Hardships of Pioneer Life in Bremer County Recalled by John Schroedermeier
Contributed by Deane Waldon, who wrote:
I bring to your attention an article from the Waterloo Courier dated October 22, 1921, presumably ghost-written by my grandfather, John Schroedermeier, regarding my great-grandfather Conrad Schroedermeier. This article claims that the first church erected in Bremer County was a log church of the Evangelical persuasion which Conrad helped build in 1862.
I suspect it was called the Warren Evangelical Church since it is directly across the road from the Warren Evangelical Cemetery wherein Conrad, and many other Schroedermeiers are interred. In 1872, a frame church replaced it and in 1904, the building was replaced again. It became a Methodist church for a time, sat abandoned for a while and was recently in the process (probably completed now) of being renovated as a home for a young couple and their children.
Some of the discomforts of pioneering in Iowa are related by John Schroedermeier, 1820 East Fourth Street, Waterloo, whose father Conrad Schroedermeier came from Germany 62 years ago, settled in Freeport, Illinois, worked for a year on a farm, went to Austin, Minnesota, took up a claim, but at the end of a year was scared out by Indians.
That was in 1860 when Minnesota was sparsely settled. The Indians had become restless and warlike. Massacres were threatened and one actually took place at New Ulm, Minnesota. So anxious were Conrad and his brother, Fred, to get away that they abandoned the claim and drove southward into Iowa, finally landing in Bremer county. They drove a wagon pulled by a yoke of oxen. In the wagon was all of their property.
Settled In Bremer County
In the following spring, Conrad bought a farm five miles northeast of Waverly from the government for $2.50 an acre. He and Fred erected a log house and were happy in their new home - safe from Indians.
The country there was wild - native prairie and virgin forests. That spring, the pioneers were able to break up a small tract. Ten acres were planted to corn and a small patch to potatoes. In the fall, they heard that a grist mill was located in Cedar Falls, 14 miles to the south and that the mill ground wheat into flour.
Up to that time, the pioneers had only corn meal, potatoes, a few other vegetables and wild game. Of course, the cornmeal was made into all sorts of dishes - pancakes, corn bread, mush, and pudding in the bag. The latter, when cream and sugar became available, became a tasteful delicacy. It was stirred up into a batter, poured into a cotton bag, tied with a string and boiled until the contents were done. English currants added a piquant flavor. When pudding was served steaming hot with cream and sugar, it was a tempting dish.
However, they found that a diet of cornmeal products, even though varied, became monotonous after months of use.
Trip Afoot To Cedar Falls
Since the cornmeal diet began to pall upon the appetite, John and Fred one fine autumn day set out on foot for Cedar Falls. They could not drive the oxen and wagon there because there were no roads, no bridges and no clearings thru the forest. Their path led thru the Big Woods and across streams of crystal clearness - over open stretches of prairie and thru tangled underbrush.
Arriving at the mill, John and Fred each shouldered a 50-pound bag of wheat flour and started on the return trip of 14 miles. It is probably safe to say that no one today would care to repeat that performance. The load was heavy and the route was rough. The burden-bearers stumbled along thru the tall grass and wildwood. They arrived home quite exhausted.
Used Flour On Sundays Only
So precious was the white flour that the family used it only on Sundays as cake. They used the old standby - cornmeal - during the week. The wheat flour lasted a long time.
The next spring, a larger acreage was ready for tilling. Mr. Schroedermeier obtained a quantity of wheat and sowed it. That summer, while he and his neighbor were cutting the wheat with cradles, a rattlesnake bit Mr. Schroedermeier in the calf of his leg. His neighbor immediately dropped his cradle and ran 30 rods (about 1/10 mile) to his house for some tobacco. This was bound upon the wound in the form of a poultice. So effective was the treatment that Mr. Schroedermeier was able to resume work the next day.
If an attempt had been made to get a doctor without the application of home remedies, the victim might have perished for it would have taken the whole day to get relief in that way. Furthermore, the venomous poison of the rattler works quickly and whatever had to be done had to be done just as quickly. Mr. Schroedermeier did not have the trustful faith in the efficacy of whisky - a home remedy that others recommended in like situations.
First Church In Bremer County
In that same summer of 1862, Mr. Schroedermeier helped to build a log church in Trumbo's Grove - the first house of worship to be erected in Bremer county. It was a church of the Evangelical persuasion.*
Where Are We Now?
The same farm from that time in 1861 until now has been owned by the same family. It is now occupied by Charles Hoth, a son-in-law of Conrad Schroedermeier. While it cost $2.50 an acre in 1861, it is worth $250.00 an acre today.
Henry Schroedermeier living near Bremer is a breeder of fancy stock. His cattle won prizes at the Dairy Cattle Congress in Waterloo and at other shows. George and Simon Schroedermeier live on farms in Bremer county.
These men are cousins of John Schrodemeier who shortened his last name to make it easier for folks to spell. In Conrad Schroedermeier's family, there are six children - all of whom, except for John, live in Seattle, Washington.
This page was last modified on March 5, 2009