Support local journalism by subscribing today! Click Here to see our current offers.

“And You Thought Lutefisk Was Gross!!”

This is the title of a gag gift recipe booklet Shirley Rockwell of Bloomington, Minn. and her sister, Betty Goodman, of Burnsville, compiled for family members one Christmas after cooking an old family favorite (lutefisk) for the younger generation. Their younger generation were not enthusiastic about the family treat so they added to the gift collection of recipes other dishes that actually were not as tasty or enjoyable as lutefisk. After reading a recent Langdon Long Ago column on ethnic delicacies some love and others shudder over, they sent me the 12 recipes in their family gift. While I would love to keep the booklet for myself, it really deserves a spot in the North Dakota Room at the library where others could enjoy it as well. As a result, I decided to donate the booklet to the library after I had written about their gift.

Shirley and Betty are the daughters of Steve and Ella Goodman so grew up at Milton with both Icelandic and Scandinavian heritage. This means they knew first-hand about lutefisk and various products of butchering days like suet and kinds of sausage. Both enjoyed lutefisk the way their mother and others prepared it and recalled purchasing the lutefisk at Waind’s store in Milton where it was kept in a big wooden barrel filled with a lye water solution. Today they still cook it for a special treat and know the best places in the Minneapolis area to purchase high quality lutefisk. Like other lutefisk lovers, they have discovered succeeding generations do not inherit a taste for all their favorite delicacies. The gag cookbook includes real recipes for lutefisk prepared in different ways, plus some ethnic-type recipes I would personally avoid because the blood content on the ingredient list seemed a bit too high.

The previous column had mentioned my cousins making head cheese, which was a delicacy I did not recall seeing, eating or featured in local cookbooks. Shirley and Betty got their head cheese recipe from, and the ingredients are worth repeating: 1 pig’s head, 4 pig’s feet, 2 pig’s ears. Place in a large, deep pot and add water to cover. The next items listed are 2 medium onions, whole, and one bunch celery including the leafy tops. If you consider these items to be seasoning you might want to chop or cut them up, but the instructions do not mention them again. Add to the pot 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and 2 tablespoons salt. Cover the pot and boil over a low flame for 2 to 3 hours until the meat leaves the bone. Mince the meat coarsely and arrange on mold or pan. Add one cup of vinegar to the juice remaining in the pot. Pour this liquid over the meat in its mold. Refrigerate until the mold has set or congealed. When cold, slice and serve.

Migrating to North Dakota:

On December 15 Laird Siemens sent an e-mail to the City of Langdon and the Chamber of Commerce asking for help in locating his grandfather’s homestead. On December 28 Barb Melhoff called the library and asked if I would like to read the message and then sent it over by email. The print was small so part of the message I did not read on the first go-round and had to go back a few days later to find more of the story. But on the first reading, I noticed the people involved had some familiar names; they had left North Dakota to homestead in Saskatchewan in 1913 (the date homesteading opened there), and Siemens had mentioned the Rosehill Mennonite Church with four children from their family buried in that church’s cemetery. It took about five minutes to walk back to the North Dakota Room, find the cemetery book with Rosehill in it and locate his long ago family land in Moscow Township. There were no listings in the cemetery book under the Schmor family name. In the meantime, we exchanged more emails, and I had a chance to consult the Wales and Munich Centennial books in hopes of answering some of Siemens’ additional questions.

As it happened, the grandfather whose claim he was asking about was born in Henderson, Nebraska, as were dozens of others who would eventually live in Cavalier County. Herman Schmor, grandfather of Laird Siemens, had been only a year old when their family came to Cavalier County as part of a wagon train from Henderson. Most, or possibly all, of the group in this wagon train had been part of a Mennonite Brethren Church in Henderson who had sent someone to scout out the land and been told that there were homesteads available in Waterloo, Moscow, and Henderson Townships. In retrospect I realized that Henderson was not named until after this group of new settlers arrived.

The older members of the group planning to migrate to North Dakota had been born in Russia or the Ukraine and had been immigrating to America and Canada since about 1874 as groups. Earlier they had lived in colonies in Russia with colony names of Kleefeld, Molotschna, and Chortitza - ones even I knew had ties to Cavalier County. Another group, not all the same branch of Mennonites, had lived in colonies along the Volga like Dreispitz and places whose names were changed when the Communists came into power. On this side of the ocean, they had formed new colonies at Henderson in Nebraska, Hesston and Newton in Kansas, Mountain Lake in Minnesota, and in Manitoba at Steinfeld, Morden and Winkler. The same names appeared in these widely separated communities so probably there was an earlier family relationship.

The reasons for moving from each of those “new” colonies varied but in all cases the groups adopted private ownership rather than the colony format they had been assigned to in Russia and took up homesteads. Drought in Kansas and Nebraska influenced their decisions. In Minnesota those who wanted land were finding it difficult to live and feed their families on the small claims available and chose North Dakota as it was yet not completely settled. Prices for crops and shipping to market influenced the setters crossing the line from Manitoba.

Grandfather Herman Schmor recorded his memories in a book that has not been published which Laird Siemens inherited when his mother died and found very interesting. That started his search for the claim and a desire to come to Cavalier County himself. In the meantime, looking for facts that would answer his questions led me to ask around among people who came with his family or settled on claims nearby. Checking to see how many would be in already published centennial books led to some private publications of family histories. Allen Wiens found an excerpt from a story by J.J. Enns titled “600 Miles to the North Pole in Covered Wagons and Horses.” Enns lists them starting out May 3, 1897, from Henderson and arriving five weeks later in Moscow Township. Notes by Siemen’s grandfather lists their group coming in 1899, and another group listing Enns and Fadenrecht families mentions 1898. My personal guess, which is often wrong, is that rather than the dates being wrong there were groups coming in each of those years, and because they already had family here the names were the same.

The 1895 map of Berlin Township (now Waterloo) list the following families of former Mennonite heritage living primarily in the south half of the township: Cornelius Krahn, Peter and Jacob Wiens, William Derksen, Henrick Froase, Johann and David Fehr, Esbrand Harder, Jacob Spenst Sr., Jacob Spenst Jr., Gerhard Spenst, John Spenst, J. B. Reiber, Peter Penner, Abraham Krahn, Jacob Veer Jr., Peter Spenst, John Veer Jr., John Veer Sr., and John Veer. Moscow Township to the west had Peter Fast, Jacob and Abraham Toews, Johann Veer and Heinrich Bartel. Some of their descendants have suggested this group had lived in Manitoba for a time before coming to Cavalier County. Henderson and Gordon Townships had none of the known settlers recorded on the 1895 map although some may have arrived that year.

Those coming later in the 1890s included the Loewen, Schanz, Heimbecker and other families who settled in Gordon and settlers from Henderson, Nebraska, who named their township for their old home. Trier, Huron and Bruce settlers came around the turn of the century. Stay tuned. Some of the later stories are in printed form, and when they arrive we will pass on more about both the Rosehill community and its now closed church as well as memories shared by wagon train members.


Online Poll

Will 2021 be a better year than 2020?

You voted:

Latest E-Edition

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

1. Be Civil. No bullying, name calling, or insults.
2. Keep it Clean and Be Nice. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
3. Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
4. Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
5. Be Proactive. Let us know of abusive posts. Multiple reports will take a comment offline.
6. Stay On Topic. Any comment that is not related to the original post will be deleted.
7. Abuse of these rules will result in the thread being disabled, comments denied, and/or user blocked.