16 August 2017

On This Day, 16 August 1767

Müller was founded on this day, 16 August 1767, as a Crown Colony by the Russian government on the lower Volga.  It was a Lutheran colony, and in 1798 all the villagers except one were farmers.

According to an account from the Lower Volga Project, the soil in Müller was too poor to grow oats. There were no orchards or mills, and most of the grain was kept for the colonists' own use.

The location of Müller on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region, 
AHSGR map #6)

The last population record for Müller was around 1926.  It no longer exists.

In the late summer of 2000, Brian Ebel of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, set out upon a journey with a compass (the U.S. law that would lead to widespread commercial use of GPS had just been signed earlier that year) to find Müller, the birthplace of his grandfather. His full travelogue, with directions, is among the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia's village files.  Below are excerpts of his trip and of his findings. Another excellent piece on Müller is available on Wolgadeutsche by author Lyubov Kapustina from which the photographs below come.

Trip to Müller on the Volga
August 31, 2000
By Brian Ebel

"A Russian driver and myself departed Saratov on the morning of August 21, 2000. Equipped with maps (old and new), and a compass, and fortunate to have many days of dry weather, we headed south along the P228. After 125 km, we turned east, toward the village of Verkh-Gryaznukha, then proceeded to Vodnobuyerachnoye (formerly Stephan), where we sought directions from local residents. With their guidance, we reached the Volga bank, where we expected to find the site of the old village of Müller (also known as Mueller, Miller and Krestovok Buyerak), birthplace of my grandfather Alexander Ebel.

"After some initial wandering, we succeeded in locating only a grinding stone. Convinced that we had travelled too far north, I set off on foot to the south, parallel to the Volga bank, expecting to find Müller just over the next hill. Many hills later, the village of Shcherbakovka came into view. Realizing my mistake, I headed back towards my starting point.  When I had almost completely retraced my steps, from the top of the hill, I caught sight of some old walls, a few hundred meters from the Volga bank. Müller had been found..."

View of the former colony of Müller. Photo by Lyubov Kapustina, courtesy of Wolgadeutsche.  

Description of the Müller Site
"Located on the edge of the river, the cemetery is overgrown with grass and weeds and grave sites are not immediately evident. Individual burial sites appear to have imploded, with headstones falling into the resulting depression.  We did not attempt a thorough survey of the site, and writings or markings were not evident on the few headstones we looked at.

"Where the cemetery meets the river, there is a steep cliff. According to the local residents, bones from the cemetery may sometimes be seen eroding out of the cliff and falling into the river below.

"To the south of the cemetery, the ground slopes gently to the water. Local residents use this area for fishing or relaxing.

Müller on the Volga.  Photo by Lyubov Kapustina, courtesy of Wolgadeutsche. 

"Behind the cemetery, further from the water, is evidence of old buildings. All of these appear to have been constructed from layers of sandstone bound together with a mixture of mud and grass. Suche materials seem vulnerable to erosion; mostly there were numerous overgrown piles of mud and rock. However, I found four walls standing from a single building (no roof) as well as a few other wall remnants from other structures.

"A few old grinding stones were also found on the site.

"There were also some wooden electrical posts which remain vertical, but appear to have sunk into the ground. Near them was the roof of and old truck. It was not clear to me whether these items dated back to the final days of Müller's habitation, or whether they were more recent artifacts. Electrification would have obviously been undertaken only for an inhabited area. However, from visual inspection, I assumed the posts and truck roof were probably just a few decades old...

"The Russian name for Müller, Krestovok Buyerak, means crossed gully. The wall remnants I discovered were located between two intersecting gullies thick with vegetation, making movement between the town site and the river difficult...."

"The area around Müller is hilly and traversed by many gullies leading to the Volga. There are stands of trees in the area. The gullies themselves are generally filled with dense vegetation, making them difficult to cross on foot.

"There is an abundance of sandstone in the area. From a distance, the sandstone outcroppings can sometimes be mistaken for walls or other human constructions.

"Rural roads are in poor condition and difficult to navigate even when completely dry, due to large bumps, deep ruts and steep slopes.

Map of Müller showing the island referred to by
Ebel that is submerged today.
Map courtesy of Volga German Institute.
"Hydroelectric dams downstream have raised the river's water level, which has the effect of widening the Volga banks. Consequent erosion has led to the formation of steep cliffs along most of the bank. However, there are places where the ground slopes gradually into the water. The Müller cemetery is near such a location, although the cemetery itself is on higher ground.

"Old maps of the area show that Müller once faced the northern tip of an island in the middle of the Volga. That island is now completely submerged."

Location of the former Volga colony of Müller. 

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.