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Notes from the Paynesville Historical Society. . .

German immigrant homesteaded in Zion Township
William Zabel William Zabel was a carpenter in the Salem community. He was born Oct. 8, 1828, at Doelitz, Prussia, Germany. He came to America in 1854, settling at Monroe, Wis. He lived there until 1866 when he came with his family to Stearns County. He homesteaded in Zion Township.

Zabel was a faithful Christian. He joined the Evangelical denomination in 1856 and was a member of Salem Church. The church and Sunday school were very important to him and he always volunteered his time. He also held many church offices.

The following is from among his papers that we have at the museum. We do not know if he wrote this himself or not, but apparently he believed that the church was obsessed too much with social gatherings and food. Here is an excerpt from a handwritten passage. It is translated from German.

Upper room and the supper room
"The early church prayed in the upper room, the 20th century church cooks in the supper room. Play has taken the place of prayer, and feastings the place of fasting. There are more full stomachs than there are bended knees and broken hearts. There is more fire in the gas range than there is in the pulpit. Too much ice-cream chills the fervor of the spiritual food. The early disciples were not cooking in the supper room on the day the Holy Ghost came. They were praying in the upper room. The fire for which they were waiting was not in the gas stove, but was from above.

"Oh, I would like to see the cooking squad put out and the praying band put in. Let us have less gravy and more grace, less pie and more pity, less soup and more salvation, less ham and sham and more love and life. Let us put the fire out in the kitchen and build it on the altar. Beans and brown bread are not necessary for those who are alive from the dead. Let us get up fewer dinners and go out after more sinners. Let us have the church full of waiters, but waiters on God."

In 1851, Zabel married Wilhelmina Butt. They had 11 children. Zabel was a carpenter and undertaker. It was common in those days for the undertaker to also be a carpenter. This is because he is the one who had to build the coffin. Something very sad happened in 1874. He had to quit coffin making. That year the dyptheria epidemic struck and three of his young children died within two weeks of each other. Pauline, 9, died Nov. 25, 1874; Lydia, 1, died Dec. 3, 1874; and Gustav, 4, died Dec. 6, 1874. After this great loss he was unable to continue making coffins.

The following statement was found under the record of the deceased children. "We have great sorrow in our hearts for our beloved children. Only God knows our deep sorrow and heartache for the children of W. and W. Zabel."

"Wir Haben Herzlich euch geliebt. Euer God hat innigst uns betruebt."

He did continue general carpentry work, however. From his records we see that he made three picture frames for Gottfried Heitke for 75 cents. He made a sink cupboard for $5.50.

Also among his records are found some interesting remedies.

Roast a garlic bulb in hot ashes and in the evening tie it over the corn before going to sleep.

To determine death
Wrap a string tightly around the little finger. If there is life in the body the finger will turn red below the string and will start to swell. On the other hand if the upper parts turn white death has entered in.

Poisonous snake bites
If bitten by a poisonous snake immediately kill a hen and place the entire hen with all visceral organs on the wound until it is cold.

A sure but simple remedy to exterminate mice. Wild chamomile and peppermint plants tied into bundles and placed under beds, tables, sofas, cupboards, commodes, and all corners in rooms frequented by mice. Mice cannot endure the smell and disappear, leaving no trace.

One brushes the painful areas with fresh egg white until the pain subsides. Then one covers the wound with the white membrane that lies directly under the egg shell.

Zabel died on March 17, 1916. A copy of his obituary says "Friday evening, March 17, 1916, at 8 o'clock, William Zabel, one of Stearns County's oldest settlers, died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. August Wagner of Zion Township. Mr. Zabel had been in good health until about two years ago, when the infirmities of age began to manifest themselves, and from then until the day of his death, he apparently became weaker until the peaceful end came Friday evening."

Rev. John Baitinger, who had known the deceased for many years, said a few words at the close of the service. Interment was made in the Salem Cemetery."

The William Zabel homestead is the farm Curtis Wegner farms now, a short distance from the Salem Church.