"A Tale of Three Cities,"

Our Stadem Heritage Venues,

by Ron Ginther

Canton, Bryant, and Sioux Falls, more or less in that order--three cities of South Dakota around which our Golden Heritage revolves.

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.

You can go see this fine church on the prayer center page we have:

Prayer Center

The Canton Academy, officially Augustana Academy, was there on the edge of town, struggling onwards toward the century mark in 1960 (my H.S. graduation year), but still on limited financial resources doing an outstanding job training up Christian youth for Christian service and also professional careers.

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.

I could have found Peder and Gurina Stadem's former home too. I could have stood in the very room that had been the chapel in Old Main Administration Building at the Academy and meditated on the baptism of my own mother there in 1909. As it was, there was a Post Office there for the students, and student access to that was restricted of course, as I recall. The other portion was the President's Office, a sancrosanct place if there ever was one. But at least you can see the right side of the building in this picture where the Chapel was. And if you should ever go and tour the building, you can actually go and stand there all you like and take pictures too, as it is completely open to the public after the restoration and remodeling.

At age 15 I really wasn't up to knowing any of these things, and so missed out on some rich family associations. They could have made my experience of Canton a lot more meaningful, but it was meaningful enough in other ways. I knew Mom had attended and graduated there, along with all her siblings. I might have known Grandpa was there briefly too. He was the one, with Grandma, who installed a bequest for getting us there, which partially paid for our tuition, the most coming in the first year there, $100, then decreasing to $50 a year thereafter. Grandma and Grandpa came and he spoke at Chapel for three days (!) while I was there. They also over-wintered there in the Snuggery.

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.

On to Bryant, City Number 2 on our list! Called the "Biggest Little City in the Northwest," Bryant might truthfully be smaller than a city or town, but still is big, very big in our heritage and memories. Berent Martin Stadem and wife Ingeborg (Belle) moved from the Willow Lake or Pleasant Lutheran Church to Bryant's Lutheran church to assist the pastor, though Willow Creek continued to have connection with the Stadems, as this picture points out, for Grandpa Alfred Stadem was confirmed there at age 12 or so.

Berent Martin (Alfred Stadem's uncle) became very active at Bryant. Please go to the link below for a good account of it by Erling Jordahl.

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.

They had a wide variety of friends, from all church backgrounds, coming and going at their various homes in Sioux Falls. We departed Sioux Falls in 1942 when I was a couple weeks old and moved to Washington State, where Dad had found a better paying job in the shipyards of Tacoma, after working years at Morrells in SF. It was a major move for them, a move made by faith in God, and it worked out. Dad was a flier, so he and family could and did return to the homeplace at Plain View Farm by plane, flying in and landing there in a field across from the house. This feat was years later attempted by his flier son Wayne, but the prevailing "breeziness" of SD kept his glider from a safe landing there, so was not attempted, though the glider was brought out to SD in hopes there might be no wind on one of the reunion days.

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.

Plain View Heritage Farm Home Pages: The Introductory (or Front Door)
The Bryant Church, Reminiscences by Erling Jordahl
New Main Linking
Master Directory
Tribute To Pearl Stadem Ginther
Butterfly Productions Home Page

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