Newcomers in Latah County, Idaho: A Public History Approach on Cultural Adaption in the American West, 1871-1921


In order to expand and develop a deeper understanding of the place of the Taylors, Meyers, Scheyer-Hagedorns, and Williamsons in Latah County, this chapter focuses on using outside examples and literature to draw broader conclusions about these four families themselves. Secondary literature is a tool used to further contextualize immigrant histories in the American West. Though each of these families have some records in the archive, their presence is not adequate enough to form larger conclusions about the nature of immigration and cultural continuation. In attempts to mitigate this challenge, this chapter looks to the work of historians to help enrich readers’ knowledge of the families examined in this project. Through considering religion, land acquisition, occupation, marriage, and mobility patterns between these families, this chapter aims to analyze cultural adaption throughout the immigrant experience.

Alma Taylor Lauder Keeling’s manuscript quotes An Illustrated History of Idaho, in which a biographical sketch of William Taylor is written. It states the following: “He has not only witnessed the entire growth and development of this section of the state, but has ever borne his part in the work of progress, and his name should be enduringly inscribed on the pages of its history.”[1] The Taylor family is remembered as one of the earliest Euro-American families to settle in Latah County. The remnants of the Taylors are still visible in Moscow today. In fact, Taylor Avenue—located by the University of Idaho—is named after William Taylor. Furthermore, Lauder Avenue (begins at Taylor Avenue) is named after Minnie Taylor Lauder, William and Priscilla’s daughter.[2] The Taylor family has certainly left their mark on Moscow, though residents may not be aware of the family's everlasting presence. The street signs represent only a portion of the Taylor's influence on the county. A deeper analysis on this will be provided in the following chapter. 

Gender and Immigration
In The Un-covered Wagon, Alma Taylor-Lauder Keeling did not offer an in-depth analysis on Priscilla Taylor. Much of her focus was on William Taylor, who was regarded as the patriarch and subsequent leader of the Taylor family. However, a look at Priscilla Taylor is beneficial in determining the success of the family and their long-lasting presence in Latah County. Though details about her life are not explicit and are mostly unknown, she can be used as an example of the presence and importance of women in immigrant families. Gender history is important to consider in the context of immigration. As Elizabeth Jameson and Susan Armitage note in their introduction to Writing the Range: Race, Class and Culture in the Women’s West:

Inclusive history is essential because all people are historical actors. We say this because our basic premise is that most history begins with daily acts of ordinary people…. When men start changing diapers, or women leave abusive marriages, parenting and family relationships change. All people, then, are historical actors, and half of the actors are women…. An accurate western history therefore involves all the actors in these relationships, including women and men of all races, ethnicities and classes.[3]

To achieve presenting a detailed account of immigration in the American West, gender and the role of women must be addressed. A deeper investigation into Irish women can offer readers a better background of the importance of immigrant women in Latah County.

The significance of women in immigrant families should not be overlooked. Without analyzing the presence and impact of women in these families, readers cannot understand the full influence and nature of cultural adaption among these specific immigrant families, and broader immigrant history to the United States. Though the archival presence of women can be difficult to recover, it is imperative to not only address but assess the role of immigrant women. In particular, Irish women were surprisingly likely to immigrate alone. Though Priscilla Taylor was a native of Illinois and married an Irish immigrant, readers will still benefit from a glimpse into what immigration looked like for Irish women.

Writing the Range
offers a collection of scholarly essays produced by historians of the American West. In one essay titled “‘We Are Women Irish’: Gender, Class, Religious and Ethnic Identity in Anaconda, Montana,” historian Laurie Mercier writes of Irish women’s significance in immigration and cultural modification in the United States. A Professor of History at Washington State University Vancouver, Mercier focuses on the American West and the Pacific Northwest.[4] Her essay seeks to bring women immigrants—specifically, Irish women immigrants—to the forefront of the immigrant story, and can help contextualize the presence and importance of women like Priscilla Taylor.

Largely in the domestic sphere, the work and contributions of women in the societies were often overlooked and overshadowed by the occupations of men. Living in a patriarchal society, women were limited by the culture and expectations of the domestic sphere in American life. Many immigrants from western Europe were part of patriarchal societies as well, organized around the occupations of men, which were paramount in the social structure of their countries. However, as Mercier points out, women’s work inherently supported the occupations of men, and, consequentially, led to a lasting influence on the adaption of Irish culture in Anaconda, Montana and the broader American West.[5] “‘We Are Women Irish’” begins by pointing out the uniqueness of Irish women immigrants. As Mercier analyzes, more than half of the Irish immigrants in the United States between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were women. In fact, between 1885 and 1920, two-thirds of a million Irish women had immigrated to the United States; the majority were under thirty-five years of age and unmarried.[6]

Most of the single Irish women immigrated to Anaconda after receiving encouragement from a relative already settled in the area, or presumably somewhere nearby. Anaconda was a copper-smelter community, just a hop and a skip away from Butte, Montana. At its height, women were perhaps unsurprisingly excluded from working at the smelter in Anaconda. However, the presence and influence of women in this Montanan town cannot be overstated.

Irish women in Anaconda were central to the domestic sphere and fed, entertained, and housed the smelter workers. Not only did women provide support to men in Anaconda, they were often times absolutely essential; reportedly, a smelter worker’s income was usually not enough to support a family, and it was not out of the ordinary for women to keep families afloat during difficult times.[7] One popular way in which women contributed to the survival and wellbeing of their families was through creating a running a type of informal bed and breakfast. Specifically for bachelor smelter workers, women would rent any extra rooms or add-ons to their existing homes and would also provide meals for a fee. In doing so, Irish women in Anaconda contributed both domestically and economically in their families—relying on the patriarch—father, husband, or whomever else—was simply not an option in these smelter households.

Since Irish women were so essential for the success for their households as well as Anaconda’s broader economy, they were also able to exercise autonomy that was unusual for many married women at that time. Some women were able to manage their family’s finances, including the paychecks of their husbands. This economic independence—or control, rather—is worth noting in terms of the unique situation of many Irish women immigrants. As Mercier writes, “Many women picked up their husband’s paychecks from the Anaconda Company pay office to assert their control over family wages and acquisitions.”[8] After obtaining their husband’s paychecks, women would take on the responsibility of budgeting, paying bills, and even granting their husbands an allowance. It was not until the 1920s that the Anaconda Company and in-town stores begin allowing unmarried women to work as stenographers and salesclerks.[9]

Though undoubtably busy with keeping their families afloat, Irish women did not neglect their cultural traditions. This cultural continuation was not stationary—instead, many of the Irish traditions these women carried from their homelands were adapted to better fit the society of Anaconda. As Laurie Mercier explains, “Irish women and their American-born daughters preserved some of their forebearers’ customs, adapted others to their new environment, and discarded others that no longer served a useful purpose in a small Montana community.”[10] Irish women—and men alike—needed to do what was necessary to survive in a difficult and arduous economy. Nevertheless, the Irish culture was not lost to them. 

One of the most predominant ways in which Irish immigrant women in Anaconda stayed true to their culture was through preserving a close and culturally-tied community. This is evidenced in the women’s efforts in organizing Irish “get-togethers,” which included socialization in various forms between families and friends. In many instances, these gatherings would include Irish dances, songs, and occasionally the speaking of Gaelic, though the preservation of Gaelic was not at the forefront of Irish women’s agendas.[11] However, as Mercier suggests, Irish women did not retain all of their cultural traditions and often disregarded practices if they were no longer beneficial once arriving in the United States. This was seen in the instance of the Irish wake, an elaborate celebration occurring in memory of a lost loved one.

Lasting several days and nights, women were responsible for tending to nearly every aspect of the Irish wake. The most taxing chore that fell on women’s shoulders was that of setting the table numerous times for seemingly endless meals. As one Irish woman in Anaconda recalled in “‘We Are Women Irish,’” ‘“You’d have to set the table sometimes fifteen times. Even if it was a big dining room table, you’d set it and set it and set it. They’d be eating from one o’clock until four o’clock in the morning…. It was really wearing, too much.”[12] Women’s influence in the demise of the Irish wake in Anaconda cannot be stressed enough; by the mid-twentieth century, such long-lasting celebrations had been transformed into much more minimal practices, comprised of a visit to the deceased at the funeral home followed by a small meal at the widows’ homes.[13]

Irish men and women worked alongside each other to create a community in Anaconda that valued Irish affairs, including political, economic, social and, of course, cultural matters. In the Ancient Order of the Hibernians (AOH) and the AOH Ladies’ Auxiliary, Irish men and women found what Laurie Mercier deems their “greatest ethnic cohesion” in these groups.[14] The groups aimed to “promote their Irish heritage and a free Ireland…provide sick and funeral benefits to members, to support the Catholic Church, and to afford a social outlet.”[15] In the instance of cultural adaption, perhaps the most notable goal of both groups was to unite Irishmen and Irishwomen. The actions of these two groups suggest that Irish women sought to work alongside Irish men to create a strong ethnic community, according to Mercier.[16]

Though Irish community and culture was a guiding factor in Anaconda’s society, a shift away from such heavy cultural influences began occurring by the 1940s. Mercier argues that the small size of Anaconda, along with its reliance on a single dominating industry, discouraged the ability of ethnic cohesion out of the necessity for survival in the Montana town. In the words of Mercier, “Anaconda fostered cultural exchange.”[17] In the mid-twentieth century, Irish Americans began marrying more frequently outside of ethnic Irish groups, and religion and class became the major defining factors for one’s identity.[18]

When unions began to form amid dangerous smelter working conditions and poor treatment of laborers, Irish women sought partnership with other working families, regardless of those families’ ethnic ties. Mercier asserts the reasoning behind this is Irish women believe economic security could ultimately be achieved through alliances with all families who felt this impact in Anaconda.[19] Irish women’s devotion to their families led them to sacrifice their own ethnic ties in many different situations, culminating in the overarching choice to become involved with all people of the community in order to support not only their own families, but the entirety of Anaconda. Nevertheless, Irish identity did not disappear from Anaconda—Irish culture clung to the town after many other Irish communities throughout the American West had slowly integrated into American culture. Mercier credits this to the tight kinship and friendship in the community, which instilled a ethnic ties that gave residents opportunities for socializing.

The ethnic relationships between Irish Americans in Anaconda likely made the difficult economic and dangerous working culture of the community more tolerable, enriching the bonds of Irish families who shared similar struggles: “Women and men intermingled with other ethnic groups in their workplaces, neighborhoods, churches, and schools, but they retained pride in their parents’ and grandparents’ heritage. Many Anacondans hung on to their Irish identity, even if only on a periodic basis.”[20] Cultural retention and maintenance was everchanging in Anaconda, and Irish women played a significant role in modifying it to fit a new American society.

While Anaconda may be more unique in the aspect of cultural continuation, it still provides an important understanding of the tenacity and resilience of Irish immigrants—and immigrant women—in guiding and providing for their families in a new country. Studying the presence and influence of Irish women immigrants in Anaconda can expand readers’ understandings of the broader implications and significance of women like Priscilla Taylor, who is overshadowed by the narrative of praise surrounding her husband. Just as gender is essential in considering cultural adaption within immigrant families, marriage’s role in maintaining cultural traditions must also be considered.

Marriage in Cultural Identity

Claus Meyer was born in Meyenburg, Germany, a small village near Bremen…. His wife, Catherine Bullwinkel was born in Driftsethe. It was her brother, Conrad, some 4 years her senior, who led the way to the new country. Their older brother, George followed and it was his advice that Claus and Catherine bring their family to the lush farmland in Idaho which promised them a good livelihood not unlike the northern lowland farming country of Germany, along the Weser River.[21]

Claus Meyer died in 1925 from pneumonia. Catherine followed her husband three years later in 1928, passing away from uremic poisoning. Claus, Catherine, John George Conrad and Meta are all buried in the St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery in Genesee. Religion and marriage patterns reveal that the Meyer family retained elements of their German culture, even after immigration to Latah County. 

Relating to the Meyer family, religion and marriage represent the two most significant aspects of the cultural continuation in both the Hagedorn and Scheyer families. Though these German immigrants were established in the American West, their marriage patterns reflect cultural continuation. To better contextualize this phenomenon, Writing the Range: Race, Class, and Culture in the Women’s West will add further information in this section, particularly in regard to marriage’s role in cultural maintenance. Later, this chapter will address the role of religion in depth.

As mentioned earlier, most Irish women who immigrated to the United States between 1885 and 1920 were unmarried. Irish women who were not yet wed believed relocating to the United States would offer them a chance to earn equitable wages, escape economic poverty, and find proper husbands.[22] Irish women in Anaconda usually married within a framework that fit the “old country.” Though many arrived in the American West without a husband, the majority in Anaconda chose to marry a fellow Irish immigrant: “Although many women left Ireland unattached, their marriages to countrymen in Anaconda reflected their choices to maintain ethnic traditions and ties.”[23] Nevertheless, much like Irish immigrant women’s adaption of cultural practices like the Irish wake, these women also adapted marriage within their own culture in a way that did not wholly align with that of their home countries; instead of marrying an Irishman who the woman’s parents selected, or who lived in the same county, some Irish women in Anaconda instead opted to marry men who were from “unfamiliar counties” and were “independent of parental and parish selections.”[24] Marriage—though within the Irish ethnic group—still did not represent marriage as it would look in Ireland itself.

To further support the argument that marriage acted as a significant mode of cultural continuation, Mercier analyzes based on numerous oral histories conducted in Anaconda that marrying outside of the ethnic Irish identity was considered taboo and was certainly not viewed in a positive light.[25] Even into the 1940s, men and women who married outside of the Irish ethnic group were looked down upon by those who desired to create a strong Irish settlement in the town. Furthermore, those who did not want to align with the implicated Irish modes of marriage left Anaconda in pursuit of a different American society that perhaps deviated from the traditional ethnic practices.[26]

To obtain a broader view of marriage’s role in culture and what it may have looked like in the Taylor, Meyer, Scheyer-Hagedorn, and Williamson families, an analysis of Dee Garceau’s “‘I Got a Girl Here, Would You Like to Meet Her?’: Courtship, Ethnicity, and Community in Sweetwater County, 1900-1925” will help further contextualize marriage in the American West. Garceau, who was a Professor of History at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee from 1995 to 2017, focuses on southwestern Wyoming and analyzes the nature of courtship among ethnic communities and ranchers.[27] Courtship was perhaps most importantly, according to Garceau, “an expression of shared values.”[28] Furthermore, Garceau emphasizes the role of marriage in preserving and securing ethnic ties in the “chaotic environment” that was this Wyoming frontier.[29]

Garceau places an emphasis on the parents’ roles as matchmakers in their children’s romantic lives in the county’s mining towns. She explains that—particularly in ethnic communities—matchmaking was incredibly popular and was, essentially, the norm. There was a large concentration of Slavic immigrants in Sweetwater County, and it is within these communities that a pattern of matchmaking and marrying within ones Slavic ethnic group existed.[30] Garceau notes that these matches were informal, and the introduced man and woman had the ultimate decision as to whether or not the union was beneficial for both parties.[31] Though matches within Slavic groups did not carry too much commitment, parents expected their children to marry within their ethnic group and were not accepting if their son or daughter became involved with someone who was not a Slav.[32]

In the case of one woman, Dorothy Pivik, who grew up in Rock Springs, Wyoming during the 1910s and 1920s, feelings of affection for an Englishman were discouraged by traditional Slavic parents. Pivik had met and fallen in love with the man while in school. In light of her parents adamant disapproval, Pivik ended the relationship with her love interest and instead searched elsewhere for a nice Slavic man who was within her own ethnic group: “‘Our folks always felt that we should marry the same nationality.’”[33] Particularly in the case of their daughters, Slavic parents played a pivotal role in ensuring the next generation of their family would be within the same ethnic group in an effort to maintain some cultural connections to their homelands.

Though Slavic parents were so strict in the matchmaking process in the mining towns of Sweetwater County, young people in more rural areas in the region were subject to less parental involvement in their private lives. As Garceau explains, “Ranching communities in Sweetwater County were relatively stable and culturally homogeneous; hence parents felt less need to monitor their daughters’ social lives.”[34] Coming from similar backgrounds and sharing the same values, men and women who engaged in courtships in these ranching towns were met with much less restrictive rules. Trust among ranching families and a shared Anglo-heritage—though perhaps removed a few generations from their European ancestors—acted as a barrier for worries relating to a lack of community or social life within ones ethnic group; in the case of Slavic communities, “Marrying within one’s ethnic group promised such acceptance,” as Garceau argues.[35] The importance of ethnicity in courtship and marriage is evident throughout “‘I Got a Girl Here, Would You Like to Meet Her?’”

As it relates to marriage trends among German immigrant families in Latah County, it seems as though the more traditional viewpoint of marrying within one’s ethnic identity—as was in the case of Slavic communities in Sweetwater County—was the predominant one. Alternatively, it is interesting to consider the wives of William Taylor and Nathaniel Williamson—neither of whom were born in their husband’s homelands, nor are there notes in the records of them being from Irish ethnic communities. This further solidifies the notion that culture is adaptable, and it can hold different values depending on the place, people, and time.

The Role of Immigrants in Inspiring Future Immigration
Though not representative of a broader immigrant family, Nathaniel Williamson is an important immigrant to consider for this project, as he presents the last real wave of immigration from Ireland to the United States. In the 1920s, Irish immigration to the United States declined, as the economic environment in Ireland began to improve. Furthermore, immigration to the United States in the 1920s became much less desirable following restrictive immigration policies.[36] This not only brings readers into the early twentieth century, but also addresses how trends may have shifted or remained the same.

Additionally, Williamson also inspired further immigration to Latah County—both internationally and nationally (i.e. Canada and Seattle). Nathaniel Williamson is remembered as “Moscow’s Merchant Prince of North Idaho.”[37] As Frank Williamson notes, “the Williamson name was in business in the Moscow and Palouse area for 66 years.”[38] Williamson’s legacy was continued by his descendants. In order to understand the true influences of Williamson, it is necessary to discuss the immigrant’s place in inspiring further movement to the United States and American West.

As mentioned in Chapter Two, many Irish immigrants faced discrimination, preventing them from securing a stable job. Considering the potential difficulties faced by Irish immigrants in both the East and West, Williamson’s role in promoting further immigration to the United States is worth noting. As mentioned earlier in relation to Laurie Mercier’s “‘We Are Women Irish’” piece, relatives played a significant role in this immigration. Mercier discusses the impact of relatives in the American West in encouraging Irish women to immigrate—often alone—by sending letters.[39] David Emmons takes a deeper look at the impact of Irish immigrants in the movement of other Irishmen and women in Beyond the American Pale.

Emmons expands on Mercier’s account of letters urging Irish women immigrants to make their way to the American West. Emmons takes a more in-depth look at how and why the Irish were so moved by these letters. He writes, “The letters of Irish immigrants were a form of Irish sociability and friendliness as well as a means of transferring information. They were chatty, full of gossip, what the Irish call good craíc.”[40] Letters written by these Irish immigrants were often shared and passed around, spreading all sorts of information about the American West through an Irish immigrant’s eyes.

Some who wrote letters were well-known writers who distributed to larger audiences. One of these writers was Father Michael Hannan, who was a native of County Limerick but settled in Butte, Montana. Through his written accounts, Hannan had become well known in his home country, which nicknamed him “Butte’s patriot priest,” as he was an outspoken supporter of Irish republicanism.[41] Many Irish immigrants provided mental pictures of the terrain, people, and communities in the American West. Mike Hurley is an example of this, as he wrote from Spokane, Washington in 1891 asserting that the West was becoming “civilized rapidly.”[42] This type of wording often unwittingly encouraged further Irish immigration.

Much like Nathaniel Williamson, Lewis Doyle, who resided in Kilkenny, Minnesota, wrote to his family and urged them to leave Ireland for the United States. He wrote to his cousin, promising that they people of American—or, at least, those in the West—were “independent,” further assuring his cousin that he would do all he could to help his family in the transition.[43] Doyle urged his cousin to come as far west as possible. He also put in a short request for his family to bring an Irishwomen with them, as Doyle had “remained Single [sic] long enough.”

In other instances, letters were written from Irish immigrants in the West to their relatives or friends in the East, imploring them to migrate westward. In 1852, Michael Callahan assured his brother, who resided in New York City, that the West promised better wages—as well as plenty of whiskey.[44] Given the importance of good wages to the average Irish immigrant, it is safe to assume his brother seriously considered Callahan’s letter, if nothing more. Of course, the promise of steady work did not always guarantee the safety of that work; work in the mines and smelters in some towns out west was, of course, considerably dangerous work. As well, one must remember the terrain and relations between Indigenous peoples and white settlers. This is highlighted in the experiences of an Irishmen who wrote that he was “‘always in danger of losing his life’ to Indians or other desperadoes.”[45]

Emmons simply concludes that “the Irish went to where the Irish were.”[46] The letters and writings from Irish immigrants to those in their homelands often times offered the little extra nudge that inspired many Irishmen and women to make the arduous move to the United States. The Irish, above all, valued kinship and the promises of an Irish community. Places like Butte, Anaconda, and other Irish communities in the American West provided a type of safe haven for these immigrants, who often faced discrimination more eastward.

Like Nathaniel Williamson, a trend of previous connections in the American West inspiring further immigration, the case of Catherine Meyer and her family is a great example. Her brothers left Germany for the United States prior to Catherine’s family and eventually settled in Utah. It is not unreasonable to believe that the Meyer family may have not immigrated to the American West if it had not been for the experiences and promises of rich farming land made by her brothers.

A Comparison of Immigrant Families and Patterns
Now that the Taylors, Meyers, Scheyers and Hagedorns, and the Williamsons have been examined, this section will turn to an examination of the similarities of these four immigrant families. A comparison of these four families reveals a few intriguing patterns. These patterns include mobility and migration, occupation, land acquisition, religion, and marriage. The Taylor family, Meyer family, Scheyer and Hagedorn families, and Williamson family all exhibit at least one of these categories.

The majority of immigrants did not seek to immigrate directly to Latah County—they instead resided in another part of the country prior to their arrival in Latah County and surrounding areas. This is exhibited in all four immigrant families. William Taylor first immigrated to Boone County, Illinois. It was not until William Taylor was in his fifties that he decided to relocate to Moscow with his family.[47] Claus and Catherine Meyer first immigrated to Ogden, Utah, where Catherine’s brother was close by.[48] Edward Hagedorn had left Germany for Rudd, Iowa.[49] Elizabeth Scheyer’s grandfather, John Peter Scheyer, had immigrated from Germany first to Jefferson County, Pennsylvania.[50] Nathaniel Williamson had intended to immigrate to Canada, but decided to stay in Seattle, Washington. He did not immigrate to Moscow until he was offered stock in The Boston Store.[51]

Many immigrants exhibit differences in who moved with family versus those who left family. Claus and Catherine Meyer were first inspired to immigrate by Catherine’s brothers, Conrad and George Bullwinkel, who relocated to Utah from Germany.[52] Something similar is seen in the case of Nathaniel Williamson, as he had an older brother who lived in Canada. His initial desire was to immigrate to Canada, and he only stayed in Seattle mainly for convenience.[53] Nathaniel Williamson also inspired two Irishmen to immigrate to Latah County, as they desired to become as successful as Williamson in their careers as store owners.

This suggests that, for many immigrant families, Latah County and the broader American West were not necessarily their initial desired areas for relocation. The rich farming lands of Latah County seem to have inspired the predominant immigration to the county. For Nathaniel Williamson, the desire to migrate to Moscow was due to his investment in The Boston Store. However, for the Taylors, Meyers, Scheyers, and Hagedorns, a major reason for relocation to Latah County was the prospect of fruitful farming land.

Both the Meyers and Hagedorns were farmers in Germany prior to their arrival in the United States. Those immigrants who were not farmers in their home countries, however, usually adopted different skills once arriving to Latah County. For example, William Taylor was trained as a mason in Ireland and continued in his line of work in Illinois. However, he had adopted farming upon his arrival in Moscow. Excluding Nathaniel Williamson, all the investigated immigrant families immigrated to Latah County because of the prospect of rich land to farm. Consequentially, most immigrant families were farmers.

Though the majority of these immigrant families enlisted their young children to help with farm duties, there is no large pattern of the children of immigrants pursuing farm work as their predominant occupation in these specific families. This was the case in some families, but many first-generation Americans did not pursue farming. For instance, Thomas Taylor, son of William Taylor, became a business partner with his brother-in-law in a brick manufacturing company. There is no strong overarching pattern pertaining to the occupations of first-generation Americans in Latah County.

In terms of land acquisition, the case is similar to occupational patterns. There does not seem to be a strong correlation among immigrant families. Nevertheless, the Taylor family represents the silence of Indigenous narratives, a common omission in the family genealogies and histories of early settlers, like the Meyers. There is no discussion of the Indigenous presence beyond the Taylor family’s history—in some respects, Keeling’s The Un-covered Wagon reveals that at least only early settler family did not consider the Indigenous presence as a large part of their land acquisition. This points to a dismissal of Indigenous presence, which is perhaps unsurprising. The Un-covered Wagon demonstrates, though, that the Native American peoples in the Latah County region were very much present and should be considered in discussions of land acquisition.

Of course, the Homestead Act played a role in settlement of Latah County and the broader American West. This is especially evident in the Meyer and Bullwinkel families. The Homestead Act may have inspired the Meyer family’s immigration, especially considering Catherine Meyer’s siblings, the Bullwinkel brothers, had utilized the act themselves. It will never be determined as whether or not the Homestead Act was the leading causation for the Meyer’s immigration. Regardless, the Homestead Act’s role in promoting immigration to the West must be acknowledged.

Religion in Cultural Adaption

Mother Hagedorn also schooled herself and learned to read English after they moved to town. They were very generous always to God’s cause and helped to keep the little German Methodist Church going until 1921. After it closed, they joined the First Methodist Church. Mother’s greatest joy was serving the Lord by her generous gifts. She was always grateful, she said, that she had worked hard so that she had it to give. She was always wishing good to everyone.[54]

There are strong religion patterns among the German families that this project has analyzed. The Meyers, Scheyers and Hagedorns seemed to have had an especially strong connection to religion. These families are noted as being strong devout church members prior to their immigration. It is noted that the Meyers were devout members of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Genesee. This is important to note, as St. John’s was only holding services in the German language for a time. Of course, John Meyer was the last living charter member when the church celebrated its golden anniversary. His son and daughter-in-law, John and Gisela, were also active members of St. John’s.

The Scheyer and Hagedorns families were both members of the German Methodist Episcopal Church in Moscow. Fredrick Hagedorn and Elizabeth Scheyer met through their families’ participation in the church and church activities. The union of Fredrick and Elizabeth demonstrates the significance of religion for immigrant families and its role in cultural retention.

Richard D. Scheuerman and Clifford E. Trafzer’s Hardship to Homeland: Pacific Northwest Volga Germans helps to contextualize the value of religion in cultural maintenance. According to Scheuerman and Trafzer, “Religion played an extremely significant role in the lives of the Volga Germans, and religion would remain a central component of their social and cultural makeup throughout their history both in the Old and New Worlds.”[55] After immigrating to the American West, the Volga Germans founded the first German Congregational Churches in the region.[56]

The German Congregational Church promoted traditional evangelical church doctrine and also encouraged the use of the German language in religious writings.[57] During the late nineteenth century, many pastors from Germany sought to immigrate to the American West and serve populations of German immigrants in these churches. Missionary Karl Anton Horn, born in Saxon, Germany, was a pastor who chose to relocate to Spokane Falls to serve the German immigrants throughout the area. Pastor Horn preached to numerous towns, including Spokane, Fairfield, Colfax, Endicott, Genesee, Walla Walla, Ritzville, and Adams County.[58] Several others missions and pastors were sent to the American West in order to seek out and minister to German immigrant populations.

Scheuerman and Trafzer note that the Volga Germans were, of course, forced to adapt their ways of life in some respects to better survive in the United States, which included understanding the larger social culture in the American West. Nevertheless, the Volga Germans “held steadfastly to some of their customs, teachings, and general techniques of their past lifeway.”[59] These two authors argue that this cultural maintenance was “particularly apparent in their [Volga Germans’] religion.”[60] Though some church doctrine had changed and evolved in the United States, the church’s place at the core of the Volga German society had not.

The church was an institution that served the Volga Germans so closely, it had followed them culturally to the United States and became just as prevalent to their everyday lives as it had been in their ancestral homes. The church was not only a religious beacon, it truly was the center of the Volga German culture; this is largely due to social, political, and cultural matters being discussed through the church. Thus, the church’s purpose extended from religion—it was the mode for the Volga German lifeway.

David Emmons’ Beyond the American Pale offers a view on the significance of religion in relation to Irish immigrants. He argues that nothing was as important to Irish immigrants as having a resident and Irish Catholic priest. According to Emmons, this one thing determined the communities in which Irish immigrants chose to settle. He asserts that “Catholicism was part of both their ethnic and their social-class identities.”[61] In the same regard, though, Catholicism was not the only identity of Irish immigrants. However, the Irish respected priests greatly. The most comfortable relocation in the American West would be possible mainly through access to a Catholic priest.

Laurie Mercier’s “‘We Are Women Irish’” expands this idea, noting that the “Catholic Church was the most important cultural institution” to Irish women in Anaconda, Montana.[62] Women viewed churches as essential to community life. Consequentially, these women were highly involved in church activities. Volunteering and fundraising for church-related programs and projects was a popular activity among women. In 1888, the Ladies of the Catholic Church began raising money via a raffle for a gold watch. These funds were to go towards a new church in Anaconda.[63]

Volunteering for the Catholic Church remained an avid mission among Irish immigrant women, who were devoted to sacrificing their time well into the twentieth century. These efforts went towards the construction of a new school and a convent, among others. Volunteering for and being active members of the Catholic Church was a central part of women’s lives. Irish working-class men spent their free time in Anaconda’s bars, but Irish women found the same entertainment and solace among church groups. More than men, Irish women had a larger attachment to the Catholic Church, which was carried down from mother to daughter—representative of cultural continuation.[64]

Due to their sex, these women were not granted the same roles and opportunities as men within the church sphere were. However, as Mercier asserts, “many Irish Catholic women welcomed the opportunity to escape home and family duties to visit with other women and contribute to the well-being of the larger community.”[65] Though Irish women represented the largest ethnic group involved in the Catholic Church, organizations like the Women’s Catholic Order of Foresters, Ladies of Maccabees, and the St. Paul Council of Catholic Women became more ethnically diverse by the 1920s. Some groups, though, remained quite Irish for an extended amount of time; for example, the Ladies’ Catholic Benevolent Association remained an all Irish and Irish American group until a Slavic woman became its financial secretary in 1925.[66]

However, like the instance of the Irish wake, women in Anaconda had to adapt to a new way of life in the United States, which greatly impacted the role and place of religion in their lives; particularly in Anaconda, Irish women exercised more autonomy within their families, which did not coincide with traditional Catholic teachings of women’s domesticity. The Catholic Church sought to preserve and promote narrow gender roles, which “often contradicted the realities of life in a smelter town.”[67] Women were the primary decision makers in their families, as their husbands were away working at the smelter, attending union meetings, or socializing in local watering holes.[68]

As discussed earlier, women were usually responsible for the family’s funds—including their husbands’ paychecks. Moreover, the Irishmen relied on their wives for guidance and support during difficult economic times. Irish women viewed themselves as primary decision makers in their homes, and this went against the Catholic Church’s principles. Though subjected to strict religious training, first generation Irish American women sought to build off of their mothers’ influences in serving wider community purposes through their domestic responsibilities.[69]

Despite not fitting into the passive domestic role that the church fostered, Irish women still adhered strongly to their Catholic faith and thus their support for the Catholic Church as a whole was unwavering. Women also benefited from a reciprocal relationship within the church, in which they would support the church and receive the same assistance in return.[70] Another reason women so fervently supported the Catholic Church was due to parochial schools. Mothers would send their children to these religious schools in hopes that, through receiving an education, their children may avoid working in the dangerous smelter.[71]

Largely influenced by the Irish population in Anaconda, the parochial schools were encouraged to place an emphasis on Irish history in the schools’ curriculums. This trend of Irish history courses continued even into the 1930s, during which groups like the AOH persuaded teachers at the religious schools to “teach Irish history in exchange for needed schoolbooks.”[72] Furthermore, the AOH Irish History Committee rewarded Irish American students for their academic performance, suggesting that Anaconda retained some sense of an ethnic pride. Religion was a mode of culture that was particularly relevant among mothers and daughters; many Irish mothers urged at least one of their children to pursue a life in service of the church.

Often intertwined with marriage, religion dictated the choice of a life partner for many immigrants. In the case of Slavic immigrants in Sweetwater County, Wyoming, Dee Garceau asserts that “religion was inseparable from ethnic identity among Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs.”[73] In the experiences of one Croatian immigrant named Ann LeVar Powell, the “‘unspoken rule’” her parents expected of her was to marry a Catholic.[74]

Marriage patterns, as discussed earlier, are also visible within the four examined immigrant families. Minnie Taylor married the son of a Scottish immigrant father. Claus and Catherine’s son and grandson both married German women: John George Conrad married Meta Flomer, while his son, John G. Meyer, married Gisela Baudis. Lastly, the Scheyers and Hagedorns are indicative of this marriage pattern, especially when one considers Fredrick Hagedorn and Elizabeth Scheyer. As mentioned above, their marriage is representative of both religious patterns and marriage patterns, leading to a maintaining of their German culture.

While it may not seem too surprising that first-generation Americans married within their parent’s ethnic identities, it points to a much deeper retention of culture. Furthermore, cultural continuation is especially important in this case. Through choosing partners with the same ethnic connections as their ancestors, descendants of immigrants were actively maintaining their cultures in the American West.

In conclusion, mobility and migration patterns, occupation patterns, land acquisition patterns, religion patters, and marriage patterns are visible within the Taylor family, Meyer family, Scheyer and Hagedorn family, and the Williamson family. These four groups exhibit at least one similar pattern. While this may not be too conclusive in terms of immigration to the American West, this case study does reveal that cultural retention was present within marriage patterns and religion patterns specifically. Irish and German immigrants did not forget their roots once they had immigrated to the American West. Cultural maintenance was also not always a binary—fluidity was present in this cultural transmission—the Hagedorn family are an example of this: culture was, indeed, adaptable. Nevertheless, many of these Euro-American settlers may have exhibited a strong love for the United States, but they also retained aspects of their own ethnic identity as German or Irish people. This was especially evident in German immigrant families.

[1] The Un-covered Wagon: A Glimpse of Pioneer Days in Moscow, Taylor Family Personal Collection.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Elizabeth Jameson and Susan Armitage, Writing the Range: Race, Class, and Culture in the Women’s West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 5-6.
[4] “Laurie Mercier,” Washington State University, accessed 22 March 2023,
[5] Laurie Mercier, “‘We Are Women Irish’: Gender, Class, Religious, and Ethnic Identity in Anaconda, Montana,” in Writing the Range: Race, Class, and Culture in the Women’s West, ed. Elizabeth Jameson and Susan Armitage (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 313.
[7] Ibid., 315.
[8] Ibid., 316.
[9] Ibid., 317.
[10] Ibid., 318.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid., 320.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid., 321.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid., 326.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Ibid., 327.
[21] Meyer Family Genealogy, Meyer Family Personal Collection.
[22] Ibid., 313.
[23] Ibid., 315.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Ibid.
[27] “Meet the Documentarians,” Dance River Productions, accessed 21 March 2023,
[28] Dee Garceau, “‘I Got a Girl Here, Would You Like to Meet Her?’: Courtship, Ethnicity, and Community in Sweetwater County, 1900-1925” in Writing the Range: Race, Class, and Culture in the Women’s West, ed. Elizabeth Jameson and Susan Armitage (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 275.
[29] Garceau, “‘I Got a Girl Here, Would You Like to Meet Her?’” 275.
[30] According to Garceau, coal production inspired Hungarians, Austrians, Slavs, and Italians to take up jobs as miners in southwest Wyoming.
[31] Ibid., 279.
[32] Ibid., 280.
[33] Ibid.
[34] Ibid., 284.
[35] Ibid., 289.
[36] Mercier, “‘We Are Women Irish,’” 322.
[38] Ibid.
[39] Mercier, “‘We Are Women Irish,’” 313.
[40] Emmons, Beyond the American Pale, 242.
[41] Ibid., 244.
[42] Ibid., 248.
[43] Ibid.
[44] Ibid.
[45] Ibid., 249.
[46] Ibid., 249.
[47] The Un-covered Wagon: A Glimpse of Pioneer Days in Moscow, Taylor Family Personal Collection.
[48] Meyer Family Genealogy, Meyer Family Personal Collection.
[49] Hagedorn Family Genealogy, Hagedorn Family Personal Collection.
[50] Ibid.
[52] Meyer Family Genealogy, Meyer Family Personal Collection.
[53] A Biography of Nathaniel Williamson, Williamson Collection.
[54] Hagedorn Family Genealogy, Hagedorn Family Personal Collection.
[55] Scheuerman and Trafzer, Hardship to Homeland, 48.
[56] Ibid.
[57] Ibid., 108.
[58] Ibid., 115.
[59] Ibid., 133.
[60] Ibid.
[61] Emmons, Beyond the American Pale, 232.
[62] Mercier, “‘We Are Women Irish,” 323.
[63] Ibid.
[64] Ibid.
[65] Ibid., 324.
[66] Ibid.
[67] Ibid.
[68] Ibid.
[69] Ibid.
[70] Ibid.
[71] Ibid., 325.
[72] Ibid.
[73] Garceau, “‘I Got a Girl Here, Would You Like to Meet Her?’” 280.
[74] Ibid.

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