|Passport photo, 1921, courtesy of Ancestry.com|
Ellen Scheidt is a granddaughter of Henry Menke with his first wife, Mary Niehaus. To me Henry is a second Great Grandfather with his second wife Eliza Knapp. Technically, she is my half first cousin twice removed. She was just five years younger than my Great Grandpa Albert Menke, who would have been her half-uncle.
Born in Saline County, Nebraska in 1891, she remained single her entire life which lasted 99 years. From a digitized Fillmore County newspaper, I learned that Ellen was a missionary for at least two years to the Philippine Islands. In 1920, her departure was announced in the newspaper and in 1923 she was called home on account of her mothers illness.
Ellen graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1916 and Colorado State University, Fort Collins in 1927 and Colorado Agriculture College in 1929. She taught school for many years in Colorado.
The following letter written by her was published in the Friend Sentinel and copied by the Nebraska Signal where I found and transcribed it. The letter doesn't appear to be dated, but the issue of the Nebraska Signal was September 1, 1921. She describes her trip and experience in the Philippines with such detail. It's very interesting and I admire her courage, so I thought I would share her letter here.
From the Philippine Islands
Dear Friends in Friend:
This morning I am at Lingayan, P. I. I am seated in the shady part of the back yard of our bible training school. Before me lies a beautiful green lawn surrounded by a hedge of lillies, four kinds of palm trees, banana trees and several other kinds of vegetation which I have not yet learned to name. If the cocoanuts only didn't grow up so high, I might pick one and send it on the way to you. But since they are so high I'll have to keep my eyes nearer the earth and tell you something of the native huts which surround us.
On account of the floods these houses are built on stilts as it were. Therefore the first story is open air surrounded by perpendicular bamboo posts of all sizes. This space is not wasted however for it serves as a home for the horses, pigs, goats or anything else that has no other place to go. A stairway leads up to the real living apartments of the family. These are very airy too for the bamboo and palm leaves of which the walls are made, allow plenty of circulation. In fact they are only expected to keep out the sun and as much of the rain as possible. The windows are simply large square holes in the side of the house. Sometimes there is a matting curtain or a partition of woven bamboo which can be manipulated to cover these openings. As the quaint thatched roof extends over the sides of the house for several feet it affords a great deal of protection from sun and rain. Inside, the house would seem like one large room save for the woven bamboo partitions which make a pretense of forming rooms. Of course, here as anywhere there is a great variety in the quality of the material of which a home is built, for all depends on the wealth of the owner.
As one drives along the street one can hardly help seeing the whole contents of the front part of one of these homes. They are often decorated with quantities of cheap pictures and anything else obtainable. Once in a while one catches sight of a phonograph and quite frequently a sewing machine. So much for first impressions, but after I get into my work and visit the people in their homes, I shall be able to give you more "inside information."
We have been having most delightful weather since we arrived. Although it is very hot in the sun, it is much cooler in the shade. As the rainy season has ended, showers are very rare.
On account of the evil effects of the violet rays of the sun in the semitropical climate one needs to avoid being in bright light and very especially the direct sunlight. So those who are wise always wear pith hats and dark glasses.
The heat is very devitalizing, so everyone learns to work with as few motions as possible. Work begins at six in the morning, to take advantage of the cooler hours. School opens at 7:30 a.m. After lunch at noon, it is quite necessary for everybody to undress, go to bed for an hour's rest, or siesta, as it is called. Even the stores close from 12 to 2:00 p.m.
Eating brings up another great problem. All vegetables which grow near the ground must be boiled. One need not ever hope for lettuce and radishes, etc. The fruit must be thoroughly scalded or washed in formalin solution and then always peeled. The native fruits are very sweet and quite delicious after one acquires the taste for them. Butter, milk, meat, vegetables, etc., are shipped here in tin cans for the Americans. The Philippinos live on rice, bamboo roots, cocoanuts, fish and native fruit of various kinds.
So far my contact with the people has been very pleasant for they have been the high school and university students of Manila and of course they can all speak English and are really quite Americanized. Law and politics seem to hold the greatest attraction for them. Even the girls are studying and practicing law. Their greatest ambition is to study in the "states" some day. As a whole they are a splendid group of young people, very appreciative and lovable.
Yesterday we had our first ride on a native train. The first-class car is divided into compartments which seat eight people. The only aisle in the car is next to the window on the left side of the car. Fortunately Miss Blakely accompanied us to Dagupan, for the conductor never calls the stations and you just have to go over the territory once in order to know where to get off. During our five hours trip our tickets were punched about six times by various conductors and inspectors. The inspectors are busy everywhere. They even have one on each street car and he never fails to ask for your receipt. As the train stopped at our station, those getting off there, began to hand their baggage out of the windows, to the boys who are so anxious to earn a few centaros. Mr. Peterson met us and took us to Lingayen in his Ford. But most people here travel in an ox cart or a caramata. The latter is a two wheeled, one seated cart drawn by a pony. This is quite an improvement over the Ricksha of Japan and China.
Speaking of Japan and China reminds me of my ocean voyage and various trips while in the states. Since leaving Los Angeles in June, I crossed the North American continent twice and then tried the Pacific ocean. It all seems like a dream and I can hardly realize I am here. But to go back to the beginning of my vacation. Miss Bennett accompanied me on my trip home. We stopped a few days in San Francisco and while there took sight seeing trips in Frisco, Berkley and Mt. Tamalpais. From there we had a wonderful scenic trip through the Feather River canyon to Salt Lake, and then on the Denver Rio Grande to Denver.
During the next two months I was exceedingly busy with my sewing and other preparations for my outfit. Few people realize that a new missionary needs so many things. Bedding, linen towels, silverware, in fact, anything that one needs in a home, one needs on the mission field. My parents and brothers and sisters were so generous with their gifts or I should never have had the necessary things.
Dressing is quite a problem in a hot climate. Even the men dress in white. Colors are very practical in the states, but not out here, because they fade. The way the women wash them by pounding them on stones is enough to wear anything out.
We had a wonderful trip over the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver, B. C. from whence we sailed November 18. We were on on of the best and largest boats but I was sick most of the way to Yokohama. What a comfort my steamer letters and packages were. No one will ever know till they go through the same experience.
We had about fifty missionaries on board and a great number of people who were of the extremely opposite type. The latter seemed to enjoy dancing, drinking and smoking to the exclusion of all else.
How happy we were when we sighted land as we neared Japan, and oh, the new sights we saw on the Yokohama pier. The men had their names and occupations written in Japanese characters on the back and skirts of their jackets. The women were dressed in gay kimonas and carried their babies on their backs. The ricksha men were everywhere, begging one to ride with them. We felt so sorry for the poor men that we just couldn't think of having them pull us. But of course if no one rides, they starve; so we twelve girls and our chaperon were taken by them up to the mission school located on the hill. The various shops along the way were most interesting. Every where we heard the click, click of wooden shoes on the pavement. Since the Japanese people always remove their shoes when entering homes, they make them very simple. They are flat, oblong pieces of board which are held in place by two toe straps. In some cases they have two inch pegs underneath to keep them out of mud and water. There were so many interesting sites that we were sorry that our boat only stopped for a few hours.
But after the next day's journey we stopped another day at Kobe, Japan, where the passengers for Korea started across country. Their baggage was thoroughly examined by the custom officers and on account of the codling moth all Americans' apples were confiscated. Most people ate all they could before allowing them to be confiscated.
We spent a very interesting day looking at the pretty things in the Japanese shops. After another day on the water and a most scenic trip through the beautiful Japanese inland sea we had a day on land again. Nagasaki is very picturesque as it is located at the foot of the mountains. There we visited our mission Woman's college and saw the wonderful work they do. Some of the lower class Japanese resemble the American Indian so closely that it is not difficult to imagine the origin of the Indian.
We had only a few hours in Shanghai but enjoyed every new sight as much as children at their first circus.
Since I was not sea sick after leaving Yokohama, I had a good rest of the latter part of my journey and reached Manila in a happy mood.
The city is quite Americanized and so many speak English that I felt quite at home. But life in the provinces is very different and much more interesting to me. I am glad I live there.
Vigan, Hocos Sur., P. I.