Schottische and Kuchen

Hard work, fun and deeply religious, described the early settlers around the Jessie area.  Ed Zimprich, Sr.  homesteaded one mile east and one and one-half miles north of Jessie, and that farm is still in the Zimprich family.  They were a large family, so it soon got to be known that everyone was either a Zimprich or related to them.

During the winter, usually one Sunday a month, you could hear the sleigh bells ring and you knew that everyone was heading for St. Lawrence Catholic Church that was then located on the hill by Jessie, but was later moved to its present location near the highway.  That building burned down and the present church was built.  Fur robes, charcoal foot warmers or heated bricks kept the occupants of the open sleighs, or the covered rigs, warm during their many miles of sleigh rides.  There was no resident priest at first so one came by train on Saturday and stayed with one of the parishioners until a return trip was made by train.

Before the church was built, Mass was held in the homes of the parishioners.  They also said the rosary and had devotions with their families to keep their faith alive.

Some of the early Catholic traditions were Mass in Latin, abstaining from meat on Fridays, fasting and abstinence during Lent and on Easter Monday there was always a big dance to celebrate the end of Lent.  Even small children did their penance during Lent by giving up candy or other "goodies."  Catholics are still encouraged to do penance but it is no longer compulsory.

Vatican 11 made the Mass more a people's Mass by having the Mass in English, having the priest face the people while he was saying Mass.  Other changes include more responses by the people, more frequent communion, lay people reading the epistle and complete congregational singing.  In the larger parishes, the lay people help the priest distribute communion.  The permanent diaconate has been re-established in the church and the deacon will be able to help the priest in all areas except confessions, last rites and consecration.  Julian Mrozla of Cooperstown is presently studying to be a deacon.

Entertainment was family oriented, mostly visiting neighbors, house parties, card games, barn dances in the summer and dances in the homes in the winter.  They would move the furniture out of the kitchen, which usually was the largest room in the house, and even roll up the linoleum.  Then someone, usually Ed Ressler or Johnny Hovel would get the fiddle and the dancing would begin.  Children learned to dance as soon as they could walk - no generation gap here.  Young and old danced the waltz, the schottische, polka, two-step and square dance.  Later on when the dances were held above C.P. Dahl's store in Jessie, everyone brought their children.  If they got tired, there was always a blanket or coat to make a bed on a bench or on the stage out of danger of those dancing feet.  No one ever heard of a babysitter.  There was only one drawback at the dances above the store.  The floor had a tendency to sway during such dances as the polka and schottische, so they just limited the number of couples on the floor at one time.  Some of the mixers and fun dances were Sauerkraut and the Circle Two Step.

The young folks would travel by horseback or horse and sleigh, or wagon (depending on the time of year) to go many miles to a dance.  Many times they'd go by wagon (no rubber tires) and before they left for home, the ruts had frozen which made for a rough ride.

In about the 1915-1920's, the Stokkelands and Pratts had formed their dance bands and in time Frank Zimprich, Jr., Evelyn, Lillian and Bernard Zimprich, Johnny and Hillard Johnson were playing for house parties as well as public dances.  Bernard was about nine years old at the time he started playing for dances.  His first drums were his mother's pie tins and wooden spoons.

Another social event put on by the altar society was the annual chicken dinner also held above Dahl's store.  Imagine carrying all the water up those long steps as well as the many roasters of chicken, kettles of potatoes and vegetables as well as the dishes and silverware.  No paper plates and cups then.

In the summer, ball games, horse racing and political events were held at Jessie Lake.  Everyone took part.  The horse racing included Shetland ponies as well as the larger horses.

Every farmer was diversified, raising his own beef, pigs, chickens and a few milk cows.  The women raised large gardens and canned their vegetables.  The most common method of canning was the hot water bath method.  The jars were filled with the fruits or vegetables and placed in the copper boiler, which was filled with water to cover the jars.  The vegetables were boiled for three hours and the fruit for twenty minutes to a half hour.  The jars were mostly a rubber ring and a screw cap.

Horses were the only source of power so every farmer had a lot of horses.  The fields were plowed in the fall and disced and seeded in the spring.  No soil conservation was thought of at that time.  No fertilizer was used except for the manure that was spread on the fields.  These farmers were early risers and put in a twelve-hour day (longer would have been too hard on the horses).  The women milked the cows and did the other chores while the men got the horses fed, curried and harnessed for the field.  In the winter, many of the farmers would let their horses roam the fields but would round them up every evening.

Threshing time was hard work but also a time of help thy neighbor.  The old steam threshers needed large crews of bundle haulers, water boy (he kept tanks of water ready to be used in the steam engines), engineers, separator men and grain hauler.  The grain hauler had to shovel all the grain by hand into the granaries - there were no augers or grain elevators.  The work was never so hard that there wasn't time for a few pranks and wrestling matches.  It was great fun to put a long post through the spokes of the back wheels of the hayracks and watch the expression on the face of the driver when his team attempted to move the rack ahead.  Another prank was to pull the pin on the evener of the hayracks and watch the driver come over the front end of his load of bundles when his team moved ahead with no load behind.  Many a time an unsuspecting bundle hauler would reach into his overall pocket and find a mouse placed there by a "friend."

Many times a couple of women or teenage girls would travel from place to place in a cook car to prepare meals for the threshing crew - which meant a breakfast of fried potatoes, eggs and coffee.  Dinner and supper was boiled potatoes, meat and either a vegetable in season or baked beans, or macaroni and pie for dessert and of course bread with every meal.  Afternoon lunch was sandwiches, cake and coffee.

Fall meant hauling wheat to Valley City to the mill and bringing back the year's supply of flour, usually stored in an upstairs bedroom.  Many of their supplies were bought in large quantities such as crackers in barrels, honey and syrup in one or two gallon palls and sugar by the 100 pounds.

Winter was time for butchering, the beef was canned and the pork chops were fried and covered with melted lard.  When the lard hardened, it would seal out the air to the meat and it would keep for a long time.  Every farmer had his own smoke house and smoked his own hams, bacons and sausage.  One specialty that many of the Germans had was "grauten" which is ground pork and pearl barley.  Some put this in casings while others just put it in a pan and kept it frozen outside until needed.  Some added a little blood to the grauten.  Also, headcheese and pigs feet were a treat.  They didn't throw anything away except the squeal.

One recipe in particular has been passed down through the generations.  Kuchen is a sweet roll dough with a poppy seed filling, or a prune filling and a real must for holidays.

Traveling salesman is not a modern term.  Peddlers traveled around with clothing, cloth and sewing articles such as lace and ribbons.  Some of these men walked, carrying their wares while others had their wagons filled with every imaginable article.  Most women sewed all the garments of clothing for their families so they enjoyed being able to pick out the necessary cloth and any other necessities, perhaps even a new hat for Sunday.

Another traveling salesman of a different type went from farm to farm with his stallion and serviced all the mares that the farmers wanted bred.

Now, in 1982, many of the descendants of these German-speaking people still live and farm near Jessie.  Many of them are farming the land and maintaining the homes their parents and grandparents built.

Gen Zimprich

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial page 47

News & Events