Saints Peter and Paul Parish 25th Year Jubilee,
Strasburg, ND, June, 1914
EMMONS COUNTY__________________________ NORTH DAKOTA
A FEAST SCRIPT
for the 25 YEAR JUBILEE of the
SAINTS PETER & PAUL'S PARISH
and at the same time
a Feast Offering for the
Third Catholic Convention
for the Diocese of Bismarck
on the dates of 16-17-18 of June 1914
Original Script Written by: _________________________________ Father Max Speckmeier
Translation by: __________________________________________ John J. Baumgartner, Jr.
Translated From: _____________________________ Father Max's German Edition of 1914
Note: The following text has the composition, grammar and punctuation of the original translation with minor modifications such as the correction of typographical and spelling errors.
The year 1914 is a year of celebration for the Parish of Strasburg, North Dakota. At this time, we find the German Catholic Vereins of the Diocese of Bismarck, and the General Convention were combined in one celebration.
It is also this year, a 25th Jubilee year for the Parish of Strasburg, since it is now twenty-five years that this Parish was founded. With interest, with joy and happiness and thankfulness, we look back these twenty-five years, which were very fruitful in suffering and happiness, in patience and success.
Today, after 25 years, the first settlers look back with pride for work well done, and all the hardships they endured after their arrival here. They feel very much rewarded for all the hardships endured, when they see how the Parish of Strasburg in all respects flowered, to such an extent, that the Parish of Strasburg is considered one of the better ones in the Diocese of Bismarck, and probably one of the better parishes in the whole State of North Dakota.
The following pages should give us an insight into these 25 years, which now belong to the past, and should show our young people what has to be done, in order to find success, and also what has to be done to establish in a parish a happy and well ordered environment that will endure.
The First Settlers
It was in the fall of 1888, when in this part of Emmons County, the Strasburg Parish arose. Some agents from Strasburg, South Russia arrived to look over the area and to find out, whether this area was suitable for settlement. What these men found was all fields - no houses, no people, but room enough for settlements. There was only one inhabitant to be seen far and wide namely, a Mr. Petrie, who today is a very successful businessman in Linton, North Dakota.
After this inspection trip, there arrived in the spring of 1889, more South Russian settlers to homestead. The first enthusiastic arrivals were: Jacob Feist, at that time an unmarried youth, but soon hereafter became married and today is considered an appreciated and well-to-do successful member of the Parish; Jacob Baumgartner, also a successful farmer, or better - a retired one, who now lives in town on his savings. Johannes Baumgartner, often called, "old John," who gave to this Parish a line of prominent members in his boys and girls, and who since a number of years ago, had come to town to live on his savings, and to take a well earned rest. also Franz Baumgartner, a brother to the above mentioned men, who now has passed to the hereafter, where we hope, he received a rich reward for the many years of service as school teacher and choir master, that he rendered to the Church. also Lorenz Schwab, by now a member of the neighboring parish of Rosenthal, and Martin Schwab, who also, moved from here to Karlsruhe, where by now, death brought him to a better life. What these first settlers found was nothing more than the wide naked prairies. Yes, timely, naked were these prairies, since shortly after the arrival of these brave people, a prairie fire had burned down everything in this area that was not of earth and rock.
On the 7th of May, 1889, [at] noon came the first arrivals, and on the very same day they began to turn over the sod in order to build some miserable tents. This was in the least, bad enough and discouraging. The first night had worse things to offer, since it brought rain and very cold weather, so that people had to take off the boxes from their wagons to protect themselves from the rain and cold.
As warmer days arrived, some parts of the prairies were plowed in preparation for seeding. The result of the seeding was little, since a poor crop was in the offering. The flax, that had been cut with the grass mower, when it was ripe, for the most part was blown away by the wind. Then in order to save some, they pulled the flax, that remained standing, with their hands, out of the earth.
And what effort it cost, to make the little wheat they harvested end up in money and a livelihood. Eureka, South Dakota was the closest railroad station and also the closest place where one could buy and sell things. The road there was at least 50 miles. What these poor people had to endure on this long trip, especially during snow and rain storms, is difficult for the younger generation to fathom. Also not to forget, was that the first horses of these first settlers were oxen.
The year 1890 arrived, again a crop failure. Among the people were much need and discouragement. The women often tell even to this day, how often they wept for whole days, partly because of need and misery, often because of homesickness for their old homeland. Many would have returned by foot to Russia, if it would not have been so far, and the big ocean between America and Russia did not exist.
In these hard times many traveled the whole long day, over the prairies looking for buffalo bones. These then had to be brought to Napoleon or Steele where they were sold and for the money received, the necessary provisions secured. For the bones they received very little; for a wagon load, about a sack of flour, which was the most important food stuff of these dire times. Meat was a scarce item. However, meat was available at times, but one had to buy it with a shot gun.
So one day, three men went hunting in order to shoot something that had flesh and bones. The men were Jacob Feist, Egidi Keller and Lorenz Schwab, these three were the heroes.
They went on the road toward Beaver Creek; where they should find something to hunt. They walked a long way, but saw nothing and caught nothing. At last they saw a bird, not very big and not really small; it could have been a snipe. Now, they had to be quick, because the bird was a fast flyer. Quickly, Lorenz shouldered the gun, the shot echoed and the bird dropped dead to the ground. With quick steps all three rushed together and picked up from the ground the offering, but lo and behold the poor animal was shot to pieces. Two were ready to throw it away, when bewildered and enthusiastically Egidi shouted, "Now bring it along, it is meat." So valuable was meat in those costly days.
Now, meat was scarce; that wasn't too bad, because one could still his hunger with something else. Worse was the lack of firewood and no roads. A very good picture and example of this is the following story:
Jacob Feist and his wife with his brother in law, Egidi Keller, got together one day, hitched up their oxen on the wagon and drove toward Beaver Creek to get some wood. There they found plenty to load two big loads. When loaded and ready to drive back to their homes, the sun was ready to set. Travel was slow, the oxen were slow and the wagon load was heavy and there was no road. Darkness arrived too soon, a very dark night indeed and soon thereafter, they lost direction. They saw nothing, but drove further and with much luck, at last they saw a light in the distance. "That is my house", Jacob called happily, for he had instructed his family to hang out a lantern by evening in front of the house, and that was a wise move. But, suddenly the light disappeared, at least the night travelers didn't see it anymore, because they came behind a hill. The two log and wood haulers now parted way. Jacob drove toward the direction of his house, where after a few missturns luckily arrived. Also, Egidi was looking for the direction to his home, but really got lost. He drove around during the darkness, but didn't make it home. Finally, he fell asleep, but the oxen didn't fall asleep. They peaceably continued forward. The folks at home were afraid and worried, but finally crawled under their wagon box to get their night's rest. After getting up at sun rise, they saw the oxen in the yard, with a nice load of wood, and on top of it was Egidi, fast asleep. His guardian angel was better able to steer the oxen, than Egidi himself. Yes, in those days, one needed on these open prairies, a guardian angel very much. All of the early pioneers could tell you their own stories.
The First Priest
The closest priests for our first settlers were 26 miles away. They were the Benedictine Fathers on the Indian Reservation at Fort Yates, namely, Father Bernard and Father Franz. Already, in the first year, 1889, as soon as Father Bernard heard that a new German Russian settlement had begun close by, this eager priest began looking for these poor and forsaken lambs, and celebrated in their midst the Holy Mass, in the home of our deceased Franz Baumgartner.
How with great realization and happiness, the first priest was welcomed and how the young and old in thanksgiving kissed his hands, all this is easy to imagine. Even if an angel came from Heaven, could the happiness and luck have been greater. In those days each priest was treasured and loved, then one did not scold or gossip about him. Nowadays, on this point, we find to the sorrow of the people, that things have changed somewhat.
Until the year 1889, we find the Benedictine Priests from Fort Yates and from the mission of St. Johns (McIntosh County) taking care of the people around here, and Hague, at that time known as Elzas. It was in the year 1889, when the first resident priest arrived in McIntosh, namely, a secular priest, a Father Schmitz. Now, the priests from Fort Yates really didn't have to minister to this area, by that we mean, they were not obliged to visit these German Russians. Nevertheless, the two soul hungry priests from Fort Yates, filled with their good hearts, these sons of St. Benedict, continued for about three years, to come over the Missouri River, in order to say the Holy Mass for these German settlers, also to spread the word of God, and to administer the holy sacraments and besides to console and encourage these people.
When any of the priests were to come, the news was spread a few days ahead, from house to house, as to the day and also the place where the religious get-to-gether was to take place. The various homes in turn were used as churches. All came together, young and old, down to the very youngest, who had to wait to become citizens of the United States, and also awaited baptism to become citizens of the Church. When the religious services ended all people stayed together at the meeting house, where the noon dinner was served for all. Hereafter, the people conversed for a few hours, and if everything went well, then around three or four o'clock, coffee was served. Soon all parted and went in different directions, each to his own home. In those days, we found more Christian love and understanding than is the case nowadays.
So, we find in those beginning years, that during the get-to-gethers, not so much was said about our neighbors, nor scolded or lied, as we so often find these days, when not always, but sometimes too much.
About those early days, even today, the following story is told, which isn't so important, but yet quite interesting. One day Father Franz came to Elzas, to say Mass there in the old Church, which not so long ago, was dismantled and so disappeared. At this opportunity a baby boy was brought in for Baptism. It was the first Baptism for Father Franz, a newly ordained priest, to perform. The interesting circumstances were these: the priest that baptized was a Franz; the father of the child was named Franz, namely, Franz Roehrich, the godfather's name was Franz, a Franz Wolf, and of course the baby was named Franz. The child by now is a married man. Interesting indeed, are these circumstances, and seldom will such a thing happen.
We have noticed in this writing, that both of the first years 1889-1890, brought poor harvests, and could be called crop failures. The year 1891, was an extra-ordinarily good year, and the blessings of the fields continued until 1910. This year was a poor one, but a complete crop failure was the year 1911, the worst in 25 years. We did have also, in the year 1904, a crop damage from hail, but only in certain places, and only partly.
When the good years came, one had to think about getting good threshing machines. The first group, that for much money, bought a threshing machine were Jacob Feist, Casper Feist, Peter Kraft and Frank Giesinger. Naturally, people gathered, in order to look over this wonderful thing, and to marvel on how well it worked. As the machine had to be taken to another place, soon a very bad accident could have happened. The machine was moving along nicely, and the workers and other onlookers were walking along the sides and behind. Suddenly, high up, the straw ladder came loose, and fell down with a loud noise to the ground. Those that heard the noise ran toward the sides full of fear - this was a chance for Jacob Feist, so he began to lament and shout. "For God's sake" called the astonished Peter, and rushed toward him. "Jacob, what happened - are you hurt?" "O Jesus, O Jesus", murmured poor Jacob and shook and trembled, "If that thing would have hit me, it could have killed me." Now, there arose a loud, happy laughter from all sides, and as Jacob got over his astonishment, he began to laugh himself, and even to this day he has to laugh at this death opportunity.
The First Church
Since the year 1892, a Father Joachim, O.S.B., who had his residence in McIntosh County, came from time to time to give church services for our German Russian people. This was good and proper, but there was something missing, that one needed here very badly, namely; a church. In the year 1893, the settlers agreed among themselves, that a church had to be built. But where can we find the money? So one day a few men drove over to Peter Miller, who at that time, was a well to do man and a member of the Holy Trinity Church and received from him a loan of $600. With this the building project began. At the same time collections were made, whenever such could be had. In a short time, the construction was finished and on the feast day of the Birth of Blessed Virgin Mary, in the same year 1893, the Church was blessed with great pomp, by Father Joachim, assisted by Father Bernard and by Father Franz.
The cost of the Church amounted to about $1,200. As church patrons, St. Peter and Paul were chosen.
From now on Strasburg became a regular mission which regularly was ministered from McIntosh.
The Building of the Parish House
In the year 1899, Prior Vincent Wehrle, O.S.B. from the St. Gall's Seminary at Devils Lake, sent one of his priests, a Father Benedict Peter, to this area. This priest, was actually to go to McIntosh where he was to stay with Father Stephen Stenger, who was parish priest of St. John's. From here Father Peter was to take care of the Strasburg Mission. But when Father Benedict Peter came to Strasburg for church services, he stayed here and since there was no priest's house, he took living quarters at Peter Keller's home.
Now, there was a priest, but no house. So the people said right away, "We must build a parish house." So in the very spring, building was begun. Father Benedict drew the plans; the necessary building materials were brought here from Wishek, about 40 miles away for $700, and brought it here. Since everybody helped along, especially Father Benedict Peter himself, it didn't take long and the house was under roof, and the inside, too, was completed as quickly as possible and as well as they could, so that Father Benedict, as first parish priest of Strasburg, could move into the new parish house, which to this day does its purpose.
Since, on January 6, 1900, Father Benedict was reassigned, we received Father Joseph Thuille, who came from the same seminary as Father Benedict. This hardworking priest, who especially was noted for his beautiful sermons, that still live with us, worked with great blessings in this Parish until June of 1903. Again Father Benedict was called to take care of the Parish, until September of the same year, Father Justus Schweitzer, O.S.B. was appointed parish priest for Strasburg. This same priest served here until the fall of 1906, with very great priestly endeavors, and special care for this Parish. The last few years of his work here, things became hectic.
In the spring of 1902, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad was being built, and by December of that year, opened. This same year, the establishment of the City of Strasburg took place, as four men: John J. Baumgartner, Mike Baumgartner, Egidi Keller, and Jacob Feist, erected a store by the name of Strasburg Bazaar, and soon hereafter Raphael Volk built himself a house nearby. The newly started town was about two and one half miles away from the then, church yard. In the following years, as more houses were added to the first two buildings, the question came up, shouldn't the Church and parish house stand there where the new town was started and where most likely the future development would take place. This question came up and became more and more important, so by the year 1906, a decision had to be made. So the storm broke out. The one said, yes, move, the other said no. Some pulled this way, others that way. The priest was in favor of moving, since the Bishop was in favor too. One part of the Parish was on the priest's side, the other group against these, and often time in very unfriendly tone.
Finally, it was decided to move. Some naturally, favored it, the others, of course, not, and these wouldn't do anything.
With some effort and hard work, Church and parish house were moved to town. As luck would have it, the Church arrived safely at its new home, but a misadventure happened to the parish house. As it was being pulled over the railroad, the house broke into two pieces - half on this side, and the other half on the other side of the track. More hard luck was in the offering, the train was coming - maybe this was a stroke of luck. After lengthy discussion with the railroad officials, it was decided to use the locomotive of the train to free the two halves of the parish house from its predicament.
In those days many a mistake was made about which today one better not say much. By now, most understand that the parted parish house on the railroad tracks had a lesson to tell. "Working together builds houses, dissent tears them apart."
By now, most people, who then disagreed, are now satisfied. Most all people now wish the fights and disagreements never would have happened. It is not so long ago that a sensible man told me, "At that time I, too, was one of the kickers, but I made up my mind that during my life time, no more kicking. One cannot accomplish much, only bring discord and impatience." "Yes," I answered to these words, "and often times one commits sins."
During this period of discord in the Parish, Father Justus was recalled from the Parish in the fall of the year, and then for a month Strasburg had no priest.
When the Church and parish house were properly placed in town and things fixed up, and the heckling was over to some extent, then there arrived in Strasburg, Abbot Vincent Wehrle, from Richardton, where a few years before a new Seminary had been erected. In the year 1907, the Abbot had the first church services in the new town. He encouraged the people toward understanding and peace, and promised to send them a good priest.
The Building of the New Church
During the time of Father Alois, a very difficult enterprise was undertaken, the building of the new Church. It took a great and enterprising spirit, to begin such a piece of work, and not everyone would have the necessary courage to do that. Usually, when a priest undertakes such a large undertaking in his parish, and things don't turn out just right, no one gets the blame, but he alone. If however, the undertaking was a success, and was to the benefit and pride of the parish, and someone asks in wonderment, "Gee, how was this accomplished?" The reply would be, "We" and again, "We" and for a third time, "We"!! Few think or say, that the priest should receive at least some appreciation and honor.
However, we found that Father Alois had the courage to build a church. He drove around himself in the Parish to encourage every member of the Parish, and to find out what each could afford, and would be willing to donate.
As things appeared rather sure, that the enterprise could succeed, the basement then was dug in September of 1909, after Abbot Vincent staked out the line for the new Church, and he and Father Justus had loaded the first load of stones and brought them on location. In the fall of the year the foundation stone was laid, so that by April of 1910, the foundation stone could be placed and the building of the real Church could begin. Abbot Vincent, who in the meantime, became Bishop of Bismarck, came himself in order to bless and lay in a festive way, the corner stone.
During the whole year of 1910, people worked with enthusiasm on the building of the Church, so that by mid October, when Father Alois became ill, and had to be recalled, and in his place Father Max Speckmeier O.S.B. was sent here by the Bishop, to become the regular priest here. By that time the Church was completed, all but the inner decorations.
Now, kind reader, you may have guessed by now, that the present priest, Father Max, of Strasburg, is the writer of this story, and therefore, [I] will introduce myself and relate how things happened since my four years here as head of the Parish.
I came here during the middle of the church erection but had little to say toward its completion. Most of the donations and plans were completed before my arrival. By the beginning of November, the basement was so completed so that a chapel could be used for church services, and the rest of the basement opened for a parish school.
Shortly before Christmas, around the middle of December, when the inside was finished, then arrived the high altar, the pulpit, the communion railings and the church benches. Quickly, things were installed, so that by midnight and holy night of 1910, we could celebrate with much joy for the priest and for the whole congregation, the first church services in the new Church.
During the Midnight Mass, the Church was pretty well filled with pious people. On Christmas Day, during the main church services, the Church was so crowded, so that one could hear voices saying, "The Church is too small, it should at least have been twenty feet longer."
The Church, one of the most beautiful in the State of North Dakota, cost about $45,000 and by the time it was completed, the congregation had a debt of $24,000 dollars on it. On this debt, a part still had to be paid (1910), and should we have a good crop, and with good will, the debt could easily be paid off. Many members of the Parish, not only paid their stipulated monies, for the payment of the Church, but willingly offered more. In this way, we were able to plan a high altar, the beautiful angels on both sides of the church, and also the grandiose windows. I cannot mention each member. It is really not necessary because the good Lord, the rewarder of all good, knows them all, and will not forget to reward them.
About two years ago, the beautiful Stations of the Cross were secured. These cost $700 and most of the money for them was donated.
The same year our Church received an interesting nativity scene, which also came about by free gifts.
This last year (1914) the Church obtained the burial crib. As I, one Sunday explained to the congregation how nice it would be, if we could have a holy grave, for Holy Week. There was brought to me in the course of a week, to the parish house, almost enough money, so that little more was needed, and that came in a short time.
By December of this last year, it was possible for us to purchase the exquisite altar of the Sorrowful Mother of God, for one of the rear side chapels. For this, two women of the Parish each spent $100. This became a chapel like affair, as a prayer niche for pious women. Also the money for both side altars, and the two confessionals were free will donations. These cost around $1,500.
Without my asking in any way, by the new year, enough money was collected, so that it became possible to order two bells. Now, the one bell did not have to chime alone, in the lofty tower of the steeple. Together these bells chimed out in all directions of the Parish, in order to invite the faithful and liberal children of the congregation, to their church services.
Should good harvests come, we will soon be able to buy two more bells, so that we can have some beautiful ringing in harmony, worthy of our gracious house of God.
Besides, the future will bring a big pipe organ and a beautiful baptismal font, so that our Church will have almost everything that is needed.
To write a long description of the Church, I deem unnecessary, if one does not see the Church, one cannot even, with the best description, make a true picture of it. The Church is big and spacious and especially the indoor decor arranged in a practical way. People who enter it are astonished by its gracefulness. Especially charming is the way the paintings were done. One does not tire gazing at these.
In June of 1911, the new Church was consecrated by the very honorable Bishop Vincent Wehrle in a very festive way and in the presence of many priests. A Pontifical High Mass was said, and at this opportunity the holy sacrament of Confirmation administered. The day will remain as an unforgettable day of honor and happiness for the congregation. A tremendous crowd of people from all sides streamed in for the Feast, not only Catholics, but many non-Catholics. The big Church was not able to hold even half the people.
The Religious Life of the Parish
The religious life of the congregation developed itself in a very satisfactory manner. This we can note by the many church organizations.
Already, Father Justus started for the women, the Altar Society. On January 6th of 1912, this society was combined with the brother-hood of the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. This society, was founded under cannon-law by the Bishop and united to the main brother-hood in Rome. Each member promises to spend at least once a month, an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and pay a five cent monthly fee. The brother-hood numbers 180 members. With the establishment of the society, a Holy Hour was inaugurated for every Saturday, and for the evening before a feast day, also a special adoration for the first Saturday of each month. On each first Sunday, the Blessed Sacrament was set out at early Mass, followed by a solemn procession after the main church service. Besides, as was done before, each month had a special service.
On the 8th of December 1912, the Society of Mary was inaugurated for the young women. This group was led by the sisters and held meetings twice a month. It numbers about 50 members.
For the children there exists a Childhood of Jesus Verein, with a membership of 120 boys and girls. Each child pays one cent a month as dues, and the receipts are used for the Heathen Missions.
The visits to church services during the week days, are also very good. Also the receiving of Holy Communion is regular and enthusiastic. In the last few years, between 10,000-11,000 Holy Communions were distributed.
Special church feasts are: Forty Hours Devotions - This takes place during the beginning or during Lent, with two sermons daily, during which neighboring priests help out in a friendly manner. The whole Parish goes to Holy Communion. Holy Week - All ceremonies are appropriately held, and make a deep impression on the people. Starting Holy Thursday morning until Good Friday morning, during which time the Blessed Sacrament is preserved in the chapel in the basement of the Church, one finds during the whole day and during the whole night, many devotional people, who in a touching way, spend hours at devotions. The same enthusiasm is shown on Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, when the Adoration of the Cross, that is in memory of the Crucifixion of Christ, takes place.
Corpus Christi was begun in a special festive manner. The procession moved through the streets of town, and the houses are decorated in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. During all of the Octave, we have a daily High Mass with the Blessed Sacrament exposed and also an evening Vesper.
Pentecost is the feast of the First Communicants, a day of bright joy, not only for the lucky children, but also for the whole congregation. Many outside people come every year to Strasburg for the festivity.
The outstanding feast for the congregation, [is] the Feast on June 29th, the Feast of two Patron Saints. During this time, we have a tremendously large group of people. This day is also the main feast of the St. Peter and Paul's Society. In the afternoon of this day, we at all times, have a large open assembly with various speeches and entertainment. The Societies from the neighboring towns of Hague and St. Anthony's regularly come to Strasburg.
During Lent, we have each Wednesday and Friday noon, Stations of the Cross, at four o'clock, which are eagerly attended.
During the month of May, there is daily May Devotions, also at seven o'clock evenings, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the remaining days after Holy Mass, in the morning and on Sundays after Vespers.
During the month of June, we have at the beginning of Holy Mass a short devotion in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Also, during October there is a daily Rosary Devotion. Opportunities for devotions and adorations there are many, and to the praise of the Parishioners, one must say, the opportunities are well used.
Besides these church organizations, there exists also two secular societies. The St. Peter and Paul's Support Verein, was founded July 1908, with 52 members. Father Alois Strigl, O.S.B. was the first president, today the Society has 95 members.
The St. Mary's Support Verein, a branch of the above Society is for the women.
Until Christmas of 1910, we had in Strasburg, the ordinary church singing as was commonly heard in many of the prairie churches of the German Russian people.
Already, with the beginning of the parochial schools, the music sisters had encouraged the musical children that by Christmas, the congregation was to be surprised by the delightful children singing, and most people were joyously surprised, as for the first time they heard the bell-clear voices of the children reverberate from the high choir loft, in honor and praise of God. At first, we had one voice Masses, but soon came two voice singing. Since last year, we laid special stress on choral singing, until we began late last fall with a four voiced church choir. I began with a group of men, to practice on a four voiced Mass and the sisters did the same with the girls. As these two groups thought they had progressed enough, an hour was appointed to try for the first time, this first Mass. We tried it and the success was pleasing; things went well, much better than we could believe. So it was decided that the Mass actually set for the Catholic Day, was already to be sung on the Feast of Mary Candle Mass Day. So it happened, and the joy and praise of the parish was especially great. There wasn't much prayer during High Mass. Most people had their ears pointed and many that ordinarily think Mass takes a long time, found that it ended too soon.
Church singing was as a whole ardently cultivated. During early Mass on Sundays and feast days, a German Mass was sung according to the Diocese Song Book. On the ordinary Sundays, a Choral Mass was sung and on all Sundays and feast days the Choral Vespers were sung by the people. The participation by the people isn't so good as yet, but it is getting better.
The excellent and untiring organist of the Parish, Sister Henrika, deserves the recognition and many thanks of the Parishioners. What she accomplished for church music must be appreciated.
The Strasburg Concert Band
Under the name there exists in Strasburg, since a few years, a combination of men and youth, who in an enthusiastic way keep busy in fostering music. Through ardent practice, this Band with its talents, brought it about, that not only in their home town, but also in other places, their playing earned them fame.
A very delightful endeavor of our artistic musicians that they use their art, at certain opportune times and willingly perform for the benefit of the Church.
It is hoped, that the Concert Band will never disband, but instead it will more and more improve and perfect itself. Beautiful music elates man and lifts his spirit.
The Catholic Parochial School
When a large Catholic parish has no Catholic school, by that we mean, no parochial school, then it is as if the congregation has a beautiful, large church, but in which we find no altar or tabernacle, and no church services are being held. When a Catholic parish, with much effort builds an embellished church, that is proper and good. All these efforts aren't worth much, if the parish does not foster a Catholic school. If someone should ask what is more important and of more use and need for a Catholic congregation; a charming church or a Catholic school? No sensible man could have any doubts for a moment, that a Catholic school is more important than an embellished and luxurious church.
Church services can be held in a miserable hut, and the first priests had to do this and many still do that in this country. God is satisfied with this; it is better to be received by people in a poor hut, than not at all. Where should our Catholic youth be trained and instructed in their religion, and encouraged in virtue and holiness. This can happen only in one place, in a Catholic school. Therefore, we find in this country that many Bishops will forbid in their parishes to build beautiful and costly churches, if before that they have not built a parochial school. And this is right. If we give no attention to build Catholic schools for our youth, then in a short time, it will be useless to build new churches.
The Parish of Strasburg is lucky that it has a parochial school, and for the most part, the Parishioners know that this luck has to be preserved.
When the plan was drawn up for a new church to be built, a plan was made at the same time for a parochial school. It was impossible to erect a separate building next to the Church. Therefore, the basement of the Church was so arranged that besides having a chapel, and an assembly hall, two well lighted school rooms [could] be contained.
The effort of the honorable Bishop, made it possible to secure the Ursuline Sisters from Germany for both new schools to be built, one in Strasburg, and one in St. Anthony in Morton County. The order of Ursulines was founded by the holy Sister Angela, and also for the education of youth.
As soon as the basement of the Church was completed, a parochial school was opened, and that very important date for our Parish was November 7, 1910. After a High Mass, for gaining Grace from the Holy Ghost, there was a gathering of the sisters and the children, in one of the classrooms, and as I entered the same, I found to my great joy, the stately number of 70 children. After a short speech, I gave my blessing to all, and the blessing of God fell upon this school from the beginning. The number of children continued to increase, so that we were forced, already by November of that same year, to erect the third classroom. For this the assembly room was used. But yet, the number of pupils increased more and more so that the first year, we had 170 children attending the parochial school.
By the beginning of the third year, October l, 1912, the necessity arose to build a fourth classroom. For this purpose, the assembly hall was partitioned by a wall for two school rooms. The number of children that attended the parochial school this year, was well over 200.
During the present school year (1914) the attendance was very large, besides the number of children that attended school for nine months kept growing. By now, the school has seven grades, so that the next school year needed an eighth grade. It is hoped that in two years a high school could be opened.
The instruction was planned the same way that is in public State schools. The instructional language is English. Besides, the children learn the foundational German and what is most important also religion and the Bible.
The girls received instruction in various handwork, and that they learn many useful things one can see each year at the handicraft exhibits.
In school, we have five sisters that work untiringly and perseveringly.
The extreme usefulness of a parochial school anyone can see who is not blind, or who on purpose puts on a blind-fold. Besides the knowledge of various useful subjects, which children lend themselves to, our youth, for the most part, have gained a great deal in speech and behavior. Very often one hears that when one comes to Strasburg, one notices that the children are quite different. Yes, naturally, that is a result of a parochial school.
Our parochial school is not visited only by children of our own Parish, but also from surrounding parishes. Yes, even from very far away areas of the State, parents bring their children to receive good instruction and behavior habits, regardless of costs. A good up-bringing and good education it seems, is worth more than gold and goods.
We hope that God's rich blessing will in the future, be with our treasured parochial school.
The Ursuline Convent
"A convent in Strasburg?" you may ask astonishingly.
"Yes" I answer thee. In Strasburg,
we do have a real convent, namely, the convent of the Ursuline Sisters, that was consecrated to
St. Anthony. How this came about, I will now relate in short.
On the evening of September 21, 1910, the arrival of the sisters into Strasburg took place, under virtually lightning and thunder accompanied by a streaming rain. Either God wanted, through the flaming lightning and voice of thunder, [to] show the Strasburgers, what an important moment the arrival of the sisters was for the Parish, just as God on Mount Sinai gave the lasting Commandments under lightning and thunder, or the sinister thunder weather was the complaint of the evil spirits, who were worried over the beginning of the endeavors of the sisters, and the opening of the parochial school. Father Alois welcomed these good sisters, heartily and led them to their new house, the house of Gabriel Marbach, close by the church. It happened luckily, since Gabriel Marbach, this very year with his wife and child wanted to make a trip to Russia, so it was possible to offer his house until his return. The house was really charming, but four small rooms for five large sisters was not enough. But these mission-spirited sisters were willing to put up with some inconveniences, and felt at ease in the little house, during their initial work.
It was clear, that this condition could not last for a long duration. As spring approached, I had to think about, in some way or another, to offer the sisters some worthy living quarters, if our Parish was to retain them.
Besides my house, I could see daily, the abandoned Church, and the thoughts to change the same into a sister's house hit me often. But with what? Everything costs money, and in this poor year, money was scarce. At last, I had to try, and so called on the 12th of March 1911, a general assembly of the Parishioners, and presented them a plan. My presentation was: the Parish should give me the old Church, no money payments, for a free undertaking, with a title to the property. Unanimously, the proposition was accepted, not one vote was against it. After their acceptance of this deal, came the second question: who would be willing to help to remodel the old Church into a sister's house? Those that wanted to help should at once give their offering, and sign in an offered listing, but those that didn't want to help, could go. Most of the people left and my enthusiasm began to sink, even though, not rightly so, the very best stayed and signed up for $1,100 within a quarter of an hour. So I was able to begin the construction with satisfaction. With the then Sister Superior, Sister Hildegard, I made a proposition. I would come up with $2,000, and the remaining costs, the sisters should bear, and as the building was completed the sisters would receive the title for the property.
On April 17, I called together the men who signed the donation listing and presented the proposition to them. All were satisfied with the conditions offered.
With the remodeling, progress was rapid, and by June 21, the sisters were able to move into their new home. On June 28, the Bishop blessed the house and consecrated the convent Chapel. He said Holy Mass in this same Chapel and from this hour on, the good Lord was present in the Tabernacle of the old Church, in a regular place. The Chapel and the whole house was placed under the protection of St. Anthony. Strasburg now had a convent.
A fairly large debt was left, and by Christmas I tried with general help, to sponsor a fair, the first one to take place in this Parish, and from the income the debt could be paid. With this, a heavy stone fell from the heart of the worried priest.
The small convent grew since. The number of sisters rose from five to seven and an increase of numbers is anticipated for this year.
The house not only offered more room for the sisters, but also was arranged to accommodate the school children, a kind of boarding school. Room for about 30 children in the house was provided. Each year the sisters had somewhat larger numbers of children in the house, especially from the surrounding area.
The sisters, not only, offered school instruction, but also instruction on the piano and organ, also in design, drawing, fine hand work, culinary arts, ironing and other house work.
In June, the convent was hit by a great danger. During a severe weather, lightning struck a near by granary, without luckily causing a fire. The sisters, at that moment, as the lightning struck were saying the words, "Help, Mary, it is time, Mother of all mercy."
The convent with its delightful gardens all around, make a very pleasing impression on viewers, and add to the beauty of the town.
May the convent develop more and more, to add more blessing on our Parish, and to the Diocese of Bismarck.
As the first Church was built, at the same time, close by the Church, a cemetery was laid out which as years went by, was filled with many rows of graves.
After the building of the new Church in town, it was not only my wish, but also the desire of the Parish, that the cemetery, which was two and one half miles from the Church in town, to bring it closer to the village. So, I went with a number of other men, to purchase a piece of land, containing two laid out city blocks, and all told, having somewhat over 30 acres.
The reason for this land purchase, was to donate it to the sisters, with the understanding, that they would later, on it, erect a larger convent with an academy, or something else. For this purpose, we secured also the land of the Milwaukee Land Company, for the rather large sum of $1,700. The money problem, which usually is the most acute, could be raised in some unforeseen way.
A member of the Parish, promised $500 and little by little most of the Parishioners donated smaller and larger amounts. By Christmas, we had another fair, and part of the receipts, were used for the land, so that only a small sum was left to pay.
As soon as the contract for this desirable land was made, and with the approval of the Bishop, a block square of land was designated for a cemetery. The bishop now ordered, that from now on, no one should be buried in the old cemetery (Tiraspol Cemetery), and that the remains of those buried there should be gradually brought to the new cemetery. Many followed these wishes of the Bishop, so that soon the new cemetery could show rows of old and new graves.
In the future the cemetery is to have an appropriate iron fence around it, and besides brought in order otherwise.
The City of Strasburg
The railroad was completed in the year 1902, and two men John J. Baumgartner and Raphael Volk with their families were the only inhabitants of the new town, and so laid the foundation for a new town. No man would have believed how quickly and well this village developed. Should one have foreseen, no man should have resisted the moving of the Church and parish house into town.
Although not placed along the main railroad, but on the branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, from Roscoe, South Dakota toward Linton, North Dakota, it did touch Strasburg! Even though no industry developed here, not even a mill or anything else, yet, Strasburg in the course of a few years grew into a flowering little town with about 400 inhabitants. Of these, all but a few others, are Catholics and with few exceptions are German Catholics.
The whole Parish numbers about 150 families with a soul count of 850-900. About one half of the Parishioners live in town.
The little village has not just a few beautiful houses, and not too many unpainted huts, has no dirty streets and unclean places with all kinds of manure piles, that one often can find in places the size of Strasburg. No, the impression that our town makes upon visitors, is that of a charming and clean little village. The streets of the town, are well laid out, and kept well. The whole town is laid out with many concrete sidewalks. The main street has rows of trees planted on either side, and by next fall, or the latest by spring, all streets are to have shade trees planted in the same manner. The Church is surrounded by trees, and most houses have trees around them. Yes, many are surrounded by a virtual forest. The homes themselves are truly very pleasing. As one goes through the streets of the town, one marvels over the many fine residences. Should one enter one, one would find charming rooms, well furnished, heating systems installed, yes, even bathrooms.
To these outstanding homes of the town, the parish house does not belong, and even though it does not make such a good impression from the outside, yet the inside is pleasing. Last year a hot water heating system was installed in the same, and the Parish did it willingly, no one complained about it.
When, the Church will be paid for, and good harvests come, then the pride of the Strasburgers will demand that next to the delightful Church, an appropriate parish house will be built.
Yes, proud are the Strasburgers, but not in a way that it may be sinful. They think much of their faith and the holy Church and have become part of it, built for the loving God a costly temple. Proud of their town which no one wants to leave and may others want to move to. Proud are they altogether of their Parish. They want to progress, and make many efforts, and rightly so, to make more improvements.
Because of this, they are willing to sacrifice. One has to consider the two very bad years, that we had, and content with, and one has to know precisely what, in these difficult times happened and had to happen, in order to realize, how much a large part of our Parish is inspired for everything that is noble and delightful and toward the betterment of the environment and desire progress and a willingness to sacrifice.
Strasburg is a well known business town. All visitors coming through declare that from Bismarck and Aberdeen, Strasburg is the best business town. One can find and secure everything one needs; of course, one has to pay for these. In general one can say that our business men of the town do not ask unreasonable prices. Many things one can buy better and cheaper than in larger cities.
In order for me to get acquainted with the business people, we made a circuit and will enumerate them in a row: Strasburg Bazaar, general merchandise; owners, John J. Baumgartner, Math Fischer and Damian Lauinger; Strasburg Drug Store, owner Raphael Volk combined with an appropriate hall; City Hotel, owner Martin Lipp; City Meat Market, owner John Schmaltz; General Store, owner John B. Biegler, Carpenter and Tin Shop, owner Mathias Moszer; Farmers Store, owner Gregory Bichler and Benedict Schneider; Machinery and Farm Implements, Valentine Keller, owner; Peoples Meat Market, Joseph Fettig; Strasburg Lumber Company, President Michael Baumgartner and Vice President Mike Klein, Secretary Lorenz Mastel, Manager Anton F. Wald; Machinery and Farm Implements, Klein and Mastel; Security State Bank, President John J. Baumgartner, Vice President Mike Baumgartner, Cashier John P. Henn; The Golden Rule - general merchandise and farm machinery, owners Adam Kraft, John Keller and Joseph Lipp; General Merchandise, M.A. Klein and L.K. Mastel; Pool Hall, Anton Kautzman; Variety Store, owner Jacob Kopp and Manager Peter Van Soest; Pool Hall and Bowling Alley, Casper Feist, Sr.; Strasburg Opera House, owner Balzer Wald; Strasburg Livery Barn and City Dray Line, Henry Winkel; Northwestern Auto Company Agency, Mike Baumgartner and Lawrence K. Mastel. By the depot stand five grain elevators, also a creamery. Three cream stations and two blacksmith shops are found in town.
Naturally, the town also has a public school, a post office, a freight express and telegraph-telephone office. Also a practicing doctor, Dr. J.J. Poort is located here. A fire house and a jail are other city properties. That such a small town can have so many business places, is proof that the surrounding area is good and prosperous.
Along with the beautiful and good things that the town contains, all kinds of plans are made for the future. Before long we will have electric lines. A plan to build a Vereins Hall has been talked about for some time, as well as that of a city park.
Also our beloved farmers are not lacking behind the town. One who drives around our area can see a rather large number of modern equipped farm houses. Many of the farmers own automobiles. That each that owns a house in town, soon will have an auto, is easy to understand. Before a few years are past, things will have happened so fast, that the "parish Priest" will be the only "poor Swallerer" who has to be carted around in some one else's auto. Progress is the main issue for the Parish of Strasburg.
Beloved reader, when you have read all that I have written, you probably will think and say Gee! Gee! one would have to think that everything in Strasburg is tops and okay, but there can be a few things here not quite in tune. Yes, sure good friend, you are right. In all large herds, we find black sheep, but they are few and found in small numbers in our Parish, and they do no harm. If they cannot fall into stride, they can go where they have a mind to.
Therefore: Respect and Honor for the Parish of Strasburg. May it blossom and prosper. May God give his Blessing.
In conclusion, all loving visitors to the Catholic Day a "Hearty Welcome"
Your Priest Father Max
In the Name of the Whole Parish of Strasburg