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
Please read his book for more information.
[Height, pages 73 and 74] Quote
The Colony of Rohrbach. Est.
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]
[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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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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