Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fearless Females: Religion

March is Women's History month and the Accidental Genealogist has 31 blogging prompts to help celebrate women's historical achievements. The blogging prompt for March 10 was:

What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn't they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?

In celebration of this year's Women's History month I am focusing on my maternal grandmother, Wilhelmina Schalin. Religion was a major reason her parents emigrated from Russia to Alberta, Canada, and was large part of her life.

I normally don't write about religion on this blog as to me it is a private matter, but then I remembered this very interesting story about religion and my grandmother's Schalin family. So this post is a few days late.

From the 75th Anniversary of the First Baptist Church of Fredericksheim booklet, written by founding minister, F. A. Mueller:

"The economic and religious intolerance against the German-speaking people living in Volhynia, Russia, gave birth to the idea of emigrating. F. A. Mueller, the pastor of a large number of Germans in Volhynia had been expelled by the government. This kindled still more the thought of the German Baptist people to look for a country where there would be freedom to worship. 

Brother Ferdinand Falkenberg with his wife, Pauline (Schalin) Falkenberg[1], had been in America in the year 1889 but because of homesickness they had returned to the old country. However, his propaganda for America gave reason for a meeting of a committee in the home of the banished pastor, Rev. F. A. Mueller. A plan was accepted. Rev. Mueller should go to America and search out an area for a settlement of the people who wanted to emigrate. A number of families were able to dispose of their holdings immediately and make ready to go along to the new country with their pastor. Others were eager to sell their homes and follow later. 

The Michael Falkenberg Family; photograph courtesy of Lucille Fillenberg Effa
Caroline (Schalin) Falkenberg, my great grand aunt is in the front row second from the left

It was on 13 July 1892, the exiled minister, carrying his luggage, and his wife with a five-month-old child in her arms were directed over the border into Germany by a police officer. In the month of August we landed in the harbor of New York, having travelled by the steamship Elbe to America. Immediate efforts were made to locate an area where a settlement might be started. West Virginia, Michigan, North Dakota, Colorado and Texas were considered. 

Upon the recommendation of the General Missionary Secretary of the German Baptist Church of America, I went to Texas on 15 September 1892. I also had correspondence with Gustave Rudolph of Rabbit Hill, North-West Territories, Canada. Through Brother Rudolph's letters I came to the conclusion that Alberta was the place for the settlement we had in mind. In the last week of April 1893 I came to the Edmonton district and went to Rabbit Hill where I made my stay in the home of Brother Gustave Rudolph. After scouting about for some time the decision was reached that the district southeast of Leduc was to be the place for our home.

In May 1893 two trains arrived in Winnipeg carrying our immigrants who were following their banished pastor to a new country. The first task was to procure bread for the hungry newcomers. The last meal they had was on the ship on which they had come to Canada. Now they had travelled for two days on the trains without anything to eat.

The necessary purchases were made of food, stoves, tools and implements. Then the following families left for the Alberta country: J. Bienert, Wm. Schalin[2], A. Falkenberg, M. Falkenberg[3], Ferd. Falkenberg, Wm. Mogans, A. Benke, G. Belter, L. Jaek, F. Mattis, Hiller, Zielke, J. Hammer, Father (Henrich?) Hammer, C. Kuhnert, Muth, S. Froehlich, F. A. Mueller -- in all 19 families numbering 36 souls. In the fall of the 1894 the following families came: L. Roth, D. Schalin[4], L. Klatt, J. Redmann, W. Grunwald, J. Holland, F. Holland, Father Holland, A. Klukas, E. Jaeger, J. Friedrich, Timm  -- 12 families in all.

Wilhelm Schalin, my great grandfather

The first sermon I preached was in a log hut west of the railway tracks. The text being Psalm 42:2 'My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: When shall I come and appear before God.' For over a year we would meet in the home of M. Falkenberg for our religious services. At the first communion service it was raining and the poor roof did not stop the rain from dripping into the wine and onto the bread used for the occasion.

During the first winter the brethren hauled spruce logs that might be cut into planks and boards to be used to build our first church. The brethren Karl Kuhnert and August Falkenberg, sawed those logs into building lumber by hand. The mission gave $350 for the erecting of the church. The work was done by the brethren free of charge. Brother M. Kuhn was the builder.

Photograph taken about 1903 and courtesy of Lucille (Fillenberg) Effa
Caroline (Schalin) Falkenberg is in the second row, fifth from the right. Her husband Michael is to her right.
Wilhelm Schalin is in the fourth row, directly in fromt of the last man standing between the door and the window

The church was organized on 20 July 1894 with 162 charter members. The first church building was located one mile east and about one mile west of the present church site, on the northwest corner of Section 11-T49-R24, 4th meridian, on land donated by Michael Falkenberg. In Leduc Frontier Days (page 78), it is reported that the first dinner guest at the church dedication was a big black bear which came out of the woods to investigate a kettle of rabbit stew cooking over an open fire.

[1] Pauline (Schalin) Falkenberg was the sister of Wilhelm Schalin, my great grandfather. She married Ferdinand Falkenberg.

[2] Wilhelm Schalin was my great grandfather and father of Wilhelmina (Shalin) Lange, my maternal grandmother.

[3] Michael Falkenberg married Caroline Schalin, a sister of Pauline (Schalin) Falkenberg, Wilhelm Schalin, and Daniel Schalin.

[4] Daniel Schalin was a brother of Pauline (Schalin) Falkenberg, Caroline (Schalin) Falkenberg, and Wilhelm Schalin.

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