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Jul 13

Schumm Parochial School Dynamited in 1918

One hundred years ago our country was involved in World War I, united with our allies fighting against Germany and its allies in Europe. While our soldiers were fighting the Germans overseas, back here at home anti-German sentiment was directed at German-Americans. Some of that occurred in Ohio. Some even occurred in our community.

During WWI there was hostility toward German-Americans and anything German. Anyone suspected of being sympathetic to the German cause faced persecution. The anti-German sentiment was considered to be a show of patriotism for the American war effort by some and as a result, German-Americans were targeted and persecuted. Many assumed that people of German descent were traitors. Some government actions promoted anti-German activities and included the censorship of German literature, the recommendation to remove pro-German books from libraries, as well as a published list of approved books that were not considered to be pro-German. Some towns and cities re-named streets that had German names. The Ohio state legislature passed the Ake Law, which banned the teaching of the German language below the eighth grade in all schools. [1]  

The Schumm area was settled by German immigrants and unfortunately Schumm was not immune to this anti-German sentiment in 1918.

In fact, the Schumm parochial school building was targeted. It was dynamited in the fall of 1918, likely connected to the Ake Law mentioned above.

Zion Lutheran Parochial School, Schumm, Ohio (built in 1899)

I had heard about this incident but had never really read much about it. A genealogy friend recently sent me a copy of the following newspaper clipping about the incident:

BUILDING DYNAMITED
School House in Willshire Township Where German Was Taught Wrecked With Explosives

The parochial school building of the Schumm Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Willshire township, a brick structure, about twenty-four by thirty-two feet in dimensions, was badly wrecked at an early hour Sunday morning. The damage to the building was caused by an explosion of a large quantity of dynamite placed under the Northeast corner of the building by unknown parties. The theory is that the act was perpetrated by parties who resent the fact that German is taught in the parochial school and that services are still conducted in German in the church. The charge of dynamite was placed under the building by removing the covering in of a small ventilator in the foundation, directly under the window at the Northeast corner. The force of the explosion was so great that one end of the building was blown out, every window was broken, the seats were blown loose from their fastenings on the floor, the ceiling was wrecked and the entire North wall was damaged. The vibrations caused by the explosion created a report which was heard for miles around, indicating that a large quantity of the explosion was set off.

Immediately following the explosion, which occurred at 1:45 o”clock, Sheriff Gunsett and Deputy Sheriff Wilson and Patrolman Jones, of the city police force, opened an inquiry. Sheriff Gunsett is continuing the investigation, following out clues picked up from his inspection made shortly after the explosion. The evidence shows that the parties came to the school house in an automobile and that they traveled away on a zig-zag course for the purpose of concealing their movement. They were traced a distance of fifteen miles by means of peculiar marks made on the soft roadway by the rear tires of the automobile, the tread on one tire being a cross-bar and the other of a type which left beaded marks on the ground. They traveled South to the cross roads, East one-half mile, North two miles through Glenmore, one-half mile West, two miles North, thence West, one-half mile North, thence to the State line, North one-half mile to Decatur, where the trail was lost on a paved street.

The Schumm Church is in charge of Rev. George Meyer. Both English and German has been taught in the parochial school and in the church services in German have been held regularly, with one service in English each month. The officers of the law are still investigating the case in the hope of bringing to justice the parties guilty of placing and exploding the dynamite. The view of the officers is emphatic to the end that while un-patriotic utterances and un-patriotic attitudes are not to the countenanced, at the same time acts of violence—the endangering of life or the destruction of property, or anything that savors of mob spirit, is not the method or the cure of offense against the country, consequently, the offender will be brought to the bar of justice if their identity can be established. [2]

Another newspaper account, from the Lima Daily News, wrongly reported that the Schumm school was in Delphos. This account states…Public sentiment had failed to stop the teaching of German in this school, which is the property of the Schumm German Evangelical Lutheran church, so the residents took matters into their own hands…Officials of the church have offered a reward of $200 for the conviction of the persons implicated. [3]

I wonder if they ever caught those responsible for the act.

It is hard to imagine that type of violence, a hate-crime really, in Schumm 100 years ago, especially violence to a parochial school. You hear about this type of act but it usually happens somewhere else. Not so close to home. The attack likely stemmed from the fact that the school taught German. Thank goodness no one was injured.

How ironic that at that same time there were young German-American men from Schumm fighting the Germans in Europe, risking their lives. One that comes to mind is Emmanuel Schumm, and there were others.

It was around this same time that Zion Chatt stopped holding services in German and Zion Schumm may have done the same.

 

[1] Anti-German Sentiment, Ohio History Central.org, viewed 12 July 2018.

[2] Van Wert Daily Bulletin, Van Wert, Ohio, 21 Oct 1918, pg. 3.

[3] Lima Daily News, 22 Oct 1918.

6 comments

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  1. Linda Duff

    Karen, I highly recommend the PBS documentary on WW1. It was recently aired @ touched on this very subject of all German heritage being suspicious. I knew it existed but had no idea of the great fear the general public had of all things German. I’m surprised that my maiden name is still pronounced in the German language! Linda

    1. Karen

      I was surprised at its extent in Ohio and inserted the Ohio History link. When you grow up in a German community you just don’t think about those prejudices and fears but I am sure the war had a lot to do with the feelings. I will try to catch the documentary you mentioned sometime. Thanks for writing!

  2. Susan Delaney

    Thank you for posting this article, Karen. We need to be alert to hate crimes today as well. I’d like to experience less polarization.

    1. Karen

      As would I. Thanks for reading!

  3. Karen Pautsch

    My grandparents, Arthur and Louise Schinnerer Damerow, spoke German at home in Detroit, and my mother (born in 1922) grew up speaking German until she went to school. After starting school, though, it was only English. Mom said that because of anti-German sentiment even after WWI, her parents only spoke German with other family members and when they didn’t want the children to know what they were talking about.

    It’s dismaying that the school in Schumm would be singled out for a hate crime. God certainly was watching out for His children in that no one was injured. When was the school repaired and reopened?

    1. Karen

      I remember that my Schumm grandparents (and my grandpa Miller) could speak German and that my parents learned a little German as well. That is too funny that the older generation would speak German so the children would not know what they were talking about. I wish I had learned to speak German. One could probably learn from the Amish. I do not know if or when they repaired the school, or if it was damaged so badly that they had to build a new one. Thanks for writing and it was great seeing you at the reunion!

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