Preaching and teaching back in the pioneer days

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 14, 1999

One of oddest challenges I encountered with the diary written by Rev.

Wednesday, July 14, 1999

One of oddest challenges I encountered with the diary written by Rev. Michael Reck in 1866 came with the name and location of &uot;Tunel’s Settlement.&uot;

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This pastor, incidentally, was sent to Freeborn County by the Iowa Synod to serve the somewhat scattered groups of German Lutheran immigrants in Pickerel Lake, Nunda and Mansfield Townships. His diary of that service, originally written in German and translated into English by someone at the Luther Seminary in St. Paul, was loaned to me by Roger Fink of Albert Lea. His interest in this diary will be explained later.

On Easter Sunday in 1866, he went from the Waldeck Settlement in Pickerel Lake Township to Tunel’s Settlement. His diary entry for that day says, &uot; … I was to be introduced and have an Easter service with the people. How could I? No one knew I was there. However, two men got ready immediately and rode from house to house with the announcement: The pastor is here. After two hours all gathered together, and we had a service anyway.&uot;

This particular event is mentioned in the 1988 Freeborn County Heritage book on page 67 under the heading of Mansfield Lutheran Church with, &uot;The first service was held in the home of Henry Seedorf on Easter Sunday, 1866.&uot;

The 1988 book also helped to solve the question regarding the &uot;Tunel&uot; name with this entry on page 132: &uot;This farm (in Section Five) was first settled by Fred Tunnell who came to Mansfield from Illinois in 1856 with brothers Henry, John and Carl. They had come from Germany six years previously.&uot;

Please note the difference in spellings of Tunel and Tunnell. In a later diary entry, by the way, Rev. Reck mentions a nearby place then known as &uot;Tunel’s Grove.&uot;

Besides his assigned pastoral duties. Rev. Reck was expected to be a school teacher. Thus, on April 14, 1866, he started teaching 16 children in a farm house in Tunel’s Settlement (Mansfield). One can certainly assume that the language used for the education in this school was German.

On April 28 he made this entry in his diary,&uot; Here the farmhouses consist mostly of one room, in which they cook, eat and sleep. It is rather difficult to prepare a sermon there. So I take several books and go into the woods. There I can study and work undisturbed. That will work out during the summer, but what about the winter months?&uot;

Conducting school in a crowded one-room farmhouse certainly created some problems. The person he called the &uot;woman of the house&uot; continued to do her cleaning and cooking. This certainly interfered with the educational process. Also, the pastor was in the place where he was also eating and sleeping.

By early June the parents began to take their children out of the school. Extra help was needed with haying and farm chores. About this time Rev. Reck’s &uot;woman of the house&uot; said he was a real burden to her. He evidently went to live in the woods, plus short stays at other homes during his trips around the region. Several of these trips were made to contact some of the German Lutherans living in Faribault County.

One of Rev. Reck’s diary entries is based on his observations of rural living conditions near a place named Brush Creek in 1867. (The present small locality of Brush Creek is about 12 miles east of Blue Earth on old Highway 16.) He wrote:

&uot; … a thunder storm came up and rain poured down. The entire prairie looked like a lake. The water compelled many … to leave their sod houses, for they were filled with water, to seek shelter in tents or with people in better situations. The sod houses consisted of about a six-foot deep cellar and above ground a sod roof.&uot;

We’ll continue on with more information about the missionary journeys made by this German Lutheran pastor who was active in this region from 1866 to 1868.