30 August 2020

Mapping America: August Update

Map of Germans from Russia in America as of August 30, 2020.

I know everyone is anxious to see their states and towns on the map. The latest map update includes updates that will help you understand what's still in the queue. 

The first part of North Dakota and South Dakota have been posted. This represents about one-third of what will eventually be there. On the map legend to the left, you'll see that both North Dakota and South Dakota are marked "in progress." 

Map showing North Dakota and South Dakota in progress.

The states that are still in the queue (not yet in progress) are now marked with a red flag on the map and the label "in queue" on the legend. This is to let you know that I know about them. 
Map showing four states that are marked "in queue".

If you click on flag on the map, you'll see some information about the state including the reported earliest year of German-Russian habitation and a list of all the places that were known to have had German-Russian residents at some point. 

Montana is a state that is still in the queue.

I'll make every attempt to do monthly posts on this effort for the remainder of the year along with some of the interesting places I run across along the way. Many of these are cataloged on the Twitter account for this project, which has served as a mini research log this year. 


27 August 2020

Pausing for a Hollyhock Memory

The early days in Bowdle, Dakota Territory (later South Dakota).
Source: Bowdle Centennial 1886-1986

As I virtually road trip and map the places that Germans from Russia settled in North Dakota and South Dakota, I find myself having a lot of fond memories. 

I knew this was going to happen. 

Instead of fighting it and try to map now, remember later, I just let the memories wash over me. Were in the middle of global pandemic. What else have I got to do?

When I came to Bowdle, South Dakota, I dutifully noted when it was founded in 1886 in Dakota Territory. I noted that reports of Germans from Russia living in the area were there at least a year earlier in 1885. I recorded the German-Russian origins of those who lived there: 

Immigrant and 1st and 2nd generation descendants of Black Sea Germans from Russia. 
  • Beresan: Gnadenfeld, Johannestal and Worms 
  • Bessarabia: Beresina, Borodino, Friedenstal, Glückstal, Hoffnungstal, Kulm, Leipzig and Plotzk.
  • Crimea: Heilbrunn, Kronental, Khutor Pitanis and Rosental.
  • Glückstal: Bergdorf, Glückstal, Kassel, Klein Bergdorf, Marienberg, Michelstal, Nesselrode, Neu Beresina, Neu Berlin, Neu Glückstal and Neudorf.
  • Hoffnungstal: Bessarabka, Birsula and Hoffnungstal.
  • Kutschurgan: Elsass, Kandel, Mannheim, Selz and Strassburg.
  • Liebental: Annental, Grossliebental, Güldendorf, Kleinliebental, Neu Liebental and Peterstal.
  • Mariupol: Grunau, Kronsdorf and Rosenberg.
  • Schwedengebiet: Schlangendorf.
I was excited to see a Schwedengebiet colony reported for the first time in this project. 

Bowdle was my Schilling grandparents
 post office and later their residence when they retired from farming in the 1940s. My dad claimed it as his birthplace, although he was born on the family farm nine miles north and two miles west of Bowdle and didnt live in town until he was 14 years old. If you know the area, you know the farm location I described is closer to Hosmer. But my Schilling great-grandparents post office was in Hosmer. Other immigrant Schilling great uncles had already claimed Eureka and Selby, too. So, I guess Bowdle it was. 

I recorded the Find a Grave link to the cemeteries. It showed cemeteries outside the town as well as the city block of three cemeteries in town. In August 2012, I went on a genealogy road trip, and I ended up photographing several of them in that area. While in Bowdle, I did the Lutheran cemetery where lot of my relatives reside. There weren
t any obvious markers between the city cemetery, the Catholic cemetery and the Lutheran cemetery. The graves just started looking less Lutheran and more Catholic (its hard to explain...or maybe you know exactly what I mean) at a certain point. I went to the C-Store to get something to drink and ask about it. The woman who worked there immediately drew me a map showing where here grandfather was buried and where there was a pole in the ground that marked the line between the Lutheran and the Catholic cemeteries. When they mow the grass, she said, thats where they stop.

Got it.  

Both sides of my family originally homesteaded in North Dakota, but both ended up in South Dakota where my parents met, married (mixed marriage of GR Lutheran and GR Catholic) and commenced moving our family all over the country. In the 1970s, we lived in New Mexico and visited relatives in South Dakota every summer, usually in August. 

We’d pile into the white Toyota Corolla, my brothers and me in the backseat with fresh comic books that barely lasted past the Colorado border. Sometimes we brought our Siamese cat. Sometimes we hauled a camper and camped along the way. My mom always brought a box of Ritz crackers to keep us quiet and also to try to keep me from getting carsick when we drove through the Black Hills toward Rapid City. My mom loved the Black Hills. It was her favorite part of the drive...except when I got sick.

When we visited my Schilling grandparents (Jacob and Lydia) in Bowdle, my brothers and I had kind of a routine: play around on the rusted farm equipment outside Grandpa’s shop; play with Pete the cat who kept the mice at bay in the shop; poke Grandma’s chickens with stalks of rhubarb; get in trouble for poking chickens; poke neighbor Mary Brown’s chickens instead with Mary Brown’s rhubarb; flee to Meakins Park when Mary Brown discovered what we were doing; yell at the lion water fountain (it was voice-activated); and sip bottles of ice-cold pop on the stoop outside the backdoor in the late afternoon.

Three little Schilling kids on the swings at the park. I'm the little nut on the right making a break for it. 

Hollyhocks grew everywhere. They are the one flower that immediately takes me back to my German grandparents’ homes. They were always growing along fences, the side of the house, or at the edge of the garden and chicken coop. Volunteers or planted, it was hard to tell. My dad and I planted them in New Mexico, too, first in Albuquerque and later in Santa Rosa, although irises did better there. My dad called hollyhocks “bumblebee catchers.”

Hollyhocks outside the former house of Johann and Rosina (Keszler) Schilling in Hosmer. 

On the stoop of the Schilling house in Bowdle, my grandma, Lydia (born Martel, adopted Eisenbeisz), taught me how to make hollyhock dolls. There are more elaborate ways to do them now to make them more realistic or permanent. But neither permanence nor realism was the point. 

Grandma showed me how to pick the flowers first. She had the old fashioned single blossoms, none of the double or triple booms like you can get now. Pick one blossom closest to the stalk with some stem. That would be the body and the skirt. Pick one with little or no stem. That would be the hat. Place the blossom with the long stem face down (body and skirt), and then prop the other blossom on top at a slight angle (hat).

Now, apply imagination.

There was girl with a full skirt and big, wide-brimmed hat. I would line them up and down the stoop, mixing and matching colors of skirts and hats, adjusting the jaunt of the hats from shy to brazen until it was time to go in and help with supper.

Overnight, the flowers would blow away.

Everything is temporary, “just passing through,” my grandparents used to say. 

Lydia and Jacob Schilling among the hollyhocks on the south side of their house in Bowdle.
Photo taken mid-August 1983. 

A few years ago when I was living near Charleston, South Carolina, I picked some gardenias from the cemetery behind my house. Gardenias grow wild in the lowcountry, and they will always remind me of Charleston, like hollyhocks remind me of South Dakota. I made a gardenia doll. A lot fancier duds than a hollyhock dress for sure. 

A gardenia doll. 

Now I live in southern Arizona. I've not found a suitable cactus flower to make a doll out of yet. But little German-Russian girl in me is always looking. 

Part of this was originally written for the Germans from Russia – Oregon and Washington (GROW) chapter in February 2019. 


21 August 2020

Talking About Maps September 11-13

I'll be presenting at this virtual German Genealogy Conference hosted by the Edmonton Chapter of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) and the Germans from Russia Historical Society (GRHS). There will be speakers from Argentina, Canada, Germany and the U.S. talking about a wide range of topics related to Germans from Russia.