EARLY 20th CENTURY – PART 8 – RELIGION AND RITES OF PASSAGE – BIRTH, DEATH, & A WEDDING SKUNK

 

The German churches were a powerful center for the teaching of ethics, for nurturing social relationships, and for providing a structure for spiritual beliefs.  In church the use of German language for the services persisted well into the 1930s.  The pastor was the shepherd of his flock and ministered to them in their grief and joy, admonished them in their ethical lapses, and led them in enhancing their brotherhood and sisterhood.

contents ©2016 by Harold Pfohl

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cedarburg twnshp plat 1915 LOC church.jpg

Source – Library of Congress, Location of Immanuel Lutheran Church relative to the Lueder farm.

THE PASTOR – REV. E. G. STRASSBURGER, THE SHEPHERD OF THE FLOCK, DEVOTED TO HIS PEOPLE FOR NEARLY HALF A CENTURY

 

Elmer Confirmation Class 1918 crp1 copy.jpgSource – Steve Lueders, Rev. Strassburger, 1918, confirmation class, very near his retirement.

The advent of the automobile greatly improved the quality of life of the minister and his ability to tend to the needs of his flock.  Rapid transportation by truck and refrigeration for perishable goods meant that the pastor no longer had to keep livestock in a small shed or barn by the parsonage. Furthermore, use of an automobile enabled him to visit all of his parishioners and most especially to minister quickly to the sick and bedridden in their time of need.

While the use of the automobile made it easier to attend church, it also created easier access to leisure activities as an alternative. Although nearby family members could gather more readily for baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and funerals, automotive mobility also resulted in family diasporas, as children upon reaching maturity worked and lived in very distant places.

driefaltigkeitskirche-kirche-harvest-fest

Source – postcard, author’s collection, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cedarburg, Wis., Thanksgiving Day

The postcard is labelled “Am Danksagungs Tage” or Thanksgiving Day.  Scrutinizing the image, it appears to be more likely that special church day in Germanic farming communities called “Harvest Festival” at which thanks was given for a successful harvest, the abundance of the fields, including decorating the church front with part of the bounty – wheat sheaves, pumpkins, gourds, corn, etc.  The interior of neighboring Immanuel Lutheran would have looked very similar to this on such an occasion.

The church was the strongest force in the community for moral, ethical and spiritual matters.  It was also a major factor in community cohesion with frequent social interaction and sharing of responsibilities for church activities.  Lastly, it was the source of great music although often performed with limited skill.  Many of the classic Lutheran hymns were by some of the greatest composers in Northern Europe.

Pastor Strassburger was at the center of all of this.

GOING TO CHURCH

Fig 121Source – family photo, Sunday morning

L-R: Harold, Gerald, Cordelia, Edgar, Mother Augusta, Father William, Renata, and Renata’s husband, Erich Heckendorf.

All dressed up for church!  Men seldom owned more than one suit.  There was no need whatsoever for a suit other than for the most formal occasions which nearly always involved church.

They were very proud of their 1926 Chrysler “Four” automobile.

TAUFPATHEN (BAPTISM)

Shortly after birth, children were baptized during a Sunday church service and given their name.  This involved religious ceremony, the participation of Godparents (then known as “sponsors”), and the formal giving of the child’s name.  It was the occasion for great joy, and usually included a post church service dinner of celebration at the family home with the minister and his family invited as special guests.

Elmer Lueders Baptism record final copy.jpg

Source – Steve Lueders, Baptism of Elmer Lueders, Nephew of William and Augusta Lueder

Taufshein – Baptism certificate, signed by Rev. E.G. Strassburger

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Source – family papers, “Einnerung” – remembrance or keepsake.

This was a card given by Cordelia’s Tante (Aunt) Mary Lueder to her in remembrance of her baptism.  Tante Mary was one of Cordelia’s “sponsors” or Godmothers.

CHILDREN & THE HOME

Prayers of thanks were said before and after meals, and prayers were said with the little children when they were put to bed.  One bedtime prayer that has come down for generations is the following:

Evening Prayer – An Old German Children’s Prayer Sungand Prayed for Generations in The Family

Mude bin ich geh zur ruh

Schleisse meine auglein zu

Vater las die augen Dein

Uber meinem bitte sein

Hab ich unrecht heut getan

Sieh es lieber Gott nicht an

Dein Gnad und Christi Blut

Mach ja allen schaden gut

 

Alle die mir sind virwand

Herr las ruhen in Deines Hand

Alle menschen groz und klein

Sollen die befahlen zein.

 

Kranke herzen seude ruh

Nasse augen schliesse zu

Las dem mond am Himmel stehn

Und der stillen welt besehen

Amen

Evening Prayer – English Translation

Now the darkness shrouds the skies

Lord I close my weary eyes

Keep me safely while I sleep

Heavenly shepherd guard thy sheep

 

If I strayed from Thee this day

Savior take my guilt away

Purge me from all earthly dross

By the virtue of Thy Cross.

 

All my loved ones everywhere

I commit into Thy care

Yea, I pray that all mankind,

May in Thee their refuge find.

 

To the suffering ones be near

Wipe away the mourners tear

Thou who dwellest in the light

Give us all a peaceful night.

Amen

FUNERALS

Fig 075 Hortensia Lueder Nov 1911_017 copy.jpg

Source – family photo, Hortensia Lueder, d. November 14, 1911

Rev. Strassburger provided spiritual consolation to William and Augusta when their infant, Hortensia died.  He also conducted the sorrowful occasions of the funeral service and then commitment to the grave in Immanuel’s cemetery.

CONFIRMATION

Confirmation celebrated the Rite of Passage into adulthood, and was an affirmation of the young person’s Lutheran faith, i.e., “confirming” the commitment to the faith.

Elmer Confirmation Class 1918 copy 3.jpg

Source – Steve Lueders, confirmation of Elmer Lueders, nephew of William and Augusta Lueder, March 24, 1918

Elmer Lueders is fourth from the left in the back row.  William and Augusta’s daughter, Elda, is second from the right, kneeling in the front row.

This was likely Rev. Strassburger’s last confirmation class.  He retired shortly thereafter.

Elmer Lueders Confirmation 300dpi copy copy.jpg

Source – Steve Lueders, Elmer Lueders’ confirmation portrait

elmer-lueders-confirmation-certificate-final-copy

Source – Steve Lueders, Zur Erinnerung an den Tag der Konfirmation (Commemoration of Confirmation Day), March 24, 1918, for Elmer Lueders, nephew of William and Augusta Lueder

PASTORAL CHANGE AFTER 46 YEARS

 

eIMG0087 Rev Walter Behrens, DD About 1920.jpg

Source – family photo, Rev. Walter Behrens, DD, About 1920

In 1919, after 46 years in the service of Immanuel Lutheran, Rev. Strassburger finally retired. Dr. Walter Behrens succeeded him.  Dr. Behrens was an exceedingly able man who eventually became President (now called Bishop) of the regional synod of American Lutheran Church. He earned the respect and affection of his congregation, and was the central religious figure for this generation of Lueders as they were confirmed and married.

GERMAN SERVICES

Rev. Strassburger was sympathetic to the usage of English but had no facility in it.  His ministry was conducted entirely in German.  This persisted longer in the large German-American communities than we might imagine.

The author’s father, a German Lutheran minister in Sauk County, Wisconsin, held services in German four Sundays per month and held one service in English during the 1930s.  In 1943, he returned to his home parish near Niagara Falls, NY, having been invited to preach the sermon on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the congregation in his community.  That was done entirely in German.

That church, St. Peter’s Lutheran in Walmore, NY, was one of the core churches of the “Old Lutheran” Prussian immigration in the 1830s and 1840s.

For anyone with facility in German and an interest in the subject, his sermon notes are attached in a Footnote at the end of the post.  Below is the first page:

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AN INNOVATION – AN ENGLISH CONFIRMATION CLASS INSTEAD OF GERMAN

An early confirmation class under Pastor Behrens included William and Augusta’s daughters, Viola and Cordelia.

Fig 123 Cordelia & Viola Luder's Confirmation Oct 22 1922_2.jpg

Source – family photo, Cordelia and Viola Lueder confirmation, October 22, 1922

Cordelia is 2nd from the left kneeling in the front; Viola is at the extreme left in the third row.

Cordelia and Viola were confirmed by Pastor Behrens and had a deep-seated reverence for him. Theirs was only the second confirmation class at Immanuel to have the confirmation service in English. Seventy years after immigration, German still had priority and thus was celebrated on the pre-eminent confirmation day, Palm Sunday. English was relegated to the autumn.

This confirmation day was always associated by the family with a farming disaster. The following Wednesday their barn burned to the ground. (See UNSERER SCHEUNE IST ABGEBRANNT!” (OUR BARN IS BURNT DOWN) )

CHRISTMAS

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Source – family photo, Viola & Cordelia in the front yard of Lueder’s home – Christmas trees

Fig 122 hp 020313 8 copy.jpeg

Source – family photo, Christmas in Lueder’s parlor, – 1920s

The tree lights were small candles. Tiny, tin candleholders with spring clamps were placed all about the tree and the candles were lit on Christmas Eve with Christmas hymns being sung.

Money for Christmas presents was scarce, and the children had virtually none to spend. After the Christmas Pageant at church, the church gave each Sunday school child a gift of a bag of candy and peanuts. William loved peanuts, and little Cordelia, being without the means to buy her father a birthday present, would carefully save her Christmas peanuts for Papa’s February birthday.

The stove that is shown in the photo was connected to the chimney with an uncommonly long horizontal stovepipe. It gradually became loaded with soot and condensed water, collapsed, and the whole room was a blackened mess. Fortunately, this did not happen on Christmas.

DEC 23 WI CED LUEDR CHRISTMS IMG4066_resize.jpg

Source – Cordelia’s diary, Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1927

“Dec. 24 – 1927 Sat.  We’re to Church Program in evening.  Erich and Renata were here in evening.  Pa got- woolen shirt, tie, pipe, pair of slippers.  Ma – Box of hankerchiefs – purse”  etc.

Cordelia continued with her meticulous recording of every detail of the life around her.

RENATA – THE FIRST WEDDING IN THE FAMILY THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20, 1927

Fig 124 M.jpg

Source – family photo, Renata Lueder

AN EVENT THIS GRAND CALLED FOR SOMETHING REALLY SPECIAL –  LIGHT BULBS!

The wedding was a grand event. A portable generator was rented and genuine, honest to God electric lighting was imported for the occasion – one bare bulb per room; what luxury! A bridal suite was prepared upstairs, pictures were taken in the afternoon, and the wedding took place at 7:00 that evening. After the wedding, the guests returned to Lueders for a feast and festivities: concertina music by Renata’s cousins Erwin Mueller and Roland Nieman, dancing, beer, and cider until the wee hours.

OCT 17 WI CED LUEDRS OCT 1927 IMG4102_resize.jpg

Source – Cordelia’s diary

“Oct. 18, 1927 – Tues. …Electricians were here in afternoon and wired for Wedding”

VIOLA & CORDELIA WERE STUCK WITH THE EVENING CHORES ON THE WEDDING DAY

Cows do not care whether or not humans have a wedding. They have to be milked and fed, and since the older children were in the wedding party, Viola and Cordelia, at ages 19 and 17, did the evening chores. The girls were dispensable.  One can safely assume that on this occasion the chores were limited to feeding and milking the cows – no shoveling out the gutters…that would have been a bit much.  The wedding was later in the evening and the girls had plenty of time to clean up and prepare for the occasion.

PANIC – SEARS HASN’T DELIVERED THE BED?

It was the norm for newlyweds to spend the wedding night at the bride’s home, Lueder’s farmhouse.

The wedding dress came from Sears, and a bed for the bridal suite had been ordered from Sears, but on the morning of the wedding the bed still had not been delivered. The household, in a state of consternation, improvised with a bed from elsewhere. That afternoon, a Sears truck arrived, delivered the bed, and frantic activity ensued to put the new bed in place of the old one.

It was common for pranksters to tie bells onto the springs underneath the mattress!

fig-124-e

L-R: Edgar Lueder, Alice Heckendorf, Erich Heckendorf, Renata Lueder Heckendorf, Elda Lueder, Hugo Heckendorf

This was the first marriage among William and Augusta’s children. Erich was a farm boy from Jackson who became a carpenter and met Renata when he was part of the crew building Lueder’s new barn in 1923.

 

Fig 124 D.jpg

Source – family photo, the wedding party with the “limousine”

L-R Hugo Heckendorf, Elda Lueder, Ann Nieman (close friend, not one of the attendants), Erich Heckendorf, Renata Lueder, Alice Heckendorf, Edgar Lueder, and the “Franklin Sedan” chauffeured by cousin Ed Nieman.

A SKUNK ENCOUNTER AND THE BRIDAL SUITE

Adding to the bridal suite’s problems, Renata’s little eleven-year-old brother Harold had crossed paths with a skunk and left his shoes upstairs by the bridal suite door.  Not good.

FAMILY PORTRAITS AND A LARGE HOLE IN LITTLE BROTHER’S STOCKING

MM BK 016 0070Renata wed 1927.jpg

Source – family photo

L-R: front,; Harold, William, Augusta, Gerald, back; Viola, Renata, Edgar, Elda, Cordelia

All dressed in their best for the wedding and the portrait.  Young Harold managed to tear a sizable hole in his right stocking in time for the photo.  Augusta, the skilled seamstress, and the mother of seven rambunctious high energy kids, must have just rolled her eyes and sighed.

Fig 069 MM 04 hp fam negs 02282013 10 copy.jpg

L-R:  Augusta, William, Edgar, Renata, Elda, Viola, Cordelia, Gerald, Harold

The occasion was grand indeed.  In addition to chauffeuring the bride to the church and the wedded couple back from the church to the farm for the reception, cousin Ed Nieman was also was an avid photographer.  He had a large view camera with tripod, and took a number of family portraits of his uncle and aunt and cousins.

EVENING WEDDING AND THEN RECEPTION AT THE FARM

OCT 20 A WI CED LUEDRS OCT 1927 IMG4103_resize.jpg

Source – Cordelia’s diary

“Oct – 20 – 1927 – Thurs.   Very lovely outside.  N.W. wind. Clear and warm.  Wedding Day of Renata Lueder and Erich Heckendorf.  Bride was taken in Franklin Sedan, Ed Nieman was Chaffeur (sic).  Attendants were taken in Star Six Sedan, Robert Krause was Chaffeur (sic).  Sears Roebuck Delivery Truck brought Renata’s set {bed for the couple – they spent their wedding night at the Lueder farmhouse}.”

Cordelia then goes on to list 117 guests at the farmhouse reception.  One wonders if this 17 year old girl kept a notebook during the evening, scribbling in it while partying.

THE NEXT DAY – “HAIR OF THE DOG THAT BIT ME”

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Top, L-R: Cordelia and Elda Lueder, the newlyweds, Erich and Renata Heckendorf, and Erwin Mueller.

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Bottom, L-R: Erich Heckendorf, Cordelia, Viola, and Elda Lueder, Erwin Mueller.

First cousin Erwin Mueller, a concertina player at the wedding, stopped by to relive the preceding night’s activities and taste a “hair of the dog that bit him.” For many years, Erwin was the only employee of the Town of Cedarburg aside from teachers.

The truck was probably the Township’s single biggest capital investment, aside from schools.

THE PARTYING CONTINUED ON SUNDAY

OCT 23 WI CED LUEDRS OCT 1927 IMG4106_resize.jpg

The partying continued.  On the Sunday after the wedding, more than thirty people came to Lueders for an “after-wedding” party.  With all of the wedding related activity going on it is a wonder that the essential work of the farm got done.

NEXT – ODDS & ENDS DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION

FOOTNOTES

 

Reverend and Mrs. E. G. Strassburger

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.

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Source – family photo, Rev. E. G. Strassburger and his wife, Marie

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.

German Sermon Notes for the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Walmore, NY, by a Son of the Congregation, Rev. John Pfohl

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