Nieland Family History     

Henry Nieland Family Reunion
Happenings at the July 1983 Family Reunion

by Alma Nieland Gaul

When Henry Nieland started out on foot across Germany in the mid-1860's he had two overriding thoughts--to escape the draft of the Prussian army and to come to the land of opportunity where anyone with a strong back and a strong will could own land.

At 17 he was leaving his home and family never to return. He would face an Atlantic voyage on a leaking steamship and would have to learn that the cob, and not the tassel, bears the corn plants grain.

The day started with Mass in St. Bernard's Church, celebrated by Fr. Yetman. The altar bore beeswax candles from Ramsdorf Germany, and ribbons of yellow, red and black representing the colors of Henry's native land and red, white and blue representing the land he picked to be our home. Beside the altar was one of the willow-reed baskets he fashioned in the the 1940's -- one of the "fruits of the vine which earth has given and human hands have made" spoken of in the Offertory.

At the end of Mass, Louis Nieland [one of Henry's three surviving children] and Andrew and Walt Nieland [sons of Henry's eighth child, William) sang "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" in German.

The words might not have meant much to the younger generation, but the rendering of Heilig, heilig, heilig" needed no translation. It spoke of a family proud of the faith its ancestors relied on in coming to this land.

That German still is remembered by some of our family is not insignificant. Immigrants often were shamed into putting the ways of their old country behind them. Sometime they were mocked as less-than- intelligent if they could not speak English.

After Mass the group descended on the Breda Legion Hall where the Nieland name is inscribed in a place of honor among those who served our country in time of danger.

Here it became obvious that Henry's sister, Mrs. Gerhard [Mary Ann] Boes was right when she wrote to him from America that "meat was placed on the table and a person could eat all he wanted."

Roaster pans full of chicken, roast beef and ham and casseroles, smaller bowls of salad, vegetables, pies and brownies and plates of tomatoes covered two long tables. It also became obvious that you don't have to invite a Nieland to the [table] twice.

After dinner was a time for looking around and saying "How are YOU related?" A time for inspecting the guest book and seeing 273 names -- names from New Jersey to California and Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Wisconsin in between.

A time for youngsters to sneak back for more brownies then might be good for them, a time for chatter and recollection and picture taking. A time for slides by master-of-ceremonies David Nieland, showing the home area of Germany and the lane Henry Nieland walked down when he started his great adventure.

A time for an encore of "Grosser Gott" and of poetry, by poet-laureate, Walt Nieland. In part, he wrote "He taught them to save / He taught them to pray. / If I say so myself / That's good even today. / I'm proud to be a member / of this noble clan / And I'm sure I owe a lot /To this humble man."

It was a time for reunion of a scattered family linked by the common bond of ancestry. An ancestor who was every man who came to this country hoping for something better than in the tired continent of the kings and czars ... and found it.

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