19 November 2014

Hagel des Vaterlandes

St. Stephens Cemetery, Dearborn County, IN
 And this is why I was surprised by my less-than-overwhelming German DNA results.

I took my mom and her sister on a whirlwind genealogical tour across the U.S. 6 corridor in three northern Indiana counties a few weeks ago.  In preparation for the trip, I plugged a few names of ancestors into findagrave.com.  Yes, it is for-real.  I knew that my great x3 grandfather had been born in Bavaria and came with his parents to the United States in the 1830s, first settling in Dearborn County, Indiana.  Jacob Ewald followed the love of his life to northern Indiana, while his parents and several siblings remained in Dearborn County.  I did not know where his parents were buried, so I plugged in their names and found that the cemetery was just off the beaten path to Madison, which is where my wife and I were planning to spend our anniversary.

My wife capturing a moment of me paying respect to distant family
Knowing my wife now expects to visit cemeteries on all of our family trips, I of course didn't want to disappoint her.  On our way back from Madison, we crossed county lines and went to St. Stephen's Old Church Cemetery.  Although we couldn't find Jacob's parents' stones, we did find two siblings that had died as children in the 1850s.  The stones were inscribed in German.

All of the stones in this little cemetery were inscribed in German.

All of them.


In my travels and historical research, this was a first for me.  I've been in burial grounds where a few stones were in Yiddish, German, and Greek.  One cemetery near Chesterton has several stones with inscriptions in Swedish.  But I had yet to come across a truly German enclave, like this St. Stephens community must have been for my ancestors.  I did a brief investigation of the history of the church and cemetery and could only find that the church began in about 1842 and that this township in Dearborn County had begun to be settled by "industrious" German immigrants during the middle 1800s.  My Ewald ancestors being among them.
Believed to be a tintype picture of Phillip Ewald, my great x4 grandfather, immigrant from Bavaria
In driving the winding, hilly roads to their resting place, and as I peered out across the broad green valley, I wondered if this felt like home to them.  I wondered how Phillip, the patriarch, felt leaving the rest of his family behind.  No wonder the small group of German Lutherans clung together upon reaching the new land.  The Ewald line represents my family's most recent arrivals to this country.  These Germans continued to carry their language with them, first to St. Joseph County and then to Bremen in Marshall County, where a large German population also settled.  They continued the use of their language into the 1900s with sermons preached in the language of their Vaterland.

1 comment:

Jim said...

How cool that you were able to trace things back to Dearborn Co. and go to that cemetery. I was trying to make out the German on the photographed gravestones but my eyes aren't good enough to make out all of the text. I might have been able to translate!