It seems that the wedding of the century is the gift that keeps on giving. Over 10 years ago I wrote about the September 3, 1903 wedding of Emma Rohlwing and Fred Pfingsten that took place at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Schaumburg Township. It was a huge wedding that took over a year of preparation with the celebration lasting for three days!
A detailed account of the wedding was published in The Inter Ocean newspaper in Chicago a few days after the wedding on September 6, 1903. Until a month ago, I’d never seen the actual newspaper but, here, thanks to Gary Biesterfeld, is the full issue itself! Because the details are so fascinating, I will be reprinting the entire article. All spellings and lower case/upper case elements have been left intact.
The article gives you a good idea of how intense the preparations were for such an event. It was not today’s “rent a hall and call a good caterer” sort of thing. This wedding was a year in the making and had to have taken countless hours, lists and conversations. Today we can only imagine…
This is the second portion of the article.
It was early Thursday when the band arrived from Elgin. In reality there were two bands, the Burlington Cornet band of Elgin and the Blue Ribbon band of Bartlett. Every player is a pupil of Professor Pfingsten, or has been and the bands came over as a compliment to him.
Leaving Elgin in decorated wagons, the horses bearing plumes and the drivers in uniform, the bands reached the Rohlwing home about 9 o’clock. The prospective bride was absent at this time, being with the Rev. Mr. Mueller, the pastor of the Lutheran church of Schaumberg.
When the “mornheister” was over, however, Miss Rohlwing returned to her home to meet her attendants. Later her party started in the “bride’s carriage” toward Pfingsten farm. It is part of the old German custom that the bride must go to meet her husband.
With Miss Rohlwing at this time were Miss Emma and Miss Alvina Pfingsten, sisters of the bridegroom; Miss Martha Rohlwing, the bride’s sister, and Miss Annie Kruse, as well as the two flower girls, Hermina Rohlwing and Aggie Thies.
When the bridegroom was met he was accompanied by Hermann L. Wilkening, Hermann Fenz, Henry Lichthardt and William Lenschow.
The bride’s party turned and went back to the Rohlwing home, where Supervisor Rohlwing smashed a bottle of red wine brought from Hessen. Then, with the bands ahead, the bridal party set out for the church, two miles away, with about 2000 people following on foot and in carriages.
At the church Dr. Mueller met them at the door and gave them the blessing, according to the custom of the church. In the meantime the bands had gone up into the gallery, had tuned their keys to the pitch the organist was compelled to follow, and joined with him when he began the wedding march.
“When President Roosevelt said that we must prevent race suicide he was not referring to us,” said Dr. Mueller. “He knows that Germans love better than any other people–he’s a Teuton himself, and he has shown that. And so it is that when I am asked to preside over a marriage I feel that I am honored.”
After the sermon Dr. Mueller read the marriage ceremony, and then hurried into his home in the rear of the church to change his robe for more convenient garments. Hurrying out he jumped into the bride’s carriage and went to the scene of the merrymaking.
When the Pfingsten home was reached Dr. Mueller came forward again and pronounced a blessing upon the festivities. While he was speaking the guests held their glasses aloft and as he said the equivalent of “amen” they emptied these glasses just as though a toast was being drunk.
“Gesunheit,” they shouted.
“May the good Lord be over us always,” said the preacher.
And then the band which was “on duty” played “The Good Old Summertime.”
Of all people in the world none love music more than the Germans do. Every community like Schaumberg has its brass band and its singing societies. At every festival music plays its part.
It did at the Schaumberg wedding. The two bands were playing most of the time, but even the blare of the brass and the thump of the drums could not drown the strains of the German folk songs. Above the umpah, umpah, umpah of the tuba arose the voices of young and old singing:
Vergangene Zeiten kommen niemals wieder
Schoen ist die Jugend kommt nicht mehr
Sie kommt nicht mehr
Sie kommt nicht mehr
Kommt auch nie wier; schoen is die Jugend
Sie kommt nicht mehr
At the end of each stanze the singers stop for a banter and a laugh. Maybe one song will not be finished before some tall-voiced singer swings into the measures of “Die Lorelei” or some good old verses that smack of Frankfort-on-the-Main and the wein stube.
“I am come to this country forty-eight years ago,” said John Fasse, supervisor of Schaumberg township, “and never do I see a wedding like this which we hold in the old country before yet. It was fine, no? To us old Deutschers when we see it is good.”
Then Mr. Fasse picked up a pack of playing cards and said: “I bet you, anybody, two beers maybe I can beat you on penuchle.”
Mr. John Hone, who lives at Dundee, thought over the proposition to wager the free beer and finally consented.
Mr. Rohlwing was asked by a fellow who didn’t understand German customs why the marriage of his daughter was made so much of.
[There follows of a string of undetermined words due to the worn newspaper.]
“I got a big surprise when I came over here in America. I saw a beautiful parade coming down a street soon after I got over and I asked who was being married.
“Why that’s a funeral, not a wedding’ said somebody.”
” ‘Why do they make so much over somebody who is dead?’ I asked him. The man couldn’t give me an answer and I decided right there that our plan was the best.”
“Do all German weddings have big displays like this wedding of your daughter?”
“This is nothing. When we have marriages over there the whole town celebrates. Somebody gets married about four times a year in the little villages and every house is trimmed up with flags and every taxpayer comes out when the procession comes by.”
“Did you have a marriage of this kind?”
“Did I? Well I should say I did. My wife Emma and me was married in 1873 under a tent in front of the town hall. My mother was married the same way, and so I wanted to have this ceremony in the same way.”
“Did they make as much fuss over your wedding as they are making over this?”
“Why this isn’t any fuss at all. You ought to come over to Hanover and see how we fix up things there. Our houses are so small that we have our weddings and dances outside. This is a fine country but it doesn’t look like Deutschland.”
“Then you are homesick for that?”
“No, not exactly; but it would be a good thing to those towns und die Madchen again.
“I like America all right. I was telling a fellow how good the old country was, and I said to him that over there we could get two pounds of cocoa for 7 cents. He got mad when I said that.”
“Well, why didn’t you stay over there, then” says he.
” ‘It was too hards to get the 7 cents,’ said I.”
This is the end of Part 3 that concerns the wedding day festivities. Below are some items that struck me as I typed the article.
- One has to wonder what time the Rohlwing and Pfingsten households rose in the morning to start what must have been a very long day.
- It seemed like there was a lot of back and forthing for the bride, didn’t it?
- What a sight that must have been with all of those people in carriages and on foot going to the Rohlwing home and then the church and then to the Pfingsten home. Who took care of the horses during the day?
- With both bands joining the organist in a church that held about 250 people, it must have been quite a concert for both, those in the church, and the many people standing outside. Maybe it was planned that way.
- If you’d like to listen to a version of “Vergangene Zeiten”, you can hear it online here.
- The reporter has the information about Mr. Rohlwing’s wife and his marriage incorrect. John Henry Rohlwing, the father of Emma Rohlwing, was born in Schaumburg in 1860 and married his wife, Louise Lichthardt, in 1881 at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. Even if we consider that they might have been talking to Mr. Rohlwing’s father, that would be incorrect too as he died in 1870 in Schaumburg. It is difficult to believe that the reporter would have the bride’s father wrong but, with so many people there, he may have heard a good story from another guest.
If we also take into consideration that it might have been William Pfingsten, the father of the groom, that is incorrect as well. William was also born in Schaumburg, only a year later than Mr. Pfingsten, in 1861. He and his wife, Sophia Thies, married in 1880, at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. Mr. Pfingsten’s father married Sophia Schuette and died in 1894. So we have struck out in all ways.
Part 4 will appear next week and will give a description of what it was to be a German resident of Schaumburg Township in 1903.
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library