BRETHREN-L ArchivesArchiver > BRETHREN > 2004-12 > 1103238786
Subject: Max Bass and Dunkers in ND
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 2004 18:13:06 EST
Several of you asked for more details on Max Bass and the migration of
Dunkers to North Dakota.
Roy Thompson's "The First Dunker Colony of North Dakota appeared in
Collections, State Historical Society of North Dakota, v. 4, 1913, pp. 81-100.
Herbert Strietzel, of La Verne, CA, born near Rolla, included Thompson's work
as part of a 160-page book which he published privately in 1979 as "My Father
and the First Dunker Colony in North Dakota." Strietzel's foreword reads as
"This book tells how Max Bass persuaded the first Dunker colony to migrate to
North Dakota in 1894 and my father in 1897. It consists of two sections.
The first is about the Dunkers. The second describes their influence on my
father's life. It details the North Dakota environment; what life was like for
him and for Dunker families as each started a new home on raw prairie land with
very little money."
A hand-drawn map lists the Dunker Churches: Cando, Zion, Minot, Kenmare,
Rugby, Perth, Egeland, Ellison, Brumbaugh, York (?), Surrey (?), Berthold (?), and
Rock Lake (?).
Part II is "My Father", about Carl and Elizabeth ‘Lilly' (Grishow) Strietzel.
Carl was born in New York to immigrants from Germany. They moved to a farm
near West Salem in southern Illinois about 1875. When he was 15, Carl ran
away from home and worked on a farm south of Urbana for about eight years. In
September, 1898, he visited Chicago. Here,
"On a street corner he saw a man haranguing a crowd of people. The man was
standing on a beer keg. Dad wormed his way through the crowd until he was
close enough to hear what the speaker was saying. He was telling of free land in
‘All you need to do is live on the land for three years. You need only do
some plowing and build a shelter to live in. The only money you will require
is a couple of dollars to fill out the papers that will file the right to your
claim, and after the three years, 160 acres of land will be yours.'
...the man was Max Bass, famous land sales man for railroad companies. The
owners of the railroads had been given enormous amounts of land to persuade
them to extend their rail lines across the open prairies...
‘How I wish I could get to North Dakota to have a chance to get 160 acres of
that land!" Dad exclaimed to a stranger standing beside him.
The stranger looked at Dad a moment, then said ‘You can. I and my family
are moving to North Dakota. We need someone to ride in a freight car to care
for our horses, cows, pigs and chickens. The railroad requires one man to ride
with the stock in each car. If you want to do that you can go with us. It
will cost you nothing.'
Apparently Dad did not hesitate. He decided at once to do it. I doubt if
he ever returned to the farm where he had been working. ... Anyhow, that is
how he came to North Dakota."
Strietzel worked in a livery stable in Rolla, and by 1901 he had such a good
reputation that he was able to borrow $500 from Joe Marcott, owner of the
Rolla butcher shop. He bought homestead rights to farm about 12 miles south of
Rolla. His father also sold his Illinois farm and moved to Rolla. Strietzel's
girlfriend also came to ND and they were married in 1902. By 1903 they had a
log cabin and barn from elsewhere, reassembled on their new farm.
Mike and Lizzie Blocher, from Missouri, came to North Dakota where Mike
helped organize several families in an eight-mile area around the homestead into a
congregation. They raised money and built a church, which became the North
Star Church of the Brethren - only three miles from the Strietzel home. The
Strietzels had until then never heard of the Dunkers -- Carl was Moravian, Lilly
a German Lutheran, and they drove with horses and buggy ten miles north, until
they decided to be baptized into the Dunker church.
Strietzel tells of church activities and mentions numerous names to 1919 -
mostly near Rolla, other churches and people now and then:
"I remember the names of a few that were members of our local church: Lee and
Lomie Fisher and children Sylvester, Walter, Lloyd, Helen: John Fisher and
wife and children, Ruth, Mary, Eldon: Al Fisher and wife and three children one
I remember as Orpha: Matt and Mary Hoffman, their daughter Vernice and son
Paul; John Hartsoch and family whose names I have forgetten; Mike and Lizzie
"Many in the community attended regularly or occasionally but were not
baptized: Ray, Clifford, Paul, Velma and Ara from the George Heddens farm; Orval,
Omar, Earl and Halley from the Giles Lewis farm; Annie Lindberg; Anna and Hulda
Hendrickson; Homer and Lucille Reynolds: Reginald Mineke; Rognar Peterson;
Will and Esther Conn and children, Vachel, Forest, Howard, Betty. ... ...
"District meetings... I remember a few names from those meetings: George
and Mertie Deardorf from Brumbaugh and their children, Noble, Ervin, Kenneth,
George Shively and wife and their children, Arthur, John, Fern. In the Zion
area: the Jerrry Kesler family; the Jesse Smeltzers and two of their children,
Ralph and Maurice; Elmer and Zela Smeltzer. Claude and Maude Pawnell had moved
from our community to Rugby. ... George Shively operated a railroad station
near Egeland. ...
"About 1910 Dunkers began to leave our community. I have the impression that
Hartsochs moved to Montana. Mike Blocher, Matt Hoffman, Al and John Fisher
with their families moved to Perth. They organized another church there."
Carl Strietzel died in 1920 of the flu. His widow and children joined the
Dunker exodus to California, settling in Rio Linda, north of Sacramento. The
North Star church folded and the building was later moved elsewhere.
If Thompson's original article in Collections can't be found, I could
probably Xerox Strietzel's copied section - only about 19 pages - and send it to
those interested. Do any ND correspondents have the "My Father" section, with its
incredible detail of farm life in ND to 1919?