06 July 2017

On This Day, 6 July 1765

[Note: Original post 6 July 2017, revised 19 July 2017 to include a plat map of the colony by request.] 

Kamenka, originally called Bähr after one of the early settlers, was a Roman Catholic Mother colony founded on 6 July 1765 according to Volga German historian Gottlieb Beratz. Other sources indicate it was founded a year earlier.  This may be another case of some Germans settling in a location before it was officially founded.  

Location of Kamenka on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga region, (AHSGR map #6)
"At the general Russian census of 1788, Kamenka had 97 families, with 268 males and 267 females. Since the founding, the following have left the colony: in 1858, 40 families, with 104 males - the number of females is not given in the records — migrated to the province of Samara; in 1886 and 1887, 35 families went to America, some to the United States, others to Argentina. At the present time [1910], the the colony has 399 farmyards, with 5,351 people of both sexes, all of the Catholic faith. In addition to these, there are 146 families, still belonging to this community, who have their homes elsewhere. 

"The village has four rows of houses, which form a rectangle 1 verst long [.66 mile or 1.1 k] and 160 fathoms wide [.18 mile or .29 km]. There are 58 stone houses, 253 wooden houses and 71 houses built of clay. 

"The colony has the following artisans: 33 shoemakers, 7 cabinet-makers, 7 carpenters, 2 tailors, 19 millers, 6 blacksmiths, 5 wheelwrights, 9 transport drivers, 1 tinker, 2 musicians and 1 weaver. There are 45 establishments dealing in manufactured goods, 9 small shops and 3 liquor stores. 

"The colonists own the following livestock: 1,272 horses, 119 oxen, 990 cows, 1,871 sheep, 1,155 pigs and 375 goats. "
Outside view of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Kamenka taken in 1994.
Photo courtesy of NDSU's Institutional Repository.

It would be remiss not to mention the beloved church in Kamenka.  St. Mary's Catholic Church was completed in 1907.  Parts of it still stand as a beautiful example of Victorian Gothic or Neo Gothic style architecture, although the steeple has fallen in recent years. 

Inside view of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Kamenka taken in 1994.
Photo courtesy of NDSU's Institutional Repository. 

Plat map of Kamenka, available from AHSGR.
It was drawn from the memories of George Meier and redrawn in 1992 by John George.
The map was provided to AHSGR by Alvina Hartman, Topeka, Kansas, USA.

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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