Saturday, June 4, 2011

Oklahoma Octoberfest?

I was surprised to learn that by 1910,  just three years after gaining statehood, almost 37% of Oklahoma's people were  Germans or were Germans from Russia.   In Washita County many Germans settled near the communities of Korn and Bessie, but because of the randomness imposed by the territory's land rushes and lotteries, they did not consolidate into dense ethnic communities as they did in other states.  To maintain a connection with their culture, they built German language churches, German language schools,  German language newspapers (16) and German social clubs.  In addition to the hardy red wheat crops from the old country they also brought the Mennonite religion and their pacifist objections to war and violence.

Then came World War I.   There was an undercurrent of pacifism among many of the immigrants due to their German heritage.  The Mennonite farmers, as conscientious objectors, also strongly objected to the war and rufused to sell their wheat out of fear it would support the war effort.  In response to the National Defense Act of 1916, the state of Oklahoma established the Council of Defense to promote domestic war efforts.  In addition to general patriotic propaganda, they promoted support for the Red Cross and the sale of Liberty Bonds.  The state then established the Oklahoma Loyalty Bureau whose purpose was to identify and imprison those in the state who refused to sign a pledge of loyalty to the government.  Vigilante groups formed and the German settlers who were not openly supporting the war were harrassed.  The state banned spoken German language and the German newspapers were shut down.

The  people of "Korn" thus changed the name of their town to "Corn" to prove loyalty to our nation's war efforts. 


Kathy said...

Thanks for stopping by. It's always nice to meet another lover of history.

Rob From Amersfoort said...

During WWI the young soldiers met people from all over the US, that was the moment they really learned to use English as their first language, and from that moment on the use of the 'foreign' languages died out. The same thing happened in New York and New Jersey with the Dutch language after WWI.