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Other Memories . . . pg. 3

Let's take a Look into the Past

Memories of Weddings, Funerals and Zwieback

    by Evelyn (Mrs. Richard) Banman 

This memory from the Mennonite Heritage Museum cookbook From Pluma Moos to Pie   Available at Museum Store

Much thought and planning have always gone into wedding plans.  This is a "promise" for a lifetime and to be celebrated with joy.  The festivities often include much tradition.  The late 1890's and early 1900's is as far back as I have found witnesses to the preparations for weddings in the Goessel community.

A wedding involved not only the betrothed couple but also the whole community.  The wedding announcement was made in church.  The bride's dowry had been much talked about and the wedding date was set.  The menu would be zwieback, cookies and sugar cubes, with coffee and water for beverages.


Neighbors were quick to offer help and donations of milk and butter for the zwieback baking which was a must.  The amount of total donations was adjusted according to the number of guests.  Flour was furnished by the bride's parents.  It had been stored in pantries for awhile, because newly ground wheat flour did not make good zwieback. 


The wedding was usually a large one, with all the neighbors and relatives of both bride and bridegroom invited.  The day before the wedding, it was common to see neighbors coming in their buggies and wagons to "slush" over six gallons of milk and 10 pounds of butter.  The ratio was usually one pound fo butter to four cups of milk.  Potato water could be substituted for some of the milk.  For wedding zwieback, salt was measured; for ordinary zwieback, a very small handful or so-many pinches of salt per half-gallon of milk was sufficient.

The butter and milk had hung in the cool well overnight for it had to be taken to the home of the bride's parents very early in the morning.  The mother of the bride carefully selected about four of the best bread kneaders in the community to make the wedding zwieback.  If I recall currectly, the kneaders were "well-built" and had a waistline of more than 26 inches.

The bride's mother usually had not slept well the previous night because she was nervous about the occasion.  Would the zwieback turn out all right ?  The morning arrived and the old kitchen benches were lined up and the kneaders, with buggy wheels spinning, arrived for the big "bake-off".  Each kneader worked with several batches.

As soon as the first batches were done, the father of the bride, with his team of horses, delivered the dough to be made into zwieback by selected bakers.  The dough was transported in blue speckled and gray enamel pans.  The women often gave orders for the men not to linger on the way, for the dough would soon start to rise.  It was a special honor to be asked to bake zwieback for a wedding, for it ment you were a good baker.

By mid-afternoon, the telephone started to ring--the zwieback were done.  Some bakers reported they were sure one batch was too brown.  The bride's father was given the word and he set out to pick up these bushels and basket neatly covered with old washed out tablecloths or a tea towel.  The parlor should have been the place to store the zwieback overnight, but that room had been dusted and polished for the guests that would arrive for the "Pulta-owent" (gift giving evening), traditionally the gifts were given the night before the wedding.  While the adults sat and visited, the young people of the group congregated outside for what were called "folk games".

On the wedding day, special people who were good coffee makers made gallons and gallons of coffee in 10-gallon cream cans.  If the wedding was to take place in a church, the women arrived early to heat water in the church's cauldron and pour boiling water over the coffee grounds so the grounds could settle. 

What did people do with sugar cubes ?  Children popped the squares--as many as they could get away with--into their mouths.  Adults were more formal.  They slipped a cube between thumb and forefinger and dipped it halfway into the hot coffee, then put it into their mouth before it dissolved.

Weddings were held in a church or under a large tent erected on the bride's parents' farm--large families called for large weddings.  (Because of these large families and the vast preporations that weddings required, there were many times when sibling celebrated the very same wedding anniversary date).   

The teenage boys and girls were asked to wait on the many tables.  The girls were asked to wear an embroidered, hem stitched or lace-trimmed party apron over her dress.  Adding to the charm were the checkered cloths covering the "precious zwieback."  The girls served the zwieback from neat wicker baskets and their male partners poured coffee.  Often a life partner was found through serving together at a wedding.  Thus a wedding was always a memorable occasion.


                By Evelyn (Mrs. Richard) Banman

This memory from the Mennonite Heritage Museum cookbook From Pluma Moos to Pie

Available at Museum Store

Cookbook FROM PLUMA MOOS to PIE | Goessel Museum

Weddings of the 1913 to 1915's


An essay taken from " MY MEMORIES, 1904 TO 1967 " By Henry H. Lehrman.  Mr. Lehrman grew up in the Goessel community and his writtings can be found in a booklet at the Tabor College Archives, Hillsboro, KS.

In this memory, he discribes he and his wife's double wedding.

Many times double weddings were planned.  The date is set.  And then according to custom in those days " Polta-ovend " (the evening before the wedding ) was an important part of the festival.

Many relatives, neighbors and friends whether invited or not came to the bride's home to meet the bride and groom and stay for a social evening with friends.  Most of the wedding gifts were brought at this time too.

The young people always enjoyed these occasions for meeting with their group and playing their outside games.  From the bridegroom it was usually expected that he would be prepared to treat the crowd, if he did not, they sometimes would get real noisy but as soom as he came out with a treat, even if it was only a few peanuts or a piece of candy all were satisfied and happy.

The wedding was the next day at the church.  And if a car was not to be had, a horse and top buggy was borrowed.  A six mile trip to the church took less than an hour.  Several boys were there waiting to take our horses to the hitching rack, so the four of us now walked into the church and unassisted to our four chairs on the platform in front. 

The ceremony was opened with song and prayer after which the Reverend gave a short serman and then another minister preached the wedding sermon.  Then the wedding cerenony and closing prayer. 


All the guests now went to the basement hall for an hour of fellowship and a simple meal consisting of zwieback, cheese, cookies, cake and coffee.

A short closing sermon and this concluded the ceremony.  It was getting late in the afternoon now so we went to the hitching rack where "Prince" the horse was patiently waiting to take us the six miles home to the farm.  For a pleasant evening of visiting, many friends came to the home of the bride and stayed till late.

Shivaree - a custom of good natured (or not) harassment of newlyweds in the community.


Funerals were more solemn occasions.  A lifespan was much shorter in the earlier days.  Many diseases, complications of childbirth and diarrhea in small children often were fatal.  So there were many funerals.

Children who died at birth usually were buried in the family plot on the farm or in a designated spot on the prairie.  Many adults also were buried in family plots.  (As this was done in Europe and Russia).


If the funeral took place at a church almost everyone dressed in black, and if a child didn't have a black garment, one was quickly stitched together.  A fellowship meal (faspa) of zwieback, cheese, cookies, sugar cubes, coffee, and water, was served after the service and burial.  The tradition of help with the baking of zwieback, by neighbors and friends, was continued for funerals.  The waiters at the tables were younger adults, relatives and friends of the bereaved family. 

Long tables were set up in the church basement.  White broadcloth tablecloths were used.  This material required a lot of ironing.  Tears must have helped dampen the cloth, as mothers labored at ironing, grieving the loss of a child, husband, or parent.


It must have been an impressive sight, white washed church walls, long tables covered with white cloths, men in black suits, women in long black dresses, often followed by several black-dressed children tugging at their skirts. 


        By Evelyn (Mrs. Richard) Banman



This memory from the Mennonite Heritage Museum cookbook From Pluma Moos to Pie

1st Edition 1981, Revised Edition 1991, Second Printing 2007  Available at Museum Store

Cookbook FROM PLUMA MOOS to PIE | Goessel Museum

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and Agricultural Museum

Created by Fern Bartel nee Schmidt


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