A Homesteader’s Daughter
Presentaion by Pauline Neher Diede, Hebron,
Transcribed by Shelly Rolandson
Edited and proofread by Janel Wald and Linda Haag
These are the memoirs of a pioneer life author. The ordinary family
life story begins in 1945 and progresses to the centennial year
1989. The 1980s was the book writing years, depicting mainly pioneer
times. The rise of the sun signifies the beginning of the day, the
interval of time is a sign of moving forward, for going from one
generation to the next. Here is an epic story involving the phenomenal
frontier times extending back to 1816 when ancestors took to migrating
from Germany to Russia and then from Russia to America. This is
the story of Americans progress; a five generation lore.
A prairie land child remembers, “The old home farm where memories
are dear; a place where I’d love to live again, an abandoned
home, it is quite clear. In times of dismay, we go out that way,
the shelters forlorn, fit for its state. We’ve captured its
ecstasy, oh for a day.” A homesteader’s daughter, Pauline
Neher Diede. She is of golden age and an author of five pioneer
life books. She wishes to leave something from the past to enhance
the present and tofashion the future, thereby passing on the heritage
wisdom. The story will be told in its time segments. The author
is a product of a sod house. Her accounts relate to interviews and
personal experiences which note closeness to the prairie land. A
plain state, especially central North Dakota, the land is an ordinary
rolling hills country. The author’s perception of it is as
something variable with a kind a mystic simplicity. Oh, immigrants
feet who tread across its wilderness.
This quaint pioneer accented home at 123 South Maple, in Hebron,
North Dakota is identified as a prairie echo home. This home itself
is of historical nature. Here is where the Bulkie and Diede families
where raised. After the Diede children flew the coop, their mother
arranged the upstairs rooms into a work space. Here is where Pauline
Diede commissioned herself to the preservation of pioneer materials.
Al Feist, a Hebron high school instructor, with his wife and five
children, resides in another Hebron centennial home. Mr. Feist,
a native of Strasburg, North Dakota, serves on the board of Germans
from Russia Heritage Society. He serves as the director of the slide
program. Both Mrs. Diede and Mr. Feist are natives of North Dakota,
decedents of German-Russian immigrants, and participating members
of the German from Russia Heritage Society.
How important is it to know who your ancestors are? The answer
to this question has practically become the theme of the society’s
annual conventions. The organization’s publication, ‘The
Heritage Review’, heralds the genealogical research
and preservation by way of articles, book reviews, letters, poems,
and updates of chapter and convention activities.
In October 1946, my father, Ludwig Neher of Bueller, North Dakota,
spent over a week at our home building a garage. He fondly enjoyed
the grandchildren and the piano music which gave him a chance to
sing German hymns. He was filled with sentiment when he sang, “Ich
bin ein Pilger”, “I am a pilgrim”. As if by timely
persuasion, he encouraged the children to learn the German hymns.
With grandchildren in bed, we got into first hand accounts of my
father’s life in Russia and into a report of the immigration
to America. Each evening’s interview progressed as if by necessity.
As I took notes, Pa curried, “Do you want to write a book?”
It stunned me into a submissive answer to the affirmative, and Pa
On January 28, 1947 our dear father and grandfather suddenly died.
Memorial services were held at the at Emanuel Baptist church at
Bueller, North Dakota. Services were in German and in English. Pa
Neher had gone back to his mother, Juliana Simmers’ way of
Baptist faith. He was known for his cheerful nature, helpfulness,
and timely counsel. He was known and loved by many and very much
Those were the busy family raising years. Jake Diede, husband and
father, was employed with Western Livestock Company of Dickinson
North Dakota, and as a stock trucker as well. So much of the family
responsibility rested on me. Admittedly I sought support. Thanks
for the Homemaker Club lessons; reading, listening, learning and
Children are gifts placed in parental care and need to be nurtured
and guided. We were busy with scout work, music lessons, camping,
picnicking, school and church involvements. Our children were not
raised under affluent conditions. They were spared neither from
work nor from the conflicts of adolescent life. They faced many
of the obstacles of an average family. Our children grew up and
graduated from high school and college, having excelled in both
academic and extracurricular areas. We witness a maturity and a
readiness for them to flee from home, challenging them to take part
in job opportunities.
The time came when they would have their own families. Darleen May
is a registered nurse. She and her husband have four sons. They
now reside in Rapid City, South Dakota. Audrey Faith, the wife of
James Williamson and mother of two sons, is a special education
teacher in Denver, Colorado.
Our only son Rodney Jay is a banking executive in Bowman, North
Dakota. He and his wife, the former Direnda Zerr, have one daughter
and one son.
As I enter a different chapter in life, I witness birds in flight
and compare the picture to times when our own children flew from
the nest. I contemplate the good country contact our children had.
Children for a good life, listen to the hills from when’s
comith your help. Your help is from the Lord who made the heavens
and the earth. Home and family contacts are key responsibilities.
We realize that each son or daughter married into a different lifestyle
and culture. But something unified us as we gathered together at
a Christmas time. Christmas is the past; Christmas is the Christ
child in the heart to last. Our great grandchildren are Lora Beth
and Alex James, children of James and Bridget Buchley, and the grandchildren
of Myron and Darleen Buchley.
Easter time, new dress, a child’s gleam; we give them knowledge
and our attention. We give them the memory of a good home and the
beacon of an Easter hope. These things we should give the children
and much more, such as respect and love. We were not a perfect family
by any means, nor were my married life an easy road. Despite health
hindrances, personality disorders and reasoning differences, we
stayed on. We kept up a caring family contact. A sense of humor
and laughter can sway many an uncanny family situation. My 1968
Chevy takes us to a family gathering.
Seasons come and go. I love to hike the rolling hills where wild
flowers bloom, the air is alive with bird songs, frogs croak around
ponds and manmade dams. Even the stones are alive with creeping
vines that root in the granite; all of my senses tingle as I feel
the strength of grass underfoot. Listen, look, there are mysterious
workings of nature as we bend and witness the meadowlark chicks
cuddled in a nest with wide open mouths. We are fortunate to live
close to Custer’s lookout and to Long butte, both a bit southwest
of Hebron. Here is the history of General Custer’s defensive
watch and of the army’s repose before their famous last encounter.
I hike up and around these sites. Oh for spacious skies above the
last rich fields where our forefathers set foot on homestead. They
have gradually disappeared to become part of large, extensive farms.
Through the years, Pauline’s life has been blessed with
much enrichment. One of these came to a meritorious climax when
she was presented the North Dakota Homemaker’s Fifty Year
Membership Award in 1984. In retrospect, the lookout in Hebron Homemaker’s
Club meetings was educational and enjoyable. Scholastically, fifty
years of workshops and meetings matches to an assumptive degree
in homemaking art. Civic and church life had been primary involvements.
Through her husband’s service as a city alderman, Pauline
became affiliated as a periodic election inspector. As a member
of the United Church of Christ, she serves in programs in executive
and circle capacities, and had a five year charge in the state women’s
fellowship committee. She is a member of the famous St. John’s
Church choir, which presented its 33rd annual Christmas cantata
in December of 1989. She also sings with (116) The German singers
of the (117) of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society. In 1959,
Pauline took on part time employment at Hebron’s weekly newspaper,
‘The Hebron Herald’, as a new
and feature writer, focusing mainly on pioneer folk. Here’s
where Pauline introduced the weekly column, ‘The Prairie
Echoes’. Though she has now written this column for
twelve years, the account of people that went before us offer so
much material that she will be able to continue as long as her health
allows. As a member of the North Dakota Press Women and of the Federation
of the National Press Women, Pauline learned the pendent art and
received the number of writing contest awards. After 25 years, she
has relinquished most of the duties at ‘The Hebron
Herald’, thus having more time to delve into manuscripts
as initial author.
Pauline is a dawn break writer, often writing before dawn. A church
banner which Pauline once saw, read “What is your Christian
hobby”. By way of United Church of Christ Association meeting
in 1981, word was passed to journalist Elizabeth Hampston of Grand
Forks, North Dakota of Pauline’s unique writings. Consequently,
the Neher family was featured in the ‘Plainswoman’
magazine in February of 1982. The urgency of writing pioneer life
accounts became for Pauline something like a must; something as
a God ordained trust.
“What do you do for fun? Are you a work-a-holic?” are
questions that are often thrust at Pauline. “Yes,” she
says, “I guard against being an attention filled work-a-holic.
I admit that I am a worker, but I add a good degree of enjoyment
and fun. I gain pleasure and satisfaction doing the work which I
love to do. For fun,” Pauline continues, “oh, there’s
so much fun just walking down the street greeting others with a
German quip. I laugh, we laugh. Oh, for a healthy pride and once
ethnic line, what fun in a game of bridge when you make a grand
slam, or you pout when you ignore Gorens rule. You live to learn,
to love, to laugh and to have fun.”
For recreation and preservation, Pauline loves to take slide pictures.
She loved to ponder nature’s inspiration of a farmstead fallen
and forlorn, gradually disappearing. Here an ordinary family progressed
from a sod hovel to a haven home. They tamed the wilderness into
productivity. These were the folk that left the saga for progress,
a pride to heritage and prosperity.
In May of 1983, 1,000 copies of my first book came off the press.
“Homesteading on the Knife River Prairies”
was an account of interviews, mainly of two German-Russian families,
the Martin’s and the Neher’s. Their Russian and American
frontier experiences compared much to those of any other immigrants’
experiences, although these two families were probably poorer than
Let us make a brief resume of this first book. Russia was the
homeland of my father and mother, uncle and aunt. They were part
of the massed peasant history, those who turned the sod with the
rugged, horse-drawn hand plow, who scattered the seed by hand, and
who stepped out the grain from the sheaths. They were the grassland
people who took seriously the parables of the bible. During the
middle-to-later 1800’s, living standards in Russia improved,
especially in the industrious colony of (Gros Leben Tal). The Stinart
family was among the better off. See how well dressed they are?
They were, however, not aware of a frontier future that would spell
destitution and poverty. Matilda and Christina Stinart were prospective
brides. The Stinart grandparents caressed the grandchild Magdalena
Martin, who was soon to leave the loved touch forever. The Russo-
Japanese war of 1904 and 1905 ended, the soldier, Ludwig Neher II,
upon release from the army, reckoned matrimony. A marriage broker
took the young military skilled man to (Gros Leben Tal) to meet
with Christina Stinart. This first time meeting resulted in a marriage
agreement. The ceremony took place in short order. After all, the
bride to be baked well bread and was good to look at. What more
could a man want? This photo pictures Fred and Sophie Martin, child
Lena, and Caroline Stinart in (Gross Leben Tall) a number of years
before they left for America. The Bolshevik up-rising increased,
in early fall of 1909, the Fred Martin and Ludwig Neher families,
totaling 12 members, bade (‘audia’) goodbye,
as a final farewell. There were tears, hugs and kisses. The village
minister read the word of God and prayers were exchanged. “Gott
seien mit Ihnen”, “God be with you”; truly a last
embrace. At Odessa, Russia, the two families crowded into a noisy,
filthy, over-crowded train for a ten day torture drive. In Hamburg,
Germany, they boarded and took up the third-class bed-bug infested
quarters of an immigrant ship. The journey from Hamburg across the
Atlantic Ocean to a Canadian port was filled with tremendous hardship.
“Words can’t describe the human agony of our treacherous
journey,” so spoke Uncle Fred Martin at one of our interviews.
“Winter in one train boxcar located in the sprouting prairie
town of Ashley, North Dakota, could not have been more confounded
and hysterical. Twelve people crowded into every inch of space.
Among them were a pregnant woman, an infant, and a sickly two year
old child who later died in the arms of teenager Lena. Your father
had to be the strong one,” recalled Uncle Fred. “His
soldier character paid off. He also learned more quickly the English
words.” Uncle Fred continued to speak, “Ludwig and I
bummed our way west on freight train, looking for homesteading land.
We moved our families into a prairie hill shack in southwest Mercer
County, sixteen miles north of Hebron. Here your mother gave birth
to a second child during an early spring downpour. With no other
shelter at hand, our children hovered under a wagon. It was an excruciating
night. Baby Otillia joined the deplorable lot. It was the spring
of 1910; here we were on an open wild prairie land, a vast hilly
baroness. We needed shelter and water. We needed food for survival.
We needed sod for building. We had to get a field plowed to get
the grain seeded. We need a thousand other essentials. Not only
I suffered a longing anguish, but also your father, the tough soldier,
gazed eastward, recalling mother’s words, “Pray and
thank, give thanks for such desperation.” Ludwig then wept
like a child. We prayed for help and help did come. In no way did
the support match today’s welfare checks; there was absolutely
no government help. Matt Crawley, an Irish ranchman, also a late
settler, became our mainstay. So also the Yager’s, the Bittermans,
and the elderly Bailers shared what they could for your parents.
Helping out was a must,” momented Uncle Fred. “I would
rather not talk about those first few years on the homestead. One
source of blessing was the frequent thunder showers that kept the
barrels, creek holes, and temporary damns filled. Gardens and the
grain patches flourished. At least we had vegetables and flour for
bread. Everything was made from scratch. Adults, children, horses
did backbreaking labor. It wasn’t surprising that man got
unduly strict, often mean, to family and to animals. Even the dog
got whipped when he didn’t obey the order. On October 10,
1911, Frau Yager, the midwife, delivered a third female child. The
first one was born in the one room sod house. The baby was premature
and by proxy baptism was named Pauline. Matilda had been born in
Russia, Otillia in a North Dakota prairie shack. Christiania had
three babies in less than three years, enduring under a three-fold
poverty level; a scammed subsistence indeed. After Elsie’s
birth, a shanty kitchen was added to the sod launch. Then Louise
was born. This added up to five girls. Three of the girls slept
on the foliage filled mattress, while the toddlers slept in a homemade
box-type cot. Imagine Christina and Ludwig sleeping in a bed. The
good people, the Yagers, shared food as well as the first bed. Oh,
for happy news! With the birth of Edwin, our baby boy, swarmed children
in two rooms, and among them, was a son of Ludwig...
The pioneer followed animal techniques to obtain meat. The coyote’s
howl denoted hunger in her whily ways;, she would pray on anything
to feed her young and herself. So too, man depended to an extent
on natures animals. To catch a bush rabbit for stew made the day.
“Ahh, I’ve got him!” yelled the trapper as he
grinned with glee. A wooden trap was a softer touch to trapping
animals than the torturous steel traps that soon come into use.
Sod house times held lifetime impressions. Physically, I never obtained
proper growth, therefore; I was spared the ordeal of hard labor
during my youth. Bellar, the dog, and I roamed the hills and bales,
to the heads of (251) grass and ate of natures berries. The scant
table food was never enough, yet I was not aware of our family’s
poverty. Oh, for prairie lands survival kit.
It was noon naptime on the sunny side of the sod house lay little
Elsie, cuddled to the dog, both sleeping. I slumped over for a nap
on the bare ground of the north side. Upon awakening I heard a hiss
and found a colorful snake nearby. As I talked, it disappeared.
The next morning Pa stirred out of bed and stepped on a moving thing
under the gunny rug, the same snake that I had wanted for a crony.
The shanty kitchen was a busy place, I still see Ma pushing up and
down with a wooden passel into a gallon pail containing cream. This
night, Pa read the Psalms to Ma while she was churning butter. Ma
could not read; therefore, Pa would convey the holy word to her.
Morning devotions for the whole family following breakfast were
a general rule, especially in the homes of the Germans from Russia.
It was a sort of a devout culture, a time when father opened the
bible, read scripture, and led in prayer. Family members with folded
hands likewise prayed, much too often with distracted thoughts.
Table grace, something that was never forgotten, had a way of settling
down. This has nearly gotten to be a lost art.
Oh for the impressionable remembrances of the homestead times. I
remember how Matilda and Tillie, who were still young children,
lugged pails and pails of water. I remember how Ma sicced the dog
after a team of horses hitched to a gipsy wagon. I remember sitting
on Grandma Bailer’s lap. I remember how the box chair broke
and both of us crashed to the floor. I remember a mother duck, hatching
several ducklings by a large yard stone. Many decades later I still
sit on that very stone and reflect.
It was a very cold Christmas Eve, the (283) held a German Sunday
school program at a big brown school house. There was a real fire
flickering candlelit tree. I stood on a box and recited my very
first piece in front of a crowd. (287-289). Each child received
a package containing candy, nuts and opfelsinean, an orange. That
was a homestead Christmas gift. During the summer of 1917, we the
Neher family, moved from the crowded but cozy confines of a sod
house to the betterment of a wood framed house, 2 miles further
north. A twister soon struck this weird dark green house. I cried.
I wanted to go back to the earth home where no windows shattered.
Little Elsie cried too. She wanted to go back to where her kittens
were. We too crawled into the wagon and Pa drove to the secure home.
Pa increased the farming enterprise. He saw the need for buildings
and the need to enlarge the house. We were a hard working family.
Scraping dirt out of the cellar and off the coal mine, milking 18
cows by hand, pitching hay up into the upstairs of the barn, and
doing the chores were all like a ritual, as when the rooster crowed
at dawn. The older girls were not spared the hard field work. The
younger ones broke the horse for riding and herded the cattle. There
had to be training for both horse and children. With so much danger,
how did our parents do it? Two more girls were born at the farmstead,
Annie and Clara. I remember a black shawled woman;, mother Lenic,
stepped down from the buggy. And hush, a baby was crying. I cried
too because I had a big sliver in my foot that had already festered.
The midwife used the big needle to pierce and root out the sticker.
Then she added sprits of turpentine to a basin of heated water.
I soaked my foot in it. Well, it soon healed. Oh, for those barefoot
days when we scampered over the stony terrine and hidden cactus.
The infrequent 18 mile trips to Hebron in the horse drawn wagon
left indelible impressions. The slow horse pace with a load of grain
on the rutted road made the wheels squeak and grunt. It was not
tiresome; there was so much to see. When Pa haltered the horses
by a wayside plowman, they visited, gestured, and laughed. Oh for
those sardines and crackers that we ate in the back part of the
store and the over-sized ugly shoes that Pa bought for me. I was
expected to grow into them.
It was soon time for school. I was not very tall; those big shoes
did not add stature to a dwarf-like kid. Older people used to tassel
my hair and say “Ach Sie Geschicklichkeit Ein mit den roten
Backen”, (333-334) “Oh you cunning one with the red
cheeks”. There were many children in the one-roomed school
house and one teacher teaching all of the grades. I sat on the front
bench reciting loudly and clearly; the big kids laughed. We were
admonished at home to talk German and at school we were punished
when we did the same. One day Ida Bailer and I during a pom-pom
pull away game shouted German slang and the teacher heard it. The
mean dame ordered Ida to lie across her desk and with a ready stick
she beat hard on Ida’s fanny. Next; my turn. It caused me
to think. As she opened the back flaps on my underwear I stuck a
finger down my throat, inducing a vomit. The teacher missed her
chance of hitting me. She was too busy cleaning up the mess.
I got to be in the upper grades. There were numerous school programs
in those days. For a Valentines program, I was selected to do a
cupid dance with a tall boy, Stanley Smith. We met for practice
on a very cold evening. As I sized up this long-legged stranger
I got scared and my blood ran cold. I sneaked outdoors, crawled
into the slay and covered up with a horse robe. Well, there was
no Pauline Neher and Stanley Smith dance. Oh for those waltzing
to the fiddle tune days when there was ladies choice. Unless you
have had experiences, you can not fathom the special nostalgia which
surrounded one of the most basic of human activities in that era.
It was a landmark, it was a friend in need, and it played a part
in history. The privy of the outhouse, the little house in the back,
is where the spider spun its last web, where you would rather have
sat then on a school bench. Once, while I used this convenience
a bat came out, spun around and settled in my hair. I screamed and
ran. “Settle down!” admonished the teacher as she cut
the bat out of my hair and left me with a repulsive hairstyle. Oh
for the highlights of the first on the farmstead.
I remember when the wall telephone was installed and Ma could not
understand the mystery of a voice coming out of the receiver. And
when lightning struck and the telephone started burning, Ma was
sure that it was the devil’s hire. I remember when Pa hand-cranked
our first open window model A car and the whole bunch crowded into
the back. We saw Pa sit up straight as he gave her the gas and we
headed across a shallow creek with a roar. I remember when Ma got
the first hand lever washing machine. She laughed loudly as she
directed a pair of underwear through the ringer. I remember when
our neighbors got their first radio and we kids would dash across
the hill to the John Martin home where we listened to Amos and Andy.
The county stillness was broken by the vibrating sound of the thrashing
rig coming down the road. The helping neighbors would bring in the
shocks load by load and pitch the bundles into the humming thrashing
machine. After the grain had been shoveled into the grainy, the
hungry crew was ready for some hardy food. The wash bench was set
outside with basins of water for thrashers to wash off the sweat
and grain dust. Besides the three main meals, before noon and afternoon
lunches were served out in the field. Oh for the excitement of a
farmstead’s thrashing rig.
The roaring twenties; these were the zealous years of my life. I
was occupied with curiosity and with a search and struggle for identity.
Low; for the echo of “dumb Russians”; sensitivity, a
condition that had a lifetime effect. I sat on the stone close to
the cemetery as the last of three Bailer children received burial
rites. Diphtheria. What does contagious mean? Barring sadness, I
held a healthy nitch for nature. There seem to have been a healing
bomb in its realm.
Graduation time; an eighth grade diploma, not all country school
children received the merit. Out of the Allen Creek-Knife River
offspring’s, America received a generation of go-getters.
Rancher, farmer, educator, researcher, businessmen, barber, and
carpenter, painter, minister, salesman, newsman, writer, author,
aeronautic and military serviceman, our county and state government
A pioneer rancher, Matt Crawley, distinguished himself by being
elected to the hall of fame. The crown he nephews hailed the aircraft.
Bob Crawley, a retired United Airlines pilot, provided early day
airplane service to western North Dakota. He piloted military supplies
and soldiers during two wars. Allen Crawley was a victim of an airplane
crash, while Jim Crawley used his aircraft for ranching purposes.
Yes, North Dakota’s Allen Creek- Knife River country boasts
of its productive and progressive citizens.
The immigrant settlers of southwest Mercer County in North Dakota
were I was born and raised consistent of a variety of nationalities;
Germans from Russia, Germans from Germany, Irish, English, Dutch,
Hungarians, Norwegians and likely others. The mother tongue was
spoken in homes during the early years, Slavic and German in the
Neher home. Gradually by way of assimilation, the English language
conquered the hearts of the younger set. The English teachers insisted
on it. After a stint at the Hebron High School, followed by enrollment
at Dickinson Normal Model High, I studied home economics and trained
in the college cafeteria. Working with food has been a life time
interest. I especially loved to cook and bake the good old fashioned
foods such as borscht and a variety of kuchens, for which the German-Russians
are noted. On December 19, 1930, I graduated from the State Normal
School of Dickinson, North Dakota with a high school diploma as
well as a commercial certificate known as a secretarial course.
Throughout my high school days I had no dress for special occasions.
Christine Larson, (452) student employee lent me her dress and paid
for a hair marcel, and took this picture at her expense.
Jake Diede and I were married on November 24, 1932. We moved onto
the Diede farm near Custer Lookout where we farmed for twelve years.
This is where our three children experienced county life. Even though
we went through the dirty thirties, they were happy years. In 1945,
we moved to Hebron, fortunately getting into an antique type home
that is now a pioneer haven; identified as the prairie echo house.
This was a farewell party for her sister, Elsie, shortly before
she left for the west coast. Little did we realize that this would
be the last all-Neher children reunion. Edwin took the picture.
Elsie died in 1970 and three other sisters, Matilda, Annie, and
Louise died 1988.
As of this time, four of us, Tillie, Pauline, Edwin and Clara are
still living. Edwin, our only brother, his fiancé Ester Snider,
Clara, Arnold Snider, and Annie are shown here, having a good old-fashioned
time, a typical scene of self-made fun which we had in those days.
And oh how we made up crazy stuff.
This is another fun picture; Matilda and Tillie are dressed up acting
live the old sour fogies. We made our own fun; we learned to laugh.
Our father was a man with an old-fashioned temper but leavened it
with stories that made everybody laugh. His stories changed many
a pessimist into a better mood. On a summer Saturday afternoon,
we took to the Knife River to have our weekly baths. Notice the
mixture of teasy moods, but Annie’s clownish acts ruled. Imagine,
Tillie and I wore our first bathing suits. The rest- they either
wore their regular clothing or were naked. Matilda took the picture.
This is a picture of our mother, Christina, and mother in-law Catherina
Diede. They were talking menu for Matilda’s wedding. In regard
to food, our mother could make something out of nothing. She had
a knack for baking huge loafs of everlasting yeast bread. All the
Neher sister acquired Ma’s technique for making food dishes
from scratch. Mother was a clean woman who liked nice clothes. She
could never really adapt to the rugged prairie life. It seemed that
before long, the Neher children grew up and had their own families.
After they had left home the farm was rented out. Then a great tragedy
of our farmstead days happened. Henry C. Harriet, a Mercer County
school teacher, confessed to starting fires on the Neher farm that
had destroyed a large haystack and a massive barn with twenty-eight
head of cattle, three horses, a carpenter shop, and many other contents.
He was sentenced to the state penitentiary. This happened in the
early nineteen forties and greatly added to Pa Neher’s untimely
A gradual farmstead change took place, the years of despair followed.
Pa Neher lost the claim to prairie lands, farmstead, and homestead
game. Despite the years of torturous work, everything was gone.
But was everything really gone? In the material aspect- yes. In
the sensual and spiritual realm- no. What has the world to offer?
Nothing lasting, only the benefits of the creator’s land and
hard work mixed with joys thereof. It is what the land of the United
States of America taught us. Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for
amber waves of grain. America; land of the free.
The flow of time is evident in the writings of Pauline Diede.
Time doesn’t hurry; it simply flows like the cloud across
the sky. There are times when it is like the wind seeming to lash
at us. Then along comes a bird which floats though the air and then
veers down to take a peck at a flower. Time has a way of changing
even the family house from the family home to a writer’s domain.
Pauline Diede never doubted that her pioneer experiences would be
the heartbeat and mind of her later years. After the publication
of “The Homesteading Book”, she wrote
the sequel, an autobiography entitled, “The Prairie
was Home”, as well as the book “Speaking
Out on Sod House Times,” which features the interviews
taken from pioneers. John H. Gingler, an instructor and principal
at Richardton High School, an editor of the Richardton Centennial
book, is pictured here. He served as the editor for both of these
“There is so much to write about our state as it enters
our centennial”, Pauline was advised by Patricia Herbal, a
coordinator in the North Dakota State Department of Public Instruction.
With this admonishment, Pauline took on the task of writing a tribute
book to North Dakota. ‘North Dakota in Grateful Homage’
was published 1987. In 1988 the North Dakota Centennial Commission
approved the book to be a centennial project as a revenue benefit
for the Hebron Historical and Art Museum. The book was granted the
state’s centennial logo as well. Jane Brant, the publisher
of ‘The Hebron Harold ’, served as the editor
of this celebration book as well as for the ‘Prairie Echo’
column. In a commentary, Jane stated “North Dakota and Pauline
have much in common. Pauline has been close to the prairies of our
state all of her life. She has strong loyalty to the North Dakota
Pioneers and feels it is her duty to put there story into print
leaving a history of their footsteps in our lives as well as leaving
a pioneering legacy for the coming generation.” Jane continues,
“Pauline is an incredible lady and an incredible friend. What
she loves most is North Dakota and its people. On July 7th and 9th,
1989, a special program for Hebron state centennial celebration
was presented at the Hebron High School gymnasium. The program was
based upon and featured the tribute book “North Dakota
in Grateful Homage”. The program which consisted of narration
accompanied by slides, stages scenes, music, and audience participation,
celebrated some of the changes that took place in North Dakota during
the past one hundred years. A capacity crowd attended. A program
committee pictured here consisted of Anna Sebastian, Al Feist, and
Pauline Diede. Profits gained as a result of these performances
went to a prospective Hebron centennial museum and library.
In March 1989, random house incorporated released a cover-bound
book of 264 pages entitled, “Far From Home; Families of
the Westward Journey.” It is comprised of three economical
stories of frontier times featuring Oregon territory, Colorado-New
Mexico, and North Dakota. The (582) Pauline Diede’s homesteading
story features North Dakota in an internationally distributed book.
Elizabeth Hampston, the author from the University of North Dakota
at Grand Forks, rewove Pauline’s story and gave it a place
in our national folklore. The book gives recognition to the enduring
strength of our ethnic people; the Germans from Russia. We are no
longer an unsung group.
What are Pauline Diede’s books about? They intend to give
us a sense of the history of the pioneer settlers, so that their
culture and faith may be preserved for all generations. They are
a summary of the frontier influences that have made this changing
America. They are a sense of awakening to resourcefulness of the
plains rolling hills country with its productive range, tilled land,
underground reserves, simple beauty, and havens for health and recreation.
The fourth generations of life on the plains state of North Dakota
are the prime focus of the five books written by this homesteader’s
daughter. Hebron has been the hometown of Pauline Diede. This little
community of 1,000 friendly folk 40 miles east of Dickinson is snuggled
into a country terrain that is ideally suited for ranching, farming,
and dairying. Hebron claims seven churches with active congregations
at a modern school system. The Hebron brick company, now a modern
brick manufacturing plant, has been in operation sense 1904 and
is a major industry. The town offers the conveniences of many businesses,
working together to make it a clean progressive little city. Hebron
is nestled in a valley, like the biblical Hebron in the valley of
I observed my 75th birthday on October 10, 1986. In this picture
on this occasion I hold a frame portrait, taking at the time that
I was about to graduate from Dickinson State Normal School. Fifty
years have gone by and I ponder the years that have passed so quickly.
I am glad that I was born in a sod house; it was like having been
born in The White House. They were years that had a sense for history.
They were generous years, even though we experienced poverty. I
thank God that he allowed our immigrant parents to settle in America,
the land of opportunity and freedom.
In 1981, at the Dickinson State College homecoming celebration,
the graduating class of 1930 was among the honorees at the homecoming
banquet. I was presented a duplicate certificated by the president
of the college. I have been giving great benefits in the writing
field, rewards beyond my deserving. I humbly bow and thank my maker,
my author with a capitol A. He inspired me to write “The
Pioneer Lore” indeed so. I am happy that I can reflect
on the shelter indents and see the stone marks of the sod home which
game me my start in life. I relish the winding jackrabbit trails
that lead to sage brush nests. I am happy as I thrust bread crumbs
into the open mouthed birdies that hovered in a prairie nest. I’m
glad that Josie, the flighty horse, didn’t buck me off. Oh
for those (653) marks, the passing of the era, an era dear to all
I am glad now for a typical ordinary American family of husband,
children, grandchildren, and great grand children. All fitting together
yet each uniquely gifted for service to family, nation, and God.
Kent James Williamson, a student at the navel academy, represents
my grandchildren. As he prepares the serve his country, this nation
of immigrants, the United States of America. And we the Diede’s
in our golden years and our adult children Darleen, Audrey, and
Rod. At a Christmas gathering, sing Schweigsame Nacht, heilige Nacht.
The girls also sing, “Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
consider the entire world thy hands have made. I bow down in humble
adoration. How great thou art.” These are the song of our
faith, a faith that has given these five generations a hope for
continued existence and shared love.
Here now is ‘The Golden Era’, as it is called. I view
the golden sunset as it casts a silver lining on the clouds, creating
a rose-colored streak on the far horizon, a significant simile in
which nature portrays the picturesque story of human life. At this
moment I am inspired for a glorious hope. I’m glad that I
wrote the pioneer life stories of the land where every sunset smiled
or promised rain. God will bless the children of every generation
and he will bless our native land. I say (‘audia’)
with love. Thank you.