In Touch with Prairie Living

January 2013

By Michael M. Miller
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo

With the new year of 2013, I want to extend my best wishes to the many readers of this column. I am deeply grateful for the many positive comments about these monthly columns published since November, 1996. We invite readers to become a Friend of the GRHC. With 2013 begins the 35th year of the NDSU Libraries’ Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, 1978 – 2013. This year also marks my 46th year of work at North Dakota State University.

In September, I visited the impressive summer kitchen at Fred and Rose Werre homestead near Lehr, N.D. Mary Ann (Werre) Lehr, a daughter, has restored the summer kitchen for visitors to see. The summer kitchen was built about 1900 which was used for all cooking and canning with the old fashion range cook stove using cow chips, wood scraps and dead trees. The primary objective was to keep the main house cool for sleeping, relaxing and company. During harvest season the threshing crew ate in the summer kitchen. There were two rooms. The first room you entered was for preparing all meals, baking bread, pies and Kuchen. The second, or back room, was for eating at the big round table.

Mary Ann shared: “The summer kitchen was also the honeymoon cottage for my parents, Julius and Emelia (Zimmerman) Werre in the early 1920s, and again for my uncle Ed and Alma (George) Werre in the late 1920s. The summer kitchen was used for all butchering purposes – making sausages, head cheese, liver sausage and frying out the lard which was used for baking and frying foods. We did all our canning of fruits, vegetables and jams in the summer kitchen, as well as butchering the chickens and geese.”

Mary Ann writes: “Homemade soap was always made in and outside the summer kitchen. The lard was melted inside and then the lye was added and constantly stirred outside otherwise it would take your breath away. We also had a 50 gallon oak barrel which was filled with the hams and bacon to cure in the brine solution of garlic and salt until spring when it was smoked and ready to eat. Washing continued in the summer kitchen until 1970. The canning is still there. Many wonderful memories.”
Roger Lehr of Sacramento, Calif., writes a facebook message: “ Always a reminder of how life has gotten easier. I remember mom ironing with a heavy metal iron that was heated up on the wood burning stove at grandma’s farm.”

Historical information and 41 photographs about the Werre Homestead and summer kitchen are at

The GRHC continues to process materials and finding aids for Special Collections. Recently processed collections include the Ida (Zeh) Bender Collection with a Zeh family history of John and Magdalena (Brandner) Zeh and five German books (1850-1915) with roots to Elgin, N.D. Joan (Beaman) Heitman of Middleton, WI., donated two shawls dating from the late 1800s to early 1900s. LaVerne (Ruff) Graf, was a native of Streeter, N.D., who donated a woman’s black satin bodice and skirt with black velvet belt of 1919. Duane Bittner, North Highlands, CA., a native of Lehr, N.D., donated four books about the histories of Lehr and Wishek, N.D, 1948-1998. Duane was a member of the 1998 Journey to the Homeland Tour group.

The Bernd Laengin Collection includes 48 valuable German and English books. Bernd Laengin (1941-2008), a longtime colleague, was a writer, author and journalist. He had a particular interest in the Hutterite, Amish and Mennonite communities. Bernd wrote over 24 books in his lifetime. The collection was donated by his wife, Christiane Laengin, Winnipeg, MB. He was born at Karlsruhe, Germany moving to Winnipeg when he was in his 30s to become editor of a German language newspaper. He travelled the world many times over and dedicated his life to the impact that leaving Europe and Germany in particular had on its many emigrants.

Carolyn Amundson of West Fargo, N.D., donated the Wilhelm Wagner Book Collection including a book of music history published in 1884, and a book on Evangelists in distant lands published in the 1890s. Stanley Rall of Lodi, CA., donated letters from Rev. Eugen Bachmann (1904-1993) to his cousin, Jacob Rall, Ashley, N.D., and biographical information. Roger and Bernadine (Lang) Kuhn of Owatonna, MN., natives of Napoleon, N.D., donated six books in German and English including dictionaries, song and religious books dating from 1859 to 1927. Agnes (Kraft) Stevens of Portland, OR., donated the history of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Strasburg, N.D., during its 25th Anniversary celebration in 1914.

For further information about the Friends of the GRHC, the 19th Journey to the Homeland Tour to Odessa, Ukraine and Stuttgart, Germany (May 16-26, 2013), and donations to the GRHC (such as family histories and photographs), contact Michael M. Miller, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 6050, Dept 2080, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 (Tel: 701-231-8416; Email:; the GRHC website:

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January column for North Dakota and South Dakota weekly newspapers.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller