Annual Cemetery Walk – September 11, 2017

Karen Ekberg as Ida Seiler Sohns

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to visit with someone who lived on this earth 100 to 150 years ago?  If you come to the Ephraim Moravian Cemetery on September 11, you will have the opportunity to do just that.  For the last several years the Ephraim Historical Foundation, in conjunction with the Ephraim Moravian Church, has presented a cemetery walk called the “DEARLY DEPARTED.”

Each year several people agree to enact the part of a specific person from Ephraim’s past, while wearing appropriate costuming.  An effort is made to portray both men and women, and to choose personalities who have been gone from Ephraim for various lengths of time.

One of the first characters to be portrayed was Ole Larson who aided Reverend Iverson in the choosing of the land which became the village of Ephraim.

In order to give you a hint of what you might expect when you attend this event next week, we reprint here some of the words spoken by a participant a year ago, Charlotte Amundson.

My name is Charlotte Marie Amundson, and I was born right here in Ephraim, on Jan. 22, 1865.

Although my father, Hans Jorgen Amundson, was born in Norway, he and my mother Anna immigrated to America…actually TO EPHRAIM…in 1854. At the time, father was a lot older than Ephraim was! This village was only one year old in 1854!

My oldest brother, Anton, was born one year after they came to Ephraim, and he was only the second baby to be born in Ephraim! Altogether, there were 6 children in our family, and we were all taught to work hard on the land my father had purchased in the north of Ephraim.

You know that most Norwegians are wonderful fishermen, and father knew he could make a living in that way.  He also wanted to have a farm, to feed his family, and he did, but it was hard work for him to get the land ready for growing anything.  You know, there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of rocks in every acre of soil in Door County! As we children were growing up, we had to pick rocks every spring to get the ground ready to plant.  It seemed the rocks grew faster than any crop! Eventually, we had cherry trees, apple trees, and we grew potatoes, corn, and hay as well.

Charlotte Amundson

Our parents taught us everything they could about fishing, farming and keeping house, because they knew that one day we would be expected to do it ourselves. They also made sure we attended the Ephraim Moravian Church, and we all studied our catechism, and were confirmed in the church.

Julia and I did more work inside with mother, and the boys did more work outdoors with father. They all became expert fishermen. However, I could work in the garden, and care for the animals, and hold my own working alongside the men if needed. People often mentioned they were surprised that I was so handy, because I was rather a tiny person. 

One thing I really enjoyed doing was baking cookies, and I baked all my life. Even when I had grown old, I always had cookies in the jar. You never knew when someone might drop in to visit! The neighbor children were frequent visitors to my kitchen.

I never married.  I was perfectly happy living near Anton and working on our family farm, and keeping busy with church work. I was a member of the Ladies Aid Society, and the Willing Workers, so I saw local friends often

We hope this blog information will whet your appetite to learn more about Ephraim’s ancestors. Please come to the Ephraim Moravian Cemetery, on the corner of Norway Street and Willow Street, on Monday, September 11.  There will be two performance times, one at 1:00 p.m., the other at 2:30 p.m.

There will be 6 Dearly Departed folks there to talk about their lives:  Helen Hoeppner Sohns, Warren Davis Sr., Hulda Seiler Knudson, Peter Weborg, Petie Borg Wilson, and Hollis Wilson.

Parking is available at the Ephraim Moravian Church, on Moravia Street. The event is free, although donations are appreciated. We will hold the Cemetery walk, rain or shine!

Wisconsin 101

We often talk about Wisconsin, Door County, and Ephraim history in terms of image and text-based artifacts, like photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, and postcards.  A project called Wisconsin 101: Our History in Objects is sharing Wisconsin history in a different way – through three-dimensional artifacts.  Specifically, it focuses on objects which tell distinctly Wisconsin stories, like the Babcock Butterfat Tester or Old Abe, the Live War Eagle.  Anyone can propose an object to be included on the Wisconsin 101 website, with object categories like Arts & Leisure, Education, and Transportation.

When selecting an object to submit from the EHF collections, our biggest challenge was answering the question, “Which objects tell compelling stories about Door County’s history?”  While every artifact in the collection has a story to tell, we needed to find an object that shares something unique to Door County, but with statewide significance.  After much discussion, we settled on this Cherryland t-shirt.

What stories can this t-shirt tell?  First, it represents Door County’s agricultural history.  With a landscape ill-suited to most crops, early grower Joseph Zettel found unexpected success with cherries, and a new industry was born in the county.  At its peak in the 1950s, Door County produced up to 50 million pounds of cherries.

With the dramatic increase in production, local labor simply could not keep up, leading to the growth of migrant labor in the cherry industry.  Workers came from a variety of places, including Texas, Mexico, Jamaica, Barbados, and even German POWs during WWII.

A third story this t-shirt tells is the growth of Cherryland and cherry tourism.  As cherry production grew, the desire to capitalize on the county’s new reputation resulted in marketing campaigns, festivals, and slogans with a cherry theme.  Today, cherries still make up an important part of Door County tourism.

You can read more about the Cherryland t-shirt and the stories it shares about Door County’s cherry history at www.wi101.org/objects/cherryland-t-shirt.

-Guest Blogger Emily Irwin