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Ozaukee County L??tzebuergesch


Field recording by Helene Stratman-Thomas of Jacob Becker, 1946, Belgium, Ozaukee Co. Poem by Jacob's father, Nicholas E. Becker (1840-1920 )
2:47


County: Ozaukee
State: WI

Commentary:
One of the three national languages of Luxembourg, along with German and French, Luxembourgish is related to Moselle Franconian (Central) German dialects. Ozaukee County, WI, just north of Milwaukee, is home to one of the largest Luxembourg-American communities; many elderly residents still speak the language of their ancestors. One of Ozaukee County's most famous Luxembourger residents was Nicholas E. Becker (1840-1920), who wrote a number of poems in his native language dealing with the life of the community. In 1946 the famous Wisconsin ethnographer Helene Stratman-Thomas recorded Becker's son Jacob singing seven of his father's poems set to music. The song heard here recalls the experiences of Luxembourger pioneers in Wisconsin.
"In Remembrance"
Gather round, boys, it's evening in winter,
Whoever can't see clearly should bring a lantern,
Let's talk about that time
That lies fifty long years behind us.
Let us tell of what we have achieved,
What we built for ourselves, what we took on for ourselves.
We didn't have much when we came to this country,
But strength--that we had--and industry and common sense.
We had no houses, no stables, and no barns,
Livestock and feed were hard to come by,
We had no beds, no chairs, and no tables,
And the land we bought was all bush.
We set to work, quite brave and strong,
With clearing and burning everyone was busy,
Houses were built and fences made,
Boundaries between neighbors marked by notches in trees and paths.
It was hard to clear and burn,
With the smoke in the fields and our hands worked raw.
Few complained, everyone had zest,
Everyone's breast was filled with hope.
And when we had a house, a stable, and a barn,
When we had schools, churches, and other buildings,
And potatoes and bread, and also meat on the table,
We forgot our sufferings, and our hope was renewed.
We carved out roads--crude though they may have been--
To bring the crops to the mills, and then to bring the meal home,
And if one happened to get stuck in thick mud,
One could comfort oneself with a sip from the bottle.
Now we have beautiful lands, houses, and barns,
Maybe some money in the bank, and perhaps even papers,
We've overcome much trouble and suffering
And thank God that we are doing so we today.
To be sure, some of us have died,
Perhaps one here and there didn't succeed, failed,
Yet everyone who is still with us
Utters the Lord's Prayer that the dead may find peace.

Wisconsin High German


Male speaker interviewed by J??rgen Eichhoff, September 1968, Mequon, Ozaukee Co.
1:39


County: Ozaukee
State: WI

Commentary:
At one time, many Wisconsinites of German descent were trilingual, speaking a German dialect, High (standard) German, and English. German was for generations the most popular foreign language in schools, and was even used as the medium of instruction in both parochial and public elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions. In 1863, the German-medium Lutheran seminary referred to in this interview, Northwestern College, was founded in Watertown, WI. In the early twentieth century, partly due to nativist political pressures, but mainly because of language shift among German-Americans, English soon supplanted German in Wisconsin classrooms (including at Northwestern, which merged in 1993 with Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN). However, German is still used occasionally as a language of worship, mainly in Lutheran congregations in rural Wisconsin.
Tell us please what you remember of your grandfather and what he did in Germany.

Well, about Germany we know very, very little. And of his relations, I think he was the only son. And he was educated in Germany, at the university, and so on, and then as a missionary he was sent to Africa. Among the blacks and the everyday people he was busy at the mission. And my father was also born there in Africa. When he was seven years old they came back to America and my grandfather was a pastor in several congregations in Wisconsin and he had terrible asthma, such that he gave up every now and then and returned to Germany. He thought that perhaps the ocean voyage might have been good for him. Or that he might have just been able to rest a bit. That helped somewhat, but not much and he ended up dying of asthma later. And my father was educated at the college in Watertown, that's in Wisconsin here, and then he was a teacher in several places, and then he came to Milwaukee, where he was at St. John's for 42 years as a school teacher and principal.


Wisconsin High German


Female speaker interviewed by J??rgen Eichhoff, September 1968, Freistadt, Ozaukee Co
1:53


County: Ozaukee
State: WI

Commentary:
The earliest German-speaking farming community was founded in 1839 by Pomeranians who settled north of Milwaukee in what came to be known as Freistadt ("free town," today part of Mequon in Ozaukee County). While most German-speaking immigrants to North America came in search of economic opportunities, some fled religious or political discrimination in Europe. The founders of Freistadt were Lutherans who had been persecuted for their faith in their Prussian homeland. The Wisconsin High German speaker in this interview is a descendant of one of the founding families of Freistadt.
Tell us please what you know about your ancestors.

My ancestors came from Germany in 1839. They came for freedom of religion. The church and its pastors [in Germany] were paid by the government, and whoever did not agree with the government in religious matters could not be employed. This and much else motivated them to emigrate to America. Captain Heinrich von Rohr was their leader. Pastor Grabel was their pastor. They came on five ships and landed here in the summer of 1839. My great-grandfather's name was Ernst August D. and my husband's great-grandfather was Martin S. From New York they came to Milwaukee, approximately forty families. Now these three men that I mentioned were sent from Milwaukee in search of good farm land. They found it about 16 miles northeast of Milwaukee. Later, this was called Freistadt. Then they went back to Milwaukee and brought their families along.


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