Memoirs of a Pastor's Wife
Mrs. W. J. Gans, of Immanuel Lutheran Church
Watertown, rural Amherst
My husband received a telegram from Rev. Baecker asking him whether he would be able to teach school beside his duty as pastor and a preaching place. The congregation consisting of about 40 members, the preaching place about 8 or 10 miles distance. You can think that anything looked good to us, just to get out of that southern climate. So he answered back he would be able and so we left New Orleans about the middle of July for Amherst, Nebraska, located in Buffalo County, about 25 miles northwest of Kearney.
We left New Orleans on a Monday morning about at 8 o'clock and traveled till Wednesday noon around 1 o'clock. He insisted on the baby and me taking a sleeping car at night, for he did not want to make any extra expense for the congregation, and he and the other six children traveled in a common day coach. You can imagine what we looked like, needing clean clothes for the children and lunch for the bunch that when we had to change trains in Memphis, Tennessee I heard somebody say, "Immigrants most likely." I turned sideways to see who it was and before I could put a seal on my mouth said, "Yes, you are right in a way, but all born in the United States, and the grandfathers fought in the Civil War." My, you should have seen that blush on that woman's face.
When we landed in Kearney there were at least 10 members to meet us and had ordered a dinner at the hotel waiting to serve us. When they heard that we had traveled all the way in a day coach, only taking a sleeping car for me at night, they were shocked, saying to my husband they were not that poor, that they could not afford a sleeper on such a long journey. That made us feel good.
Then we had to go to a furniture store to pick out the most necessary furniture, so it could be sent up the next morning on the freight train. Then we started on our twenty-five mile trip in buggies and arrived at the parsonage around 8 o'clock, where a lot of the ladies had gathered to prepare a meal and get acquainted. Our boxes, containing my husband's books, and our bedclothes and such things that could be packed in boxes had already arrived and they shoved them together and made a long table out of it, the ladies had brought tablecloths, dishes, knifes, and folks, and spoons and lots and lots of eats and hot coffee from next door neighbors also chairs and benches and then we sat down to a fine supper.
What our children enjoyed most was the beautiful drinking water. We had a well over 100 feet deep with a wind pump on it and a cistern close by the door. Were they happy when they were told, they could drink all the water they wanted, for they could never remember the time that they ever had anything to drink but rain water and in New Orleans were always told not to drink so much as it had to be bottled and cooled in the icebox. The people were very nice to us, could not have been better, our wages were $350 a year and $100 from the preaching place, but they brought so many things, whatever they raised they shared with us, and each member was supposed to bring the last load of corn that he husked to the Pastor. That way we generally got a young sow and raised a litter of pigs, and sold them when there were ready for market, except two which we prepared for the household. The ones we sold we used the money to pay our oldest son's board at the Seward Teachers College. I also started to raise chickens and had good luck with them.
What made things rather uncomfortable was that our predecessor had dispelled seven members while he was here. He received $500 wages and saw to it that the members brought him plenty of feed and whatever they had. Whether he managed to save that much out of his earnings or whether he had an inheritance of some kind, he not alone bought himself 160 acres of land, but had some money to loan out yet. One of his members ran for an office and borrowed several hunderd dollars from the pastor. He was beat at the election and then the pastor was scared he would not get his money back and started to dun him, finally threatened to put it before the congregation. Which he did, and then suggested to expel that member. One of the members would not stand for that and said, "Why the pastor insisted on it, this member told him that was against God's commandment and if he would insist on expelling Mr. So and So, he would also quit the congregation." But the pastor put it through and so this member dissolved himself and his two married sons and three son-in-laws also quit their membership. That was a nasty beginning for my husband. As the former pastor owned that farm, he made it his business to come on a visit every few months to find out what the new minister would do about it.
When my husband had gotten the story from several of the members, and them members that had expelled themselves attended services every Sunday and finally came to see my husband and ask his advice about the whole affair, my husband wrote a letter to that pastor and asked him to apologize for his hasty decision, he refused, and so my husband had to put it before the next conference or Synod. I have forgotten the incident, but that pastor was in the wrong, had to apologize to those members as well as the congregation. The Prases* gave him the good advise to sell his farm and quit his visiting there. So everything went fine.
My husband taught school four day a week, I helped him all I could especially in the afternoons, so he could make sick visits without dismissing school, for he really loved teaching. When we had been there three years, we received a call from the Middle Creek congregation by Seward, and the call was so urgent, that it was hard to refuse. The wages $600, just one congregation to look after, 65 voting members and a teacher to overtake the school. What was wrong? The pastor that had been there was a drunkard, had been sent there as a candidate, too easy a life, and was compelled to resign because he had staggered when he came out for Altar-service. When a couple of his Elders went into the vestry to see what was wrong they found him so drunk he could not stand up. He was there 12 years, so you can think that the congregation had pretty well followed suit. The better members did not know that the congregation had to put in a complaint by the Prases* and so matters had just drifted on.
But my husband sent the first call back for two reasons. The first was, we had been too short a time in Buffalo County and we really had no complaint to make except that my husband had almost too much work as he had started a mission place in the village of Amherst too. The other preaching place was about 7 miles east and Amherst 5 miles south. So he had to preach 2 every Sunday and drive with a team, as there were no cars on the market yet. But the call came back and the Prases* made a personal visit to convince my husband and also the congregation that that call was very urgent and a younger man would be able to serve Buffalo County. Oh, how I hated to move.
*Prases - German=Präses = Executive committee; apparently Synod officials.
Photo of Gertrude & Selma Gans, (daughters of Rev & Mrs. Gans) and friends.
Buffalo County portion excerpted from the 75 page original. Submitted by Margaret Wilson, grand-daughter of Rev. & Mrs. Gans.