by Catherine Trausch Renschler
In 1873, when the area was still prairie, families of Luxembourg and German descent began to settle in south-western Adams County near where Roseland would later be established. Juniata, then the county seat, was their trading post. These pioneers were subjected to many hardships not the least of which was being deprived of the opportunity to practice their religion. The nearest priest, Rev. Lechleitner resided at Crete, in Saline County, a distance of over 90 miles. He was only able to visit about five or six times a year. Religious services were held in homes, the Busch School (Dist.6), or at Thorne's Hall in Juniata. In 1878 Rev. Glauber was appointed resident priest of St. Cecilia's Church, Hastings. Families from the German settlement traveled to Hastings to hear Mass, and Rev. Glauber held monthly services in the German settlement. In 1881 Rev. Simeon was appointed pastor of Hastings. On his first visit to the Assumption area he found the people hopelessly divided concerning the location of a church. Four acres had been purchased at one site and Peter Schifferns had donated five acres at another site. The Schifferns acres were located west of what is now known as the Assumption lagoon, the four acres were east of the lagoon two miles. During wet weather the lagoon was impassable. One group wanted the church east of the lagoon and the remainder wanted it west. All attempts to mediate failed so nothing was accomplished. In November 1882, Rev. Simeon wrote Bishop O' Conner telling him it was essential to have a church in the German settlement. The Busch School would accommodate only about one third of the congregation and a cemetery was needed as burials had already been made on three different farms. To end the impasse, a third plot of land was chosen in the center of the settlement. In April,1883, a five acre tract of land was purchased in the southwest corner of Sec. 4, Roseland Township for the sum of $25. The problem that had delayed the construction of a church for so many years was finally solved. Matt Beiriger, John Scholl, Theodore Weber, and Nick Lorenz were elected to a building committee. The ladies of the parish were given the honor of naming the church. In October 1883, they designated it the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The list of parish members who contributed to the building fund are as follows: George Beiriger, Math Beiriger, John Busch, Nic David, Michael Dietrich, Bern Engelmann, J. Floeck, J. Franzen, Nic Gallas, John Gerten, Nic Goedert, John Gussenburger, J. Hoffman, Frank Keilman, George Keilman, Nic Konen, M. Lorenz, J. Loranz, Wilhelm May, George Plein, Theo. Phillips, John Scholl, Peter Schneider, Peter Schifferns, Wilhelm Schifferns, T. Trausch, Hanna Wengler, Michael Weidert, Jacob Wengler, Theo Weber, Peter Wiegant, Lorenz Zubrod.
The first church, a small frame building measuring 24 by 36 feet, soon was too small. In 1888, a sanctuary and sacristy were added. The first rectory was built by Christopher Loskill in 1887, and his family lived in it one year, rent free for building it. In April 1888, Rev. Schraffle was made the first resident rector of the Assumption Church. In the 1880s Johan Engelmann was appointed to keep order during church services. He wore a grey robe, plumed cap and carried a staff. He entered the church ahead of the priest and saw that everyone was in their seat. The staff was used on those who misbehaved or fell asleep during Mass. This tradition was brought from St. Donatus, Iowa by the early Luxembourg settlers.
In 1898 the construction of a large frame parochial school building was begun. The school opened in September, 1900. A complete history of the school follows the church history. By 1902 the old framed church had been too small for a number of years and plans were made to build a new brick church. The building committee consisted of Nicholas Streff, Math Scholl, Christ Loskill, Peter Bohr, Gust Bourg, and Math Plein. The corner stone was laid on June 11, 1903. The principal celebrant at the ceremony was the Rt. Rev. Bonacum, Bishop of Lincoln. He also presided at the dedication o October 28, 1903. The church, built of brick, measured 117 1/2 by 48 feet, with a 100 foot bell tower. It had a seating capacity of 500. The approximate cost was $15,000. The first couple married in the new church were Matt Trausch and Catherine Kaiser in October, 1903. About 1910, a new two story frame rectory was constructed just east of the church building. The old wooden church was moved west of the school building and used as a school annex and social hall.
The beautiful brick church, built with great sacrifice, was destroyed by fire on November 20, 1919. Albert Hoffman, living just south of the church, gave the alarm at 12:15pm. The Hastings fire department was called, but due to the lack of water replied there was nothing they could do. Meanwhile, others seeing the smoke, came from the surrounding farms. In a short time 500 people were gathered about the church. A bucket brigade was started but, by this time the church was like a furnace and men could not get near it.
Immediately following the fire the Rev. Merkl was quoted by the Hastings Daily Tribune: "I can't say what we will do about rebuilding. Our farmers have been unfortunate, for three years we have raised practically no crop in this community. This is going to be very hard on the church."
The congregation moved back into the old frame church and plans were immediately made for reconstruction. The third church was built on the walls of the second. There were slight changes: larger sanctuary, sacristy, an addition of transepts, the bell tower was not as high. The new Roman style church measured 120 by 45 feet in the main body, 60 feet in the transepts. . The middle nave was 32 feet high from floor to ceiling. The building was dedicated June 15, 1922. Seventy-five families bore the entire financial burden while, at the same time, supporting a school having three rooms and an attendance of 100 children.
Over the years thousands of people from the surrounding area visited Assumption to attend the annual church picnic. The picnics, begun in the 1890s to raise funds for church operations, were held for nearly 60 years. Work crews were assigned for each picnic. Everyone young and old had a job. The families of the parish furnished all the provisions for the famous fried chicken dinner. To give an idea of the task undertaken, one year the menu consisted of: 600 chickens, 100 cakes, 225 pies, 250 loaves of home baked bread, as well as numerous baked hams, many bushels of potatoes, fresh garden vegetables, canned fruit and preserves. The number of paying guests at the picnic was over 800 and some years as many as 1500 were served. An open air dance was held in the evening and booths containing games and selling handiwork and canned goods were set up. Money raised at these picnics helped support the parochial school.
A large parish hall was built in 1939, all the work being done by members of the parish under the direction of Charles Streff and William Trausch. Lumber from the frame church, which had been demolished, was used in the new hall, which was dedicated on November 7, 1939.
In August, 1945 beautiful new art glass windows were installed in the church building. Only two months later on October 19, 1945, for the second time in 26 years, parishioners stood helplessly by and watched as their church was destroyed by fire. Trucks from both Roseland and Hastings fire departments were called but as in 1919, they were helpless because the community lacked a water system. Before the fire trucks arrived a large crowd had gathered. At this time the fire was still confined to the rear of the church near the belfry. The people stripped the church; the stations, statues, vestments, sacred vessels, even the front pews, although bolted down, were lifted out by the men. As the congregation worked frantically, the flames licked along the roof toward the sanctuary. In pained silence the faithful stood and watched as Sister Rose Agnes opened the tabernacle and carried the Blessed Sacrament to the sisters home. One by one the beautiful stained glass windows fell into the fire. By the time Rev. Lisko returned from Minden where he had been visiting, the church was a shell of bricks with a furnace of flames within. If was long after midnight before the last of the congregation left their smoldering church. Persons from as far away as Hastings reported seeing the flames. The fire had apparently started in defective wiring in the garret near the belfry. Church services were conducted in the parish hall from 1945 until 1950 when the third brick church was completed.
The fire charred brick walls were unstable and this time were torn down. The bell tower was sent to the ground by a dynamite charge in April, 1946. Over 52,000 bricks were salvaged and cleaned by parish labor. The ground breaking for the third brick church was conducted on Sunday, August 27, 1950. William Trausch, Joseph Zubrod and Rev. Lisko turned the ground. On December 20, 1950 Bishop Kucera of Lincoln officiated at the laying of the cornerstone.
The new church, highly fire-resistant, was constructed of brick, steel, and concrete.It is modified Gothic style, measuring 111 by 34 feet, setting 260 people on the main floor and 40 in the choir loft. It was dedicated December 13, 1951.
In 1955 a brick convent was built for the Sisters, who had until that time lived on the first floor of the school building. Construction of the building was done by parishioners, under the supervision of James Streff. The interior was furnished by the ladies of the altar society.
Msgr. Collins, who was the last resident priest at Assumption, left the parish in June, 1963. At that time Assumption became a mission of Sacred Heart Church at Roseland. The rectory was sold and moved to Hastings in 1982. With the introduction of irrigation, improved farming techniques and the economic necessity of larger farms, many of the early farm sites have disappeared. Church membership had dwindled as a result of fewer farm families. In 1916 there were over 750 confirmed members, in 1983 there were about 165.
Six or more generations of some pioneer families have attended the Assumption Church and rest in the church cemetery. Descendants of these pioneers gathered at the church on May 29, 1983 to celebrate the centennial of the building of the first church.
The first burial in the Assumption Cemetery was a brother-in-law of Peter Reckinger who was accidentally killed in family fight. His unmarked grave is located along the west fence of the cemetery. In the early years some graves were marked with wooden markers, which have all disappeared, victims of time and the elements. In 1944 a formal Cemetery Association was organized and in 1981 a new plot of land to the southeast was added to the cemetery. Surnames of persons buried in the cemetery include the following:
Arensdorf, Beiriger, Berres, Berendes, Bergstrom, Bohr, Bonifas, Bourg, Bush, Carl, Consbruck, David, Dericks, Dewitt, Diederick, Duncan, Eltz, Faber, Farro, Gentert, Gerten, Goedert, Gussenberger, Hanahan, Hauck, Hawes, Heinz, Hemberger, Henricy, Heuertz, Heltenberg, Hipp, Hoffman, Hupf, Jay, Juergens, Kaiser, Karp, Keilman, Kirchen, Klein, Klepper, Konen, Koos, Kummer, Kuppenbender, Lauerman, Lorentz, Loskill, Loughren, Mangers, McCauley, McKinney, Miller, Mousel, Myers, Parr, Pemmer, Phillips, Pittz, Plein, Portz, Renschler, Ring, Roach, Roth, Schifelbein, Schifferns, Schilz, Schimmer, Schmitt, Schneider, Scholl, Schunk, Seyler, Siren, Stoetzel, Stommel, Streff, Svoboda, Theisen, Thinnes, Tolksdorf, Trausch, Uerling, Utecht, Velder, Weber, Weigant, Wengler, Willmes, Wilson, Winkler, Wolf, Zubrod.
Late in 1898 the families of the Assumption parish, desiring that their children receive a religious education, and instruction in the German language, voted to build a parochial school. The building committee consisted of Charles Theisen, John Weber, Nicholas Consbruck, Joseph Pittz, and Nicholas Streff. In April, 1899 James Hynes was awarded the contract to build the two story frame building for $2,600. Limestone for the foundation was shipped by railroad to Roseland and hauled by team and wagon to the site. The exterior of the building, one of the largest parochial school buildings at that time in Nebraska, was completed in November, 1899. School began in September, 1900. Miss R.A. Kelley of Hastings was the first teacher. The initial enrollment was about 50. From September 1901 until May, 1978 the Sisters of the Precious Blood of Jesus, of O'Fallon, Missouri, devoted their services to the school and parish.
The two large rooms on the second floor of the building were classrooms. The main floor served as living quarters for the Sisters until a convent was built in 1955. During the early years of large enrollments, the old frame church building which had been moved north west of the school, was used as a classroom for the first and second grades. Enrollment peaked during the years 1912 to 1915, with about 120 students.
A typical school day began at 8:30 with attendance at Mass. Immediately after Mass, classes began. The classrooms were divided, boys on the right, girls on the left. A large heating stove stood in the rear center of each room. Lunch time lasted one hour. Butter and syrup, or egg sandwiches were popular items in lunch pails. During the lunch hour those children who had driven or rode horses to school cared for the animals. A barn was located west of the cemetery to shelter the horses.
During the early years, many parish children who lived at a distance attended Assumption School only one year to receive instructions for their First Communion. Some who lived only a few miles away attended in the spring and fall of the each year. During the winter months when it was too cold to walk the extra miles, they attended the public schools closer to their homes. At this time some girls who lived at a distance, boarded with the Sisters. A room in the southwest corner of the main floor was reserved for the boarders. Boarders were required to furnish their own bedding and dishes and pay a fee. Some families sent food for the girls. The cook Sister prepared their meals and they ate alone in their room as they were not allowed to eat with the Sisters. Each girl had chores which included carrying kindling, washing dishes, cleaning and polishing. The boarders usually went home on Friday and returned on Sunday after Mass. Some of the girls in later years recalled how homesick and lonely they were.
Before World War I, many children could not speak English when they entered school. The Sisters spoke both German and English. Subjects taught included German Grammar, English Grammar, Arithmetic, Spelling, History, Penmanship, Daily Catechism and Weekly Bible Studies. Friday afternoons were devoted to music, art and handiwork classes. Crocheting, knitting, lace making, mechanical drawing and art work were included. Students picked their own classes and some boys took needlework. The students projects were entered at the County Fair.
Due to extreme anti-German sentiment during World War I, German language classes were forbidden by the state. The people were not allowed to speak German in their schools or churches, in public, or on the telephone. This was a great hardship for many, especially the older members of the community. Those who did not speak English were unable to shop in Hastings for fear of being assaulted.
Financing the school was often a problem for the parish. Proceeds from the annual church picnic helped support the school. Children paid tuition and also purchased their own books and supplies. In 1901 the tuition was about $1 per child per semester only a small portion of the cost of the education. But, even this small amount was sometimes a hardship for families with several children.
During the 1920s high school course work was offered for grades 9 and 10. In the mid 1940s a hot lunch program was begun. The food was cooked in the basement of the parish hall and the children ate there. The first school cook was Mrs. Albert Hoffman. In 1957 the school building was remodeled and a kitchen and dining room were constructed on the main floor. Also in 1957 indoor restrooms were added to the building. In September, 1970 the number of grades was reduced from 8 to 6. Due to declining enrollments and difficulty financing the school it was closed in May, 1978.
A general merchandise store was built on the south side of the road by Matt Scholl in 1899. In 1916 Matt and Agnes Scholl purchased the store from Matt and Elizabeth Scholl. Lester "Bud" Willmes bought the store in February, 1946 and ran it until May, 1949 when Nick Konen bought it. On January 1, 1957 Paul Konen, Nick's son, purchased the store and ran it until February, 1961 when Ray Phillips bought it. The next owner was Harold Zubrod from August, 1972, until 1976. Terry Hoffman operated it from 1976 until 1979 when Rodney Heuertz purchased it and named it the "Country Store". Due to declining profit margins, the store closed in the mid 1980s and it is now used as a residence.
The Assumption Church, School and People of Adams County, Nebraska
by Betty Ramspott Trausch
Adams County Historical Society
Interviews and reminiscence of Catherine Kaiser Trausch and Engelbert T. Trausch.
Alphabetical List of Assumption Residents
Adams County Directory, 1925-26
Wolfe & Pickering , Kenesaw, NE
The Assumption mailing address at this time was Route 4, Juniata.
Assumption Catholic Church, Rev. M.A. Merkle, Priest
Assumption General Store
GENTERT, Mrs. Kate, widow, domestic; Leon 19, Cleo 19.
GENTERT, Vern, laborer
HOFFMAN, Albert, farmer; wife Mrs. Albert; Elma 10, Englebert 2, Ralph 18, Cecil 16, Arthur 12, Frances 7, Antone 5.
KONEN, Elizabeth, widow
PLEIN, Pauline, widow
SCHOLL, Matt A, farmer; wife Agnes, Lucy 14, Marie 4, Albert 12, John 10,
STREFF, Anna, Priests housekeeper
WEBBER, John, retired, wife Anna