Alt-Arcis - 1848 Village History
Copyright 2000, Dr. Elvire Necker-Eberhardt
Notes: Please see the Introduction to the Village History Project for additional information.
1) In the years 1816-17, the settlers established themselves on the area and layout plan No. 14. Neither wood nor anything else was available; all was desolate wilderness without a house, or even a hut. They had to spend the winter in earth huts.
Colony No. 14 of the diocese of Arcis lies on the edge of a northwestern valley, which begins in the northwest, close to the River Tschaga or Kunduk, where the waters of Kugelnik and Tschaga merge. It is a distance of about 28 werst(1) from the Kloestitz district office; 123 werst from the governmental city of Kischenew and 70 werst from the district city of Akkerman.
The quality of the soil varies. Both ends of the valley and the right side of the colony, which should give the area a scenic view, consist of many layers of saltpeter, covering many desjatines of useless land. No grass or any vegetation grows there. Three valleys run through the plateau of the field. A valley on the right side is abundant with springs, making up a lake, which is very useful as a source of water for livestock, but in dry years is inadequate.
The higher and more even fields consist of a variety of soils that are in most cases clay. It gets as hard as stone, partly containing saltpeter, and if there is no rain for a few weeks, bears neither grasses nor weeds nor grain. On our steppe, no four-crop rotation can be made. Cultivation and meadowland is found only in the black soil areas. But when sufficient rain falls, the grain and grass thrive. Without sufficient rain, the grass and the crops turn yellow and are burned, as the soil is too hot.
Experimenting with putting manure from the barnyards on the land and cultivating it well all proved in vain. When no rain fell within 4 to 6 weeks, then all that was sown withered and came to nothing.
Stone quarries are not found in the local steppes and hills. Needed stones are hewn from the Brienner area, 2-3 werst away. The existing tree growths cannot be called forests yet. There never have been any forests.
3) Colony No. 14 was named Arcis by the then existing official land authority.
4) The number of families that settled in the colony of Arcis in the year 1816 was originally 82 from the Kingdom of Poland, province of Marienwerder, district city of Kulm. The leader was Baron Von Wittenheim, in the town of Thoren. The second group of 41 families in 1817 also from the Kingdom of Poland, province of Kalish, district city of Canin. The leader was the governor from the city of Kalish. Their religion was Evangelical Lutheran.
5) The immigrants numbering 82 families in 1814 and 41 families in 1815 arrived because of the privileges His Majesty Czar Alexander had granted. It was a pity that the colonists had to stay for 2 years in quarters with the inhabitants of Moldau, and feed themselves miserably with very meager rations and money allowances. Had they been able to come directly to their settlement place, things would have been much better.
6) The steppe where the immigrants were to settle was designated by President Muller and was already laid out for 123 families, 60 desjatine(2) per family. It was totally empty and desolate; there was not a single house or any arrangements for the reception of the settlers' arrival. There were only open fields, of which barely half were available for the colonists' use, as the leaseholder Karestoy supervised it. The rent from the land was not transferred to them. Only after 8 years of lawsuits did the leaseholder have to give up the land. During this time, every head of the 123 families had to pay 34-1/2 copeken silver as rent to Jakob Engel, the overseer of the Kloestitz district of that time. It has to be noted, too, that the income from brandy was not given to the colonists for the entire 20 years(3).
7) The aid to the settlers consisted of groceries, mostly of flour. They were predominantly people of few means already in their homeland, and they possessed little understanding or foresight to establish a settlement for their own good or that of their descendants. Although there were a few noteworthy exceptions, they had too little influence as a whole. Yet we note that some had means upon arrival and soon bought a cow and a horse. These then did not receive crown money for inventory. Building funds (10 rubles B.A.) were given to each colonist head for a house, as well as some stakes, shrubs and beams. With this, everyone had to be satisfied and see if he could possibly build a shelter. Since the apportioned steppe was at least 10 werst long and the colonists lacked the necessary draft animals, a petition was sent to the higher authorities to establish a new settlement on one-third of the steppe. The late General Inzow approved this. In the year 1824, 41 of the families established a settlement in the valley of Tschalair, 10 werst away. It was named New-Arzis.
8) The plan for the colony of Arzis was previously designed and it had to be built where it is now located. Various fates influenced the settlers. In the beginning, there were various sicknesses and fevers; many of the immigrants died during the first 10 years. Long-lasting illnesses brought such poverty that they hardly had a sod hut for a home. In the next 10 years, there were epidemics among the cattle, grasshoppers, hailstorms, caterpillars, beetles, a plague in 1829, and cholera in 1831 all resulting in devastation.
This made the settlers at last aware of their desperate situation; brought out the best in them and awoke a better spirit among them, especially among the upcoming generation in their earlier years. Family fathers, impoverished through carelessness and waste, realized that they should set better examples for their children. Through prayer and toil, they and their children would see improvement and meet their obligations. There were very few fires and no floods.
9) We thankfully acknowledge that the colonial administration, through promotion of the good and the useful, through righteousness and gentleness, under the gracious guidance of God, has to be given credit for the great improvement in the present circumstances of these settlers. This can be attributed to the great example of the spiritual teachers, elders, secretaries, and the colonists. The well-developed colony has many fine new houses, barns, and vaulted cellars, all surrounded by trees and vineyards. This makes the settlers in this regard appear cheerful and enthusiastic. It is only too bad that there are several places on the settlers' land in the colony where no trees or anything exists on the saltpeter surfaces, giving a dreary impression. In a third part of the colony stands a newly built, nicely equipped parsonage, surrounded by a stone wall, beside two windmills and a fruit tree garden. Nearby is a chapel and opposite a well-equipped schoolhouse. Among the existing 82 houses of the colony, at least 60 are built of stone; 22 of pounded (Pisebau?). The roofs are all covered with reeds. Everyone lives contentedly and constantly endeavors to achieve the approval of and fulfill the wishes of the government.
Colony Alt-Arcis - April 31, 1848
Witness: Klett, Grade
Village Secretary: Neumann (Naumann?) (author)
(1) 1 werst = 1.06678 kilometres (2) 1 desjatine = 11.095 hectares (3) That the czar had granted.
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