An Old Pump Organ Finds A Home

By Jill Fennema –

Over 150 years ago, Wubbe D. Ammermann and his wife Trientje (Petersen) emigrated to the United States from Bunde, East Friesland. The couple had one child before they arrived in New York harbor on the steamship Bremen.  Ten months prior to this, Wubbe’s sister, Antje, and her husband Geerd Petersen (Trientje’s brother) had come to the U.S. The two couples traveled together to Germany Valley, Ill., where there was a large settlement of East Friesen families.

Wubbe applied for his papers to become a naturalized citizen on April 5, 1867, in Stephenson, County Ill. He was granted citizenship on December 17, 1872. Two years later, his parents and siblings also moved to America. Webber farmed with his brother, Engelke.

The Ammermann’s were instrumental in starting a Christian Reformed Church there in Illinois. Wubbe served as the scribe for the church. While there, the family continued to grow, with nine more children being born there.

Chippewa County records show that Wubbe and Trientje purchased 160 acres on May 7, 1886, from N. C. Fredericksen and M.W. Prins, Jr., and filed a mortgage for $960. Fredericksen and Prins purchased all the land in what later became Rheiderland Township from St. Paul/Duluth Railroad Company on March 22, 1886. The Ammermann’s were the first settlers to purchase land on the prairie and Wubbe agreed to serve as their land agent in this new frontier.

Wubbe sent two of his sons and a daughter to Minnesota in the spring of 1886 to break ground on the prairie. A carpenter also traveled with them. They apparently traveled to Renville by train and found the property after a great deal of difficulty. The land was covered with three to four feet of prairie grass. In low lying areas, the grass was even taller than that, so that one could drive through it with a buggy or wagon and not be seen!

There were no buildings in the area except a small cattle herder’s shelter, which they moved to their property. There were few trees to be found in this area. Supposedly Lone Tree Township had a total of two trees, one each on the north and south sides. Lumber had to be brought to the farm from Renville, over 18 miles away. There were no roads in those days. The first summer they planted and harvested 60 acres of buckwheat.

Wubbe and Trientje purchased another 160 acres on January 26, 1887 from Marten W. Prins, Jr., and Theodore F. Koch. They filed another mortgage for $960.  The rest of the Ammermann family came to Minnesota with all their stock and supplies in the Spring of 1887.

Because Wubbe was a land agent, their home became a stopping place for many travelers. The Ammermann daughters would peel many potatoes each day so that they could share their meals with those passing through. The closest town was Renville, so someone would bring supplies to the Ammerman’s each week, so that the local settlers could make purchases there, closer to home. Wubbe gave the township the name of Rheiderland for the district in Germany where he was born.

One of the family’s first purchases after moving to Minnesota was an organ. Apparently Wubbe would wake his family each morning by playing this organ and singing Psalms. He would not sing hymns because they were written by men, who were sinners. The organ was also used for church services, which were held in the Ammermann home until a church could be built. Wubbe named the church the Bunde Christian Reformed Church, after the town of Bunde in the Netherlands, where he attended church. He was an elder in this church until he passed away on September 14, 1894.  He was only 66.

For the complete article, please see the August 23rd edition of the Edgerton Enterprise. If you do not currently receive the Enterprise, CLICK HERE for information on how to subscribe!

Antje Ammermann (back row right side) was born to immigrant parents who came to the United States in 1864. She is pictured here with her family. Her father, Wubbe (front) woke his family each morning by playing the families organ, singing Psalms. Antje (Mrs. Ben Huisken) is the grandmother of Fred Huisken, Iva De Boer, and Kathy Tinklenberg of Edgerton.

The Ammermann family home, which also doubled as the Bunde Christian Reformed Church, is now a museum. Fred and Betty Huisken’s pump organ will be moved here.