The photos represent, starting at the lower left corner: Mr. and Mrs. Gerry Horstman; Mr. and Mrs. Herman Redeker; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Rolf, and that includes, George Rolf, Mrs. J. Henry Rolf, Lucy Rolf Broermann, Christopher Henry Rolf, John Henry Rolf, Mary Rolf Broermann, and Marie Elise Rolf Laumann; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Tiemann; Mr. and Mrs. Karl D. Kemper; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Vette, Sr.; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Beckman; Mr. and Mrs. C.R. Rolf; Mr. and Mrs. Gerry Broermann; the school children (unnamed), Mr. and Mrs. Henry Schroeder; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Kahle; Mr. and Mrs. William Laumann; Mr. and Mrs. Fred Klute; the Kahle’s again; Adam Laumann; Henry J. Niemann; Adam Tiemann and the Fritz Hanrath family, Anna, William, Fritz, Mary, Elizabeth holding Alvena; and in the center is William Broermann family, Cora and Charles Broermann, Catherine and Wm. Broermann, Anna and Henry Broermann, Anna and Louise Joesting, Mary and Fred Sickmann, Minnie and George Rolf, Emma and Ludwig Meier, Eda and Wm. Poppa, Ella and Wm. Vette, Clara and Leo Vette. Missing photos are Herman Fuelling, William Fuelling and Mr. and Mrs. Gerry Laumann.
By Beverly Clinkingbeard
It’s a paper tree on a bulletin board and pinned to the limbs are photos of old, taken when photography was new and participants didn’t smile for a camera. The men are wearing suits and the women the style of the day – dark serge fabric with many buttons and probably a corset drawn tight beneath it all, with their hair severely drawn into a bun.
These are the “founding fathers” of the St. John’s Lutheran Church, Westboro, Missouri. The root of the tree is transplanted from Germany, mainly from the Osnabruck, Hanover Province area. They had many things in common – a desire for freedom, opportunity, language and a shared Lutheran faith. Too soon they needed a place to bury their loved ones, and in keeping with European practices, they wanted them nearby, hence, tombstones surround the church.
They located their church on a high hill and the wooden structure had a spire reaching toward heaven. They needed a school, thus an addition to the church was added. They needed a pastor and the family would need a home, outbuildings to shelter a team and conveyance, a cow for milk and chickens for meat and eggs. (Aren’t you relieved, Pastor Fritz, that you don’t have “chores” to do before services?)
Meanwhile, as the years moved along, families were sinking deep roots into Atchison County, Missouri, and other areas. They sent their sons and daughters off to college, the work place, wars, and some stayed to till the same land as their forefathers.
In 1940, the grandchildren dedicated a new church building of brick and mortar. What would the founding fathers have thought of that endeavor? For that matter, would they be amazed at the ease with which their heirs travel, how they farm their land, what careers they follow? Would they be saddened by the addition of tombstones in the yard and the heirs who could, but no longer walk through the doors of the church? Would they be shocked at our casual attire – women wearing pants, short skirts and strappy shoes that display painted toenails?
Maybe they would ignore outward evidences of change and instead marvel at what they began so many years ago – a need for a good place to rear their children, till the soil and have a place of worship. Maybe they would be very pleased that the heirs have kept as their platform for worship and life, the Holy Scriptures.
Nationally, September 17th was Constitution Day. Thanks to those “founding fathers” it has given us, as a nation, a framework to live by. We hear criticism of these founding fathers for what they did and didn’t do, or . . . , but could the critics fashion something enduring to stretch across the years as those men did?
Sometimes we boast of being self-made, or flash what we have as though we did it all, when in truth we started from a platform of opportunity.
It’s just a tree and limbs stretching across a bulletin board with photos. It represents one little chip in Atchison County, but it is a reminder that we’re where we are because of what someone else did.
All this thought from a tree on a bulletin board? Yep. ‘Til next time.