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Friday, June 27, 2014

Skirting the Issue

The mini-skirt was in style in my teenage years. Mennonite girls didn't wear mini-skirts, but I am embarrassed now when I think how short and tight my skirts were. No wonder we heard sermon after sermon on short tight skirts! The dress code of the Mennonite high school I attended required skirts to be three inches below the knees. We thought that was terrible. Only old fashioned mothers and grandmothers wore skirts below the knees. We wanted our bare knees to show when we sat down.
After I was married the style  began to change to longer skirts and before long it was acceptable for women to wear pants everywhere they went (even to church!) and skirts all but disappeared among women in general. Of course, Mennonite girls continued to wear skirts and longer ones than in the mini-skirt years. Three inches below the knee was no longer a problem.
As the years passed, skirts became even longer and finally reached floor length. Mennonite girls followed suit and sermons on short skirts disappeared. I approved of this change but did not lengthen my own skirts. Why? Weren't floor-length skirts more modest? Yes, but I have seen styles change too often and questioned the motive for the long skirts. Was it born of a conviction on modesty or following styles? If I changed to floor-length skirts I would keep them that way after the styles changed. I kept my skirts at mid-calf.
I've been hearing that short skirts are now coming back into style and rising above the knee. I wondered how long it will take Mennonite girls to cut off their floor length skirts. A couple weeks ago I saw a girl with her skirt at the knee. It looked odd among all the other girls with floor-length skirts, but I knew she was making a fashion statement. How long will it be until the rest of the girls jump on the band wagon and preachers have to dig out their short skirt sermons? I'm not saying they need to keep the floor-length skirts the rest of their lives (although that would be good), but they should seriously consider what they are doing and why before they take the scissors to their skirts.
God designed the first clothing to cover naked bodies. The Bible says women are to dress modestly. How do you define modesty? How much skin does your clothing cover? What you wear is your billboard. What are you advertising? God's program or the fashions of the world?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Trip Report

Leroy has had a trip to Iowa on his bucket list for a long time. He wanted to see the John Deere plant, where some of his cousins live, and May City where his grandparents were married. I added a few of my wishes to the list and we had enough to keep us going for more than a week. As is often the case, as we went along we squeezed in a few things we came across that were not on the original list and modified the last days of the itinerary to get a few others.
We left on Friday, June 13, and drove to Goshen, Indiana, where we visited one of my cousins. We took her out for supper and then spent the night at Elkhart.
On Saturday, June 14, we stopped to see the John Deere Pavilion at Moline, Illinois. We thought it was a museum and a couple old tractors were there but it was more of a display of their large equipment. Visitors were welcome to sit in the driver's seats and watch videos explaining how the equipment works. The newest in tractors is completely computer controlled and has no seat because a driver is not needed.
From there we went to the Wellman, Iowa, area where we spent the weekend with Bob & Betty Stutzman. They had a full house as her sister from Bastrop, Texas, was also there. It was nice to be able to visit with them too.
We left their place on Monday morning, June 16, and drove up to Waterloo, Iowa, for a tour of the John Deere plant. They have about six plants in the area where different parts are made. The one we toured was the tractor assembly plant.
It is a very modern place with everything in perfect order and spotless. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the plant. We took the tour on a wagon with seats pulled by a small JD tractor. Each person had an earphone to hear what the leader said. I was glad I didn't have to walk through the place. It took us 1.5 hours to ride through the place.
After the tour we drove about another hour north to Osage, Iowa, where three of Leroy's cousins live.
Along the way we saw a sign for the Little Brown Church. It was only three miles off the highway so we took a little detour to see it. You probably know the song that made this church famous.
Leroy's cousins all got together for supper so we could see all of them in one place. One of them has a guest house beside her house so we stayed there overnight. I was even able to do a little laundry there so we would have enough clothes to see us through to home.
On Tuesday, June 17, we headed west to May City, Iowa. They have been having lots of rain lately and we saw a lot of corn fields with volunteer lakes in them. We had made arrangements with a local lady to give us a tour of the area where the Mennonites once lived. We met her at the Mennonite cemetery and then she drove us around the big block where the Mennonites lived. She was able to tell us who lived on which farm and gave me copies of things she found on the Stauffers. Leroy's great-grandfather, Daniel Stauffer, moved out there from Lancaster County in 1884. Daniel's son Eli (Leroy's grandfather) was four years old at the time. He grew up and married Mary Brubacher out there. By the time they moved back to Pennsylvania they had three children. We have often heard stories about May City but it makes a lot more sense now that we've seen who lived where.
This crossroad, known as Business Corner, was the center of the Mennonite community. The red barn was built by Daniel Weaver. The current owners have restored and are preserving this barn for the benefit of it's history and the Mennonites who come to see the area.
This is the main street of May City. If the Mennonites had stayed here, it would probably be a bigger dot on the map than it is today.
May City is in the northwestern corner of Iowa. As we drove west we were very close to the Minnesota border. I got the idea we could drive an hour north to Walnut Grove and see where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived in a dugout on the banks of Plum Creek. It was not on our itinerary but we had time to do it.
When we got there we found they dugout site was flooded and closed to tourists. After driving that far, we went though the little tourist trap place they have set up in town about the Ingalls family. It was mostly replicas and a few things that actually belonged to Laura or her parents. One of the things that caught my eye was a map Laura had drawn identifying the site of the dugout. Plum Creek is about a mile north of town. Even though we could not see the dugout site, we drove up to see the creek. The water was moving fast, perhaps much as it was when Laura nearly drowned in it.
It was too late to cancel the reservations I had made at a motel in Sioux Falls so we drove south again for the night. In the morning we stopped to see the Falls in the middle of town. It is a beautiful long falls with many steps. Because of the foot of rain they had in the previous week, the falls was roaring and the water was brown. But it was still beautiful.
The next stop was DeSmet where the Ingalls family finally settled and lived the rest of their lives. Another tourist trap place has been built on the homestead but I was not about to be suckered into another one of those. I wanted to see the real things, not replicas. So we just went up on the viewing platform where I could get a good picture of Charles Ingall's homestead.
We also saw the Big Slough were Pa cut hay,
and Silver Lake where the family spent the winter in the Surveyor's house.
We also took a tour of the actual Ingalls buildings in town. The Surveyor's house and school have been moved to the tourist center headquarters but they are the actual buildings.

A few blocks away is the house Pa built in town. This is where Pa and Ma lived the rest of their lives.
Of course, I had to drive to the DeSmet cemetery a mile or so out of town to see where the Ingalls family is buried. Laura is in Missouri, but her infant son is buried here along with her parents and sisters.
We spent the night at Yankton, SD, which is on the Lewis & Clark Lake on the border of Nebraska. We wanted to get into Nebraska because it was one of the few states we had never been in. I had planned to drive as far south as Omaha and stop at a cemetery on the way. But when we were in Waterloo Leroy had heard about a John Deere Expo being held there from June 19-21. He really would have liked to see it so we adjusted the route and I sacrificed my cemetery visit.
We drove about an hour in Nebraska Thursday morning before crossing into Iowa where we made a beeline across the state. We drove through heavy rain and I was afraid we'd find the show was canceled. But it was under roof so we were able to see it after all. The tractors were in several buildings. I met an old friend from Illinois and passed the time visiting with her while our husbands looked at the tractors. I saw all the tractors from my seat on the bleachers but it took Leroy a lot longer to see all of them.
I turned the camera over to him and he took lots of pictures of tractors. It would take too much space to add all of them. There was no place to sit in the second building but I finally found a lawn chair no one was using and sat it out. My enthusiasm is easy to see!

It had been a long day and by the time we got to Cedar Rapids we were ready to hang it up. We found a nice motel without having made prior reservations and collapsed.
We had made arrangements to stop with Steve & Marilyn Burkholder in Nappanee, Indiana, on Friday, June 20. It was not a long drive and we had a little time to spare so we went to Goshen College first. When we were in Goshen on the first day of the trip I said I would like to see the Mennonite Historical Library and Archives but it was closed by the time we got into town.  On Friday morning Leroy suggested we would have time to go there before supper. That got me out of bed in a hurry! When we got there, we found the archives was closed and we had only 45 minutes until closing time to tour the library. The lady at the desk gave us a good tour of the historical library. When I said I work for Carolyn Wenger at Lancaster, she opened some locked doors and showed me some places they don't normally show tourists. That evened the score for the tractor show the day before.
We got to Steve and Marilyn's house in time for supper. They have a lovely home in the Nappanee area.
Steve had invited his mother for supper too. After supper they gave us a little tour of their area, showing us the Burkholder homes, cemeteries, etc. It was a lovely evening.
Steve and Marilyn needed to leave by 10 Saturday morning to spend several days cooking at Faith Builders, so we got out of their way and headed for home at 8. We had a long drive and arrived home about 6:30. We covered more than 3200 miles in nine days. It was a good trip and I enjoyed (most of) it, but home is still the best place I saw anywhere.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Once in awhile a juicy piece pops up out of nowhere and suddenly things come into focus and fit together. That happened over the weekend.
My Burkholder immigrant ancestor was a widow who arrived in Philadelphia on October 1, 1754. For many years she had mistakenly been identified as Elizabeth, wife of Christian Burkholder Sr. In the 1990s documents surfaced in Switzerland which proved that was incorrect. Her name was Barbara and her husband was Ulrich Burkholder. We knew she was born about 1705 but did not know her maiden name or parents.
A census taken in 1730 showed Ulrich Burkholder living on the mountain above LaHeutte, Switzerland, with his 73 year-old mother and a housemaid, Barbara Schenk, from Rothenbach, Switzerland. Could this be the Barbara Ulrich married? The age given for her in 1730 did not match the age of Ulrich's wife Barbara in the 1745 census. Based on all the other evidence, I believe the age given for her in 1730 was incorrect. It certainly wouldn't be the first time the census taker made a mistake!
Over the weekend this birth record from Rothenbach popped up in my email, forwarded from a researcher in Switzerland.
For those of you who can't read German script, it says Barbara Schenk was born in Rothenbach (in the Emmental) on Jan. 1, 1705. Her parents were Ulrich and Elizabeth (Stucki) Schenk.
The following also came in the same email:
There is one other source that happens to shed some additional light on the Ulrich Burkhalter story. In the R√∂thenbach Gemeindearchiv, there is a six-volume handwritten chronicle called the Schenk-Chronik  (the name is according to the authors, father and son Schenk) written in 1754.
In volume 2 (pp.2-23) there is some family history notes about the Schenk family. There it is said that a Barbara Schenk, daughter of Ueli Schenk and Elsbeth Stucki, grew up on the Fambach farm and married an Anabaptist Ueli Burkhalter. The couple had six children (three boys and three girls), they lived in the "W√§lschland" (Swiss German word for French-speaking territories in the neighborhood), where Ulrich died. The chronicle says that Barbara Schenk left with their children in April 1754 for America - and that this was "some years after her husbands death".
The records in Switzerland show Barbara Burkhalter among those who were leaving the country in 1754. The emigrants had to pay a "leaving tax" but a notation with Barbara's name says she "had nothing" and could not pay a leaving tax.
 Barbara Burkholder and her six children (three boys and three girls) immigrated on the ship Phoenix with a group of other Swiss Mennonites. They brought with them a letter from the Mennonites in Switzerland, dated April 19, 1754, listing the names of those the church had given money to pay their passage. The money was to be repaid to the deacons in America. The original letter is preserved at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society.
One of the names on the list of those who received financial help is Barbara Schenk. Deacon Joseph Wenger's record book (which is also at the historical society) shows Barbara Schenk and her children made payments from 1756-1760 when it was paid in full.

I have had a copy of that page of the record book for some time but had no idea who Barbara Schenk was. Now, suddenly, all the pieces fit together. It was not unusual for a woman to be identified by her maiden name in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some places she is Barbara Burkholder and others Barbara Schenk
Not only do we know her maiden name now but we also know the names of her parents. I never knew I had a Stucki ancestor.
Hmmm, now who were Barbara Schenk's Stucki grandparents? It's a vicious cycle!