Meeting heifer recipients in Germany, Part II–The Reichswald, 1950

Today’s post picks up the story of Heifer Project shipments to Germany in the 1950s through the eyes of Heifer Project Representative Joe Dell who was stationed there. In my previous post, Dell had taken seagoing cowboy Rev. A. H. Elshoff to the distribution of the 8th shipment in Coesfeld. The remainder of the heifers from that shipment had been distributed on June 29, 1950, to forty-two families in the Reichswald settlement. In his August 1950 report, “Reichswald Pioneers,” Joe Dell tells their story:

In a number of rather isolated rural areas in Germany today pioneers are clearing the timber land and breaking the soil in ventures reminiscent of days when pioneers in our own land forged westward in search of new lands and new homes.

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Clearing the land in the war-damaged part of the Reichswald, circa 1949. Photo courtesy of Heimatvereins Reichswalde.

These are refugee families who have been forced by the ravages of war to find new homes and new places to earn their livelihood. In western Germany today there are an estimated 9 to 13 million of these people. . . . For the past five years they have been waiting out a dreary and often hopeless existence in refugee camps . . . Or have been living with friends or relatives and struggling to support themselves as best they could by obtaining work from day to day.

Slowly now, some of these people are able to leave camp and extablish [sic] new homes for themselves and herein lies the pioneering venture. . . . It is with such people, who are building new homes for themselves, that [Heifer Project Committee] heifers are being placed.

The makeshift school in a barrack until a new one can be constructed, 1950. Photo courtesy of Heimatvereins Reichswalde.

The makeshift school in a barrack until a new one can be constructed, 1950. Photo courtesy of Heimatvereins Reichswalde.

But let us look a little more closely in order that these people may become known to us. In the westernmost part of Germany, a few miles from the Holland border, lies the Reichswald or German forest. Here more than 1100 years ago Charlemagne and his knights ruled the Frankish kingdom, and here less than six years ago bitter fighting destroyed much of the beauty and worth of the forests. During the past year more than 2,000 acres of these woods have been cleared and homes built or started for five hundred families. Some will earn their living entirely from working the soil, others will work in the community village which is being built. Very soon a school will be completed and the children will no longer have to make the long trip into Kleve where the nearest school is now located.

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A home goes up in the Reichswald settlement, 1950. Photo courtesy of Heimatvereins Reichswalde.

On one of the 35 acre farms in this community lives widow Queling with her eight children. Her husband met with an accident last year and was killed leaving the mother and children to carry on alone. Both she and her husband were born near the Reichswald area and migrated in 1928, after their marriage, to Silesia on the German-Polish border. In 1945 the war overtook them; they had to leave their farm and livestock and make their way as best they could into western Germany. Then followed years of hardship, when hunger and want stalked the land and the struggle for survival was fierce. The Quelings lived during that time with relatives in a village some miles from the Reichswald. Late in 1949 the news came to them of the opportunity to establish their own home and start a new life here. The German Government was helping families to clear the forests, to break the land and to have their own home for the first time in years. Soon thereafter the family joined in the work of clearing stumps and getting the ground in shape for the spring planting.

Their joy in building a new home was turned to sadness by the death of the father in December and the family had to carry on the struggle alone. Finally a part of the land was cleared and potatoes, oats and hay were planted. Last June brought happy news again to the Quelings and to Reichswald. Forty-two heifers, some already giving milk and others to freshen soon, had arrived in Bremen; sent to this new community by Christian friends in the United States. From Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and even as far away as Oregon, these heifers had been sent by people who wished to share their abundance that others might be helped to a better life.

On June 22, 1950, 42 heifers arrive for distribution in the Reichswald settlement. The makeshift school in a barrack until a new one can be constructed, 1950. Photo courtesy of Heimatvereins Reichswalde.

On June 22, 1950, 42 heifers arrive for distribution in the Reichswald settlement. Photo courtesy of Heimatvereins Reichswalde.

Forty-two of the neediest families in the Reichswald received one heifer each. The Quelings waited expectantly to see which theirs would be. Finally the cattle arrived from Bremen and the selections were made. The Quelings led their newest possession, a red and white heifer, to her new home. She had been given by Henry Kirk and had come from Halse, Oregon; more than 7,000 miles by railroad, by ship, and by truck. During the day the cow would be turned out to pasture in an adjoining field and brought home each evening by the children so that she could be milked.
. . . .
We could continue the story of hundreds and thousands of Quelings and Geils and Kirsches. Their stories are different, yet alike. All have known the bitterness of hunger and cold and hopelessness. Some know also the joy and hope inspired by a future wherein they can begin again and the knowledge that someone in America has cared enough to send them help — even from 7,000 miles away.

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June 22, 1950. Photo courtesy of Heimatvereins Reichswalde.

Next regular post: My visit to the Reichswald recipients

First Seagoing Cowboy Takes Heifers to Puerto Rico

Today’s post comes from Heifer Project Committee meeting excerpts of August 21, 1944, in Nappanee, Indiana, item 4: “Heifers for Puerto Rico,” in which cattle attendant, a.k.a. “seagoing cowboy,” Wayne Hostetler [see previous post] reports on his trip to the committee.

The heifers were loaded July 13…. There were from twenty to twenty-five men ready and waiting to load them, and only four men were needed. The ship had five hatches. The heifers were right behind the officers’ quarters. Waterman office men made the shed extra strong. Its slope roof was 20 ft. x 16 ft. Dr. Meixel said that the shed was twice as strong as requirements. Negro stevedores were afraid of the cattle. It took one and one-half hours to load….

The ship left Mobile, Alabama, at 2:30 a.m. on July 14. It followed a storm, and had five days of calm. It waited one and one-half days at Guantanamo, and there joined a convoy of eight merchant ships and four escorts. [World War II was raging at the time.] They traveled at 12 knots an hour in three columns (escorts on each corner). The sea was rough, but no trouble was caused for the cattle.

Wayne fed grain and hay twice a day and watered three times a day. He also cleaned stables three times a day. All cattle gained on ship except one which aborted. On Sunday the Shorthorn heifer had a calf. A good crowd was there.

Mr. Fizell [Chief Officer] was very considerate; likewise the captain. (There were thirty navy men on armed guard, six on twenty-four hours, and four merchantmen on guard twenty-four hours.)

The ship arrived at Port of San Juan on July 22 at five o-clock a.m…. All heifers were unloaded by 5:30 p.m. by cage and hoist–one at a time. Rufus King [leader of the Brumbaugh Reconstruction Unit, see previous post] led them to the truck.

Rufus King with Heifer Project heifers in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Rufus King inspects heifers on board ship in San Juan. I believe this to be the 1944 shipment. Photo from Peggy Reiff Miller collection, courtesy of Karen King Keim.


They all led well. Twelve were distributed [by the Farm Security Administration] to four counties. By 11:00 p.m., the farthest was placed–3-1/2 miles up a mountain beyond the road.

The Chief of Dairy and Forestry took Wayne and Rufus King on a tour.

One man receiving a heifer had twelve children. They had never had milk to drink. The County Agent’s advisers visited each home three times during the first week and as many times as necessary thereafter….

One of the families who received a heifer in Puerto Rico.

One of the families who received a heifer in Puerto Rico in 1944. Photo from Peggy Reiff Miller collection, courtesy of Karen King Keim.

“Faith” [the first heifer donated to the Heifer Project] is close to Ocean front, and a suburban “colony.” She has plenty of pasture, shelter and a barrel for feed. Her heifer calf was kept in a one-room house with the family and carried out at feeding time.

Faith with Virgil Mock and Claire Stine

Faith, the first heifer donated to the Heifer Project with her donor, Virgil Mock on left, and Claire Stine who raised her. Photo courtesy of Heifer International.

A visit by County Agent's advisors to Faith the Cow in her new Puerto Rican environment.

A visit by County Agent’s advisors to Faith and her calf in their new Puerto Rican environment. Photo courtesy of the Wayne Hostetler family.

Wayne left from San Juan by plane at 2:30 p.m. on July 29, and arrived in Miami at 10:30 p.m. His five rolls of films will be sent by Paul Weaver in four or five letters. Incidentally, Wayne drank “cokes” on the Captain of the boat who drank beer.

Chief Officer George W. Fizell wrote the following letter of praise from the SS. William D. Bloxham in the Port of San Juan to the Brethren Service Committee:


I want to extend my congratulations to you on the wonderfull [sic] work you are engaged in. The finest example of practical Christianity I have ever seen.

We who travel see how the other half struggle for existence and can perhaps realize the value of your work far better than the stay-at-homes.

I would also like to congratulate you on your excellent selection of Mr. Wayne Hostetler as your Representative. A fine type of American youth who would be a credit to us anywhere.

I am not a religious man but if I remember a little of the Bible I believe it was Paul who said ‘By their works ye shall know them’. More Power to you.

How I would love to find those five rolls of film Wayne had Paul Weaver send from Puerto Rico! I’ve found very few photos from this first shipment.

Next post: An interview with Heifer International President and CEO Pierre Ferrari.


Heifer Project’s First Seagoing Cowboy


It’s impossible to tell the seagoing cowboy story without also telling the story of the Heifer Project, the forerunner to today’s Heifer International. The seagoing cowboy program and the Heifer Project were linked through their relationship to the Brethren Service Committee, the outreach arm of the Church of the Brethren, begun in 1941. (More about that connection in another post.)

The Heifer Project was the brain child of Church of the Brethren staff worker and gentleman farmer Dan West. He was sent to Spain in 1937 to help in a Quaker relief project during the Spanish Civil War. After observing inadequate supplies of reconstituted powdered milk being doled out to infants with those not gaining weight being taken off the list to die, West came home to his Indiana farm in early 1938 with the idea of sending cows to Spain. With “a cow, not a cup,” people would be able to help themselves.

Dan West

Dan West, founder of Heifer International. Photo courtesy of Heifer International.

For four years, West relentlessly promoted this idea to neighbors, church members, church leaders, and government officials. Finally, in April 1942, the Church of the Brethren Men’s Work of Northern Indiana adopted his plan, which in a short time became a national program of the Brethren Service Committee known as “The Heifer Project.”

(A heifer by Dan West’s definition is “a cow-not-yet,” that is, a cow before it gives birth to its first calf. Pronounced heffer.)

A grassroots effort from the start, local committees were formed and heifers were donated and raised. But World War II was raging, and the animals couldn’t be shipped to Spain. So the first shipment went to Puerto Rico where the Brethren had a Civilian Public Service unit, the Martin G. Brumbaugh Reconstruction Unit, that put conscientious objectors to work during the war in one of the poorest sections of the island.

First Heifer Project shipment, June 1944

                                                Photo courtesy of Heifer International.

Eighteen heifers were collected at the Nappanee, Indiana, stockyards on June 7, 1944, 70 years ago this summer. The fifteen Guernseys, two Jerseys, and one Milking Shorthorn were given shots for shipping fever and on June 12 were loaded into a ventilated box car partitioned for cattle. Four days later, they arrived by train in Mobile, Alabama, along with their caretaker, Marvin Senger, the first paid staff person of the Heifer Project. On June 26, Senger was joined by Wayne Hostetler, a young Brethren farmer from Orrville, Ohio, who was the volunteer administrator for the Northern Ohio Heifer Project Committee. Senger returned home, and Hostetler became Heifer’s first seagoing cowboy before there was such a designation, making the trip to Puerto Rico at his own expense.

Shipping delays kept the heifers at the stockyards in Mobile for nearly a month. The day the heifers arrived, one gave birth to a bull calf at the stockyards, then became sick five days later. She was kept behind at the nearby farm of the Brethren Petcher family to recover, while her calf took her place on the SS William D. Bloxham, a brand new Liberty ship making its first voyage. (More about Liberty ships in a later post.)

In Mobile, Hostetler obtained his Merchant Marine papers making him a “Seaman with cattle man rating, salary 1 cent per month,” a formality to make it legal for him to work on the ship. On his return to Indiana, Marvin Senger reported to the Heifer Project Committee that the Brethren Service Committee was charged $15.00 for Hostetler’s fare. “Signed for $5000 life insurance,” he told them, “to be paid by the government in case ship is destroyed and Wayne should lose his life due to enemy action.”

These were dangerous times to be shipping cattle.

Next post: Hostetler’s report to the Heifer Project Committee on his return. As recorded by the secretary, it begins: “He was glad for the trip, but doubtful that he would have promised if he had had a whole day to think it over.”

Sources for Hostetler’s story: “Heifers for Relief” Newsletter Number 1, July 28, 1944; Heifer Project Committee Minutes, July 9, 1944.