Contents © 2016 by Harold Pfohl
THREE NIEMAN WEDDINGS, CATASTROPHE, TWO FUNERALS, RELIGIOUS DISPUTE, NORTHERN EXILE, AND A PRUSSIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER
GUIDE TO THE FAMILIES
REFERENCE MAPS – FOR EVENTS OCCURING IN THIS POST – click on map to enlarge
Source – David Rumsey Collection & Steve Lueders
Source – Cedarburg Cultural Center
CATHOLICISM AND LUTHERANISM ARE THE PREDOMINANT RELIGIONS
Catholicism and Lutheranism were the dominant religions in Germanic Cedarburg. St. Francis Borgia, a beautiful Catholic church with classic German architecture dominated the southern height of Washington Ave. Three substantial Lutheran churches served the community.
Church was central to the lives of most people for sanctifying rites of passage, comforting sorrow, and worship. For the typical dairy farming family working seven days a week, Sunday at church was a morning of rest and joy, meeting extended family and lifelong friends. German Lutherans were a very musical people, and the Church provided the finest music available, except for the occasional performance of the local band. The large pipe organ, the choir, and the congregation indulged in a variety of religious work anchored by the great German hymns, which included masterpieces sifted through the centuries from composers such as Bach and Handel.
THE CHURCHES OF CEDARBURG – 1892
Usage of German as the first language was widespread in the Cedarburg region. “In 1889, a state law was passed that caused a lot of anxiety and anger among Catholic and Lutheran German congregations.” The law was referred to as the Bennett Bill. The provision in the bill that thoroughly aroused Germanic Wisconsin declared that “no school shall be regarded as a school unless there shall be taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and United States history in the English language.” The uproar was sufficiently loud that the bill was repealed in 1891.
It is of interest to note that the Constitution of Immanuel Lutheran Church (home church to the Lueder and Nieman families) decreed that the German language was to be the only language used in the worship services. Furthermore, the pastor at Immanuel Lutheran for 46 years, Rev. Strassburger, spoke only German. However, demand for services in English began to increase and in 1901 he facilitated this with the outcome that in 1904 steps were taken to establish an English Language Lutheran Church in Cedarburg. Immanuel played a role, although small, in the establishment of the English congregation.
(Source – Rev. Franklin Krueger, “A Journey in Faith – Immanuel Lutheran Church, © 2002)
AUGUSTA NIEMAN – THE CHILD GROWS AND CELEBRATES HER PASSAGE INTO ADOLESCENCE
Two-year-old Augusta with parents Sophia and Johann
About the time Augusta would have entered first grade? 1880?
Augusta’s confirmation photo
CONFIRMATION OF AUGUSTA NIEMAN – MARCH 25, 1888
The Lutheran Church required its children to become knowledgeable about the fundamentals of their faith and to affirm that creed in Confirmation. This not only celebrated the religious commitment of the youth, but also implicitly provided a formal, solemn recognition of puberty with its incipient adulthood, responsibilities, and commitments. Augusta was confirmed on Sunday, March 25, 1888.
Note fourteen-year-old Augusta’s diminutive size; the back of the sedan chair is well above her waist. A curious genetic quirk frequently pops up among the descendants of Johann and Johanna Fromm. The rapid growth associated with early teen years is delayed by as much as two years. Ultimate growth is usually very normal, e.g. the writer has a nephew (great grandson of Augusta) who weighed 90 lbs. at his Confirmation, the smallest of about 30 Confirmands, including girls. He finally began growing in his junior year in high school and matured at 5′ 11″ tall weighing 180 lbs.
Augusta Nieman’s Confirmation Certificate. The certificate was carefully and beautifully framed and hung in the Nieman home. The heading reads “Commemorating Your Confirmation Day”
ROMANCE, A VERY OLD STORY – OTTO LUEDERS’ LIBIDO GETS THE BETTER OF HIS BRAINS – 1894
Alvina and Augusta Nieman had a cousin in their Northern Hamburg, Wisconsin, family also named Augusta. She was tall and called “Grote (big) ‘Gusta” to distinguish her from the Cedarburg Augustine who was small and referred to as “Klein (little) ‘Gusta.”
Cousin Augusta, aka “Big ‘Gusta”, center in the photo, made the long trip south from Hamburg Wisconsin near Wausau to visit the ancestral Pioneer farm and her first cousins Alvina (left) and Augusta, aka “Little ‘Gusta,” (right).
THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE
At the time of “Big ‘Gusta’s trip south to her Nieman cousins, Otto Lueders was courting a very attractive “Little ‘Gusta.”
Otto saw “Big ‘Gusta.”
His eyes widened, his libido took control and he abandoned “Little ‘Gusta” chasing in hot pursuit of the northern beauty.
Well………..that had consequences.
Otto’s younger brother William had long liked “Little Gusta” a great deal. He sized up the situation and wasted no time in paying court to her. That attention to her had positive results.
The northern beauty, “Big ‘Gusta,” boarded the train to far distant Hamburg, waved goodbye to Cedarburg and Otto was left holding the bag. She eventually wound up in Santa Cruz, California.
WEDDING OF WILLIAM LUEDER AND AUGUSTA NIEMAN – NOVEMBER 5, 1899
Interestingly, and not surprisingly, Otto was not in William and Augusta’s wedding party. However, the brothers were neighbors and remained close, often helping each other out on their adjoining farms and spent many a social hour together.
NOT TONIGHT, DEAR. I HAVE A HEADACHE
What a lovely wedding portrait! Unfortunately, the beauty of the day and the joy of the wedding was marred that evening by a curse that plagued William all his adult life. After five years of courtship, the poor man came down with a migraine on the evening of his marriage.
SOON AFTER THE WEDDING – MORTAL ILLNESS, LAND SALE TO OTTO AND THEN A FUNERAL – JOACHIM LUEDER
Williams’s father was mortally ill with cancer. He seemed quite well at the November 5 wedding, but the cancer had seriously weakened him. His decline was rapid and his wife, Albertina, thought that it was a result of exposure at the wedding. He died December 15. Albertina, (who was described as a very difficult person) implied that William and Augusta were to blame for Joachim’s death. Not good. They looked at each other after Joachim’s death and said “Now what do we do?” They lived on the home farm with Albertina, which must have been emotionally very tough to deal with.
William’s siblings had left home: Albert and Otto had their own farms, and Martha had married Willie Mueller.
Sick as he was, he ensured that his son, Otto, had a portion of his land to farm. The document below is the deed that Joachim and Albertina signed on November 29, 1899, two weeks before he died, selling a piece of their holdings to Otto for $6,000. The sale was witnessed by daughter, Martha.
Source – Steve Lueders
MEMORIAL CARD – DECEMBER 15, 1899
In the absence of telephones, and given that the Postal Service was quite good, it was custom to send out a memorial card to friends and relatives to notify them of a death in the family.
Note that the memorial card is in English. Joachim had long before anglicized his name. Perhaps the avoidance of German on the card was to honor his philosophy of adapting to the new country. German services continued in his church for decades after he died, and his children spoke German and English.
The obituary for Joachim:
Source – Steve Lueders
Joachim had a most extraordinary life filled with both grief and achievement. He left his homeland at age 25 with a young wife, with his parents, Johann and Eva Dorothea, and with his brother and his brother’s wife. He and his wife had three children. His wife died, and their three children died. He remarried and his first child with his second wife died. He persisted and became a very successful farmer, a pillar of the community, and a leader in his church. To have such a positive influence on the community, considering what he had endured, he must have been a remarkable man.
Wedding photos are shown below for Joachim and Albertina’s other children, Otto, Albert, and Martha: Click on an image to enlarge it.
JOHN NIEMAN, JR. – YOUNG LOVE, WEDDING, AND CATASTROPHE.
Brothers Charles and John Nieman as children
THE WEDDING OF JOHN NIEMAN AND ANNIE THESFELDT – NOVEMBER 22, 1891
Click on images below to enlarge.
Sweethearts – John Nieman, Jr., and Annie Thesfeldt
Attendants, L-R: ?, Otto Lueders, Martha Thesfeldt, Charles Nieman, Augusta Nieman, and Charles Thierman.
John and Annie were very much in love and were married on November 22, 1891 when Annie was 21 and John was 23. Catastrophe struck soon after. Annie became ill and died on Friday, January 15, 1892, only eight weeks after the marriage. Her young sister-in-law, Augusta Nieman, took care of her and also became ill, but survived. It is thought that Annie was a victim of typhoid or perhaps scarlet fever.
JOHN HEADS TO THE NORTH WOODS, LUMBER COUNTRY
Had Annie lived, what would his life have been like? One suspects that a very young, happily married family man would have been likely to take a more prosaic course in life than John ultimately did. John started out life as a schoolteacher. He became a tycoon. He headed up to the lumber camps (in 1894, sometime before February), perhaps to bury his anguish in work. John and a partner named Buch were successful in establishing lumbering operations and a company store in Hermansville, Michigan. They were very successful. More on that next week.
John at a lumber camp with his sister-in-law, Minnie Mintzlaff Nieman (Charlie’s wife) next to him.
JOHN MARRIES HIS SISTER-IN-LAW, MARTHA THESFELDT – THEIR MINISTER REFUSES TO PERFORM THE CEREMONY
Martha Thesfeldt, Annie’s younger sister, had always been sweet on John.
On June 7, 1897, John married Martha. Their minister refused to conduct the wedding, holding that it was immoral for John to marry his deceased wife’s sister. What was the theological rationale behind that? Who married them? We have no answer for that.
John in this photo is a very different young man from the youth depicted in the previous photos. He was a very young widower, spent years in the North-wood’s, was involved in a lumber camp (tough, hard-boiled men) and ran a company store. John had made a lot of money and was at the beginning of an extraordinarily successful business career.
John and Martha lived in Cedarburg. In the old postcard above (around 1910) their home is on the immediate left in the foreground. By the time they reached middle age, John had accumulated a substantial fortune; he was in fact a tycoon in the region.
Martha was modestly eccentric. She had been a farm girl and loved it. She insisted on keeping chickens in back of the house in Cedarburg and carrying eggs to the store to sell. For a time, she even kept a cow, but that was a bit too much for John and the cow wound up at the William and Augusta Lueder farm, was named Nieman, and was assigned to niece Cordelia to milk.
Martha’s health was a bit touchy. So, in the heart of Cedarburg John had a concrete underground tunnel built from their home to a concrete and brick chicken coop in order that Martha could go to her chicken coop without being exposed to inclement weather. One can imagine John, the brilliant, astute businessman, shaking his head at the profit and loss associated with the sale of those eggs.
Apparently, in keeping up with her local friends her practice of sewing bloomers from flour sacks really irritated him. He tore them up! “What if we have an accident and people see what wealthy John Nieman’s wife is wearing?” Flour sacks were made of fine muslin with interesting patterns for the buyers to reuse as raw material for sewing clothes. This was common practice in the farm community.
Martha’s modest eccentricity was probably due to her love of her friends. Purchasing feed and selling eggs and milk would have given her an ongoing reason to regularly meet and talk with people who had been her friends all of her life. The activity also gave her life some meaning separate from her family and from John’s extraordinary achievements. She had a wonderful sense of humor, making jokes at her own expense; she was a favorite among her Lueder nephews and nieces.
OCTOBER 6, 1901 – JOHANN & SOPHIE THROW A BLOWOUT FOR THEIR YOUNGEST DAUGHTER’S WEDDING… BUT, SOME QUESTIONS
Alvina married Albert Pipkorn
It is a beautiful, but most curious wedding party – where are Alvina’s siblings, John, Charlie and Augusta? Why weren’t they among the attendants? And yet her Fromm cousin was part of the wedding party (second from left in back). His father was Henry Fromm (Sophie Nieman’s brother) who had been ostracized from the Fromm family many years before for converting to Catholicism.
Below is a photograph of Alvina’s Uncle Henry Fromm and his family with her male cousin in the back. Henry occasionally came out to visit his Cedarburg relatives. Perhaps by the turn-of-the-century with the passage of many decades at least his sister Sophie was reconciled to him.
Henry Fromm and family
HOME FROM THE WEDDING CEREMONY – ALBERT AND ALVINA
The photo shows a matched pair of white horses, elegant closed coach, and a driver up front – the wedding limousine of 1901.
THE COOKS, AT THE WEDDING RECEPTION
The tall woman in the white striped blouse standing just to the right of center is Emma Fromm (nee Lueders), an aunt to the bride, Alvina. Emma’s sister, Mrs. Wilhelmina Mintzlaff, is seated second from left. Wilhelmina’s daughter, Minnie, eventually married Charlie Nieman, brother of the bride and photographer for many of the pictures in this section.
THE BARTENDERS AT THE WEDDING RECEPTION
Charlie Nieman, in the center, is clearly having a great time at his little sister’s wedding. What shape were these bartenders in by the end of the day?
THE WAITRESSES FOR THE WEDDING RECEPTION
Second from the left, standing is Minnie Mintzlaff. A year after Alvina & Albert’s wedding, on June 23, 1902, she married Charlie Nieman. They had been courting for seven years. Finally, Minnie insisted on getting married. Charlie wanted to know why she was in such an all fired hurry!
Then, after that long seven year wait, their wedding night was disrupted by a call at night to come and be baptismal Godparents for niece Renata, born prematurely to Charlie’s sister Augusta and William Lueder. It was thought the infant might die, and hence baptism with Godparents present was requested in haste.
WEDDING PARTY AND GUESTS AT THE NIEMAN HOME; ALBERT AND ALVINA’S WEDDING RECEPTION
Upon examination, this turns out to be a rather strange picture. Where are all the women? Although some are to be seen, the sea of felt hats and suits behind the wedding couple swamps them. The writer raised this question with his aunts and was informed without a moment’s hesitation that the women, as usual, were in the house doing all the work.
MARRIAGE TO A HEATHEN (DEPENDING ON YOUR POINT OF VIEW) – AND ESCAPE (OR EXILE?) TO THE FAR NORTH – POWERS MICHIGAN
In 1904, Albert and Alvina moved to Powers, Michigan, near Hermansville, which given the transportation of the day was pretty much the remote boondocks. The move occurred because Albert and Alvina came from different sects of the Lutheran church. Each sect thought the other was heathen, therefore hell-bound and that imputation caused friction. This did not make for domestic tranquility with the in- laws, so they left the area.
Alvina’s older brother, John Nieman, Jr., had done very well in opening a store in Hermansville in the 1890s serving the lumberjacks and then also operating a lumber camp. Perhaps Albert and Alvina thought they might repeat John’s experience. In any event, they headed for Powers, Michigan, lumber country, home to a few hundred people, a lot of wildlife, and vast space.
Albert and Alvina operated a store in Powers. It is the storefront on the right in the photograph above with the horse in front of it. It was not particularly successful so as years passed by, in order to make ends meet Alvina provided room and board first to teachers, and later to workers at the nearby Hiawatha Fur Farms during the winter pelting season when many temporary employees came to the area. Alvina is remembered as having put in incredibly long hours cooking and washing for her boarders. More on the fur farm when we get to the early years of the 20th Century. Hiawatha Fur Farms was owned and operated by her brother John in later years.
Albert, unfortunately, developed a serious alcohol problem. On one occasion, Alvina had hidden some schnapps to use in assuaging her pain during an impending childbirth. When the time came to deliver, the schnapps was missing and she learned that Albert had found and drunk it. On another occasion he chased her around the house with a butcher knife while intoxicated. At some point the problem came under control because he lived to an old age and they had a fine family.
Understandably, Alvina was profoundly homesick for Cedarburg for many years, and would write to Augusta begging for word of Cedarburg and home.
RELIGIOUS LEADER, SHEPHERD OF THE SPIRITUAL FLOCK, REV. ERNST GOTTLIEB STRASSBURGER (1850-1926) AND HIS WIFE, FREDA MARIE (1859-1935)
Source – Steve Lueders
The photo depicts a formidable, stern visage. Who was he? In brief, a very good man.
Reverend Strassburger was pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church for forty-six years, arriving in 1873 and retiring in 1919. He officiated at the funerals of most of the immigrants and baptized many of their great grandchildren.
While within our great cities social intercourse was fluid and cultural change was comparatively rapid, much of rural and small town America either adhered to or aspired to rather rigorous religious codes. Within the large German-American community in Wisconsin these codes were Lutheran and Catholic. Change in rural Wisconsin was also occurring, but it was slow and was met with great resistance.
The German Lutheran church was the root of morality and religion for its members. It was an authoritarian entity, requiring people to obey God’s law, which was enforced by the preaching of hellfire and damnation and by the profound disapproval of the congregation when accepted religious precepts were publicly violated, e.g. illegitimate birth. Pastor Strassburger was not radically conservative. He was simply a part of the culture of his time and place, occupying a position of moral leadership and setting moral standards. He and his fellow ministers and the priest at St. Francis Borgia were among the most respected people of their community, and are deserving of great respect from us in retrospect for their conscientious honorable service.
But, Pastor Strassburger also preached forgiveness, compassion and the love of God. He provided comfort to those who suffered, solace to mourners and he sanctified the rites of passage of the congregation.
Ernst Strassburger was born in Bichburg, Saxony, on February 6, 1850, the youngest of eight children. His father was an officer in the king’s mines. He planned to become a minister, but his studies were interrupted by rumors of impending war. On Christmas Day, 1869, he fled to America, his destination being Wartburg Lutheran Seminary in St. Sebold, Iowa. In 1870 his name was indeed on the draft list for the Franco-Prussian War. In America he was destitute, to the extent that he was reduced at one point to begging on the streets of St. Sebold. He regarded his three years at the seminary as the happiest of his life.
He was called from the seminary to the ministry at Immanuel Lutheran in Cedarburg as an assistant pastor and was ordained there. The congregation’s principal pastor, Rev. Habel, had fallen out of a carriage, was severely injured and needed help in performing his duties. Reverend Habel never recovered, and Reverend Strassburger soon assumed full pastoral responsibilities.
He married and had a son; unfortunately his first wife died in 1877. He remarried (to Marie in the photo) and had a daughter. Reverend Strassburger was highly regarded by his colleagues, and was elected treasurer of the Synod, and later was President (today, Bishop) for eight years of the Wisconsin District of the Iowa Synod of the Lutheran Church.
(Source – Rev. Franklin Krueger, “A Journey in Faith – Immanuel Lutheran Church, © 2002)
MY CHICKENS ARE STARVING
The card is from Reverend Strassburger to William Lueder: “My chickens are starving, where is the grain you promised me?” William was a kind man and generous with what little he had. The grain clearly had been forgotten. The card is dated in the 1920s, at which time Rev. Strassburger was retired, and virtually without income even though he had devoted his entire professional lifetime to his congregation. This was normal.
Pastors with such deep commitment to God and congregation were frequently to be found in the service of the German Lutheran community.
Prior to refrigeration and high-speed transport of fresh foods, it was commonplace in farm communities for a minister to keep a few chickens, a cow and a horse. These were necessary for fresh eggs, meat, milk, and transportation. The ministers’ salaries were miniscule and they depended on their congregations for frequent donations of necessities to have a bearable life.
This was not a problem. Many members gave a small portion of their produce frequently and willingly to help the family on whom they so depended for steadfast spiritual guidance in an uncertain world. Such gifts were a gift to the church, a gift to God, and an expression of thanks to the minister.
Reverend Strassburger passed away at noon on July 29, 1926 never having gained advantage in material goods, but with the knowledge that he had justly earned the love, affection, and respect of hundreds if not thousands of people in a lifetime of selfless service.
NEXT WEEK – LUMBERING IN THE MICHIGAN PENINSULA