St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and Cemetery - Zeeland, North Dakota
Zeeland, McIntosh County, North Dakota
The Feist children
Information relating to the Cemetery is referenced from the book, “The Centennial of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, Zeeland, North Dakota – The Spiritual Heritage of St. John’s Catholic Church, Rural McIntosh County, North Dakota”.
“Many early iron crosses in St. John’s Cemetery have the inscription: “Here rests in God.” For example, the diphtheria epidemic of 1898-1899 had devastating results in southwestern McIntosh County, while the influenza epidemic of 1918 seemed to have affected the people of Emmons County. Sadly the greatest loss of life during these epidemics was that of children. A diphtheria epidemic swept through the St. John’s area beginning at the end of 1897. From 1897 to 1899, there were 99 deaths in the St. John’s Parish. Of the 61 families who lost someone during this time, over one third of them (23 families) lost more than one family member. Four families lost three children, two families lost four children, one family lost five children, and one family lost six children who died from this epidemic.”
“Six of them (crosses) mark the graves of the children of Michael and Louise (Elizabeth Scherrer) Feist: Magdalena was 4 years old when she died; Franz was 6, Michael was 7, the twin sisters Barbara and Francisca were 9, and Johannes was 13. They died during Lent of 1898, between March 7 and April 2. Only two of Michael and Louise’s children, Elizabeth and Matthias, are known to have survived. The final marker dating from this period is Nicolaus, the son of Nicolaus and Richarda (Kohm) Feist and the cousin of the other Feist children who died.”
The Feist children gravesites are cast-iron crosses.
“There are 45 iron crosses in St. John’s cemetery. Some were hand-crafted, while others were casted at iron foundries. The earliest iron cross marks a grave from 1889, the latest from 1922. All the inscriptions are in German. The style of some of the hand-made ones are plain, while a few are intricate. At the base of the two cast iron crosses which mark the grave of the Feist children is the inscription “Kohler, Hayssen & Stehn M.F.Co., Sheboygan, Wisc.”
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church
The first settlement of Germans from Russia in South Dakota was in 1872, at Lesterville. The first settlement of Germans from Russia in North Dakota was in 1884 north of Zeeland at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. The families were Peter Mitzel, Carl Fischer, John Senger, John Werlinger and Marcus Weigel.
The first church was built in 1888, and completed in the spring of 1889 at a cost of $1,500. The second church (date not given), rectory and cemetery were located on the land donated by Adam Jangula. St. John the Baptist Church is considered “Die Mutterkirche”, the mother church for the Germans from Russia Catholic community in North Dakota. From this church, missionary parishes and churches in Emmons County and Logan County were developed. The Benedictine missionary priests from Fort Yates, Dakota Territory (1889 North Dakota) served at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and other settlements in nearby counties.
HISTORICAL INFORMATION RESOURCES
“The Centennial of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, Zeeland, North Dakota – The Spiritual Heritage of St. John’s Catholic Church, Rural McIntosh County, North Dakota”, compiled by Rev. Andrew Jasinski, pastor of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, Zeeland, North Dakota, published by the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, ND, 2005, 151 pages.
Filming for a new Prairie Public Television Documentary, At Home in Russia, at Home on the Prairie
St. John the Baptist Cemetery, Zeeland, ND, Dakota Memories Heritage Tour, September 19, 2009
Michael M. Miller, Director & Bibliographer
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
PO Box 6050, Dept. 2080
Fargo, ND 58108-6050