Unser Leute the Story of the German Russia People Part II

Halverson, Carol Just. "Unser Leute the Story of the German Russia People Part II." Prairies 9, no. 3: September 1985, 14-18.

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Enter Scene Eight
Song: Lobe den Herren, den Machtigen Konig der Ehren

(Praise to the Lord, the Almighty)
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,
the King of creation!
O my soul praises Him,
for he is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear,
Now to His temple draw near;
Join me in glad adoration!

Lobe den herren, den machtigen
Konig der Ehren
Meine geliebete Seele
das ist mein be gehren.
Kommet zu Hauf!
Psalter und Harpe macht auf,
Lasset den Lobgesang horen.

Exit Scene Eight
By spring, they were eager to dig their own roots in this new country. Land had become available in 1884 in McIntosh County, farther north in what is now North Dakota. After buying a team of oxen, a wagon, and a cow, they loaded their possessions onto a box car and started north. The rail line ended at Ipswich, near present-day Aberdeen, where they unloaded their belongings, and then continued by ox team.

On May 21, 1885, Frederich Meidinger, after declaring his intention to become a United States citizen, filed for his homestead on Section 31, Township 131 North, and Range 72. The families who had traveled together from Russia, took up homestead land near one another. They became known as the “Beaver Creek Settlement.”

The first priority was to erect a shelter for the families. A makeshift hut was assembled from boards they had purchased in Ipswich. The shelter was badly needed because the first month they were there, they experienced a blizzard—in May!

Using the oxen, the sod was broken and blocks were stacked on top of one another, just as a stone mason today would build a brick house. Mud kept the blocks together, and filled the cracks. The houses were 14 x 26 feet, had one door, and maybe three, two foot square windows. For heating, they built stoves out of clay and stone, just as they had used in Russia.

Scene Nine
Life was hard, everyone toiled as they worked to make the endless prairie bloom. There was the never-ending task of picking rocks and buffalo bones, gathering fuel at the creekbanks, cutting hay for livestock, and, of course, breaking the sod.

Difficult as life was, they were not unhappy. Listen now as this pioneer shares his thoughts about “Dakotaland:”

Song: Dort in Dakotaland
(In Dakotaland)
(Revised by Art Leno from the old German folksong, Tief im Bohmerwald)

Dakotaland, that is my home,
It’s been a long time
since I have gone away from there,
But the memories are such,
that I will never forget…Dakotaland.

It is in Dakotaland, where my cradle stands in sunny Dakotaland.
It is in prairieland, where my cradle stands in beautiful Dakotaland.

Dort in Dakotaland, da liegt mein Heimatort,
es ist gar lang schon her, dasz isch von dort bin fort.
Doch die Erinnerung, die bliebt mir stets gewisz,
dasz ich Dakotaland gar nie vergisz.

‘S’ war in Dakotaland, wo meine Wiege stand
in sonnigen Dakotaland.
Es war im Prairieland, wo meine Wiege stand,
im schon’ Dakotaland.

Exit Scene Nine
On Sunday afternoons, the settlers would gather at someone’s home to sing songs and reminisce about the old days in Russia. The women were eager to visit with one another for they felt especially lonely and isolated having to reside on their homestead land, as was dictated by the Homestead Act, instead of the close-knit village-setting they had grown up with in Russia.

Enter Scene Ten
Song: Gott Ist die Liebe
(God is so Loving)
God is so loving, grants me salvation;
God is so loving, loves even me.

Thus say I once again, God
is so loving;
God is so loving, loves even me.

Lord, I will praise thee,
eternally loving;
Lord, I will bless thee, so long I live.

Gott ist die Liebe
lasst mich erlosen;
Gott ist die Liebe,
Er liebt auch mich.

Drum sag’ ich noch einmal:
Gott ist die Liebe,
Gott ist die Liebe,
Er liebt auch mich.

Ich lag in Banden der
schnoden Sunden;
Ich lag in Banden und konnt’ nicht los.

Out of these gatherings came the desire to have a church home of their own.
Thus was born Andreas Gemeinde, better known as St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church. It was October 18, 1893, when building began. The members did the work, and using stones from the prairie, mixing clay and straw for mortar, they erected a structure so strong and secure that it remains in use today.

Exit Scene Ten
After a few years in Dakota, the county became well populated. The Territory divided, and two states, North and South Dakota, were born. While hardship still existed, life was improving for the German Russians in McIntosh County. After “proving up” the first homestead claim, the pioneers were eligible for a timber-culture claim and a pre-emption claim. The result was more land and a larger estate.

Pioneer wives grew large gardens, tended large flocks of chicks, ducks and geese, and turned those early sod houses into “summer kitchens” while they “lived” in a new, larger wood or stone house.
Enter Scene Eleven
And for the children, there was the magic of Christmas. Listen now, as we look upon a scene at St. Andrew’s at the turn of the century.

Song: Ihr Kinderlein Kommet
(Oh Come, Little Children)
O come, little children;
o come, one and all!
O come to the cradle
in Bethlehem’s stall!
And see what the Father
from high heav’n above
has sent us tonight
as proof of His love.

Ihr Kinderlein kommet,
o kommet doch all,
Zur Krippe herkommet
in Bethlehem Stall
Und seht, was in deiser hoch-
heiligen nacht
Der Vater im Himmel fur Freude uns macht.

Der Tannenbaum
(The Fir Tree)
O fir tree green! O fir tree green!
Your leaves are ever faithful!
Not only green when summer glows,
But in the winter when it snows.
O fir tree green! O fir tree green!
Your leaves are ever faithful!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
wie treu sind deine Blatter.
Du grunst nicht nur zur Sommer=
nein, auch im Winter wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blatter.

Exit Scene Eleven
For those early pioneers, it must have been awesome to have been allowed to survive the hardships connected with pioneer life in Dakota Territory. There was the constant threat of prairie fires, the bitter cold of winter with its powerful, unpredictable blizzards, the tragedy of farming accidents. They took care of one another through all manner of suffering: through sickness, during many epidemics; through loss of mother or baby in childbirth. There still existed an unfailing faith in a God who gave them the strength to carry on.

As time passed, some of those early pioneers passed the farming responsibilities to their children, and retired to the nearest community. In time, they too passed away, leaving for their descendents a pioneer legacy.

Enter Scene Twelve
Song: Wo Findet Die Seele Die Heimt, Die Ruh?
(Oh Where is the Home of the Soul to be Found?)

O where is the home of the soul to be found?
Who knows its true shelter where comforts abound?
What city of refuge will offer a place?
That sin cannot enter, the soul to disgrace?

Nowhere, nowhere do we behold
On earth such a city of blessings untold.

Wo findet die Seele die Heimat, die Ruh?
Wer deckt sie mit schussenden Fittigen zu?
Ach, bietet die Welt keine Freistatt uns an,
Wo Sunde nicht herrschen, nich anfechten kann?

Nein, nein, nein, nein, hier ist sie nicht,
Die Heimat der Seele ist droben im Licht.

Exit Scene Twelve
As the first pioneers were passing on, the new generation of German Russians were becoming active Americans. The sons were enlisted to defend their country against the Germans in World War I, an act viewed dimly by the early pioneers since they had left Russia partly to avoid military conscription.

A wave of nationalism caught on, and it became unpopular to be “too German!” Hysteria existed in some parts of the country, and many innocent German people suffered under this prejudice.

During this time, there was a revolution in Russia, followed by severe famine. Contact with family members still in Russia told of senseless tragedy and starvation. The hatred for the Germans living in Russia hit a new high. Here in America, the dust-bowl thirties left the country in a severe depression. Many a family farm in McIntosh County was lost to foreclosure.

President Roosevelt and his “New Deal” provided the local youth an opportunity to gain new skills and help their country. Some descendents in today’s audience were part of the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) or the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

In spite of the focus this country had about being 100 percent American, these same descendents remembered their first language, and could be seen at gatherings doing this:
Enter Scene Thirteen
Dancers Perform
Song: Hi Lee, Hi Lo
Hi Lee, Hi Lo
Hi Lee, Hi Lo
With us, the longer it goes, the worse it gets.

Hi Lee, Hi Lo
Hi Lee, Hi Lo
That’s how it is with us.

Hi lee, hi lo
hi lee, hi lo,
bei uns gehts immer je langer je schlimmer,
hi lee, hi lo,
hi lee, hi lo,
bei uns gehts immer noch so.

O, Susanna! Wie ist das Leben doch so Schon!
(Oh, Susanna!)
Fill the bumper brimming
Fill the bumper brimming
Tune the strings to glasses ringing,
Fill the bumper brimming
Fill the bumper brimming.
Ale house laughter, voices singing,
Oh Susanna,
The world was made for you and me.
Oh, Susanna,
The lager’s flowing free.

Trink’n wir noch ein Tropfchen
Trink’n wir noch ein Tropfchen
Aus dem kleinen Henkel topfchen
Trink’n wir noch ein Tropfchen
Trink’n wir noch ein Tropfchen
Aus dem kleinen Henkel topfchen.
O Susanna,
Wie is das laben doch so schon!
O Susanna,
Wie schmeckt das Bier so schon.

Exit Scene Thirteen
In time, we became German Russian Americans. Contact with Germans in Russia became almost non-existent. It was later learned that the village of Kassel had been liquidated and that any who survived were sent to labor camps in Siberia. Our men and women were called upon again to serve this country in World War II. Friedrich and Katharina’s son, Paul, served in the Pacific, and their grandson, Otto Dockter, lost his life in battle on German soil just three months before the war ended in Europe. Several other descendents served their country in that war as well as in Korea and Viet Nam.

It would not occur to any of us to trade life in this free and democratic America for communist life in Russia. And yet, we are here by the grace of God and the courage of Friedrich and Katharina Meidinger. Without their willingness to risk all, we would not know the freedoms we often take for granted: the freedom to vote for the candidate of our choice, the freedom to worship in whatever fashion we please, the freedom to succeed or fail in whatever we endeavor.

As we close this program, let us rise and join voices as we sing America the Beautiful in tribute to the country we live in and the freedoms we enjoy.

Song: America the Beautiful
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain.
For purple mountains majesties
Above the fruited plains.

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

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