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

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


The settlers' own wish still exists and requires that not only the demands of the governmental care should be met but also the founding, the origin, the main events, the setbacks and progresses of the first, and still very active, settlers should be kept for posterity to remember those undeserved blessings of our gracious and merciful God as well as the caring government laws and the good and benevolent reception by our most gracious Tsar Nicholas I. In this way also those struggles experienced since settlement will remain vividly in our memory.

Therefore we willingly supply the necessary information (admittedly inadequate in light of the past) to His Excellency Knight von Hahn, the chairman and privy councilor of the Welfare Office. We want to supply the information according to the format requested on January 8, 1848.

1. The beginning or the founding of our colony when the settlers started the settlement happened in the fall of the year of our Lord 1833; in this year not all lots were occupied. Only in 1834 did all farmers settle; a considerable number of residents were also accepted.

2. The village of Friedenstal was laid out according to government regulations in the two-werst(1)-wide Schaak valley, and two rows of buildings were formed in such a way that each farm had a width of 30 faden(2) (one faden of 3 arschin(3) ) and a depth of 90 faden with a garden in the back. The Schaak valley, in which the settlement was established, runs from north to south, a length of at least 120 werst, and runs into the equally long Gukellik valley between the settlements of Alt-Arcis and Toeplitz. The elevation bordering the Schaak valley on the east and west side offer a hilly overview which changes to a mountain range sloping toward the beginning of the valley. The eastern row of buildings, including their gardens, borders the foot of the above-mentioned elevation, which can be seen from Alt-Arcis to the east opposite Kloestitz, but from there to another intersecting valley it changes to the above-mentioned mountain range. Towards the west, behind the village, the little Schaak stream flows by, containing only water from snowmelt or rain and so has to be dammed up in places if it is to be of any use to the colonists. The use available to the colonists would be that all herds would find water to quench their thirst during summer in the noon heat. The above-mentioned Schaak stream flows into the Gukellik river above the colony of Brienne. Two werst outside the colony, towards the west, the western  range of hills is found, which ends in a mountain range just like the eastern hills do.

The distance to the district city of Akermann is estimated to be 80 werst, to the capital Kischinev, 100 werst, and 96 werst to Ismail, the port city on the Danube, which is very useful to all the Bessarabian colonies.

In general, the steppe land assigned by the crown is satisfactory for the colonists and always produces (provided there are favorable rain falls) enough for the farmer to sustain his body and so naturally also sufficient means to satisfy the demands of the crown and all other needs too many to mention.

A small portion of the land owned by the colonists in the two-werst-wide valley contains saltpeter; hard to believe right where the colony was founded, which terribly opposes the diligence of the farmers and residents in their planting and gardening. It makes their diligence appear as laziness, which, of course, is not true.

The greatest disadvantage for the colony of Friedenstal is the total absence of rocks on the steppe land assigned to them. They all have to be hauled from a hill south of Brienne, 9 werst away, which has to be considered quite a burden, all the more when the colonies of Brienne, Toeplitz and Fere-Champenoise I(4), only have to roll the stones down the hill, and they are where they are needed.

There are hardly any natural thorny thickets or forests, except for the ones the colonists planted in hard labor. These do not do very well, due to the hot climate and the saltpeter in the soil.

3. Even though the colony was already founded in 1833, it was called only Colony #13  until 1835. In this year of 1835, by the order of the district government, an opinion poll among the residents was called to determine a permanent name. This was the common custom. The majority chose the name Friedenstal (valley of peace) and proposed it to the Welfare Office for Foreign Settlers of Southern Russia, which approved it.

The reasons why the colonists chose the name Friedenstal are the following: The majority of the local colonists settled here after the Polish Revolution to escape the discord and dangerous life there. Here they met different nationalities, but among the new settlers no real peace existed, therefore, before the above-mentioned opinion poll, they suggested this fitting and hopeful name Friedenstal. To this day, peace is only a wish. Nonetheless, it has been recognized that the name can not be the sole source for peace, and recently a closer consolidation among the settlers to be of one heart and one soul has contributed most to the present unity.
4. The High Crown parceled out the steppe land to 87 farmers, just as it is today, and to these, 48 more residents were added, mostly widows and orphans, where single people were given a number too, entered into the Book of Revisions, which is found in the village. As a result, the revision numbers grew to 195.

Most of these settlers were born in the Kingdom of Prussia, in the provinces Brandenburg, Pommerania, East and West Prussia, and the principality of Mecklenburg. By following the call from Poland, they thought to better their lot and so were settled in several districts in Poland. Some of the colonists of Friedenstal are from Wuerttemberg originally, and also had settled in Poland. And then there are a number of them who in 1832 and 1833 joined the Bessarabian settlers directly. They wanted to participate in the good fortune hoped for in Bessarabia and naturally also wanted to improve their situation.

In addition, the local settlement has former subjects of the Grand Duchy of Baden, and some from the province of Alsace on the lower Rhine. These last ones had first settled in Poland or Hungary, but then, after the conditions there became too burdensome and annoying, decided to emigrate to Bessarabia or to southern Russia in general. Many of the Polish immigrants (originally from Prussia) returned to Poland, as their hopes were not satisfied in the local settlement.

5. Of all these settlers coming from many districts, provinces and landscapes, were first of all those who came from Poland without a leader, solely following the call publicized all over Poland. They paid their own way, wanting to improve their lot and have peace. The last ones, like all the others, also came without a leader, paying their way when they left their former habitat, relying on the news coming from Russia either in written form or orally. They hoped to increase their wealth, which some succeeded at more, while others less.

6. The steppe land assigned to the settlers by His Excellency, the chief welfare officer for foreign settlers in southern Russia, General of the infantry and Knight von Insow had been rented before by the former chief mayor Engel and a Moldavian man by the name of Karp. They cultivated very little of the land. Instead they used it mainly as pastureland and for hay for their considerable herds. But for the comfort of the settlers, no huts, much less furnished houses, were found; everything had to be built by the colonists with diligence and great toil.

7. The settlers also did not receive any support to construct the necessary housing and farming facilities in spite of their great need; the means of most were very scarce. Some had absolutely nothing left and still had to pay back the debt incurred to support themselves on the trip to Bessarabia.

8. Therefore, poverty has to be viewed as the most important reason there has been no boom and progress. In the first 3 years, because of this poverty, not enough land could be brought under the plow and then only scarcely seeded; then the meager crop could not be harvested because instead of favorable rains, only dry winds and heat prevailed, which turned the expected bread into nothing.

Another unfortunate event for the settlers cannot be omitted, which was not only disadvantageous but also hurting. When in the following year the exhausted colonists sought to have a good crop in sight so that all deep wounds could be healed, just at harvest time a fever epidemic struck young and old to such a degree that a considerable number even died and all hope for bread was gone, as they were too weak to work. Because of this, most could not even see the great blessing, let alone harvest it, so it became the prey of rot and food for the birds under the sky, and the roaming cattle.

Other unfavorable events for the colonists, such as relocation of the village to a more suitable spot, floods, or earthquakes, cannot be mentioned, but fire gave 15 farmers such a setback that they still feel it today. What injured the colonists' progress and put everything at a disadvantage were the terrible cattle epidemics in 1839 and 1846, where no superfluous wealth was lost, but only accumulated necessities. This everybody experienced, some even to the highest degree. On the other hand, some chief events cannot be concealed, which have to be counted among the favorable ones: In 1842, 28 farmers were fooled by an unfounded spirit of emigration to leave their place of settlement for Turkish Moldova, Serbia and Wallachia. This happened among the poorest and to an extent, also the laziest. Their illusion was that there they would find paradise. Naturally, this proved to be only a vapor, however, they realized it too late and to their own irreparable detriment. In their stead, others joined the remaining hard-working farmers in eagerness and faithfulness to their sovereign. These were wealthy, diligent farmers from the Cherson district, especially the area of Odessa. The slogan was: Improve everything, which is everybody's main duty, especially that of the Christian.

To this new and encouraging beginning, our merciful God and Father added His rich blessing in the last 5 years, so that the earlier sad condition has disappeared totally. Now the colony has achieved a completely different and satisfying sight, so that now with continuing divine blessing, we hope to reach our intended goal.

9. We owe this obvious upswing and wealth to the free, divine and undeserved grace and mercy as well as to the benevolence of our most merciful sovereign, amongst all others. We want to express our dutiful gratitude to the high and low government. Every reasonable person realizes that the most courageous army can win no favorable victory, unless they have a faithful and brave general.

We, the called upon, certify with our signature that the questions were answered truthfully to the best of our knowledge.

Church School Teacher: Jakob Friedrich Eckert (author)

Community Delegation:
1.  Johann Hirschkornn
2.  Griedrich (sic) Groshans
3.  Leonhard Kern

The Mayor's Court:
Mayor: Zimmermann
Assistants: Niebel, Joachim

Colony Friedenstal, April 30, 1848

Translator's notes:
1.)  1 werst = 1.06678 km
2.)  1 faden = 3 meters
3.)  1 arschin = 71 centimeters
4.)  Neu Elft

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