The Krause house was built in 1875 and is typical of the first homes built by the Mennonites of the Alexanderwohl village. It is a basic two room plan with an unfinished upstairs. The home also includes sod/adobe wall and a restored Russian oven. This home displays the life of the immigrants during the first ten years in Kansas.
When the Alexanderwohl congregation migrated to the United States from the South Russian colony of Molotschna in 1874, they brought, in addition to luggage and wheat, a cultural tradition. This tradition, which had its roots in Northern Europe, included language, food and a style of architecture. The building tradition included the longhouse, housebarn and the village system. The architectural style of the house is Mennonite German-Russian Vernacular.
Jacob Krause arrived in Kansas with his wife, Anna Buller, two children and five stepchildren as a part of the Alexanderwohl congregation. Krause purchased a quarter section of land in Section 23, Spring Valley Township, McPherson County from the Santa Fe Railroad. He paid $380 for this land. The family of nine moved into their new semi- finished home sometime during the winter of 1874-1875.
The Jacob and Anna Krause family lived in this house for seventeen years. In 1892, Anna passed away, and the land was divided between their two children, John and Agnetha. The entire Krause family moved to another farm in the community and the land was sold to Jacob Franz.
In most pioneer homes much of the activities of daily life revolved around the hearth and table. In traditional Mennonite homes, this room would have been divided into two rooms, a front room and kitchen. In the Krause house, one room fulfilled both functions. This room was often the largest and most lived in room of the home. Everything was done on the kitchen table, from rolling out bread dough and washing the dishes to visiting with a neighbor.
The large Russian oven had two functions. During the bitter winter months, straw, grass, or dried manure served as fuel for heat. Fuel was added twice a day, once in the early morning and then again in the evening. The house would remain warm all day with this minimal amount of fuel. All meals were prepared in the oven. The long, metal zweibach pans were designed to fit into the long narrow baking chamber of the oven. During the summer months, most of the baking was done in a separate building or summer kitchen, because of the intense heat that the oven created.
A small pantry was located under the stairwell in the southeast comer of the house. Various food stuffs, such as sugar and flour, were stored on shelves. The stairs to the cellar were located here. The cellar was used to store food that needed to remain cool, especially apples, potatoes and meat.
The loft served as another storage area and space for the children to sleep. The stairwell has a sod wall covered with whitewash. Sod often served as an insulator. A common decorating technique can also be seen on the inside of the stairway door. False graining was a common method of decorating interior wood work among the Mennonites. To produce this effect calcimine, a whitewash substance, was mixed with coloring agents and applied in a wavy pattern with a rag or corn cob. Common color schemes included red, green and yellow.
The second room of the Krause home was reserved as the "best room." In this case the room served a dual purpose as the parents room. When visitors came they would also sleep in this room.
The corner cabinet was a common item in a Mennonite home. Usually located in the best room, the corner cabinet preserved the family books and important papers. The family's clothing and heirlooms were stored in the trunks and dowry chests, which doubled as seats until chairs could be made. A china cabinet for displaying the ornate pieces of china and glassware was also located in this room.
Prepared by Kristine Schmucker
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