Saturday, June 27, 2009

Historical Facts Rescued from Oblivion

Here’s some miscellaneous stuff that Toby Beck found while trolling through old Seward papers:

From the Feb. 22, 1956, issue of the Independent:

Mrs. Luther Schwich and children, Jody and Billy, accompanied Dr. and Mrs. Paul Zimmerman to Le Mars, Iowa, Friday where they attended the basketball conference play-off.

The May 2, 1956, issue of the Independent, looked back to 1906:

A 1906 issue of the Seward Independent, brought in recently by John Herrold, carried the following news item:
Roy R. Schick has let the contract to John Hughes for a $2,200 house to be erected on lots in the College edition. It will be leased to a member of the college faculty for a term of years. This is the first new house to be erected in Seward in a year.
Robert Schick reports that the house spoken of in the above article, the present home of Elizabeth Heinicke at 540 Columbia avenue, was built by John Hughes Sr., father of John, Burr, Ben and Ted Hughes, and that contrary to this report, Mr. and Mrs. Schick moved into the home and lived there until 1919 when they built their brick home just north of the college on Columbia avenue. [which apparently is 920 North Columbia, the house at the corner of Faculty Lane and Columbia. It’s now a Concordia Guest House]

From the Sept. 19, 1956, Independent:

A special religious service for observing Dr. Henry A. Koenig’s fifty years in the ministry of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and for the installation of Raymond F. Surburg, Luther C. Schwich and Glenn C. Einspahr as associate professors is planned for Sunday, Sept. 23, by Concordia Teachers College.

A surprise found in the December 12, 1956, issue of the Independent:

Prof. and Mrs. Theodore Beck and children, Teddy [sorry Tedi!] and Toby, moved Saturday from their residence at 549 N. Columbia Ave. to the home at 234 Faculty Lane, formerly occupied by the late Prof. and Mrs. Theodore G. Stelzer. [That surprised me -- I’d thought we moved in 1957]

In the June 26, 1957 Independent:

Seward city council opened bids Friday evening on approximately 12 blocks of paving. Apparent low bidder was the Arnold Swanson company of Hastings. The engineer’s estimate on the five districts was $49,790.

Concordia College also received bids on the paving of the ‘half-circle’ in front of Weller hall and on Faculty lane from Columbia east of the city limits, and a section of 300 feet to connect Faculty Lane and Hillcrest. A.C. Bek of the College Board of Control stated that the Concordia paving might be among the first to be put in, so that the work could be completed before school opening in the fall.

From the July 3, 1957, Independent:

A unique event took place on the campus of Concordia Teachers College, Seward, on June 24 and 25. Exactly fifty years to the day after graduation, the first graduating class of CTC, the class of 1907, held a reunion. Eleven members of the original class of 21 are living; and eight were able to be present. ...

Class members present were Fred Eberhard of New Orleans, La.; J.H. Gefeke of Napoleon, Ohio; E. Chas. Mueller of Lincoln, Nebr.; Theodore Rhode of Davenport, Nebr.; Arthur Ritzmann of Washington, Mo.; John C. Rodenburg of Springfield, Ill.; Dr. Alfred Schmieding, River Forest, Ill.; August Sylvester, Gaylord, Minn.”

That same issue of the Independent reported the upcoming July 7 installation of the Rev. Leonard W. Heidemann as pastor at St. John’s.

Steve Sylwester responded about the second (May 2, 1956) item:

The phrase the present home of Elizabeth Heinicke at 540 Columbia avenue refers to the house where the Marxhausens lived from the early mid-1960s.

The phrase lived there until 1919 when they built their brick home just north of the college on Columbia avenue refers to the house where Peter Kolb lived [Faculty Lane House 8]. It is strange to finally recognize that that house is not truly a Faculty Lane house by street address; rather, the front door is on Columbia Avenue, now that I think about it. Even though Peter Kolb was older than me by several years, I hung around with him at times. We always entered his house from the door that led to the driveway on Faculty Lane, so I always thought about that house as a Faculty Lane house.

Steve Sylwester responded about the sixth (July 3, 1957)item:

August Sylvester of Gaylord, Minnesota, was my paternal grandfather F.W.J. Sylwester's younger brother.

F.W.J. was born Franz Wilhelm Johannes Sylwester on March 3, 1881, in Dryden Township, Sibley County, Minnesota, which is the location of the family farm near Gaylord. F.W.J. changed his name to Frank William John Sylwester at the time of the First World War when things overtly German became suspect. Commonly, he went by "Frank." In 1905, F.W.J. Sylwester founded what is now Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, and he served as president of Concordia Portland for the first 41 years of its history. During the first years Concordia Portland existed, my grandfather was the only teacher. After relinquishing the presidency in 1946, my grandfather continued to serve Concordia Portland as an instructor and a librarian, working in the latter position until a few months before his death on October 26, 1972, at the age of 91. At the time of his death, my grandfather had served Concordia Portland for 67 uninterrupted years!

Here is a video about Concordia University in Portland, Oregon.

August Ferdinand Sylwester was born on April 30, 1883, on the same family farm as his brother F.W.J. near Gaylord, Minnesota, described above. After graduating from Concordia Seward in 1907, August taught at Lutheran parochial schools in Inver Grove, Courtland, Waterton, and Albany, Minnesota; and in Stevensville, Michigan. During the 1940s, he was Legislative Clerk for Minnesota State Senators O.A. Swenson and Joseph Daun. After retirement, he returned to Gaylord, Minnesota, where he then served as a rural mail carrier. He was married for 59 years, and he and his wife had seven children. August Ferdinand Sylwester died on January 4, 1968, in Gaylord, Minnesota.

My paternal great grandfather August Friederich Sylwester had fifteen children. He was born the son of German peasant farmers on December 31, 1837, near Stettin in Pommern, northern Germany (Stettin is the old German name of the the city Sczcecin, which is near the Oder River in Poland). After his mother died when he was 15, August Friederich emigrated with his father to Wisconsin in America, where they continued farming with people they had known from Pommern.

Eventually, his father remarried a widow with children, and then August Friederich married his new stepsister in February 1864, and a year later August Friederich and his bride Emilie traveled by covered wagon to Minnesota where they homesteaded some farmland near Lake Titloe. That farm remained in the Sylwester family until 1956. Emilie died on August 11, 1872, at age 26, just three and a half months after her youngest child (a son) died at age 5 months, and she was survived by three children: two girls and one boy.

August Friederich married his second wife Sophia on February 21,1873, barely six months after his first wife died. August Friederich and Sophia had eleven children: seven boys and four girls, including F.W.J. and August Ferdinand. Of the seven sons of August Friederich that survived to adulthood, four became farmers, one was a mercantile store clerk, and the other two were F.W.J. and August Ferdinand. Only F.W.J. and August Ferdinand received college educations.

August Friederich Sylwester died on January 29, 1928, at age 90. His second wife Sophia died on October 6, 1931, at age 78.

When I visited my grandfather F.W.J. when he was in his late 80s, he was still regularly working hard in his garden and his flowerbeds, and he was very proud of that work. He did not talk with me about theological topics other than at dinner table devotions. What was important to him in private conversations with me was passing on the knowledge of how to properly clean and care for gardening tools and shovels, and the importance of a clean and orderly work bench and tool storage system.

But most importantly, he always wanted to show me his dirt! My grandfather's garden dirt and flowerbed dirt was black and soft and fluffy like I have never seen dirt before or since: it was rich stuff that produced magnificent plants — and it was his pride and joy. Though F.W.J. had left the farm as a boy to be educated at Concordia Colleges in St. Paul and then Milwaukee before going to the Seminary in St. Louis, and to then teach at Concordia St.Paul from 1903 to 1904 at age 22 before being sent to Portland, the farm never left him; in his heart of hearts, F.W.J. was always a Minnesota farm boy.

The point being this: Many who were farm boys were called to go work in the Lord's vineyard to reap the harvest of the Holy Spirit's work. Some were our fathers. Some were our grandfathers. In any case, many of us are not far removed from the farm. Concordia Seward in the heartland of America in the middle of some of the most fertile farmland in the whole world was a place where farm boys became church workers.

It is not the same now because the family farm has been disappearing for a long time and is today nearly extinct, but there was a time from 45 to 120 years ago when some stayed on the farm while some were given to the Lord. My grandfather F.W.J. Sylwester and his brother August Ferdinand Sylwester were given to the Lord.

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