Selections from
Seventy Five Years at
Aberdeen 1907-1982

By Eldon B Harder and Helen Klempel Harder 

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Dennis Yancey:  This book is  discusses the history of the Mennonite Church and its members in the Aberdeen area for the years cited. Had it not been for the early Mennonite "pioneers" Aberdeen would not have become what it has.  The book contains a wealth of information about the various Mennonite families of the Aberdeen area from the earliest times up until about 1982.  Included here are a few minor selections from the book that would be of interest to many - both of Mennonite and other faiths.


First Mennonite Church, Aberdeen Idaho - 
Corner of Washington and Fourth West

Rev. Jacob Hege - first pastor of the Mennonites congregations in the Aberdeen area. (1907-1909) with his wife Elizabeth Hege.

This school building was erected [about 1907] by the Mennonite settlers soon after they arrived in the Aberdeen area. It was located about one and one-half miles south of the southwest corner of the Aberdeen townsite along the present State Highway #39. The boy in the picture has not been identified. It was in this building that Rev. Jacob Hege called a meeting of interested persons to organize a Mennonite congregation. This meeting took place on July 4, 1907. Thirty-six men and women became charter members of this congregation which was originally named the Salem Mennonite Church. This building served the settlers as a schoolhouse and as a place of worship for several years. On January 10, 1910, the Mennonite Church of Aberdeen drew up Articles of Incorporation for a church to be known as the First Mennonite Church of Aberdeen. That same year the First Mennonite Church erected a church building in Aberdeen. The Mennonites later sold the Central School building to the county. The county sold the building to the Zion Lutheran congregation. This congregation sawed the building into four parts and moved it to the dry-farm area north and west of Aberdeen. It was reassembled on a site on the west side of County Line Road between Vanderford Road and Strang Road. This was the church that Mabel Steinlicht Hege attended as a child. After the dryfarm homesteaders abandoned their farms and moved away, the Lutherans moved the building to the Aberdeen townsite. It was placed on the southeast corner of Washington and Second East and was used by the local St. Paul's Lutheran congregation as a place of worship until they built their present building. At that time the old schoolhouse was sold and dismantled.

This building, the west part of our present structure, was erected in 1910 at a cost of $2,935.64! In Europe, after Mennonites were granted permission to worship in meeting houses, there were still restrictions placed upon them by the state. Their meeting houses had to be located in alleys or in other out-of-the-way places. They were not permitted to adorn their places of worship with steeples or to otherwise identify their buildings as churches. They were not permitted to have bells to call their members to worship.
After Mennonite immigrants came to America and built churches here, they continued the building styles to which they had been restricted in Europe. First-generation church buildings were much like their counterparts in Europe had been. They were plain buildings, without the embellishment of a steeple. Indications are that around the turn of the century, General Conference Mennonite congregations began building churches with steeples. Mennonite congregations (Old Mennonite) stayed with the plainer-type building. Steeples were ornamental and, historically, Mennonites have disdained things ornamental. Also, it was very likely difficult to justify the cost of adding a  steeple to a building if this steeple did not have a belfry to accomidate a bell. In earlier times when people did not have clocks in their homes, a church bell was of greater importance in calling worshipers together than it was in more recent times when people have clocks and watches of their own. Because many Mennonite churches were rural churches and since some members of those churches lived beyond the sound range of a church bell, the need for a bell was diminished. Figures of the number of Mennonite church buildings which have bells are not available. However, based on personal knowledge and observation it would appear that our church is somewhat unique in that we do have a bell!
During the early years the church was lighted with gasoline lamps. In 1916, the municipal government of the village of Aberdeen passed an ordinance which permitted electric lines to be built into Aberdeen. That year, First Mennonite Church sold its gasoline lamps to J. P Wedel for $3.00 and installed electricity in the church. Pastor Elmer J. Neuenschwander and his wife, Alina, had friends, very likely in the Neuenschwanders' home church in Berne, Indiana, who contributed the money to buy the original electric light fixtures for the sanctuary. The first month's electric bill was ninety cents! As the photo shows, originally our church had a pointed steeple. When the church building was remodeled during the 1930's in connection with the building of the east wing addition, the pointed spire was removed and replaced with the parapet and battlements. This apparently reflected a change of building
style which had come into vogue during that time.

Pioneer life in Idaho was not all hardship and work. In a lighthearted vein these young men posed for this picture, possibly to send to the folks "back home'
Erste Deutscher Jung geseilen Verein im Sagebrush bei Aberdeen, February 6, 1907.
Translation: First German Young Fellows Society in the sagebrush by Aberdeen.
The names of these young pioneers are: Back row-left to right: Robert Goertz, Eugene Leisy, Albert Leisy and Frank Wenger. Front Row-left to right: Henry Dyck, Walter Fast, Cornie Tiahrt, Herman Landvatter, John Landvatter, Henry Fast, Henry Tiahrt and Jake Bartel. Henry Dyck at the extreme left was the first of the German settlers to die, and in 1952, Frank L. Wenger was the sole survivor of this group.

Aberdeen circa 1910. Looking west on Washington Street toward the recently built Mennonite church building. The schoolhouse, which is presently the Methodist Church, partially obscures the Mennonite Church. The Valley Supply Company, a general merchandise store operated by the Wedel family, is on the extreme left in the picture. Immediately to the west is the lumberyard, also operated by the Wedel family. The Bank of Aberdeen was located on the corner of Main Street and Washington. Next in line to the north was Cornie Funk's barbershop, and next to that was the People's Store operated by Henry Toevs. The drugstore is on the extreme right in the photo. The livery barn was to the west of the People's Store. The posts along Main Street were hitching posts where horses were tied while customers were in the places of business.

The Peter E Funk Grain Company elevator in 1948. This elevator was built in 1916, and for over fifty years it served as an important grain receiving and shipping center in Aberdeen. In peak periods during grain harvest, as many as seven train carloads of wheat were received and shipped in one day. This is a noteworthy achievement for a small country elevator. The trucks shown in the picture were parked in line until they could be unloaded. Aberdeen is on a branch line of the Union Pacific Railroad, and since American Falls is on the main line of the same railroad, elevators there could offer farmers a higher price for their grain, reflecting the lower freight rates available to shippers in that location. As farmers began using larger and better farm trucks, many of them began hauling their grain to American Falls, to take advantage of the higher price, and Aberdeen declined in importance as a grain-shipping station. Peter Funk retired from the elevator in 1972 at ninety-three years of age.

Digging potatoes with four head of horses hitched to a one-row digger. After they were dug and laid on top of the freshly dug row, the potatoes were picked by hand. The practice of dismissing public school for potato harvest began during these early years when school children were an important and vital part of the harvest crews.

Henry C. (H. C.) Wiebe is shown here in the Bank of Aberdeen in the early days. He was employed at this bank until his retirement in 1951.

Abe Enns in his Red and White Store. This store was typical of the four grocery and general merchandise stores owned by Mennonites in Aberdeen. Note the bulk bins along the counter. In these early stores, before the days of self-service, customers would hand their shopping list to the storekeeper or clerk who would then rush around filling the
order while the customer waited and other customers waited their turn. The customer in this picture, barely visible behind the garden seeds, was Mrs. Jacob Landvatter.

Threshing wheat on the Hege farm about 1920. This picture was taken from across the road to the south of the Hege home which can barely be seen in the center of the picture, behind the trees. The bundles of wheat being threshed had been stacked to get the crop off the field and to protect the crop from inclement weather. This was dyne because there was often an extended time of waiting until the custom threshers of that era could make their rounds to the various farmers for whom they were threshing.

Threshing grain with Henry Dalke's threshing machine and steam tractor in 1918. During operation the water wagon and coal wagon were parked next to the tractor to provide easy access to the fuel for the firebox and water for steam. The thresher was powered by the tractor with a long flat endless belt. The belt was crossed to provide the proper rotation for the thresher. The tractor had to be parked in near perfect alignment with the thresher to insure the belt remaining on the pulleys. Operators set up the unit in such a way that existing winds would carry the dust away from the threshing crew.

Henry and Anna Dalke and part of their family in 1924.  This Model T Ford Truck with the canopy on the back may have been a fore-runner of the modern pickup campers!  Notice the camp cot with its legs sticking out over the edge of the truck bed.  This truck made several trips from Aberdeen to Oregon. 

Stacking alfalfa hay with a "Mormon" derrick on the Laird ranch near Dubois, Idaho. Mennonite dry farmers from around Dubois would earn extra money by working on haying and threshing crews. For many years alfalfa hay was an important crop in the Aberdeen valley. It was used in a crop rotation program that may have included potatoes, sugar beets and small grains. During the time when most farmers had a small herd of dairy cows or a farm flock of sheep, alfalfa hay provided feed for these farm animals. Since there were numerous large sheep operators who wintered and lambed their ewes in the valley, there was a good demand for high quality alfalfa hay, and this hay was an  important cash crop. In harvesting the hay, it was cut, raked green into windrows, and then double bunched with a dump rake. This would tend to form the hay into a shock which could be handled with a pitchfork. By raking the hay green it would tend to cure instead of dry. In the haying operation, the hay was loaded onto a slip made of lumber and pulled by two horses. A sling made of chains was laid out on the slip before it was loaded. After the slip was loaded it was drawn to the end of the stack and the cable pulleys were hooked into the sling. A horse would furnish the power to raise the sling of hay. As tension would be placed on the cables, the pulleys would draw together and the load would be pulled up to the level of the stack. The horse would hold the load in that position until the boom pole would swing over to bring the load on the top of the stack. After it was placed in the proper position the load was lowered onto the stack. Then the sling was tripped and the derrick horse would be utilized to pull the sling chains out of the hay. The stackers would then arrange the hay to form the stack. A well-built stack would shed water. When stacks of hay were sold, they were measured after November 1st when the hay had settled. A formula was used to calculate the amount of hay in the stack. Stacks were built one section at a time according to the reach of the boom pole. When one section was finished, the derrick was moved over to begin the next section.


Mennonite Families of Aberdeen

The book by Harder contains specific information on the following early Mennonite families of Aberdeen:  Aeschliman, Boettner, Babb, Bartel, Baumgartner, Becker, Bill, Brucks, Chrisman, Claaasen, Coatney, Countryman, Cox, Dalke, Dirks, Eagle, Enns, Epp, Farnsworth, Fast, Friesen, Funk, Giesbrecht, Gossen, Graber, Harder, Harms, Hege, Hiebert, Hilacan, Hoffer, Hofmeister, Horsch, Huether, Hunsinger, Huse, Isaak, Johnson, Jones, Kauffman, Klempel, Kliewer, Koehn, Kosanke, Krehbiel, Langenwalter, Lehman, Lehrman, Leischner, Leisy, Linscheid, Maisch, Mills, Moser, Neuman, Nugent, Peters, Pierce, Richard, Ritechey, Ruff, Schmidt, Schroeder, Schweitzer, Selzer, Smith, Steiner, Steinlicht, Stevens, Stucky, Tiahrt, Tieszen, Toevs, Unruh, Dorien, Vollmer, Walters, Wedel, Weech, Wenger, Wiebe, Wilson.    


"Dry Farm Homesteaders"