Home » The Germans from Russia

The Germans from Russia

Campbell, Nebraska History

“Along and Beyond the Little Blue” – (1986)
Editor: Ann Soucie

Exerpts on Amazon and Campbell located in Franklin County, Nebraska History.

The Germans from Russia

On July 22, 1876, a small band of German Colonists from the Volga region near Saratov in Russia set sail from Bremen, Germany, an the Norm ­German Lloyd passenger ship S.S. DONAU (Danube). 43 of the approximately 75 German emigrants on this ship were from the Lutheran colony of Kolb on the “Bergseite” (hillside) of the Volga River and were under the leadership of Kolb’s schoolmaster, Franz W. Scheibel, who had also been a member of the scouting party to America in 1874. The contingent ar­rived at Castle Garden, New York, on August 5. 1876 with the remainder of the 75 emigrants from Dittel going to Iowa, Wisconsin and Kansas.

The “Annahme-Schein” (receiving certificate) in Scheibel’s possession lists the 43 immigrants from Kolb: Families – Franz Wilh. Scheibel, Heinrich Bauer, Heinrich Kanzler, and Jacob Scheuermann; a young married couple, Heinrich and Marie Múller; Catherine Barth, a widow and her son Jacob; and 12 single men (names followed by ages) – Heinrich Koch, 21; Friedrich Horst, 21; Joh. Georg Dewald, 20; Heinrich (H) Rehn, 20; Johann Kempel, 20; Conrad Bensel, 20; Valentine Reiber, 20; Heinrich Koch, 20; Heinrich M. Rehn, 21; Helfrich Rutt, 20; Christoph Gótz/Betz, 21; and Friedrich Hermann, 19. Later research showed that Dewald and possibly Hermann were from the village of Hussenbach while Chris Betz came from Messer. Many of the people were related to one another. Mrs. Bauer was a Benzel, so it is most likely that Conrad Bensel was her nephew. Mrs. Kanzler was Katherina Margaretha Koch and her mother was a Reiber. Marie Múller’s parents were the Kanzlers. Heinrich (H) Rehn’s mother was Elizabeth Kanzler, a sister of Heinrich Kanzler. The two Rehns were probably cousins as well as the two Kochs. Elizabeth Scheuermann was the sister of Heinrich Rehn while her husband’s mother was a Koch. A sister of Valentine Reiber was married to a half­-brother of Heinrich Rehn.

This particular group of emigrants are significant because they were the first to emigrate to America from Kolb.

The saga of the migration of Germans from Russia in America actually begins with the migration of Germans of Russia beginning in 1763. When Catherine the Great, then Empress of Russia, but German by birth, issued the Manifesto of 1763. Germany was not a united country but made up of autonomous governments which differed according to each ruler. So the Manifesto lured emigrants to Russia from Hesse, the Rhineland, the Palatinate, Alsace, Baden and Württenberg. It came at a time when the German people were tired of having their land ravaged by wars, political or religious in nature. The most recent war had been the Seven Years War (1756-1763).

Andrew Hermamson homestead (circa 1886)

The Andrew Hermamson’s were one of the Norwegian immigrant families who arrived in 1886. They lived in a dugout. Pictured are: Andrew Sr, Ole, Gunda (Marie) Waugh, Anna Leinweber, Emelie (Millie), Oline (Lena) Helena and Edwin.

The colonization in Russia first began in an area near Saratov on the Volga River. Most of the German emigrants coming to Campbell were from Kolb which was founded May 13, 1767. Kolb was about 70 miles southwest of Saratov on the ‘Bergseite.’ The journey started from Germany on land and then on the Baltic Sea to St. Petersburg (now Leningrad), again by land to the Volga River, and then again by land to the settlement site. The journey was probably 1600 miles or more altogether. Twenty-three families founded Kolb (Russian name – Peskowatka) in 1769. Catherine the Great encouraged the migration of German farmers and artisans to serve as a buffer zone between civilized Russia and the nomadic, often barbaric tribes in Russia. Once in Russia the artisans soon learned that they, too, were to become farmers.

Although the colonists had been promised housing, neither housing or the lumber necessary to build houses were available to the German colonists. In America, one hundred years later, the German-Russian immigrants encountered the same problem. In fact, as they apparently arrived late summer or ear­ly fall, much of the housing near Campbell was similar to that built in Russia a century before. The farmers already living here showed them how to build dug-outs, apparently against a hill or four feet below the ground and four feet above the ground. In Russia, their forebears had constructed homes in a similar fashion, called “semlyanka,” large enough to hold three or four families.

Although the Indians at Campbell were relatively harmless, the American Indians as a rule resented the coming of the white man: so, too the Kirghiz and Kalmuck tribes resented the newcomers establishing farms on their land on the Volga. Several of the original colonies were laid waste by these tribes. By contrast, Heinrich H. Rehn who wrote articles for DIE WELT POST, a German newspaper, reported “..in the first winter that we were here in this land, probably October or November, we met Indians…They looked at our sheep lined coats and went on. We (Rehn and H. Rutt) were somewhat frightened. Then somebody told us that there were 500 men, women, and children camping along the creek (probably the Little Blue River which was near by).”

In Russia the German colonists were able to retain their German identity as they lived in closed col­onies or villages in which their customs, culture, language and religion would be preserved. Later in Russian government circles, there was a movement for reform affecting all foreign nationalities. The “Russification” measures passed by Alexander II meant an abrogation of the terms of Catherine’s Manifesto of 1763, particularly local self-government and freedom from militar

Early settlers, Mrs. Jacob (Emile) Grams and her mother-in-law, Mrs. Peter (Wilhelmena) Grams

y service. Russia did not have universal military conscription before 1874, but after that date every able bodied man, 20 years and older, was eligible for the draft. However, it was found that there were two additional reasons that in­duced outward emigration. According to the Master’s Thesis of Elmer Miller. son of the Múllers, in the Kolb group to Campbell: “Because of decreasing soil fertility, and also because of an expanding population, the German-Russians needed more room. When the Russian Government denied them further land in the area, many of the Germans migrated to Siberia and the Caucausus (and to America).”

Religious freedom also played an Important part in the early emigration to America as a number of the emigrants were Pietists or members of the Brúderschaft (see story of the German Lutheran Church). George Eisenach in his book, Pietism and the Russian Germans in the United States, writes: “An Outstanding reason for emigration was the search for religious freedom. During the 1860’s, the Brotherhood had been growing in influence and numbers. It has been noted that most of the clergy, with the help of civil authorities, attempted to hold the movement in check by means of persecution. After the Brotherhood Conference was organized in 1871, the clergy became alarmed more than ever. Persecution was now intensified and widened in scope, Meetings were broken up. Elders were subjected to bitter treatment The result was thousands of Brethren emigrated to ‘the land of the free’ where they would be permitted to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience.”

Upon arriving in New York Scheibel’s group was persuaded to go as wood cutters to the forests of northern Wisconsin. Preferring open land, they could stand it there only four days. They their went to Chicago where the Burlington Railroad took them free of charge to Hastings, Nebraska. Recruiting them as day laborers, the Burlington Railroad was building at this time the Republican Valley Line from Hastings to Red Cloud and then westward to Benkelman where it was completed by 1881.

In a rural area near the present-day site of Camp­bell, Franz Scheibel organized the St. Paul’s Gemeinde (congregation or community). He would have preferred that Campbell be named “Wilhelmsruhe”, his middle name plus ‘rest.’ By the time the con­gregation took their communion on January 14, 1877, they had been joined by others from Kolb. Alt­-Messer, Neu-Messer, and Walter. All five families of the original group are listed on the first communion record along with seven of the single men – the two Heinrich Kochs, Valentine Reiber, Conrad Bensel. Joh. Friedrich Kempel, Cristoph Betz, and H. Michael Rehn. The five Young men not listed on the Communicant Record are Helfrich Rult, Heinrich H. Rehn, Friedrich Horst, Joh. Georg Dewald, and Friedrich Hermann. It appears that Rult and Rehn had been here in the fall of 1876 according to Rehn’s writings for DIE WELT POST In a sketch written about her father. Eva Dewaki writes the following: ‘In 1876, John George Dewald and a friend decided to leave for America…and were met by land agents. One agent took them to Wisconsin, where there was plenty of land available, however much of the land was timber land. They stayed in Wisconsin for awhile and found work, they learned that there was open land in Kansas; so they worked their way to Kansas,”

Friedrich Horst returned to Russia after marrying a Katherine Schaefer in Hastings in 1882. They were known to be still living in Russia in 1921.There was a great famine in Russia in 1921-22; so it is not known whether they lost their lives by starvation or at the hands of the Bolsheviks. Four of his children came to this country later settling in Washington. Friedrich Horst was known as the “American” Horst in Russia.

Christoph Betz went to Lincoln, Nebraska, where his name appears on the 1880 Lancaster County cen­sus as a day laborer for the railroad. Although his name appears as Götz on the “Annahme-Schein,” research indicates that it should be Betz. One of seven children, Martha Betz moved to Campbell when she married George Rutt, nephew of Helfrich Rutt.

As land was not readily available in Franklin Coun­ty, a number in Scheibel’s group filed for homesteads in Hitchcock County from Sept. 1878 to Sept. 1880; Heinrich KanzIer, his son George H Jacob Scheuermann, Heinrich Müller, Heinrich H Rehn, Valentine Reiber, and Jacob Barth. Culbert­son, county seat of Hitchcock County, was settled in 1873 as a headquarters for cattlemen. Of this group only Jacob Barth remained in the Culbertson area. From his obituary in the CULBERTSON BANNER: “Mr. Barth came to this country in 1876 and settled in Campbell, Nebraska, where he remained for two years. In 1878 he came by ox team to Culbertson and homesteaded north of Culbertson.”

In 1882 after successive dry years at Culbertson the Volga German homesteaders were discouraged enough to venture west, first by railroad and then along the route of the Oregon Trail to Baker, Oregon. After wintering in Walla Walla, Washington, a portion of the wagon train arrived in Ritzville in 1883. The wagon train included former Campbell residents Johann Kempel and wife, the Heinrich Kanzlers, the Heinrich Bauers, the Heinrich M?llers, the Thiels, the Schoesslers, the Oestreichs, and the Rosenoffs. This wagon train was joined by another train of Volga Germans from Kansas in Washington. These two groups were the forerunners of the German-Russians in the Pacific Northwest.

It is not known what relationship there was bet­ween the two Heinrich Kochs, but they did become brothers-in-law after the one married Ann Elizabeth, daughter of H. Michael Koch who joined his son in Campbell in 1878. Heinrich and Ann Elizabeth are buried in Mennonite Cemetery south of Roseland as well as Valentine Reider and wife. Conrad Bensel also married another daughter of H. Michael Koch. He and his wife made their home in Hastings where Conrad died at the age of 87.

Valentine Reiber and wife Katherine Heizenreter

Michael Rehn went to the Pacific Northwest about the same time as H. H. Rehn as Michael was a witness for his cousin’s naturalization in Portland in 1884.

Helfrich Rutt was known to have been in Campbell in 1876 but his name does not appear on the 1880 census for Franklin, Adams or Lancaster Counties. It is most likely that Afred Root, a boarder in the home of Henry Koch, on the 1885 Adams County census is Helfrich Rutt. He was issued a mortgage deed for 80 acres in November 1882 in North Franklin Township, Section 24. This property was transferred to his brother George Rutt, Sr. in May 1883. Three of Helfrich’s brothers and their parents came to America arriving June 5, 1878 on the S.S. WIELAND.

In 1908 Helfrich Rutt and his family emigrated to the high plains of Saskatchewan where the Luse Land and Development Co. was offering land at a very reasonable price. Also going to Canada at this time was the Rev. Karl Sterzer, pastor of the German Lutheran Church. Other Campbell families also emigrating were Wilhelm and Christina (Reiber) Kembel, Henry and Anna Margaret (Kembel) Reiber, Henry Meier and wife Anna, Henry F. Meier and his brother Fred and Katherine (Rutt) Meier, Henry Meier and his wife Eva Elizabeth Reiber, and John and Elizabeth Webber. Families from Blue Hill, Hastings and Culbertson also emigrated to Canada on a special train.

See Franz W. Scheibel, Heinrich and Mary Catherine (Scheuermann) Koch, Heinrich H. Rehn, the Reiber brothers, and Jacob Scheuermann histories for their stories.

Thus fair we have dealt with the background history of the Germans from Russia, their emigration to the United States, and the first group from Kolb with its many ramifications. The 1880 Federal Census of Franklin County reveals that forty-four family units of German-Russian heritage lived in the Campbell neighborhood: Michael Rehn, Edd Harms (wife was born in Russia), five Kreagers/Krieger, Henry Kembel, three Hambels, Peter Grams, Samuel Adams, Adam and Ludwig Spady, John HeIzer, John Miller, Conrad Riser/Reiswig, John Glenner [Klinner], August Gloat [Kluth]. Ludwig Gloat [Kluth], John Glood. Heri Leemfruis, Lewis Klutz, three Gorq/Georges, John and Adam Bower/Bauer, three Shribers, Ludwig and John Greber, John Schnell, Jacob Long, Adam Gloodwic, George Hine/Hein, Henry M. and Alexander Koch, Michael Kanzler, F.W. Scheilbel, and two Greens. This census shows an influx of German emigrants who apparently wanted to look over Campbell. Some stayed in Nebraska while others went to Kansas.

From the 1900 census we find 26 family units of Germans from Russia: Jacob Koch, Henry Eckhardt George Meininger who was a boarder in the home of John Dudek, George Adler, Adam Meininger, Valentine and Henry Reiber, four Rutts – Helfrich, Fred, Peter, and William, four Kochs – H. Michael, Henry, Alexander and John, Louis and John Webber, Con­rad Rehn, Henry Betz, Carl and Johnann Scheibe], Valentine Minch, Wesley Wessels (wife born in Russia), John Firestine, and Peter and Jacob Grams. In 1900 family units that were closely connected to Campbell were found on the Adams County (Hastings) census: George and Fred Rult, Conrad Benzel, Henry Rehn, and Peter Adler.

On the 1900 Plat map for Webster County the following Persons were living in Harmony Township which was immediately east of North Franklin Township: Jacob Frickel. Peter Juggert, Henry Betz, P.R. Fierstein, and in Catherton Township: Peter J. Koch and Henry Betz.

Occasionally a name or a family unit was found on two different census schedules or perhaps not at all if they were in the process of moving. The German immigrants were highly mobile in the first twenty-­five years or so of their coming to America as they wanted to be sure of the region where they would finally settle. It was only natural that relatives and friends would settle in the same general area: thus we find a large concentration of Volga Germans from Kolb in Campbell, Hastings, Sutton and Culbertson as well as the Ritzville area in Washington state, and the Luseland area of Saskatchewan, Canada. The newcomers to America often offered steamship tickets and temporary housing to their follow colonists who left their homes in Russia. In later years many of the Germans from Russia extended a generous hand to their relatives still on the Volga in their time of great need during the famine of 1921-22.

Early Post Offices

The first post office was located 2 miles east of town on the Buettgenback farm NW 1/4 Sec. 20) Webster Co. Established March 5, 1875, the postmaster and storekeeper was Sidney B. Bierce, who named it for his wife’s hometown of Wheatland. N.Y.

This post office was transferred to J. B. LaPorte’s store near St. Ann’s church on Dec. 14, 1855 and renamed St. Ann. it was officially closed February 9, 1887 after Campbell was established. (See Skjelver history for Otto P.O.)

N. Franklin Township had two post offices.

Orange was located in the NW1/4, of Section 18 on the H. O. Hendrichs farm. It was established February 25, 1880.

Amazon was located on the SE1/4 of Section 10 on land now owned by Irvin & Dorothy Reiber trust. The first postmaster was Cyrus J. Culbertson.

Buffalo township (now N. Grant) was served by the Rush P.O. Eli Gaudy was the first postmaster (May 13. 1880). Zenas H. Dean and Emilie Kiplinger were postmistresses until it was transferred to Mrs. Charlotte Logan. The post office, located in the Logan Store, (SW1/4 Sec. 34), was discontinued on February 15, 1895.

Osco served the residents of Grant Township from 1875 until 1891. The first postmaster was J. W. Gilman and the last was Louis D. Meyer.

Comments are closed.