Beresina - 1848 Village History
Copyright 2000, Dr. Elvire Necker-Eberhardt 

Please see the Introduction to the Village History Project for additional information. 


After the province of Bessarabia had came under the mighty Russian rule, His Majesty, the God-fearing Czar Alexander I, issued a call in the year 1814 to the Prussian Germans living in Poland. These people had emigrated from Germany about 10 years earlier, most of them from Wuerttemberg.  His Majesty offered to settle them in Bessarabia and assured them of getting very important privileges.

Gratefully accepting the Czar's offer, they started their trip to Bessarabia that same year. With the instructions of His Excellency Lord Governor Lansque and H.E. Governor General Woiwutzki, and equipped with these privileges, they travelled to Bessarabia in several groups under the leadership of Commissioner Krueger.

Upon their arrival there, they were lodged for a long time in the villages of the native Moldavians. The land designated for the Beresina colonists by His Royal Excellency, Lord General Governor Harting, was inhabited only by some cattle- and horse-raising Moldavians and therefore offered the new immigrants no finished houses to live in. They were compelled to build earthen huts to live in until the high government in 1816 supplied them with wood and the necessary reed cane through Polno, a supplier. Then house building proceeded quickly, partly by the military and partly by the settlers themselves through payments of 12 rubles, 50 kopeks B.A. for each house.

The founding of the colony of Beresina was not begun until 1816. Originally, 139 families settled there. Later this number was reduced to 137. Seventy-two of these were descendants of Germans from the Kingdom of Wuerttemberg; 65 from the Kingdom of Prussia.

The colony of Beresina lies in the broad valley formed by the Kugelnik river in the middle of the colonial lands, on the east side of the river in the district of Akkerman.

Although its position is quite high, when fast-melting snow masses swell the Kugelnik,  many inhabitants experience flooding. The colony of Beresina is 100 werst(1) from the district city of Akkerman; from the provincial city of Kischenew, it is 90 werst away.

Besides the previously mentioned subsidies for building houses, the settlers received support of 165 rubles B.A. for a pair of oxen, one cow, one wagon, the essential field and house equipment, seed grains, and food to last until their first crop. The food supplies consisted of flour, grits, potatoes and salt. Also to nourish the sick, there was some meat and brandy. The money was to be part of the promised crown/government subsidy.

The supplies brought by the immigrants were very insignificant. Few had wagons or horses; fewer had enough cash to establish a home.

The new colony was originally named Kugelnik, after the valley where it was located. Later, upon instruction from the high government, it was called Beresina, in remembrance of the frightful crossing of the river Beresina by the French and the battle that took place there.

The ground at Beresina is very hot (sic). It consists of black soil mixed with clay. In the valleys, the ground contains a lot of saltpeter. The yields of grain and fruit are very satisfactory if from spring to harvest time some rains fall at least five times. In dry seasons, people and animals suffer. The vineyards require considerably less rain than the grain fields.  Their yield has for several years been very plentiful.

A stone quarry is located on the west side of the colony.  It provides largely hard rock. Its existence was of great benefit to the first settlers. It also made expansion and improvements possible. The recent planting of woodlands have started, and show much promise for the future because the trees are thriving, especially the American acacia. The colonists found no old woodlands when they arrived.

The colony of Beresina was not spared misfortunes. A flood in 1819 inflicted great harm to the farmers. Fires occurred in 1838 and 1847. The first fire broke out at colonist Christoph Mantey's place. Its cause was not determined. The second fire was caused by lightning that struck the sheep barn of colonist Christian Bertsch. Both times only the affected farmers suffered measurable damage because with God's help, and a quick, combined effort, the fire was prevented from spreading. The two earthquakes on November 14, 1829, at 3:00 o'clock in the morning, and on January 11, 1838, at 9:00 o'clock in the evening caused no damage. In contrast, bad harvests in the years 1821, 1822, 1822 and 1833, caused general misery.

In 1826-27 and 1847, incalculable numbers of grasshoppers frustrated many of the local settlers' hope of a harvest.

In 1823, 1833, 1839, 1844 and 1845, a cattle epidemic broke out; many farmers became so desperately poor that they could only slowly recuperate from it.

In 1831, cholera reigned here. Many families were affected by it, which naturally had a bad influence on the whole community.  Many demands were made
on the colonists in the years 1828 and 1829 by the numerous military units that marched through.

All the previously mentioned misfortunes have, up to the present time, not let the colonists enjoy a true sense of well-being, although they can rightfully expect it in the future. The success of the wine industry is crowning their efforts. With God's blessing and under the government's protection, greater prosperity will come to them.

Colony of Beresina, May 1, 1848
Foerster: Sexton and Church-School Teacher in Beresina (author)
The Mayor's Office:
Mayor: Silzer
Assistants: Pahl, Decker
Village Secretary: Birkholz

Translator's notes:
(1) 1 werst = 1.06678 kilometres

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