A Homesteader’s Daughter
Presentaion by Pauline Neher Diede, Hebron,
Transcribed by Shelly Rolandson
Edited and proofread by Janel Wald and Linda Haag
These are the memoirs of a pioneer life author. The ordinary family life story begins in 1945 and progresses to the centennial year 1989. The 1980s was the book writing years, depicting mainly pioneer times. The rise of the sun signifies the beginning of the day, the interval of time is a sign of moving forward, for going from one generation to the next. Here is an epic story involving the phenomenal frontier times extending back to 1816 when ancestors took to migrating from Germany to Russia and then from Russia to America. This is the story of Americans progress; a five generation lore.
A prairie land child remembers, “The old home farm where memories are dear; a place where I’d love to live again, an abandoned home, it is quite clear. In times of dismay, we go out that way, the shelters forlorn, fit for its state. We’ve captured its ecstasy, oh for a day.” A homesteader’s daughter, Pauline Neher Diede. She is of golden age and an author of five pioneer life books. She wishes to leave something from the past to enhance the present and tofashion the future, thereby passing on the heritage wisdom. The story will be told in its time segments. The author is a product of a sod house. Her accounts relate to interviews and personal experiences which note closeness to the prairie land. A plain state, especially central North Dakota, the land is an ordinary rolling hills country. The author’s perception of it is as something variable with a kind a mystic simplicity. Oh, immigrants feet who tread across its wilderness.
This quaint pioneer accented home at 123 South Maple, in Hebron, North Dakota is identified as a prairie echo home. This home itself is of historical nature. Here is where the Bulkie and Diede families where raised. After the Diede children flew the coop, their mother arranged the upstairs rooms into a work space. Here is where Pauline Diede commissioned herself to the preservation of pioneer materials. Al Feist, a Hebron high school instructor, with his wife and five children, resides in another Hebron centennial home. Mr. Feist, a native of Strasburg, North Dakota, serves on the board of Germans from Russia Heritage Society. He serves as the director of the slide program. Both Mrs. Diede and Mr. Feist are natives of North Dakota, decedents of German-Russian immigrants, and participating members of the German from Russia Heritage Society.
How important is it to know who your ancestors are? The answer to this question has practically become the theme of the society’s annual conventions. The organization’s publication, ‘The Heritage Review’, heralds the genealogical research and preservation by way of articles, book reviews, letters, poems, and updates of chapter and convention activities.
In October 1946, my father, Ludwig Neher of Bueller, North Dakota, spent over a week at our home building a garage. He fondly enjoyed the grandchildren and the piano music which gave him a chance to sing German hymns. He was filled with sentiment when he sang, “Ich bin ein Pilger”, “I am a pilgrim”. As if by timely persuasion, he encouraged the children to learn the German hymns. With grandchildren in bed, we got into first hand accounts of my father’s life in Russia and into a report of the immigration to America. Each evening’s interview progressed as if by necessity. As I took notes, Pa curried, “Do you want to write a book?” It stunned me into a submissive answer to the affirmative, and Pa seemed pleased.
On January 28, 1947 our dear father and grandfather suddenly died. Memorial services were held at the at Emanuel Baptist church at Bueller, North Dakota. Services were in German and in English. Pa Neher had gone back to his mother, Juliana Simmers’ way of Baptist faith. He was known for his cheerful nature, helpfulness, and timely counsel. He was known and loved by many and very much missed.
Those were the busy family raising years. Jake Diede, husband and father, was employed with Western Livestock Company of Dickinson North Dakota, and as a stock trucker as well. So much of the family responsibility rested on me. Admittedly I sought support. Thanks for the Homemaker Club lessons; reading, listening, learning and prayer.
Children are gifts placed in parental care and need to be nurtured and guided. We were busy with scout work, music lessons, camping, picnicking, school and church involvements. Our children were not raised under affluent conditions. They were spared neither from work nor from the conflicts of adolescent life. They faced many of the obstacles of an average family. Our children grew up and graduated from high school and college, having excelled in both academic and extracurricular areas. We witness a maturity and a readiness for them to flee from home, challenging them to take part in job opportunities.
The time came when they would have their own families. Darleen May is a registered nurse. She and her husband have four sons. They now reside in Rapid City, South Dakota. Audrey Faith, the wife of James Williamson and mother of two sons, is a special education teacher in Denver, Colorado.
Our only son Rodney Jay is a banking executive in Bowman, North Dakota. He and his wife, the former Direnda Zerr, have one daughter and one son.
As I enter a different chapter in life, I witness birds in flight and compare the picture to times when our own children flew from the nest. I contemplate the good country contact our children had. Children for a good life, listen to the hills from when’s comith your help. Your help is from the Lord who made the heavens and the earth. Home and family contacts are key responsibilities. We realize that each son or daughter married into a different lifestyle and culture. But something unified us as we gathered together at a Christmas time. Christmas is the past; Christmas is the Christ child in the heart to last. Our great grandchildren are Lora Beth and Alex James, children of James and Bridget Buchley, and the grandchildren of Myron and Darleen Buchley.
Easter time, new dress, a child’s gleam; we give them knowledge and our attention. We give them the memory of a good home and the beacon of an Easter hope. These things we should give the children and much more, such as respect and love. We were not a perfect family by any means, nor were my married life an easy road. Despite health hindrances, personality disorders and reasoning differences, we stayed on. We kept up a caring family contact. A sense of humor and laughter can sway many an uncanny family situation. My 1968 Chevy takes us to a family gathering.
Seasons come and go. I love to hike the rolling hills where wild flowers bloom, the air is alive with bird songs, frogs croak around ponds and manmade dams. Even the stones are alive with creeping vines that root in the granite; all of my senses tingle as I feel the strength of grass underfoot. Listen, look, there are mysterious workings of nature as we bend and witness the meadowlark chicks cuddled in a nest with wide open mouths. We are fortunate to live close to Custer’s lookout and to Long butte, both a bit southwest of Hebron. Here is the history of General Custer’s defensive watch and of the army’s repose before their famous last encounter. I hike up and around these sites. Oh for spacious skies above the last rich fields where our forefathers set foot on homestead. They have gradually disappeared to become part of large, extensive farms.
Through the years, Pauline’s life has been blessed with much enrichment. One of these came to a meritorious climax when she was presented the North Dakota Homemaker’s Fifty Year Membership Award in 1984. In retrospect, the lookout in Hebron Homemaker’s Club meetings was educational and enjoyable. Scholastically, fifty years of workshops and meetings matches to an assumptive degree in homemaking art. Civic and church life had been primary involvements. Through her husband’s service as a city alderman, Pauline became affiliated as a periodic election inspector. As a member of the United Church of Christ, she serves in programs in executive and circle capacities, and had a five year charge in the state women’s fellowship committee. She is a member of the famous St. John’s Church choir, which presented its 33rd annual Christmas cantata in December of 1989. She also sings with (116) The German singers of the (117) of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society. In 1959, Pauline took on part time employment at Hebron’s weekly newspaper, ‘The Hebron Herald’, as a new and feature writer, focusing mainly on pioneer folk. Here’s where Pauline introduced the weekly column, ‘The Prairie Echoes’. Though she has now written this column for twelve years, the account of people that went before us offer so much material that she will be able to continue as long as her health allows. As a member of the North Dakota Press Women and of the Federation of the National Press Women, Pauline learned the pendent art and received the number of writing contest awards. After 25 years, she has relinquished most of the duties at ‘The Hebron Herald’, thus having more time to delve into manuscripts as initial author.
Pauline is a dawn break writer, often writing before dawn. A church banner which Pauline once saw, read “What is your Christian hobby”. By way of United Church of Christ Association meeting in 1981, word was passed to journalist Elizabeth Hampston of Grand Forks, North Dakota of Pauline’s unique writings. Consequently, the Neher family was featured in the ‘Plainswoman’ magazine in February of 1982. The urgency of writing pioneer life accounts became for Pauline something like a must; something as a God ordained trust.
“What do you do for fun? Are you a work-a-holic?” are questions that are often thrust at Pauline. “Yes,” she says, “I guard against being an attention filled work-a-holic. I admit that I am a worker, but I add a good degree of enjoyment and fun. I gain pleasure and satisfaction doing the work which I love to do. For fun,” Pauline continues, “oh, there’s so much fun just walking down the street greeting others with a German quip. I laugh, we laugh. Oh, for a healthy pride and once ethnic line, what fun in a game of bridge when you make a grand slam, or you pout when you ignore Gorens rule. You live to learn, to love, to laugh and to have fun.”
For recreation and preservation, Pauline loves to take slide pictures. She loved to ponder nature’s inspiration of a farmstead fallen and forlorn, gradually disappearing. Here an ordinary family progressed from a sod hovel to a haven home. They tamed the wilderness into productivity. These were the folk that left the saga for progress, a pride to heritage and prosperity.
In May of 1983, 1,000 copies of my first book came off the press. “Homesteading on the Knife River Prairies” was an account of interviews, mainly of two German-Russian families, the Martin’s and the Neher’s. Their Russian and American frontier experiences compared much to those of any other immigrants’ experiences, although these two families were probably poorer than many others.
Let us make a brief resume of this first book. Russia was the homeland of my father and mother, uncle and aunt. They were part of the massed peasant history, those who turned the sod with the rugged, horse-drawn hand plow, who scattered the seed by hand, and who stepped out the grain from the sheaths. They were the grassland people who took seriously the parables of the bible. During the middle-to-later 1800’s, living standards in Russia improved, especially in the industrious colony of (Gros Leben Tal). The Stinart family was among the better off. See how well dressed they are? They were, however, not aware of a frontier future that would spell destitution and poverty. Matilda and Christina Stinart were prospective brides. The Stinart grandparents caressed the grandchild Magdalena Martin, who was soon to leave the loved touch forever. The Russo- Japanese war of 1904 and 1905 ended, the soldier, Ludwig Neher II, upon release from the army, reckoned matrimony. A marriage broker took the young military skilled man to (Gros Leben Tal) to meet with Christina Stinart. This first time meeting resulted in a marriage agreement. The ceremony took place in short order. After all, the bride to be baked well bread and was good to look at. What more could a man want? This photo pictures Fred and Sophie Martin, child Lena, and Caroline Stinart in (Gross Leben Tall) a number of years before they left for America. The Bolshevik up-rising increased, in early fall of 1909, the Fred Martin and Ludwig Neher families, totaling 12 members, bade (‘audia’) goodbye, as a final farewell. There were tears, hugs and kisses. The village minister read the word of God and prayers were exchanged. “Gott seien mit Ihnen”, “God be with you”; truly a last embrace. At Odessa, Russia, the two families crowded into a noisy, filthy, over-crowded train for a ten day torture drive. In Hamburg, Germany, they boarded and took up the third-class bed-bug infested quarters of an immigrant ship. The journey from Hamburg across the Atlantic Ocean to a Canadian port was filled with tremendous hardship. “Words can’t describe the human agony of our treacherous journey,” so spoke Uncle Fred Martin at one of our interviews. “Winter in one train boxcar located in the sprouting prairie town of Ashley, North Dakota, could not have been more confounded and hysterical. Twelve people crowded into every inch of space. Among them were a pregnant woman, an infant, and a sickly two year old child who later died in the arms of teenager Lena. Your father had to be the strong one,” recalled Uncle Fred. “His soldier character paid off. He also learned more quickly the English words.” Uncle Fred continued to speak, “Ludwig and I bummed our way west on freight train, looking for homesteading land. We moved our families into a prairie hill shack in southwest Mercer County, sixteen miles north of Hebron. Here your mother gave birth to a second child during an early spring downpour. With no other shelter at hand, our children hovered under a wagon. It was an excruciating night. Baby Otillia joined the deplorable lot. It was the spring of 1910; here we were on an open wild prairie land, a vast hilly baroness. We needed shelter and water. We needed food for survival. We needed sod for building. We had to get a field plowed to get the grain seeded. We need a thousand other essentials. Not only I suffered a longing anguish, but also your father, the tough soldier, gazed eastward, recalling mother’s words, “Pray and thank, give thanks for such desperation.” Ludwig then wept like a child. We prayed for help and help did come. In no way did the support match today’s welfare checks; there was absolutely no government help. Matt Crawley, an Irish ranchman, also a late settler, became our mainstay. So also the Yager’s, the Bittermans, and the elderly Bailers shared what they could for your parents. Helping out was a must,” momented Uncle Fred. “I would rather not talk about those first few years on the homestead. One source of blessing was the frequent thunder showers that kept the barrels, creek holes, and temporary damns filled. Gardens and the grain patches flourished. At least we had vegetables and flour for bread. Everything was made from scratch. Adults, children, horses did backbreaking labor. It wasn’t surprising that man got unduly strict, often mean, to family and to animals. Even the dog got whipped when he didn’t obey the order. On October 10, 1911, Frau Yager, the midwife, delivered a third female child. The first one was born in the one room sod house. The baby was premature and by proxy baptism was named Pauline. Matilda had been born in Russia, Otillia in a North Dakota prairie shack. Christiania had three babies in less than three years, enduring under a three-fold poverty level; a scammed subsistence indeed. After Elsie’s birth, a shanty kitchen was added to the sod launch. Then Louise was born. This added up to five girls. Three of the girls slept on the foliage filled mattress, while the toddlers slept in a homemade box-type cot. Imagine Christina and Ludwig sleeping in a bed. The good people, the Yagers, shared food as well as the first bed. Oh, for happy news! With the birth of Edwin, our baby boy, swarmed children in two rooms, and among them, was a son of Ludwig...
The pioneer followed animal techniques to obtain meat. The coyote’s howl denoted hunger in her whily ways;, she would pray on anything to feed her young and herself. So too, man depended to an extent on natures animals. To catch a bush rabbit for stew made the day. “Ahh, I’ve got him!” yelled the trapper as he grinned with glee. A wooden trap was a softer touch to trapping animals than the torturous steel traps that soon come into use.
Sod house times held lifetime impressions. Physically, I never obtained proper growth, therefore; I was spared the ordeal of hard labor during my youth. Bellar, the dog, and I roamed the hills and bales, to the heads of (251) grass and ate of natures berries. The scant table food was never enough, yet I was not aware of our family’s poverty. Oh, for prairie lands survival kit.
It was noon naptime on the sunny side of the sod house lay little Elsie, cuddled to the dog, both sleeping. I slumped over for a nap on the bare ground of the north side. Upon awakening I heard a hiss and found a colorful snake nearby. As I talked, it disappeared. The next morning Pa stirred out of bed and stepped on a moving thing under the gunny rug, the same snake that I had wanted for a crony.
The shanty kitchen was a busy place, I still see Ma pushing up and down with a wooden passel into a gallon pail containing cream. This night, Pa read the Psalms to Ma while she was churning butter. Ma could not read; therefore, Pa would convey the holy word to her. Morning devotions for the whole family following breakfast were a general rule, especially in the homes of the Germans from Russia. It was a sort of a devout culture, a time when father opened the bible, read scripture, and led in prayer. Family members with folded hands likewise prayed, much too often with distracted thoughts. Table grace, something that was never forgotten, had a way of settling down. This has nearly gotten to be a lost art.
Oh for the impressionable remembrances of the homestead times. I remember how Matilda and Tillie, who were still young children, lugged pails and pails of water. I remember how Ma sicced the dog after a team of horses hitched to a gipsy wagon. I remember sitting on Grandma Bailer’s lap. I remember how the box chair broke and both of us crashed to the floor. I remember a mother duck, hatching several ducklings by a large yard stone. Many decades later I still sit on that very stone and reflect.
It was a very cold Christmas Eve, the (283) held a German Sunday school program at a big brown school house. There was a real fire flickering candlelit tree. I stood on a box and recited my very first piece in front of a crowd. (287-289). Each child received a package containing candy, nuts and opfelsinean, an orange. That was a homestead Christmas gift. During the summer of 1917, we the Neher family, moved from the crowded but cozy confines of a sod house to the betterment of a wood framed house, 2 miles further north. A twister soon struck this weird dark green house. I cried. I wanted to go back to the earth home where no windows shattered. Little Elsie cried too. She wanted to go back to where her kittens were. We too crawled into the wagon and Pa drove to the secure home.
Pa increased the farming enterprise. He saw the need for buildings and the need to enlarge the house. We were a hard working family. Scraping dirt out of the cellar and off the coal mine, milking 18 cows by hand, pitching hay up into the upstairs of the barn, and doing the chores were all like a ritual, as when the rooster crowed at dawn. The older girls were not spared the hard field work. The younger ones broke the horse for riding and herded the cattle. There had to be training for both horse and children. With so much danger, how did our parents do it? Two more girls were born at the farmstead, Annie and Clara. I remember a black shawled woman;, mother Lenic, stepped down from the buggy. And hush, a baby was crying. I cried too because I had a big sliver in my foot that had already festered. The midwife used the big needle to pierce and root out the sticker. Then she added sprits of turpentine to a basin of heated water. I soaked my foot in it. Well, it soon healed. Oh, for those barefoot days when we scampered over the stony terrine and hidden cactus.
The infrequent 18 mile trips to Hebron in the horse drawn wagon left indelible impressions. The slow horse pace with a load of grain on the rutted road made the wheels squeak and grunt. It was not tiresome; there was so much to see. When Pa haltered the horses by a wayside plowman, they visited, gestured, and laughed. Oh for those sardines and crackers that we ate in the back part of the store and the over-sized ugly shoes that Pa bought for me. I was expected to grow into them.
It was soon time for school. I was not very tall; those big shoes did not add stature to a dwarf-like kid. Older people used to tassel my hair and say “Ach Sie Geschicklichkeit Ein mit den roten Backen”, (333-334) “Oh you cunning one with the red cheeks”. There were many children in the one-roomed school house and one teacher teaching all of the grades. I sat on the front bench reciting loudly and clearly; the big kids laughed. We were admonished at home to talk German and at school we were punished when we did the same. One day Ida Bailer and I during a pom-pom pull away game shouted German slang and the teacher heard it. The mean dame ordered Ida to lie across her desk and with a ready stick she beat hard on Ida’s fanny. Next; my turn. It caused me to think. As she opened the back flaps on my underwear I stuck a finger down my throat, inducing a vomit. The teacher missed her chance of hitting me. She was too busy cleaning up the mess.
I got to be in the upper grades. There were numerous school programs in those days. For a Valentines program, I was selected to do a cupid dance with a tall boy, Stanley Smith. We met for practice on a very cold evening. As I sized up this long-legged stranger I got scared and my blood ran cold. I sneaked outdoors, crawled into the slay and covered up with a horse robe. Well, there was no Pauline Neher and Stanley Smith dance. Oh for those waltzing to the fiddle tune days when there was ladies choice. Unless you have had experiences, you can not fathom the special nostalgia which surrounded one of the most basic of human activities in that era.
It was a landmark, it was a friend in need, and it played a part in history. The privy of the outhouse, the little house in the back, is where the spider spun its last web, where you would rather have sat then on a school bench. Once, while I used this convenience a bat came out, spun around and settled in my hair. I screamed and ran. “Settle down!” admonished the teacher as she cut the bat out of my hair and left me with a repulsive hairstyle. Oh for the highlights of the first on the farmstead.
I remember when the wall telephone was installed and Ma could not understand the mystery of a voice coming out of the receiver. And when lightning struck and the telephone started burning, Ma was sure that it was the devil’s hire. I remember when Pa hand-cranked our first open window model A car and the whole bunch crowded into the back. We saw Pa sit up straight as he gave her the gas and we headed across a shallow creek with a roar. I remember when Ma got the first hand lever washing machine. She laughed loudly as she directed a pair of underwear through the ringer. I remember when our neighbors got their first radio and we kids would dash across the hill to the John Martin home where we listened to Amos and Andy.
The county stillness was broken by the vibrating sound of the thrashing rig coming down the road. The helping neighbors would bring in the shocks load by load and pitch the bundles into the humming thrashing machine. After the grain had been shoveled into the grainy, the hungry crew was ready for some hardy food. The wash bench was set outside with basins of water for thrashers to wash off the sweat and grain dust. Besides the three main meals, before noon and afternoon lunches were served out in the field. Oh for the excitement of a farmstead’s thrashing rig.
The roaring twenties; these were the zealous years of my life. I was occupied with curiosity and with a search and struggle for identity. Low; for the echo of “dumb Russians”; sensitivity, a condition that had a lifetime effect. I sat on the stone close to the cemetery as the last of three Bailer children received burial rites. Diphtheria. What does contagious mean? Barring sadness, I held a healthy nitch for nature. There seem to have been a healing bomb in its realm.
Graduation time; an eighth grade diploma, not all country school children received the merit. Out of the Allen Creek-Knife River offspring’s, America received a generation of go-getters. Rancher, farmer, educator, researcher, businessmen, barber, and carpenter, painter, minister, salesman, newsman, writer, author, aeronautic and military serviceman, our county and state government workers.
A pioneer rancher, Matt Crawley, distinguished himself by being elected to the hall of fame. The crown he nephews hailed the aircraft. Bob Crawley, a retired United Airlines pilot, provided early day airplane service to western North Dakota. He piloted military supplies and soldiers during two wars. Allen Crawley was a victim of an airplane crash, while Jim Crawley used his aircraft for ranching purposes. Yes, North Dakota’s Allen Creek- Knife River country boasts of its productive and progressive citizens.
The immigrant settlers of southwest Mercer County in North Dakota were I was born and raised consistent of a variety of nationalities; Germans from Russia, Germans from Germany, Irish, English, Dutch, Hungarians, Norwegians and likely others. The mother tongue was spoken in homes during the early years, Slavic and German in the Neher home. Gradually by way of assimilation, the English language conquered the hearts of the younger set. The English teachers insisted on it. After a stint at the Hebron High School, followed by enrollment at Dickinson Normal Model High, I studied home economics and trained in the college cafeteria. Working with food has been a life time interest. I especially loved to cook and bake the good old fashioned foods such as borscht and a variety of kuchens, for which the German-Russians are noted. On December 19, 1930, I graduated from the State Normal School of Dickinson, North Dakota with a high school diploma as well as a commercial certificate known as a secretarial course. Throughout my high school days I had no dress for special occasions. Christine Larson, (452) student employee lent me her dress and paid for a hair marcel, and took this picture at her expense.
Jake Diede and I were married on November 24, 1932. We moved onto the Diede farm near Custer Lookout where we farmed for twelve years. This is where our three children experienced county life. Even though we went through the dirty thirties, they were happy years. In 1945, we moved to Hebron, fortunately getting into an antique type home that is now a pioneer haven; identified as the prairie echo house.
This was a farewell party for her sister, Elsie, shortly before she left for the west coast. Little did we realize that this would be the last all-Neher children reunion. Edwin took the picture. Elsie died in 1970 and three other sisters, Matilda, Annie, and Louise died 1988.
As of this time, four of us, Tillie, Pauline, Edwin and Clara are still living. Edwin, our only brother, his fiancé Ester Snider, Clara, Arnold Snider, and Annie are shown here, having a good old-fashioned time, a typical scene of self-made fun which we had in those days. And oh how we made up crazy stuff.
This is another fun picture; Matilda and Tillie are dressed up acting live the old sour fogies. We made our own fun; we learned to laugh. Our father was a man with an old-fashioned temper but leavened it with stories that made everybody laugh. His stories changed many a pessimist into a better mood. On a summer Saturday afternoon, we took to the Knife River to have our weekly baths. Notice the mixture of teasy moods, but Annie’s clownish acts ruled. Imagine, Tillie and I wore our first bathing suits. The rest- they either wore their regular clothing or were naked. Matilda took the picture.
This is a picture of our mother, Christina, and mother in-law Catherina Diede. They were talking menu for Matilda’s wedding. In regard to food, our mother could make something out of nothing. She had a knack for baking huge loafs of everlasting yeast bread. All the Neher sister acquired Ma’s technique for making food dishes from scratch. Mother was a clean woman who liked nice clothes. She could never really adapt to the rugged prairie life. It seemed that before long, the Neher children grew up and had their own families. After they had left home the farm was rented out. Then a great tragedy of our farmstead days happened. Henry C. Harriet, a Mercer County school teacher, confessed to starting fires on the Neher farm that had destroyed a large haystack and a massive barn with twenty-eight head of cattle, three horses, a carpenter shop, and many other contents. He was sentenced to the state penitentiary. This happened in the early nineteen forties and greatly added to Pa Neher’s untimely death.
A gradual farmstead change took place, the years of despair followed. Pa Neher lost the claim to prairie lands, farmstead, and homestead game. Despite the years of torturous work, everything was gone. But was everything really gone? In the material aspect- yes. In the sensual and spiritual realm- no. What has the world to offer? Nothing lasting, only the benefits of the creator’s land and hard work mixed with joys thereof. It is what the land of the United States of America taught us. Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain. America; land of the free.
The flow of time is evident in the writings of Pauline Diede. Time doesn’t hurry; it simply flows like the cloud across the sky. There are times when it is like the wind seeming to lash at us. Then along comes a bird which floats though the air and then veers down to take a peck at a flower. Time has a way of changing even the family house from the family home to a writer’s domain. Pauline Diede never doubted that her pioneer experiences would be the heartbeat and mind of her later years. After the publication of “The Homesteading Book”, she wrote the sequel, an autobiography entitled, “The Prairie was Home”, as well as the book “Speaking Out on Sod House Times,” which features the interviews taken from pioneers. John H. Gingler, an instructor and principal at Richardton High School, an editor of the Richardton Centennial book, is pictured here. He served as the editor for both of these books.
“There is so much to write about our state as it enters our centennial”, Pauline was advised by Patricia Herbal, a coordinator in the North Dakota State Department of Public Instruction. With this admonishment, Pauline took on the task of writing a tribute book to North Dakota. ‘North Dakota in Grateful Homage’ was published 1987. In 1988 the North Dakota Centennial Commission approved the book to be a centennial project as a revenue benefit for the Hebron Historical and Art Museum. The book was granted the state’s centennial logo as well. Jane Brant, the publisher of ‘The Hebron Harold ’, served as the editor of this celebration book as well as for the ‘Prairie Echo’ column. In a commentary, Jane stated “North Dakota and Pauline have much in common. Pauline has been close to the prairies of our state all of her life. She has strong loyalty to the North Dakota Pioneers and feels it is her duty to put there story into print leaving a history of their footsteps in our lives as well as leaving a pioneering legacy for the coming generation.” Jane continues, “Pauline is an incredible lady and an incredible friend. What she loves most is North Dakota and its people. On July 7th and 9th, 1989, a special program for Hebron state centennial celebration was presented at the Hebron High School gymnasium. The program was based upon and featured the tribute book “North Dakota in Grateful Homage”. The program which consisted of narration accompanied by slides, stages scenes, music, and audience participation, celebrated some of the changes that took place in North Dakota during the past one hundred years. A capacity crowd attended. A program committee pictured here consisted of Anna Sebastian, Al Feist, and Pauline Diede. Profits gained as a result of these performances went to a prospective Hebron centennial museum and library.
In March 1989, random house incorporated released a cover-bound book of 264 pages entitled, “Far From Home; Families of the Westward Journey.” It is comprised of three economical stories of frontier times featuring Oregon territory, Colorado-New Mexico, and North Dakota. The (582) Pauline Diede’s homesteading story features North Dakota in an internationally distributed book. Elizabeth Hampston, the author from the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks, rewove Pauline’s story and gave it a place in our national folklore. The book gives recognition to the enduring strength of our ethnic people; the Germans from Russia. We are no longer an unsung group.
What are Pauline Diede’s books about? They intend to give us a sense of the history of the pioneer settlers, so that their culture and faith may be preserved for all generations. They are a summary of the frontier influences that have made this changing America. They are a sense of awakening to resourcefulness of the plains rolling hills country with its productive range, tilled land, underground reserves, simple beauty, and havens for health and recreation. The fourth generations of life on the plains state of North Dakota are the prime focus of the five books written by this homesteader’s daughter. Hebron has been the hometown of Pauline Diede. This little community of 1,000 friendly folk 40 miles east of Dickinson is snuggled into a country terrain that is ideally suited for ranching, farming, and dairying. Hebron claims seven churches with active congregations at a modern school system. The Hebron brick company, now a modern brick manufacturing plant, has been in operation sense 1904 and is a major industry. The town offers the conveniences of many businesses, working together to make it a clean progressive little city. Hebron is nestled in a valley, like the biblical Hebron in the valley of the Jordan.
I observed my 75th birthday on October 10, 1986. In this picture on this occasion I hold a frame portrait, taking at the time that I was about to graduate from Dickinson State Normal School. Fifty years have gone by and I ponder the years that have passed so quickly. I am glad that I was born in a sod house; it was like having been born in The White House. They were years that had a sense for history. They were generous years, even though we experienced poverty. I thank God that he allowed our immigrant parents to settle in America, the land of opportunity and freedom.
In 1981, at the Dickinson State College homecoming celebration, the graduating class of 1930 was among the honorees at the homecoming banquet. I was presented a duplicate certificated by the president of the college. I have been giving great benefits in the writing field, rewards beyond my deserving. I humbly bow and thank my maker, my author with a capitol A. He inspired me to write “The Pioneer Lore” indeed so. I am happy that I can reflect on the shelter indents and see the stone marks of the sod home which game me my start in life. I relish the winding jackrabbit trails that lead to sage brush nests. I am happy as I thrust bread crumbs into the open mouthed birdies that hovered in a prairie nest. I’m glad that Josie, the flighty horse, didn’t buck me off. Oh for those (653) marks, the passing of the era, an era dear to all generations.
I am glad now for a typical ordinary American family of husband, children, grandchildren, and great grand children. All fitting together yet each uniquely gifted for service to family, nation, and God. Kent James Williamson, a student at the navel academy, represents my grandchildren. As he prepares the serve his country, this nation of immigrants, the United States of America. And we the Diede’s in our golden years and our adult children Darleen, Audrey, and Rod. At a Christmas gathering, sing Schweigsame Nacht, heilige Nacht. The girls also sing, “Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider the entire world thy hands have made. I bow down in humble adoration. How great thou art.” These are the song of our faith, a faith that has given these five generations a hope for continued existence and shared love.
Here now is ‘The Golden Era’, as it is called. I view the golden sunset as it casts a silver lining on the clouds, creating a rose-colored streak on the far horizon, a significant simile in which nature portrays the picturesque story of human life. At this moment I am inspired for a glorious hope. I’m glad that I wrote the pioneer life stories of the land where every sunset smiled or promised rain. God will bless the children of every generation and he will bless our native land. I say (‘audia’) with love. Thank you.