German Heritage

Our German-American Heritage

As shared by Adam Seelinger's great granddaughter - Helen Bartlett Kling

Poplar Heights Farm was purchased on October 17, 1884 by a German immigrant, later an American citizen, Adam Seelinger.  He gave the property to his third son and his first son born after he became an American citizen.

A_Seelinger_202Adam Seelinger was born in Lampertheim, Germany on May 5, 1830.  He was the son of Jacob and Eva Wegerle Seelinger. His parents never came to America. At the age of 22 he left Germany for America. A year later he married Franciska Marer, also a German immigrant.  She was the daughter of Johann Adam and Maria Apolinia Zimmerman Maurer of Ramsen, Germany.

After the Civil War, the family moved to Bates County, Missouri and settled on a farm near Prairie City. Here they raised six sons, acquired thousands of acres of rich farmland and lived to see their grandchildren and great grandchildren prosper. Grateful to his adopted country for the many blessings he acquired here, Adam instilled in his family the idea of community service and care of the land that brought them their living.




Back Row – L-R:Adam, William, John, Frank, Gustavus ,
Front Row – L-R: Jacob, Franciska, Adam

Photograph Taken

A pleasant event was the family reunion at the residence of Adam Seelinger on North Havana Street (Butler), Monday last. The occasion was celebrated by having a photograph of the family. Mr. and Mrs. Seelinger and their six sons were taken in a group.  C. Hagedorn doing the work.

The sons, in order of their age are Jacob, Adam, John, William, Gustavus and Frank. All are married except William.  They reside, Jacob in Hudson Twp, Adam, Gustavus and Frank in Prairie and John and William in Summit Twp and they are all among Bates County’s most substantial and esteemed citizens. A splendid dinner was spread upon the parental board and a joyous time was had by all.

 -- Bates County Record – February 7, 1891


JG_Johannes02Adam's son, John Seelinger married Agnes Magdalena Johannes.  The Johannes family came from Bayreuth, Bavaria, Germany when John George Johannes and his family came to America a decade before the Civil War, only a few years before Adam Seelinger made the trip.  The Johannes family first settled near Cole Camp, Missouri where all the brothers, except Michael, the Lutheran minister, fought on the Union side. After the war, John Jr moved his family to Bates County, settling on a farm near Prairie City.  He built the first home in the town and proceeded to practice mChristmas



The Seelingers would take a break between lunch and dinner for a piece of cake and a hot cup of coffee -so strong and always straight, no sugar or cream - or during haying season when it gets so very hot in Missouri - cake with a glass of lemonade.  A tradition from the old country, it fit perfectly with farm work, giving everyone a break from their labors, a chance to visit, and a bit of nourishment when dinner could be a long way off as they often worked in the fields until dark. The Seelingers were known for their hospitality at Poplar Heights Farm and would frequently host a Kaffeeklatsch on Sunday afternoon for neighbors when the fancy cakes were brought out to be enjoyed by all..  Mrs Seelinger (everyone called her "Mama")  was well known for her streusel topped coffee cakes, her soured cream cookies with just a light frosting of corn cob jelly and her fruit tarts brimming with fresh fruits from the orchard and fence row brambles.

Bread was an important part of every meal. While those living in town could drop by the bakery for a fresh loaf, the 8 mile buggy trip into town for the Seelingers precluded that.  1890_Haying02Mama baked daily in the wood cook stove. Her breads were not the plain "white" bread found in grocery stores today but used coarsely ground grains grown on the farm in addition to flour bought at the mill in town.  Poplar Heights grew corn, oats, wheat, barley and flax.  For breakfast the family had sweet bread with butter and fruit jams or pancakes and eggs. Later cereal was included in breakfast and in winter time, oatmeal became a daily serving - either as cereal with milk or baked in the oven into cakes that could be carried in your pocket when you went out to do chores.. Lunch was a hot meal served to family and farm hands. At harvest time, Papa and the hands would bring out the big tables from the barn into the east yard and everyone would eat outside.  At harvest, you had to feed family, the hands and neighbors who came to help. Supper (the word dinner was reserved for Sunday afternoon) was usually late, after all work was done. It would be dark breads, cheese, cured sausages or soup. Chicken, fixed many ways, was popular as chickens were small enough that one served a meal and no refrigeration was required as there were no left overs. A favorite late night snack was chunks of cold cornbread dropped in glasses of milk. Evening deserts were usually quark with fruit topping, ice cream (ice was cut from the ponds and stored in hay in the root cellar and could last long enough for there to be ice cream made on the fourth of July) or custard puddings or bowls of stewed fruits - plain or with milk.

Daughter Maude Seelinger told us that one summer evening the weather was so perfect that her parents sat out on the porch until late in the evening just talking.  It was harvest season and Mama and Papa saw little of each other except at meal time.  Mama fell asleep in the swing and Papa left her there to rest.  She woke up in the middle of the night and realized she had not made any more yeast and would not be able to make bread in the morning.  Maude recounted that Mama was in tears and the jokes of the farm hands didn't help the situation.  In the 1890's you didn't buy packets of instant yeast.  You either made your own or if you were in town you could purchase some cream yeast from the brewery which might last for a couple of days as there was no refrigeration.



Note: all recipes have been translated to modern cooking methods

ChurningQuark was a favorite dish that both the Seelingers and Johanneses made often.  They were always churning butter so buttermilk (the liquid left when the milk separated) was plentiful.

How to Make Quark

Pour 1 quart of buttermilk in a Pyrex dish with ovenproof lid.  Put in the oven overnight at the lowest possible temperature.  (150° is ideal). The next morning line a colander with cheese cloth and pour the buttermilk, which is now very lumpy, into it.  Tie up the ends of the cloth and let it drain in the sink for about 2 hours. You can get it really dry by placing a bowl filled with water on top to weight the mixture down.  this makes about 1/2 pound of basic quark cheese.  If you get it too dry, you can add half and half and stir it in.

For a creamy Quark (Sahnequrk), used the weighted bowl method so the quark is very dry and then add heavy cream. If it's for desert, sweeten the heavy cream and whip it slightly before stirring in. Top with fresh fruit or warmed jam.

Quark cheese is softer than cream cheese and more dry than sour cream. You can vary the taste by using different milks - milk from a Golden Guernsey will be sweet and heavy whereas milk from a modern Holstein fresh from the pasture will taste thinner. There was always buttermilk available and quark was a staple food at the Seelinger home. Papa would spread it on thick slices of dark bread for dinner, and I remember my mother, Daisy, using it in cheese cakes and spreading it between chocolate cake layers before frosting with a butter cream icing. She said they often ate it sweetened with honey from the old tree at the end of the orchard.  Her sister Ruth would only eat it with raspberries and after she left home decided it wasn't sophisticated enough to eat.


Little Cakes

My mother told me that when ever a large group of friends came to the house, the girls always had to help serve.  Her youngest sister Ruth always managed to find something else to do so she didn't have to work. A favorite desert was a gingerbread with a cheesecake toping.  If just family or very  close friends were coming, Mama made it in a big pan as one cake; but if there was to be a crowd of less close friends or strangers, she always made individual cakes. She thought it was more elegant (Daisy said it sure made more work for all of them) and you didn't have to worry about serving sizes or crumbled pieces.

2 pounds quark
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
4 eggs
12 round gingerbread cookies
Fruit compote
Line large cupcake tins with paper liners.

Beat together quark, cream and sugar.  Slit vanilla bean, scrape out seeds and add the seeds and orange zest to the cheese mixture. Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Spoon into cupcake papers.  Bake at 350° for 25 to 35 minutes until toothpick is clean.  Cool on rack then refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. While cheesecakes are cooling, heat a jar of apricot preserves (or any simple fruit spread) and stir in  1/4 to 1/2 cup brandy.  Take cheesecakes from refrigerator and  Remove papers and invert each cheesecake on a gingerbread cookie and top with warm compote.

If there wasn't fresh ginger root available, Mama would substitute Molasses cookies as the base which my mother said her brother Addie preferred.


Molasses cookies

5 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup lard (today use Crisco shortening if you can't find lard)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 cup molasses or sorghum

Mix together flour, soda, spices and salt and set aside. Beat lard for 30 seconds.  Add brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Ad the eggs, stirring to incorporate, water, vinegar and molasses and beat until well mixed.  Add the flour mixture in 1/3's and stir until mixed.  Divide dough in half. cover and chill 1 hour.  On floured surface roll out half the dough to 1/2 inch thick. cut using round cutter.  Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet far apart.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake in 375° oven for 10 minutes or until edges are firm. Makes 26 cookies - enough for "little cakes" with some left over to snack on.


Peach Custard Pie with Meringue

The orchard was full of apple and peach trees. There were damson plums along the west yard and blackberry and raspberry brambles at the far north end of the orchard. My mother said they spend a lot of time canning fruit but it was worth it when Mama made pies all winter long. Peach pies were special because if there was a late spring freeze there wouldn't be any peaches that year.

3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups milk
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pint peaches, peeled and sliced and mixed with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 baked pie shell

Blend cornstarch with milk, then add salt, sugar and slightly beaten egg yolks.  Cook, stirring often, in a double boiler until mixture has thickened.  Set aside to cool.

Drain the peaches and place in baked pie shell.  Pour cooled custard over peaches and bake in preheated oven at 425° oven for 10 minutes, then reduce to 400° and continue baking for 30 minutes or until custard is set.

To make the meringue, beat the egg whites and 3 Tablespoons of sugar together until stiff peaks form.  As soon as you remove the pie from the oven spread the meringue on top using the back of your knife to pull up little peaks then return the pie to the oven until the meringue has browned on top.


Whipped Cream

Mama had a large platter with slightly raised edges. She had a triangle shaped utensil with a wire mesh cover and would whip cream or egg whites  by rapidly ( and for what seems forever) running the utensil horizontally through the liquid and lifting it return in the same pattern. Daisy remembers how excited she was when Papa brought home a hand mixer.  She used it but would say when Papa wasn't around that it "just didn't taste the same" as the old way.


Sour Cream Cookies

1/2 cup butter -softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon flournuts - unless you are a purist

Cream butter and sugar.  Add the sour cream, egg, soda and vanilla.  Add flour and keep adding flour until the dough is very thick and stout enough to be rolled out. It works best if you can refrigerate the dough for about an hour.  Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick and cut in squares (or use "ghost" cookie cutters with a thinner dough).  Bake at 400° for about 10 minutes.  They should be just beginning to brown at the edge if you like them crisper, or no color if you like them softer. Everyone in the family prefers them plain but you can ice them or if you really must have nuts, either drop then in the final stirring or push them down into the cut cookies before baking.  These are plain and simple cookies.


Bertha's Jam Cake

Bertha was always somewhat sickly. No one really knew what was wrong and she died in 1937, barely middle aged.  She really enjoyed cooking because she could sit at the table to do her work. This was a favorite cake to cook in the fall after first frost when the persimmons were ripe.

2 cups white flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar (the family often used honey)
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup jam - any flavor altho Bertha was partial to blackberry
1 cup currents
1 cup chopped persimmons
1 apple, finely chopped
1 cup chopped hickory or walnuts

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Save out 1/4 cup flour to coat the fruit.  Cream together the butter and honey/sugar. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well.  Mix together the buttermilk and jam.  Add this alternately with the dry ingredients to the creamed mix.  Flour the fruit and nuts and stir into batter lightly.  Bake in 3 greased 9 inch cake pans at 350° oven for 30 minutes or until done.  Cool before frosting. Mama would use a light butter cream sometimes flavored with a fruit liquor or some of Papa's wild cherry wine until Maude took up with the Temperance movement and objected.



This is like a cross between a pancake and a filled crepe, but easier. The filling varied with whatever was ripe in the orchard - apples, peaches, plums, even gooseberries!  Apple was the most often served because they kept for so long in big baskets in the root cellar.

1 apple peeled, cored and cut into thin slices
Lemon juice
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
powdered sugar

Toss apple slices with lemon juice.  Beat egg whites to soft peaks.  Whisk together egg yolks, milk, cornstarch, sugar, salt and lemon zest.  Gently fold in the egg whites.  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Melt butter and spread apple slices in single layer in skillet. Pour batter over, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Take off the lid and put the skillet in the oven at 400° and bake about 15 minutes until golden brown on the bottom and set in the middle.  Remove and sprinkle with lemon juice and powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Poplar Heights Farm was proud to host a Smithsonian Exhibition - Key Ingredients. As part of the programs, the staff at PHF published a cookbook with many family and local recipes. It is available on computer disc and will be updated with additional family recipes after the Grand Opening Celebration

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