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The Lines Are Fallen (Ch 3)

Jacob and Aganetha Wiens Suderman – Chapter 3 On December 28, 1842, Heinrich and Adelgunda Suderman celebrated the birth of a son. Jacob was born in southern russia at Ladekopp, situated on the Molotschna River. Very little is known of his youth except that his father died soon after he was born. His mother remarried Klass Dueck. Jacob learned to be an accomplished painter, most likely under an apprenticeship. Decorative touches on doors and woodwork, buggies and barns were an appreciated art. This became his specialty with wood preparation and mixing paints and varnishes. Jacob was also a gifted musician and served as a village choir master in russia. The following story came to life more than fifty years after the fact: Professor Henry W. Berg read the roll for his class in Music Theory and Sigh Reading at Tabor College (Hillsboro, KS) in the fall of 1922. Each class member answered the roll with his/her singing voice. Answers came in all pitches: Soprano, Tenor, Alto, Ball, until he called John Suderman’s name. “”Monotone”” was his gruff reply. Once more Professor Berg read, “”John Suderman.”” The gruff “”Monotone”” was repeated. The good professor threw his notebook and pencil on the desk to explode, “”That is impossible! A Suderman can always sing!”” He sadly shook his head and rose to stand before the class. In the old country (Russia) all villages had a Music Meister. Each year they enjoyed a festival where every village competed for honors with new songs.”” “”Your Grandfather Suderman often wrote his own songs for these annual festivals. One evening he traveled to a neighboring village to the rehearsal hall. He listened at the open window and in the darkness copied words and music of the song they were rehearsing. He returned to his own village and taught this stolen song to his own choir.”” “”At the festival Mr Suderman’s choir sang the stolen song. “”Boos’ were shouted from the audience. With a straight face, Mr. Suderman offered his gravest apologies for singing the wrong song. Then he turned to direct his own song.”” “”Now, any person who can copy a song in the dark and teach it to his own choir has a lot of music in his heart and head.”” The professor turned to John and pointed an accusing finger to say, “”You are a Suderman and a descendant of this great musician. Surely you can do better than a monotone.”” But John remained a monotone who enjoyed music. In 1862, Jacob Suderman married Aganetha Wiens. This tiny lady with blue, blue eyes and blonde curly hair could have walked through a five-foot door with head held high. She was born in Prussia (1842) to Daniel and Marie Braun Wiens. Little Aganetha was only four when her parents moved to Altenau, one of the Molotschna villages in Russia. Since they migrated late, they were “”anwohner”” and very poor. Aganetha became a housemaid. This did not deter Jacob in asking for her hand. He, too, was an “”anwohner.”” Jacob and Aganetha lived in Lichtfeld for six years. during this time five children were born to them: Maria, Adelgunda, Jacob, Daniel and Henry. The girls both died in infancy. In 1869, Jacob received a grant for a small farm at Pordenau. Life became easier for his family. It also became richer spiritually when Jacob and Aganetha renewed their faith in Christ. They were baptized by immersion and placed their membership with the new Mennonite Brethren church which had its beginning in 1860. About this time the Russian government under Tsar Paul secretly rescinded the special grants given to the Mennonites to become effective in 1879. This caused great concern among the Mennonite colonies. But life goes on. During the next ten years at Pordenau, six more children were born to the Sudermans: Peter, John, Isaac, Gerhard, Aganetha and Maria. Soon the new laws would force young Mennonite sons to serve in the Russian army. Jacob had seven sons. Surely, this must have been a deciding factor to move to America. Aganetha’s parents died and Jacob’s mother left for the new country with her daughters. The move seemed the right and only decision. The Jacob Sudermans certainly were not the first Mennonites to leave Russia. Many before them had sold their farms and by now land was almost worthless. They took what was offered, borrowed money, and packed their few belongings to begin the long and difficult journey. A company of twelve set sail — Jacob and Aganetha (again heavy with child), nine children and Helena Wiens (Aganetha’s sister). The number increased to thirteen when baby Nicholas was born on the sea. After the long train ride from New York Harbor, Peter Jost, a brother-in-law, met them at Peabody, Kansas. Although Peter took the family home, the Sudermans realized they could not stay with them for lack of room. A basement was home until they found a bug-infested adobe for rent three miles south and one-half mile east of Hillsboro. Life was hard when the cupboard was bare. (1 Carolyn L Zeisset, A Mennonite Heritage: A Genealogy of the Suderman and Wiens Families, 1800 – 1975 – Lincoln, NE, Arbor, 1975, p 27) But Jacob and Aganetha provided spiritual food for their children They began a Sunday School in their home to give them a foundation for faith. Music was also an important part of worship, so singing classes began with Bible study. Two more daughters were born during this time — Adelgunda (she died at five months and Lena. In early 1882, a diptheria epidemic broke out in the area. It touched the Sudermans deeply. Isaac (8) and Aganetha (6) died. Gerhard (7) was very ill, but he was a strong boy. He recovered. Baby Lena born that spring, was untouched by the epidemic. Later that year Jacob bought a forty acre farm four miles south and one-half mile west of Hillsboro. this became the ‘home place’ for the Sudermans. A new adobe house was built at the cost of $40.00. This was money Daniel had earned but he gave it to his father for a new house. Three more sons were born to the family: Dietrich, Abraham (he died within the year), and Edward. He was the baby of the family. The Sudermans worshiped each Sunday When the Mennonite Brethren Church built a house of worship two and a half miles east of the Suderman farm, this became their church home in America. Jacob served as choir director and music leader. He was also elected to serve as deacon. The singing school which had moved from the Suderman home to the Cresswell School, was now established at the Ebenfeld church. Music night was a social, as well as a spiritual gathering for the young people of the community. They eagerly came to sing. A strong revival swept through the community, emanating from these choir evenings. This was very pleasing to their dedicated leader. Jacob Suderman bought more land for about $5.00 or $6.00 an acre by government arrangement. This was a good country and Jacob wanted to be a part of it. He started proceedings to get his citizenship papers. He proudly became a citizen of the United States of America in 1891. Of the seventeen children born to Aganetha, six died. Eleven were growing up. Yes, the boys were unruly at times but they were good boys who loved to sing and they worked hard. In 1890, Jacob, the oldest son married Helena Friesen. Daniel found a good wife in Marguereta Becker in 1897. Jacob decided to build a wooden house for his family with upstairs bedrooms. He and daughter Lena did the finishing work inside. One morning as Lena hurried to the house from the adobe to begin the morning’s work, she could not find her father. When she heard his voice upstairs, she stopped at the foot of the stairway to listen. (2 Edward and Martha Suderman, letter written in 1971, at the author’s request) In a bedroom upstairs Jacob was interceding for his family before God. Lena heard him mention each child by name. Jacob and helena, Daniel and Marguereta, Henry, Peter, John, Gerhard,Maria, Nicholas, Lena, Dietrich and Edward. Lena was touched to know how much he cared for them and their spiritual welfare. Whenever Jacob hurried to the new house and disappeared, she knew she would hear him praying for his family. In the fall of 1906, Jacob felt a stiffening of his tongue. He went to a doctor. Finally, a doctor at Kansas City told him, “”You have cancer“”. He was sent home to die of throat cancer. Without intravascular feeding, he literally starved to death. When speech failed, he used a slate to communicate with his family. He asked them to close the door to the dining room so he could not hear them eat or smell the tantalizing foods. He became weaker every day. The family was called and they were amazed to hear him sing, “”In dem Himmel is Ruh. In dem Himmel is Ruh“” (In heaven there is rest) When his voice faltered the family gathered round to finish the song for him. Jacob went home singing to leave a heritage of faith behind.