RURAL BRYANT, SD, PRESENTS:
Our Stadem Heritage Venues,
by Ron Ginther
Canton and also Bryant were the primary beginning venues for the Stadems. Our Alfred/Bergit line was started in Canton, of which I too have some personal experience, moreso than Bryant, having gone to school there for three years at the Academy. I attended three years college in Sioux Falls, so got to know that place, too, with some Stadem descendants and Spildes residing there (not to mention Ginthers, whom I had least to do with).
But back to Canton! I found it a sleepy little town in decay in the late Fifties, due to a long, economy-depressing drought in the whole area around, and also the fact the railroad wasn't bringing in the people and business anymore like it once had. It was not the bustling place it had been in the early 1900s that my grandparents and my mom knew.
Yes, it still had signs that it had been something in bygone years, such as a large and beautiful stone-faced Lutheran church, Canton Lutheran Church.
I got my haircuts in Canton, and walked around and noticed the many bars on a certain street, pointing back to the "good ole days".
But the "downtown" was mostly just "hanging on" as best it could in the slim economy. Nothing new going on there, and even the pervading smell of a chicken factory downtown that was the smell of doom really--not a promising smell at all for a city. I wandered all through the town. I saw no signs of any wealth, though there were a few fine houses yet being occupied. The wealthier class had emigrated years before to Chicago while they still had the means, or they went to smaller but closer Minneapolis or Milwaukee, where business still had a better chance than a little Canton in decline.
This was the city where our Stadem line got its start, but it was a different place than the one I found a generation or two later. Clearly to me, the Academy was the only place for me--so I stuck close to the Academy and its activities.
I didn't really know the Stadem connections well. I could have found Mom's birthplace at Aunty Tena's former home.
Yes, indeed, I have these experiences in my heritage memory box. But the best thing was being saved and coming to a personal relationship with Jesus, in my room in the "Old Boys Dorm" (as it was commonly called) on campus! That hideous, stucco-covered, ramshackle, three-storey, structure, long and rambling, with a dank basement too, was truly old and decrepit. It had been a businessmen's and rainroad employees' hotel in Canton for many years, and after it no longer proved profitable it was moved to the Academy location on logs (!) with teams of horses pulling the whole shebang along! Amazing, that it didn't come apart in transit! I met a man who said he had helped--and I recall he could be the old guy I found playing dorm watchman and sitting by the heat register nights in the dorm lobby--Ole was his name, I think. He saw there and chewed tobacco, and watched the huge rats run around.
The old dorm with its musty-smelling dark hallways and tiny dorm rooms with brown-flowered Brylcream-stained wallpaper where greasy-haired boys in the Fifties sat and leaned heads up against walls as they enjoyed their "bull sessions," is long gone now (pulled down in the 70s) and a new dorm built elsewhere, but I hope to return someday and stand on the site at least and think back on what happened to me there, changing my life forever.
I didn't know that Canton Lutheran (the Ladies' Auxiliary gave me a desperately needed scholarship, by the way, of all of a $100, which was a big sum in those days! And a leading student of my class commented to me, with quite some disappointment, on my receiving it instead of him, which I think now was due to their remembering and honoring my grandparents and parents, not me at all) was where my Great Grandfather Peder (Alfred's father) was a pastor's assistant of sorts, perhaps doing some custodial work too. He served the pastor, and church and community too. That position was called a "klokker" in the old days. We don't have a good translation today of it. It meant a kind of layperson minister who assisted the pastor. Our Stadem ancestors and Holbeck ancestors too, in fact, had been klokkers in Norway, so Peder was carrying on that tradition. His brother too, Berent Martin Stadem was klokker, up in Bryant. I think the pastors appreciated them very much. It might have been unpaid too, strictly volunteer work.
I didn't know at the time I attended AA that the Alfred Stadem romance with the young and red-haired Norwegian damsel, Bergit, turned marriage for life, started out in Canton on the former Rev. Tetlie farm property the Tetlies weren't interested in farming apparently. They were there having more children after Pearl (who was born in town) and making a living, long enough to get enough together to move to Bryant, where the first home was built for the family in 1919.
Stadems had been charter members of Willow Lake early on, later called Pleasant Lutheran Church, but Berent made the break to Bryant's Lutheran church. He and Peder and two other siblings came over to America on the boat with their parents in 1866.
So Bryant, except for the continuing link to Canton principally because of the Academy, became the Stadems' main venue. This continued until the family grew old enough to leave and start new homes elsewhere, which they promptly did, moving to places across the broad west and including a start down in South America in Brazil!
My mom and dad got started early on in their marriage in Soux Falls, my dad coming from Bruce, SD. They got very involved in the Union Gospel Mission work downtown, and in their church, First Lutheran.
But Sioux Falls was slowly becoming a major Stadem venue, and it took decades, but it became increasingly so, as it was the site of Augustana College, where many Stadems attended in my generation and upwards. The Spildes line also was centered there for many years. Our Christian friends from the thirties onward were still there--Karen Brende chief amongst them, living to about 106? My mom continued to support with gifts the Union Gospel Mission, and kept up contact with Christian friends and more of our relatives there as time went on. She also attended the Academy reunion at SF, hosted by Augustana College yearly (of which we have her account on-line).
Three cities. I could say more, but you get the picture, perhaps, from these few details, that they are important places in our heritage. And they continue to be! We may have least contact now Canton, which has seen the Academy close in the 1970s, and where so many of my generation attended too, even Joyce and Darrell and Jerry from my Ginther family, and yet Bryant continues to be a prime site for us, as Plain View Farm is the cause. Sioux Falls? We have many Stadem descendants living there (and some Bob and Pearl Ginther line members too again). But I think Bryant is closer to our hearts than SF can be, the reason being the Farm again and all it signifies. SF and even all its amenities for employment, comfort, and culture could never equal that!
Someday take this tour in actual time, not just in memory passed to you, and see if it is not meaningful to you as a Stadem Descendant. Nada Lundring took a tour of sorts around the Stadem/ Holbeck/Lundring sites not long ago, and it was meaningful to her, from Spilde/Hefty Cousin Eloise's account.
You can say our Stadem lines' spiritual roots are deeply embedded in Canton and Bryant. They can never be completely uprooted, by all our moves and residencies in faraway places. You cannot move the heart, after all. Like the proverbial swallows of Capistrano, that return every year to the old mission there, the heart KNOWS ITS TRUE AND ORIGINAL HOMEPLACE, and won't be dissuaded even by the nicest surroundings elsewhere.