Wednesday, December 23, 2009

St John Church's Christmas Eve Service

Every year, St John Church put on a huge Christmas Eve service in Seward High School's gymnasium. The entire congregation (and, I think, a lot of Seward citizens who did not usually attend our church) attended the one Christmas Eve service.

At one end of this gymnasium was a stage, on which the Christmas story was enacted. The students who sang badly were assigned to play the roles of Joseph and Mary, the angels, the shepherds, and so forth. (This would have been my own fate if I had not received individual, remedial singing lessons from Ms. Bartels in fourth grade.)

At the foot of the stage, there was a brass band, and some of the singing was accompanied by students playing trumpets, trombones, etc. (In the picture below, I am the trombonist on the right.)

Brass band playing during Christmas Eve program of St John Church in Seward, Nebraska, in about 1966. The image was scanned from the 1966 school yearbook.

The entire gymnasium floor was covered by canvas, and folding chairs were set up. The St John School students sat on the bleachers on one side of the gymnasium (on the right side, as you looked at the stage), and the congregation sat on the folding chairs on the gymnasium floor and on the bleachers on the other side of the gymnasium. I would guess that total number of people participating in the service in the gymnasium was more than a thousand.

The students on the bleachers were arrayed by class. The lowest classes were closest to the stage, and the older classes were progressively farther from the stage. All the students were dressed in choir robes. The younger classes wore white robes with big, red bow ties ...

... and the oldest classes wore black and white robes. (The above picture of the brass band shows those robes.)

During my years at St John (1960-1966), the student body numbered about 350. The Seward kids who did not attend St John School but who were enrolled in confirmation classes also participated in the service, so the total number of students participating in the service approached 400. Practically all of these students sat on the bleachers and sang in the choirs; only a few played roles on the stage.

The service lasted for about an hour, probably from about 8 to 9 o'clock. The largest portion of that time was spent on choir singing. The Christmas story was read aloud from the Bible, and songs were sung between portions of the story. The pastor's sermon was quite short, and the service did not include communion.

The songs were sung by groups of classes. I don't remember exactly, but some songs were sung by grades 1-3, some by grades 4-6 and some by grades 7-8. A few of the songs were accompanied by the brass band.

St John School provided an excellent music education -- especially in choral singing -- and the students rehearsed the program's Christmas songs during the four Advent weeks that preceeded Christmas Eve. Basically the same songs were sung every year, so the students knew and sang all the songs very well. The program included a couple dozen songs.

One song that I remember in particular was The Drummer Boy, which was sung by the seventh and eighth grades. The boys whose voice had deepened were grouped to sing the pa-rumpa-pa-pa part at lower tones, so essentially the boys were grouped by their puberty progress -- and that was embarrassing for me.

The costumes were issued to the students several days before Christmas eve. I think this was done on in the St John School gymnasium on a school day. Each student was given a costume that fit his size, and the student took the costume home and then wore it to the program. We never rehearsed in the Seward High School gymnasium; we went to that gymnasium only for the Christmas Eve program itself.

After the service ended and as we were exiting the gymnasium, every student received a paper bag full of peanuts, popcorn balls, candy and an orange. Then our parents would torment their children by driving all around Seward looking at Christmas lights and displays instead of rushing home to open their Christmas presents as soon as possible.

I always enjoyed participating in this Christmas Eve program, and I remember it as an impressive performance. All the Christmas Eve programs that I have attended since I left Seward have been far below that performance standard. I also imagine that the Christmas Eve programs that are performed now are below the performance standard that we experienced in the 1960s.

During the first three decades that followed my departure from Seward, I had recurring dreams about those Christmas Eve services in the Seward High School gymnasium. The common element of these dreams was I was standing on the canvas-covered gymnasium floor during the program, and then suddenly the building turned upside down, so that I was suspended upside-down from the floor that had become the ceiling. Somehow my feet stuck to this ceiling, and so I did not fall down, but I was terrified of falling down onto my head. At this point in my dream, I would wake up, and so I would remember the dream clearly.

I don't know the cause or meaning of this dream. I suppose that as an elementary-school student I had felt some anxiety about going to that unfamiliar gymnasium to participate in that service. I had felt that something might go wrong and that the unfamilar surroundings would compound the problem. Then this dream became symbolic for other anxieties that I felt in later situations, and so the dream recurred for many years. I suppose the last time I remember the dream happening was about 15 years ago.

Steve Sylwester added:

Mike has forgotten about the Christmas Eve morning rehearsal at the Seward Public School gym, and he has failed to mention the unison recitations of Bible verse passages done by the different St. John's Lutheran School grades at times throughout the program.

Also, Koe and I remember that the school choirs were in the bleachers on both sides of the gym, not just one side. Lastly, I think Mike exaggerates in his imagination of how the stage actors were selected.

Jody (Schwich) Marquardt added:

I remember kids throwing up down in those “tunnels” (hallways, I guess) while we waited in our white robes (it was hot and stuffy!). That was probably 4th or 5th grade in the old Seward High gym —- 1959 or 1960.

I think Steven is right that students sat almost to the top on both sides.

I also remember the paper bags of candy, peanuts, and an apple or orange.

Gene Meyer added:

Watching the 7th/8th grade rehearsing in the St John gym, singing “Carol of the Bells” or “Drummer Boy”, in harmony. Mr Peter was the director. I liked it. Every other choir sang only in unison.

Grades combined were 1st/2nd, 3rd/4th, 5th/6th and 7th/8th.

Eating red/green jello with whipped cream at home on Christmas Eve before hand ... nothing to throw up.

Putting gowns on in the Seward public school and looking at how different their classrooms were.

Teachers constantly “susshing” everybody.

The brown/grey powder the janitor would spread on top of the vomit in the hallway.

Marching in to “O Come All Ye Faithful”, marching out to “Joy to the World”

Miss Maehr singing “Jesus loves me” or “Away in the Manger” as loud as most of the kintergarteners.

Little kids (kindergarten) wearing wings made out of wood and feathers

Teachers “directing” the recitation of key Bible verses

How dark the gym was when the lights went down.

People picked for the stage were the right size, not necessarily bad singers.

Jody, Steve and Mike are right ... some years all on one side, other years split. I don’t remember Sat morning rehearsal at the Seward Gym ... maybe I skipped them?

Bags of peanuts and hard candy. Men smoking in the hallways afterwards.

Getting out of the gown quickly, waiting by the car to go home, talking to Stan Procnow about how many presents were waiting at home. We compared numbers.

David Heinicke added:

You are right about kids on both sides of the bleachers. We played from heaven above to earth...on our recorders in 4th grade (1965).

One thing that I remember was dressing in the public school classrooms and seeing this strange other world; a parallel universe that was the same, but different. This is the kind of thing that occupied my mind when I was a kid, wondering what went on in this other world.

Thanks for helping me remember on this cold blizzarding day with no church service due to the weather.

Don Sylwester added:

You may be interested to know that the St John Children's Christmas Eve Service is no more. This year it was moved to Sunday evening, December 20. There are several services at St John this afternoon and evening (today is December 24) but they are regular services, one with communion liturgy, with no special music or decorations or other special components. The theme today was "Missionaries".

Times change. Sometimes sadly.

Ronda (Kirch) Konst added:

I don't recall any morning rehearsals either. And grades were paired just like we were for church 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8. I only remember being on both sides -- but I don't recall those early years.

Actually, some of the Christmas programs I attended as an adult were pretty impressive. I will always remember the big birthday cake made for Jesus out of cupcakes and all of us getting one. I know I liked this because the Kirches always celebrated Christmas as Jesus' birthday party. And there was also the year with the live nativity scene.

Merry Christmas all! Memory lane is fun.

Jody (Schwich) Marquardt added:

One small addendum to Gene’s remembrances: When I was in 5th grade (1960-61), Mr. Schmieding directed the 5th & 6th grade choir, which also sang in three-part harmony, probably not as beautifully as Mr. Peter’s 7th and 8th graders, though. To this day, I remember both lower parts to “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” (learned in 5th grade choir) and still alternate singing them when that hymn is sung in church. I don’t remember any 3-part Christmas songs, however.

The processional -- O, Come, All Ye Faithful: I always thought the rest of the world didn’t sing the right words to that one (they sang “joyful and triumphant”). It turns out that the 1941 LCMS hymnal, whose version we marched into, is the one that had the different words. In subsequent LCMS hymnals, we now sing the words everyone else does (no more “triumphantly sing” and “to Bethlehem hasten, with joyful accord”).

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Shopping

During the mid-1960s, Seward did not have any large stores (maybe it still doesn't have any, for all I know), so it was not possible for a family to do much Christmas shopping in Seward.

I remember that I did buy some presents in the Kolterman family's "dime store", which also was called "Ben Franklin's". There, I remember, I bought some house decorations as presents for my Mom, and I bought model kits (model cars, model airplanes, etc.) for some of my brothers.

There was also the House of Davidson's, where I bought record albums. And there was the college bookstore, which was managed by Steve Roettjer's dad. The bookstore did not have much selection, but it was possible to special-order items from some catalogues that Mr. Roettjer had.

I remember also that I bought some Christmas presents through mail-order. I ordered comic books from Mad Magazine and gave them as presents. There were various other magazines that kids read (Boy's Life comes immediately to mind, but there were others too), and they had lots of advertisements for stuff you could order by mail.

Paperboys always could win prizes for selling subscriptions. There was a catalogue that illustrated and described the various prizes. If you sold two subscriptions, you could get such and such prizes, if you sold three subscriptions, you could get such and such prizes, etc. Anyway, I think there was an occasion when I got some such prize and gave it to someone else as a Christmas present.

In Seward in those days, people bought quite a lot of stuff by mail from companies like Sears and Montgomery Ward. Our family always had several big catalogues from such companies, and as Christmas approached we would look through those catalogues for present ideas and then often actually ordered the presents by mail.

A couple of times every Christmas-shopping season, our family also drove to Lincoln and spent an evening shopping. Lincoln had two big department stores. One was Gold's

and the other was Miller and Paine.

Besides these department stores, Lincoln had a variety of specialty stores that sold books, records, musical instruments, toys, sports equipment, and so forth. There were no such stores in Seward.

Our family had nine members -- the two parents and seven kids. We drew names for giving presents, so each kid bought presents only for one or two siblings. Our parents gave each of us some money to buy presents, and we older siblings who had paper routes also added some of our own earned money to buying presents. (I liked to buy presents and was glad to use some of my own money for that purpose.) Dad would give us some money to buy presents for Mom, and Mom would give us some money to buy presents for Dad.

We all would get into our station wagon and drive to Lincoln and park in the center of town. Each family member had a little bit of money. We would split up, with instructions to meet back at the car at a certain time. As I remember, it was OK for me (I was the oldest) and Steve (the second oldest) to walk around by ourselves. The younger siblings had to stay in groups -- some of the kids with Dad and some with Mom. We would spend two or three hours shopping in an area that was about three square blocks in the town center. Eventually we would meet, loaded with shopping bags, back at our car.

Many of our trips to Lincoln included a dinner at King's Restaurant. In this restaurant, the customers sat in booths, and each both had a telephone. The customers sitting in a booth would read their menu, decide what they wanted to eat, and then use the telephone to call their order to the kitchen. I thought that was a great way to run a restaurant, but I never saw another restaurant that was run that way.

Below is an interesting remembrance of the stores in downtown Lincoln during that period.
There was real shopping in downtown [Lincoln]. 
The State Theater was a popular movie place on the south side between 15th and 14th street. Dick’s Hobby was right across the street and carried models, trains, crafts and archery supplies. 
Hested’s department store was on the SW corner of 14th and O, the building later had an Ardan’s Jewelry store before a record store. 
Between 14th and 13th on the south side was the Toy Castle, a drug store, Lincoln’s first Little King sandwich shop and a jewelry store plus the ever-present Walgreens. On the north side was JC Penny’s (NE corner of 13th and O) and Hardy Furniture (mid block). 
On the SW corner of 13th and O was Miller & Paine Department Store. Magee’s clothing was at the SE corner of 12th and O. Across the street were the National Bank of Commerce (now Wells Fargo) and Hovland-Swanson ladies’ clothing. 
On the SW corner of 12th and O was an old SS Kresge’s dime store with FW Woolworth further down the block near 11th Street. Dietze Music was/is at 12th and O and Latsch’s Office Supply was between 11th and 12th. For many years there was a Lawlor’s Sporting Goods between 11th and 12th on the north side of O street. 
The classic dinosaur of a department store – Gold’s (later Brandeis, then back to Golds), with WT Grant store (later St. George and the Dragon restaurant) and the 1st National Bank was at 10th and O. To the north across O Street was Kuhl’s restaurant. 
On the SW corner of 10th and O in the Terminal Building which was home to both the Selective Service System offices and KFMQ radio.

A Blog About Reinhold Marxhausen

Somebody (I don't know who) has started a blog entirely about Reinhold Marxhausen. Below are three pictures from that blog. The third is a Marxhausen drawing of Concordia University's first president George Weller.

Reinhold Marxhausen Riding a Unicycle. The image was taken from

I had forgotten about the unicycle. The odd vehicle I remember Mr. Marxhausen riding was a motor scooter.

Reinhold Marxhausen Wearing a Sound-Making Ear Sculpture. The image was taken from
A portrait of George Weller, first president of Concordia University. The image was taken from

Dorris Marxhausen

Karl Marxhausen, in his own blog, has an article about the humor that characterized his family and in particular about his mother Dorris and her sense of humor. Below is part of Karl's article, with a few of the pictures. Read the whole article.

Dorris Marxhausen as a young woman, laughing. Image taken from

Growing up under the Marxhausen roof has been a dance with literature. This was where I learned to love reading. My mother introduced me to Sam And The Firefly, an adventure about an owl and his friend, whose tail light filled the night sky with illuminated words. She read books to me when I was young.

She loved to read newspapers and worked in the library at St. John's Elementary School. She loved to compose her thoughts on her royal typewriter with its carbon papers. Letters came to me the summer I worked in Galena, Illinois, bringing me up to speed on all the family news. She wrote letters to the editor and tried her hand at politics as well. Simply put, my love words came from her. Much thanks to Dorris Marxhausen.

Dorris Marxhausen as a young woman, sitting on the floor. Image taken from
Dorris Marxhausen. Image taken from
Dorris Marxhausen. Image taken from

(This is Mike again.) I remember Dorris mostly as she looks in the third photograph.

I remember Dorris Marxhausen as someone who laughed a lot.

She was also a rather serious person, though. She was very interested and active in Nebraska politics, which was unusual for a woman in those years. She was a Republican, but in Nebraska in those years, the Republicans were the liberal party.

Here is a picture of the Marxhausen family now:

Family of Reinhold Marxhausen, including also Jerry Lodwig. Standing: Kim Marxhausen, Paul Marxhausen, Karl Marxhausen, Dorris Marxhhausen, and Marie Lodwig. Image taken from
Seated (left to right): Reinhold Marxhausen and Jerry Lodwig.
Standing: Kim Marxhausen, Paul Marxhausen, Karl Marxhausen, Dorris Marxhausen and Marie Lodwig.

Reinhold Marxhausen's Sound-Making Sculptures

Some guy named Ramon Galvan has a blog named Outer Tumbolia. I looked through the blog for a while, and I must say that I do not get the blog's theme or direction. Maybe he is writing articles about sound.

Anyway, the blog includes an interesting article about how Reinhold Marxhausen began to make sculptures that make sounds. Whenever I visited Marxhausen's studio, he would show me some sound-making sculpture he was developing.

The relevant part of the blog article follows:

A photograph of Reinhold Marxhausen listening to a sound-making sculpture. The image was taken from

Reinhold Marxhausen grew up in the 1920's and 1930's, the son of a pastor and one of eight children in Vergas Minnesota. He played the musical saw, he played water-tuned bottles, and he found piano lessons boring. He carried stardust in his pocket.

After military service, followed by degrees in art and biology, Marxhausen took a teaching position at Concordia College in Seward Nebraska, where he remained until his retirement in 1990.

It was in 1962 that he first began to work with sound objects. "It was a boring Saturday at the sculpture studio; no plans for the day," he recalls. "I found a door knob on the table and welded some wires on one end just for the fun of it. I placed the door knob to my ear and strummed the wire on the opposite end."


Since his discovery, Marx has made a wide variety of sound sculptural forms, and he has developed the door-knob idea in two main directions. One form consists of objects with exposed, external spines. some of the most successful have been his manual walkmans, (below) made like a pair of headphones, with spines sticking out from the metal ear pieces and sometimes rising from the over-the-head connecting piece. They make a stereo concert of lovely sounds, on a minuscule one person scale.

The other form is a small, chunky, metal object, fully enclosed, with no hint of what is inside. Sound comes from within when you shake or rock it, audible only when you hold it close to your ear. What is in there? Marx is not telling.

The objects are just pocket-sized and, recalling the meteor of his childhood, Marxhausen has given them the name Stardust. He makes them as plain in appearance as can be; they look like worn and dirty stones. There's a Marxhausen message in his having put so lovely a sound in such a homely thing.

A photograph of Reinhold Marxhausen listening to a sound-making sculpture. The image was taken from

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Order of Concordia Presidents

J. George Weller Before becoming the director of the "Lutheran Seminary" in Seward in 1894, Weller was pastor of a congregation in Marysville, Nebraska. He relinquished the presidency in 1914 after two decades in that position but continued to serve as a professor at Concordia for ten more years.

F.W.C. Jesse President Jesse has just resigned the presidency of a Lutheran College in Clifton, Texas, when he received the call to suceed Weller in 1914. After almost ten years as Concordia's president, he accepted a call into parish ministry in Atchison, Kansas, in 1923.

C.F. Brommer President Brommer initially declined the call to be president of Concordia. He was sent the call a second time, whereupon he accepted. Before coming to Seward in 1924, he was pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Hampton, Nebraska, and the Southern Nebraska District president. Following his retirement for the presidency in 1941, he continued to teach at Concordia until 1944. He spent his remaining years in San Diego, California.

A.O. Fuerbringer President Fuerbringer, having a broad background in Synod ministries, was serving as pastor to a small mission congregation in western Kansas before becoming president of the college in 1941. He left Concordia, Seward, in 1953 to become the president of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He held that position until his retirement.

Paul A. Zimmermann President Zimmermann, though having had pastoral training, had been serving as a science professor on the Seward campus when he was called to the presidency in 1954. He left Concordia in 1961 to become president of the newly organized Concordia College at Ann Arbor, Michigan. He later became president of Concordia College, River Forest, Illinois.

W. Theophil Janzow Janzow had been a parish pastor and president of the Southern Illinios District. He then came to Seward to teach sociology before accepting the call to be Concordia's president in 1963. He presided over the school's largest enrollments before resigning in 1977. He then became president at Concordia Seminary Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Michael J. Stelmachowicz After years of teaching and administration in Lutheran elementary and secondary schools in St. Louis, Stelmachowicz became Concordia's director of secondary education in 1961 and later dean of students. He left Seward in 1968 to become superintendent of Lutheran high schools in Detroit, Michigan. Next, he became president of St. John's College, Winfield, Kansas. He was called back to Seward in 1978 to become president. He left Seward in 1984 to become the executive secretary of the Synod's Board for Higher Education Services until his retirement.

Ralph L. Reinke President Reinke, Concordia's only non-pastor president, taught in Lutheran elementary schools and at Concordia College in River Forest, Illinois. Eventually he became president of Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis. After leaving that position, he was called to the presidency in Seward in 1986. He served until his retirement in 1990.

Orville C. Walz After teaching in Lutheran elementary schools, Walz served for a number of years as registrar and assistant academic dean at Concordia, Seward. After entering the pastoral ministry, he became president of Concordia College, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He was called to become president of Seward in 1990.


Monday, December 7, 2009

An Old Article About Alfred Ottomar Fuerbringer

My brother Steve Sylwester found an article in an old Time magazine about Alfred Ottomar Fuerbringer, a former President of Concordia Teachers College in Seward, Nebraska. When the article was published (April 27, 1953), Fuerbringer had recently been promoted from that position to the position of President of Concordia Theological Seminary in Clayton, Missouri.

I assume that the Fuerbringer family lived on Faculty Lane in Seward. This article provides some interesting details about him and his ancestry and about campus life while Fuerbringer was CTC President. The article's complete text follows:

The largest Lutheran theological seminary in the U.S. (enrollment 778) is the Missouri Synod's Concordia Seminary—a well-planned scattering of college-gothic buildings and faculty homes on 71 green acres in Clayton, on the western edge of St. Louis. Last week the synod's board of electors announced that they had selected a new seminary president: the Rev. Alfred Ottomar Fuerbringer, 49. Big (6 ft. 3 in.), even-tempered Pastor Fuerbringer and Concordia will not have much trouble getting to know each other—his father headed the school and his grandfather helped found it.

Faith of the Fathers. Grandfather Ottomar Fuerbringer left his German homeland in 1838 with a group of some 700 Saxony Lutherans for whom German Lutheranism was getting too liberal and rationalistic, and too closely bound up with the state. He and three fellow ministers built the original Concordia—a log-cabin schoolhouse in Missouri's Perry County—and set out to train a New World breed of pastors in the strict, Bible-centered Lutheranism of their conviction.

Concordia and Missouri Synod Lutheranism grew and prospered with the times, but they never let go of the stern Reformation theology of their founding fathers. Under the leadership of Ottomar's theologian son, Dr. Ludwig Ernst Fuerbringer, who died in 1947, Concordia's serious-minded seminarians continued to master both Hebrew and Greek. Almost as intensively as their work in Bible, Concordia's students study The Book of Concord of 1580, in which their church's doctrines are explicitly set forth. Added to courses in history, philosophy and pastoral care, this kind of work leaves little time for wool gathering; classes begin at 7:40 a.m.

Lutheran System. President-elect Fuerbringer attended Concordia himself (his red hair, now vestigial, won him the nickname "Kelly"). After graduate studies in the late '20s, he went into pastoral work. In 1941 came his first summons to a Lutheran education post: the presidency of Concordia Teachers College in Seward, Nebraska.

Missouri Synod Lutherans maintain their own parochial school system of 1,400 schools (which has grown by 6,000 rooms in the last six years), and the training of teachers is therefore a major concern. Coeducational Concordia Teachers' College combines both college and high school; when Fuerbringer took over, it had 83 college students and some 50 in high school. Today these figures stand at 296 and 135.

"Discipline was quite rigid when I came," says Alfred Fuerbringer. From Monday through Thursday no one was permitted off the campus after supper, movies were forbidden except on weekends, and the college choir was permitted brief excursions within Nebraska, but no farther. Popular President Fuerbringer soon changed all that. His students now can get overnight leaves and go to the movies any time they want, and the choir is just back from a tour through Texas and Louisiana.

"Ninety-five per cent of our student body," says Fuerbringer, "are youngsters who intend to enter the church, and do. They know exactly why they're in school, and exactly where they're going. I should guess that in a nonsectarian college it's the other way around: 95% don't know why they're there, or where they're going."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Faculty of St John School in 1952

The photograph below is included in the booklet published in 1952 for the 75th anniversary (1877-1952) of St John Church. The booklet was described in a previous blog post.

This picture shows the faculty of St John School. From left to right are Herbert Kaiser (principal, grades 7-8), Martha Maehr (kindergarten), Lucinda Bartels (grades 3-4),Edna Grotelueschen (grades 1-2) and Herman Schmieding (grades 5-6).

Faculty of St John School in Seward, Nebraska, in 1952

The Flickr page shows the entire photo.

A Photo of the Construction of St John Church in 1877

The photograph below is included in the booklet published in 1952 for the 75th anniversary (1877-1952) of St John Church. The booklet was described in a previous blog post. The photograph shows the construction of the church in 1877.

Construction of St John Church in Seward, Nebraska, in 1877

Flickr page

A Photo of the Construction of St John School in 1929

This photo is included in the booklet published in 1952 for the 75th anniversary (1877-1952) of St John Church. The booklet was described in a previous blog post.

According to a previous blog article about the school's history, this school building was built in 1929, so this photo must be from that year.

Construction of St John School in Seward Nebraska in 1929

This Flickr page shows the photo in its full size.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Numerical Growth of St John Church

Below is a table that was included in a booklet that was published in 1952 for the 75th anniversary (1877-1952) of St John Church. (The booklet belongs to Lee Meyer and was described in the previous blog post.)

Table of Numerical Growth of St John Church in Seward Nebraska

The image can be viewed and downloaded in larger sizes at this Flickr webpage.

The columns are labeled, from left to right, as follows:



Members Baptized

Members Communicant

Members Voting

Members in Armed Forces

Children Baptized

Juniors Confirmed

Adults Confirmed or Baptized

Total Gain From Without




Language Used

Parochial School Pupils

Parochial School Teachers

Sunday School Pupils

Sunday School Teachers

Bible Classes Enrollment

Property Value in Thousands

Contributions - Work at Home

Contributions - Work At Large

Below are the 2nd through 13th columns (Year through Burials) for the successive pastors.

Pastor Grube (1877-1880) and Pastor Bode (1881-1883):

Pastor Koenig (1884-1890):

Pastor Mueller (1891-1894):

Pastor Becker (1895-1914):

[...continued...] Pastor Becker (1915-1934):

Pastor Heinicke (1935-1945):

Pastor Heinicke with Pastor Yauk (1946-1948):

Pastor Yauk and Pastor Spitz (1949-1951):

Photographs of St John Church in 1952

Lee Meyer has provided photographs from a booklet that he owns and that was published in 1952 for the 75th anniversary (1877-1952) of St John Church. Below are six of the booklet's pictures of the church. (I think that the last shows the church basement -- correct me if I am wrong.)

All the images that I have from this booklet are in this Flickr set, where you can view and download them in larger sizes.

The booklet has some other old photographs that I will show in future blog articles.

St John Church in Seward, Nebraska, in 1952

Flickr page

St John Church in Seward, Nebraska - Altar

Flickr page

St John Church in Seward, Nebraska - Balcony Organ

Flickr page

St John Church in Seward, Nebraska - Full Congregation

Flickr page

St John Church in Seward, Nebraska - Interior in 1952

Flickr page

St John Church in Seward, Nebraska - Basement

Flickr page

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Singing the Hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy"

The lyrics of the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy were written as a poem in 1826 by Reginald Heber, an English pastor. The music was composed in 1861 by another English pastor, John Bacchus Dykes.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

The first, third and fourth verses compose a rather intellectual meditation on the mystery of the Divine Trinity -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The third verse emphasizes the inability of humans to comprehend the Trinity's mystery -- Though the darkness hide Thee / Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see.

The second verse presents odd, dramatic, bizarre images -- saints casting down their crowns around a sea, and cherubim and seraphim falling down. This second verse is omitted from many performances of the song. Without the second verse, the hymn is rather meditative and intellectual; with the second verse, the hymn is rather esctatic and emotional.

The Trinity is emphasized lyrically by other triple concepts -- was, is and shall be -- power, love and purity -- earth, sky and sea.

Below is a conventional performance by Cristy Lane, which omits the second verse:

Below is an extremely meditative version by a choir called Master of the Chant, which sings only the first verse:

Below is an energetic performance by Mahalia Jackson, which includes the second verse:

Below the song is sung by a gospel-music group, The Kurt Carr Singers. The second verse is sung as a solo by the tallest, male singer.

The link below (I cannot embed the clip into my blog) features Judith Christie McAllister singing only the second verse as a solo. The rest of the performance is sung by her entire choir:

Judith Christie McAllister singing Holy, Holy, Holy.

Below is a zany video clip, sung by Steve Green, accompanied with a Celtic folk arrangement and illustrated with scenes from the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments.

Below is an amazing clip that shows an ecstatic sermon by evangelist Reinhard Bonnke at a huge religious service in Africa -- the audience numbers in many tens of thousands. The hymn is sung at the clip's very end.

Steve Sylwester sent me the following explanation.

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty was Hymn 246 in the The Lutheran Hymnal, Copyright 1941, which was used by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod while we were growing up. The lyric is based on Revelation 4:1-11:

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in Heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this."

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.

Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.

From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God.

Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings.

Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship Him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."

The "living creatures" are the "Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee" mentioned in the hymn's second verse. See the following links:

A Couple Video Clips of Concordia University

The following video is, in my opinion, an extremely attractive video about Concordia University for prospective students. Whoever did the clip deserves some praise.

And below is a video clip showing some scenes of the 2009 Commencement ceremony. It includes our star Faculty Lane kid, Jenny Mueller-Roebke.

The Commencement clip put the idea into my head that I should assemble some clips featuring the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy.

The 75th Birthday of the Seward Bandshell

On August 2,2009, Seward celebrated the 75th birthday of its bandshell.

Below is the Seward Municipal Band playing the Washington Post March at that birthday celebration.

Search for "Seward Municipal Band" on YouTube to find other performances in the bandshell.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

George Weller at Concordia in Seward

Below, after some introductory remarks, is the fourth group of excerpts of Clara Alvina Koenig's manuscript An Afterglow of Yesterday. The manuscript was described in this earlier blog article.

The first group of excerpts, about J. George Weller's mother, was in this blog article.

The second group of excerpts, about the Weller family's move from Louisiana to Indiana, was in this blog article.

The third group of excerpts, about the migration of German Lutherans from the area of Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Staplehust, Nebraska, was in this blog article.

The fourth group of excerpts, about the Weller family's move from Fort Wayne to Staplehurst, is in this blog article.

See also this blog article about the Wellers who lived at Concordia and this blog article about some descendents of George Weller.

In 1882, J. George Weller graduated from the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, married Louise Katharina Clara Eirich in New Minden, Illinois, and then moved to Marysville (now part of Staplehurst), Nebraska, where he began serving as a Lutheran pastor at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The Reverend J. George Weller (Johann George Weller), who from 1894 until his death in 1924 served as the first director of  the Evangelical Lutheran School Teachers Seminary in Seward, Nebraska. This school eventually became Concordia Teachers College and now has become Concordia University.

(Flickr page)

In 1894 he moved to Seward to become the first director of the The Evangelical Lutheran School Teachers Seminary, which now has become Concordia University. He served in that position until he died in 1924.

The following passages are excerpted from Ms. Koenig's manuscript:

Now let us consider various factors which led to the founding of Concordia Teachers College at Seward. Here is a passage from the book The Story of Concordia, by Professor H. O. A. Keinath:

“At the back of these events there lay years of planning by which the dream of the pioneers of Lutheranism in Nebraska had at last come true. At that time the number of Missouri Synod congregations in Nebraska was growing by leaps and bounds. The liberal land policy of the United States Government in the preceding decades had attracted many settlers, especially of German descent. The homesteading privileges offered an opportunity to many poor immigrants for acquiring a sizable tract of land. Thus a promising field beckoned the Missouri Synod to send laborers into the harvest. Congregations sprang up everywhere.

Led by that pioneer of Nebraska Lutheranism, President J. Hilgendorf, an energetic group of pastors was active in organizing the scattered Lutherans into congregations. By 1894 the Nebraska District numbered one hundred pastors and twenty-one teachers who together served one hundred fifty congregations and eighty preaching stations. This represented a three hundred percent increase within the previous twelve years.

Due to this remarkable expansion, the thought of having a synodical institution within the boundaries of Nebraska seemed entirely justified. The initial steps in this direction were taken by the Nebraska District. At its session in 1889 this district seriously considered the question of founding a new institution. ...

After further discussion by the Nebraska District, the project was placed before the meeting of Missouri Synod in 1893, and this body decided that a new teachers seminary be founded ‘somewhere in Nebraska.’

Several towns of Nebraska were eager to harbor the new school in their midst. Blue Hill offered $100,000; Lincoln was ready with an offer of a 160-acre tract of land; Norfolk made several attempts to get the new institution. From Seward came a unique offer which was finally considered the best and was accepted. Four members of the Seward congregation had developed a plan by which the new school was not only to have a plot of ground but also sufficient funds to erect the first building. The names of these energetic planners deserve to be mentioned here: Messrs. O.E. Bernbecker, H. Diers, J.F. Goehner, and P. Goehner. These men bought a plot of undeveloped land on the outskirts of Seward, laid it out in lots, provided for some improvements, and then offered them for sale. From the profits of the sale the institution received a twenty-acre tract of land and $8,000 for the erection of a building. The lots were sold rather quickly and thus the land and the first building were acquired without any cost to Synod.”

Small wonder that Synod accepted the offer from Seward when we consider the economic disturbances of the “Nineties,” especially in our own state; due to a shortage of rainfall from 1880 to 1894, crops failed and many people left their farms in western Nebraska to return to the East while others had to depend on charity. The Nebraska legislature and sympathetic citizens in all parts of the country came to the rescue. In 1891, nearly 8,000 families in thirty-seven counties were in need of help. The panic of 1893 caused a scarcity of money, unemployment, low wages, strikes, and low-priced farm products. All of these tended to make conditions worse in an agricultural state. In 1895, about 30,000 families in two out of every three Nebraska counties would have suffered starvation and exposure if they had not been assisted by the State and by county boards. Food and clothing for the people, seed to plant crops, and feed for the livestock were distributed in sixty-one counties that year.

Keeping in mind “the hard times of the Nineties,” let us continue with The Story of Concordia by H.O.A. Keinath:

On August 29, 1894, a number of men who had attended the session of the Nebraska District at Hampton stepped off the Burlington train at Seward and trudged their way to the northeastern outskirts of the city where preparations had been made to lay the cornerstone of the new teachers seminary. A foundation wall of 44 by 44 feet placed in the middle of a cornfield may not have been a very inspiring sight, but the pioneer vision which characterized the inhabitant of the Middle West of those days could easily picture the growth of a stately plant from such a small beginning.

A little less than three months later, November 18, 1894, a large number of Nebraska people braved the cold and blustery wind and assembled again at Seward to dedicate the completed building to the service of the Lord. Since the first gathering, a three-story structure, now the southern half of the ‘Old Dormitory,’ had risen and proudly lifted its head above the prairie.

President J. Hilgendorf, remembered by all Nebraska Lutherans as the pioneer worker for the church in this territory, delivered the main sermon at this dedication, and, basing his words on the text of that Sunday, preached on this theme: ‘How the Lord Jesus on the last day will say also concerning this institution: ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Pastor H. Frincke of Lincoln preached an English sermon, and Judge Holland of Seward gave a secular address and in polished English spoke of the cultural benefits of this institution of learning.

One of the first students remembered that: “The day of the dedication was a dark, gloomy day, but the hearts of the participants were full of light and joy. The Arlington, Nebraska Band under the direction of Teacher Bernthal, furnished the music at the dedication.

The following is from an article that Professor Keinath wrote for the June 1934 issue of Concordia's magazine The Broadcaster.

The beginnings were small; thirteen students were willing to cast their lot with the new venture. The one building served as dormitory, administration building, music hall, dining hall, gymnasium, director’s residence, faculty residence, housekeeper’s residence, etc. etc., for there was only one building and the whole administrative personnel was composed of Professor G. Weller and his faithful wife, although the teacher of the local congregation, Mr. Herman Martin, gave some assistance in music.

How that undaunted spirit of so many of our synodical pioneers again and again steps before us in the records of their undertakings! When they needed a school, they started one; when they needed a Lehrerseminar [teachers seminary], they started one.

Were times economically auspicious in 1894? In the same issue of the Lutheraner in which the coming dedication of the new institution is announced, there is an appeal for the drought-stricken brethren of Nebraska. And a new Lehrerseminar in such times! One feels like hanging his head in shame when we, forty years later, incline to yield to defeatism that wails: ‘We can’t."

One of those first students wrote an article about his experiences during the first year at the seminary. The following are a few paragraphs of that article, which was published in the 40th Anniversary Edition of The Broadcaster:

The year 1894 was an important year for me. It was the year in which the seminary at Seward was built and dedicated. Rev. George Weller, from the Zion Congregation at Marysville, Nebraska, was elected as professor of the new institution. I came from the same congregation and Prof. Weller had been my teacher and minister.

Both, Prof. Weller and I, entered college on the same day; he as my professor and I as his pupil...

After dinner Prof. Weller entered and said to me: ‘Ed, du bist Seminar Aeldester!’ [Ed, you are the Seminar Elder.] What this meant I did not know, but soon found out, and kept on finding out for the next three years for every night Prof. Weller would give me an order to get the bread and meat for the following day. So every night I would trudge to town with a cart and get the necessary supplies...

We never had to go hungry. Prof. Weller would often come in at mealtime and ask; ‘Boys, what would you like for tomorrow?’ and if a young student would voice his wish he would say” ‘Ed, get that for tomorrow.’ ...

Did we have pillow fights? I should say yes! The next morning Prof. Weller (he and his family lived on part of the first floor) would buttonhole me and say: ‘Did you have a good time last night? Ed it is all right once in a while, but do not overdo it! See to that!’...

One more word about Prof. Weller. He was a real sport and enjoyed a humorous act. One of our boys found a dried up biscuit in the basement and threw it out the door, hitting Prof. Weller in the head. We all expected a reprimand but Prof. Weller just said, ‘That is all right’, and had a good laugh with us. Prof. Weller was a prince.

E.W. Gradoske

Excerpts from an interview with Mrs. George Weller (by Prof. Keinath) enlarge our picture of “campus” life during the first years:

Yes, we did live a rather unusual life that first year. We lived right with the boys; our rooms were on the first and second floors of the building, and the boys occupied the remaining rooms. In the basement we had a kitchen and dining room; classrooms were right among the other rooms.

The boys came to me with all kinds of troubles. When they cut their fingers they came to me just like to mother. I mended their clothes, cooked and baked for them, and did many other things. Of course, I had some help. Miss Bertram and Miss Fuerniss helped me during those early times. As the boys became more, there was surely a lot of work. But those girls were good workers. Why they baked as high as seventy-five loaves of bread a day. It seemed that during the first year we had such terrible dust storms; we sometimes could not put the dishes on the table until the boys were ready to eat, because the dust would settle so.

We had to get along as best we could. There were some plank sidewalks and many a time I walked around on them with one of my youngsters in my arms. There were no electric lights and no steam heat.

You know in those days every room had its own stove for heating and my husband would worry so about fires. He often stayed up very late just to make sure that all the fires had burned out before he retired. In the morning he often got up to build fires rather than have the boys do it. He was more or less of a janitor around the place, too.

One boy came to the institution with a hat that simply was impossible; we just could not let him be seen in that way. So Director Weller bought him a hat before he went to church the first time.

In the first year we had one real tall fellow who came in a suit that was too small from the start; and when he just kept growing and growing during the year he at last was just a sight. At one time the ladies aid had bought a suit for a very poor boy and the first time he wore it he fell over something and a long rip was the result. What was I to do? For the ladies wanted to see their new suit on the boy. So I patched it up as carefully as I could and presented him.

I remember that in one of the early years we had a baseball team, and they beat Germantown in a game. It made me feel so proud of them that I treated them to bananas for supper.

Things happened in those days. I got a great scare one day when one boy was rushed to me with blood spurting from three badly mutilated fingers. He with some others had found one of those torpedoes which the railroads use, took it to his desk, played with it, and it exploded in his hands. I immediately tried to stop the flow of blood and ordered some boys to hitch up the buggy. My husband was not at home and we had no telephones in those days. But we got the boy to the doctor, and everything turned out all right.

In closing, Prof. Heinath says:

It was time to leave. When the door had closed behind us we thought of Tabitha of The Book of Acts. She had plied her needle and thread in the interest of the kingdom of God. Here we had met another Tabitha who had done things that are small in the eyes of the world, but great in the building of God’s Kingdom.

And the words of the poet came to mind:

The healing of the world is in its nameless saints.

Each separate star seems nothing; but a myriad scattered stars

Break up the night and make it beautiful.

During the first years, the college students at Seward paid forty eight dollars a year for board and two dollars for fuel and oil. Each desk was equipped with an oil lamp to supply light for the evening study-periods. There was no hired janitor, but Prof. Weller and his students cleaned the various rooms. They also beautified the grounds, removing the debris left by the builders, leveling the ground wherever necessary, and planting trees. Each student planted one tree and watered it faithfully until it grew.

Shortly after the first building was completed, a barn was built “on the campus” to provide shelter for several cows and the professor’s horses and buggy. Some of the early students tied ribbons and flowers on the horns of the collegiate cows. One day, some of the students secretly interchanged the front and rear wheels of Prof. Weller’s buggy. Evidently Prof. Weller had more important things on his mind when he hitched his horses to the buggy. Although he thought it strange that he always seemed to be going uphill, the professor did not discover the joke until he had driven several miles.

When thirty students enrolled for the second year, a professorial house became a necessity. The Nebraska District furnished $2,300 for which a house was built in the fall of 1895. A second class was organized that year and Teacher F. Hackstedde of Omaha was engaged as assistant professor. The next year, Synod made him a regular professor.

As time went on, the institution was enlarged by a class being added every year until the classes numbered three. After completing three years of work at Seward, the students were expected to migrate to Addison for the remaining two years of study. In those days the teacher’s course in the Missouri Synod extended over five years, an arrangement which was terminated in 1908 when both Addison and Seward were enlarged to six-year schools./p>

But the plan of having Seward function only as a preparatory institution for Addison proved a failure. In its report to Synod the Board of Control found reasons to complain about the fact that too many students who finished the courses at Seward refused to go to Addison and discontinued their studies. It became evident that the only solution would be an enlargement of the institution so that the graduates might go directly into office...

By 1903 another professor was needed and Prof. G. Ritzmann was called. Thus there was a three-man faculty until the expansion of 1905 when the institution was elevated to the rank of a full teachers seminary.

A man who was to give almost twenty-five years of his life to the institution was then called in the person of Professor E. Strieter. He had been one of the candidates for the professorship to which Professor Weller was elected, and now was called from Cleveland to fill the vacancy created by the fact that Professor Hackstedde had resigned on account of ill health. Professor Strieter will be remembered by all who came into contact with him. His cheerful disposition, democracy of manners in his association with the students, his unfailing willingness to assume the manifold duties which the position of a professor of those pioneer days brought with it are traditions that will long remain alive...

By 1905 the institution could boast of an enrollment of seventy-eight students.

Professor Keinath continues:

By 1905 the delegates at the meeting of the Missouri Synod were convinced that this synodical child at Seward would live and should be adorned in slightly more expensive clothes. Properly urged by the Nebraska District and the local Board of Control, Synod decided that the institution should become a volles Lehrerseminar [full teachers seminary].

That meant a building program and the calling of more professors. The sum of $20,000 was granted for the erection of a new administration building, (now called the ‘Old Ad’), and another $6,000 for a service building, (now serving as a hospital). We may smile at these figures as we think of the $150,000 that were needed to erect our beautiful administration building twenty years later, but in those times this represented a real outlay, and the new buildings were appreciated as much as the more elaborate structures which came later.

But this building program could not be carried out immediately, since Synod demanded that two-thirds of the appropriated sums must be collected before building operations can be undertaken. So Professor Weller found himself with ninety-five students on his hands, and space enough for about half that number. The old dormitory to which an addition had been built some years before was packed with students, pianos, organs, classrooms, bedrooms, and the many facilities necessary for student life, and the first art which the newcomer had to acquire was to study under such conditions...

A decided increase in the number of faculty was demanded by the fact that the institution became a five-year school in 1906. During this year three men were added to the staff. Professors Karl Haase, H.B. Fehner, August Schuelke. Prof. Haase was called to take charge of the instruction in music in the various branches, a capacity in which he serves to this day. Prof. Fehner became the critic in the training school for a number of years but taught also in the institution. Professor Schuelke was active in a number of fields but as time offered more opportunity he gave most of his time to the sciences, and continued in this field up to his sudden death in 1932.

From Prof. Fehner’s reminiscences in the same issue of the college paper we gather that the service building was completed in 1906:

Our Concordia Teachers College at Seward experienced its first scholastic year as volles Lehrerseminar from 1906 to 1907. The local congregation had kindly consented to have one of its school-buildings, a small one-room frame structure, transported to the College Campus, where it was somewhat altered and then dedicated as the New Training School of the Concordia Teachers College. The enrollment of pupils increased from 35 to 110. The staunch supporter of our institution, the Reverend C.H. Becker, for many years chairman of the local Board, was often seen with a yardstick, measuring and planning how more room might be obtained without causing Synod any burdensome outlay. Small additions were made to the original structure, which served as training school for more than twenty-three years, when in 1929 the present adequate and spacious building was erected.

Other institutional buildings were equally primitive in 1906. Such a luxury as an administration building was then unheard of. The old dormitory, the first building erected, and the old refectory, now serving as hospital, contained respectively three and two so-called classrooms, which were in reality so many of the larger living-rooms. They contained enough benches for a small class of students, and besides a table and a chair for the instructor. Blackboards, maps, charts, etc., were not in evidence. As the lack of such teaching aids was keenly felt, a few modest purchases were undertaken. It was not an uncommon sight in those early days to see an instructor carry under his arm a two by four hyloplate blackboard in passing from one room to another.

The music department was equally hampered. Due to lack of space, several pianos were placed in one large basement room of the old dormitory. Here various students would simultaneously practice their pieces, classical and modern. When it was discovered that this condition was not particularly conducive to the best type of ear-training, several partitions were installed.

Since these pioneer days some remarkable improvements have been made in the physical equipment of the CTC. Yet, in glancing over the field, one will find relatively many outstanding Lutheran educators that received their early training under these primitive conditions. This seems to be proof conclusive, that it is not primarily the physical equipment of a college, but rather the mental equipment, the Christian character and the proper attitude of the student that makes for success in later life. Our sainted Professor Weller often stated: Aus Nickels lassen sich keine Dimes machen [Dimes can't be made from nickels.]

Although the pioneer professor and director of Concordia Teachers College did not reach his sixty-fifth birthday, he spent thirty of those years on the campus. During that time he saw the original building enlarged and surrounded by three other buildings, a service building, an administration building, and a music hall; he experienced the visible protection of the merciful Father in Heaven when a tornado missed the college buildings by a narrow margin; he saw the institution develop to such an extent, during twenty-five years of existence, that it received legal power to issue certificates of the same scope and value as those issued by the State’s normal schools; he attended faculty meetings with the two men who succeeded him as director of the institution; and he thanked God for all of these benefits.

The Weller Family's Move From Indiana to Nebraska

Below, after some introductory remarks, is the fourth group of excerpts of Clara Alvina Koenig's manuscript An Afterglow of Yesterday. The manuscript was described in this earlier blog article.

The first group of excerpts, about J. George Weller's mother, was in this blog article.

The second group of excerpts, about the Weller family's move from Louisiana to Indiana, was in this blog article.

The third group of excerpts, about the migration of German Lutherans from the area of Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Staplehust, Nebraska, was in this blog article.

J. George Weller's parents -- Johann George Weller and Katerina Regina (Meyer) Lehnberg -- were born in Germany. They met in New Orleans, Louisiana, and eventually married there in 1854.

Two sons survived to adulthood. The older was Johann George (J. George, born in 1860), who eventually became a Lutheran pastor and then the Concordia president. The younger was Heinrich Herman (born in 1862), who eventually became a merchant.

The family moved from Louisiana to Indiana in about 1866. In 1873, when J. George Weller was 13 years old, he entered a preparatory school at Fort Wayne, Indiana, to begin his education to become a Lutheran pastor.

In 1882, J. George graduated from the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, married Louise Katharina Clara Eirich in New Minden, Illinois, and then moved to Marysville (now part of Staplehurst), Nebraska, where he began serving as a Lutheran pastor at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church.

George and Clara Weller
George and Clara Weller
(Flickr page)

J. George Weller's brother and parents also moved from Fort Wayne to Marysville.

J. George Weller remained in Marysville until 1894, when he moved to Seward to become the first teacher at the new seminary there.

The following passages are excerpted from the manuscript:

In the early 1880s we find Johann Georg and Katerina Weller still living on “the college farm” -- their son Henry helping with the farm work and their son George just home from college after completing his ministerial studies.

During the hard years following the Civil War, which caused the panic of 1873 and the inflation that lasted till 1879, George had attended the preparatory college at Fort Wayne.Thus there was no room-and-board bill to pay until George went to Saint Louis in the fall of 1879.

Times were still hard, so George could not go home for Christmas; in fact, he did not even return to his home in the summertime, but worked on a farm near Saint Louis. It so happened that a son of Willie Fruehe lived on a farm near the city. The younger Fruehe and his wife (who was one of Reverend Eirich’s daughters) welcomed George into their home and family just as Willie Fruehe had befriended George’s mother in New Orleans. Clara Eirich helped her sister during the busy summer months -- soon a friendship, which changed to love, developed between the girl and the student.

After three years of instruction by Dr. Walther and other famous theologians, George was graduated from the Seminary in the spring of 1882, and received a call from the country congregation at Marysville, Nebraska. During the early summer, Reverend Eirich performed the wedding ceremony that changed his daughter Clara’s name to Weller. Then the young couple proceeded to their future field of labor in Nebraska.

The people of Indiana and Illinois considered Nebraska rather wild and unsafe; but Reverend Weller's letters to his parents and his brother convinced them that both people and climate were agreeable. Best of all, George no longer suffered attacks of ague since coming to Nebraska. The change of climate from damp, swampy country to rolling, sunkist fields proved a better remedy than pills and tonics. Hoping that he, too, might overcome the chills, the fever, and the sweating which torment the ague sufferers, Henry visited his brother and sister-in-law in the fall of the year. Railroad fares had been reduced: “30-day permits” were reasonably priced because many people were going west to buy land.

Although the town was laid out in 1880, Staplehurst is not definitely mentioned in our story until now. The following is a copy of a legal document now in the possession of James Hartmann of Staplehurst (a grandson of Friedrich Hartmann). Besides being the founder of Staplehurst, Loui Niels was also one of the charter members of Zion Congregation.

In the late spring of 1883, the Weller family of Fort Wayne decided to seek a new home in the West. They traveled by rail, as Henry had done on his visit to Nebraska the preceding fall.

George and Clara were waiting at the little station in Staplehurst. They welcomed Father, Mother, and Henry, who had come to enjoy the golden sunshine and clear atmosphere of Nebraska. Reunited, the family drove to the parsonage at Marysville where the five members lived together for a while. Henry (at this time twenty-one years old) found employment in Henry Hartmann’s general store at Marysville.

Reverend Weller served as teacher during the week and delivered two sermons on Sunday: at Marysville in the morning and at Millerton in the afternoon. Zion Congregation bought a reed organ to furnish music for its services and the pastor’s wife served as organist. (After the birth of their first child, she taught the pastor to play the organ---then he became organist.)

The congregation at Millerton had no organ, but depended on a few good voices to lead the singing. Reverend Weller asked his brother “Hank” to accompany him to Millerton to help lead the singing. On one such occasion while riding together on their wagon, “Hank” inquired, “Say, George, who was that tall and rather pale-faced girl at church? She must be about eighteen or nineteen, and always sits with her mother and a sister of twelve, or so. Today, they were just across the aisle from us.”

“Oh, yes, you mean Lisette Scheumann. Mrs. Henry Hegeholz is her older sister. They have five brothers.”

“That’s good! What are their names?”

“Julius, the youngest, is going on eight -- I have him and Minnie in school. Then there is Chris, a boy of fourteen, and Henry, who is about two years older. Charlie is about my age and Bill is in the late twenties.

"There was another brother by the name of Fred. He died only a few months before you came here. The family took it awfully hard: he had been such a sturdy young man, but after suffering so long his body was a mere skeleton when he died. In spite of the terrible, lingering death, Fred’s faith remained unshaken to the very end.”

Eventually Charlie Scheumann and Hank Weller became friends, and Charlie brought his new friend home to dinner, occasionally.

After a few months, Mother and Father Weller decided that they would be happier in a house of their own: they had never before lived with anyone else. In Staplehurst, they found a suitable place consisting of a four-room house and a barn, surrounded by a garden and trees. A certain Eric Jacobs owned the place. His terms proved acceptable, and soon the older Wellers moved to their new home. (Six more rooms were added later. H. H. Weller still [in 1941] lives in that house.)

Henry, or “Hank” as he was usually called, came with his parents. He worked at Herman Meyer’s store in Staplehurst for a while and then became an insurance agent.

Under Reverend Weller's guidance and leadership, Zion Congregation grew by leaps and bounds. Within two years the school enrollment had increased to such an extent that the old building would not accommodate all of the pupils; so a new building, size 22 by 32 feet, was erected in 1884. The following year, a wing was added to the parsonage (which is the front part of the present parsonage).

After working in Nebraska for three or four years, Wilhelm Zwick felt himself in a position to establish his own household. He had rented Mr. Katt’s farm and was living with the Friedrich Scheumann family, but he longed for his fiancee in Indiana. So the young man went to Fort Wayne and married Sophie Mailand, a daughter of Fritz Mailand who always had been Sophie Scheumann’s favorite brother. Shortly after their wedding, the young couple came to Nebraska bringing the bride’s brother, Wilhelm Mailand, with them. Wilhelm, or “Bill” as he was usually called, was twenty years old at that time, and found employment as hired man on the Baermann farm.

While driving through the country as agent for the Nebraska-Iowa Insurance Company, Henry Weller often “happened to be near” the Scheumann home when evening came. He stopped to talk to his pal Charlie -- but I’m inclined to believe he was more interested in Charlie’s tall and rather good looking sister. Of course, Henry was invited to supper. On several occasions, when the night was very dark or even stormy (and the horse happened to be a shying one), Mother Scheumann insisted that the young man stay overnight.

The insurance business did not fill its agents’ pockets with money. They earned their pay, and often it was not so much at that. When Henry was offered the position of clerk in Herman Diers store, he gladly accepted it. With the combined income, he could contemplate marriage besides supporting his parents.

On October 14, 1886, Mother Scheumann and her family were all a’flutter over the last-minute details of the wedding. Large sprays of yellow, brown, and wine-colored chrysanthemums were brought in from the garden and arranged on the tables.

Already dressed for their role as attendants, Wilhelm Mailand and Charlie Scheumann helped Henry Weller so that he might be a well-groomed bridegroom. “Little Minnie” (just 15 since September) admired herself in the new yellow dress in which she was to be bridesmaid for her sister. The other bridesmaid, Elizabeth Mailand, was also dressed in yellow. She adjusted the wreath of wax flowers with which the plain silk veil was fastened to Lisette's lovely hair. The bride wore a light grey, silk-and-wool dress, trimmed with pleating and buttons and a single flower at the high neckline. The “over skirt” was fashioned into a bustle. There was no shower-bouquet in sight; in fact, there was no bridal bouquet of any kind.

The ceremony was performed in church by Rev. Weller. A reception followed, at the Scheumann home.

The newlyweds lived in town, with Henry’s folks. Shortly before the wedding, Henry had added a fifth room to the house: a large kitchen, complete with pantry and a small porch.

Everything looked rosy for nearly a year: “Hank” had a good job, Lisette enjoyed living in town, and Mother and Father Weller were well pleased with their daughter-in-law. Then misfortune befell the happy household. Through circumstances not under his control, Henry lost his job at Diers’ store. A baby daughter had arrived just before this, so there were five mouths to feed and not a single bread-winner. There was nothing but a few fruits and vegetables in the garden and eggs from the small flock of chickens. The cow, on which they had depended for a supply of milk and butter, died very suddenly. Unable to get work in town, “Hank” drove to the country and helped his brothers-in-law dig potatoes in exchange for hay and grain, with which to feed the horse and the chickens. Mother Scheumann came to the rescue with various other farm products.

Father Weller went to town every day, thinking he could find a little work of some kind. Finally, one day, he brought home good news: “Hichmann’s are selling out -- they only want $700 for the store -- if only we can raise that much!” After hurried consultation, everything was planned: Mr. Helmsdoerfer could return the five hundred dollars that he had borrowed from Henry Weller during better times, while Charlie Scheumann furnished the rest, as a loan without security. The plan worked well and everybody was happy once more.

Again in 1888, Zion Congregation found that it had outgrown the small church building; but, instead of erecting an entirely new church, the congregation decided to build an addition. Enough space was added to the west end to provide a vestry, an altar-niche, and room for an organ; at the east end, a hall was added. The small tower was replaced by a 75-foot steeple in which the new bell was hung.

During the early summer of 1888, those members of Zion Congregation who lived in and near Staplehurst decided to build a small church in town. With Reverend Weller’s help, “Immanuel Evangelical Congregation at Staplehurst” was organized on July 30, 1888. The first voting members were:

John Bartels

Wilhelm Bertram

C. Bieberich

H. Bieberich

F. Hartmann

Eric Jacobs

J. Jacobs

Herman Meyer

Chris Niemann

Jens Ocken

Lorenz Ocken

H. Porthun

Andreas Schultz

Henry Weller

Johann Georg Weller

The dimensions of the church in town were 24 by 40 by 14 feet; the new house of worship was dedicated August 13, 1888. Services were conducted by Rev. Weller.

A parsonage was built early in 1889, and Immanuel Congregation called its own minister, Rev. M. Leimer of Texas. The pastor was installed May 12, 1889.

Rev. Leimer organized a Christian day-school in the fall of 1889. The congregation bought a public-school building to house the pupils and their “teacher.”

The year was 1890 and the month was June -- that month in which flower gardens are at the height of their beauty, the air is heavy with the humming of bees and the perfume of blossoms, the days are long and mellow and the nights are refreshing.

After walking together in the yard, the three-year-old and her grandfather returned to the house: the old man sat in his arm chair and the little girl sat on the footstool at his feet. After a while, Johann Georg Weller called his daughter-in-law: “Lisette, can you come and put our little girl to bed? She fell asleep with her head on my knee.”

The mother lifted the sleeping child and carried her to the bedroom where Baby Henry slept peacefully.

A wagon stopped by the side of the house. Soon Rev. Weller and his son “Hans” stood in the doorway. The pastor spoke, “Hello, Father! How are you feeling?”

To which Father Weller replied: “Not very well, George,” and his head dropped forward on his bosom. Death came suddenly and silently to this devout man.

When the enrollment of the Christian Day School at Marysville increased to more than 80 children in 1892, it was considered necessary to build a larger school (26x40x12) and to call a teacher. Henry Hillman, a graduate of the Teachers’ Seminary at Addison, Illinois, was installed by Rev. Weller on the 28th day of August, 1892. The new school was dedicated on the same day. After that, the old building was used partly as a meeting place for the confirmation class and partly as a temporary home for the teacher.

During the same year, a new school and a teacher’s house were built one-half mile east and three-and-one-half miles north of Marysville. A “schoolclub” had been organized of members who lived a considerable distance north of the church. The children living in the North District attended this school. The teachers were Carl Hofman, W.H. Binder, and H.W. Hoeman -- succeeding each other in the order given, during a period of twenty-four years.

In 1894 a house was built for the teacher of Zion School.

If anyone wonders why Lutheran congregations build their own schools, hire their own teachers, and help support the teacher’s seminaries of their Synod, while paying taxes to help support public schools, he ought to find a satisfactory answer in the following resolutions of the Missouri Synod which were adopted in 1890, after an attempt had been made in Wisconsin and Illinois to compel all children of school age to attend public schools

1. Whereas the Word of God, our rule of life enjoins upon all Christian parents the duty of bringing up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, therefore all Christian who educate their children in schools are duty bound to entrust their children who are not yet confirmed in Christian truth, to such schools only as secure the education of children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, while at the same time it is with us self-understood that we are willing to make good citizens of our children, to the utmost of our ability, and that we also endeavor to give them the best possible schooling in the use of the English language.

2. Whereas in the non-religious public schools, wherever they are conducted in the sense of the non-religious state, not only Christian education is excluded, but also, as a rule, things not in harmony with the Word of God are by way of instruction and discipline inculcated on the children, and the spiritual life of Christian children is thus endangered and impaired; therefore we as Christians are in conscience bound to submit to no law of the state which is directed or may be used toward forcing our children into such public schools.

3. In accordance with our daily prayer, ‘Thy kingdom come!’ it is our duty to preserve and extend the orthodox Evangelical Lutheran Church in this our country, and we are, therefore, in conscience bound to combat each and every law which is directed or may be used to the detriment or damage of the Lutheran parochial schools, which are effective means of extending and perpetuating the kingdom of God.

4. Forasmuch as our Lord Jesus Christ says, ‘My kingdom is not of this world,’ and ‘Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s’ the separation of Church and State is for all times to be acknowledged as in accordance with the Word of God; and since God has in this country vouchsafed unto us the precious boon of religious liberty, we may not as faithful stewards approve of any legislation which tends toward a confusion of spiritual and secular affairs and endangers our religious liberty, and we most cordially approve of combating with legitimate means such laws as have been enacted to the detriment and damage of the parochial schools in the States of Wisconsin and Illinois during the past year, while on the other hand we, for the same reason, condemn all demands upon the public funds for the erection or maintenance of parochial schools.”

While plans were being made for the erection of a college building at Seward, the board of control was looking for a suitable man to serve as professor and director. For the first there was to be a one-man faculty and Reverend Weller of Marysville was chosen.

On October 4, 1894, he placed his resignation before Zion Congregation. After accepting the resignation, the congregation wished Prof. Weller God’s continued blessing in his new field of labor. Then the congregation at Marysville called Reverend John Catenhausen of Louisville, Nebraska, to fill the vacancy. He accepted and was installed by Prof. Weller about six weeks later.

From 1889 to 1898 the pastors of Immanuel Congregation taught the pupils of the parochial school at Staplehurst. The enrollment increased rapidly during those nine years.

After teaching school for six years, besides giving special attention to the confirmation classes and performing the various duties of a pastor, Rev. Miessler asked the congregation to relieve him of the school in 1898. By that time, the number of pupils had increased to 56. Although Immanuel Congregation consisted of only 28 voting members, a graduate of Addison Teachers Seminary (now River Forest) was called for the next schoolterm. William Koenig, a member of the class of 1898 was installed by Rev. Miessler on September 4th, 1898.

On October 22nd, 1899 Rev. Miessler accepted a call to Batavia, Illinois and resigned as pastor of Immanuel Congregation.

On April 1st, 1900, Rev. G. Rademacher became the next pastor at Staplehurst. He stayed until the end of September 1902 and was succeeded by Rev. Henry Koester the following April.

Again, no events pertaining to this story and worthy of mention until July 16th, 1905. On that day, after long years of suffering, “Grandmother" Weller was called to the Eternal Rest at the age of eighty-six years. Already during childhood, her right hand was crippled; then at forty when her third child was born, Mother Weller’s left leg was weakened by an attack of milk leg and she became a semi-invalid. At seventy-three, a paralytic stroke made her a bed-ridden invalid; two more such strokes left Grandmother Weller completely paralyzed. For five years she was unable to move or even lift a small portion of her weight (about 240 pounds;) but the internal organs and the mental faculties of the paralyzed woman served her to the last. Many long hours were shortened by recounting youthful experiences to the devoted granddaughter who cared for her.

Zion Congregation again found itself without a pastor during three months of 1906. Rev. Catenhusen's health had failed during the winter and he died on March 18th, 1906. His grave is on Zion Cemetery.

Rev. Koester of Staplehurst served both his congregation and Zion until June 17th, 1906, when Rev. W.F. Rittamel of Falls City, Nebraska, was installed in his office as minister of Zion Congregation by Prof. Weller of Seward.

During the summer of 1905, Immanuel Congregation at Staplehurst sold its first school building, which stood just west of the church. The old school building was moved into the country and changed into a granary. Then the church was moved across the street, so that it stood west of the parsonage and a new church was built on the old site.

The dimensions of the second church are 34 by 60 by 18 feet and of the steeple 12 by 12 by 90 feet. The spire is crowned with a cross covered with gold leaf. Art glass windows and a white altar, and a white pulpit, both trimmed in gold and hung with purple and gold paraments (a gift of the Ladies Aid), and two gilded chandeliers added to the beauty of the new church. The cost of the church, including altar, pulpit, benches and bell, was five-thousand-six-hundred-sixty-four dollars ($5,664.00).

On the tenth of December 1905, the new house of worship was dedicated to the service of the Triune God. The old church was used exclusively as a school after that. As soon as sufficient funds ($900) were raised, a pipe organ was bought and installed. The organ was dedicated on February 4th, 1906. Immanuel Congregation rejoiced that it was well equipped with a substantial school building and a lovely new church.

“Grandmother” Weller did not live until the new building was completed and, because of her condition, could not have been taken to the dedication had she lived; but the privilege of hearing about the progress and growth of the congregation brought much happiness into the last months of the aged shut-in’s life.