16 October 2018

Max Kade Institute Friends Newsletter




The fall 2017 of the Max Kade Institute Friends Newsletter featuring the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations project is now online on their website as a back issue.  You can download the full issue for free here.

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15 October 2018

"They make you think big thoughts..."

Every map tells a story.

The New York Times published a special section this past weekend in both their print and online editions that show an interactive map of almost every building in the United States. Every black speck on it is a building.


A map of every building in the United States.


It reminded me of Karl Stumpp's Map of the Russian-German Settlements in the USA and Mexico.  Every triangle, circle and square is a town where Germans from Russia settled in the U.S. between 1874 and 1920.


A map of every (?) German-Russian town in the US between 1874 and 1920.
Partial "Map of the Russian-German Settlements in the USA and Mexico" by Karl Stumpp.  Click to view the full version. 

Without plotting out every town in the U.S. (maybe a new map soon?), just looking at the two reveals that our ancestors who came to America went where no one else wanted to go.  They, for the most part, settled where there was nothing else. And they started to build...and 140+ years later, we've made black specks on the map.

The online version of the New York Times' map came across my newsfeed Saturday morning, and being that it was a rainy day in southern Arizona, I spent some time playing with it.  I searched for places I'd lived, where my grandparents lived, and where my great-grandparents had homesteaded. I noticed where the towns ended was not the end of the buildings. The data had picked up the farms – houses, barns, etc.

Map nerd that I am, as I zoomed in, I couldn't help but think how much the images looked like the plat maps of our ancestral villages that we cherish so much when we find them – boxes indicating that someone remembered that something was here. Someone lived here.  Someone went to church here.  Someone was buried here.

Below are a few towns in the U.S. that were settled by and, in many cases, are still home to descendants of Germans from Russia.

Eureka, South Dakota was a major hub of Germans from Russia in the Dakotas. Most who settled in and around Eureka were Protestants from the Black Sea area of Russia. 

Gotebo, Oklahoma was home to Mennonite Germans from Russia.
Liebenthal, Kansas was home to Catholic Volga Germans from Russia. 

Pfeifer, Kansas' sister village in Russia was also named Pfeiffer, a Catholic village in the Volga region. 

Reedley, California was home to Mennonite Germans from Russia.

German settlers in Rifle, Colorado were Protestants from the Volga area of Russia.

Scottsbluff, Nebraska was home to Volga Germans of both the Catholic and Protestant faiths. 


German settlers in Sedgwick, Colorado were Protestants from the Volga area of Russia. 



Strasburg, North Dakota's sister village in Russia was Strassburg, Kutschurgan, Odessa. It became home to Catholics from that Black Sea village. 


Wishek, North Dakota was home to many Protestant Black Sea Germans from Russia. 

Zurich, Montana was home to Protestant German settlers from the Black Sea area of Russia


The authors of the New York Times article went on to write about how at one time in the not so distant past, every car's glove box contained folded road maps. Each map took you only so far when you'd have to pick up another map to continue your trip. The maps helped us trace our connection to other places.

It's probably not surprising to you that I have a box filled with old road maps that serve as reminders of nearly every road trip I ever took from the time I got my driver's license in 1983.

The article continues:
"Fewer of us use maps like that today. We gaze at our phones, pinching and stretching an image but seeing the world through a little rectangular window.  
"The phone's guidance is better, but the view is not. We're less likely to know what we are driving past. 
"'We lose what's fascinating about a place by not having this bigger picture,' said Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School whose work involves cities and and technology, who looked at the images at our request. 'They make you think big thoughts...'"

Big thoughts.
Current map of German from Russia Settlement Locations


Learn More:


  • Map of the Russian-German Settlements in the USA and Mexico. This is one of Karl Stumpp's lesser known maps indicating towns in the United States and Mexico that were settled by Germans from Russia. It contains special maps of those states that had dense populations of Germans from Russia: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Northern Colorado and Northern Oklahoma.
  • Germans from Russia in Campbell, Nebraska History. This recounts one of the early Volga groups who, after learning about Alexander II's decision to revoke the German colonists' rights granted to them by Catherine the Great and Alexander I, went to the United States in search of new land. After a short time in Wisconsin, the Burlington Railroad took them to Nebraska.
  • "The Migration of Russian-Germans to Kansas," by Norman E. Saul. Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains, Spring 1974 (Vol. 4, No. 1), pp. 38-62. Kansas was well advertised as a place for immigrants to settle. The state of Kansas had already established the Kansas Immigration Society by 1871, and with the blessing of the society, the railroads launched a major advertising campaign to draw immigrants to the area, including free transportation by rail once they arrived. Contingents of Volga Germans investigated moving to Kansas as early as 1874. This article does into the symbiotic relationship between Kansas and the Germans from Russia.
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11 October 2018

Rastatt and München, Beresan District

München and Rastatt on Karl Stumpp's "Map of the German
Settlements in the Odessa region (west part of the Gouv. Kherson,"
August 1955, AHSGR Map #2. 
Mother colonies Rastatt and München in the Beresan district near Odessa were founded on 11 October 1810.  As with many founding dates, sources are not completely in agreement. For these two, some say 1809, and some say spring of 1810. They do, however, seem to agree that they were founded at the same time.

With the Black Sea area newly opened in 1804, the Beresan colonies began to be established between 1809-1819. The two sister colonies were roughly 1 mile (1.6 km) apart. It was common for colonies in a new area to be settled close to each other for support, no doubt a lesson learned from the early Volga colonies that were sometimes alone out on the edge of the Russian Empire and often attacked.

Although a part of the Beresan district, they were not located in the Beresan river valley but rather in the Tschitschekleja (Chychykliya) river valley, 10 miles (16 km) to the north. According to one account, the Beresan valley had become overpopulated. The Tschitschekleja river often flooded, leaving standing pools of polluted water in Rastatt and München. This contributed to health problems including a typhoid epidemic in the first years of settlement.

Kolonie München (left) and Kolonie Rastatt (right) on Alexander Ivanovich Mende (Mendt)
"Map of the Tyver province" from 1853. 



Rastatt was a Catholic colony with colonists originating from Baden (14 families from Rastatt, 14 from Waibstadt, eight from Ettlingen, seven from Bretten, three from Meimsheim and one from Bruschal), 44 families from the Palatinate and 22 from Alsace.

By 1913, Rastatt had 338 farmsteads with 3,807 residents along with 21 Russian families, nine Jewish families and two gypsy families in addition to a number of Russian farm hands and maids.

The name was originally spelled R-a-s-t-a-d-t, but both spelling variations were used. Even modern collections will bring up different results depending on the spelling.

Rastatt, the larger sister colony, had been designated a parish from its inception. Its original church was built in 1812 and was in use until 1872 when new church was built at a cost of over 35,000 rubles. It was made of quarried stone, was 140 feet long and 56 feet wide, with two towers which rose to the height of 130 feet.  It served as the parish of two small market towns, Annovka and Kantakuzenka, and the khutors Alexandrovka I, Alexandrovka II, Manov, Neu-Amerika, Ochakov, Savidovka, Skarupka, Svenigorodka, and others in the Ananyev district.  


Catholic church in Rastatt (Rastadt) in 1928. Source: Paradise on the Steppe, Joseph S. Height, p. 318.

The church is gone now, but part of the cemetery remains. The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection's 2004 Journey to the Homeland tour recorded some of the headstones and iron crosses that were still visible.




























Plat map of Rastatt as of 1944. Source: Paradise on the Steppe, Joseph S. Height, p. 319.



Today, Rastatt is known as Porichchya, Mykolayivs'ka Oblast, Ukraine. 






München was also a Catholic colony, but there were three Lutheran families in the colony in 1811 around the time of founding. The original colonists consisted of 37 families from villages in the Palatinate, 15 families from Baden and five families from Alsace

In 1872, München began building its church. In 1890, it became it became a parish. The parish included the surrounding khutors, including Bogdanovka, Domanevka (Domanewka), Dvoryanka, Gardegay, Grisa, Heck, Kapitanovka, Karlevka, Kavkas, Khristoforovka, Klandovo, Kratovka, Lerisk, Lubo-Alexandrova, Novo-Nikolayevka, Novoselevka, Selingra (Sirotskoje or Selinger-Chutor), Slepukha and Volkov

From Joseph S. Height's Paradise of the Steppe

"Built of good quarried stone, the church was 130 feet long and 45 feet wide, with a tower only 56 feet high. It was consecrated by Bishop Zerr on May 27, 1890 and dedicated to St. Nicholas. The first parish priest of München was Father Andreas Keller, a native of Selz, who had been ordained three weeks before."

Catholic church in München, Beresan.  Date unknown. Source: Paradise on the Steppe, Joseph S. Height, p. 321.

Ruins of the Catholic church in München, Beresan (identified as Grodowka today by the photographer). Date unknown. Photo by Florian Rühmann, courtesy of GRHC.  Source: https://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/history_culture/town_county/images/munchen/munchen1.jpg

München today is sometimes referred to as Gradowka after a khutor by that name (also known as Schart-Khutor) which the German-Russian Handbook notes was founded in 1900 near Rastatt. The name Gradowka doesn't appear on any modern map or database, but it's been recorded as an alternate name for München in this project.

Today, München is known as Hradivka, Mykolayivs'ka Oblast, Ukraine.


Learn More:


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23 August 2018

Personal Migration and Resettlement


My ride to Arizona next month.
Image courtesy of the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

The time has come for me to pack the maps, load the wagon, hitch up the camels and head out to my new colony in a place called Arizona.

True to my German from Russia migratory roots, this will be my 12th move. I'm trading in my palmettos for saguaros and moving back to the U.S. desert southwest after 18½ years on the east coast (Northern Virginia & South Carolina).  I'm looking forward to open space, ample access to green chile and drying out.

Although I've been keeping the social media stream (Twitter and Facebook – please follow one or both if you're into this kind of thing) for this project flowing, I haven't been posting much new over the summer, either on the maps or in story form on the blog. Been busy and otherwise distracted with planning a cross-country move.  

Expect things to get back to normal as we head into the fall, after migration and resettlement is complete. 


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22 July 2018

It All Started 255 Years Ago

To paraphrase Søren Kierkegaard, "We live forward but understand backward."


Today, 22 July 2018, is the 255th anniversary of the issuance of Catherine the Great's Manifesto of 1763 inviting foreigners to colonize her Russian Empire.  Whether or not you, as descendants of the Germans who helped settle Russia, believe it was a remarkable offer or a bum deal, you cannot deny the impact this one document had on the continuance of your family, the role your ancestors played in history, and how their decisions then brought you to now. 

A year ago (original post), I wrote about and posted the text of the manifesto. I offer it again today so that we may all just take a moment out of our "forward" to understand our "backward."



By the Grace of God!

We, Catherine the second, Empress and Autocrat of all the Russians at Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod, Czarina of Kasan, Czarina of Astrachan, Czarina of Siberia, Lady of Pleskow and Grand Duchess of Smolensko, Duchess of Esthonia and Livland, Carelia, Twer, Yugoria, Permia, Viatka and Bulgaria and others; Lady and Grand Duchess of Novgorod in the Netherland of Chernigov, Resan, Rostov, Yaroslav, Beloosena, Udoria, Obdoria, Condinia, and Ruler of the entire North region and Lady of the Yurish, of the Carhlinian and Grusinian czars and the Cabardinian land, of the Cherkessian and Gorisian princes and the lady of the manor and sovereign of many others. As We are sufficiently aware of the vast extent of the lands within Our Empire, We perceive, among other things, that a considerable number of regions are still uncultivated which could easily and advantageously be made available for productive use of population and settlement. Most of the lands hold hidden in their depth an inexhaustible wealth of all kinds of precious ores and metals, and because they are well-provided with forests, rivers and lakes, and located close to the sea for purpose of trade, they are also most convenient for the development and growth of many kinds of manufacturing, plants, and various installations. This induced Us to issue the manifesto which was published last Dec. 4, 1762, for the benefit of all Our loyal subjects. However, inasmuch as We made only a summary announcement of Our pleasure to the foreigners who would like to settle in Our Empire, we now issue for a better understanding of Our intention the following decree which We hereby solemnly establish and order to be carried out to the Full.

  1. We permit all foreigners to come into Our Empire, in order to settle in all the gouvernements, just as each one may desire.
  2. After arrival, such foreigners can report for this purpose not only to the Guardianship Chancellery established for foreigners in Our residence, but also, if more convenient, to the governor or commanding officer in one of the border-towns of the Empire.
  3. Since those foreigners who would like to settle in Russia will also include some who do not have sufficient means to pay the required travel costs, they can report to our ministers in foreign courts, who will not only transport them to Russia at Our expense, but also provide them with travel money.
  4. As soon as these foreigners arrive in Our residence and report at the Guardianship Chancellery or in a border-town, they shall be required to state their true decision, whether their real desire is to be enrolled in the guild of merchants or artisans, and become citizens, and in what city; or if they wish to settle on free, productive land in colonies and rural areas, to take up agriculture or some other useful occupation. Without delay, these people will be assigned to their destination, according to their own wishes and desires. From the following register* it can be seen in which regions of Our Empire free and suitable lands are still available. However, besides those listed, there are many more regions and all kinds of land where We will likewise permit people to settle, just as each one chooses for his best advantage.  * The register lists the areas where the immigrants can be settled.
  5. Upon arrival in Our Empire, each foreigner who intends to become a settler and has reported to the Guardianship Chancellery or in other border-towns of Our Empire and, as already prescribed in 4, has declared his decision, must take the oath of allegiance in accordance with his religious rite.
  6. In order that the foreigners who desire to settle in Our Empire may realize the extent of Our benevolence to their benefit and advantage, this is Our will – :
    1. We grant to all foreigners coming into Our Empire the free and unrestricted practice of their religion according to the precepts and usage of their Church. To those, however, who intend to settle not in cities but in colonies and villages on uninhabited lands we grant the freedom to build churches and belltowers, and to maintain the necessary number of priests and church servants, but not the construction of monasteries. On the other hand, everyone is hereby warned not to persuade or induce any of the Christian co-religionists living in Russia to accept or even assent to his faith or join his religious community, under pain of incurring the severest punishment of Our laws. This prohibition does not apply to the various nationalities on the borders of Our Empire who are attached to the Mahometan faith. We permit and allow everyone to win them over and make them subject to the Christian religion in a decent way.
    2. None of the foreigners who have come to settle in Russia shall be required to pay the slightest taxes to Our treasury, nor be forced to render regular or extraordinary services, nor to billet troops. Indeed, everybody shall be exempt from all taxes and tribute in the following manner: those who have been settled as colonists with their families in hitherto uninhabited regions will enjoy 30 years of exemption; those who have established themselves, at their own expense, in cities as merchants and tradesmen in Our Residence St. Petersburg or in the neighboring cities of Livland, Esthonia, Ingermanland, Carelia and Finland, as well as in the Residential city of Moscow, shall enjoy 5 years of tax-exemption. Moreover, each one who comes to Russia, not just for a short while but to establish permanent domicile, shall be granted free living quarters for half a year.
    3. All foreigners who settle in Russia either to engage in agriculture and some trade, or to undertake to build factories and plants will be offered a helping hand and the necessary loans required for the construction of factories useful for the future, especially of such as have not yet been built in Russia.
    4. For the building of dwellings, the purchase of livestock needed for the farmstead, the necessary equipment, materials, and tools for agriculture and industry, each settler will receive the necessary money from Our treasury in the form of an advance loan without any interest. The capital sum has to be repaid only after ten years, in equal annual installments in the following three years.
    5. We leave to the discretion of the established colonies and village the internal constitution and jurisdiction, in such a way that the persons placed in authority by Us will not interfere with the internal affairs and institutions. In other respects the colonists will be liable to Our civil laws. However, in the event that the people would wish to have a special guardian or even an officer with a detachment of disciplined soldiers for the sake of security and defense, this wish would also be granted.
    6. To every foreigner who wants to settle in Russia We grant complete duty-free import of his property, no matter what it is, provided, however, that such property is for personal use and need, and not intended for sale. However, any family that also brings in unneeded goods for sale will be granted free import on goods valued up to 300 rubles, provided that the family remains in Russia for at least 10 years. Failing which, it will be required, upon its departure, to pay the duty both on the incoming and outgoing goods.
    7. The foreigners who have settled in Russia shall not be drafted against their will into the military or the civil service during their entire stay here. Only after the lapse of the years of tax-exemption can they be required to provide labor service for the country. Whoever wishes to enter military service will receive, besides his regular pay, a gratuity of 30 rubles at the time he enrolls in the regiment.
    8. As soon as the foreigners have reported to the Guardianship Chancellery or to our border towns and declared their decision to travel to the interior of the Empire and establish domicile there, they will forthwith receive food rations and free transportation to their destination.
    9. Those among the foreigners in Russia who establish factories, plants, or firms, and produce goods never before manufactured in Russia, will be permitted to sell and export freely for ten years, without paying export duty or excise tax.
    10. Foreign capitalists who build factories, plants, and concerns in Russia at their own expense are permitted to purchase serfs and peasants needed for the operation of the factories.
    11. We also permit all foreigners who have settled in colonies or villages to establish market days and annual market fairs as they see fit, without having to pay any dues or taxes to Our treasury.
  7. All the afore-mentioned privileges shall be enjoyed not only by those who  have come into our country to settle there, but also their children and descendants, even though these are born in Russia, with the provision that their years of exemption will be reckoned from the day their forebears arrived in Russia.
  8. After the lapse of the stipulated years of exemption, all the foreigners who have settled in Russia are required to pay the ordinary moderate contributions and, like our other subjects, provide labor-service for their country. Finally, in the event that any foreigner who has settled in Our Empire and has become subject to Our authority should desire to leave the country, We shall grant him the liberty to do so, provided, however, that he is obligated to remit to Our treasury a portion of the assets he has gained in this country; that is, those who have been here from one to five years will pay one-fifth, while those who have been here for five or more years will pay one-tenth. Thereafter each one will be permitted to depart unhindered anywhere he pleases to go.
  9. If any foreigner desiring to settle in Russia wishes for certain reasons to secure other privileges or conditions besides those already stated, he can apply in writing or in person to our Guardianship Chancellery, which will report the petition to Us. After examining the circumstances, We shall not hesitate to resolve the matter in such a way that the petitioner's confidence in Our love of justice will not be disappointed.

Given at the Court of Peter, July 22, 1763 in the Second Year of Our Reign.

The original was signed by Her Imperial Supreme Majesty's own hand in
the following manner:

Printed by the Senate, July 25,1763

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