09 August 2019

Road Trip: In Search of German-Russian America


The old Schilling farm, nine miles north, 2 miles west of Bowdle, South Dakota. July 29, 2019.


“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”


John Steinbeck
Travels with Charley: In Search of America



There is something intrinsically romantic about the American road trip. It is, in many ways, a rite of passage, one we may repeat multiple times over the course of our lives – the first to see what’s there, then again to see what’s changed, and again to see what’s still there, and maybe one last time just to remember. 


At the age of just three months old, I went on my first road trip. I’ve had itchy feet ever since. 


Before I married a few years ago, I made countless solo trips in every direction from wherever I lived for no apparent reason whatsoever. I am and always have been a terrible tourist. I never map out my driving route and have been known to just turn onto whatever road looks interesting. (My husband has stories about this.) I never eat at restaurants with gift shops attached. I never buy souvenirs and never take the pictures that are expected of a well-known place. There is, in fact, little evidence I’ve ever been anywhere at all. Even when I have to be somewhere, going there and coming back is always more interesting than being there. The journey is my destination. Always has been. 


So when a short trip to the Germans from Russia Heritage Society convention in Fargo planned earlier this year became a two week road trip to include the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia convention in Lincoln, I was more than up for it. 


Since my latest research is about where immigrant Germans from Russia and their descendants lived in America, I thought it might be interesting to record how many of those places I encountered along the way from my starting point in southern Arizona. I left the path of our trip up to my husband, asking only that we avoid interstates unless necessary and that he take whatever roads look interesting. While I have covered a lot of this area on my own, this was his first time in some of the upper mid-western states. (I once drove him across the prairie in South Dakota to a family reunion, but he was on cold meds the whole time. Still, somehow, he has fond memories of Spearfish and thought we should move there. It was the Ny-Quil talking.)  Aside from a few turn-by-turn directions I gave him on one day and a few stops for suppers with cousins along the way, the route we took was what he wanted to see. We had to work around the Sturgis bike rally that was just getting started as we were beginning to head home, otherwise there would've been more Wyoming and Utah.


For days, the view from the passenger window like a flip book went back and forth between ranch land and farm land. I recalled years ago driving my 103-year-old grandfather out to his farm in early September to have a last look at it. He tapped the window with his papery-skinned hand somewhere along the way and said with some concern, “That corn is ripe.” As the descendant of farmers going back nearly 300 years, I naturally pay attention to crops. The purple tinge of an alfalfa field always makes me happy, and I’ll roll down a window to try to get a whiff of it. As we drove along, I noted how many farms had bet on corn versus soybeans this year, what shape of bales the hay were in, how few wheat fields there were compared to my last trip, how the sunflowers weren’t in bloom yet (was it too early or was something delaying it?), how the only sugar beet fields I saw were right outside Alliance, Nebraska, and once we were back in southern New Mexico, saw that harvest had begun in the chile fields along the Rio Grande valley.


As I went off in search of America – German-Russian America – I forgot to ask myself what exactly I was looking for? What does it look like anymore? It’s easy to project our Germans from Russia past onto rural areas and farm and ranch lands because it's easy to overly romanticize rural life. But what about driving between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs? Some farms and ranches still there, yes, but downtown Denver does not scream “Germans from Russia settled here,” although a lot of them did. This is a reminder, perhaps, that while much of our ancestral history is rooted in agriculture, not all of it is. Also a reminder, while many of our ancestors settled in the heart of we commonly think of as American German-Russian country (however you define that), not all of them did. 


I am ever in awe of the part of history that our ancestors took part. You and I are results of their choices to leave Germany to go to Russia and to leave Russia and go to the United States. I am humbled by that thought. Our immigrant ancestors contributed to the diversity and fabric of America, and they helped define what America would become at a time when it was expanding and there were frontiers still to be settled. As their descendants, we’re following suit with our lives, our families, our jobs, our contributions to all that is America. Did I find German-Russian America? Yes, I think so. And not surprisingly, it is America.

So, after two weeks on the road – 4,155 miles, 10 states, 73 places with German-Russian ties, one runza , one bowl of knoephla soup, one fleischkuechle, two pieces of kuchen (apple and rhubarb), one box of family stuff (German prayer books, hymnals, negatives, slides, etc.), one pocketful of pilfered hollyhock seeds from an undisclosed location, and 40 pounds of Hatch green chile – I am finally home. The house is back in order. The cats have forgiven me. The sourdough starter has been fed, and the chile pods have been roasted and packed away in the freezer for the year, well ahead of schedule.

The list below is of all the places in the order of their appearance (duplicates removed) that I visited or went through on this trip where there is German-Russian immigrants and their descendants lived. I came in close proximity to many others, but because I didn’t go to them or through them, they are not on this list. They will be on the map that is in progress.

Unfortunately, I could not take every road and go to every place where German Russians lived. I will leave that to a travel writer who wants a really, really big assignment.  


Map of the trip


Road Trip through German-Russian Country (July 23 - August 6, 2019)
PlaceGerman-Russian Origins
Oro Valley, Arizona2nd and 3rd generation descendants of Black Sea Catholics and Protestants from the colonies of Glückstal, Kassel and Straßburg.
Tucson, Arizona2nd and 4th generation descendants of Black Sea Germans from the Bessarabien colonies of Arzis and Plotzk and the Liebental colonies of Alexanderhilf and Grossliebental.
Lordsburg, New MexicoImmigrant Volga Germans from the colony of Norka with ties to Oklahoma and Kansas.
Camp Cody, New Mexico (defunct)Likely immigrant and 1st generation descendants of Black Sea Germans who served in the National Guard during WWI from North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa.
Las Cruces, New Mexico3rd, 4th and 5th generation descendants of Black Sea Catholics and Protestants from the colonies of Mannheim, Glückstal, Grossliebental, Kassel and Strassburg .
Santa Rosa, New Mexico2nd and 3rd generation descendants of Black Sea Catholics and Protestants from the colonies of Glückstal, Kassel and Straßburg.
Dalhart, TexasImmigrant Black Sea Mennonites
Liberal, Kansas2nd generation descendants of Volga Protestants from the colony of Erlenbach.
Dodge City, KansasVolga Protestants and Catholics from the colonies of Kukkus and Herzog and Reibensdorf on the Don.
Spearville, KansasVolga Catholics from Rothammel
Kinsley, KansasVolga Protestants
Pawnee Rock, KansasVolga Protestants from the colony of Dietel.
Great Bend, KansasVolga Protestants from the colonies of Ährenfeld, Kratzke, Holstein, Eckheim, Dietel, Blumenfeld (am Belaya Kuba)
Concordia, KansasVolga Protestants from the colony of Obermonjou.
Lincoln, NebraskaImmigrant and 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation descendants of Germans from Russia from the following areas: Black Sea Protestants from the Bessarabien colonies of Arzis and Teplitz and the Liebental colonies of Alexanderhilf, Grossliebental; Volga Protestants from the colonies of Anton, Balzer, Beideck, Dietel, Frank, Galka, Grimm, Huck, Hussenbach, Kautz, Kratzke, Kukkus, Laub, Merkel, Norka, Saratov, Schaffer, and Walter; Volhynian Protestants from the colonies of Mydzk, Stanislawowska and Zhytomyr; and Lublin (Poland).
Fremont, Nebraska3rd generation descendants of Volga Protestants from the colony of Beideck.
Sioux City, Iowa3rd generation descendants from Volga Protestants from the colony of Walter.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Germans from Russia from the following areas: Black Sea Catholics and Protestants from the colonies of Leipzig (Bessarabia), Kleinliebental (Liebental district), Selz (Kutschurgan); Volga Protestants from the colonies of Schontal and Saratov; Volga Mennonites; and Volhynian Protestants from the colonies of Stanislawowska and Zhytomyr.
Brookings, South Dakota5th generation descendants from Black Sea Protestants from the colony of Landau.
Volga, South DakotaThere seems like there ought to be Germans from Russia here. There's even a Samara Avenue there. But there is no evidence that Volga Germans lived in Volga, South Dakota.
De Smet, South DakotaImmigrant and 2nd and 3rd generation descendants of Black Sea Protestants from Bessarabia, Volga Protestants from the colonies of Schontal and Saratov, and Volhynian Protestants from Zhytomyr and Stanislowowka.
Huron, South DakotaImmigrant Black Sea Mennonites and 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation descendants of Black Sea Catholics from the colony of Strassburg.
Redfield, South DakotaImmigrant Volga Protestants from the colony of Frank and 2nd generation descendants of Black Sea Protestants from the colony of Kassel. 
Aberdeen, South DakotaImmigrant and 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation descendants of Germans from Russia from the following areas: Black Sea Catholics Elsass, Grossliebental, Kandel, Kleinliebental, Liebental, Selz, Strassburg; Black Sea Protestant colonies of Bergdorf, Glückstal, Kassel, Odessa and the Bessarabien colony of Teplitz; Volga Catholics from the colony of Mariental by way of Valle María (Entre Rios, Argentina).
Mina, South DakotaBlack Sea Catholics from the Kutschurgan colony of Kandel.
Ipswitch, South DakotaImmigrant Black Sea Catholics from the Kutschurgan colonies of Baden, Kandel, Mannheim and Selz
Bowdle, South DakotaImmigrant and 1st and 2nd generation descendants of Black Sea Catholics and Protestants from the following colonies: Neudorf, Glückstal, Kassel, Heilbrun, Worms, Hoffnungstal, Odessa, Elsass, Kandel, Mannheim and Strassburg
Hosmer, South DakotaImmigrant and 1st and 2nd generation descendants of Black Sea Catholics and Protestants from the colonies of Glückstal, Kassel, Neudorf, others from Crimea, and the Kutschurgan colonies of Elsass, Kandel and Strassburg.
Eureka, South DakotaImmigrant Black Sea Catholics and Protestants from the from districts of Glückstal, Hoffnungstal, Liebental, Bessarabia, Crimea, Kutschurgan, among others including the following colonies: Güldendorf, Kassel, Glückstal, Hoffnungstal, Bergdorf, Arzis, Plotzk, Tepliz, Franzfeld, Alt-Danzig, Neu-Freudental, Neu-Lustdorf, Neuburg, Peterstal, Josephstal, Selz, Strassburg, Mannheim, Baden and Kandel.
Herreid, South DakotaImmigrant Black Sea Catholics and Protestants.
Strasburg, North DakotaImmigrant, 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation descendants of Black Sea Catholics from the colonies of Strassburg, Baden, Selz, Kandel, Elsass, Franzfeld, Josefstal, Klein-Liebental, and from Crimea.
Linton, North DakotaImmigrant and first generation descendants of Black Sea Catholics from the Bessarabien colony of Krasna, the Kutschurgan colony of Strassburg, and Protestants from the Liebental colony of Neu-Freudental.
Temvik, North DakotaImmigrant Black Sea Protestants.
Hazelton, North DakotaImmigrant and 1st and 2nd generation descendants of Black Sea Protestants from the Kassel, Grossliebental, Peterstal, Güldendorf.
Moffit, North DakotaImmigrant Black Sea Catholics
Bismarck, North DakotaImmigrant and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th generation descendants of Black Sea Catholics and Protestants from the following colonies: Kronental; Neudorf (Glückstal district by way of Bavaria, Germany); Leipzig, Teplitz, Plotzk, Alt Posttal, Akkermann (all Bessarabia); Crimean colony of Heilbrunn; Beresan colonies of Landau, Karlsruhe, Speier; Grossliebental; Kutschurgan colonies of Mannheim, Baden, Kandel and Selz. Also Volhynian Protestants from the colony of Glückstal, and Vistula Protestants for the colony of Gustennien (Gostynin).
Driscoll, North Dakota1st and 2nd generation descendants of Volhynian Protestants.
Steele, North Dakota1st, 2nd and 3rd generation descendants of Volhynian Protestants.
Dawson, North DakotaImmigrant Black Sea Protestants from the Bessarabien colony of Friedenstal.
Tappen, North DakotaImmigrant and 1st generation descendants of Black Sea Protestants from Glückstal and Bessarabia.
Jamestown, North DakotaImmigrant and 1st generation descendants of Black Sea Catholics and Protestants from the colonies of Strassburg, Kronental, Neudorf and Kassel; Volhynian Protestants from the colony of Glückstal; and Vistula Protestants form the colony of Gustennien (Gostynin).
Valley City, North Dakota5th generation descendants of Black Sea Protestants from the colony of Heilbrunn (Crimea).
Fargo, North Dakota1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation descendants of Black Sea Catholics and Protestants from the Bessarabien colonies of Krasna and Leipzig, Kassel (Glückstal district), Kandel (Kutschurgan district), Kronental.
Sisseton, South DakotaImmigrant and 1st generation descendants of Black Sea Protestants from the Bessarabien colony of Dennewitz.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Germans from Russia from the following areas: Black Sea Catholics and Protestants from the colonies of Glückstal and Kassel (Glückstal district), Leipzig (Bessarabia), Kleinliebental (Liebental district), Selz (Kutschurgan); Volga Protestants from the colonies of Schontal and Saratov; Volhynian Protestants from the colonies of Stanislowowka and Zhytomyr.
Mitchell, South Dakota2nd generation Volga Protestants from the colonies of Schontal and Saratov.
Stickney, South Dakota1st and 2nd generation descendants of Volga Protestants from the colonies of Schontal and Saratov.
Corsica, South Dakota1st generation descendants of German Russians with connections to Tripp, South Dakota.
Winner, South DakotaBlack Sea Protestants
Carter, South DakotaBlack Sea Protestants
Martin, South DakotaBlack Sea Protestants from colonies in Dobrudscha.
Gordon, Nebraska2nd and 3rd generation descendants of Black Sea Protestants from the Beresan colony of Rohrbach and Volga Protestants from the colony of Norka.
Rushville, Nebraska2nd and 3rd generation descendants of Black Sea and Volga Protestants from the colonies of Rohrbach (Beresan district) and Norka.
Alliance, NebraskaImmigrant and 2nd and 3rd generation descendants of Volga Protestants from the colonies of Frank, Grimm, Huck, Norka and Mueller.
Minatare, NebraskaVolga Protestants from the colony of Norka.
Scottsbluff, NebraskaImmigrant and subsequent generations of Volga Catholics and protestants from at at least the following colonies: Bauer, Beideck, Brunnental, Dietel, Dönhof, Erlenbach, Frank, Gnadenfeld, Huck, Hussenbach, Kautz, Kolb, Konstantinovka, Kraft, Kratzke, Kukkus, Merkel, Neu-Norka, Norka, Oberdorf, Rosenberg, Unterdorf, Walter, Wiesenmüller and Sarepta (Astrakhan).
Gering, NebraskaImmigrant and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th generation descendants of Volga Protestants from the colonies of Frank, Huck, Kolb, Kukkas, Norka and Saratov. Some came from Fort Collins, Colorado to work in the sugar beet industry in Nebraska.
Cheyanne, Wyoming1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation descendants from the following areas (all Protestant): Bessarabien colony of Arzis; Black Sea colonies of Alexanderhilf, Grossliebental, Heilbrunn (Crimea); Volga colonies of Bauer, Frank, Grimm, Kolb, Norka, Saratov and Warenburg.
Fort Collins, ColoradoImmigrant and 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation descendants of Black Sea Protestants from the colonies of Alexanderhilf, Grossliebental, the Bessarabien colonies of Arzis and Plotzk; Volga Protestants from the colonies of Beideck, Dietel, Dreispitz, Erlenbach, Frank, Kautz, Kratzke, Merkel, Neu Messer, Norka, Oberdorf, Pobochnaya, Rosenberg, Shcherbakovka and Walter. 
Timnath, Colorado1st generation descendants of Volga Protestants from the colony of Walter.
Loveland, ColoradoBlack Sea Protestants and Volga Catholics and Protestants from the colonies of Frank, Hussenbach, Kratzke, Neu Messer, Ober-Monjou, Rosenberg and Walter.
Windsor, ColoradoImmigrant and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th generation descendants of Volga Germans from the colonies of Brunnenthal, Beideck, Dietel, Dreispitz, Dönhof, Erlenbach, Frank, Grimm, Holstein, Kratzke, Merkel, Messer, Norka, Oberdorf, Shcherbakovka and Sarepta (Astrakhan).
Greeley, ColoradoImmigrant and 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation descendants of Volga Catholics and Protestants from the colonies of Beideck, Frank, Hussenbach, Merkel, Messer, Moor, Norka, Oberdorf, Pobochnaya, Schöenfeld, Semenovka, Walter and Yagodnaya Polyana.
Longmont, ColoradoImmigrant and 1st generation descendants of Volga Catholics and Protestants from the colonies of Dönhof, Norka, Pobotschnoje and Yagodnaya Polyana.
Thornton, ColoradoImmigrant and 3rd and 4th generation descendants of Black Sea Protestants from the Liebental colony of Peterstal; 1st generation descendants of Volga Catholics and Protestants from the colonies of Semenowka and Grimm.
Denver, ColoradoImmigrant and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th generation descendants of Germans from Russia from the following areas: Black Sea Protestants from the Bessarabien colonies of Alt-Posttal, Akkermann, Hoffnungstal, Teplitz; Black Sea Protestants from the colonies of Kronental, Alexanderhilf, Grossliebental, Peterstal, Karlsruhe (Beresan); Volga Catholics and Protestants from the colonies of Beideck, Brunnental, Dietel, Dönhof, Frank, Grimm, Huck, Hussenbach, Kautz, Kolb, Kraft, Kratzke, Köhler, Merkel, Messer, Neu Messer, Nieder-Monjou, Norka, Pfeifer, Rothammel, Saratov, Urbach and Walter; and Volhynian Mennonites from Volyn.
Castle Rock, Colorado4th generation descendants of Black Sea Protestants from the Bessarabien colony of Arzis and the Liebental colonies of Alexanderhilf and Grossliebental and Volga Protestants from the colony of Norka.
Colorado Springs, Colorado2nd and 3rd generation descendants of Volga Catholics and Protestants from the colonies of Beideck, Katharinental and Semenovka.
Pueblo, ColoradoImmigrant and 4th and 5th generation descendants of Volga Catholics and Protestants from the colony of Beideck (possibly others).
Santa Fe, New Mexico3rd generation descendants of Black Sea Protestants from the colony of Grossliebental.
Agua Fria, New MexicoBlack Sea Germans with ties to Crosby, Texas.
Albuquerque, New Mexico2nd, 3rd and 4th generation descendants from the following areas: Black Sea Protestants from the colonies of Glückstal, Alexanderhilf, Grossliebental; Bessarabien Protestants from the colony of Arzis; Volga Protestants from the colonies of Dönhof, Merkel, Moor and Norka.



###

21 July 2019

New Website for Germans from Russia in America



A new website has been launched that goes into the details of research behind the map of Germans from Russia in America project.



  ###

01 July 2019

Germans from Russia in America: Follow the humans ....


At least 18?  Really?  Huh. Okay. Thanks, Google.

While contemplating my list of 404 places in North Dakota where Germans from Russia lived, I wondered how many towns there are in North Dakota...and would it be easier to identify the places where Germans from Russia did not live instead.

Hey, it's a reasonable question to ask.

The Census Bureau's guide to state and local census geography gave me a better answer: 401 places, 357 incorporated places and 44 census-designated places (CDP).  I know that my list contains places that no longer exist (historical townships and post offices), but it's still only a little surprising how close the two numbers are. Back in March when I was pulling the list of ND places together from one of Karl Stumpp's map, the numerous newspaper indexes from the Germans from Russia Heritage Society, and George Rath's The Black Sea Germans in the Dakotas, I had wondered briefly then about the large number.

But if there's one rule to this project it's this: follow the humans and record where they lived.  Go where the maps and data take you, and the stories will present themselves.

Research continues for the map of Germans from Russia in America. Below are tables for each census region by state and a grand total of all the places where there is at least a shred of evidence that a German from Russia lived long enough to be recorded in some manner.


Pivot tables of each census region by state. Click to see the larger view. 

The website for the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations in America project is nearly done and will be live soon, and there will be a map update in a couple of weeks. I know everyone is anxious to see their town on the map. I'm anxious to see them, too, but it takes time to get all the information for a place in there.

I'm pleased to announce that I'll be presenting this project at the 50th International Convention of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia in Lincoln, Nebraska. The following week, I will be attending the 49th Annual International Convention of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society in Fargo, North Dakota, with a little genealogy road trip in between through parts of South Dakota and North Dakota.

If you're attending either of these events, I hope to meet and talk with you there.

Okay, now back to North Dakota.


###

 

01 June 2019

Update: Germans from Russia in America

Over the past month, I've received 328 responses to the Germans from Russia in America survey. Thank you for sharing the locations and stories of how your families came to America, where they settled, where they moved and when. I appreciated the directions some of you sent for the places in which your families lived that no longer exist or have been overtaken by cities. Many indicated a deep sense of pride their identity of being German-Russian, and for others, it was a recent discovery of a heritage that wasn't talked about in their families but is now being embraced.

The first 200 responses have been normalized by state, town, generation and German-Russian origins.  This created 2292 lines of usable data with 806 unique locations and 140 unique GR origins. About 2/3 of the of the normalized data has been summarized into language that can be dropped into the map data. Summarizing also included throwing out anything too large to be mapped for a reported generation, such as an entire state, county or township. Cities, towns, neighborhoods, census-designated places, unincorporated communities, ghost towns, historical post offices and historical cemeteries (for those places that weren't even ghost towns anymore) were included.

Initially I chose the South Atlantic states (Delaware down to Florida) to do some experimenting. Once I added the survey responses to the data I'd already collected and sorted the lot, there was no duplication of locations from what I'd already pulled from other sources. This was exciting because it meant, for these states at least, that the survey was generating new, previously undocumented locations of settlement in the U.S. by German-Russian immigrants all the way through 5th generation descendants. Given that Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas aren't exactly the first places one thinks about when hearing "German-Russian country," I decided to do California.



On the left is Richard Sallet's map of California from 1930. On the right, Karl Stumpp's map from the late 1970s.

California has long been known as a state to which immigrant Germans from Russia settled from all areas in Russia. It was also a state to which many who had settled elsewhere in the U.S. migrated to over time when things got rough where they were, to seek better opportunities elsewhere. You know, what Germans from Russia have always done.

A number of sources were used to generate a list of towns where Germans from Russia were known to have lived.

Once the survey responses were added to the locations already collected from other sources, there were only 20 duplicate locations, and there were 78 new locations. Even the duplicates were enriched by the survey data, providing details of the German-Russian origins and generations of descendants who lived/live there.

Below is the beta version of the Germans from Russia in America map. All of the details and sources are not fleshed out completely, and line editing hasn't been done. But I wanted to show where this is all going...and show how your contributions to the survey are being used. And maybe encourage others who have not filled out the survey yet to set aside some time time year to contribute their own information to the project.



Germans from Russia in America map (beta release 1 June 2019)


Like all the maps associated with this site, you can search it by clicking on the magnifying glass and begin typing. The results will begin showing below. Search for Black Sea to see all the towns that had Black Sea Germans in them. Search for Volhynia or Dobrudscha or Volga or Bessarabia. Search for Catholic to find all those town with Catholic Germans. Search for your ancestral village to see if where they settled is on the map yet – Kassel, Kandel, Frank, Walter, Constanta, etc.





Have fun. Play around with it. Let me know what you think. And remember, you can contribute to this map by filling out the survey



###