August Schkade

Weldon Mersiovsky sent me an email earlier this year and asked me if I could help a woman named Carol Watson find a patent issued to her grandfather.  I agreed to take on the task and contacted Carol Watson.  She told me that het grandfather was August Schkade and that he was born on September 22 in 1854.  She also told me her grandfather was a miller and a ginner and thought that his patent was for a cotton gin. 

I was able to find patent number 399,441 for a stamper attachment for a cotton gin issued to August Schkade on March 12, 1889.  I emailed the patent to Anne Nash who is Carol Watson’s daughter, and asked if they had any stories about August Schkade that they would like to share with me. I told them that I would like to write about August and his patent on my blog.  The following story was dictated to Anne Nash by Carol Watson and sent to me:

“My grandfather August Schkade was born in Weigersdorf, Prussia, Germany September 22, 1854.  At age 18, he wanted to visit his brother Heinrich Schkade in Lincoln, Texas.  He persuaded the German officials to let him come and he promised he would visit his brother for a year, and then return to Germany and enter the German military.  He did not return to Germany, but remained in Texas.  My grandparents August Schlkade and Maria Theresia Dube were married on April 12, 1880.  They planned to give a Wendish hymnal, a small book, to Anna Mattijetz Ploss for her confirmation.  My grandfather died on December 22, 1892 (of pneumonia?) so he was unable to give the book/hymnal to Anna but my grandmother did.  At the death of Anna, her daughter Margaret, and her daughter-in-law Ellen, gave the book to my mother, Selma Schkade Fisher. After my mother’s death I found the book, and gave it to the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum. 

My mother had told me a story that a farmer was sick, probably with pneumonia, and every night different farmers took turns staying with him.  When it was my grandfather’s time, there was a teenage boy in the house.  There was no fire and the boy was cold.  My grandfather gave him his overcoat, he caught a cold that perhaps went into pneumonia and he died.

And of course you know about the cotton packer.”

Carol Watson’s mother was Selma Martha Schkade who was born in Texas (probably Manheim in Lee County) in Januaray 1887.  Selma’s parents were August Freidrich Schkade and Maria Theresia Dube. Maria was born on December 22, 1862 and died on November 3, 1902. August and Maria were married in Serbin, Texas on April 12, 1880.  They were blessed with 6 children.  Emil August was born on August 20, 1880; Lydia Elizabeth was born on Novmber 28, 1881; Friedrich E. was born in August 1885;  Selma Martha was born in January 1887; Mary T. was born in July 1889; and Bertha L. was born in March 1891 (some of this information was found in the 1900 US Census from Dime Box, Texas).

While Carol Watson and I are not related, we are connected.  Anna Mattijetz Ploss was my great aunt.  Her brother John Herman Mattijetz was my grandfather.  While I probably met Aunt Annie, as my mother called her on more than one occassion, I have no memories of her.  I do remember my mother talking very fondly of Aunt Annie. I also recently found out that she had 2 major strokes when I was a young boy that left her incapacitated.

Below is a link to August Schkade’s cotton stamper patent.

august-schkade-patent_1.pdf

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“The Folklore of the Texas Wends” by Charles Wukasch

This article by Dr Wukasch first appeared in Concordia Connections 5.3 (1988): 8. 

The Wends pioneered Lutheranism in Texas when they settled in the Serbin (Lee County) area in 1854. Many Concordia alumni are of Wendish ancestry. The letters “sch” in conjunction (as in the author’s name) are often seen in Wendish names.

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All cultures express themselves partly through their folklore: the anonymous, informal body of tales, songs, and superstitions which are handed down from generation to generation. The Wends who immigrated to Texas in 1854 were no exceptions. They brought with them the folklore of the old country and, further, also developed new folklore in Texas.

Traditional Wendish folklore has its roots in the misty, pagan past, before recorded history. Stories about the wodny muz (the water troll) and the zmij (the kobold) continued to be told throughout the centuries.

Among the older Wends in Texas, remnants of these old beliefs can still be found. The most common tales still in existence are those of the zmij, a mythical creature which attached itself to people’s homes and then brought the occupants an endless supply of various things. Although the zmij was a seemingly benevolent creature, the tales make it clear that it was wrong to make use of its demonical powers. One tale I have collected in the Texas community is the following:

A boy finds a baby chicken shivering out in the pasture. He brings it inside, sets it behind the cookstove to let it get warm, and gives it some feed. The next morning, he discovers a big pile of feed in the kitchen. The “chicken” is in reality a zmij and has produced a pile of feed by magic. The boy’s father orders the boy to take the zmij back to the pasture.

Some of the beliefs, even if never taken seriously by adults, undoubtedly once served a didactic purpose for the youth of the community. Elderly Texas Wends tell of the wodny muz, a type of water creature which could carry children off. This creature was probably used as a warning to the young not to swim alone in creeks and ponds.

Tales and beliefs about the zmij and the wodny muz have their origins in the original homeland of the Wends. Other tales, however, originated in Texas. The Rev. John Kilian, the first pastor of the Texas Wends, plays a role in the following interesting tale collected in the Texas community:

A little girl is playing in the cemetery of St. Paul’s church in Serbin. She taunts the occupants of the graves by saying “catch me, catch me.” A hand suddenly seizes her and she begins screaming. Rev. Kilian is called to help and then succeeds in praying her free.

Like the warnings about the wodny muz, this tale also serves a didactic purpose: Children should be quiet and respectful in cemeteries.

It is unfortunate that traditional Wendish folklore is disappearing in the community, but such is the nature of folklore. In an increasingly modernized culture, with television taking the place of storytelling sessions organized by parents and grandparents, traditional folklore is bound to vanish.

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Dr. Charles Wukasch joined the faculty of Concordia as an adjunct professor in January, 1988. His postgraduate work includes a semester in the Dept. of Wendish, University of Leipzig, German Democratic Republic, in 1965. He has published articles in scholarly journals and given papers at professional meetings on the language and folklore of the Texas Wends.

Dr Wukasch is currently teaching at Austin Community College.

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Bronze Plaque Remembers Sorbian American War Heroes by David Zersen

The following article appeared in the April 2015 Newsletter of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society in Serbin, Texas.

Bronze Plaque Remembers Sorbian American War Heroes

[Even while we continue to observe the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, we should also remember that 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Many of us have family members who served in the military during the war, and we are thankful for those who came home to continue their lives after the war. But we also remember those who lost their lives during the war. This article first appeared in the May 2014 issue of Pomhaj Bóh, and we wish to thank the editor, Trudla Malinkowa, for granting permission to reprint it here, and to Dr. David Zersen, the author, for translating from German to English.]

Immigrants to the United States in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries often hoped to escape military conscription in their homelands. This was possible for some Sorbs who left Lusatia, but many young men weren’t so fortunate. During the United States Civil War in the 1860s, 53 Sorbs were either conscripted or volunteered to fight for the Confederate States of America because Texas had voted to side with the Southern States (documented by Dr. George Nielsen in the July 2005 and April 2006 issues of the TWHS News.) The descendants or those immigrating in later years were also conscripted to serve in World War I, a long battle made problematic because although seventy-five years had passed since the 1854 immigration, men of Sorbian ancestry had to fight against their ancestor’s descendants in Lusatia.

Two decades later, then 85 years after the 1854 Sorbian immigration to the United States, Sorbs had not only almost lost the language of their forbears, but in many cases had also forgotten their names were Sorbian. This would not be the case at Concordia University in Texas, however, where a bronze plaque cast in 1945 remembers the names of 99 Lutheran soldiers of the Texas District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod who died in that war.

Giving recognition to the fact that already at the time, the U.S. had become a nation of immigrants, the names remembered there show three soldiers of Mexican heritage, 14 of English – Scotch, one of French, one of Swedish, one of Dutch, one of Italian, 48 of German and 29 of Sorbian. In other words, almost 30 percent of the Texas Lutherans who died in WWII were of Sorbian descent. The percentage would be much higher if one could know the Sorbian names of all the women who married men of other ethnic backgrounds as well as those who were not members of the LCMS. Names like Kieschnick, Knippa, Schkade, Neitsch, Zschech and Symank would never be forgotten, even if their descendants forgot their heritage, because they remain inscribed in bronze on a plaque hung in Memorial Hall, an athletic facility constructed at Concordia University Texas in Austin to remember those who had died in the Great War.

Of course, there were countless other soldiers in Texas of Sorbian descent that did not die in the war, and there is no easy way to remember who they were. One of them was Edgar Adolph Knippa who was inducted into the Army in January 1942. By January 1943, he had completed Officer Candidate School and was a 2nd Lieutenant assigned to the 750th Tank Battalion at Fort Knox, Kentucky testing the M- 4 medium tank, M5Al light tank and the 60-ton heavy tank. Then, after an accelerated program of physical and tactical training in South Carolina, on September 16, 1944, the 750th Tank Battalion sailed on the U.S.S. Wakefield landing at Omaha Beach on September 25, 1944.

Edgar Knippa was later wounded in battle in November of 1944 by shrapnel from an exploding mortar round near Aachen, Germany. He was evacuated to England for surgery, and then sent to San Antonio, Texas to a hospital for recuperation. He was given a clean bill of health and received orders to report for parachute training after which he would be sent to fight on the Pacific front. However, that month, in August of 1945, the Japanese surrendered, and Knippa never returned to battle.

Most of the U.S. soldiers of Sorbian ancestry who survived the war would later marry and have children, producing the next generations of Sorbian Americans in Texas. Edgar Knippa’s daughter, Jan Knippa Slack, worked until recently as the Director of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society Museum in Serbin where she regularly encountered descendants of other veterans of WWII who survived to marry and raise their families. When current Sorbian Americans look at the names of the ancestors on the bronze plaque, they sometimes wonder how many Sorbians in Lusatia died in World War II and how many who survived remember the names of those who were lost?

Dr. David Zersen, President Emeritus Concordia University Texas

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Eating the Way our Ancestors Ate By David Zersen

The following article appeared in the April 2015 Newsletter of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society in Serbin, Texas.

Jan Ernest Smoler and Jan Kilian were contemporaries, although not always friendly ones. As editor of a newspaper in Bautzen, Smoler published negative letters sent from the Serbin colony leading to years of tension between Smoler and Kilian. Thirteen years before the immigration to Texas, in 1841, Smoler and a colleague, Leopold Haupt, published a book of Wendish folksongs, customs, legends, proverbs and eating habits from Upper and Lower Lusatia. The book, which Kilian surely knew, was reprinted twice, most recently in 1992: The foods highlighted by the authors were certainly known to the Texas immigrants. Their reprinting here might provide interesting fare for some contemporary Wendish parties in Texas, and perhaps even some side dishes for the traditional menu at the annual Wendish Fest in Serbin.

Leopold Haupt and Jan Amost Smoler, Volkslieder der Sorben in der Ober- und Niederlausitz (Bautzen: Domowina, 1st ed. 1841/43, 2nd ed. 1992), 213-214. (Bilingual Wendish and German) Introduction and translation by David Zersen. Special thanks to Beata Millier of Bad Sulza, Germany, recently retired from the Domowina, for checking the meanings of some of the original Wendish dishes still eaten in Lusatia today, and for providing the recipes.


Eating the Way our Ancestors Ate

The Wends have three meals a day. Breakfast has two parts. First, there is an early family gathering before going to work consisting of gruel or some type of soup, or even potatoes with the jackets on them. Then a slice of bread, perhaps with a piece of cheese, is taken along to be eaten later. For lunch, there are again potatoes and some cooked dried grains like grits, groats, millet, etc. In summer there is also lettuce and some cucumbers to accompany the meal. Only on Sundays or on special occasions, a piece of meat or a roast will be on the table. In the evening, the typical supper consists of an open-faced sandwich and fried potatoes. For special festivals or local fairs the offerings are better. Everywhere there is cooking, frying and baking and everyone has their fill of the generously prepared bounty. People eat even more grandly when there are special guests such as at a joyful family gathering. Baptismal or wedding celebrations consist of a variety of dishes, and beer and Schnapps are provided in abundance for the guests.

Although the Wends ordinarily eat simply and moderately, nevertheless besides the festival meals there is great variety in the daily meals and dishes. An attempt is made here to describe what might typically be offered. Gruel has already been mentioned. Often it will be prepared by whisking grain into boiling milk until thickened. The favorite dishes include Faustmauke, a preparation consisting of rye flour and millet cooked in milk until thickened. Left over bread (Brotsuppe) cooked in milk is also cherished. Among the commonly eaten foods are grains from the heather regions grown almost exclusively in Lower Lusatia, specifically buckwheat or heather wheat and barley kernels. These are either cooked until thickened with water and then served with butter or bacon, or cut up in pieces with warm or cold milk poured over it. It is also eaten as thin milk porridge. The usual soups are beer soup, milk soup, buttermilk soup, lilac soup, sausage soup, or simply a clear meat broth. The soups, with the exception of beer soup and simple meat broths, are eaten after the other courses of the meal. Raw mushrooms cooked in buttermilk or braised in butter are eaten regularly and with great pleasure. Typically mushrooms like Champignons, Chanterelles, or Milk Caps – even Porcini – are used. Less enjoyed are mushrooms like Morels, typically cooked with rice. Dried mushrooms are cooked either with beef broth or vinegar.

At pork slaughtering festivals people enjoy pork belly. Various kinds of sausage are made, including blood sausage, liver sausage, and scrapple. On the Sunday after the festival, a large ring sausage is made. People invite their friends and eat beer soup, then pork with a gravy made with blood (Schwarzbrühe), then sausage with sauerkraut or cooked onions, and finally roast pork with baked fruit. Beef is eaten with a white sauce, or thick porridge, thick barley soup, mashed potatoes, fried diced potatoes, cabbage, onions or horseradish. Offal is prepared with a whisked sour sauce or a brown sauce. Tripe is made with a sour white sauce. Likewise veal is made using a whisked white or a brown sauce. In addition to these dishes, the following should also be mentioned: liver fried in butter and bacon, smoked pork with sauerkraut or with millet or kohlrabi; additionally, veal roast, quail, chicken, goose and a variety of wild game dishes; boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, crepes, goose sausage stuffed with millet and cream; cucumbers; lettuce with cream or oil or bacon grease; home-style Preisselbeeren (similar to American cranberries) sweetened with sugar; lentils, peas, red beets, turnips, fruits, etc.

Many other things could be added, but perhaps this may be enough. The reader can see that the Wends know how to cook, even though they live in meager heather or sandy regions, where life is often difficult and people must satisfy them­ selves with simple and rather scanty fare.

Two Wendish Soups

Butsankowa

Buttermilchsuppe

Buttermilk Soup

Whisk appropriate amount of flour into cold buttermilk and while stirring, bring to a boil. Add sugar, cinnamon and salt to taste.          

Biersuppe

Beer Soup

Bring equal portions of light and dark beer to a boil. In another pot, heat the same amount of milk. Pour the boiling beer into the cooking milk and whisk in an appropriate amount of flour to thicken the soup. After allowing it to come to a boil, remove from heat and add sugar and salt to taste. Then stir in a whole egg that has been whisked with some cold milk. Before serving in bowls, strew some raisins on top.

Krautmauke

Cut red cabbage finely and cook in salted water until soft. Fry bacon separately and stir into the cooked cabbage. Add salt and pepper to taste. Separately prepare mashed potatoes. Stir the cooked cabbage with its liquid and the bacon into the mashed potatoes until a thick mixture is formed. Served in bowls and eat with a spoon.

Dr. David Zersen, President Emeritus Concordia University Texas

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