Eva Becker Schroeder: The Early Years 1894-1913

What a different world my children live in than the one my grandmother was born into over one hundred years ago. My grandmother, Eva Becker Schroeder, was born on April 20, 1894 in Marion, South Dakota. Her parents were both Mennonite immigrants who came to the United States from Russia as children. When the devoutly Christian family gathered at the table for their simple meals and daily devotions, German was the language in which they conversed. That table must have been stretched many times because there were eventually 13 children in the family, although they were never all home together since Eva and her older sister were already married before the youngest siblings arrived.

The frantic pace of modern living seems very remote from Eva's childhood. These were the horse and buggy days when people lived more closely with nature. Winter meant hitching up a bob sled and putting covers over the horses and the passengers, except the driver who had no such luxury since he must keep his hands free to hold the lines. Sunday was the highlight of the week, when the whole family went to church in the horse and buggy or sled. In the church yard was a barn for the horses. Each family brought their own dinner. The worship service was held in the morning with Sunday School after dinner.

At the age of eight, Eva began attending school in the one room country school house. There was one teacher and 40 pupils, all at different levels. There wasn't much individual attention for a shy little German speaking girl. She did manage to complete her work through sixth grade.

Of course growing up on a farm meant there was lots of hard work for everyone. As one of the older children, Eva did field work in the spring using two, three or four horses depending on which machine she used. At harvest, the grain was cut with a binder and they followed and shocked the bundles. The bundles were then hauled and pitched into grain stacks and several weeks later they were threshed. Corn was picked by hand; on a good day Eva could pick 70 bushels or more. 

A young John Schroeder
Though much of life consisted in the routine of work, school and church, something out of the ordinary happened in that little Mennonite church in 1908 when Eva was 14. Rev. G.P. Schultz came to conduct meetings and soon the church was full of people, so full that some had to stand. This was unusual! Every night there were those who wanted to be saved; the church was experiencing a revival. One night Eva stood among those desiring salvation and so did John Schroeder who would eventually become her husband.

Eva Becker is seated with friends, Sarah Schroeder and Mary Schultz standing
The social life also revolved around the church. Many Sunday afternoons when Eva was a teenager were spent visiting friends from church. Eventually 20 or more would be together in a group. They would sing for awhile and then play games. These activities seem calm by today's standards but Eva remembers them as "beautiful days" and "a lot of fun." 

It was inevitable that eventually there would be couples in the group. It was handsome John Schroeder who came courting the lovely Eva. This had to be done in an orderly way, of course. He took Eva for rides in his horse and buggy. Even the horse must have sensed something special was going on, for it held its head up high as tassels were attached on each side of its bridle by the ear and the lines were pulled through colored rings. After a courtship of just two months, John and Eva were married on September 2, 1913.

On their wedding day
The wedding day was lovely. A cousin came from Abon driving a car and drove the couple to church, a new experience for both. At church an usher led the couple to two chairs placed in front of the pulpit where they sat while the minister preached a sermon. Then they stood and were married and prayed over.

The newlyweds were about to undertake an adventure. John had already filed a homestead near Chinook, Montana. This was one reason for their short courtship. Were they ready for the challenge? They were young, but resourceful and they knew how to work hard. They had their strong Christian faith. The things they were about to experience would challenge all these resources, but of course, they didn't know that as they rode home from the church in the cousin's car all full of joy and love.

 Read more of John and Eva's story: (Click on the title.) 
Part 2: Homesteading in Montana
Part 3: The Great Depression 
Part 4: The Minnesota Years
Part 5: Growing Old 

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