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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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Dane Church

Dane Church

Central to the Scandinavian settlement area, St. Stephenie Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church and the neighboring cemetery are known locally as the Dane Church. During Cather's time in the area, the church hired a Czech immigrant named Kamel Ondrak to paint an altarpiece, "Christ in the Garden." When Willa Cather took her father to see it, CharlesCather observed that the halo looked like a ring of cheese. Cather was furious. In 1927, a tornado destroyed the little church, and when Ondrak heard of the damage, he reportedly cried, "My Yesus! My Yesus! Blown all to hell!"

The Dane Church and cemetery are believed to be the prototypes for the Norwegian cemetery that refuses to bury Mr. Shimerda in My Ántonia; Francis Sadilek, the prototype for Mr. Shimerda, was buried just over a mile away on the Sadilek land.