Ervin Markins Keller, April 3, 1925 - May 18, 2006

Kraft, Keller Demonstrate at GRHS Conference

Nelson, Jim. "Kraft, Keller Demonstrate at GRHS Conference." Timber Lake Topic, 15 August 2002, 6.

Local iron cross makers Herman Kraft of Timber Lake and Ervin Keller of Glencross attended the world premiere of a new documentary about German-Russian cemetery crosses at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck, ND on Wednesday, August 6.

The film includes scenes from the Glencross Cemetery and footage of Kraft working in his blacksmith shop.

The text for the film was written by Dr. Timothy Kloberdanz of NDSU in Fargo. Kloberdanz is also the narrator. The film was co-produced by Prairie Public Broadcasting of North Dakota and the North Dakota State University Libraries. Major funding was provided by the North Dakota Humanities Council and the North Dakota Council on the Arts, Prairie Public Broadcasting and NDSU Libraries. The film will be shown on North Dakota Public TV on September 12.

The film is named Prairie Crosses, Prairie Voices: Iron Crosses of the Great Plains and is the culmination of nearly 25 years of research by Kloberdanz. Along the way he made the acquaintance of cross makers Herman Kraft and Ervin Keller. Kloberdanz presented a slide show on the same subject at Timber Lake in 1996.

The following day Kraft and Keller conducted a demonstration on cross making. The demonstration was at the blacksmith shop at Buckstop Junction east of Bismarck. That blacksmith shop is the former Driscoll, ND blacksmith shop originally owned by Ole Hatle and later operated by Ole Olin. Buckstop Junction is a historic town made up of old buildings moved to their present location near the fairgrounds.

Kraft and Keller were assisted by Kraft's grandson Ben Kraft at the demonstration.

Following the demonstration people toured the Crown Butte and St. Anthony's cemeteries with Dr. Kloberdanz.

Kraft began making iron crosses in 1990 to mark the graves that had no marker, particularly the graves of babies that died in epidemics. The first crosses he made were for the Glencross Cemetery.

On Thursday morning the Germans from Russia Heritage Society dedicated their new $900,000 Hall of Records and Headquarters located at 1125 West Turnpike Avenue in Bismarck.

The viewing of the film and dedication of the Hall of Records opened the 32nd annual convention for the Germans from Russia Heritage Society. According to the organization 652 people attended the conference. The GRHS has a membership of 2400.

Others attending the conference from Timber Lake included Andy Aberle and Jim Nelson. Joining Kraft and Keller at the premiere were some of their families including Herman's wife Joyce, Richard and Caryn Kraft and their children. Kathy Kraft, Maxine Johnson, and Ervin's wife Angeline and her sister Frances Franklund.

Reprinted by permission of the Timber Lake Topic.

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