In my last post, we saw how the churches of German-speaking settlers in the United States rallied to send two shipments of cattle to Germany after World War I. The third shipment ran into resistance reminiscent of the Wild West.
The cows were gathered in South Dakota, mostly by Missouri Synod Lutherans of Russian-German heritage. The night of Wednesday, March 23, 1921, some 300 of the 700 donated cows were being held in Scotland, South Dakota, for train transport to Chicago and then on to Baltimore. La Vern Rippley reports that four men were watching over the cattle “when nearly twenty-five automobiles packed with ruffians and thirty men on horseback arrived and began shooting in the air to stampede the cows. Several cows were killed and some wounded, mostly when they were hit by automobiles.”
Donors of the animals helped round them up. By the next afternoon, all but twenty were gathered. Local authorities refused assistance and ordered the cattle out of the county. A cattle drive ensued, and the cows were corralled at a farm across the county line in Hutchinson County where the authorities were more cooperative. The county sheriff deputized Ewald Gall of Menno who was put in charge of a large posse of farmers, deputized and armed with shotguns and rifles, to protect the cows.
About 10:30 p.m. Holy Thursday evening, March 24, about thirty automobiles, coming north from Scotland, approached the holding farm. The Scotland Journal of March 31, 1921, reports that the attackers were members of the American Legion. Upon discovering “they were outnumbered four to one, both in men and guns,” they called off the action and departed.
On Good Friday, March 25, the cows were driven on to Tripp to join the remainder of the 700 cows being held for loading on the train to Chicago. Anticipating further trouble, another posse was arranged by county and state officers. The Springfield Times of March 31, 1921, reported, “The guard was again used Friday night and while considerable rag chewing was indulged in by the deputies and onlookers who had gathered from nearby towns, there to see the fun or to make hostile demonstrations, no one was hurt. We understand that several parties from Bon Homme county were placed under arrest by the sheriff and spent the night in the Tripp calaboose.”
The cows were put on board the train the next morning, but their troubles were not over. American Legionnaires turned to legal attempts all along the way to stop the shipment, but to no avail. The last attempt was in Baltimore where the cows were being held for arrival of their ship, the West Arrow. La Vern Rippley reports, “the American Legion in that city called the donation into question. Stumped as to what action they could take against this form of export, they voiced the opinion that there was something decidedly wrong with supplying the Germans while the same need existed in so many of the countries that had been devastated by that country’s armies. Surely, they argued, the children of France, Italy and Belgium were as deprived as the German children.” The West Arrow departed safely April 15, arriving in Bremen, Germany, on May 1.
For the full story of this “Wild West” incident and the first two shipments, see La Vern J. Rippley’s article “Gift Cows for Germany,” North Dakota History: Journal of the Northern Plains, Summer 1973. [link]
My next 2nd Friday post will compare the experience of seagoing cowboys on this 1921 shipment to Germany with those of 1946.