28 July 2017

On This Day, 28 July 1765

The location of Franzosen on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region,
AHSGR map #6)
Franzosen was originally founded as a Roman Catholic colony by Baron Jean de Boffe, who,  along with Antoine Meusnier de Precour and Quentin Benjamin Coulhette d'Hautervive, formed one of the three groups of vyzyvateli that settled foreigners in Russia beginning in 1764.  Franzosen was settled by 58 French families.  It was the first colony settled by a director instead of the government.  Some state that by 1834, the Catholic colonists had moved to Russian town, and Lutheran colonists from Messer, Kautz and Grimm had moved in.  By one account, dated 24 October 1768, the French left the colony much sooner than that: "The new village was named Rossoschi (the Germans called it Franzosen). Although this village received preferential treatment in its early years, it proved to be a failure. Its French inhabitants gradually all deserted it."

Below is a letter published in Die Welt-Post, a German language newspaper read by many Volga German immigrants in the United States and Canada, published between 13 April 1916 to 18 September 1970. The translation is a part of the American Historical Society's village files.

Page 3, Die Welt-Post, Thursday, January 24, 1924

From Colorado and Russia

Loveland, Colorado
December 30, 1923
Valued friend F. A. Lorenz:

I am sending the enclosed letter to you that came from my parents in Franzosen; I would like it to be printed in the Welt-Post so that the other readers can receive and read its contents. I wish you and all the readers of the Welt-Post a Happy New Year. I respectfully remain your reader,

Jacob Mill

The Letter from Russia

Franzosen, 5 November 1923
To: Jacob Mill
1275 E. 3rd Street
Loveland, Colorado

Much beloved son and all your family:

We are all still wonderfully healthy and wish the same health for you. We inform you that we now live in Franzosen. We would have written you sooner but we ran out of money. It costs 150 million ruble to send a letter. With you there the cost of mailing a letter is a small thing, but here it is often an impossibility. Why don't you write more often, dear children? My dear son and daughter-in-law: to whom can I turn to in my poverty other than you? I, your father, am already 62 years old and still I must endure poverty. We have nothing but one cow, that is the extent of the livestock we have to work the farm. As one so often sees, poverty leads the poor to steal, may God protect us. Much is stolen here, but I would rather starve to death than steal a stranger's property.

You wrote that you wanted to send us a hundred dollars, but we would be happy with a third of that so we could just buy a horse if it is at all possible, and thus we could quickly help ourselves out of this emergency.

The harvest here was very poor. The weather is very cold and there is nothing to burn for fuel and also no clothing. Marick's sister in Messer visited us and she was astonished at our poverty. She said: "If I had known I would have brought bread and cakes for you." They have no emergency because they have lots of money and crops. We would also be doing well if the trip to America had not gotten in our way. [It appears that these people made an attempt to go to America, but because of insurmountable obstacles were forced to come back, as was the case with so many people...Welt-Post Editor].

As I wrote in July of 1919, in order to get through the great war, it cost us 5 horses and besides that 2 cows, a steer, a goat, a small cart, 2 sets of harnesses, 10 stands of barley, 12 stands of hay, much of the crops in the field and a lot of clothing. All of that caused us to fall deep into poverty. There, I have now answered your question about how we fell so deeply into poverty. Everything was gone and we stood there with empty hands and had to start over; then there were also debts. One was still able to buy things then. A Horse cost 7,000 rubel; but today a Horse costs 30 billion ruble, a cow costs 18 billion ruble and for a sheep one must pay 2 billion ruble. A "kuhl" (200 pfund) of flour costs 7 billion. An arschin of gingham costs 250 million ruble. A pud of wheat costs 550 million and everything else is the same way.

In view of this sad state of affairs I ask you again, dear children, to help us with the necessities. We did receive the clothing bundles you sent but only after a delay of a year and 2 months. The things had suffered greatly on the way and had rotted. Your brother Emanuel had hoped for some new clothing because he was getting married; however, he was disappointed.

Location of Franzosen, now known as Pervomayskoye, Saratov, Russia. 
Dear son: Be so good as to seek out Gottfried Reichel. His people have written him many times but have received no answer. Tell him he should send his parents money because they are also in great emergency and poverty.

With deeply affectionate greetings, I remain,
Your father

The address of Gottfried Reichel is as follows:
Mr. Fred Reichel
Rural Route Box 1

Learn More: 

2017 marks the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Mother colonies along the Volga River. There are many events throughout the year to commemorate the anniversary, and the Germans from 
Russia Settlement Locations project joins in the celebration of this rich Volga German heritage.  

The German immigrants that came to the Volga region were among first colonists to take up Catherine the Great on her manifesto. They came from Hesse, the Rhineland, the Palatinate and Württemberg.  They are also among the most well researched and documented groups of German colonists in Russia. Thus far, the Volga Mother colonies settled between 1764 and 1767 are the only colonies that have precise dates they were settled.  

For more historical and current events related to Germans from Russia, see our calendar page or link to our public Google calendar.

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