Welk Homestead

Armstrong, Mark. "Welk Homestead." Emmons County Record, 7 August 2001, 2.

Up until this past weekend, the thought of driving to Strasburg to visit the farmstead of Lawrence Welk was never on our family's list of "Things We Must Do." It never occurred to us that we might learn something by visiting the place, we have seen farms and old sod houses as we drive back and forth across the state, and so what could the Welk farm possibly offer? It took a magazine assignment for my wife, Patti, for us to make the venture down, and what a pleasant surprise it was in so many ways.

We live in a much different world today than the world of immigrant families like Ludwig and Christina Welk, Lawrence Welk's parents who emigrated from Odessa, Russia, as one of the many Germans from Russia families who fled seeking a better life in America. Speaking no English and settling a hard land at the turn of the century these families that built sod homes and struggled without electricity, running water or adequate heating or cooling systems lived in stark contrast to those who complain today when a storm knocks out their cable T.V. for a few hours. Life for families like the Welks was tough and harsh, with a family of four boys and four girls crammed into a small home that has about as much square feet as an average living room today.

Did they complain about their life? Did they blame God for all their suffering? No, they built wonderful churches like Sts. Peter and Paul in Strasburg. A huge brick structure consecrated in 1910 with beautiful stain glass windows, statues to scores of saints, beautiful hand-painted murals on the ceilings and a deep sense of what was really important and sacred.

Then there is the story of Lawrence Welk, a boy who gets an accordion and then follows a dream to play and entertain with his music. For 30 years crisscrossing the Northern Plains and Midwest, playing in a different small town every night, before landing the television contract in 1951 with ABC that changes his life forever.

I have to confess I had no idea how impressive the story being told at the Welk farmstead is. Not to mention the two wonderful women, relatives of the family, who take the time to patiently answer questions and offer insight as they tour you around. If Strasburg has not been on your list of places to visit, then make sure you put it on. Bring your family, bring your children and let them see how the Welks lived and maybe, just maybe, they might think twice about complaining when batteries die out on their Nintendo games. With Insight, I'm Mark Armstrong.

Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.

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