On September 3, 1903, Schaumburg Township had its own version of a royal wedding.  Miss Emma Rohlwing married Fred Pfingsten at St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church in the largest wedding the area had ever seen.  Considering the population of the township was 1003 at the time, 3000 guests was quite a number.  For any wedding.

According to an extensive article from the Chicago Inter-Ocean magazine, before the festivities even began, there was a great deal of  preparation that went on in the weeks and months beforehand.   Gooseberries were canned, cucumbers were pickled, pears were bottled in old burgundy and sauerkraut was put in crocks that were weighted down with stones.   Early on, the best cattle were put in pastures that had never before been used and the pigs were fed the biggest red ears of corn.  In January the pigs were slaughtered and the hams and shoulders were smoked, the feet were put in brine, and headcheese, a form of cold cut, was carefully stored in the cellar.

On Monday, August 31, three days before the wedding, about 20 neighbor ladies came to the Pfingsten farm to begin the baking.  Against  the stone wall of the foundation of the barn, Mr. Pfingsten had created a large Dutch oven so that large quantities of bread and cakes could be baked.  A number of new wash tubs were used as the mixing bowls (and later to hold the potato salad on the wedding day.)  The dough was spread out on soap-stone bricks which were then placed in the oven.  Chocolate cakes were mixed in the same washtubs and stacked nine layers high.

Within the next few days the men were putting up the tents that would shelter the bridal party, serve as the food tents and cover the small tables where pinochle would be played.   The largest tent covered a wooden platform that would serve as the dance floor.  Two big wagons of beer that had been purchased in Elgin were unloaded.  Ice that had been cut from the Fox River during the previous winter was piled over the kegs that were placed under yet another tent.

Finally, the big day arrived.  At 9:00 in the morning, the Burlington Cornet band of Elgin and the Blue Ribbon band of Bartlett pulled up to the Rohlwing house with the horses bearing plumes and the drivers in uniform.  After a slight delay, Miss Rohlwing and her attendants, Miss Emma and Alvina Pfingsten, sisters of the groom, Miss Martha Pfingsten, the bride’s sister,  Miss Annie Kruse, a friend, and Hermina Rohlwing and Aggie Thies, the flower girls, all made  their way in the bride’s carriage towards the Pfingsten farm.  It was the custom for the bride to meet her husband–to-be.  Accompanying the groom were Hermann Wilkening, Hermann Fenz, Henry Lichthardt and William Lenschow.  With no obvious superstition regarding the groom seeing the bride before the wedding, the bride’s party then returned to her home where her father smashed a bottle of red wine brought from Germany.

As the bands led the way, the bridal party set out for the church where nearly 2000 people met them for the service.  Pastor Mueller met them at the door and gave them the blessing.  The bands, having already made their way to the loft, accompanied the organist in playing the Wedding March.  After the service, the bridal party, bands and many guests made their way back to the Pfingsten home.  Pastor Mueller once again gave a blessing for the festivities and the party began!

Dining must have gone on for hours.  (There were no paper plates and plastic cups so dishes all had to be handwashed and dried on the spot.)  Being consumed were:
–1800 pounds of meat
–4 hogsheads of pickles
–8 barrels of sauerkraut
–150 gallons of gooseberry shrub
–5 10-gallon kettles of soup
–3 big tubs of potato salad
–200 pounds of headcheese
–2 milkcans of ausereihuf
–200 gooseberry pies
–60 nine-layer cakes
–Cigars & Beer

The dancing and singing was as voluminous as the food, with the bands playing on through the night to the delight of all those who stayed.  Remember, the animals still needed to be fed and the cows  milked in the evening and morning on the farms of the guests.  With so many German families in attendance who knew each other well, it must have been difficult to tear themselves away from the dancing, the talking, the eating and the drinking.

The generosity of the Pfingstens and the Rohlwings–who actually split the duties and the cost of the wedding–must have been well appreciated by those who attended.  The event was big enough to make a Chicago paper and was likely talked about for weeks afterwards.  If we compare the two weddings and their times, William and Kate had nothing on Fred and Emma in 1903!

This posting was written with the assistance of an article from the September 3, 1903 issue of the Chicago Inter Ocean magazineThe photos are from Rohlwing Family History by Elmer J. Pfingsten.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library


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