Growing up in Logan County

Gross, John. "Growing up in Logan County." Logan County Historical Society Newsletter, March 2003.

Time has come again to write a bit to the newsletter and welcome more of you to so the same.

As a German from Russia boy, growing up in South Western Logan County, born in 1924, the only language spoken in our household was German.

In an all Catholic community, my parents John and Magdalena (Vetter) Grosses farm where I grew up, was located in about the center of four Catholic Churches. The churches were: St. Anthony’s, which was four miles east; St. Joseph’s was three miles south; St. Michael’s was five miles west; and St. Boniface was six miles north of our farm.

My father grew up one mile from St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and my mother one-fourth mile west of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

With being surrounded by four churches, that didn’t give us much of an excuse for not attending church services either on Sunday, holidays, feast days, weddings and funerals. We were members of the St. Anthony parish which was in the Fargo Diocese and, of course, all our priests were German then.

The custom in our church was that the men would sit on the right side of the pews and the women would sit on the left side. The younger you were the further forward in the church you sat.

Every now and then, some of us unruly boys got our ears pulled during service from the church elder, in German that person was identified “Da Kircha Vater.” The singing was either German or Latin. All prayers were said in German except mass was said in Latin by the priest till about the year of 1938 when church service gradually changed over to English.

Very much did I encounter a language barrier as a youngster not knowing any English when I started country public grade school. We called it “English School” and the German religion summer school “Deutsch Schule.” Church services were all in high German “Hock Deutsch” as we called it and that was a contrast to out own dialect very much so.

The church was really the center of attraction. WE all had young people in an organization called Sodality, softball, German religion school and a lot of visiting before and after church service.

For the elders, there was always a lot of visiting at the nearby grocery and variety store near the church.

Our farm was also near the center of distance to the major cities of Linton, Wishek, and Napoleon from 17 to 23 miles.

The land was loaded with many farms and large families. We all spoke the same language and lived the same lifestyle with relatives all around.

Fortunately, I found a nice girl not too closely related three miles away from out farm. Her name was Margaret Schaffer. On February 3, 1947, we tied the knot. As of today, the language in our house is still German. Our five children all understand our dialect and speak some.

We are proud to be American, and we also have a heritage to be proud of.

Margaret and I are life members of the International Germans from Russia Society. The Organization was incorporated in 1971. There are now 26 chapters in the United States and Canada. The central office is located in Bismarck with a large new building. Our chapter is called South Central North Dakota Chapter. We meet in Wishek four times a year. This year’s annual international convention will be in Rapid City, South Dakota, on September 4, 5, 6, & 7. As a member of the society, we receive in the mail four Heritage Review Magazines a year. Much information is available through the main office from archives out of Odessa, South Russia. The office is loaded with family history books, old letters, videos, obituaries, a mass of information free to preserve our history for our children and future generations.

Until next year. John

Reprinted with the permission of the Logan County Historical Society.

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