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“Our Swiss Mennonite Heritage-Cheese Makers and Wheat Growers
OR Peace-Makers and People of Courage”

(Gleanings from SMCHA Banquet - May 19, 2005 speech by Kirsten Zerger)
  • How shall we Schweitzers be known in our modern world? Do we have a unique place?
  • Should the “quiet in the land” be more vocal?
  • Does the world need to hear more from us?
  • If we Schweitzers want to inspire and shape the future, the folkways we celebrate are mere relics from the past. They will not maintain SMCHA.
  • Even our cultural ways changed through the years- food, clothes, housing. Celebrating this culture “freezes” the Swiss moments in the Ukraine. Merely preserving language, culture, folkways will not sustain us.
  • What is the real Swiss cultural activity to preserve? What will invite and excite the next generations?
    The core values of our heritage must be paramount. This legacy of values must be passed on - our unique birthright. Our uniqueness is to become master peace-builders with the values of peace and non-violence; to make peace and promote justice. Restoration of right relationship is of essence- the hope in our families and communities and world.
  • As Schweitzers, we must know our history and values and our tradition of great courage as in the Martyr’s Mirror. This rich heritage we must pass on to our grandchildren.

What Blood Runs Through Our Schweitzer Veins?

(Gleanings from Jake D. Goering)

We are carrying a jewel! This jewel originated in the 1st 2 centuries after the life and death of Jesus. At that time followers were committed to the great commandment to “Love God with all your mind, heart and strength, and your neighbor as yourself”. This included commitment to dealing with conflict in completely non-violent means. This commitment survived the 3rd century when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, thereby sanctioning violence as a means of settling disputes and encouraging Christians for the 1st time to be members of the military. This commitment is a wonderful treasure carried by our Swiss-Mennonite Anabaptist forebears for almost 500 years. We hold within our Anabaptist blood values that the world desperately needs at this time.

While many Christian groups also claim the “love ethic” as their creed, it seems that the implications of its meanings are too often ignored. The Anabaptists had the insight and courage to absolutely renounce war, and to refuse to participate in it. The rest of the world including the majority in modern Christendom, may give verbal assent to the principle, but when the chips are down, will revert to war even though there is almost universal agreement that war does not solve problems.  Influential persons throughout the world- Mahatma Ghandi, Dr. Marin Luther King Jr., Bishop Desmond Tutu and others- came to espouse this very principle which we Anabaptists have carried with us throughout these centuries.  As a people, the Mennonite Church, and we Schweitzers should come to a new appreciation of this precious jewel we are carrying in our history and boldly and persuasively bring this message of peace and reconciliation to the entire world. It would indeed be a great tragedy and even a disgrace if at this moment in history those of us who are the inheritors of this great insight should abandon it. I believe that if the younger generation could get a sense of this vision they would respond with genuine interest and enthusiasm.  Imagine the potential, if each Schweitzer descendant scattered throughout the US and the world knew of this treasure we hold and worked to carry it out in some way in their life journey. Is it possible?



Recently I was asked what contacts did our people have with the Native Americans after migrating to America and settling on the plains of Kansas. Limited research led me to believe “not much”. Most local Indian stories that I remember hearing happened before 1874.

You might ask, “What about Black Kettle?” Yes, the Cheyenne tribe led by Black Kettle roamed our area and then moved on to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) where he was killed in an 1868 massacre. That was six years earlier than the 1874 migration. A grave marker in a cemetery near Canton lists the deceased as the last to be killed by Indians in the county and dated 1869, five years before the Mennonite migration. It appears that by 1874 most of the violent Indians had left the area. But small groups of friendly Indians roamed in Harvey and McPherson Counties. Andrew Kaufman in 1972 was then the oldest resident in Memorial Home at age 97. He recalled when Indians were quartered in Halstead in 1884. He said, “They passed our area a number of times. They were the peaceful kind”. Kaufman’s home was five miles west of Christian.

Some other undocumented tales tell how they would enter homes without knocking and usually beg for food. Sanitation was not in their vocabulary as they once asked if they could have a pile of dead chickens. They were discouraged from eating them, so they asked if they could have the dog because he was fat and would make good food. This happened along the Turkey Creek. A wild turkey would have been a better choice.

When Moundridge became a town in 1887 one of the business places built an observation deck above their store. Its purpose was to watch for storm, prairie fires, and rampaging Indians. In its first year the building along with others was destroyed by fire. However, when they rebuilt they did not erect another tower. Would that indicate the Indian population had declined?

One of the most influential characters in helping develop the community of Christian was Christian Krehbiel. He lived near Halstead where for ten years they had a government Indian School. Rev. Krehbiel built a good rapport with Indians and was able to offer counsel when needed. (Moundridge Journal, Oct. 1937)

Indians would be used at times as unskilled laborers. Some are pictured in the Moundridge 75th Anniversary booklet. As late as the mid to late1920’s a local repair shop employed a worker from Missouri who came every spring to help repair binder canvases for the upcoming harvest. Known only as “Chief”, this Indian was very skillful with the sewing machine.

Indians were known to congregate west of the Alta Mill where they had a burial ground. Neighborhood children report finding arrowheads and other Indian artifacts there. A story told in Wm. Juhnke’s drama, Our Town Our Country, relates how some Indians came across the creek on their ponies to the business side (east side). Mill owners Jacob H. Goering and Joseph Schrag knew they were the friendly type. Several dismounted. One tied his reins to a small scale for weighing sacks of grain. Something spooked the pony and he took off running, dragging the scale. Parts were broken. Joseph said to Jacob, “Sie setten das gut mache” (They should make it good). Jac replied, “Les sie geh! das tet may coshta vie a nie vog” (Let them go. That would cost more than a new scale).

While many Indians were relegated to reservations some were allowed to live independently. One with a business mind had a project going but was short of cash. His neighbors suggested he get a bank loan. This was a foreign idea to him but he would give it a try. He met with a loan officer who thought his product had possibilities. He asked the Indian what he had for collateral. After learning what that meant the Indian said he owned forty horses. That sounded good so the loan process was completed. When the Indian had enough profits he returned to the bank to repay his loan. The banker was very pleased and invited him to open a savings account. The Indian still learning about financial institutions looked puzzled. As he looked the banker in the eye he asked, “How many horses you got”?

These few incidents indicate that interaction between Schweitzers and Native Americans was quite limited.

-compiled by Delbert Goering, Moundridge, KS


One of our distinguished elders once remarked that the Swiss Mennonites seemed to be less prosperous and a bit less cultured than some of their low-German cousins. He even remarked that the Swiss Mennonite students at Bethel College kept their dormitory rooms less clean than the low-German Mennonites!

On the culture front the Swiss Mennonites may be making up for any past deficiencies. In August 2002, Will Ortman of South Dakota began to win local and national acclaim for his original oratorio, “Jesus, the Man, the Christ”.

In April, 2005, Steven Stucky, a native of Pretty Prairie, won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in Music for his composition “Second Concerto for Orchestra”. This piece was premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in March 2005.

The Pulitzer Prizes, provided for in the will of the famous American publisher, Joseph Pulitzer in 1904, are awarded annually to recognize outstanding excellence.

Steven, born in 1949, spent many of his childhood days on his grandfather’s farm near Pretty Prairie. After his family moved to Salina, he began playing the viola at age 10. On his last Kansas visit in 2001, he attended the 125fth anniversary celebration of the Swiss Mennonite arrival in the United States. He wrote “A Hymn of Heritage” for that celebration.

Steven now lives in Ithaca, NY, and has taught at Cornel U. since 1980. At Cornell he serves as the Given Foundation Professor of music and artistic director of the musical group, Ensemble X, which he founded in 1997.

Steven has been working with the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 1998. He has written commissioned works for other major American orchestras including Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Philadelphia and St. Louis.

-Theodore James Goering



Thoughts on the future of the SMCHA organization:

Having now lived in a non-Mennonite community for over 40 years and quite involved with a local Methodist Church I suppose I might bring a somewhat different perspective to the issue of the preservation of our Mennonite Schweitzer heritage.

In our Sunday School discussions I find a great deal of respect and admiration from classmates for my Mennonite background. I would highlight the Mennonite emphasis in three areas: 1) non-violence; 2) world outreach to those in need: 3) separation of church and state.

Certainly, the majority shift from rural to urban life in this country has dramatically challenged the Mennonite traditions and the on-going life of the church in this US melting pot. Yet the establishment of SMCHA, trips by many to explore their European Mennonite roots, and recent Mennonite publications testify to an interest that exceeds that prevalent during my own Bethel days.

Will this continue through succeeding generations? Our Mennonite family threads seem to vanish as we trace them back into the 1600’s. How fascinating that certain individuals with names like Graber, Kaufman, Goering, Stucky, Krehbiel, Schrag...should have come together to become a distinctive religious group and that descendants some 300 years later still perpetuate and celebrate that cohesion.

Certainly many of these descendants will ignore this heritage but as long as Mennonite beliefs are respected and promoted I believe there will continue to be those who will sustain this ongoing community. -Cot Graber, Cedar Rapids, Iowa


A Kurtza Daag Uf Dem Baurnhoff
Es war moll a Frau was in der Stadt geboren und ufkevaxed war und sie denkt as es goot vare moll zum a Baurhoff a paar dag bleiba. Sie kent frischers Luft schnaufa und vielleicht sich goot ausruha.

Sie hut freindschaft was a Bauer farhirat hut so dut ist sie anagang. Der Bauer hut Fee und Sei und deas Luft war net so frisch. Am drei Uhr im Morget hut der Hahn kekraet und van er schtill war hut der Hund kapellt.

Im Morget ist sie ausang zum Heisli, but die Daer uf gemach unds war ke hinders Vant. Sie is base und hut der Bauer angeruffed. Er hut ihr gesaht das ist schun zehn Yahr so. Das giept bessera Ventilation und vom hinda niemant ware dich viesa. Der Schweitzer Bauer

(Puzzled ? Read on.)

There once was a lady who was born and grew up in town and she thought it would be good to spend a few days at a farm. She thought she could breath some fresh air and really get rested up.

She had relation that married a farmer so that is where she went. The farmer had cows and hogs so the air was not too fresh.
At three in the morning the rooster started crowing and when he was quiet the dog was barking.

In the morning she went out to use the outhouse but when she opened the door she noticed there was no back wall. She was mad and called the farmer over. He told her its been like that for ten years. He said it has better ventilation and from behind nobody knows you anyway.
-Maynard Krehbiel

Schweitzer Ingenuity!

In 1874 when most of our ancestors settled here, they had to make do with very little-make something out of almost nothing. Surely, we don’t do that today--alas--read on:
Once upon a time in 2004, a feisty lady named Fern decided to make some dandelion jelly. “Auch de liber,” said a friend, “Guk a matole at alles dandelions in the yard.”
Feisty Fern knew just where to find a great field of dandelions to make delicious jelly. So armed with her pail, Feisty Fern tramps out to the farm. But alas! Someone has destroyed the dandelions! What to do? Feisty Fern is undaunted as she casts her eyes over the field and spies a multitude of pink and white flowers yonder. Just those pesky bindweed. Ach jammer, so much bindweed. Aha!
Pick, pick, pick...1 hour passes; pick, pick, pick... 2 hours pass; pick, pick, pick...almost 3 hours of picking bindweed flowers. (Hours later) Friend, “Vas you made jelly out of bindweed flowers? What next? It looks pinkish. How does it taste?” “Try it!”

Recipe for Bindweed Jelly
(adapted from E. Coblentz “Dandelion Jelly”)
  • 1 package Sure-Jel 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 1/2 cups white sugar 1 quart water
  • 1 qt. bindweed blossoms
  • In early morning pick the blossoms. Wash. Boil blossoms with water for 3 minutes. Drain off 3 cups liquid. Take this juice and add Sure-Jel, lemon juice and sugar. Boil mixture for 3 minutes. Skim off top and put in jars and seal. Tastes like honey.


SMCHA is again offering two $500 scholarships to students who are preparing for the ministry or other full-time Christian Service. These scholarships are for the 2005-2006 school year. The application deadline is July 15, 2005. Applicants must have membership in one of the six Swiss-Volhynian churches in Kansas or in one of the two churches in South Dakota, or be of Swiss-Volhynian descent.

Applicants may submit a letter of application to Art Goering, Chair, Swiss Mennonite Scholarship Committee, 609 S. Quail Ct. Newton, KS 67114. A letter of recommendation from his/her pastor or congregation is required and the applicant must be accepted or enrolled in an accredited Mennonite institution of higher education or in a Mennonite-related voluntary service position Those attending Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary or Great Plains Seminary will be given preference.

If you know of persons who may qualify, please encourage them to apply or send such names to the committee. Members are Art Goering, Delbert Goering, and Alice Suderman. For further information call: Art 316-283-9118 or Delbert 620-345-2844.

 “Mirror of the Martyrs” Exhibit

At our SMCHA Annual Banquet on May 19 our speaker, Kirsten Zerger, reminded us of the importance of holding fast to the unique religious values and beliefs which have been passed down to us over the centuries.

A great way to learn more about the sacrifices our Anabaptist ancestors made to preserve these beliefs is to visit the “Mirror of the Martyrs” exhibit at Kauffman Museum. This exhibit was created by Robert S. Kreider and John S. Oyer and tells the powerful story of persons in the 16th century and even to the present day, who were willing to die for their faith. Museum hours are 9:30-4:30 Tuesday through Friday, and 1:30-4:30 on Saturday and Sunday.
-Alice Kaufman Suderman


Harvest Hands

Every harvest
Papa would drive to Moundrige
to hire harvest hands,
walk down Main Street.
Select two or three idle men
who were sitting, smoking
passing time on sidewalk benches.
First thing home Papa checked if they had gloves,
took them into the field,
showed them how to set up a shock.
During rainy days
Papa and boys would re-do the shocks.
Off work, we kids would
watch them roll their cigarettes,
get sex education, listen to dirty stories.
Threshing came next
with our neighbors.
Some, the hardy “hands”, stayed on,
their blistered hand had hardened.
The big day was payoff time.
By now these strangers were our heroes.
We hated to see them leave,
but we knew that this harvest was over.

- J.O. Schrag

In Memory- (SMCHA Members)- Ted Voran Galen Flickner

The SMCHA Board encourages all persons to join SMCHA for 2005. Yearly membership: $15; Ten-year membership: $100.
Treas: Jay Goering, 2002 Arrowhead Rd, Moundridge, KS 67107

Are your relatives buried in the Hopefield cemetery? Contributions to the Cemetery Fund are now needed to complete restoration by Fall 2005. Sometimes it is easy to say, “Let the dead bury the dead.” However, on down the road, our kids and grandkids and greats may be looking for their roots that link them to their rich heritage.
Call Arnold M. Wedel for information 316, 283-5595, or send check to Jay Goering, SMCHA Treas., 2002 Arrowhead Rd, Moundridge, KS 67107.

Remembering Gary Stucky- 1941-2005

Gary will be remembered as a gentle soul with much compassion and interest in others. He enjoyed visiting with all ages.
As a chemist, Gary remained active in Bethel College causes. Chemistry professor Richard Zerger says that Gary’s lab coat continues to hang on the hall tree.

A strong advocate for SMCHA, Gary was an innovative Board member and valued his Schweitzer heritage. His “Hopefield Cemetery Dedicatory Prayer” - 6/3/03 (please see Spring, 2004 issue Schweitzer Salt) shows his appreciation of the historical significance and contributions of our immigrant forebears.

Following are excerpts from his prayer:
“ Gracious God, the God of our immigrant mothers and fathers who 130 years ago came forth onto this continent, from Volhynia.
We pray this day for your blessing, your grace and your mercy upon us as we dedicate and consecrate these new facilities at Hoffnungsfeld-Hopefield.

We pray this day to you the God of Elder Jacob Stucky, who led so many unto Christ and also guided them into a new land, where prairies became pastures, and pastures became plush wheat fields.

We pray this day to you the Lord Christ unto Ida Juhnke Stucky, venerable mother, wife of Simon, composer of poetry, singer of heartfelt German songs, encourager of generations, and representative of the many women at rest here who kept Christian commitment unto family.

We dedicate, we consecrate, we hallow this ground in the name of you O Lord, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, reckoning unto all of us who remain a charge to keep our faith in You, Oh God, the faith of fathers, mothers, and little children who journeyed by your love and care in sacrifice from a far-off place to live, and move and be believers in that time and in this place, generation unto generation.” Amen


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