Pioneers’ Standards are Kept

October 2002 Feature Story
“Pioneers’ Standards are Kept”

Dawson German Unit Loses Last Original Member
…By Anne Rush Riley
…Published February 18, 1951 Lincoln Journal Star
In the passing of Mrs. Martin D. Ulmer, Jan. 31 Dawson lost the last surviving member of the original German colony, which came to Richardson County from Pennsylvania in 1874. Mrs. Ulmer died in the fullness of her years: she was 82.

Like all small towns Dawson lays emphasis on its racial backgrounds. The grandson or granddaughter of an early settler is regarded in the light of his or her ancestors’ achievements. Consciously or unconsciously the third and fourth generations of these German settlers have maintained the solid standards of the pioneers and have given a splendid accounting of themselves. Among them are doctors, teachers, lawyers, artists, civil engineers, business men and musicians.

Among the last is the young pianist Ernest Ulmer, now of New York, who presented piano concerts in Omaha, and Lincoln and other towns in Nebraska within the last two years.

However, the general trend of the colony has been toward framing and in that calling they have set up standards as scientific operators, successful landowners and cattlemen.

It would be too much to say that this restless age of artificial showmanship and social discontent has made no impress on the latest generation; but somehow these young German Americans seem safely anchored to the ideals of home and family life and – best of all – inherited religious tendencies which are bound to serve as a bulwark against the ills of the atomic age.

Fortunately the melting pot, which is Nebraska (and the United States) has brought about the amalgamation of the various races with out obliterating the culture peculiar to each race. In deed it is largely to this varied culture that America owes its greatness. These German colonists from Pennsylvania have provided a distinct flavor to all community projects.

Mrs. Ulmer was a charter member of Dawson’s first woman’s club, which subsequently became the Golden Rod Study Club, alive and alert today.
At a meeting of the present Dawson Woman’s Club two years ago special attention was given to pioneers and pioneer experiences, stretching back to the little Pennsylvania town from which “Aunt” Rose Heim came. Aunt Rosa, my dear neighbor, is in her 80’s.

She came to Nebraska two years after the original colony arrived. She was asked to tell the assembled ladies about the process of making apple butter. Her listeners were fascinated – even the teen-agers from school who had furnished music for the afternoon’s program. To this listener the dominant thought – as Aunt Rosa talked __ was …”What patience they had!” We want everything done in a hurry – that was an all day, and sometimes an all night job.

At this recent meeting several antiques were shown to illustrate how well these early Pennsylvanians managed with almost primitive equipment. A blanket made of wool from sheep grown on the owner’s land, and processed by him to the final stitch in the shawl, was a beautiful article. A coffee grinder, a music box with records resembling our phonograph records. Produced sweetly plaintive music. Intricately woven baskets and substantial earthenware symbolized the thoroughness of method and provident traits of these pioneers.

The colony has borne a large share in building and maintaining a fine church – the Evangelical United Brethren-and there is always musical talent available for choir, men’s and women’s choruses, cantatas and recitals. Music seems to have been as deeply imbedded in their natures as their thrift and honesty

They cooperate 100 percent in every project for community betterment. They help maintain a high standard in the school and never fail to extend neighborliness and moral support to the teaching faculty. Perhaps the best legacy brought from Pennsylvania and developed here in Nebraska is the respect in which the young people hold their elders. That too is a powerful force against juvenile delinquency.

Annually the Colony holds a picnic, each year the roll call extended by several births and lessened by an occasional death. The affair has long since assumed the importance of a formal organization with duly elected officers. Nineteen hundred and fifty saw over 140 in attendance, with four generations represented. Many had come from long distances.

While this organization aims at keeping alive the bonds of friendship and mutual interests formed so long ago, it in no wise segregates these good people from the rest of the community. Richardson County is their chosen land and its people their friends.
Dawson is proud of its “Pennsylvania Colony.”