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Dr. Schwermann’s Homesteading and Missionary Work Before Concordia

In 1913, Dr. Albert Schwermann, a recent graduate of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, began his missionary work in the Mellowdale area north of Edmonton, where he worked until 1916. He served immigrants to Alberta who were granted homesteads of 160 acres for $10 with the requirement of developing 10 acres of land each year. The clearing of trees and preparation of fields was backbreaking work done by hand and axe. Adding further difficulties to the homesteaders and Schwermann was travel; wagons would clear the tops of cut trees, but the wagon’s wheels would bounce from tree stump to tree stump, throwing the occupant from one side to the other. Schwermann, like many others, preferred riding horseback, which allowed for more comfort, but this too presented difficult terrain such as muskeg, floating corduroy, and flooded plains. Another option for travel was to drive oxen, but this was very slow as oxen walk at 2 or 3 miles per hour. As Schwermann recollected, a family had left their home with their team of oxen at 8:00 a.m. and arrived by 1:30 p.m., 13 miles away, just in time for the church service. During these long and tiring trips, Schwermann found comfort in singing as a favourite pastime. In the winter, he had gotten in the habit of placing a large stone in the oven to bake all night and absorb the heat. In the morning, Schwermann would wrap the stone in a large sock and keep it near his feet while he travelled by sleigh. Food, like travel, was heavily dependent on the seasons. From September to October meals consisted of wild duck, prairie chicken, and partridge. From October throughout the winter, meals were either moose or deer. In April it shifted to hawks or pork until September when the duck and chicken season returned. In 1921, Schwermann left behind this demanding travelling work and accepted a call to be the first President of Concordia College, where he served faithfully (and not without much other job-related travelling across the prairies) until his retirement in 1963.


by Natasha Eklund