Whenever the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum receives a box with the return address of Alva, Oklahoma or Perryton, Texas my pulse quickens. Many of you know that I was raised in Kansas in the “Cherokee Neutral Lands” just two miles from the Oklahoma border in former “Indian Territory.” The incredible Rauh Sisters, of Alva, OK, have lovingly curated the artifacts of their ancestors from there. The Alva migration story from Perry County has had a lot of press at the Lutheran Heritage Center, and will have a grand finale at the Immigration History Conference October 25-27, when Dale Kirmse presents his manuscript that is an upcoming monograph, Outmigration from Perry County to Oklahoma. You still have time to join us for this much awaited biennial conference gathering–just click on the conference tab on this website.
Now, here’s a glimpse of my excitement as a material culture expert after opening the Oklahoma/Texas boxes:
The boxes that I opened to process today were full of treasures, but one item almost knocked me over with joy, and the other was quite interesting. The first item is a simple little board backed black canvas hymnal with simple paper pages from Concordia Publishing, 1907. The interesting thing about this little hymnbook is that the titles of the songs are in German, and the words of the songs (stanzas) are printed in English. The book states that it was intended for “the use of English Lutheran Missions.”
The artifact that knocked me for a loop was a magnificent folk art piece by Alva group ancestor, Anna Groh Wagner. I call the piece, “Going to Church with Mama,” and it is superbly designed with dried apple faces with black felting overlay, felted hands, wool yarn hair, and meticulously stitched clothing as well as little leather shoes and boots. Mama has her satchel and Bible on her arm, and is holding on tight to her little boy. The walnut base was created by Anna’s brother, John Groh. John was a fire chief and city inspector in Alva. He was known for his woodworking hobby, and he liked working with walnut. His furniture pieces, with “fanciful decorations” can still be seen in Alva at the Runnymede Hotel, the Share Convalescent Home, and the Cherokee Strip Museum.
John and Anna had five other siblings. They were born in Frohna, Missouri and their family moved to St. Louis, and then to Alva, Oklahoma to farmstead, in 1907. The family refers to the beautiful folk art sculpture as, “Pioneer Woman and Child.” It was most likely made in Oklahoma, not long after they arrived.
I wonder what will come in the mail tomorrow? Take Care, Carla Jordan