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JOSEPH JODER, SCHOOLMASTER-FARMER AND POET
1797-1887
By OLYNTHUS CLARK
Professor of History in Drake University

Joeseph Joder bio



(
This article about Joseph Joder (YR12a4) originally appeared beginning of page 134 in the 1929 annual publication of the Illinois State Historical Society. The article is displayed on the Yoder Hompage at www.yodernewsletter.org with permission of the ISHS, and is also summarized in the YNL46)

 

It was Carlyle who said that history is composed of the biographies of great men. Macaulay, a contemporary of his, more clearly conceived of history as the sum of the thought and action of all men, the common and the great. It may, therefore, be proper to portray and appraise the life of an average man, who evidenced characteristics of both the common and the great, and see in him perchance a cross-section of the great mass of humanity, more and more taken into account in the writing of history.
This biographical sketch is the story and interpretation of a humble man. It is the life story of one born of lowly, obscure parentage, of one who lived the simple life, serene in his obscurity and inconspicuous to the big world of affairs.
So far as station, occupation and the daily routine of his worka-day world is concerned, the story could be that of any one of the millions of Americans. There was, however, one factor which made him different, quite unlike the millions of which he was one; for while he toiled as one of many, he thought as one of the few. He toiled to sustain life; he thought to understand life. In the former he never obtained beyond the common needs; in the latter he found the universal. He labored as all men; he thought as few men who so labor; he expressed his thoughts, and that to a purpose. But for his material necessities, his flights into the realm of the spiritual would have produced in him the visionary, the theorist, the idealist, which indeed he was. To many he was odd, even queer, a failure in life, because they knew not his world.
Joseph Joder was of Swiss ancestry. Like many a, Swiss and German family, his immigrant ancestors floated down the Rhine and at a butch wharf took passage on a Dutch vessel for the promised land of William Penn. Thus it was that in 1720, the traditional date, Barbara Yoder (Joder), whose husband was buried en route in the waters of the Atlantic, with her eight sons and one daughter landed at Philadelphia.
From port of entry the widowed mother with her sturdy brood courageously journeyed farther on some fifty or sixty mile; to the northwest, settling in Berks County, where the family merged with the farming population of that sparsely settled region. Seven of the sons married and reared large families. One of them, Christian by name, had a family of eleven children, six daughters and five sons, David, the youngest, being the father of Joseph Joder, the subject of this sketch.
David Yoder was married, about 1790, to Jacobine Eash, who came

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with her parents from Switzerland during the American Revolution, in the year 1780.1 To this union were born three sons and five daughters, Joseph being the fourth child and youngest of the sons, born near McCoytown, September 13, 1797. In 1811, David Yoder with his family moved from Berks County, the ancestral home for nearly one hundred years, to Mifflin County, where he purchased land and continued farming until his death in 1820, his wife having preceded him in 1817.2
It was here in Mifflin County that Joseph Joder grew to manhood, married and reared a family of seven daughters and one son. His wife was Catherine Lantz, daughter of Christian Lantz and sister of John Lantz, who married Magdalene, called "Lena," the sister of Joseph Joder. He continued farming as his gainful occupation, but added to that teaching school, doubtless more for his love of learning than for the small remuneration he received for teaching. To better his circumstances he moved with his increasing family to the adjacent county of Juniatta, where he continued his rural school teaching along with farming. Failing, however, to get ahead and in debt to a confiding and generous friend and neighbor, he decided to better his economic status by migrating to the West.
In the early spring of 1848 he departed with his family, in company with two other families, those of Elias Yoder, his nephew, and Yost Yoder, his brother-in-law, for the region of central Illinois. Glowing descriptions of these prairie lands had been sent back by relatives and friends already there. The families disposed of all of their livestock and other property, except a minimum of household effects, and went by canal and tramway, known as the "Pennsylvania System," 3 to Pittsburgh, where they took passage on an Ohio River steamboat, Belle of the West, to St. Louis and there transferred to another boat which took them up the Illinois River to Pekin. 4 From here about the middle of May the families of Joseph Joder and his brother-in-law were hauled overland by wagon to the Mennonite community in the vicinity of Slabtown, long since extinct, near the site of the present village of Congerville. This was just inside the newly organized county of Woodford and about nine miles southeast of Eureka, in what was known is Walnut Grove, the thriving settlement of Kentuckians, followers of Alexander Campbell.
There being no farms tenantless at this time of year, the comers were cared for by the settlers as best they could, in frontier fashion and true pioneer hospitality. The Joder family was temporarily


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1 Weaver, Mennonite Year Book, 1927, in sketch of Reverend Jonathan Yoder, p. 7.
2 I bid.
3 Paxson, History of the American Frontier, p. 265.
4 This traditional route and mode of travel is supported by a reminiscent letter of July 28, 1929, from Isaac H. Yoder of Lilly, Illinois, son of Elias Yoder, in recounting his father's conversation during the Civil War, upon his return from Cairo, Illinois, where he had gone to visit his nephew sick in the soldiers' hospital there. Says Mr. Yoder: "-when he came home he told us he had seen the old steamboat, Belle of the West, anchored at the wharf and went aboard her just for old acquaintance sake."

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domiciled with the family of Christian Ropp, 5 a prosperous farmer and Mennonite preacher, who lived just across the Mackinaw River, north of Slabtown. Sleeping quarters for the young members of the temporary, joint household were provided in the large unplastered "upstairs," immediately under the shingles. The two families kept their separate tables, but prepared their meals on a common hearth, doing the baking in an outdoor oven and the cooking in cast iron pots and kettles. Milk, butter, eggs, and potatoes were furnished free to the newcomers from the Ropp larder. The Joders made one contribution to the Ropp garden and to the entire community; they introduced the tomato, having brought with them a bag of the seeds.
Here the Joders lived for six months, Mr. Joder and three of the daughters working on the Ropp farm for pay, particularly in cultivating and harvesting the crops. In the meantime Mr. Joder purchased from the Government, for the sum of $50, forty acres of timber land adjoining the Ropp farm. A vacant log house was secured and the neighbors staged a house-raising frolic. b)- tearing it down, hauling the logs to the new farm and rebuilding it. Late in the autumn the family moved into their new home.
The family lived here but a year, Mr. Joder renting twenty acres of wheat and corn land from Mr. Ropp to augment his own meager "clearings" for a crop. By autumn, 1849, the Joders were ready to sell out to Mr. Ropp, who wished to add to his holdings, and they leased a farm a few miles distant and west of the then county seat town of Versailles, often visited by Lincoln on his circuit court junkets. Mr. Joder cherished the memory of Lincoln, whose acquaintance he made in those years. Here the family remained for five years, when in 1854 they purchased a farms on the prairie about eight miles to the southeast and fourteen or fifteen miles from Bloomington. This farm was just inside the Woodford County line, the extreme southwest corner of Kansas Township, in the Rock Creek area, and was situated on the third principal meridian, two miles south of the Carlock-Benson settlement of White Oak Grove and bordering the settlement of the Rowell families recently come from New England. Here the Joders lived till 1862, when, the family grown to maturity, the son and five of the daughters married and settled on farms round about, they made one more and final move. Mr. Joder, having also secured another forty-acre tract, several miles to the north, sold the combined eighty acres' for $1,200 and bought an eighty-acre farms three miles to the southeast in Dry Grove Township, McLean County, and nearer Bloomington.


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5 A reminiscent letter of February 22, 1929, to Milo P. Lantz of Carlock, Ill., from Christian Ropp of Chicago, son of the Rev. Christian Ropp, which letter was dictated to and written by his daughter, Miss Theresa Ropp.
6 The farm was purchased from Jones Kauffman, son-in-law, July 11, 1854. Records of Woodford Co., Deed N p. 502.
7 Sold to Jas. W. ("Uncle Jimmie") Brown, March 12, 1862. Deed Record O p. 574 (Woodford County).
8 Bought from Jas. W. Brown, June 6, 1862, for $1,200.00 the E. quarter of the S. W. quarter of Sec. No. 5, Tpw. No. 24 N., Range 1 E. of 3rd P. M. This with the above sale, doubtless was in fact simply an exchange of lands.


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Here it was that his life companion died in 1863, and his widowed daughter, Miriam, Mrs. .Jonas Kauffman, whose husband was a victim of the cholera epidemic of 1855, and having already returned with her infant son to the old family home, became his housekeeper and homemaker. The two other daughters were also of the family, Emma, the youngest, for a few years until her marriage, and Mary, unmarried and a school teacher until her early death in 1871. In 1868 Mr. Joder sold the south forty acres of the farm to his daughter, Miriam, and doubtless used the proceeds to pay off the long-standing debt to his creditor friend in Pennsylvania. Later he also deeded the other half of the farm to her for taking care of him in his approaching old age. Retiring from active work, he could row gratify his fondness for study and cultivate his talent for writing, and the ten years immediately following were the most productive in all his literary efforts. He died on the last day of the year, 1887, and on January 3, 1888,10 his body was laid to rest in the family lot in the Lantz cemetery, two miles southeast of the present town of Carlock.
Joseph Joder's schooling was very limited, consisting of a few months at a time in the later years of his childhood, and confined to the mere elements. But upon coming to manhood he had acquired a mastery of the three R's and evinced a thirst for knowledge, which he manifested all through life, and to a high degree satisfied. If, as a youth, he knew more than any other "Pennsylvania Dutchman's" son of the time, it was because of his peculiar qualities of mind, his innate passion to know, together with his devotion to study and his love of learning. He became in educated man, largely self-taught and self-trained. His interest in learning and his ideal of service impelled him to teach, that he might help others to have something of what he attained.
As a teacher of rural children, those of his neighbors and friends, he was a typical schoolmaster of the old order, stressing the mastery of the rudiments and putting the knowledge gained to practical use. He practiced his faith in the dogma, "Spare the rod and spoil the child." Throughout his life whatever he did was done in the spirit and style of the schoolmaster, and he became known as Schoolmaster Joder. His school teaching, it appears, was almost wholly confined to his Pennsylvania period, was irregular and occasional, conducting either subscription school or public school, a few months of the year, during the dormant period of the rural folk.
He became a master of grammar, both English and German, and taught reading as he learned it, reading aloud, in a sing-song fashion. This manner of reading he continued throughout his life, even in his old age; persons passing by could hear Schoolmaster Joder reading aloud-strange and amusing to some, commonplace and monotonous to


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9 Recollections from conversations with the writer's mother, Mrs. Anna Joder Clark.
10 Bloomington Leader, Jan. 6. 1888. His old friend, Rev. Benj. Eicher, of Washington, Iowa, in carrying out a long-standing arrangement, preached the funeral discourse, the services being held in the North Danvers Men-nonite Church.

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others, sacred and comforting to a few. An expert in orthography, he attained a mastery of words, of their finer shades of meaning, equalled by few in his day. Reared in a "Pennsylvania Dutch" environment of a hundred and more years ago, he was brought up in that peculiar brogue, neither German nor English; but because of his acquired knowledge of expression he could readily slough off the jargon for himself, and being a schoolmaster, he hoped likewise to drill correct habits of speech, both German and English, into others. In this he became more or less disillusioned, although it was the hobby he rode through life.
He was interested in all the rudiments of knowledge, but was little concerned with method; what he thought of was content and achievement. As he sang his reading, so he sang his geography, which was a mere memorizing of names and places from the State of Maine, Augusta, on the Kennebec River, throughout, to the State of Texas, Austin, on the Colorado River, and repeating each couplet. In after years Schoolmaster Joder made constant use of geography along with his newspaper habit, none of his books showing more usage, unless it was the Bible and the dictionary, than his old well thumbed gazetteer.
He evinced much interest in mathematics, especially higher mathematics as applied to astronomy, which he studied to some extent. He, of course, taught arithmetic, but also studied geometry and algebra, there being among his books an 1845 edition of First Lessons in Algebra, by Ebenezer Bailey.12
On coming to Illinois, it seems, he did little teaching. He was engaged to teach a school in the winter of 1848- 1849 at $10 per month, but $10 per month, but was prevented be floods, the district lying on both sides of the Mackinaw, and an epidemic of sickness in the neighborhood. Later, after moving to the farm on the third principal meridian he received a certificate from the superintendent of schools of McLean County, Watkins, and for a term taught the rural school located on the west edge of what was known as the Vance prairie.13 But while he did little teaching in Illinois his name was always associated with school teaching. In following farming he found, doubtless, that it afforded him the most time for meditation and for reflection on what he read or studied; for he could follow the plow or work with any other simple farming tool of that day while his thoughts soared. While he thus wrought a, competent subsistence he furthered his intellectual bent, especially in language and religion, being both a linguist and a moralist.
He became a linguist of no mean attainment, applying his increasing knowledge of words and forms of expression in the several languages to his understanding of the Scriptures. He became highly expert in expressing shades of meaning, applying his knowledge to the correction of religious beliefs and practices among his own communion, the Mennonite, followers of the West Friesland, German reformer, Menno Simons.


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11 Letter from Abia J. Sharp, a grandson, Portland, Oregon, February 26, 1929.
12 In possession of Mrs. Frances Yoder Knapple, a granddaughter, Lexington, Nebraska.
13 George A. Fry of Carsick, Illinois, recalls the time of his teaching school at this place.

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Besides his proficiency in the study and use of English and German , the latter his mother tongue, Joseph Joder took up the study of Greek and Latin, and finally, in his old age, also that of Hebrew. He studied these ancient languages, just as he studied English and German, to know the meaning and use of words in their native purity, to learn the precise forms in order to express the various shades of thought. In his study of English and German there is no evidence that he became acquainted with the great classics of those literatures; likewise it does not appear that he was at all interested in the great classics of Greek and Roman literature. He cared naught, it seems, for either Shakespeare or Goethe, nor for Homer or Virgil.
The customary slovenly speech of his day, especially of the rural folk and particularly those of his own linguistic and religious connection, gave him great concern. His temperament and his schoolmaster habit of mind impelled him to perfect his own speech through first hand knowledge of the language, in which the original of what he was studying appeared. Ultimately it was the Bible that he wished to know, to understand. That could be realized only by knowing the language in which it was originally written, hence his enthusiasm for Greek.
Just when Schoolmaster Joder began the study of the ancient languages is difficult to determine. We do not know how much progress he made in his Pennsylvania period, but we do know that he made great progress after retiring from his regular vocation, about 186,5. Among his few books is a Latin grammar, Lateinische Grammatik, von G. G. Zumpt, Dr., copyright in 1826, which was a German-Latin text. For the study of Greek he had The Elements of Greek Grammar, by R. Valley, D. D., F. A. S., under date of 1839. The date of copyright has little bearing on the question of when be took up the study, since such special textbooks served their purpose for one or two generations. Certain it is that he did study Greek during the period of the Civil War, having the assistance of Miss Clarissa Bottsford, a young college woman who taught the Prairie School in 1867-1868, the school, long since gone, standing in the field about one-half mile to the south of the present town of Carlock. He became proficient in Greek and Latin, making particular use of the Greek in reading the Greek New Testament, which, as is well known, was the main purpose of his study.
Some time later we find him tackling Hebrew for the purpose of obtaining a more accurate, first-hand acquaintance with the original of the Old Testament. When he began the study we cannot now determine, but we do know that he pursued the study assiduously during the winter of 1879-1880, and that at the ripe age of 82 years. His tutor was Miss Josephine Giddings of Bloomington, who was graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in June, 1879, and who taught the Bunker Hill School, successor to the Prairie School, and about a half mile farther east on the public highway. He doubtless found Hebrew somewhat difficult, and I think did little with it after the departure of his tutor. But let Mrs. Josephine Giddings James of Miami, Florida, give her own version of the singular circumstance. Says Mrs. James :
"I was glad to think that I might be allowed to help in writing the story of that, to me, very wonderful old man, Joseph Joder. I can never forget the

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peculiar way in which he came to Bunker Hill one day at close of school and asked if he could enroll as one of my pupils. I was young and very inexperienced and did not know how to reply to him, but he soon made it clear that he needed help in his study of Hebrew, hoping to master it that he might read the Scriptures in the original text. I found him to be well acquainted with Greek and Latin, and as I met and studied with him from time to time, I was amazed at the receptivity of his mind and the ease with which he grasped the fundamental principles of the language. As you will remember, this was in the fall of 1879 and the early winter of 1880. Soon he brought a copy of a Hebrew, or Yiddish newspaper to exercise his new knowledge upon, and the lessons were just as interesting and helpful to me as to him. He gave me several of his poems, but I regret that during the years of my busy life, I have lost track of them. I recall that one of them had to do with `woman' and her ability, and his ideas were so advanced for those days, as to be wonderful. I never met him, after the close of that seven months' school, so do not know how far he carried his excursion into the Hebrew literature. I count it a very great privilege to have had that fellowship with him, as I felt that he was a man of great soul and wide vision."14
Joseph Joder's intimate knowledge of German and English, coupled with his well known passion for precision, led him to change the established spelling of his family name, changing Yoder to Joder. Just when he effected the change is not yet known, but it seems evident that he had wrought the change before coming to Illinois, which means that he had become expert in the study of German and English in his Pennsylvania period. The name translated into English by simply taking over the German pronunciation, made it "Yoder," the "d" in the translation having early displaced the "t," doubled ("tt" ) in the German pronunciation and spelling. The "Yod" being the partly Anglicized spelling, came from the German sound of the letter "j" pronounced "yot." Now, keeping the "od" in the English writing of the modified German pronunciation of the letter "j" as a basic part of the name, our critic contended that in writing the name, the German spelling and not the German sound should govern the English spelling; hence, we have "J-od" instead of "Y-od," making the name "J-o-d-e-r" Joder.
None of the numerous families , however, going back to the first American ancestor, Barbara Yoder, would accept the revised spelling of this reformer kinsman, this stickler for linguistic exactness, disturber of the divine order of things. His only son, Iddo, however, continued the revised spelling and pronunciation. The three sons of Iddo Joder adhere to the same style, one of whom has six sons, hence the name Joder gives some promise of being perpetuated.
As observed before, that which distinguished Joseph Joder, setting him apart from the many, was the fact that he came to think on various matters of life, and to write down his thoughts. He wrote both prose and poetry, choosing for the most part the poetic forms of expression ; there are but few prose articles of his extant. All his writings tend toward the poetic; in fact, his speech in common conversation was often


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14 Letter of April 18, 1929 to Milo P. Lantz, who, with the writer were pupils in her school at old Bunker Hill.

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rhythmic as it was, formal and precise. His poetic instinct, his fascination for rhythmic expression led him to write poetry. His very soul apparently found delight and satisfaction in contemplating and expressing the finer shades of meaning in words and thought, which was the better brought out in rhythm, the music of expression. Being a rather plainly spoken, blunt man, and even though his prose reveals the poetic temperament, it was harsher, more cutting than poetry, the latter form taking, out the sting, softened and smoothed down his expressions.
The schoolmaster-poet may have earlier played at writing poetry, but none has come down to us prior to mid-century, and not before he was beginning to find himself in his religious thinking. He then, doubtless, sensed the fact that the poetic form of expression tended to soften his controversial teachings. It may be, too, that before then he had nothing worth offering. The first poem bearing a date is one written in 1857 at the age of 60; he, therefore, had thirty more years in which to write -- time to meditate, contemplate, and to jot down his poetic moralizing, to express his philosophy of life.
He wrote poems in both English and German, the collection thus far assembled numbering forty, twenty each of English and German. It is practically certain, however, that all have not yet been found. They have been preserved, for the most part, in printed form, from one to three (in a single sheet, and in certain newspapers, especially the two local Bloomington papers, the Pantagraph and the Leader, the latter long since having been discontinued. Several in German appeared in the Herald of Truth, 16 a religious journal of his communion, printed in both German and English. This paper was launched in 1864 in Chicago and after 1861 was published in Elkhart, Indiana, until its discontinuance in 1908. Several poems also appear only in manuscript, some, of which are found in the "Scrap Book," kept by his school-teacher


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15 As for example, when he called to his nine-year old son, Iddo, to saddle his horse preparatory for a short horseback trip with a visiting friend whom he was entertaining in his study:
"Iddo! Iddo! sattel mein Rosz,
Ich bin gefangen in meinem Schlosz."
Instance related by Solomon Yoder of Allensville, Pennsylvania, to Milo P. Lantz. September, 1928. Letter to the writer, October 10, 1928.
16 The following poems, by title and date, appear in this journal:
"Der Pharisaer undo deb Zollner," May, 1865.
"Es wird gesaet ein naturliger Leib, und wird auferstehen ein geistlicher Leib," November, 1865.
"Seid ihr aber ohne zuchtung, so seid ihr Bastarde, und nicht Kinder," November, 1865, p. 93.
"So ermahne ich nun euch, ich Gefangen in dem Herren, dasz ihr wandell wit sighs geburhet, eurem Beruf, darinnen ihr berufen seid," Decem-ber, 1868.
"Freuet euch in dem Herren allewege," December, 1870, p. 183.
Wer wunscht nicht Abzuscheiden?" September, 1871, p. 141.
17The following manuscript poems are found in the "Scrap Book": "Time and Life"-twenty stanzas, probably the first of his poems, for it is given first place in the "Scrap Book."
"Whence and Why Am I?" dated 1857-ten six-line stanzas.
"White Oak Grove"-doubtless between 1857-1860, composing seventeen six-line stanzas.
"The Goodness of God," 1860-four four-line stanzas.

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daughter, Mary Joder, and which was continued by him after her death (1871).
The poems in German, practically all of them, deal with religious themes, while those in English cover a pretty wide range of subject matter. In addition to those already listed in footnotes, the following are the most noteworthy:


IN ENGLISH
"Rejoice Evermore" (before 1860).
"Our Father's Will" (about 1862-1864).
"'The Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath."
"English vs. German" (in the '70's).
"A Visit by Sermo" (in the '70's).
"Love."
"To a Little Girl."


IN' GERMAN
"Die Frolic Botschaft" (Glad Tidings) (1869).
"Nachtrag Zur Frohen Botschaft" (1870).
"Zweiter Nachtrag Zur Frohen Botschaft" (1871).
"Nachtrage Zu Frohen Botschaft" (1871).
".Du Verheiszung; das ewige Leben."
"Kirchweih Hymne" (dedication hymn for the North Danvers Mennonite Church, 1872).


The author's linguistic interest is portrayed in his poem entitled, "English vs. German," in which he praises what to him is the strength and beauty of the German language as compared with the English. It is a couplet poem of 124 lines, both narrative and discursive, depicting a dispute between two school boy truants, one English ("Eng") and the


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"Hail Our Country's Natal Morn," about 1859-four four-line stanzas and in handwriting of Mary Joder, pasted in the back of the "Scrap Book." This poem was composed and read by the author at a Fourth of July cele-bration at Stout's Grove, Illinois.
"Children," undated, five four-line stanzas, and "Adults," four four-line stanzas; both in the author's handwriting, one on each side of a sheet of foolscap paper.
"In Memory of Mary Clark" (1856-1868), dated March 7, 1868; one of a series of three poems about Mary, one of his favorites.
"Der Eheliche Zirkel," December, 1861; a five-stanza poem of foul- lines each, written for his son, Iddo, at the time of his marriage to Anna Gerber, and in the possession of Mrs. Emma Joder Duncan, a granddaughter, of Fairbault, Minnesota.
"Der Reiter auf dem Weiszen Pferd."
"Habt Salz bei euch and habt Freeden unter einander."
"Funkle, Funkle Kleine Stern." (A translation of "Twinkle, Twinkle,
Little Star.")
"Christus Spricht," 1878.
"Mein 84 Zur Jehrstog, September 13, 1881." ("My 84th Birthday.")

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other German ("Germ"). The anecdote on which this linguistic disputation is based reads thus:


"Two urchins playing near a pool,
Both truants from the village school,
Amused themselves in idle play,
Sticks, mud, and stones in piles to lay;
And gather on the barren strand
Shells, pebbles, and the shining sand.
In harmony their time they spend
While both pursue a common end;
And to perpetuate their fame,
Resolve to give their piles a name.
Eng calls them mud, and Germ says Dreck.

Here they fall out, each scorning the speech of the other and praising that of his own. The English advocate, after an outburst of vituperative denunciation of the German tongue, says :

'And finally, to prove at last
That I am of superior cast,
And make your obtuse mind to see,
I will produce my pedigree.
My father is an Irish Scotch,
My mother's origin is Dutch;
My name is English, and my face
Proves me of Anglo-Saxon race.
My language is without defect,
And mine's a perfect dialect.
My accent is without dispute,
Rich, copious, flowing and acute.

While Eng thus spoke, without a blush,
I was nearby behind a bush;
Could hear and see, by them unseen,
The bush affording me a screen.
When Germ resumed, to make reply,
I saw the fire in his eye;
The impulse which he strove to hide
Proved him somewhat electrified
.


The young proponent of the German tongue then comes back at the Englishman with ridicule and denunciation, showing up the mixed pedigree of the English language and confusion in the use of words:


"To me,' said Germ, "'tis no surprise
To hear you boast of great and wise;
Some such ideas seem innate,
And only cobblers thus inflate.
That I am of inferior rate,
According to your estimate,
But proves that ignorance and pride
Are ever dwelling side by side.
Your ranting boastfully denies
Your origin and old allies,
And fancy yourself wiser grown-
Repudiate what is your own.
Your ignorance, which rails me Dutch,
Has proved yourself to be of such
.

 

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The German language is my name-
Of ancient date, renown, and fame;
Both scholars, linguists-all agree,
In beauty, strength, facility,
I stand unrivaled in the throng
Of modern dialects or tongue.
Of living languages today,
Mine is the palm-I bear the sway.

Your tongue is of a recent date,
And in a crude and barb'rous state,
Composed of blunders and defects-
A concrete of all dialects.
The Norman, French, the Irish, Scotch,
The Saxon, Danish, Welch, and Dutch,
You mold and hammer, chip and scrape,
To form this mass into some shape.
And finally, to make it smooth,
You draw on me for love and truth.

Your verbal variation's lean,
And by your conjugation's seen;
And what unvaried you express,
The reader has to find by guess,
And with the same identic word
You opposite in sense record.
The heavenly luminary bright
Dispels the darkness by his light.
Again, a thing as light you rate,
Of trifling value, worth, or weight.
Your horse runs fast which you bestride,
And he is fast when he is tied;
A man lives fast by pleasures lured,
And he is fast-in jail immured.
He keeps a fast when he abstains
From nourishment-his course restrains.
Thus fast, four times, is made to mean
Swift and inert, chaste and obscene.
Your sense on words is nicely placed,
Like tattered clothes by patches graced;
And though you strive defects to screen,
There's many a gap and rent between.
This galling thorn to wounded pride
You can't escape by parricide.
Your origin, acknowledged base,
It's impress you cannot efface.18

Joseph Joder was regarded by many as lacking in sentiment, wanting in the appreciation of nature. True, he was meditative, apparently always in deep thought. He was introspective, subjective rather than objective; a thinker rather than an actor. He was thinking constantly on his duties to his God and of his relations to his fellowmen. But while most of his writings were introspective, of a moral and religious nature, he did, however, see his surroundings and was attracted by the beauties of nature. Profoundly stirred by the wonders of the natural


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18 This poem was privately printed by Christian Ropp (the younger) at his own expense and was widely circulated.-Letter of Edwin O. Ropp, Nor-mal, Ill., March 15, 1929.
-10 S H

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world, he was equally impressed with his own moral responsibility. One of his finest poems is that entitled White Oak Grove, in which he rises to the heights of poetic expression and betrays deep interest and insight into the delights of nature.
To the poet this grove was a charmed spot. He spent most of his Illinois life within a few miles of this timber line, his farm home situated on the fertile prairie to the south. White Oak Grove extended about six miles east and west on the borders of Woodford and McLean counties and constituted the timbered area south from the Mackinaw, which stream rises some forty or fifty miles to the cast in western Ford County. This grove of many kinds of trees, the white oak predominating, furnished wood for the prairie settlers - wood for their hearths and stoves, for building their fences and even affording considerable walnut and oak lumber for their houses and barns. To "White Oak" is where the people from far and near went blackberrying or nutting and along its streams went afishing. To the prairie dwellers the grove seemed like a forest.
Of the seventeen stanzas in the poem, the first ten feature the grove. The next two picture the beauties, the wealth of treasure in the world, the goods that satisfy man's needs, the comforts, peace and contentment that are man's inheritance, which musings lay the foundation for the poet's moralizing in the last five stanzas. These yield the lesson that good cannot come out of evil - love alone begets good, dwelling in the human heart. The poem is here given in full:


WHITE OAK GROVE
This splendid world is wide and fair,
And many pleasant spots are there,
Inhabited by human kind,
The subjects of immortal mind.
If all enlightened, all were wise,
This world would be a Paradise.
There is a spot on this wide earth,
Unknown to classic fame by birth,
But by the Poet's taste or whim,
This spot is much endeared to him.
It charms his fancy, shares his love,
In common speech called, White Oak Grove.

This grove, as from a distance seen,
Seems like a belt of lovely green.
But when we take a nearer view,
We own it tall, majestic too.
The hic'ry, oak and maple high
Peering upward to the sky.

Like silent monitors they stand,
Point heavenward-a better land-
While overhead the branches wreathe,
A pleasant shade lies underneath.
And feathered warblers on the sprays
Sing joyful hymns of thanks and praise.


-----
19 "Scrap Book," in manuscript, pp. 9-11.


147

To him who gave them vocal powers,
Built for them such lovely bow'rs.
And as we enter there is found,
Dame Nature's carpet on the ground,
With flowers in profusion spread,
On which we hardly dare to tread.

And as we stroll among the hills,
'Twixt bubbling springs and cooling rills,
The sense inhales beneath the trees,
Sweet odors wafted by the breeze.
As we approach the Mackinaw
High towering bluffs strike us with awe.

Secure they stand, in looming pride,
As guards of treasure which they hide.
And scowling from their dizzy height,
Seem jealous of their vested right.
Around their steep and solid base,
The rapid stream in eddies plays.
In whose deep bosom, bright and clear,
The various finny tribes appear,-
The nimble trout in speckled pride,
Which must be caught before 'tis fried.
In fact, perhaps, 'twere ever best,
To do likewise with all the rest.

Now tracing back our ample round,
Across the Grove's enchanted ground,
Where graze, in herds, on velvet lawn,
The wary Deer and timid Fawn.
And as we reach the southern side,
More pleasing prospects open wide.

The grove extending both her arms
Embraces fertile fields and farms.
In broadly stretching tracts is seen
The growing corn in deepest green,
With interspersing herd and flock,
And ripe cereals in the shock.

This surely is enchanted ground,
With nature's blessings all around.
Each man beneath his fig and vine,
In perfect safety may recline.
Mortals happy without whining,
Bless their lot without repining.

A pleasant spot is White Oak Grove,
A rule divine's love-only love-
And those who practice it will find
Heavenly bliss in their own mind.
For love alone can love impart
God's kingdom in the human heart.

Where schools and churches all around
Intelligence too should abound.
Morals sound with education,
Are the strongholds of a nation.
All seem happy in possession,
And sincere in their profession.

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But one of very different race
A dastard, coward, meanly base,
One of the cloven footed breed
Too largely figures in the creed.
Who though esteemed a sorry cur,
Is thought a necessary spur.

Held up a terror, we are told,
To frighten sheep into the fold.
The rule of vengeance, Wrong for Wrong,
Has been in practice much too long,
Though it never since Creation,
Has produced one reformation.

The Savior's charge, Love those who hate,
As binding now, as when first made,
-Could wrath and anger love produce
Then vengeance might have some excuse.
But passions of the human mind
Can only reproduce their kind.

The tyrant fear, will ever sway
With iron rule, those who obey.
Enslaved by fear man's never free,
A bigot or a pharisee.
The love of God made all things well,
But man, for man, makes endless Hell.

Again, the poem, Rejoice Evermore is one in which he draws a moral and religious lesson from out the abundance of nature's lap. The poet bursts forth with -

"Who would be a gloomy pate,
Ever in a fretful state,
Deep in sorrow drowning.
Never see above the storm,
Dancing sunbeams bright and warm,
All with glory crowning.

In this gaily furnished world,
Much of beauty is unfurled;
Grandeur is unsheathing.
In our pathway flowerlets grow,
All their smiling beauty show,
Sweetest odors breathing.

Cheering prospects everywhere,
From the earth, the skies and air,
Smiling angels greet us.
And when fainting in the way,
These companions sweetly say,
Persevere and meet us.

Then from here on, the poet strikes his gait, moralizing on human conduct; love and religion, with -

To be deeply wrapped in gloom
On the journey to the tomb,
There is no occasion;
Since the gospel pages bright,
Life immortal brought to light,
And the great salvation."

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In the remaining six stanzas the poet rather ingeniously weaves a fabric of the warp of nature and the woof of religion, working out his conception of love, human and divine.
In the poem, a German translation of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, he not only shows the author's fine poetic sense, but illustrates his appreciation of his surroundings as well as his thoughts on the wonders of the universe. Astronomy was a subject which attracted him although he pursued it but little, yet to him it was a sort of revelation of the power of God.
Joseph Joder was a devoutly religious man. In religion and morals he was, as in all things, serious, and just as severe as he was sincere. He lived honestly, walked humbly and worshipped devoutly his God. Had it not been for the practice of his church, he doubtless would have become a minister. But men in the Mennonite Church did not choose the ministry ; men were chosen to be ministers, chosen by lot from the membership by the members of any particular congregation needing a minister. Ministers served without pay, each preacher following any gainful occupation he wished, usually farming, and, therefore, like all others, none above another, he too earned his daily bread by the sweat of his brow. Besides, Schoolmaster Joder was not the type of man to be singled out for the ministry, since he was too independent a thinker for that day to be acceptable. He was a thorough student of the Bible and in scholarship, intellectual acumen and ability in disputation was conceded too much even for the bishops of the church to cope with, being regarded by many, in his ripened years, as a vender of heretical ideas, a rather dangerous or troublesome man in the church.
To understand his religious life and the church controversy which the schoolmaster-poet engendered, it is necessary to note some of the essential characteristics of the Mennonite church. It is an evangelical communion, much in common with such bodies as the Friends, the Christian Brethren and Dunkards, and in polity somewhat similar to the Methodist Episcopal church.
The Mennonites were simple in their faith. In doctrine they were rather harsh, preaching in common with most communions of that day, the wrath of God and eternal punishment. Consideration was given the current superstitions, following somewhat signs and wonders in the daily round of life. Not having an educated, trained ministry, save as each preacher would see to that himself, the Scriptures were read on the surface, taken literally rather than symbolically and with a sort of holy awe, regarded as the only will of God and final divine authority. Among their customs, for example, was that of feet-washing, practiced as an authorized ordinance rather than a mere symbol of brotherly love. In organization, the Mennonites were a democratic body, congregational in government; yet the churches were grouped into conferences, district and national, having bishops over the individual churches and conferences. They were, however, not united, there being then as many as eight or ten different general divisions of the church in the United States. There are at the present time, thirteen major divisions and eighteen minor divisions.20 For the most part, they then used only the


-----
20 Smith, History of Mennonites in America, pp. 452-53.

150
German language in their church services, although there early appeared a progressive off-shoot which used English exclusively and following the usual modes and ceremonies of the leading Protestant communions. Today there are still others which cannot be distinguished, for example, from Methodist or Presbyterian. In Joseph Joder's day the bishops and the conferences of his branch exercised a very definite control over members and congregations, particularly holding them to orthodox beliefs.
To the Mennonites the Scriptures, more or less indirectly, yet dogmatically, prescribed their dress. Banishing all personal adornment, their dress was severely plain, simple in cut and drab in color. They, the stricter divisions, were everywhere recognized by this uniformity of' fashion. They forbade the wearing of buttons, continuing instead the use of hooks and eyes, while, of course, jewelry was a proscribed badge of worldly vanity. Hats for women were tabooed, sun-bonnets being worn instead, while the men wore the uniformly broad-brimmed hats. In common with the whole Puritan movement, their "meeting-houses" of that day were plain, uninviting, if not positively ugly. The services, likewise, were simple, long-drawn and monotonous, with all musical instruments banned.
But it must not be inferred that the Mennonites were a people as somber and gloomy as their early religious beliefs and customs might indicate; on the contrary, our schoolmaster's branch of the communion constituted a rather wide-awake, joyous and happy people. They were not only industrious and law-abiding, but they were a normal part of the civil community, making and administering laws. They likewise mingled with and to some extent were a part of the social life of the community, and doubtless came as near as any religious group to expressing their religion in right personal conduct, very few committing serious breaches of order or ever becoming inmates of jails or almshouses. Intelligent patrons of the public school, they became possessors of those common bonds of knowledge, which made for a high level of American citizenship.
It was the earlier, narrow religious environment into which Joseph Joder was born, and, it was that former intellectual barrenness and harsh religious teaching which he sought to change that brought him into controversy and disrepute with the church leadership. He brought persecution upon himself by his fight for religious freedom.
In the prime of his life, however, he was heard and he exercised a far greater influence in the church, among the people, through his religious and moral ideas than he has been given credit for, or than those of this generation know, largely because the reactionaries cast him out, both persecuting him and ignoring his teachings, besides poisoning the minds of people against him, and obliterating his work.
On coming to Illinois, Schoolmaster Joder became a charter member of the newly organized Rock Creek Mennonite Church, 1853, of which his older brother, Reverend Jonathan Yoder, who two years before also migrated to Illinois, became the pastor and bishop. Reverend Yoder was likewise a man of keen mind, self-educated and, for that day, a progressive and, moreover, a wise leader. The two brothers apparently had much in common, but Reverend Yoder's death, in 1869, soon brought

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about a change, evidenced in an attack upon the teachings of the liberal layman, Joseph Joder.
In his thinking and close study of the Scriptures, Joseph Joder had come to embrace the doctrine of God's love instead of adhering to the orthodox view of the wrath of God. Several of his most spiritual and forceful poems set forth his new convictions on love, the first one appearing in 1857, entitled, Whence and Why Ana I? In this he first speaks of the splendid world in which he finds himself.


"A world of splendor and of woe,
Where joys and sorrows ebb and flow,


and points out the beauties of nature, the riches and pleasures enjoyed by man, all of which pass away. Then naming various parts of the human body, their interdependence, functions and powers, the poet cries out,


"There's nothing wanting, no defect,
The stronger still the weak protect.
And all harmoniously combined,
Shows plan and purpose predestined.
*******************************
"And when the work assigned is done,
This body will to dust return.


and concluded that,


"I'm placed here only to prepare,
The endless joys of heaven to share.


Then in good orthodox fashion, he speaks of Jesus' love. saying:


"This love unbounded I adore
In faith and praises evermore.
I long in floods of light divine,
My song with saints above to join.


Ending with.

"Religion is that heavenly guest,
Which brings my soul in Christ to rest.
The spirit is that emblem dove,
Which bears the 'Olive Wreath' of love.
And faith exulting lends the wing,
I mount and my redeemer sing."

Now there is nothing herein contained at which a modern fundamentalist could take offense; but the error in the poet's doctrine was in that which was omitted, the heresey of failing to preach the wrath of God. In several subsequent poems he worked out more fully his doctrine of love, particularlv in the last five stanzas of his White Oak Grove, cited before. In another short poem three stanzas on Love, he works up to and in the last stanza, proclaims


"Love's universal reign."


Three years later, in 1860, appeared his second poem on love, a short one of four stanzas, each of four lines, called The Goodness of God. It is thoroughly orthodox, based on the saying of Paul, the Apostle: "This is a faithful saving and worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," the third stanza clinching his doctrine

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of love and sounding also his other appearing heresy, that of universal salvation. It reads:

"Come all mankind, attend the call,
Come to the Grace of God, come all,
The God of Love can never hate,
His call suits every case and state."

Not long after this, the exact time is uncertain, but somewhere between 1862 and 1864, appeared Our Father's Will based on the text, "Eph. l:5," "Having predestinated us to be adopted as Sons, through Jesus Christ, for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." This is a poem of nineteen four-line stanzas, in which the author presents the doctrines of love and universal salvation as found, according to the poet's thought, in the will left by the Father, the will having been signed, sealed, attested and recorded, a duplicate copy being in the author's possession.

"A duplicate copy is given to me,
A transcript from records of eternity;
A guardian's appointed to manage my case,
Till I come to manhood and fullness of days.
Yet many there are who my title dispute;
Disclaimers endeavor my rights to refute.
Their object is evident, plainly you see
Their envious grudging, desiring a fee."

The following stanzas taken from different parts of the poem illustrate, the style and process of the author in developing his ideas:

"The Gospel, 'Glad Tidings,' from heaven was brought
By Angels, announcing the soul-cheering thought;
*****************************
With him is the Balm, all diseases to cure,
His mercy and goodness forever endure.
His kindness and love, his creation adorn,
And man is his offspring before he is born.
*****************************
The plan of creation is not therefore lost,
And those who neglect it shall suffer the cost,
Yet all of mankind by redemption are bought,
All have one Destiny, Savior and God.
*****************************
The plan of creation, from mankind concealed,
And now by `The Christ,' the Savior revealed,
That all are embraced by grace and salvation,
Shall come to knowledge and regeneration."

*****************************


There was enough of the dynamite of heresy in this poem to brand the author "a Universalist" indeed. The branding soon followed, but not just at that time, since the poem was in English and did not at once find its way into the hands of the powerful church conference leaders, centering in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. It appeared at the time in the Bloomington Pantagraph,21 giving the author a favorable local hearing. It had a leavening effect on many of the rank and file of the


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21 Scrap Book, p. 62. The poem is clipped from the
Pantagraph, but the writer has as yet not been able to examine the files of that paper to locate it.

153
Rock Creek church. It was inevitable that his new doctrine of love could not stop short of universality, and the author, if not courting trouble, did not hide his light under a bushel.
Within six or eight years thereafter, our controversial poet wrote several other poems, one after another, in German and, therefore, in-tended for the Mennonite people, especially for the church leaders, preachers and bishops. The first of these, in 1869, entitled, Die Frohe Botschaft translated Glad Tidings, sets forth fully the new doctrines of love and universal salvation. The poem created a commotion, coming before the General Mennonite Conference at Fulton, Ohio, in 1870. It led at once to his persecution and soon thereafter to his being pronounced a heretic. I am including here a brief interpretative analysis of the offensive poem, written by Milo P. Lantz223 of Carlock, Illinois, grand-nephew of its author.


"Die Frohe Botschaft is a message to Mennonites of that time in particular. It gives the author's views of what the Bible teaches, as well as denouncing things the church teaches, which the author believes the Bible does not teach. This poem is the result of years of patient study of the Scriptures, reading the New Testament in the original tongue, and the whole Bible in the German and English translations. It purports to be a common sense interpretation of biblical teachings of the major tenets of Christianity, as well as a denunciation of the teachings or doctrines the author believes are not to be founded on the Scriptures.
"The poem is couched in common sense language addressed to common sense people, and common sense people understood. The poet's ideas are concise, clear cut; the language is simple and direct, befitting the ideas expressed. The arguments advanced are buttressed by twenty-seven scriptural quotations, besides the text as authority for his faith. The opening stanza decries the teaching of the doctrine of eternal punishment, as unscriptural, belying the grace of God; as a fable of heathenish conception. Men, he says, are sinners, yet are God's children, and His children receive infinitely greater gifts than a human father can confer on his children. He teaches that Christ came to save sinners, to redeem them, and that in his sacrificial death redemption is accomplished---completed and eternal bliss awaits all mankind. In succeeding stanzas the poet urges the adoption of the fundamental teachings of Christ in our daily conduct toward those about us. Salvation by works he denounces as unworthy of merit-hypocritical, but works, the outgrowth of love, are commended as the greatest evidence of a Christian life. In the final stanza the poet visions the complete fruition of the work of Love, making all things like unto her; until the whole earth becomes a Universe ('Universum'), a peaceful Kingdom of Heaven on earth."
Early in the '60's the Mennonite Churches of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois had effected an organization known as the General Mennonite Conference , the first session of which was held in Wane County, Ohio, in 1862. Reverend Jonathan Yoder, brother of Joseph Joder, was the moderator of this first session, having been one of the leaders in its organization.
In May, 1866, from the 20th to the 22d, the conference was convened in Illinois, on the farm of John Strubhar, about four miles west of the present town of Carlock. The records of this conference do not


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22 This is true, not merely of the effect of this poem, but at that time, of all the poet's writings, and is in harmony with the opinion of Milo P. Lantz, who is making a thorough study of these poems, in tracing the author's evolving religious views.
23 In letter of April 18, 1929.

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mention the name of 'Schoolmaster Joder, but there is an interesting collateral report of the conference, which does speak of him. The tradition - for it may be naught but that - is that a New York newspaper correspondent covered the conference and characterized the people as "a very simple, plain and illiterate people," but with one notable, out-standing man among them, a self -educated man, a Greek and Latin scholar and a writer of poetry, both German and English; in short a man in advance of the times, particularly of the people with whom he was connected. The report of the reporter's story 24 may be overdrawn, but if it be more than mere tradition, it is quite erroneous at one point-in characterizing the people as "illiterate."
About the time of the appearance of the poem, Die Frolic Botschaft, and upon the death of the author's brother, Reverend Yoder, 1869, the Rock Creek Church had secured a new pastor in the person of Reverend Joseph Stuckey, just come from Ohio. He was a strong man, of keen mind as well as a successful farmer, broad minded and quite liberal. Just as the new doctrine was finding acceptance among the people, it was likewise courted by the pastor, but right there is where his troubles began, not only because of his own liberal views but because he stood by his poet layman, who was the target of the shafts of the disturbed bishops. Concerning this crisis over the new doctrine, I quote from a history of the Mennonite communion by Dr. C. Henry Smith, in which he says:
"At this time a certain Joseph Joder, a member of the Stuckey congregation, a school teacher and a dabbler in verses, wrote a long poem under the title of Die Frohe Botschaft. The leading thought of this poem was that all men will be saved eternally and none punished for their sins. This sentiment was rank heresy among the Mennonites and naturally aroused a great deal of resentment."
In this statement, the author, betrays his lack of a full knowledge of the issue and particularly the place of the chief factor in this religious controversy; however, it cannot be wondered at for the author of the objectionable poem and his place were studiously ignored and obliterated by the orthodox leaders. Doubtless, were Dr. Smith to revise his history he would not speak of "a certain" Joseph Joder, nor characterize him as "a dabbler in verses."
A more accurate account with a, clearer grasp of the significance of Joseph Joder's contribution is found in a volume by Reverend William B. Weaver of Bloomington, Illinois, who says:
"Mr. Joder was eccentric in his ways and very liberal in his religious views. He was somewhat of a genius for his day. Although having had very little schooling, he mastered Greek and Latin after he was forty and also began the study of Hebrew. He was a Bible student, but his interpretation of the Scriptures did not always correspond with that of the interpretation of the church. He was a poet and began to express his religious views in various poems he wrote. One of them which caused a great deal of disturbance was Die Frohe Botschaft, in which he upheld the idea of universal salvation. Mr. Joder reached his conclusions largely through his interpretation of the love of God. A great deal of emphasis in his day was placed on


-----
24 The writer, with assistance by others, has thus far failed to find this reported story in any of the New York papers examined, though not all have yet been checked up.
25 Smith, History of the Mennonites of America, p. 248.

 

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the wrath of God and the eternal punishment of sinners. This was often over-emphasized by the church which naturally minimized the love of God.
"From a study of Mr. Joder's religious poems, particularly Die Frolic Botschaft, it must be concluded that he was trying to break from the extreme position on the wrath of God and in his emphasis on the love of God swung to the other extreme that all shall be saved. He undoubtedly was very much misunderstood by those who interpreted his poetry. This particular poem, mentioned above, found its way into the hands of the Mennonite bishops."26
The issue raised by this objectionable poem came to a crisis at the General Conference of Mennonites in 1870, meeting in Fulton County, Ohio, when after a long discussion it was voted that those members who persist in spreading such doctrines, after being warned, should be expelled. But that, after all, was a matter that was in the hands of the pastor or bishop of the congregation, and, in this case, Reverend Stuckey refused to expel his parishioner, author of the poem. At the annual conference, held in 1871 at Meadows, Livingston County, Illinois, a committee was appointed to investigate the whole matter and report at the next conference. Then at that conference in 1877, held in Lagrange County, Indiana, the committee made a rather vague report on the attitude of Reverend Stuckey, the conference endeavoring to extort from him some sort of public confession or disavowal, but did not succeed. The poem under fire came up in the discussions, and after publicly reading several of the most objectionable verses, the conference voted to place under the ban all persons who expressed adherence to the views. A special committee again waited on Reverend Stuckey in October, 1872, and upon his declaring that he regarded Mr. Joder as a brother in the church, he was informed that the General Conference would be obliged to withdraw from him and his congregation.
While the controversy was sizzling the old Rock Creek Church swarmed, dividing into two separate congregations, more or less geographically, but also theologically, although with feelings of mutual good will. Each group, upon abandoning the old location, built a new "meeting house." Rev. Stuckey became the minister of the one located to the south and east near Danvers and known as the North Danvers Church, which was dedicated in the autumn of that year, 1872. The heretic poet, still in good standing in the local church, was requested by Rev. Stuckey to write the dedicatory hymn, which he did, producing in German, Kirchweih Hymne. He had previously written several hymns of merit, not all of which, however, had been accepted by the, bishops.
In the meantime the decree of the General Conference, a sort of medieval interdict, went forth, most of the churches ratifying it. The North Danvers Church, hoping that the wave of opposition to the poet layman would gradually dissolve, ignored the action. Later, however, under unrelenting pressure and after his congregation had been ousted from the conference, 1873, Reverend Stuckey, the bishop-pastor, did yield to the extent of "setting back" from communion the disturbing member, Mr. Joder, but without expelling him from the church. After communion had been denied him, even though not formally expelled,


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26 Weaver, History of the Central Conference of Mennonites, p. 96.

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Mr. Joder absented himself entirely from attendance at church services, since he regarded such action as virtual expulsion and wholly unwarranted. The fact is that he was not a member in good standing and full fellowship and no longer so regarded. He thereafter continued, unruffled and without bitterness, his accustomed religious life in the privacy of his home and his study with relatives and friends.
He applied himself to the study of the Scriptures, perhaps as never before, and continued writing, producing numerous poems and one really notable prose work, 1873, on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. It was written in German under the title Exegese, and published in a pamphlet of thirteen pages, of which there are but few extant copies.27 By this time the author had come to be regarded as a heretic, thus a man to be shunned, and many people who may have had copies of this pamphlet, or even of his poems, were rather prone to rid themselves of such questionable writings.
But Joseph Joder was interested in many things. He saw far, and with wide vision and a firm grasp he caught the spirit of progress and gloried in human achievement.
Joseph Joder always manifested a keen interest in public affairs. He followed politics thoughtfully, never failing to exercise his right and what he considered his duty as a citizen at the ballot box. He early became a follower of Henry Clay, that somewhat erratic though popular idol of the West. He was an ardent Whig, although less a compromiser on the slavery issue than the leadership or even generality of his party. Soon after the Douglas "squatter sovereignty" policy had crystallized into the famous Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854, he joined with the anti-slavery Whigs and Freesoilers in the opposition movement launched by the Independent Democrats, and named the Republican party. He was long an admirer and became a strong supporter of Lincoln, quoting from his startling house-divided speech, in an article written at the close of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and before the election of that year, 1858. Let him here speak for himself. He had just been writing his impressions of that great achievement, the laying of the Atlantic cable, and abruptly changed to the subject of politics, as follows:
". . . When we turn our attention to the politics of our country, we find strife and contention all around us.
"Politically this nation is divided against itself; and a house divided against itself cannot stand. The institution of slavery, which caused so much excitement, is now occupying the public mind. This is the issue between the two antagonistic elements of the American nation. The Southern states in which slavery exists are seeking to extend that dire institution beyond its present limits, while the free North are trying to prohibit that abomination. It is the duty of good citizens to take an active part in this contest. A contest in which are involved the greatest issues, and upon which the American people are now looking with a degree of interest heretofore unparalleled in the history of our country. A contest in which are struggling the greatest doctrines of the National Government. A contest which must soon come to a focus and be decided for better or for worse by the people of the nation. Then let every freedom-loving citizen come forward to the ballot-box and silently decide in favor of freedom."28

---------
27 A copy of Exeyese is in the possession of Milo P. Lantz.
28 Scrap Book, p. 3.

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After this senatorial campaign, 1858, his love for the Union, his glowing patriotism burst forth in rare charm, rising to the purest of poetry and the loftiest patriotic devotion. The poem, Hail Our Country's Natal Morn, was written for a Fourth of July celebration, 1859. and read by the author at Stout's Grove,29 near Danvers, Illinois. It is a short poem of four eight-line stanzas and is given here in full:

Hail our country's natal morn,
Hail our spreading kindred born,
Hail the banner not yet torn,
Waving o'er the free.
While this day in festal throng,
Millions swell the patriot's song,
Shall not we thy notes prolong,
Hallowed Jubilee.

Who would sever freedom's shrine
Who would draw the invidious line
Though by birth one spot be mine,
Dear is all the rest;
Dear to me the South's fair land,
Dear the central, mountain band,
Dear New England's rocky strand.
Dear the prairied West.

By our altars pure and free,
By our law's deep-rooted tree,
By the past's dear memory
By our Washington,
By our common parent tongue,
By our hopes bright, buoyant, young,
By the ties of country strong,
We will still be one.

Fathers, have you bled in vain,
Ages, must you droop again,
Maker, shall we rashly strain,
Blessings sent by Thee,
Not receive our solemn vow,
While before Thy throne we bow
Ever to us now,
Union, Liberty!

When the war finally came, Grandfather Joder, while not particular active with his pen, followed the raging currents of the conflict with concern for the Union. The section of the State where he lived was positively loyal, although there were a few who directly or indirectly sided with the South. Some there were of southern birth and sympathy, a few indeed were suspected of being disguised "copperheads." On one occasion he drove by the home of one of these men, a neighbor, and found him erecting a small building. Drawing up to the fence, he brought his horse to a sudden stop with his customary "Whoa !" and opened up on the neighbor thus: "Good morning, Brother C. !What are you building?" The reply was, "A house to put copperheads in." "Yon had better get in yourself !" and with a "Gid-dap !" was off. 30
Mr. Joder had a profound respect for law and demanded a high standard of moral obligation, through the people, on the part of the


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29 Scrap Book, p. 139.
30 Recollect ions of Milo Y. Lantz-Letter of February 26, 1929.

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government. He believed that all should share in political responsibility and privilege, and to that end favored the enlarging rights of Women, even woman suffrage, yet he was grounded in the old fashioned beliefs concerning the "sphere" of woman. This is subtly, or perhaps naively, betrayed in a poem he wrote for a girl31 in the community, the youngest of a family of four daughters, all of whom became rural school teachers, greatly to his satisfaction. The first four stanzas of the short poem, styled To a Little Girl,32 read thus:

"Little girls should high aspire
Useful knowledge to acquire-
They should practice all the graces,
Cheerful mien and smiling faces.

They should little fingers drill,
Subdue the temper, curb the will;
Train their minds to sweet submission,
For the nobler acquisition.

Domestic duties are their sphere,
The minor graces should be there,
The love of God before their eyes,
To make them cautious, prudent, wise.

Thus grow in virtue, grace and age,
Combine the matron and the sage,
Adorn their station, rank and sphere,
A blessing, blest and ever dear."

Here, then, we see he urges upon girls the acquisition of knowledge and all that goes with learning; but besides, the fingers must be drilled, since "domestic duties" constitute woman's sphere. The ultimate is the happy combination of matron and sage.
In a poem, a discursive couplet written in the '70's, the author, in discussing some of the social problems, speaks of "this fast age," of the "social convulsions," but endorses one of the changes just appearing, woman suffrage, and then launches a broadside attack on the saloon and its trail of iniquity. The poem, a voluntary contribution, was written to and published in the Bloomington Leader. After a few playful, introductory lines, he says:

"You know Mr. Leader, that in this fast age,
Much is transpiring to puzzle the sage;
Old tyrannies, customs and creeds must decay;
As virtue and truth, Light and Love show the way.
These social convulsions must cause some alarm,
To wake up the sleepers, but not to do harm.
A few of the questions which now agitate
The drones of the past, we will briefly relate."
and as to woman suffrage, he concludes that,
"This question of franchise, so plain at first sight,
Now's yielded to ladies as proper and right."


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31 That little girl is Miss Cornelia ("Nelie") McGavack, a teacher, re-siding in Normal, Illinois, and is the possessor of the original manuscript poem.
32 Later the author sent a copy of the poem to the Bloomington Pantagraph for publication, with this note: "Messrs. Editors: If you have a Youth's Department in your Hebdomadary, the following lines to a little girl are at your services." Scrap Book, p. 88.

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which, come to think of it, was said by this old liberal some forty or fifty years before the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
The author was a bitter foe of the saloon. In this same poem he laments the presence of the saloon, scores the license system, and takes Bloomington frankly to task for fostering the evil in its midst. He decries drunkenness, the accompanying poverty and degradation, and ridicules the inconsistency of enticing people for a price and then punishing them for the consequences. Says he:

"The city authorities may enact laws,
Preventing this evil, destroying its cause:
And if they neglect, there will come a day
When duties neglected will clambor for pay.
Now Bloomington, if you'll listen, please do;
We'll read a short lecture on morals to you."

This is followed by a scathing denunciation and rebuke for tolerating the saloon.

"This privilege the city sells,
And legalizes local hells,
For paltry gain that may accrue,
To swell the city revenue.
You make minions liquor venders,
But the quaffers are offenders;
From the road of duty swerving,
Further notice undeserving.
You put temptation in the way,
Then punish those who go astray;
And if the tippler, in his potion,
Happens to lose locomotion-
Or if, perchance he takes a snooze,
You put him in the calaboose,
Leaving there the simple toper,
Until fasting makes him sober-
Then to a magistrate him hale,
To pay a fine or go to jail.
The wife and children thus bereft,
Meanwhile are forced to want or theft.
This in a sane community
Is a burning inconsistency.
* * * * *
Licensed creatures dole out brandy,
Keep a noisome Devil's shanty-
There for dimes and souls to barter,
And the city grants the charter."

Grandfather Joder had an active, inquiring mind. He was interested in many things besides language, education and religion. He did not go far in other fields of study, but he was profoundly impressed with the range of human progress, especially in harnessing the physical forces, and particularly in the great advance made in mechanical invention. He left an appraisement of the laying of the Atlantic cable,33; written in October, 1858, just after its successful accomplishment and before it soon thereafter ceased to work for a couple of Years. To us


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33 Scrap Book, pp. 1-2.

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of today it sounds a bit extravagant, for, said our interpreter, relative to the great triumph :
"The great work of the nineteenth century is fully and finally completed. The first verbal messages have passed from continent to continent along the slender thread of the Atlantic Cable. The heads of the two great nations of the earth have exchanged kindly greetings through the medium of the most wonderful of all the mighty achievements of the human intellect in modern times.
Deep down in the impenetrable depths, in the silent and sunless retreats of the ocean-there no fin beats the solitary waters, and where the feathery shell of the dead mollusk lies undisturbed by wave of current, while a thousand fathoms above, the storm is abroad in its might, and the great ships are tossing like feathers over the mountain of waters, and 'melting into the yeast of waves,' there has been whispered the greetings of the Old World and the New, and there has been the interchange of familiar speech of nations whose farthest outposts are vastly separated, and two thousand miles of rolling sea intervene * * * Never perhaps has any one event stirred the hearts and kindled the eyes of so many people, with such pure and unselfish joy and exultation. Never, surely has any event been hailed with such widespread and simultaneous rejoicing so quickly after its occurrence."


Joseph Joder's studies in mathematics and mechanics led him step by step into the slippery field of invention. Like the medieval alchemists, seeking the elixir of life, he was after the long-sought mechanical elixir. It was some time in the late '60's and early '70's that he became an enthusiast in the recurring craze for "perpetual motion." After studying somewhat and pondering the idea, he became convinced that it was possible and ere long would be realized. Why could not he be the inventor and reap the certain reward?
He set to work on the project with zest, paid out for having the necessary parts made, all the money he could obtain, for the most part reluctantly advanced by his daughter, housekeeper and home-maker until finally the contrivance was ready to try out-or start. It consisted roughly of a wooden plank, 2 x 6 inches, with two large wheels, one stationary on the large upright plank, the other capable of moving up and down on the upright beam of the frame, parallel to the main beam. Between the two wheels was a small wheel to operate on the surface of the two large wheels, the movable wheel to be started and controlled by a system of weights, which once started by an operating lever were supposed to keep the works going.34 But when ready to set the machine in motion, that which worked so perfectly and wondrously in thought refused to function; it became inextricably locked, requiring a crowbar to pry it loose. Sorely disappointed, our poet-inventor silently accepted defeat.
He had, however, worked out his mechanism to such a fine point that he just missed the accidental invention or discovery of a new mechanical application. The principle which he employed in his mechanism was grasped by another, one who had made for him the various parts for his machine. This Bloomington man soon thereafter secured a patent on what was known as "centripetal power," an attachment


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34 Description accompanied by a drawing from memory by Milo P. Lantz -Letter of April 14, 1929. A similar description is also given by Joseph J. Clark, grandson, of Lewiston, Idaho-Letter of February 26, 1929.

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for developing power in the operation of various machines. "It was very evident," says one of his grandsons35 and an eye witness, "that this principle was taken from grandfather's model, but he wasn't studying for power, his was perpetual motion." Tradition says that the inventor received $10,000 for his invention, which at that time was considered a snug fortune.
About this time, in his old age, Joseph Joder took up another side line, partly to amuse himself, partly to satisfy a felt need for change in his simple daily routine, less I take it, with any thought of increasing his earning power. He purchased a small knitting machine and for several years operated it, knitting socks, mittens, etc., for relatives or friends and neighbors. From this work he got the necessary recreation, which in turn gave him greater energy in his studies and the writing of his reflections. He was doubtless as much of a misfit in the field of mechanics as he was at home in his domain of the linguistic and the literary.
Joseph Joder was an out-of-the-ordinary, common man. His characteristics and traits, his peculiarities and talents were not new nor strange. All things that marked him were found in other persons, but not all in one person. Thus he was an unusual man; a marked man and attracted notice.
He was a large man physically, tall -- six feet, two inches, when in his prime- rough-boned and lank, loosely put together, with long arms and legs and big feet. He was not robust, but a man of strength with an iron constitution, never sick.
In habits, he was abstemious; rigidly temperate. He was not gluttonous, although he did not simply eat to live, for he was a good liver -- he always enjoyed a good table. His one indulgence was smoking. In his old age, he at times "swore off," vowed he would quit, what he regarded as a bad habit, and threw his pipe as far as he could throw it; but he always managed to remember just where he had thrown it"' and without apologies resumed smoking.
He dressed plainly. Until old, he wore "home-made" clothes and only in later years did he resort to "store" clothes or "hand-me-downs," even then the creases were first carefully ironed out before putting them on. His daughter, Mary, was not only a school teacher but also a seamstress, making suits for him and his numerous grandsons. While he was reared in the hook-and-eye age of his religious faith, he early discarded the peculiar superstition that the Lord had decreed a certain style of dress, and took to buttons. Until old age, however, until he began wearing the custom made suits, he wore the trousers without the buttoned vent, continuing the old-fashioned drop front. He always wore the plain white muslin shirts, the only adornment being the, long, wide, well-worn, black tie-band under the wide, turnover attached collar. His hat was neither "stove-pipe" nor derby, but an old-fashioned, high, full-crown hat one hat serving for many years-with a home-made straw of similar style for the two hot months of the summer. Without


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31 Benjamin Clark of Hubbell, Nebraska-Letter of February 11, 1929. 38 Recollections of Mrs. Maud Lantz Maginnis, great-granddaughter, Lakeland, Fla.-Letter of Feb. 5th, 1929. -11SH

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vanity, without fastidiousness, his wants were few, his thoughts were his interest-plain living and high thinking may truly be applied to Joseph Joder, thinker, linguist, and poet.
Grandfather Joder never played; life was too serious a thing for that, besides play was for children and only then during the early childhood years. He lived severely yet calmly and serenely; he was stern but not unkind in intent. His countenance was rather solemn and although he laughed, he was not given to laughter. He saw the humorous side of things, yet with him it was in the depths of his thoughts, the humor of inexcusable error, of willful ignorance. Given to thinking, life to him presented many vital problems for solution and he had an ambition to solve human problems, to correct human error.
He had few intimates in life, yet there were many who regarded him with high esteem, or at any rate as a man to be esteemed. He was regarded as an eccentric, for what boots it if here's a man with an occupied mind and facile pen, who lives in the realm of ideas and yet has not accumulated a great competence of this world's goods-an impractical visionary! Probably his closest friend was Rev. Ben Eicher of Washington, Iowa, pastor of a church there and Bishop of the Mennonite churches of Iowa, with whom he corresponded for many years, and who died about seven years after Mr. Joder. Their chief interest was in religion, in religious disputation, in which, however, they were in harmony, kindred spirits.37 This correspondence, it appears, has been destroyed, because of lack of interest and want of understanding.
Many shunned Grandfather Joder and shunned his intellectual contributions. His grandchildren, even, and many others somewhat avoided him, for the reason that he was always putting them to the test, finding out how little they knew.38 He sought for their answers in grammar, speech, language, etc., etc., often to their embarrassment. "Can you read this" (or that)? was the question put to many youngsters wherever met. One of his passions was urging the young generation to learn to read German. When an impromptu test was satisfactory, his face


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37 Says Edwin O. Ropp, of Normal, Ill.:
"The stories I have heard of 'Schul-Meister' (Schoolmaster Joder) have always interested me. In one of the old letters (of Joseph Joder to Rev. Eicher, dated, Oak Grove, Ill., Mar. 6th, 1885) he deplores belief in that `beacon of terror (endless woe)' and closes a very beautiful communication with these patriarchal lines:


'My sight is dim, my hearing dull,
My eyes are eighty-seven, full,
I am waiting for the Master's call,
May God have mercy on us all.'


disclosing, as it seems to me, a very beautiful state of mind for any `Schulmeister' to be in while rounding out his eighty-seventh year."- Letter to the writer, Mar. 15, 1929.
38 Says a grandson of him:
"He was a great soul. His greatness increases with the years since his passing, for he was far ahead of his day. I remember him as very stern- -- don't know that he ever laughed- and was always wanting to know how much I knew. I, of course, a mere boy, knew very little of grandfather; I was always in fear of him, because he was always wanting us-Ike and me -to say the German alphabet and other difficult things."-Dr. Abia B. Clark of New York City,-Letter of March 5, 1929.

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beamed; when it proved abortive, his remark brought a pang to the heart of the unwilling candidate for linguistic honors.
On one occasion he offered one of his granddaughters, a girl of twelve or fourteen, a new dress if she would learn to read German. The girl accepted the offer and went to work in earnest. After she had acquired what she thought was a fair degree of proficiency, she visited her grandfather in the hope of receiving the reward. When she gave her reading exhibition, he simply laughed, remarking that she had a good deal yet to learn. Discouraged, the young lady terminated her engagement to study German.39
At the village of Oak Grove, one day, Mr. Joder entered the drug store and accosted the new proprietor, lately arrived from Pennsylvania, with "Who are you?" Upon being informed his name was Lantz and giving his family connections, the next question was, "Can you read German?" The reply was in the affirmative, and ever thereafter the newcomer stood well in the estimation of the "schoolmaster ."40
But Grandfather Joder's always wanting to know how much one knew, was interpreted as seeking to find out how little one knew. His gruff manner, doubtless, was more apparent than real; he was blunt rather than gruff. He meant well inwardly, even kindly, but was right out with his thoughts, using no tact in his approach. Hence, although he was respected and esteemed, he was likewise feared and an intimate acquaintance, by the generality, was not cultivated.
He always rode in an open buggy, driving a trusty, bay mare, and none but a trusty would do, for he driving along, in case of rain or a hot sun, with a great umbrella in one hand and lines in the other, his thoughts could travel where they would. He always hurried his horse over the rough or muddy places on the road, for the reason as he himself said, that he didn't like such traveling; then on smooth road, he allowed his horse to jog along more leisurely.41
Generous to a fault, often forgetful of himself, he bestowed unusual kindnesses on total strangers. On one occasion, going over the familiar White Oak road on his way to Bloomington, with umbrella up to shield him from a light rain, he met a woman walking without an umbrella. He stopped, forced his umbrella upon her, and heedless of the rain went on his way to town. Weeks afterwards on going that way again, he was hailed by the same woman, running from her front door to the road to return the umbrella. He had missed his umbrella, but had forgotten the circumstance until thus reminded of it."
His long period of retirement Joseph Joder devoted to reading and writing. He was a great reader in his limited field. He read few books


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39 Mrs. Francis Yoder Knapple, Lexington, Nebraska,-letter of February 9th, 1929.
40 Mrs. Lydia M. Lantz, whose husband was the young man-the late John K. Lantz-Cove, Oregon,-letter of February 5th, 1929.
41 Recollections of Mrs. Maud Lantz Maginnis and Mrs. Frances Yoder Knapple-cited before.
42 Recollections of Mrs. Kate Yoder Burns, Lexington, Nebraska,-Letter of February 3, 1929.

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and magazines, confining himself largely to his few technical books and the Bible, which was also pretty much of a technical book to him, and also reading certain religious journals and always the Bloomington newspapers. For many years, until enfeebled by old age, which finally prevented his driving alone, he went twice a week, as regularly as the clock, to the village of Oak Grove for his mail. His mail usually consisted of a letter or two, but not always, of several religious journals, The Herald of Truth among them, and the inevitable Leader and the Pantagraph.
Oak Grove was on a short star route mail line from Bloomington to Stabtown, a distance of about twenty miles. The carrier packed the mail pouch on horseback or by a two-wheeled cart, popular in that day. The round trip was made every other day, hence people got their mail three times a week, whereas a few years before the mail was carried bi-weekly by one of the two retail merchandise stores.
For twenty-five years Grandfather Joder was a familiar figure on this stretch of highway three miles southwest of Oak Grove, a tall man with a high hat, driving a trusty bay mare. Here let a young eye witness and neighbor describe and characterize him going for his mail, the mail having come in the night before :
"The next morning, just as regularly, if the weather was fair, he passed my home driving the horse hitched to the open buggy, his left foot resting on the step of the buggy, his left hand holding the reins, his right hand holding his long cane at the end of his long arm. The horse was a trusty one and needed but little attention. Here was the passenger in deep study, and every once in a while, his arm and cane always extended, he would punctuate his thought by using his arm and cane with a downward gesture of finality. This picture so often seen on the half mile of highway visible, and continued during the years when this scene was re-enacted, became firmly drilled into me never to be forgotten.43
Upon reaching the village he went straight to the post office, greeting few people, even those with a formal statement or a specific question. He procured his coveted mail and out again ready for the return trip, when with a "Now fly!" to his horse, he was away on a moderate trot until he reached home, where in the sanctity of his study he began the devouring of his prey. On Sundays he read no "secular" papers, nothing, but the Bible, which to him was the perfect book; and if read in his way it was the authoritative guide.
His latch string was always out to guests and the one room occupied by him was his study, drawing room and bedroom combined. Visitors, however, had to be able to enter into discussion, either in the field of his choice or acquaintance, not necessarily to agree, or in some field of their interest which might perchance help to broaden his own range of thought. Bat woe unto him who had nothing to contribute, who was neither a good listener nor an intelligent disputant. His blunt query or incisive statement soon found the measure of stranger or acquaintance.


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43 Milo P. Lantz, Carlock. Illinois,-Letter of February 26, 1929.

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To many his life appeared dull and narrow. His, however, was a life in communion with ideas rather than in the mingling of people. He never loafed, nor did he participate in the larger social relations of the people. Doubtless he missed much in life; but he never lost his interest in learning and in the rising generation. One of his few diversions was in occasionally visiting a school in the neighborhood. His was the mind of the scholar; he had a passion for knowledge. Although his contribution was small, his thought and spirit were in tune with the universal. The third generation is coming to know him and to appreciate his contribution.


Yoder Newsletter - © Christopher K. Yoder, 1992, 1994