Commemoration of U.S.-Dakota War ends

Sue Ullery leads a tour through the pioneer section of the New Ulm Cemetery giving information about New Ulm’s history and the symbolism of headstones. Urns on a headstone indicate the holding of earthly remains.

NEW ULM — The Brown County Historical Society’s commemoration of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 came to a close Sunday, with a walking tour of the pioneer section of the New Ulm Cemetery.

Two tours of 25 people each were led by Darla Gebhard and Sue Ullery through the cemetery.

Gebhard and Ullery began the tours by explaining the pioneer section is the oldest part of the cemetery and many of the early pioneer graves did not have head stones. Following some research the New Ulm pioneer group was able to identify where certain people were buried and place a stone plug with a number. A large stone at the front of the pioneer cemetery lists all the numbers and the name of the individual buried beneath the number. A few of these number markers were eventually given full-size headstones.

The tour emphasized the graves of those associated with the two battles of New Ulm. Thirteen-year-old Emily Pauli was the first civilian death in the First Battle of New Ulm. A stray bullet struck her while she was crossing the street. She was attempting to deliver an infant back to her mother. The child Pauli attempted to help, Ida Bobleter, survived the conflict and lived to be 62. Bobleter is buried 75 yards from the Pauli crypt.

The Dr. Weschcke headstone was an important stop on the tour. Weschcke was the only doctor available during the first battle and was the sole person responsible for caring for the wounded. He is also remembered as a mentor for famed artist Wanda Gag. The Weschcke family paid for some of her schooling.

Anton Gag’s headstone was also part of the tour. His head stone has an unusual shape and faces diagonally to other headstones. Ullery said Anton was an artist and went for a unique design. The top of Gag’s stone once featured a custom flower urn that was stolen. Ullery said there is a market for cemetery decorations and Anton’s grave is located close to the road, making it a tempting target. The urn was later replaced by one of his grandsons.

A quick review of the pioneer cemetery shows several tree-themed headstones.. Each of the tree headstones features cut-off limbs. This is intended to symbolize the cutting off of life.

August and Theresia Schell, founders of Schell’s Brewery, have one of the tallest tree-themed headstones. The Schells’ headstone also features a sculpted deer on the side. Ullery said the Schells family were fond of deer and incorporated them into many things. Deer imagery is a theme still associated with the brewery today.

Flowers and wreaths on headstones represent the brevity of life. Harps indicate joy and music, and a hand with a quill symbolizes a writer.

The purpose of some monuments is still a mystery. A statue located near the pioneer cemetery features a woman with an anchor, but the specific purpose of this monument is unknown. There is no inscription on the monument and the Historical Society is continuing to research why it was placed.

The cemetery tour is an annual tradition and serves to educate the public about New Ulm history and teach the symbolism seen in cemeteries.

“It’s very interesting to do,” Ullery said. “There is such a nice mixture of New Ulm history and grave symbolism.”