Monday, October 29, 2012

Olly and Her Modern Dance Group in early 1930's Vienna

Last Spring, while visiting Vienna, I bought a large box full of post cards at the Saturday flea market located by the Naschmarkt. Sorting through them, I came across several real picture post cards (which are, in fact, photographs printed as post cards) of a group of women who apparently were part of a modern dance group. Nothing is written on the fronts or backs of the postcards, except a few of them bear the word "Tichelka."

Doing a little detective work using all of the cards that came in the box, I was able to figure out that Tichelka was the last name of one of the young women shown with the dance group. It appears that many of the postcards in the box I purchased had belonged to her or her family.

Olly Tichelka lived until with her family at Staudgasse 67, located in District 18, until about 1935 (her mother's name was Julianne Tichelka). Likely the dance pictures were taken in the early 1930s.  Here is a picture of Olly Tichelka which has the date May 1, 1928 written on its back.

Olly Tichelka, May 1, 1928

The following pictures show a group of women practicing what is clearly some type of modern dance. They have some colorful costumes, but it seems likely that the group was a local or district amateur dance troupe.

In these two pictures, Olly Tichelka is second from the left

I am not sure if Olly Tichelka is in this picture

Below are a couple other pictures with Olly Tichelka practicing her dance with another member of the group:

In these pictures, Olly Tichelka is on the right.

Apparently, the dance troupe did shows. The following pictures seem to be performance, or at least, rehearsals for a performance. 

Olly is the one standing the tallest with her hand touching
the top of the picture

According to information on the post cards, Olly married Karl Oertel, apparently in 1935. A postcard dated September 6, 1938 is addressed to Karl Oertel at Rechte Weinzeile 71, in the 5th district, a short walk from the Naschmarkt. That post card was the last one in the collection bearing the name of either Karl or Olly Oertel.

Olly Tichelka is on the extreme left, with face toward the camera

I have no information about what happened to Olly and Karl Oertel in the terrible years following the date on the last post card.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

The 1972 Viennale Film Festival: Propaganda in the 1930s and 1940s

For eight days in March 1972, I spent several hours a day sitting in a movie theater underneath the Albertina Museum, less than a block away from the Vienna Staatsoper, watching propaganda films made from 1933 to 1945. In all, I saw over eighty of these films, some short, others full length, made in Germany, Great Britain, Austria, and the United States.
These propaganda films were part of the 1972 Viennale, the film festival of the Ősterrichische Filmmuseum. They attracted me because they offered a unique history lesson — the chance to see how different governments tried to influence the opinions of their citizens and the world in the 1930s and 1940s. Also, they offered the opportunity to gather further understanding of the inexplicable: why many of the people around me in Vienna supported a monstrous Nazi regime.

In watching the films, the political scientist in me paid attention to how the different governments manipulated symbols and myths to stir passions and inspire actions. In normal times, political leaders (in both dictatorships and democracies) know the words and gestures to use to reassure the mass public or the arouse its fears. They are skilled in using symbols linked to deeply held beliefs to evoke strong emotions that make people willing to sacrifice or take actions against their self interest.
In times of radical change and war, the manipulation of public and world opinion becomes even more important than in peacetime. Then, the state employs propaganda to strengthen the resolve of its own people and weaken the resolve of the enemies. During these times, propaganda is an important weapon of war.

From a less academic viewpoint, I was particularly interested in the Nazi propaganda, mainly because the ability of this repugnant group to seize power and its catastrophic use of power are beyond my understanding. I had never had the previous opportunity to see Nazi propaganda films, so I was curious about why it was, apparently, so successful.
As part of the retrospective, the Ősterreichisches Filmmuseum published a small book of essays titled, Propaganda and Counterpropaganda in Film, 1933-45. It included essays by Hans Barkhausen and Karl Friedrich Reimers (Erste Weihnachsfeier Der Reichsbahndirektion Berlim in Dritten Reich), Clive Coultass (British War Propaganda, US War Propaganda), Friedrich Geyrhofer (Die Demagogische Phantasie), Gerhard Jagschitz (Filmpropaganda im Dritten Reich), Reinhard Prießnitz (Die Endlösung Der Meinungsfreiheit), and Michael Siegert (Fritz Hippler -- Goebbels' Reichsfilmintendant, "Der Ewige Jude). 

The many hours spent watching these propaganda films were well invested. These films provided a great learning experience, and long offered food for thought. Twenty years after watching these films, when working on a Ph.D. in public policy, my memory of them stirred an interest in a "symbolic politics" model of understanding policy formation. Borrowing from Harold Lasswell (whose University of Chicago dissertation in the 1920s was about the use of propaganda in World War I) and Murray Edelman, I explored how symbols and myths are used in the political process of democratic policy making.  
The propaganda films shown at the 1972 Viennale Retrospective included these:
Aus der Tiefe Empor (GER); Die Erste Weihnachtsfeier der Reichsbahndirektion Berlin im Dritten Reich (GER)

Metall des Himmels (GER); Triumph des Willens (GER); Bueckeberg (GER); Das Erbe (GER)

Ewiger Wald (GER); Ewige Wache (GER); Das Buch des Deustchen (GER)

Mussolini in Deutschland (GER); Einberufung der 10 Jahriger zur HJ Durch von Schirich (GER)

Gestern u. Heute (GER); Wort und Tat (GER); Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuehrer (GER); Gesunde Frau, Gesundes Volk (GER); Unsere Kinder, Unsere Zukunft (GER); Adolf Hitler Bauten (GER)

Bauten in Neuen Deutschlands (GER); Das Wort aus Stein (GER); Einsatz der Jugend (GER); Die Englishe Krankheit (GER)

The Rape of Czechoslovakia (GB); Dangerous Comment (GB); Now You Are Talking (GB); Hitler Listens (GB)

Feuertaufe (GER); Gentlemen (GER); Der Ewige Jude (GER)

The First Days (GB); Britain Can Take It (GB); Miss Grant Goes to the Door (GB); The Curse of the Swastika (GB)

Deutsche Panzer (GER); Sieg im Westen (GER); Soldaten von Morgen (GER); In Wald von Katyn (Swedish version)

America Speaker Her Mind (US)

Yellow Caesar (GB); Lambeth Walk (Germany Calling) (GB); The Battle of the Books (GB); Mr. Proudfoot Shows a Light (GB)
Rund um die Freiheitsstatute (GER); Neues Leben in Paris (GER); Dr. Todt --Berufung und Werke (GER)
Battle of Midway (US); Fellow Americans (US)
Listen to Britain (GB); Salute to the Red Army (GB); Killed or Be Killed (GB)
Das Sowjetparadies (GER); Herr Roosevelt Plaudert (GER); Die Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung Muenchen (GER)
Why We Fight #1: Prelude to War (US); Why We Fight #2: The Nazis Strike (US); Why We Fight #3: Divide and Conquer (US); Why We Fight #4: The Battle of Britain (US)

Warwork News Nr. 43 (GB); Invincible (GB); These are the Men (GB); The Silent Village (GB)
Rundfunk im Kriege (GER); Scharfschutenschule (GER); Der Fuhrer schenkt den Juden ein Stadt (GER)
Why We Fight #5: The Battle of Russia (US); San Pietro (US); Memphis Belle (US); With the Marines at Tarawa (US); The Town (US); Brought to Action (US); The Negro Soldier (US)
The True Story of Lili Marlene (GB); Cameramen at War (GB); A Soviet Village (GB); Nazi Atrocities in Poland (GB)
Window Cleaner (US); To the Shores of Iwo Jima (US); Why We Fight #7:  War Comes to America (US); Two Down and One to Go (US)
A Barrel Polka (GB)
GER = Germany, GB = Great Britain, US (United States)
A review that I wrote of the film festival shortly after it ended in March 1972, plus other materials related to it, can be found at this Scribd link:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Arkansas' Frontier History through the Eyes of Friedrich Gerstäcker: The Conference

The University of Arkansas conference on The Legacy of Friedrich Gerstäcker: Arkansas and the Wild West provided several scholarly perspectives on his work as a writer of adventure stories and travelogues. It included a keynote lecture, ten papers by literary scholars and historians, and a visit to some sites in the Ozarks that Gerstäcker visited in the early 1840s.

I attended the conference because my interest in Gerstäcker (1816-1872) dates back almost forty years. I discovered him when I began to do research on German immigration into Arkansas. (I wanted through the research to use and, I hoped, improve my German language skills.) One of my first projects was a history of the George family, Germans who immigrated to Little Rock in 1833. This family, which included parents and several brothers, prospered as local merchants and became prominent citizens of the city. Some members of the George family were among the people Gerstäcker met when he visited Arkansas between 1838 and 1842. (My paper on the George family, published in the Pulaski County Historical Review, can be found at this link:

Gerstäcker's travels in Arkansas are described in his book, Streif- und Jagdzuege durch die Vereinigten Staaten Nord-Amerikas (in English the title is Wild Sports in the Far West), published in Germany in 1844. In this book, Gerstäcker described, among the other things he did during his visit to the United States from November 1837 to July 1843, his two years in Arkansas. During his time in Arkansas, he met and befriended many German immigrants living in Little Rock, Perry County, and elsewhere.

Gerstäcker's experiences and observations in Arkansas provided material for several of his novels and short stories. For example, his 1846 novel, Die Regulatoren in Arkansas: Aus Dem Waldleben Amerikas (The Regulators of Arkansas), is set in and around Perry County. A good sample of his short stories set in Arkansas can be found in the 1991 book, In the Arkansas Backwoods: Tales and Sketches by Friedrich Gerstäcker, edited and translated by James William Miller. 

From my perspective, Gerstäcker is a valuable historical resource for understanding how people lived in Arkansas in the late 1830s and early 1840s, and he provided valuable insights into the lives of early immigrants into the state. His descriptions and stories enliven and illuminate the early years of the state.

A good portion of this conference was less about the value of Gerstäcker as a source for understanding Arkansas history and more about him as an important literary figure in Germany. The conference papers focused mainly on him as a writer rather than on his contributions to Arkansas history.

The keynote lecture, on Thursday night, October 11th, by Jeffrey Sammons, Leavenworth Professor Emeritus of German Language and Literature at Yale University, discussed Gerstäcker as a preeminent author of adventure novels. According to Sammons, adventure novels were very popular in the 1840s and 1850s because stories of Indians and bandits helped enliven boring lives and regimented work of the times. Gerstäcker’s books were very popular in Germany, especially with juveniles. They served to introduce the American continent to Germans and, when translated, German-Americans to readers in the United States. Sammon’s plea was that Gerstäcker be taken more seriously in Germany as a author of first rank, not just a specialized writer of adventure books for juveniles.

Wolfgang Hochbruck presents his conference paper
Most of the papers of the conference on Friday, Oct. 12th, continued a literary analysis of Gerstäcker’s work as an author. Wolfgang Hochbruck (American Studies, University of Freiburg) explored some influences on two of Gerstäcker’s adventure novels, The Regulators of Arkansas and Flusspiraten des Mississippi (Mississippi Pirates). In his paper, "River Pirates and Leather Stockings: Gerstäcker and the Adventure Novel", Hochbruck suggested that the two books were inspired by stories about John Murrell and his notorious gang. Also, he traced the influence of James Fenimore Cooper and other American adventure writers on Gerstäcker.

Charles Adams (Department of English, University of Arkansas) and Christoph Irmscher (Department of English, Indiana University) began their presentation with some good news: together they are preparing a new translation of Die Regulatoren in Arkansas. They have a contract with a publisher and the manuscript is due in January 2014. They noted that no good translation of the novel is readily available in print or out-of-print. This new translation will make this novel, based on frontier life in Arkansas, easily available in English for the first time.

Because I am more interested in history than in literary studies, I especially enjoyed the paper by Michael Pierce, a labor historian at the University of Arkansas, with the title "C. O. Haller and the Rise of Negrophobia among Gerstäcker’s Arkansas Friends." The focus of the paper is Charles Haller, one of the early German pioneers that Gerstäcker encountered during his first visits to Little Rock and Perry County. When Gerstäcker returned to Arkansas in the late 1860s, after the end of the Civil War, he was saddened to learn that Haller was dead.

Pierce’s paper tells the story of Haller in the 1840s and 1850s when Haller became a spokesman for the “mechanics” — the skilled laborers (e.g. craftsmen, artisans) — of Little Rock. In that role, he was active in state and local government to oppose letting prisoners, slaves, and freed slaves do the work of mechanics. Allowing such things, he argued, lowered the wages and status of skilled laborers. He urged legislation to keep slaves on farms, to expel free slaves, and to create more farms by breaking up large tracts of unused farm land. (For background on the mechanics movement in Arkansas, see this link

Pierce suggested that because many Germans in Arkansas were skilled laborers, plus because of other factors, they had attitudes toward slavery and Negroes that differed greatly from those of Germans in Missouri. In Arkansas, Pierce maintained, German immigrants supported slavery and secession, and they willingly fought on the Confederate side of the war.

I am not sure how much I accept Pierce’s broad assertions about the attitudes of Germans in Arkansas toward slavery and the Confederate cause. It is my understanding (based on some reading about the Civil War in Arkansas) that many Germans (especially those living in the northern part of the state) left Arkansas because they did not support the Confederate cause. However, I have not seen any good research that empirically explores the attitudes of Germans in Arkansas about the Civil War, so I think there is more work to be done to document how German immigrants in Arkansas in 1860 reacted to secession

Another paper that interested the historian in me was entitled “Friedrich Gerstäcker’s Arkansas German Friends” by Shirley Schuette, who works at the Butler Center in Little Rock. I am familiar with much of her topic, which included the story of a group of Germans who traveled together as part of a Immigration Society to Arkansas, arriving in Little Rock in 1833. The story of this group of immigrants, several of whom Gerstäcker met when he came to Arkansas, was expertly researched by Ruth Yingling Rector, whose papers are in the Butler Center archives. The story of these immigrants is a fascinating one. (For more on this topic, see this blog post: )

In all, the conference provided an intellectually rich experience with the opportunity to learn from the research of a broad range of international scholars.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jerry Climer for Arkansas Secretary of State

FORTY YEARS AGO, in October 1972, I was driving around the state of Arkansas in the Climermobile, a large motor home whose use had been donated to the “Jerry Climer for Secretary of State” campaign by one of his supporters.  Jerry had hired me to work for his campaign against incumbent Kelly Bryant.  Jerry lost, but the campaign was an adventure.

The 1972 Election in Arkansas

The 1972 election was the first in the post-Rockefeller era for state Republicans. Before 1964, the party had offered only hapless, futile opposition to the dominant Democratic Party. However, by 1964, Winthrop Rockefeller and his supporters had taken control of the party, and that year WR ran for governor against Orval Faubus, the long-time incumbent.  Losing to Orval Faubus in 1964, WR ran again in 1966, beating Jim Johnson to become the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. He was re-elected in 1968, then lost to Dale Bumpers in 1970. In all of these campaigns, WR and other Republican candidates for state-wide office had plenty of resources to be competitive.

Following the 1970 election, the Republican Party had ignored Rockefeller’s recommendation to elect William T. Kelly to be chairman of the Party, voting for Charles Bernard, the unsuccessful Republican Senate candidate in 1968, instead. WR, who supported Kelly and apparently was not too fond of Bernard, was not pleased.

Without WR on the ballot and lacking the funding of the previous four elections, the 1972 election was a test of the strength of the state’s two-party system. The Republican Party recruited four credible candidates for state office: Len Blaylock (governor), Ken Coon (lt. governor), Ed Bethune (attorney general), and Jerry Climer (secretary of state). Also, Wayne Babbitt was selected as the Party’s candidate for the Senate. In addition, of course, that year Richard Nixon was the Republican candidate for president.

WR (who had pancreatic cancer that would kill him in February 1973) limited his contributions for the 1972 campaigns to a fixed amount given to the Republican Party, and the Party and its candidates were expected to raise additional funds to have enough to be competitive. The lavish campaign spending of the previous eight years had ended. 

Going to work for Jerry Climer

I had not been following state politics too closely since the 1970 election when Bumpers had crushed Rockefeller. I had been finished up my studies, then spent a miserable six weeks at an ROTC training camp.  Following that, I went to Vienna for a year.
Arriving back in Arkansas in June 1972, I had six months to occupy before reporting to a training camp for artillery officers. I was happy to read that Jerry Climer was running for secretary of state. Apparently, he had made a good impression as Pulaski County Clerk after being appointed by WR to that position in late 1970 to fill a vacancy. I had known Jerry at the University of Arkansas and thought highly of him, viewing  him as a serious guy, very intelligent and ambitious.  

Visiting Little Rock, I gave him a call and found out that he was looking for a campaign assistant.  I quickly signed on. The adventure began.

I viewed the job as much more than a way to occupy a few months and get a paycheck:  I believed strongly that Jerry would make an excellent secretary of state and would be far superior to the incumbent. As required when working in any serious political campaign, I threw myself into the job and spent four months absorbed in the task of getting my candidate elected to office.

The Climer Campaign

The chair of Climer’s campaign was Phyllis McGinley (if I remember correctly), a nice middle-aged woman who was dedicated to Jerry’s candidacy.  She worked with him to create his schedule, managed the budget, directed volunteers, and operated the campaign headquarters on Capitol Avenue in Little Rock. She initially viewed me with some suspicion, probably because I had longish hair and mutton chops. She was not sure it was wise to have hippy- looking guy traveling with the candidate. Fortunately, we got along and she warmed to my involvement in the campaign.

My job was to travel with the candidate in the Climermobile, help write press releases and other campaign material, assist with correspondence, and help out with ideas to advance the campaign. Most of the travel was done in the large motor home which enabled us to avoid spending money on hotels and provided us with a moving bill board. We put about 14,000 miles on it during the months of driving around the state.

The actual days spent campaigning are a bit of a blur.  A typical day included driving, shaking hands, speaking, writing, calling, and schmoozing. We did our best to generate stories for both newspapers and radio. We were keen to see what was being published in newspapers about Climer and Bryant, and to hear what was broadcast on radio.  So we monitored both closely.  The Republican Party had hired a clipping service that passed clippings about the race to us each week. When driving, we kept tuned to local stations to hear what they were saying.

Free media was important because the campaign budget was quite limited, with only a small amount of funds for paid television and newspaper advertising. Climer’s biggest challenge was to increase his name recognition outside of Pulaski County, and without a substantial media budget, that was almost impossible.

Climer gave it his best, and I was impressed with his campaign skills and his dedication to the task. Though I am moderately cynical by nature, Climer was not. He seemed driven by the conviction that he could do a much better job as secretary of state than the man he was running against. Though the odds were against him winning the election, Climer spent time near the end the campaign discussing with me what steps he should take immediately after taking office to improve its operations.

I am not sure how much of an asset I was to Climer. He was understandably reluctant to have me too visible when he was out shaking hands. In 1972, longish hair apparently put off small town voters. In Harrison, the chairman of the county party organization pointedly invited me to stay in the Climermobile when Jerry went to meet with Party supporters to make a brief speech.

What I did well, I think, was write press releases and position papers that were used to get campaign coverage by newspapers and other media.  The journalism courses that I took at the University of Arkansas paid off when I was doing this work.

The Lost Election and Its Aftermath

Of course, Climer lost, as did all of the other Republican candidates for state-wide office in 1972. While he received only 40.6 percent of the total vote, he got 62.4 percent of the vote in Pulaski County. Also, polls showed that he received a majority of the votes of voters with post-graduate degrees. His name recognition never reached 50 percent. 

Probably unwisely, I wrote an article the following year about the Climer campaign for a local alternative newspaper in Little Rock, the Arkansas Advocate, in which I said nasty things about Kelly Bryant, his wife, Nixon’s campaign in Arkansas, the Arkansas Gazette, the AFL-CIO, state radio stations, state newspapers, and voters in general. The article was a bit sophomoric and ill-advised, but still provides a perspective of what it was like to campaign in Arkansas in 1972. It can be found here: 

I mentioned in this article my disappointment that the Arkansas Gazette did not publish a series of investigative articles on the malfeasance of the Secretary of State's office until after the election. The reporter who wrote those articles called to yell at me and suggest he was going to sue me. A few weeks later, when I got an entry level job at the Arkansas Department of Planning, he tried to sabotage me by writing a Gazette story about me getting a state job. The article prompted a call from the governor’s office to Charles Crow, the director of the department. Fortunately, he apparently convinced the caller that my academic credentials were sufficient to justify hiring me for this $9,000 a year entry level position.

Jerry Climer never again ran for office, but had a stellar career in Republican-related jobs. After completing his term as Pulaski County Clerk, he worked as the chief legislative assistant to Congressman Tom Coleman (R-MO), and then was executive assistant to Ed Bethune for six years after he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1978.  From 1985 to 1990, Climer was on the leadership staff of Congressman Guy Vander Jagt (R-MI).  (See

Climer helped set up and lead two non-profit organizations that worked with Republicans in Congress. The first, the Congressional Institute, has sponsored travel and retreats for Republican Representatives and Senators, but its website ( indicates that it has a broader bipartisan mission:

From the Congressional Institute Web Page
Founded in 1987, the Congressional Institute is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to helping Members of Congress better serve their constituents and helping their constituents better understand the operations of the national legislature. The Institute sponsors major conferences for the benefit of Members of the U.S. Congress as well as a number of smaller gatherings, all devoted to an examination of important policy issues and strategic planning. The Institute also conducts important research projects consistent with its mission, develops resources such as a House Floor Procedures Manual and sponsors Oxford-style bipartisan Congressional debates.

The Public Governance Institute is a policy training and research organization. According to its website ( "The Public Governance Institute is a research, education and training group. Founded in 2001, the Institute assists public leaders and institutions in their effort to lead public-sector change." This institute, at this point, does not appear to be actively involved in projects -- or at least its website does not show much activity. 

Climer retired in 2007 and lives in Edenton, North Carolina. He was co-author of a book, Surviving Inside Congress that was published in 2009, with a second edition in 2011.  It is available both as a regular book and in a kindle edition (

I saw Jerry only a couple of times in passing after the 1972 campaign. 

Other related links:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pioneer Tales: Joseph Glanzmann’s Story of German-Speaking Immigrants Settling Near Altus, Arkansas

Arkansas Echo
February 23, 1894 and March 2, 1894

This time an old letter that was laid aside in order to be used in the history of colonies:

Dear Echo:

Since the publishers of the Echo wish to have contributions from German settlers for their history of the German colonies in Arkansas, I want also to relate the experiences of our family.

The family traveled out of the Luzern Canton in Switzerland on 9 November 1881, landed after 20 days of stormy travel in New York, and arrived on 10 December 1881 in Morrilton, Arkansas, our preliminary destination. We stopped there for 18 days in order to search the surrounding area for acceptable land.

St. Mary's Church in Altus, Open in 1902
Although we liked things there, we preferred to move on because that area had proven itself during the previous summer to be a very unhealthy place. I had a few days before inspected Maria Hilf, a Colony founded two years earlier by the now deceased Father Ziswiler and had searched out 160 acres of land owned by the railroad.

Between Christmas and New Years, we came here by means of a free ride secured for us by the helpful philanthropic land agent Joseph Stutzer of Morrilton, now deceased.

After arriving in Altus, we took lodging with a fellow countryman by the name Jak. Zeiher, whose farm was located a good mile from the land we purchased, until 6 March 1882, when we could move into the crudely constructed house made out of boards stuck in the middle of the woods.

Now we enthusiastically proceeded to clear the surrounding land, and since everyone including the women ably joined in, we soon had about 10 acres in such condition that we could plant it with maize.

In the meanwhile, we also built a block stable, put in a garden and planted it with vegetables, and in the Fall also planted a few fruit trees. During the next year, an emergency cellar was made and additional necessary buildings were constructed. In addition, we did not forget the expansion of the orchard and the beginnings of a vineyard; in short, there was work without end, and to be sure, hard work; also there were shortages and privations of all kinds to put up with, because aside from the down payment on the land, the construction of the house, the purchase of the necessary cattle, buildings and tools for the field -- all of which were very expensive -- the food for ten people for the time until something was grown cost a lot of money, so that the couple hundred dollars that we brought with us soon dwindled to nothing. The supplies also were very expensive because of the partial crop failure caused by the drought in the proceeding summer, such that a bushel of corn meal cost $1.50, 1 pound of bacon, 18-20 cents; 1 gallon of molasses 75 cents and other supplies cost a corresponding amount.

Also, for the purchase of a mule, although very necessary, we had to wait as long as possible since feed was so rare that people could not procure it in the whole region, and when at last we bought a mule in May, we had to obtain corn and hay out of the store in Little Rock, what, as one could well imagine, did not come cheaply.

Until the purchase of the mule, we had hard work in that we either had to carry or drag on a home-made type of cart, among other things, the necessary fence posts for the enclosure of the land, as well as the logs needed for the stable and other buildings, stakes for the garden and wood shingles. The women folk helped with this and it was done -- at that -- for a small cost.

For a long time, we had to live on almost nothing other than cornbread made with water and, as long as we had no cow, black coffee without milk or sugar. We were on guard (as Germans gladly are) against going into debt.  

Once while clearing land, one brother said to another in a joking way as he pointed to the house with the smoking chimney: See that house there? That is our corn bread factory.

Joking aside, cornbread was nourishing and also tasted good since the hard, fatiguing work stimulated a hearty appetite.  However, the small, unchanging diet gradually weakened us a little at our work and produced a languid, tired feeling, and when we at last obtained some money through our sweat, we could obtain some different food.

All of the privations and hardships did not scare us off, chiefly because the people in the old country did not have a bed of roses.  We saw that better times had to come and we could succeed in obtaining our independence, something that would never have been possible in the old country.

Also, we enjoyed good health, outside of a few cases of indisposition and exhaustion in the early days, the result of not being used to the climate, none of us have so far caught malaria or the chills, except two brothers who in the previous March had gone to Pocahontas and from there to Little Rock and Memphis, to the places that are distribution points for the plague. They had soon after we arrived been pushed back to us, spending some time fighting this fever until it was gone. The healthy location of our place had much to do with our good health; our farms lie on a direct line 4 miles east of the church in Altus and 3 1/2 miles north of Coal Hill, on a type of sugar loaf mountain with a rather beautiful view, like the Swiss love.

(End of letter published on February 23, 1894, beginning of letter published on March 2, 1894)

As years passed, the privations and scarcity naturally ended; the cattle herd grew. A vineyard with about 2000 vines is tolerable; a peach orchard of approximately 800 trees is located next to the apple and pear orchard and other types of fruit. And always more is being planted.

Two years ago, we built a good solid cellar 26 by 30 feet in the interior space and 10 feet deep in the ground. Johann Mueller, a countryman from Caton Thurgau built its walls. In one or two years, we will build a correspondingly beautiful house on top of it according to plans already created.

Also the family relationships have changed with us. One brother took his own land and got married. Mostly he works at the coach building and blacksmith business. Another brother manages beehives. Two sisters got married; another sister is a nun in the Cloister St. Scholastica, Arkansas.

The way things went for us is also just about how it happened to all the other settlers who came before and after us, for example: Jakob Zeiher, Louis Hug, Jacob and Adolf Elser, Johann and Sigmund, Jos Bachmann, all fellow Swiss; and also Jacob Post, L. Ziegler, H. Hoing, Johan Leding, Ferd. V. Raumana, Karl Eschbach, F. J. Nummeli, B. Micheli, Wilh. Borengasser, and still others from Germany.

All of these in addition to Father Ziswiler and our small contributions are to be considered as the pioneers of this colony.

For almost all of these people, things were not any easier because they also had little money, sometimes their children and often even their wives had to go to Little Rock or Ft. Smith to work in order to be able to raise desperately needed cash, and almost all of these settled in the woodlands, building their homes in the midst of sorrow, pain and sacrifices, often plagued with sickness and fever.

It is often right interesting to listen when these people describe their difficulties and hardships during that time. Now, of course, they are all in good shape and feel satisfied and happy. For myself and others, it would make us very afraid to start all over again, and therefore we would not be tempted to give up our safe existence and take off for the open land of Oklahoma or the Indian territories.

In the same way that the existence of the pioneers gradually improved, the matters of the church and school continually moved forward. In the Spring before our arrival, a frame church was built, as was a small, plain school house. Then a person could easily count the number of church goers on their fingers.  Soon the community grew through new arrivals so that the church was soon much too small, and Father Ziswiler significantly enlarged it through an addition to it and provided it with beautiful wainscoting, with chairs, a pulpit, etc.

In the course of the Summer of 1891, a beautiful, spacious school house, as well as housing for the Sisters, was constructed, and since Christmas, the Church school has been run by the Benedictine sisters from Scholastica.

Things have changed quickly in these ten years.

For the church and school house, a beautiful place was chosen; it has a beautiful view over the city of Altus, a beautiful view over into Logan County to Mt. Magazine and to whatever the names of the other beautifully formed mountains may be; also one can see the Arkansas River. Yes, it is a beautiful, fortuitously chosen place.

The community also is not adverse to club life. It has a St. Josephs Unterstuetzungsverein, a women's and youth club, and a Farmers Union, already in existence for six years, which contribute greatly to the community's entertainment and good fellowship.

I believe I have given you in this letter everything important about the German pioneer days of this colony. If I can help you in this matter further, please let me know and I will gladly do it, that is if is within my power.

Yours truly,

Joseph Glanzmann
Altus, Franklin Co, Ark.


Note:  From a book by Brett Pritchard identifying people buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Altus, here are the birth and death dates of several of the German-speaking settlers mentioned in this letter:

Rev. M. Beatus Ziswyler ( ? - 7/26/1887)
Joseph Glanzmann (? - 11/11/1918)
J Louis Hug (? - 3/24/1911)
Jacob Elser (3/3/1840 - 12/15/1904)
Adolph Elser (5/6/1865 - 12/14/1938)
F.X. Bachmann (7/20/1821 - 1/9/1885)
Jacob Post (8/22/1845 - 5/5/1928)
Lawrence Ziegler (12/2/1830 - 6/10/1895)
Herny Hoing (8/26/1840 - 12/28/1927)
John Henry Leding (7/27/1846 - 12/08/1902)
Charles Eschbach ( ? - 5/19/1923)
William Borenbasser (1/1/1850 - 8/16/1910)

For more information and pictures of St. Mary's Church, see this entry in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas:


Introduction to the Pioneer Tales

This pioneer tale is one in a series published in 1893 and 1894 by the Arkansas Echo, a German-language newspaper in Little Rock. The stories are intended to show the challenges and adventures facing German-speaking immigrants when they came to settle in Arkansas. So far, the following posts have introduced the Pioneer Tales and provided translations of several of them:

Pioneer Tales of Arkansas' German Immigrants (background of the newspaper series)

Arkansas Echo, November 3, 1893

Arkansas Echo, November 10, 1893

Arkansas Echo, November 17, 1893

Arkansas Echo, December 1, 1893

Arkansas Echo, December 8, 1893

Arkansas Echo, December 22, 1893

Arkansas Echo, December 29, 1893

Arkansas Echo, January 5, 1894

Arkansas Echo, January 14, 1894

Arkansas Echo, January 19, 1894

Translations by Dan Durning, all rights reserved.