MM: This is Michael M. Miller, Bibliographer
at North Dakota State University in Fargo. It's June ll, 1993
and I'm in Napoleon, North Dakota and I am going to visit with
today Andrew Johs. Andrew has been a long time resident born
in Logan County North Dakota and I am going to let Mr. Johs
introduce himself and tell us when he was born and so forth.
AJ: I am Andrew Johs. I was born December
10, 1909. I was born on the farm and our farm was in Shell Butte
township. When I was 4 years old, my folks moved over here in
Weigel township, in Logan County.
MM: How many were in your family, Mr.
AJ: In all, you mean?
MM: Yes, your brothers and sisters.
AJ: Brothers and sisters, we were thirteen.
MM: Thirteen in the family? And how many
are still living?
AJ: I think seven are still living.
Now, you were born in what year?
AJ: In 1909. I'm
the fourth from the older brother and two older sisters.
MM: And the name
of your father?
AJ: John Johs. Johann
Johs, they called him that time.
MM: You know what
year he was born?
AJ: In 1879.
MM: And he was born
AJ: In Kleinliebental,
MM: And he came
to America in what year?
AJ: In 1900. In
October 2nd, he went on the ship and in October the 11th he
came over here to New York. Then he came to Aberdeen, South
Dakota. [He] stayed with a friend, Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Karen
Kesslers for a while. Then he came up to Logan County.
MM: And your mother's
AJ: She was the
daughter of Michael and Barbara Schwartzenberger. Her name is
MM: And what year
was she born?
AJ: She was born
MM: And she lived
in what village?
AJ: In Elsass, Russia.
MM: And of course,
that was another Catholic colony. How old was she when she came
with her parents?
AJ: Well, she was
born in 1884 and they came over here in 1892.
MM: So, she was
eight years old?
MM: And so your parents, of course came
over and did your father or mother talk much about their life?
AJ: Not too much. My mother, when we got
older. I was only fifteen when my dad died, and my mother talked
about it and we asked questions. If it would have been now,
we could have asked more. At that time, we weren't interested
in that stuff.
MM: Right. And you spoke only German in
AJ: Only German, everyone is German.
MM: Today you speak more German than English?
AJ: Yes, more German. Always speak German.
MM: Now your children. How many children
are in your family?
AJ: Nine. Seven boys and two girls.
MM: And can they speak German?
AJ: All of them can speak German.
MM: So when you have a family gathering,
is more German spoken than English?
AJ: Yah. Well, when the family gathering,
then is more English, especially [when] there are some that
don't understand German.
MM: But when you are here in the Napoleon
community and you go down to play cards or get together at the
Senior Citizen Center, mostly German spoken?
AJ: Mostly German, yah.
MM: Do you know, is there a different
dialect or do they all speak the same German?
AJ: They all speak the same German around
MM: Can you still read and write German?
AJ: Oh yes, yes.
MM: And the old German script too?
MM: So, you can read the Bible in German?
AJ: Yes. I got a German book I read in
MM: What about your memories, Mr. Johs,
when you were growing up? You know, with such a large family
on the farm, was it pretty tough for you?
AJ: Not too tough. At that time we had
to work hard, especially in the 20's there. My dad died in 1925
and in 1929, we had a big crop. That time we had no binder yet,
all by header and header box. We had 100 acres of rye and I
had pitch a box and that was hard work that time.
MM: Did you have your certain chores?
Everybody had their duties?
AJ: Oh, yah. Yah, everybody had their
duties. In the spring, we had, used 2 gang plows and one sulky.
You know what a sulky is? And a drill.
MM: And of course, when you grew up, you
used horses, right?
AJ: I used horses, yes.
MM: Horses were very important?
MM: And so, where did they buy the horses?
Where did they get these good horses from?
AJ: Yah, I don't know. Every morning,
we had to hitch up twenty horses to go out in the field and
milk about twenty five cows before we went out. And by 6:30,
we were out in the field. We had to get up at 5:00 o'clock in
MM: What age were you when you did all
this farm work? When did you start working?
AJ: I was about seventeen, eighteen, around
MM: That's when you really started working
in the field?
AJ: Yah, yah.
MM: And before that, you had your chores
more in the farm yard?
AJ: Yah. Yah, feed the pigs and get the
MM: So your father died at a rather young
age, in the early fourties's?
AJ: In the 20's, 1925 he died. He was
MM: Did your mother raise the family alone?
AJ: Mother raised the family and I was
one of the oldest ones, had to take care of most of it. My oldest
brother, he got married in 1928 and then he left. Then I had
to take care of it.
MM: You stayed home how long on the farm?
AJ: I stayed until 1936, that would be
ten years. Then in 1932, I got married and we stayed with my
mother four years and I worked for her. Worked on the thresh
machine and that time, in the 30's, there were poor years. I
had to work and I didn't get nothing for that because, well,
I know my mother had nothing either. So in 1936, I moved to
a farm. Bought a farm and moved up here to the Julia Kelitz
MM: Now, where did you find the money
to buy this farm?
AJ: Well, I bought it in payments so much.
At that time, it was cheap. I bought two quarters and that was
$400.... No, 366 acres, I bought that for $5100. That was getting
out on bids, but the administrator was over her. He helped me
and told me what the highest bid was and I should put in $100
higher and then I got it.
MM: And your ma stayed on the farm until
AJ: Ma stayed on the farm until 1948.
MM: And then she moved to Napoleon?
AJ: She and my youngest brother Adam,
they moved to Napoleon in 1948.
MM: And what happened to the farm then?
AJ: One of my brothers, John Johs had
the farm. Yah.
MM: And it's still in the family?
AJ: No. Well, they moved [lived] eighteen
years in Bismarck. The farm is empty now.
MM: It's being rented out?
AJ: Being rented out, yah.
MM: What do you remember Andrew about
growing up? I know you were fifteen when your father died. That
was a big loss, but do you remember like the first days you
had to go to school?
AJ: Oh yah, I remember that.
MM: How far did you have to go to school?
AJ: A mile and a half.
MM: What was it like going to school?
AJ: Oh, that was a lot of fun, that time
when I would go to school. Yah, my first teacher was Vincent
Wolfe, he was from Zeeland. That must have been... I don't know,
1917 or so.
MM: The teacher could speak German?
AJ: Yah, he could speak German.
MM: Did you always have a teacher that
could speak German?
AJ: Oh, no. Uh uh.
MM: So, there were times where the teacher
would speak English?
AJ: Yah, we all had to speak English in
MM: And then it was quite interesting.
AJ: But we went outside and when we played,
we all talked German.
MM: You went to school there and then
how many months did you go to school?
AJ: I think it's seven months at that
MM: Seven months at that time. And you
went up to the 8th grade?
AJ: Yah. In 1926, the last year I went
to school and B.W. Maier was my teacher that year. Maybe you
remember him. All I learned that year was playing pinochle and
learned how to smoke. ha ha
MM: But what about when you go out on
the play ground? What kind of games did you play?
AJ: Yah, run around and play. Sometimes
we play snowballs.
MM: When you were a teenager of course,
you come to town once in a while. Did you get to town very often?
AJ: Not very often, about once a month.
MM: About once a month. What did you do
in town? Did you go to any dances?
AJ: Oh, yah. I go to the dances. I remember
I was at the dance when Lawrence Welk played at Napoleon in
MM: In 1923. That's interesting. You remember
that? He came over from Strasburg?
AJ: From Strasburg, yah. He had a guy
named Blasius. They all had nicknames that time. One was Davis
and Buke and maybe you remember them too.
MM: Well, I remember hearing of them.
Now, did you remember because you know were interested in Lawrence
Welk and he became famous and so forth? Did he play pretty good
at that time?
AJ: Oh, he played pretty good, yah. At
least, we thought it was good. And Tom Gutenberg played here
in Napoleon too.
MM: Where did he live before?
AJ: Yah, I think he lived at Strasburg
MM: He's another Strasburger?
AJ: Yah, yah.
MM: So, you did get to the dances and
then of course, you met people there and so forth.
AJ: Yah, yah.
MM: So, that must have been a special
[time] when you could get into town once a month?
AJ: Oh, yah.
MM: How did you get to town? With the
AJ: Yah. I don't know, I don't think so.
Well, I know one time we went up to Kintyre. They had wedding
up there and we went by horseback up there, about six of us
boys. That's a long time [way].
You remember the days of Prohibition in North Dakota when they
couldn't have liquor. Well, when [they had] those wedding dances
and so forth, did they have a little liquor there too?
AJ: Oh, yah. They
always had some.
MM: They would have
a little bit of selling liquor on the side?
AJ: Yah, yah.
MM: Were you ever
involved with selling a little liquor?
AJ: No, never was
MM: What about making
some? Did you make any wedding shnapps?
AJ: Yah, our folks
made shnapps, They had a burner too.
MM: And you made
some yourself too?
AJ: No, not me.
Never made it.
MM: Did you learn
how on the farm to make like sausage and so forth?
AJ: Oh, yah. I was
one of the head to make sausage.
MM: Tell us a little
bit about how you make sausage.
AJ: Yah. Well, I
don't know what to say. We bought that stuff that makes the
sausage red. I don't know what they call it and put in so much
salt, but we didn't measure, just by hand. You made sausage
and made liver sausage and head cheese and blutwurst [blood
sausage]. You know what that was?
MM: Do you still
make some of that today?
AJ: No, we never
butcher now anymore.
MM: What about your ma with such a big
family? She had to do a lot of cooking?
AJ: Oh, yah. Yah.
MM: A lot of cooking?
AJ: And when they butchered, early in
the morning. Well, the farmers, they all went together. We butchered
about seven pigs, big ones, about 500-600 pounders. Until when
the sun comes up, we had them all hanging already. By evening,
we were done making the soup and everything.
MM: And then, how did they store this
AJ: That meat? They put it in a barrel
and salt in it. Make a brine and had it out in the barn.
MM: You didn't have a root cellar?
AJ: No, we didn't have no root cellar.
What we did, in the windmill down there, what they call it...?
When the hole went on the windmill.
MM: Oh, they would store it down there?
AJ: Down there, yah.
MM: Do you remember going out and doing
a lot of farming? We talked about that a little bit. When you
left the farm and so forth, you were still using horses. You
remember the first times, I am sure, when you started using
AJ: Oh, yah.
MM: I bet that was a new experience. What
was like... the first piece of machinery that you bought on
AJ: You mean a tractor or so? My first
tractor was a 1941 model A. Then we bought a 10W McCormick,
that was Leo's tractor. He had to go out and plow with that.
He was about eight years old when he plowed with that already.
MM: So, they started pretty young?
AJ: Oh, yah. They started pretty young,
MM: What about when you were growing up
with such a big family and so forth. What was it like on some
of these special holidays? Do you remember a little bit about
how did you celebrate Christmas?
AJ: Christmas? Oh, we went together. My
uncle Tom Schwartzenberger, they lived just a mile north of
us. They came down on Christmas and we were together, we was
just small kids. Then the Santa Claus came and Christkindl and
the Esele. That time, we were scared. I knew who it was and
still was so scared. First, we had to stand in line and say
Our Father and Hail Mary and couldn't hardly say it, but we
all were so scared. Then the Santa Claus asked if we were good
and my dad said we were mean. One time, the Santa Claus took
a chain around me and took me out to the snow pile.
MM: Oh, my! And you were scared!
AJ: Yah, and knew who it was.
MM: So, Christmas wasn't like it is today,
of course. There is a lot of difference, but you had a beautiful
AJ: Oh, yah. We got a small package and
a few peanuts in there and a few candies, that's all. But now,
what do they get now? And then Easter, it was the same thing.
Everybody, us kids made a nest outside of the house. That morning,
we got up early and went down and found two dyed eggs in there
and we were happy. We helped to dye them eggs the evening before.
MM: Oh, my.
AJ: And they said the Easter bunny just
left and we seen him. They make us believe that we seen him.
MM: What about...? I know that when I
was growing up, when I was a young boy in Strasburg, they'd
celebrate these names days. [That] was a real big thing and
I am sure you did that.
AJ: Oh, yah. A lot of times.
MM: Like St. Andrew, St. Joseph and all
of these names days and they had to bake lots of food. Did you
grow up having pigs feet?
AJ: Oh, yah. We had that lots of times.
Leo always wants [that] when he come home. [He asks,] "no pigs
MM: So, you still make pigs feet?
AJ: Oh, yah.
MM: What do they call that in German again?
MM: What about wedding? How were they
AJ: Oh yah, there were big weddings. When
my oldest sister got married in 1927, then I and my brother
Sebestian, we drove over and hired John Schwab. He came over
here and had a two day wedding. Well, it was pretty near three
days. The first evening, they called Polterabend [shivaree].
You remember that maybe? And he played a little that evening.
The next day, they had a big dance and after the wedding, then
[a name ?], he showed us how old man Becker danced and old man
Joe Bitz [did]. I suppose Joe Bitz, you knew yet, and they had
a lot of fun.
MM: Tell me again, the first night, you
said that German word. What was that German word again? What
does that relate to in our English? What did they do there?
Any special games or any special dances?
AJ: Well, no. They call it Handstreich.
I don't know. And when a musician is there, then they call it
MM: Oh, maybe it's like bachelor party?
AJ: Yah, yah.
MM: I see. That's interesting. And then
they had a full day of wedding? And how did the wedding day
AJ: Well, in the morning, first is church.
And when they came home, then they played everybody in and then
we had a dinner. And after dinner, they start playing and dancing
and those that were there, they have to give the musician something
and then he played another dance. That's the way it works all
MM: And the dances went on real late?
AJ: Oh, about 12 o'clock midnight and
sometimes at l o'clock.
MM: What about...? What kind of liquor
did they serve?
AJ: Home made liquor.
MM: What was that called?
AJ: Yah, shnapps, I think. I don't know.
The gebrenner shnapps, they said.
MM: Did you ever make some of that?
AJ: I didn't, but my ma made it.
MM: Do you know how to make that? If you
had to make it tomorrow, how would you make it?
AJ: Well, first they made a brine. Put
in a big barrel, like barley or something like that and put
some yeast in and they got to stir it quite a bit. Then they
had a distiller and they run it through the distiller and that
just drops out and it was clear liquor, alcohol.
MM: How long did that take to make this?
AJ: That takes a long time, yah.
MM: And they make of this enough for a
wedding? Maybe some extra too?
AJ: Oh, yah. They usually make about six,
MM: What kind of food did they usually
serve at a wedding?
AJ: I think they had mostly... was chicken,
potatoes, pork sausage.
MM: What do you remember most about your
mother? She, of course raised the family alone. Did ma talk
much about her heritage?
AJ: Not too much. They didn't talk much,
[just] what we asked. But [at] that time, we didn't care much.
Now, we'd know better.
Right. Your mother died in what year?
AJ: In 1965.
MM: How old was
AJ: She was 81 when
MM: Did your mother
learn the English language?
AJ: Yah, she could
talk a little. She never went to school though. Could read a
little bit. She always liked to play cards.
MM: What kind of
cards did she play?
AJ: They always
play pinochle or whist. That's what them old guys played.
MM: And ma, was
she a pretty good cook?
AJ: Oh, yah. She
was a good cook.
MM: What was some
of her favorites?
AJ: Well, mostly
what we get was kraut, grumbarra, and fleisch. You know what
MM: Meat and potatoes.
AJ: Yah, potatoes
and sour kraut and pork.
MM: And what kind
of noodles did she make?
AJ: All kinds of
MM: Of course Fridays,
you always had noodles.
AJ: Yah, yah. Friday
we had noodles, yes.
MM: Of course, here in the Napoleon area
and throughout south central North Dakota, the church was very
important in their life?
AJ: Yah, yah.
MM: And the Christian faith, be it Lutheran
or Catholic or whatever. I have a feeling that in the Johs family,
church was very important.
AJ: Yes, yes.
MM: Do you remember going to the summer
or Bible school?
AJ: Yes. Yes, I remember that. My grandparents,
Schwartzenberger's, they lived there. We had a house, a separate
house. When my folks moved over here in 1914, they built a house
for the grandparents. They went to church pretty near every
day with the buggy. And I and my sister Helen, one had to go
along every day. And when they start driving, they prayed the
Rosary. That's where I learned to pray the Rosary. Going down
and going back and that was 5 miles one way to St. Anthony down
MM: Oh, five miles?
AJ: Five miles. They went pretty near
every day with the two horses.
MM: And what parish did you go to?
AJ: St. Anthony, at that time.
MM: Does it still exist today?
AJ: No, no. That's closed, but the cemetery
MM: And then of course, how many weeks
did they go to Catechism school?
AJ: Well, when I was young, they had no...
what you call a Schulemeister. Then I had to go down, I stayed
down there, I think. It's two weeks we had religion. The priest
from Edgeley came over here. That was in 1917 or 16 when I first
made my First Holy Communion.
MM: How old were you on your First Holy
AJ: About eight years [old]. I remember
that. There were four boys and five girls that went. And I think
that only two boys are living yet. Leo's sister is still living,
she was one. She's the one from Salem, Oregon.
MM: Now the service of course, was all
your Catechism in German?
AJ: All in German at that time, yah.
MM: What about your Confirmation?
AJ: That was German too.
MM: That was German too?
AJ: At that time, we had a Schulemeister.
MM: When did you find...? Throughout your
school years of course, in the classroom you had to speak English
and sometimes that was difficult for the children. Did you find
some that, like when you learned English, did you find some
that didn't know much English?
AJ: Well, I didn't know much either.
MM: I see.
AJ: I didn't know not much from English
language. I couldn't go confession in English. That's all German
MM: All German?
AJ: It's going to be tough when they get
a new priest here now in Napoleon. I don't know if he's a German
MM: I see. That's interesting. You left
the farm and got married in what year?
AJ: In 1932.
MM: And who did you marry?
AJ: Marion Schmitz. John Schmitz's daughter.
MM: She is how old today?
AJ: She is 78 years old. Last fall, on
October the 25th, we celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary.
MM: So, you have been married 60 years
AJ: Yah, yah.
MM: And you've lived in Napoleon how long?
AJ: In Napoleon? Well, I moved in...,
it's about 17 months I live in Napoleon now. I always lived
on the farm. Lived out there 55 years.
MM: Oh, you just moved? Who's on the farm
AJ: Nobody, that's empty.
MM: The farm is empty?
AJ: Yah, yah.
MM: Do you have...? When you moved to
Napoleon and so forth and living on the farm, what about the
celebrations like...? Do they still kind of have these Christmas
like it used to be or how do you think is it different now?
AJ: Oh, yah. It's a lot of difference,
yes. Yes. Now Christmas, so much money is spent now days. I
know, I spend close to $300 for my kids every Christmas.
MM: How many grandchildren do you have?
AJ: Twenty four grandchildren.
MM: Do you have any great grandchildren?
AJ: Fifteen great grandchildren.
MM: Oh, my. So you have a big family.
AJ: Yah, we had sixty two offsprings.
MM: The Germans from Russia have rich
roots to this area and I know that you have been very active
in keeping those roots going, especially in music, so that our
music continues. Have you been involved with some singing in
the Napoleon area?
AJ: Oh, yah. Yes, like we go to the Golden
Age up here. Once a month, we have sing along. Leo plays and
we all sing in there.
MM: Leo who?
AJ: Leo Gross.
MM: Did you do a lot of singing in church
AJ: Oh, yah. I was in the church choir
for about 20 years.
MM: Do you remember any special song that
you will always remember? One of the most important ones?
AJ: Yah. Like when the children went to
Holy Communion, we always sang that, "Lasst die Kinder zu mir
kommen." Did you hear that already?
MM: Can you sing a little bit?
AJ: Lasst die Kinder zu mir kommen, Ihnen
ist das Himmel reich; Wer den Himmel willerwerben, Werde diesen
Kleinen gleicht. Diese Worte, diese Liebe, Lass sie heut'er
neuert sein; Süsser Jesu, komm und segue Alle diese Kinder dein.
MM: Beautiful. Yes, you've got a real
good voice. Now, of course at weddings, they had lots of songs
at weddings. Going back of course to your time, you maybe decided,
but a lot of times these weddings were arranged when the parents
would check it out. Do you remember when you decided to get
married, did you have some encouragement from your family members
[who to marry] or did you find your wife?
AJ: I found my wife. We were raised together,
we went to the same school together. She went to school when
she was 5 years old. She's about 5 years younger than I am.
But she was baptized in St. Boniface and she got married in
St. Boniface and we celebrated our 40th anniversary in St. Boniface
and our 50th and our 60th.
MM: The 40th, 50th and 60th [wedding anniversarys].
AJ: And Father John was present at the
40th and at the 50th and at the 60th. My son said, "but I don't
think he was present at your baptism."
MM: No. What about when you had weddings,
they must have had lots of singing there?
AJ: Oh yah, we had lots of singing there.
MM: What kind of songs would they sing
at weddings, some special ones?
AJ: Let's see, "Hader wald ish gree" un
"Friedenheit isht my vergnegent"
MM: Can you sing one of those? Do you
remember the words?
AJ: Yah, I think. "Zu frieden heit ist
meine vergnegent, dast uns der liebe Gott zushegen als dan vertrau
ich meinem Gott ho ho Gott als dan vertrau ich meinen Gott,
wen ale dunder verbrausen und alle un (301) drum liebet nur
zu frieden ha ha ha heit, liebet nur zu frieden heit."
MM: Very good. They had lot of singing
at those weddings?
AJ: Oh yah, we had lots of singing. We
had Pius Kuhn, he was always the leader then when we sang.
MM: Who was in your group singing besides
Pius and you?
AJ: Leo Gross and Alice Gross. We had
good singers always there. Very good singing.
MM: What about going to a sadder time.
You know, a funeral was always a sad time in our life today
and then, but funerals were quite different then than they are
AJ: Oh, yah. We always sang that Das Schicksal.
MM: What was the service like, the service
compared to today? At that time when they had a funeral, was
it a little different than today?
AJ: Well, its about the same, I think.
But at that time, always the Das Schicksal was sung.
MM: How does that go? Can you sing that?
AJ: Didn't Leo sing it?
MM: We didn't have time for that.
AJ: Das schicksal wird keinen verschonen.
MM: Let's speak a little bit about farming
and the horses, 'cause the horse is very important. What you
did, what the normal chores were, when you start to seed and
to harvest and all that. Tell me a little about your farming
AJ: Oh, we had two gang plows. And the
gang plows, we had five horses and they were hitched together.
There was a strap in the middle so they were together in two
lines. And on the furrow side was a three horse evener and the
other side, the two horse evener. On the other side, we had
when we break in colts, we had them on a drag. One drag on and
the horse had a big rope around it's neck and he had to go along
and that's the way we break 'em in. And I used one plow and
my sister Barbara had one plow and Carl had the sulky and Sebestian,
he was the driller. He drilled with four horses. I think we
farmed around 600 acres with them. But when I moved alone up
here, I had only four horses and [farmed] all with the horses.
The first year, it was tough. Well, I didn't get done because
you could make so many rounds and you had to stop and feed the
horses, it's noon then. My folks came up and helped me to finish
it up. I had two quarters up here. Then the harvest the first
year, it was tough. First year, I and my neighbor Tony Piatz,
we headered together. I had a hired man, he always used one
box and we had two boxes and first we finished his, what was
ripe and then went down and finished our's. That worked pretty
good. Mrs. Piatz, she was stacking the stack. That was pretty
good that time.
MM: Then after harvest, where would you
haul the grain?
AJ: Well, hauled it to the granary with
MM: Here in Napoleon?
AJ: Here in Napoleon, yah. Well, mostly
at home. We all had granaries to put it in that time, yah.
MM: What kind of prices would you get
AJ: In the 30's, it was bad. I know the
first year I started farming was in 1934. I was still with my
mother down there. I rented the Schmidt quarter there. I and
my brother went out with two teams and farmed it. And then in
'34, the rust came and nothing grew. So, when we harvested it,
we had to give up the bushel. I got 29 bushels the first year.
See, I got rich that year. Ha, ha.
So, how was it? How did you survive during those 30's?
AJ: Well, we worked
MM: You worked in
AJ: Oh, yes. Yes.
MM: So you had to
go off the farm and work?
AJ: Yah, when I
move up here. I drove over to St. Boniface, that 6 miles, and
we build a road over there. That 6 miles, that was built by
the WPA, all with the shovels.
MM: And there was
a large crew over there?
AJ: That's a large
crew. It's about 30-35 [workers].
MM: Did you go anywhere
else and work on WPA projects?
AJ: Yah. I worked
down on the Park Wilke Dam. I worked for two months, I think.
Yah. And I worked in the school too. They had picked up four
of 'em, me and Sebastian Mitzel, old man Sebastian Mitzel and
Joe Aberly, the old man and there is another young guy. I think
it was Joe Schmidt. We had to work in the school, paint the
school inside and clean up everything. So, it wasn't too bad,
it was inside.
MM: Right. So that
WPA, then you had some income?
AJ: Yah, but how
much you think?
MM: How much did
you earn at that time?
AJ: Yah, I think
$16 a week with the team. That's not much income. Well, that
time it was much. Yah, $16 a week we got.
MM: And then during
those years, you didn't put in a crop?
AJ: Yah, we put
in a crop, but didn't get no crop. In '34 was no crop and in
'36 was no crop.
MM: Now I am going to look at these pictures.
This is real interesting. This is a new book that's just published
AJ: Yah, this our kids put that together.
MM: The family history of Johann and Johanna
Schwartzenberger Johs. There are some wonderful pictures here
and let's see....
AJ: This is where my dad got a [tritz
MM: Yes, I see that. But what I am interested
in is.... These photos are taken of course, in Russia. Do you
remember, did your folk's talk much about coming over?
AJ: No, they did not talk much.
MM: About coming over on the ship?
AJ: Well, everything gets in [the book]
here. What kind of ship she came over [on].
MM: Ah huh.
AJ: What is it here?
MM: It's listed there, yes.
AJ: On the ship Kaiser Maria Theresa.
MM: Yes. By the way, can you still read
MM: And you can write it too, yet?
AJ: I can write it too, yet.
MM: Oh, wonderful. So, you still read.
Now, as far as you know, did everyone in your Johs family, did
they all come to America? Did any relatives...?
AJ: No, not in the Johs family. My dad
came all alone from over there.
MM: Ah huh. So there were still some that
decided to stay?
AJ: Sure, like them here. Where is he
now? There is the grandparents, the great grandparents and started
from here. And here is my Andrew Johs, that would be my grandparent
and Helen Malsum. Leo is still looking for this Helen Malsum.
But first thought he had it and I told him no, that isn't the
right one because she was born in 1807 and I said that's a older
MM: Did you ever have any correspondence
with anyone over in Russia?
AJ: No, never. Leo wrote over once and
[to] get some information but [and] send a check along and they
send it back. Didn't get it.
MM: Now this family history of course,
is very important for the next generation?
AJ: That's for sure, yah.
MM: But I am so glad that, you know, the
children are taking an interest. But what do you see? Looking
back to your life and on the Germans from Russia you know, and
now there is more effort to publish you know, and so forth.
What would you suggest [are] some of the fondest memories that
you have? Let's say when you were fifteen up through to your
retirement. What are some of the highlights of your life that
you'd have to say that you'd always want others to remember?
AJ: Oh, yah. I am very interested in that
heritage. I and Leo, we always work together and when we find
something and so. Like last time he was home, he said he wrote
to this Dickenson from California about the Kleinliebental [village].
They had a article in that he was over there in Kleinliebental
and somebody wants [to] find out from relatives, just write
them. He said he didn't had no answer yet.
MM: Right. More and more people of course,
are going over now to visit their homeland. But unfortunately,
they won't find [much]. There are no more Germans in those villages
any more over in Russia. But we're trying to uncover records
you know, that exist.
AJ: Yah. Yah, maybe.
MM: You know, family records, land records
and so forth. But the ....
AJ: And cemeteries. I think they got cemeteries
where they could find some.
MM: Right. The Germans from Russia have
a rich heritage in Folklore also and of course, music is part
of it. Music was an important part of it. Can you think of anything
else that you remember, other than music, that you used to have
that was unique? Did you play any special kind of activities?
AJ: Well, I was in the band in 1923. Martin
Brown was our band leader down at St. Anthony and I got a picture
of that and I got the knee pants on that time. They are not
like the one they used to have now. They got the rubber around
here and Leo Gross asked me once how come I had the knee pants
on. I said, "that was the style that time."
MM: Oh, what instrument did you play?
AJ: The trumpet.
AJ: There were about some twenty in that
band, in that picture. And there are only 4 of them left, the
others all died. Joe Gross, maybe you know Joe Gross and George
Gross. They are on there, and I and Sebastian Sperle.
MM: And that band was a pretty good band,
AJ: Pretty good band, yah.
MM: Did they play for concerts?
AJ: Oh, yah. Not concerts, but here in
Napoleon they celebrate 4th of July. Like where this house stands
now, they had a big hall. Like Louie Olig, he built our skating
rink here and in that hall, I was in the band at that time.
We were hauled with the hayrack, had the tractor on there.
MM: Did you play in other towns too?
AJ: Well, Napoleon I think. And Wishek,
we played once and down in Zeeland, in McIntosh County there.
MM: What about in the church? You know,
the church not only out there at St. Boniface, but then here
in Napoleon and so forth. What were some special times in the
church? Did they have church fairs? They used to have these
AJ: Yah. They used to have, but not now
MM: But you remember those big days when
they celebrated a certain feast day?
AJ: Yah, St. Boniface Day.
MM: And what did they do on St. Boniface
Day? Do you remember how it was celebrated?
AJ: Yah. There was about four or five
priests here and everybody got company at that time. We had
company from Aberdeen that time, when they had St.Boniface.
Everybody went to church when this feast day was, and in the
evening there was a big dance.
MM: Oh, they had a dance as part of it?.
AJ: Not at St. Boniface, but someplace
else. They had one St. Boniface [dance] up by Joe Schumachers,
[a] barn dance.
MM: Oh, a barn dance. And what was a barn
MM: How did they have a barn dance? That's
interesting. Remember going to barn dances?
AJ: Oh, yes!
MM: What were those like?
AJ: Well, up where the hayloft is, they
had it emptied and then they had the barn dance up there. When
they built a new barn, they had a few barn dances before they
put something in there. Yah, we did a lot of barn dances here.
MM: And what kind of music and dances
did they have?
AJ: Mostly waltzes and polka and stuff.
Old time dances.
MM: Like you said, John Schwab would come
over and play?
AJ: Well, John Schwab didn't play here
often. At [that] time, was Wangler and then Weigel. They had
a band here and now they got different ones.
MM: And so, I think that entertainment
was.... They had good entertainment [at] that time. And there
was a lot of family gatherings and so forth, and you must remember
too. You know, you were still on the farm, but you must remember
watching the Lawrence Welk show, don't you?
AJ: Oh, yes. Yes, I watch him now always.
MM: But did you watch some of those early
shows when he just started?
AJ: Oh, yah.
MM: In the 1950's? What was it like when
they would watch? Was that pretty important in their life to
watch the Lawrence Welk show?
AJ: Yah, yah. That was important.
MM: And usually you got all your chores
done so you could watch the Lawrence Welk show?
AJ: Yah. Yah, I always enjoy it.
MM: Are there quite a few people here
in Napoleon still watching the Lawrence Welk show?
AJ: Not too many. Not them young guys,
they don't care for that.
MM: It's the older crowd? Have you been
over to see the Welk homestead?
AJ: Yah. When Leo was home last time,
we were over. Didn't Leo say something?
MM: Yes. And did you enjoy it?
AJ: Oh, I enjoyed it. Yes.
MM: When you went there and looked this
over, did it provide some memories for you?
AJ: Yah. In the grainery there where they
got all different kinds of tools, they asked me. I had to tell
them what this is and what that is.
MM: The blacksmith shop?
AJ: Blacksmith shop, yah.
MM: Of course, blacksmithing was quite
important, you know.
AJ: Oh, yah.
MM: And they had to do a lot of things
with that which they don't do today anymore.
AJ: And about them iron crosses. Who made
them? Wasn't it a Schneider that made them iron crosses?
MM: Yes, a Louie Schneider made many of
AJ: Louie Schneider. And that was our
AJ: That was our hired man. It must have
been in 1910 or 1911, around there. We had 2 hired men, Vincent
Mitzel and [name ?], they called him always.
MM: I'm not sure it was the same Louie
Schneider, but it could have been.
AJ: It could have been, yah.
MM: That was very important to our German-Russian
people, especially the Catholic Black Sea Germans. The iron
crosses are very important to the heritage of our German-Russian
people. Where in this area are there some of these iron crosses?
In what cemeteries?
AJ: St. Anthony's I think, got the most.
They got lot of them down there. St. Boniface got a few of them
MM: And St. Anthony's is located where?
AJ: Straight south [of] Napoleon, about
12 miles south and a mile west, yah. It's a little better than
a mile, maybe 2 miles.
MM: The heritage of the Germans from Russia
hopefully will last many years well into the future, but it's
very important that together we preserve it by telling our children
and our grandchildren. How are you finding the next generation?
Like when you talk about this, are you finding interest within
AJ: Well, the children are interested,
but not the grandchildren anymore. I don't know. Like Joe Blott
down here, he said his kids don't want to know nothing about
that. But he bought 5 books of them [the history]. He said each
one got to get a book because that's the most important. Yah.
MM: Yes, its very important to him and
all documented. The heritage of the Germans from Russia also
is very important for family research and so we have to document
this and publish this. And so it's wonderful that they published
this in 1993 for the next generation, so they can study it with
photographs, with diagrams, with family history, with names
and so forth. You have again, how many children do you have?
AJ: Nine children. Seven boys and two
MM: And they are all still living?
AJ: Oh yah, all living.
MM: And how many grandchildren?
AJ: Twenty three. One died, we had twenty
four. And fifteen great grandchildren.
MM: You have a large relationship.
AJ: Yah. Sixty two offsprings, they said.
But my sister Helen, they got 141 in here, grandchildren and
MM: And how old is Helen?
AJ: She will be 85 in July the 15th. She
is a year and a half older than I am.
MM: And she's in good health?
AJ: Not too good. She always got headache,
but she comes around. She's all alone out there.
MM: When you moved here to Napoleon from
the farm just recently, was it quite an adjustment for you to
move to town?
AJ: Well, not too bad. We moved in October
the 5th and that day, Adam Johs from Linton, that's my second
cousin, they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. And
we moved I think, 3 loads in. Then we had dinner and we had
it unloaded. Went down to the bar or the cafe and had dinner.
And after that, my brother-in-law Anton, Tony, he's got a big
van, he picked us all up and we went over and the other boys
that are home, they moved. When we came home, they had everything
in here already.
MM: Oh, wonderful. So, you had a lot of
help. Like in the spirit of the Germans from Russia, everybody
AJ: Everybody helps. When I came over
here, they asked me. I told them we moved to town, they didn't
want to believe it. I said sure, "I can talk a little English
MM: Are you finding today here in Napoleon
you speak more German than English?
AJ: When our neighbors are together, we
always speak German. But when we go to Golden Age, we speak
MM: The German-Russians of course, have
done a lot of publishing of books and so forth as you know.
Of course, your son has shared with you this material and they
have conventions and they have different activities and so forth.
But what do you see? To you? We mentioned this earlier, I think
to you, your rich roots has helped, for example, [keep] the
music alive that has been important to you. To keep that going
and singing today yet. Do you still get together once in a while
and still do some singing?
AJ: Well, not much.
MM: Not too much anymore?
AJ: But when they had the German Convention
in Bismarck, were you there too, then?
MM: Ah huh.
AJ: We sang up there, I and Leo and Alice
Gross and Andy Weigel.
MM: Before we close, I am going to have
you sing one of your favorites. You can sing whatever you want
to sing. You have such a good voice, we have got to have this
down and recorded.
AJ: Yah, my voice don't last very long.
MM: Well, we'll just have a short one.
What kind of a favorite lied that you have that you like to
sing once in a while when you're with Leo?
AJ: With Leo? I don't know. Let's see.
What my favorite was when we sing that, "Schmalen Weg".
MM: Oh, let's hear that one. That one
I heard before. Let's hear you sing that one, that's a good
AJ: It don't sound good when one sings
MM: That's all right.
AJ: Ich ge den schmalen lebens weg...
I don't remember.
MM: Ah, yes. A person forgets the words.
You are sometimes used to having the notes or the book?
AJ: Yah, we got a book where we have that
MM: Anything else you would like to say
before we close? We've had a wonderful discussion here and we
are going to of course, place this in our Germans from Russia
heritage collection so that researchers can come some day and
listen. And your family can come and listen about your heritage
and so forth. But any other comments that you'd like to make
Mr. Johs before we close? As kind of a memory for people some
day when they are listening to this tape?
AJ: I wouldn't know now. I do a lot of
reading about that Germans from Russia. Leo always brings them
books home and I read them all through.
MM: So, you keep up on your heritage?
AJ: Oh, yah. Yah. I read the Lawrence
Welk book, and Professor Height's book I read, and Stummp book
I read already.
MM: Oh, wonderful! Did you ever have a
chance to meet Professor Height or Dr. Stummp?
AJ: Oh, yah. We sang together here, I
and Professor Height. I and Professor Height and John Gross.
You knew John Gross? We were always together. We sang a lot
of them songs.
MM: So, Professor Height was with you
here in Napoleon?
AJ: In Napoleon. He was here lot of times
by John Gross. And John called out [there] and we came in here
and then we sang that evening and we enjoyed it.
MM: Did you enjoy being with Professor
AJ: Oh, yah. Yah, he explains everything.
He knows what Johs mean and where the names came [from].
MM: He wrote wonderful books.
AJ: Oh, yah. Yah.
MM: And his collection of course, some
day we hope his materials will all come to North Dakota.
AJ: I made a tape once and John Gross
had it and he liked it so well. Then he sent one to Professor
Height and one to Karl Stummp over there. Professor Height said
when he gets so worried about things, he plays the tape. All
MM: And did you get to meet Dr. Stummp
AJ: Uh, uh. Never met him.
MM: Never met him? He died. He's gone
AJ: I know it, yah.
MM: But the life of those people, it's
good because they have written many important books for our
heritage and it's good that you read those to learn more about
your heritage. And so....
AJ: But couldn't we find out if there
are some Johs' over there, like them here [in the book]? This
is interesting. One of John Johs' girls made this. It's a family
tree. They got all the birthdays in here.
MM: Yes, this will be valuable. So as
we close, we are closing the chapter of a wonderful book and
a wonderful life and let me just look here at the end.... The
Johs family, of course, is featured throughout and here we find,
yes we find the family of Andrew and Mariann Schmidt Johs who
celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in October of 1992.
Is that correct?
AJ: October the 25th, yah.
MM: So, you have had a full life with
a large family. And I am so glad to see that, for example, your
son Leo and others in the family have taken an interest, not
only to preserve it for the future but they have also published.
So, I want to thank you for taking the time on a June afternoon
and sharing with me some memories that you had and sharing it
with others. Thank you so much.
AJ:You bet and thank you Mike.
Transcription by Lena Paris
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies
North Dakota State University Libraries
P.O. Box 5599
Fargo, ND 58105-5599
to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested
by contacting Michael