Saturday, October 16, 2021

Waldheim Church Plaque Dedicated

 In 1978, some 43 years ago, the United Methodist Church in Waldheim held a special gathering to dedicate its newly-established historical marker. 

The Historical Marker
(Click on the images to make them larger and more readable)

Here is the article about that special occasion that was published in the New Orleans States Item on September 27, 1978:

Historic Plaque Dedicated in Waldheim


The bell tolled and the latecomers went into the little church to stand in the back, for the pews were filled. They had come from all over Louisiana, parts of Mississippi, even Alabama. Although most no longer carried German-sounding names, they were the descendants of one of the earliest German settlements in St. Tammany Parish, and they had gathered to honor their ancestors.

Waldheim is a tiny community near Covington. The name means "wild home" in German. In 1875, when the church was built, that was exactly what the area was, a wild place, fought and tamed by the homesteaders who had settled there.

Last week nearly 300 people returned to dedicate the small white church as a Methodist historic site. They came to meet cousins they hadn't known and uncles and aunts they hadn't seen in years.

THE AIR WAS SOFT, the sun was warm and the sounds of cicadas and honey bees mixed with the peal of tolling bells. The pebble path leading to the church door was filled with worshippers, young and old, and their friendly greetings mingled with childrens' laughter.

The mouth-watering odor of the jambalaya that was soon to be served wafted through the trees, and in the church kitchen a cake made by the ladies of the congregation waited to be cut.

Precisely at 11 Sunday morning services began with a call to worship, followed immediately by a hymn. Participated in by all present and accompanied by a small organ, the singing was sturdy and rousing. Verses from the scriptures, prayers, more hymns and a sermon extolling the virtues of community completed the service.

Forty-five minutes later, the congregation spilled out into the hot sun to stand around the newly placed historic plaque and say a concluding prayer.

The congregation broke into small groups, rekindling friendships, inquiring about each others' health, introducing grandchildren and other relatives. To the side of the church,    wooden sawhorses had been set up for an old-fashioned dinner on the grounds.

Shortly, small knots of people moved toward the huge kettles filled with jambalaya and the serving table laden with bread and salad. The sun was hot and soon jackets and ties were removed. Filled with good food and glowing with a sense of companionship, people started drifting back into the little church, to sit and sing the hymns they had learned so long ago.

ONE FAMILY, FIVE GENERATIONS strong, had traveled from Mississippi to be part of the special occasion. The 86-year-old patriarch of that family recalled how his father, one of the early ministers of Waldheim church, spoke with affection of the friendly and hardworking German immigrants in the area. Now his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren had returned to see the little church their ancestor had served.

Life for the homesteaders of Waldheim was harsh in the 1870s. Most of the German families lived in log cabins, which they built with the help of their neighbors, from trees that were grown on their own, land. Water was brought in from outside wells.

Another of the older residents remembers that one of her chores was to draw water from the well for breakfast. In the summer butter was stored in the well to be kept cool, and water­melons were lowered down there to chill for supper.

WINTERS WERE HARD. Sometimes in the early mornings it was necessary to heat well water over the wood burning stove and throw it on the horse trough to melt the ice so the animals could drink.

Meals were plain and hearty, and one family remembers that breakfast in their grandparent's home consisted mainly of coarse grits, fried slab bacon, homemade syrup and white bread made from flour milled on their own property.

Coffee beans were parched once a week and freshly ground every morning. Made by dripping water through grounds encased in a cone made of flannelette, the coffee was strong and served with fresh boiled milk.

Meat was hardly ever available. Occasionally, a pig was slaughtered, but only in the coldest part of the year so it would not spoil. Some of the meat was cooked and served immediately: the remainder was pickled or made into sausages.

But every Sunday, no matter what the hardships of the week, the families went to church. Sitting straight on hard benches without backs, parents and children spent most of the day in church at services conducted in German.

The church and historical marker in the 1980's

IN THE LATE SUMMER or early fall of each year, tabernacle services were held. Sometimes lasting as long as ten days, these outdoor camp meetings were an opportunity for families to gather and friends to meet.

People came by ox cart or in covered wagons, and some came from as far away as Mississippi. Small cabins were built to accommodate the visitors. Women and children lived in some of them and the men and boys lived in others.

Services at the camp meetings were held at least twice a day, sometimes more often. And while  there was plenty of free time for visiting, there were still chores to be done. Women washed clothes in the little creek behind the Waldheim church, and children carried fresh drinking water from a small Spring nearby.

The States-Item,Sept. 27, 1978
New Orleans

 Church Over 100 Years Old

Just three years earlier, in 1975, the church had celebrated its first hundred years centennial and published a lengthy booklet with names and photographs. 

For more information:

History of the Waldheim United Methodist Church