Have you ever heard of the Ostfriesian people? The Ostfriesians, or East Frisian people, are an ethnic minority group from northwest Germany. In the 1800s, many immigrated to America and settled in Illinois and Iowa. Their descendants are still here today.

One of these descendants recently donated a collection created by his father, Rev. Melvin C. Blobaum. The Melvin C. Blobaum Collection contains materials from his work as a Lutheran pastor in Champaign County. The collection includes material from a variety of churches, and the Ostrfriesian Heritage Society of East Central Illinois. This society worked to preserve their culture and language, the Plattdeutch, or Low German dialect.

If you'd like to hear what the Plattdeutch language sounds like, you can! The Ostfriesian Heritage Society sponsored church services in the Plattdeutch language, especially for Christmas. This collection contains digitized VHS's and recordings of some of these services. 

Image of a handwritten transcription of a letter from January 24, 1858.
Handwritten transcription done by Ella and Hilka of a letter dated January 24, 1858, addressed to Johann H. Schluter.
Image of a handwritten transcription of a letter from January 24, 1858.
Page 2 of the transcription.

Among the fascinating documents in this collection are a series of letters written by the Schluter family, an Ostfriesian family in Germany, to a family member, Johann Herman Schluter, who immigrated first to Illinois, and then Iowa in 1857. The letters were written between 1858 and 1887. The early letters were not mailed, but sent with other immigrants. The collection also contains the translations done by Elle Emkes Buenting and her cousin Hilka Schluter, distant relatives of the donor and his father. The donor’s mother, Mary Lou (Mixdorf) Blobaum typed the translations. 

Photograph of an original letter from 1858. Written from the family of Johann H. Schluter in Germany, to Johann in America.
The original letter from 1858. 

There is much more to learn about this collection. If you are interested in viewing it, or learning more, please let us know.

-Sara Bennett

Archives Librarian