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BERESANanweb.jpg (47404 bytes)Here is a map from [Height], page 360, showing the Beresan colonies and particularly Rohrbach in detail.   Click this picture to enlarge it, and "back" to return.  As can be seen, the settlements were laid-out with one lane with homes on either side.   Rohrbach seems to have two parallel lanes with homes on either side of each lane.  Worms is just to the west northwest of Rohrbach where my mother ancestors came from (Horst).

[Height] > Joseph S. Height, "Homesteaders on the Steppe, The Odyssey of a Pioneering People", second printing, Germans from Russia Heritage Society, Bismark, ND;  "Cultural history of the Evangelical-Lutheran colonies in the region of Odessa;   1804 - 1945".

Height's book describes the beginnings of Rohrbach in the Beresan district quoted here.  Please read his book for more information.

[Height, pages 73 and 74] Quote

C. The Beresan district

The Colony of Rohrbach. Est. 1809

The village of Rohrbach was located in the Zerigul valley, 40 versts west of the Bug river, and 100 versts northeast of Odessa. It was only 20 versts from Landau, which was the administrative center of the newly established Beresan Colony.  [1 verst = 0.66 miles]

The Crownland apportioned to the colony of Rohrbach amounted to 8,333 dess. (or 22,500 acres), a tract of land large enough to provide a living for 150 families.  The first settlers, consisting of 26 families, were conducted to the Zerigul valley in the fall of 1809 by Chief Mayor Brittner of Grossliebental.  The following spring, Commissioner von Rosenkampf conducted another 69 families, with their leader Michael Kuhn, from their winter quarters in the colonies in the environs of Odessa, to the place of settlement.  Of the 95 pioneer families, 56 had emigrated from Alsace and the Palatinate, 33 were from Baden, 4 from Württemberg, and 2 from Prussian Poland; in all about 450 souls.

Since a large number of the earliest settlers were from the Palatinate, the settlement was named after the town of Rohrbach, in the district of Bergzabern.  It seems that the first homesteaders were put up in stone dwellings.  Each family also received the necessary livestock, farm equipment, and seed grain, for which the 93 families were granted an advance loan of 100,490 rubles.  The cash assets of the immigrants amounted to some 40,000 rubles.

In 1813 another 27 families arrived from Prussian Poland, and 4 more families from Württemberg.  In 1816, according to the earliest available census, the village of Rohrbach had 130 families, with a population of 602 souls (315 men and 287 women).  From 1817--19 another 22 families, of which 16 were from Baden, were settled.  In the next two decades 31 families moved away to other colonies.

Despite this loss, however, the population of Rohrbach was 683 in 1838, and rose to 1,178 in 1847.  For the 217 families, the available area of Crownland per family was about 40 dess, or 100 acres.

End Quote


Rohrbach was set up to be an Evangelical-Lutheran community but included some Baptists and later “Reformed”.  There were Lutheran and Catholic communities in the Odessa region.  [Height, page 11] lists the communities that were Lutheran and those that were Catholic.  Read Joseph S. Height’s book centered on the Catholic emigration “Paradise on the Steppe”, which is also good reading as it contains additional information on the German emigration.

Rohrbach History 1809 to 1848

The founding of Rohrbach (Russian name: Beresan) in 1809 is summarized here as told in a written report appearing in [Height].  The enclosed story [XIII. The Beresan Chronicles of 1848] about the founding and growth of Rohrbach is taken from [Height]  (pages 207 to 212).

The Rohrbach story was written by the schoolmaster of Rohrbach as a history of the region from its founding until 1848, as requested by the ruling authority.  The history of the other colonies is also given in [Height] and must be read to get an overall picture of what happened in the Odessa region.

[Height, 207-212] Quote


XIII.  The Beresan Chronicles of 1848

 1.  The Chronicle of Rohrbach

1.  Founding of the Colony

With complete confidence in the privileges promised by His Majesty, Alexander I of Russia, the German emigrants left their fatherland forever and came here with all they possessed, hoping to find permanent happiness for themselves and their descendants.  The settlers of the colony of Rohrbach came to this uninhabited steppeland to come under the jurisdiction and patronage of His Excellency the Governor, Duc de Richelieu.  In the fall of 1809, 26 families arrived, and in 1810, 69 families arrived.  On their arrival they received their status as colonists, founded the colony and proceeded to build houses for themselves.

2.  Description of the Locality


Author's note: The translation of the chronicles of Rohrbach and Worms was provided by my friend Col. Theodore C. Wenzlaff.


The colony is located on the almost level steppe on the east side of the Zerigul valley, 20 versts (13 miles) southwest of the Teligul, 15 versts (10 miles) north of Chitschekleiya and 40 versts (26 miles) west of the Bug River.  It is about 130 versts (86 miles) from Kherson, the capital city of the government and 100 versts (66 miles) from Odessa, the administrative center of the district.  To Landau, the administrative center of the area, it is 20 versts (13 miles).

Opposite the main village, on the southwest eminence of the valley, lies Halbdorf (or Bergdorf) with its beautiful houses built ten years ago (1838), now numbering some 36 houses.   From Halbdorf, the entire colony of Rohrbach can be viewed.

All along the rear of the village of Rohrbach, above the threshing place, are located the vineyards, enclosed by stone walls.  The village lies in a north-south direction, bending slightly to the southwest at its center, following the valley.  The so-called valley of the Zerigul, which has no riverbed, has its source some 2 versts (a little over a mile) above the colony on the outskirts of Worms, which is located six versts (about four miles) from here.  The mouth of the Zerigul is at Ribowa on the Tilgul estuary, 25 versts (17 miles) from here.  The wells of Rohrbach provide plenty of water, with here and there excellent drinking water.  Despite the many dry years, the community has always been spared from a real shortage of water.

Viewed from the heights, the colony with its beautiful vegetable gardens and orchards of apple, pear, prune, plum, cherry, and apricot trees together with beautiful poplar, aspen, willow, and acacia (locust) trees, in all some 4-5,000 trees, present a wonderful sight to the observer.   The accumulated earth in the valley from the dam always assures the industrious gardener a rich growth of vegetables.  Less attractive, however, are the manure piles above the valley, in many places from 15 to 18 feet high.

Our generally level steppe is well located, the surface throughout having from one to two feet of fertile soil mixed with some sand.  Here and there, however, in the southern part, there are patches of saltpeter, which are productive only when rain is plentiful.  When the weather is favorable, not only does the grass grow abundantly, but also all plants quickly grow to an unusual height.  Since, however, it often doesn't rain for eight to ten weeks, the soil then becomes as dust and ashes from the heat and the dry winds, and the farmer can harvest barely enough for seed.

The subsoil is generally a chalky, red clay, hard to work, and the reason given that in our area the productive characteristics of the soil are short-lived.  For this reason, the soil must inevitably be re-fertilized.  Woodlands are out of the question; even the vineyards are not of much consequence.  The most of these have only 600 to 1,000 vines with the total for the entire village amounting to about 34,000.

 3.  Origin of the Name of the Colony

Out of partiality to the village of Rohrbach (Pfalz) from which they had emigrated, the two colonists Peter Schmidt and Peter Nuss, who arrived at this place among the first, gave the colony the name Rohrbach1.

4.  The Original Settlement

The establishment of the colony was first begun by five families arriving out of a total of 100 families.  Of these, 33 came from the Grand Duchy of Baden, four from the Kingdom of Württemberg, seven from Prussian Poland and 56 from Alsace2 -- in all, 475 souls (248 males and 227 females).

In 1813, 22 more families arrived from Prussian Poland and four from Württemberg.  In 1817--19, 16 families arrived from the Grand Duchy of Baden and six families from other colonies, in all, 48 families with 119 males and 89 females.  In 1838, there were 148 families there, numbering 683 souls (367 males and 316 females).

Departures: In 1818, ten families went to Grusinia, in 1823, 11 families moved to Odessa and to other colonies, and two families returned to Germany; in 1826, 11 families moved to the former colony of Friedrichsthal and then to the colony Johannesthal, 13 versts (about nine miles) from here; in 1843, ten families moved to Bessarabia and seven families resettled in the colony Neu-Danzig, 100 versts (66 miles) from here, near Nikolajew on the Ingul; four families returned to Germany.  In 1825, the colonist Georg Ehlis was exiled to Siberia and the colonist Karl Neudorf, a drunkard and vagabond, was sent out of the country.

If these 53 families, numbering 226 souls (132 males and 94 females), are deducted from the 148 families registered in 1838, it shows that 95 families with 458 souls can be regarded as the first settlers.  If one takes the data of 1847 to be 1,178 souls (620 males and 558 females), comprising 217 families, it shows that the colony increased by 720 souls in a period of 38 years.  Among the handicapped are one blind and three mentally retarded female persons.

Accidents: One man was crushed to death in the clay pit, one was killed by an accidental blow and one from a fall off a wagon under the horses.  One child was crushed when run over by a wagon, a 15-year-old boy drowned in the dam and a child was burned to death.

 5.  Settlement of the Colony

The Russian border town of Radzivilov was the collecting point of most of the immigrants.  From there they were conducted by their leader, Michael Kuhn, to the then insignificant town of Odessa.  On their arrival there, most of the colonists found winter quarters in the colony of Grossliebenthal near Odessa until the following spring, so that they were spared the hardships of the earlier settlers.

 6.  The New Home

In the spring of 1810, under the leadership of Commissioner von Rosenkampf, 69 families, with their first mayor, Michael Kuhn, arrived here where they were to settle.  There was nothing here but healthful air, a carpet of dry grass of many years standing, all kinds of weeds with flowers and a new blanket of grass.  This then was the place of glory, in which at present only 19 of the original settlers are still living.

 7.  Government Support and Resources brought along

By means of a crown loan, a house of stone was built for each family, and the necessary livestock, farm machinery, seed grain and subsistence allowance was provided.  The loan amounted to 100,490 paper rubles or 28,711 silver rubles in 1820 and was repayable by 93 families.  From the Russian border to their destination, most of the colonists were given a free money allowance for their maintenance.  On the days when the maintenance money was distributed, both Commissioner von Rosenkampf and Mayor Kuhn calculated a ruble at only 60 kopecks (instead of 100 correctly), and the colonists had to be content to receive anything at all.  In this way, these gentlemen enriched themselves and yet they became poorer and poorer until they finally were utterly ruined.

The settlers for the most part had come here from their native country as poor people without means.  Many of them had made debts, and some possessed, apart from their wagons, only enough travel money to reach the border.  The value of the cash assets brought in by the colonists was about 40--50,000 paper rubles.  Those with money did not know how to economize so that the major part of their money was soon sacrificed to the consumption of alcohol.  In the productive years, however, the poor but hardworking colonists soon made a good living, whereas the wealthy carousers became impoverished.  Proverbs of Solomon 10:4: "A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich." 23:21: "for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and sluggishness will clothe a man with rags."

 8.  Fateful Events

There is nothing to report in the way of a general resettlement, floods, epidemic sickness or destructive earthquakes.  Except for the frequent recurrence of German measles and similar children's diseases, the community has had little so suffer.  But mention must be made of the destructive insects, grasshoppers, the tiny grey May bug and the dung beetle, which generally have caused the most damage to the vineyards and the grain.  Despite the many poor crops, the agricultural condition of the colony is now in a better state.

 9.  Improvement and Progress

In the first 18 years, the majority of the settlers were not able to farm to any advantage.  Firstly, they did not recognize the advantages of beginning better farming methods in the right places; secondly, they lacked a fear of God and were unable, therefore, to appraise their advantages.

For most of them, disobedience to the authorities was the consequence of their unchristian way of life.  Despite the numerous trials of adverse fate, their immorality could not be checked.  Only a few heeded the punishing hand of God for their own welfare.  The man who distinguished himself in the whirl of prodigality and in the strength of intoxicating drink could proudly count on the certain applause of his cronies, who sat idly in the cool shade of the local whisky taverns, utterly unconcerned about the welfare of their families.  The mayors and their councilmen, the schoolteachers and village clerks were just as adept as the others in the uncouth art of tipping their glasses.  The young people grew up just as dissolute.  Most of them scarcely learned to read.  Schooling was the least of their worries, whereas now it is their first and foremost concern.  Now the younger generation realizes what irreparable harm has been done.

The more sensible people received no support nor co-operation from the mayor's office in their efforts to establish a better civic order.  Consequently, the road to betterment was virtually barricaded.  The office holder was not elected for the sake of the office, but rather for the sake of the man -- to the detriment of the community in many respects.  Since, however, the majority felt comfortable in their false selfishness, injustice was given a free rein.  This unfortunate situation has been somewhat corrected in the last few years.  The election of the mayor is now conducted with greater caution.  The young people do not grow up in so vulgar a fashion.  The schoolmasters now are no longer hired according to the old policy, "as cheap as possible".  Now, ability and Christian character are considered.

In 1812, the community received a minister, the Pastor Hubner, but his endeavors were terminated after barely two years by his death.

The former Commissioner Krüger, who supervised the affairs of this region from 1820 to 1828, was successful in improving the conditions of the colony.  The disobedient were sharply punished, and his unwavering severity stirred the settlers to greater activity.  One thing yet remained to be hoped for -- a minister.

A new era was ushered in with the year 1824.  God had mercy on us in every respect and in His discerning design sent us Johannes Bonekemper, a serious-minded preacher of the Gospel, whose labors here were blessed.  On November 10, 1847, he applied for his release, which was granted by the authorities on April 6, 1848.  The blessings of his 24-years' work with us will long be remembered.

In 1826, the community received the energetic schoolmaster Wilhelm Eberhard, who reorganized the school system.  He resigned his position in 1843.  The happy co-operation, the censure of sin, and an appropriate discipline soon brought blessing to our people.  The fear of God has returned.  Indefatigable diligence and thrift as well as the co-operation of the higher authorities have worked together for some years, bringing happiness to most of our people.  Several of them have purchased a total of 1,640 dessiatines (4,428 acres) of land from nearby landowners.  Others have rented a total of 8--9,000 dessiatines (34 to 38 sections).

How different is the situation of the farmer today compared with that of the pioneer period, when two or three farmers had to work together to operate a single plow.  When I introduced my so-called "iron plow" three years ago, they called it the "bean planter".  Today almost every farmer owns one of these practical plows, and the more prosperous have even two of them.  Quite often a single man can be seen operating such a four-horse plow, turning the nicest furrows without stopping, whereas formerly the cumbersome wooden plow required six to eight animals and three men.  The bigger farmers here now work 40 to 60 dessiatines (108 to 162 acres).  Despite the many inevitable setbacks, crop failures, loss of livestock, etc., many young settlers have grown quite prosperous.  The raising of cattle and particularly sheep on a large scale has contributed the most to the wealth of the colonists.  As evidence of this is the fact that in 1847 the colony made 24,000 rubles from the raising of sheep.

At present, the colony has 150 houses, a fine grain storehouse as well as a newly-built combined school and prayer house with an area of 360 square feet.  Most of the houses are newly built, of which 25 to 30 of them are distinguished by their simple yet sound style and by the interior room furnishings in German taste.  Opposite the empty churchyard stands the beautiful 12-foot high parsonage, built 18 years ago.  The interior furnishings and the two vaulted cellars offer a fairly comfortable home for a preacher.

In this brief historical sketch, it is impossible to recount all the events that have taken place.  Perhaps even the little reported here about certain things will be too much for some people.  Who would not prefer to see only the good? However, the darker side of our history has only been touched upon.  In this imperfect world of ours, we must live in hope of the good becoming even better and endure in all truth and diligence until we finally end our careers in the name of God, reaping the fruits of our labor.

During the 38-year span of our history, through various hardships and slow progress, the colonial administration, with severity and kindness, has been an ever great influence.  And we regard it as a praiseworthy act of divine mercy, wisdom, and love that we have been given a paternal and just support by His Highness (the Czar), but particularly by His Excellency, Councilor of State von Hahn.  In this paternal solicitude, the General of the Infantry von Inzow "Father of the Colonists", has allied himself, working faithfully in behalf of the colonists.

Colony of Rohrbach

Schoolmaster: Fritschle (author)

Mayor: Schlegel

Councilman: Zimbelmann

Councilman: Gemar

Village Clerk: Theich


 1  As Peter Nuss is known to have immigrated from Rohrbach/Bergzabern, Pfalz, the Rohrbach referred to was in the Palatinate, not in Baden.  Translator's note.

 2  The number of Alsatian families given in the chronicle needs to be explained and corrected.  The number was originally based on the fact that the Palatinate, which was under French domination from 1793 to 1814, was administered as a part of the French province of Alsace.  In actuality most of the 56 "Alsatian" families were from the Palatinate.  See List of Pioneer Settlers, chap. 7. 

End of Quote

As we learned earlier, on web page "Russia 1809", Andreas married and raised his own children plus his step-brothers and step-sisters.  There are two pages that attach to this page (see boxes at top of this page);  1) the continuation of Andreas and his children at Rohrbach (my ancestor);  2) the move of Michael to Cassel and the continuation of Michael's children (not in my direct line).   


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LeRoy D. Hochhalter

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