ST. JOHN LUTHERAN CHURCH
(The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod)
A family united by faith in Christ gathering around God's Word and Sacraments.
To reach out in Christ-like concern and Christ-borne love to each other and to those without Christ!
140 Years of History
"Train up a child in the 'way' he should go
and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
The German Lutherans living in the Alma area wanted their children to be instructed in Christian doctrine through Bible Lessons and Luther's Small and Large Catechisms so that they would know the 'way' to eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus. Pastor Senne believed that the best way to assist parents in teaching the 'way' to their children and to build a strong church was by means of a Christian Day School. Besides his many pastoral and missionary ministries he was also willing to work in the schoolroom. The Alma congregation established a school in the first church building in 1873. The building served as a house of worship on Sunday and as a classroom on Monday through Friday. As was previously stated, Pastor Senne had taught part time in his home prior to 1873 and now taught the Christian Day School in the church. Parents of St. John sent their children to Christian Day School so that they would be taught the Holy Scriptures, grow in faith in the Lord Jesus, and that they would learn and keep their German language heritage. According to family histories in ²New Branches from Old Roots, 1976±, children from families in various parts of the country and borders of neighboring counties (Fred Gladow's mother) attended St. John Lutheran School. The following information relative to children's schooling in the first ten to twenty-five years of St. John Lutheran School was related to the writer over a period of years by Mrs. August Kratzer, Sophia (Kratzer) Emrich, Emilie Palenske, and Mr. & Mrs. Henry Wendland who were interviewed in 1970 in Vasser, Kansas. The Sennes roomed and boarded some children who lived at a distance too great to walk to and from school each day and had no friends or relatives with whom they could stay during the school year. The girls slept in the living quarters on the first floor and helped Mrs. Senne; the boys slept on hay in the attic as did some of the Senne boys. They helped take care of the chickens, milk the cow, clean the chicken house and barn, and split firewood. Their parents paid for room and board with potatoes, lard, home-slaughtered meat, wood for cooking and heating, homemade candles, homemade soap, duck or goose feathers, wheat for flour; and corn, kefir corn, oats, corn fodder, and hay for the Senne's chickens, milk cow, and horses. Many farm children walked, rode horseback, or rode in a horse drawn buggy or spring wagon. The horses were tied to hitching posts on the street parking or to posts of the horse pen. A spring wagon is a two-seated buggy of light weight construction. The box holding the seats is set on leaf half-elliptic or elliptic springs; hence the name spring wagon. Some had a top. Walking to school wasn't easy in dry, rainy, or snowy weather. Roads were not graded, wagon-traveled paths which often had deep wagon-wheel ruts or were rough with rocks. Where hills were steep or high, the roads followed a course around the base of the hills so some roads were curved or winding. Some roads were wagon paths between stone fences. In many areas farmers had laid stone walls for fences around their fields and/or pastures. Older children sometimes carried younger children for short distances. In the springs, herds of cattle were driven on foot from Texas to graze on God's gift of bluestem grass in Kansas. They were driven on the main roads (paths) until they came to a cattle lane on which they walked to the pastures. Parents cautioned their children not to walk near them. They crossed over the fences and quietly walked through fields or meadows past the long-horned animals resting or grazing in the road. In hot weather neighbors along the road would invite them to stop for a drink of fresh well or spring water. On one road a childless couple often gave them fruit from their orchard and in winter invited them to come in to get warm and sometimes gave them a baked treat. Parents often drove their children to and from school by horse-drawn buggies, spring wagons, or farm wagons on rainy, extremely cold, and snowy days. Children who lived in town walked home for lunch at noon. Those from the country carried their lunch in a tin sorghum or molasses bucket. It usually consisted of one or more homemade bread sorghum or molasses sandwiches (often soaked) and a fresh fruit and, in winter, dried apple pieces. Most farmsteads had fruit trees near their yards. Children of families who lived a great distance from Alma started school at age seven or eight. God's 'lambs' from ages six or eight to fourteen or older were taught in one room by one teacher. They progressed by readers instead of by grades - first reader to second reader, etc. They did not progress until they had mastered each fact or concept taught. They learned to read the printed page and to comprehend that which they read. They memorized the facts of the four computation processes of arithmetic, learned to figure mentally and accurately on slates, and solve many equations. The younger children learned much by listening to the older children recite. There was much recitation in the classroom. Younger children learned to recite with the older children. If students hadn't studied and missed too many answers, they learned that they had better study for the next day. The school day began with prayer, Bible reading, singing a meaningful hymn, a Bible history lesson, Catechism study and recitation of an assignment from the Six Chief Parts of Luther’s Catechism, Bible passages, and/or a hymn verse - all learned in the German language. By confirmation some students had learned many Bible passages so thoroughly that they remembered them all their life. They would recite Luther's Catechism and Bible passages to their children and grandchildren without opening the book to review them. Some in their old age surprised their visiting pastors by greeting them with the Bible text appointed for that day. If only that could be true today! "And that from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures,
which are able to make you wise so that you may be saved through faith in Christ Jesus."
II Timothy 3:15
Students were taught German reading, grammar, spelling, cursive handwriting (longhand), and arithmetic (mathematics), in the forenoon and the first part of the afternoon. They were taught reading, arithmetic, and geography in the English language in the last part of the afternoon.
Remember the nursery rhyme?
A dillar, a dollar, A ten o'clock scholar The wood seats and desks set on iron leg frames were wide enough to accommodate two 'kinder' or 'scholars'. Students were called 'kinder' which is German for children; in English they were called scholars. When enrollment increased, three 'lambs' of God (kinder) sat at one desk. Those desks were used in the first school building and were used until 1954. (My mother and dad sat in those desks in the 1880's and 1890's. Our classmates, my sister, and I sat in them in the 1930's.) School wasn't just study and work. Many German people appreciated the privilege of freedom to have fun in this new land-America. Recess was a change of pace and a time for fun. Students enjoyed playing ball, circle and running games, marbles, and jacks. On rainy day recesses they played jacks, marbles, blackboard games, and sang German folk songs and hymns in the classroom. In spring they practiced running for the races, which would be held at the annual end-of-the-year congregational picnic. The picnic was held in the timber on the Mary Palenske farm, now the Stephen Anderson farm or on the Ringel-Diepenbrock now the Robert Diepenbrock farm. Both are west of Alma. It was a big congregational family, school, basket-dinner-fellowship event. Running races and marble games and matches were exciting events of the afternoon for the children. They were conducted by parents. The game of horseshoe was a popular event for men. Women were kept busy furnishing food for hungry youngsters and social visiting about their gardens, setting hens, ducklings, and goslings. Everyone received a treat in the afternoon. Fruit flavored pop was a favorite treat. Coconut candy, gumdrop candy, and chocolate drops (chocolate covered fondant) were also favorite treats. (Christmas time was the only other time many children received candy.) In the early 1900's ice cream cones were enjoyed by everyone. In the first three decades of the 1900's the picnics were held at Liederkranz Park.