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Historic Schwab Sod House gets Face Lift

Klein Jr., Jerry and Antonia, Baumgartner. "Historic Schwab Sod House gets Face Lift." Emmons County Record, 15 December 2010, 1 and 3.


In 1889 Martin and his son Lorenz Schwab decided to come to America. They arrived at about noon May 7, 1889. Turning their wagons over for shelter, they began the work of constructing the first sod house similar to the semeljankas  their forefathers built in Russia some 80 years before.

In 1902, Martin Schwab took his family up to the area of Karlsruhe, North Dakota. Lorenz was the only one to stay in the Strasburg area.

Lorenz and Regina Schwab had 17 children during their married life. The first two boys were born in Russia, both named Karl, and they both died in infancy. Maria Eva  was born in Russia, and married Karl Bosch. Katharina was the last to be born in Russia and married Lawrence Klein.

The rest of the children were born in North Dakota, probably on the Schwab farm. During the summer of 1889, their first summer in North Dakota, Egidi was born on August 30, the first born on the homestead. He married Agatha Mitzel. Next came Agatha, who married Peter Jahner. Barbara married Joseph Weichel. Lawrence married Regina Keller, and after he died in the flu epidemic in 1918, the next son, Ludwig, married his brother’s widow.

Joseph was next in line. He married Katherina Schwartzenberger. Elizabeth married Ben Moser. Next came John, and he married Magdalena Baumgartner. Christina followed, and she married Jacob Wiest. Then came Martin, who died as a boy. Adam was next and he married Mary Deringer. Anton married Edna Berry. The last born was Peter, who died as a child.

Lorenz Schwab, the father, died at the young age of 54 in 1917. He worked the Schwab farm for nearly 28 years. His wife Regina died in 1938.

John Schwab, the twelfth child of Lorenz and Regina, was only 16 when his father died. John was a fun-loving, jovial man, full of laughter, and kind-hearted. He could imitate a person’s voice and mannerisms to a fault. A real jokester, he gave out appropriate nicknames to any deserving recipient. John had a reputation for  playing good music on the accordion. As a young man he was in great demand to play at weddings and festive occasions.

On January 7, 1925, he married Magdalena Baumgartner. After their marriage, they lived on the Schwab Farm, which they eventually bought. The home was filled with music and love. Many a happy memory was made within the walls of that old sod house. The Schwab children were modeled and shaped on the dark soil of “Schwoweland.” John and Magdalena Schwab raised ten children. Joseph, who passed away in 2000, married Imogene Schwahn. History repeated itself as they also had ten children. Lawrence, also known as Larry or Gootsie, married Evelyn Welk. Larry, a gifted piano player, is still playing at the ripe young age of 82, a dedicated farmer, and verspuedelt.

John, who passed in 2003, married Elizabeth Whitworth. He also loved to play the accordion and had the good looks of John, his father.

James married Edna Welk. A talented trumpet player, James played with his brothers Larry and Clarence for many years in the Strasburg area. He farmed for many years and raised six children.

Florence married Jerry Klein and still lives in California. Florence does a lot of volunteer work. They raised five children.

Irene married James Lipp. They are blessed with six children, many grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Irene is a “Joe on the go.”

Clarence, who passed away in 1988, was the youngest of the boys and married Adeline Mattern. He was well known as the drummer, and was a fun-loving guy. They raised two children. Their son Loren bought the Schwab land when his grandmother Magdalena Schwab died in 2002.

LuVae resides in Bismarck.

LaVerne (Blue) married James Feist. They had four children and live in Beloit, Wis. The pride and joy of their lives are their two grandchildren, Tyler and Jordyn. Antonia, the ninth child of John and Magdalena, was the last born to them in the old sod house. She married LeRoy Baumgartner in 1969. LeRoy passed in 1999. Daughter Cheryl passed in 2002 at the age of 30. Antonia still cares for her 36-year-old special-needs son, Darin. His twin brother Daryl and his wife Julie have two sons, Luka Lee and Liam John. They are the apple of their grandmother’s eye.

The baby of the family is Clara. She is married to James Huber, and they make their home in Mandan. They have two daughters and five grandchildren. Jim and Clara both love gardening.

In 1948, John and Mag-dalena moved to Strasburg, and the oldest son Joe (Juddy) took over the farm. In 1974 Juddy and Imogene moved to Strasburg, and the old sod house sat empty for 14 years. In 1988 Antonia and her son Daryl thought it would be a fun project to fix up the old sod house. The summer of 1988, the house was completed. People have come from near and far to tour the house and capture a little of “the good and not-so-good days.” The home has been opened to the pubic 24-7 for the past 22 years. Everyone is welcome to tour the historic house.

In 2009 the old sod house was in great need of major repairs. It was either repair it or let it fall to the ground. Antonia decided to have it repaired. Work on the farm house was completed on May 10, 2010. The new gray steel roof, new windows, and white vinyl siding should keep the sod house standing for many years to come.

The handy work and skilled craftsmanship of Leonard Weichel (great grandson of Lorenz and Regina Schwab), Leonard’s son Dean (great-great-grandson of Lorenz and Regina Schwab) and other hired helpers gave the old sod house a lift. The house took shape and once again stands strong and proud. Leonard Weichel is the son of the late Lawrence Weichel. His mother is Rose Weichel. Lawrence was the son of Joseph and Barbara (Schwab) Weichel. Barbara was the daughter of Lorenz and Regina Schwab. Today Ronnie and Phyllis Bauman are caretakers of the sod house. The old sod house lives on, and so do the descendents of Lorenz and Regina Schwab.

This is how the house looked before the restoration began.

Pictured above are the main people responsible for renovating the Schwab house. They are, left to right, Leonard Weichel, Dean Weichel, Aiden Weichel, Tom Scherr, Toby Wald and Phyllis Bauman. Leonard is the great grandson and Dion the great-great-grandson of Lorenz and Regina Schwab.

This picture of the John and Magdalena Schwab family was taken in the mid-1940s. The family members are, back row, left to right, James, Larry, Juddy, John and Florence Klein; front row, Clarence, Irene Lipp, John Sr., Magdalena (Baumgartner), Laverne Feist and Antonia Baumgartner.

Inside the Schwab house are many rooms with furniture themes of different eras of the house’s use, including this living room from the 1970s.

The 120-year-old Schwab Sod House is a unique attraction in Emmons County, situated northeast of Strasburg. Renovations to the building were finished in May.
The Lorenz Schwab family and farm in about 1907.

Seven of the 10 Schwab siblings returned to visit the old Schwab homestead on Sept. 16, 2010. Gathered are, back row, left to right, Clara Huber, Larry Schwab, Antonia Baumgartner, Laverne Feist and Florence Klein; front, Irene Lipp and James Schwab. The visit brought back many happy memories.

Reprinted by permission of the Emmons County Record

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