.
ES: Always namesdays, yes. At that time,
they did not celebrate birthdays. Just namesdays, yah.
MM: They would have a big gathering?
ES: Yah. People came on the namesday.
MM: Was there a lot of singing then, too?
ES: Oh, yah.
MM: What were some of those German songs
ES: Well, there was O du lieber Augustin
and Verschiedene song. A lot of different songs.
MM: Do you remember any of those songs?
Did you do a lot of singing?
ES: I remember but I am not the best when
I had to sing alone without music.
MM: You have to have somebody with you?
ES: Jah, jah.
MM: What about the namesdays? A lot of card
ES: Well, they played cards and they drank
whiskey and they sang.
MM: Did they make their own liquor?
ES: Yes, they made their own liquor. That
was later. In the first years, not. Later on, they burnt their
whiskey. They made the whiskey.
MM: How did they make the whiskey?
ES: They put some wheat in a 50 gallon barrel
and put water in. I am not too sure how long they had to set that.
They had a little machine and they heat that. And [before], they
had put sugar in, a lot of sugar I guess, too. And I am not sure
but I know they put wheat in and sugar and water I guess, for
a few days. And they put it in a little machine, in the oven they
heated and then a little whiskey came out. But in the beginning,
my father always bought a quart or two quarts [of] whiskey from
town. Took it home and he mixed it the way they needed. They browned
sugar, make sugar brine and water. I think two to one they mixed
it. With that sugar and whiskey, two water and one whiskey.
MM: I suppose some of these different drinks
they made were also very important for a wedding?
ES: Yah. They used to make wine later on,
with grapes. Yah.
MM: They buy grapes and make wine, huh?
ES: They bought grapes and they put them
in a barrel and they made wine with that. I cannot remember this
too good how they made the wine.
MM: Because your folks remembered back in
the "old country", there were a lot of grapes.
ES: Yah, that's all what they did. The way
I had understand from my folks, they always drank wine at every
meal in Russia at that time. They had always wine in every meal.
MM: What about a wedding? What was a wedding
like? Do you remember when you were growing up, were the weddings
a pretty big event?
ES: Yah. On the weddings, they invited the
brothers and sisters to the parents and the closest neighbors.
The neighbors, yah. They had that sugar Kuchen they passed around
MM: Now for weddings you know, when a boy
and a girl would get together and meet each other, was that arranged?
Or did they just met each other or was there some help?
ES: Yah, they met each other at that time.
Yah. That time when I was growing up, they met each other.
MM: The weddings lasted just one day?
ES: One day. Yes. Yes, one day.
MM: What about the services? Were they held
in the nearby church? The church services?
ES: Yes, yes.
MM: Was there dancing?
ES: At that time, they sang in German. When
I got married, they sang in German. One song I can remember. After
the Mass when we walked out, they sang Das Eheband ist gemacht
und brechen kann's niemand als göttliche Macht.
MM: Repeat that again. That's interesting.
ES: Das Eheband ist gemacht und brechen
kann's niemand als göttliche Macht.
ES: This I can still remember when they
sang that song.
MM: And then did you have a dance?
ES: Yes. Then we had a...[dance] when we
went home. It [weddings] usually at that time was Mondays in the
mornings. The Mass [was] not [in the] evenings. And then they
had dinner. And then in the afternoon, they were dancing. Then
supper and in the evening was dancing for a while.
MM: Now, the dance was right on the farm?
ES: On the farm. Yes.
MM: In the barn or where was the dance?
ES: No, in our summer kitchen.
MM: Oh, you had a big summer kitchen?
ES: A big summer kitchen, yes. That was
in the summer kitchen.
MM: Oh, my! Well, who played for the dance?
ES: It was Pete Silbernagel at that time.
[He] played for our wedding, yah. With one hand organ.
MM: Do you remember Eva, when you were growing
up and you were a teenager and so forth, you remember going to
ES: Yes, we went to dances but not too much.
Not the way they go nowadays.
MM: Who were some of the bands that you
went to see?
MM: Who were some of the orchestras that
ES: It was usually that Pete Silbernagel.
He was a farmer there, almost a neighbor to us. He always played
a little. Barn dances and so around there.
MM: Did you ever get over to Strasburg or
Linton for the dances?
ES: No. No, I never get up to Strasburg.
MM: So, you never got to see, to hear....
ES: We had that big schoolhouse beside St.
Anthony's church. And at that schoolhouse were sometimes some
dances where I was before.
MM: Did Lawrence Welk ever come over and
ES: No. No, he didn't come there.
MM: You never got to hear him play?
ES: No, no. But my husband had told me that
he came to Zeeland, close there for a barn dance and played. This
was before we got married but I was not there.
MM: Then you grew up and got married in
ES: In 1925 I got married, yah. I was 20
MM: What was the name of your husband?
ES: Casper Schatz.
MM: He grew up near Zeeland?
ES: Near Zeeland on a farm, yah. I met him
first when his sister got married to Carl Leier. Carl Leier was
a cousin to me and when he got married, I was his bridesmaid and
he got married to my husband's sister. So that's when I met my
husband the first time. I was 15 years old at that time.
MM: You went and lived on the farm near
ES: When we got married? A mile and a half
east and a mile and a half north of Zeeland on a farm.
MM: So, your husband bought a farm?
ES: Bought that farm there, yah. Yah. His
parents..., the first year I lived with his father. His father
was a widow man and we lived with him the first year. He was just
straight a mile and a half east of Zeeland.
MM: How big a family did you raise, Eva?
ES: Eight children. Four boys and four girls.
MM: And their names?
ES: Ida, Angeline, Barbara, Matt, Leo, Joe,
Mary Ann, and then Tom. Tom lives in Beulah. Leo lives in Aberdeen,
South Dakota, and Matt has a nice store in Pierre, South Dakota.
And the oldest of the girls lives in Rapid City, South Dakota.
And Angeline, the second one, is in Ellendale. She is still teaching
school over there. For many years, she taught school. She's a
MM: You got married in 1925 and stayed on
the farm until what year?
ES: We lived 20 years in town, but what
year I would have to look it up. When we retired, [we] moved to
Zeeland and lived in town twenty years and then my husband passed
away. He died. And this a little bit over a year there. And then
I came up here. My children didn't want me alone there. Because
none of the family was living there and there was no hospital
there. They wanted that I come here to this place. I have one
son living here in Mandan and he works at the Capitol. He always
brings my groceries. And if I need something, I just call him
up and tell him. Or if I have to go see a doctor, he will take
MM: When you were married and living on
the farm in 1926, by then did you already have some vehicles?
In 1926, were you still using horses?
ES: In 1926, yes. We still worked with horses.
Oh yah, at that time.
MM: And no electricity?
ES: No electricity, but in a few years....
When we went alone first, we had the small house there. Then a
few years later, we built a bigger house. And then with an engine,
a tractor something we fixed to pump the water into the house
and use it for the wash machine. Yah, until we got the electricity.
End of Side 1
Start side 2
MM: When you were living with your husband,
you were still using horses?
ES: In the first years, yes. We worked with
MM: How did they have light in the house?
ES: Kerosene lights. Yah.
MM: And by then, you were no longer using
cow chips for heat?
ES: No. At that time, we bought coals, yah.
We used coal and wood when we were married.
MM: Do you recall the first time when you
bought a vehicle? A car?
ES: Yah. I think my husband's father had
a car and my husband always had to drive that car as long as they
were together. And later on then, we went alone. Maybe a year
or two [later] and then we bought ourselves a car. A Ford.
MM: So, you remember getting to town then
with that car? You drove to Zeeland and so forth?
MM: Then later on as you were married, did
you have much time to go to dances or anything like that? Or just
busy on the farm?
ES: Oh, there was a few dances that we would
go to in town, usually.
MM: And who would play at those dances?
ES: I still can't remember who played.
MM: At that time, everybody was still speaking
ES: Yes, that's all what we know was German
at that time. Yah.
MM: So your children grew up only speaking
ES: Yah. And you know, I'll tell you I had
no chance for going to the English schools and I always thought
it was not good for children not going to school. We let our children
go all through the high school in Zeeland and to college too.
They all had an education, college too. Yes, and they thought
it was not good enough.
MM: You thought it was important even though
you didn't have schooling yourself?
ES: Yes. Yes, it was important.
MM: Did some of your children go to country
ES: Yes. In the first years, they all went
to country school until the eighth grade. Then they went to town
to high school. They went about 3/4 of a mile from us to the country
MM: And they walked to school?
ES: Yes, they walked to school. Oh, winters
when it was too cold, my husband gave them a ride.
MM: How did he get them to school then?
With the horses?
ES: Yes, with the horses [and] the sled.
The double sled and the horses on. Yah.
MM: And then they would have school nine
ES: No, I think it was only seven months
at that time. Yah.
MM: So later on then, about when did you
start learning the English?
ES: Well, right away. I listened to the
radio and that way I picked up a little. I picked up on my own
on the radio. And the writing, I had a book with English and German
the same, too.
MM: Do you remember like the first times
you could listen to the radio? As a child, was there a radio?
ES: No, not when I was growing up. I was
about 16 years old, then there was one farmer had a radio. And
we went there to listen to that radio. When we heard it, I really
couldn't believe it. That somebody could talk from far away. The
first time I heard the radio, that was [at] Bob Parkins. That
was an English man on a farm with the first radio and neighbors
went there to listen to that radio.
MM: A lot of those people that came to the
farm to listen to that radio.... Of course, the radio show was
in English so they didn't always understand it. But they were
ES: Oh, we can understand a little because
we had in the German school, we had something there. The English
was with the same thing [in German].
MM: Translated, huh?
MM: So, what were the names of some of those
early shows on the radio? Do you remember any of them?
ES: I know it but it just doesn't come to
mind. There was two guys, they were funny. But I can't think of
MM: Was it Amos and Andy?
ES: Yes! Amos and Andy.
MM: And when you got married, there was
more radio shows. Do you remember any of those?
ES: Bob Parker, I guess. I really can't
MM: And then of course, later on TV came
into the scene. When was the first time you had TV? Did you have
it on the farm already?
ES: Yes, we had it on the farm. As soon
as we had electricity on the farm, then we had a television.
MM: About what year did you have electricity?
ES: Yah, if I have to say the year, I can't
MM: It was in the 40's sometime then? Or
was it in the 30's?
ES: Yah, in the 30's, I guess.
MM: You had electricity then? The TV didn't
appear until the early fifties. You remember those early years
of course, when a person from North Dakota appeared on television,
Lawrence Welk. Do you remember watching him?
ES: Oh, yes. We watched Lawrence Welk. Yah.
MM: And Lawrence Welk, when he would come
on Saturday nights, the whole family would be watching?
ES: Yes, yes. We always watched.
MM: So you remember the time when the first
radio show was on? When you went to the farm and listened to the
radio for the first time? It must have been quite an experience
to listen to that radio?
ES: I can't remember what the shows were
on at that time.
MM: But you remember hearing the radio for
the first time? That must have been exciting?
ES: It was excitment. I couldn't hardly
believe it. I thought it's just a machine that's talking.
MM: And now when you look back Eva, to your
life. You grew up in a sod house. And by the way, the sod house,
did it have hardwood floors?
ES: Yah, they had hard wood floor in it
and they painted with yellow floor paint always.
MM: Were the walls quite thick?
ES: Yah, and they had wallpaper inside.
The walls was about a foot and a half thick and the window sill
inside was real wide.
MM: Was it pretty cool in there in the summertime?
ES: Cool. Unless you had the oven on for
cooking, then you couldn't get the heat out. Otherwise, it was
cooler than in our other [wooden] house.
MM: How many children again were raised
in that sod house?
ES: All of us.
MM: That was how many?
ES: Three boys and six girls.
MM: Nine children and the parents? And there
were two bedrooms?
ES: Yah. On each side were two big rooms
and each room had two beds.
MM: So, everybody had to make do with the
space they had?
MM: The life you had way back when you were
growing up. You were born in 1905 and today it is 1993. You are
88 years old and you have such a wonderful memory and good health.
But when you look back to those early years and you think about
now, with all the conveniences they have now and those pioneer
days when you couldn't speak any English, what do you think about
sometimes when you are visiting with people?
ES: What I think [is] that if the generation
now had to live like we did without running water, had to go out
in the night in the outhouse, they could not live that way anymore
without running water.
MM: Would be difficult. Of course, everyone
had to heat their own water. When you would take a bath, it was
on Saturday night?
ES: Yes, yes. We had to haul in the water
always from the well into the house. And then we had a big washtub
and we sat in there and washed ourselves.
MM: Of course today, you live a wonderful
Christian life. The church is very important to you as it was
for all the early immigrants when they came to America. And so
many of our German-Russian people of course, settled in North
Dakota and especially in Emmons, McIntosh, and Logan County. And
still today, do your children speak German?
ES: They all know German but two of them
are married to English. Tom, his wife is English and Mary Ann's
husband is English. But [the others], they still can talk German.
Yah. The rest of them speak German here but with those, I speak
English because they cannot understand.
MM: Right. That's wonderful that on your
own through the radio and reading some books and the schooling
you had, you learned English yourself. Was this also true for
your husband? Did he speak English, too?
ES: Yes. But with him he said he had not
enough English school either. They had a big farm there and in
the fall, they had so much work to do on the farm and it was almost
near Christmas time 'til they were done. Then he could to go to
school. And then in the spring, it was seeding time and he had
to stay home again. But they went to town school. They lived closer
MM: So it was important they had to be home
to work and so they couldn't always go to school then.
MM: We are going to finish our conversation
today on November, 8th, 1993. I am so pleased Eva that you remember
so much about those early years. And it was so refreshing to hear
about your life and to know about the wonderful years you had.
And even though there were tough times and good times, you raised
a family of eight children and they are all living today. We are
going to share with them our conversation. And so that you know
Eva, that our conversation today which was on tape will be deposited
at the university in Fargo with our Germans from Russia Heritage
Collection. We'll be sure to get you a copy of the tape.
MM: Thanks so much, for our visit. Have
a good day!
[Then a German dialect sample with Eva Schatz.]
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies
North Dakota State University Libraries
P. O. Box 5599
Fargo, North Dakota, 58105-5599
to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested
by contacting Michael