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Published June 03, 2012, 12:00 AM

Schefield filled with memories

Schefield holds fond memories for Nick Olheiser, 84, who was born three miles north of the community.

By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON — Schefield holds fond memories for Nick Olheiser, 84, who was born three miles north of the community.

“It’s the only town I knew as a little kid,” he said. “I went to school there and we bought our groceries there.”

Schefield was organized as a Germans from Russia community, and the name “Schoenfeld” (beautiful fields) was proposed. However, the state refused to approve the name application, saying it was too German, Olheiser said.

St. Pius Catholic Church was started in 1910 and 133 families were counted in the parish during 1933.

“I remember the church was full, and I was told there wasn’t even room for everybody at one time,” he said.

The first homes came shortly after the church was constructed. One of the original buildings was a grocery store and post office. In the 1930s, there were two grocery stores, a garage, blacksmith shop and 17 homes.

Olheiser said many of the families had at least one cow and chickens. There were six wells and three windmills.

The St. Pius School was built in 1928, with two elementary grades per room, and two additional rooms dedicated to the high school students. At its peak, nine sisters and three cooks were on staff.

As a second-grader, Olheiser remembers 48 desks in his classroom, with one girl having to sit in a chair without a desk.

The students and nuns boarded on the third floor of the school and his parents paid $5 a child per month.

“When I started school, every kid who went there spoke German and the nuns from Wisconsin and Minnesota, spoke Norwegian and Swedish,” he said. “They called us bunch of kids Nazis.”

Schefield’s community center was its St. Pius Verein hall.

“It started as a social and a kind of death benefit,” Olheiser said. “Each member paid a dollar when someone died, and at that time, it went a long ways to pay for a funeral,” he said.

He remembers that Fr. Bede Dahmus didn’t appreciate the Verein socials.

“He thought it was sinful — he didn’t like the men and women dancing,” he said. “But his church is gone and the Verein is still here.”

Gradually, the homes were moved to nearby farms and eight went to Dickinson. The last store closed in 1969 and the church closed in 1990. By 1998, the St. Pius church and school were torn down.

“It was a let-down, not so much for me, but the ancestors who put the effort into building them and taking care of them,” Olheiser said.

Today, Schefield consists of the St. Pius Verein Hall, the parish rectory that’s used as a home, a second house and several sheds. In recent years, a trailer home was moved on site.

Olheiser has done his part to preserve the memories of the community. He built a scale model of the town that can be viewed during the centennial.

He built a larger scale model of the church, which is located at the cemetery. It is displayed with one of the church bells, school cornerstone and monuments dedicated to the school and veterans.

Olheiser is looking forward to sharing his pioneer stories with everyone who comes back for the centennial.

“It’s for people with ties to Schefield — anybody who went to school or their family went to church there,” he said. “If your grandpa lived there, you belong there.”