Surnames: HAGEMAN, IMIG, JOHNSON, SCHULTZ, WALLICK, WILCOXEN
Landmarks: ENTERING SEWARD COUNTY SIGN
EV IMMANUEL LUTHERAN CEMETERY & CHURCH
Thursday, August 9, 2001, morning
My brother Brian and I awoke on a warm Thursday morning in a Motel 6 in Lincoln. As I opened my eyes, I started to grin like a child on Christmas, for I realized: We are really in Nebraska, and we are driving to Seward today!
We had flown in to Omaha Airport at around 11:00 the night before, on an hour-late Southwest flight from San Jose routed through Las Vegas. As we hauled our luggage from the Thrifty car-rental counter to the parking garage just before midnight, we were physically shocked by the hot, humid atmosphere that swallowed us the moment we pushed through the revolving glass doors. "You're not in California anymore, Dorothy!" I thought, realizing how I am so used to the temperature cooling down dramatically at night, living as I do near the Pacific Ocean.
We hurriedly located our white American "economy" car, and made good use of its air conditioning during the one hour, ten minute drive down Interstate 80 to Lincoln, where we planned to rest one night before our long-anticipated visit to Seward.
After downing the free but weak coffee in styrofoam cups that Brian had fetched us from the motel lobby, we hurriedly showered and loaded the car. The stifling heat of the previous night had loosened its grip, and we relaxed into the warm but comfortable weather of the new day. A quick check of a Nebraska highway map showed us a direct way to drive to Seward in about 20 miles via nearby Highway 34; we were pleased to avoid the freeway since we wanted to get "a feel for" the land and not just whiz through it.
As Brian drove us toward Seward County, the land of our beloved mother's family, my heart floated above the car like a happy white cloud, carried gently on the breath of my ancestors' spirits. "Our people likely followed a very similar path into Seward when they moved here from Fulton County, Illinois in covered wagons some one hundred and thirty-five years ago," I mused aloud. Absorbing this awesome thought deeply, we silently followed the straight asphalt road as it neatly parted the limitless cornfields stretched over land that was drier and not as flat as I had expected.
As we came over a slight hill, I suddenly nudged my brother, "Look, there it is!" The simple, green "Entering Seward County" sign filled our little car with cheers. We pulled over and photographed it like crazy, while local folk who must have been wondering what the heck was so interesting about that sign whizzed by in pick-up trucks.
ENTERING SEWARD COUNTY SIGN
Standing there in the glorious Nebraska sunlight, my heart opened like a flower. I felt like we had come home at last to the land of our HAGEMAN and IMIG grandparents, of our grandmother's JOHNSON, WALLICK, and WILCOXEN family, and of countless other relatives and cousins, both living and departed.
A little way up the road I exclaimed, "Look, there's a cemetery!" and we pulled into a short gravel driveway on the right to quickly inspect the unexpected find, an early German Lutheran cemetery and old church right there on the side of the highway.
EV IMMANUEL LUTHERAN CEMETERY
I noticed that most of the names in the cemetery seemed German, including SCHULTZ. I wondered if any of our German IMIG kin were buried there. But since I knew of two other cemeteries to see in Seward where we had IMIGs buried, and time was limited, I just took a few photos from the cemetery entrance. Then, I turned to my right and walked a few yards up the driveway toward a watchful but unperturbed dog lying in the dry grass, and I marveled at the dignified old German Lutheran Church which faced me in an open, welcoming manner.
EV IMMANUEL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Promising myself I would return again to wander this sweet little cemetery and church one day, I reluctantly got back in the car. Brian and I continued on our adventure, rapidly and with great expectation approaching the magical town of Seward....
[Coming next: Return to Seward Diary, August 2001: "Seward, pop. 5,641"]
Alice Imig Stipak, a grateful granddaughter of Seward