Güldendorf - 1848 Village History
Copyright 1996, GRHS    

Notes:  Please see the Introduction to the Village History Project for additional information.  This particular Village History was published in the English form in Joseph S. Height's book "Homesteaders on the Steppe". There is much more data contained in this book concerning this area and our German Russian ancestors who lived there. As this file is placed on the Internet, the book is still available from GRHS (copyright holder). 


1. The high cost of living that oppressed Germany after the campaigns of the French Revolution induced the settlers of the colony of Güldendorf to respond to the proclamation which His Majesty Alexander issued in southern Germany, inviting the people there to settle in Russia as colonists. After they received their exit permits from King Frederick II of Wuerttemberg and Duke Ludwig of Baden, they gathered in the city of Ulm, where they joined a group of emigrating German Separatists whose destination was Grusinia. When they arrived in the Grossliebental district, where they remained in winter quarters in the homes of the old colonists, they began in the spring of 1818 to establish the colonies of Stuttgart, Waterloo, and Friedrichstal in the Beresan district. In 1819 they started the regular construction of the houses which was completed in 1824.

In the development of these three colonies, the lack of water became a problem which could not be solved by digging wells and building dams. The colonists therefore submitted a request to the Committee of Colonial Welfare that another place of settlement be granted to them. The paternal superintendent, His Excellency General von Inzow, directed them to the Crownland 15 verst north of Odessa. In 1827 the three mayors of the above mentioned colonies sent a petition to Her Imperial Majesty Czarina Alexandra Feodorowna that this steppe be granted to them for resettlement. The petition was granted, and in 1830 practically all the settlers of the three colonies began to establish the village of Güldendorf. Only a few remained behind to continue the colony of Waterloo. At once the resettled colonists began to build regular houses, and in 1838 only a few adobe huts, the so-called "semelankas," were still in use. In 1848 many colonists distinguished themselves by building attractive stone walls around their yards.

2. The colony of Güldendorf lies north of Odessa and is flanked by salt limans (estuaries) to the south and west. To the north lies the colony Kubanken and the estate of the nobleman Alexanderofsky. The terrain is characterized by small hills and valleys. A valley runs through the middle of the colony from north to south, and the houses are built on either side, presenting a fine view.

The settlers have built themselves a schoolhouse and prayer hall, partly from the earlier church funds and partly through special contributions. Up to the present there has not been a local pastor living here, but only a visiting clergyman from Rohrbach. The school is in good condition, and is, so to speak, the "crown of the colony," for it towers above the other buildings in the village. However, through the increase of children the schoolhouse has become too small and it will be necessary to build a larger structure. The same is true of the prayer hall, which at present is being used for a communal granary.

In the valley are some wells with water of varied quality, those towards the south containing a larger quantity of saltpeter. There are also several ponds that have been created by the construction of dams. These provide suitable drinking water for the livestock, since the water in the limans is harmful and has sometimes caused death to the cattle. On the other hand the liman water is healthful to bathe in during the summer, and people often do so.

Odessa, the administrative center of the district, lies 15 versts to the south, and Cherson, the capital of the government is about 180-200 versts to the southeast.

The soil consists of common black earth, mixed with saltpeter, and a lower layer of hard yellow clay, but well suited for the growth of grain and grass. We can look forward to a rich harvest every year, provided that the Lord grants us rain in due season. However, if this is lacking we cannot hope for a good crop, since the earth is easily dried out by the high winds that frequently blow in this area, dispelling the rain-laden clouds.

Summer wheat shows excellent results. While vineyards are also planted, they  are not of prime importance. The chief concern is the raising of cattle and the production of enough fodder for them, even when grain crops are poor.

The soil is not suitable for the plantation of trees, for years of experience have shown that despite great expenditure of effort and experiment the trees failed to show the expected growth. They develop for the first few years, but then begin to dry up, and finally wither away. The common acacia thrives well in certain places, but the colonists are again trying this year to plant other kinds of trees. But the nursery is not in good condition, and one cannot assume that any other kind of tree ever grew in this region except shrubs and similar bushes.

There are no stone quarries here that might provide suitable building material. However, when the salt liman subsides in the summer, one can obtain damp stone that is useful for the construction of garden walls. The building stone must be obtained from the quarries of the nobleman landlord Doc. von Enno or from the Russian village of Alexanderofsky, about 10 versts to the south. The stone can be quarried for 60 kopeks a fathom, or bought ready-cut for 2 silver rubles a fathom.

3. In token of love and gratitude, the newly settled colonists requested the first member of the Committee for Colonial Welfare, His Excellency Lieutenant Colonel von Rosenkranz, that the colony have the honor of bearing his name. His Excellency, aware of the respect and devotion accorded to him, consented to have the village named Güldendorf, the name it officially bears to this day.

4. The families that heeded the paternal invitation of His Imperial Majesty Alexander I of Russia to settle as colonists in the land assigned to them, and who left their fatherland in the years 1817-20, are as follows:

62 families from the Kingdom of Wuerttemberg and from the upper and lower Neckar district.
3  families from Wuerttemberg had already come to Russia in 1813 and 1816.
17 families from the Duchy of Baden.
2  families had already arrived here in 1809 and 1813.
9  families from Prussian Poland, district of Posen.
3  families from Hungary, district unknown.
A total of 96 families from the above mentioned 3 colonies were resettled in Güldendorf.

5. The colonists arrived in different years. Those of 1817 had as their leaders Koch, Stockinger and Nusser, and arrived with the aforementioned Separatists, or Pietists, who intended to emigrate to Grusinia. Having arrived at Ismail(at the mouth of the Danube), some continued their journey, while others were given winter quarters with the colonists of Grossliebental. The immigrants who arrived in 1818, 1819, and 1820 had no special leaders, as each family travelled independently.

6. Those who were in winterquarters or arrived in 1818 were directed that same spring to the Crown steppe in the Beresan district. There they established 3 colonies which lay fairly close together: Stuttgart, Waterloo, and Friedrichstal.

The steppe was untilled and uninhabited, so that the colonists began at once to build houses, to be protected against the wind and weather. These were built according to plan and were quite satisfactory. The settlers were industrious, for they were full of courage and optimism. The great disappointment was the lack of water which caused them to submit a request for resettlement, which was, we have seen, granted. Those who decided to move, tore down their houses and used the building materials for the construction of new houses in Güldendorf.

7. Through the long tedious journey on water and land the cash assets the colonists had brought with them steadidly dwindled, so that many were hard up and in great need. Fortunately this was alleviated by the love of his Most Gracious Majesty the Czar and by the aid of the Committee of Colonist Welfare, as can be seen from the support given the immigrants who were quarantined for 7 weeks in Ismail:

a. Daily money rations and bread.
b. Free transportation of all colonists to the Liebental district.
c. Grant of daily food money during the months that these people were in winter quarters.
d. Grant of an advance loan of 660 rubles to each family, for the construction of houses, the purchase of necessary livestock and equipment for house and farm. In addition, the colonists were exempt from the payment of taxes for 3 years, and His Excellency General von Inzow, the president of the welfare Committee, saw to it that no one suffered injustices.

Without the love and care on the part of the authorities we would not have been able to get a start, since only five colonists had 779 rubles; some had only about 70 rubles, and many had only up to 8 rubles in silver. But the majority had no more than indicated under c. The total assets of the 96 colonist families were only about 1,515 silver rubles.

8. In the original 3 settlements, as already indicated, we were not able to make much progress because of the scarcity of water. But what disheartened us even more were the hordes of locusts that devoured our fields and gardens, so that we had neither bread nor water. Nor were we able to feed our livestock in the winter, but had to remove it to the northern part of the region.

In February 1829, at four in the morning, there was a mild earthquake that caused no damage. After permission to resettle was granted, we came in the fall 1829 to the area and began to plough up the steppe in readiness for the first sowing. In the spring of 1830 we transported our movable property to the new location. After the spring sowing, during which we lived in tents, we began work on our new houses according to the official plan, and to dig wells. Soon everything assumed a more pleasant appearance. Content with the dispositions of Providence, we also felt His chastizing hand when, in 1832, a cattle disease caused the loss of much of our livestock. His hand lay even more heavily upon us when, in 1833 and 1834, the earth refused to bear fruit and we were confronted by a total crop failure, from which many of our colonists suffered a serious setback. But the Lord who placed the burden upon us also helped us bear it, and gave us his blessing again.

On January 11, 1838, at half past nine, we experienced a strong earthquake that moved from east to west. The first weak tremors grew stronger and came in waves that lasted about 4 or 5 minutes and were accompanied by subterranean rumblings. Also in this night the Guardian of Israel was not sleeping, but his eye watched over us, so that we suffered no harm, although the quaking and rumbling frightened us all. Man and beast trembled with fear. Many people ran out of their houses, fearing they would collapse; the horses grew wild and the cattle bellowed; the chickens fell from their roosts; in short, everything was in commotion - but nothing sustained any harm. After a calm period free of injury and misfortune, the chastizing hand of the Lord again afflicted us, in 1844, with a second cattle disease which was more severe than the first, so that many farmers lost all their livestock, and have great difficulty acquiring the livestock they need for their enterprise. But they have not lost courage. The individual misfortunes inspire us to greater reflection, caution, and improvement.

9. Despite all the many misfortunes we have experienced, God's rich blessings cannot be overlooked. We also owe our favorable situation to the Imperial Government which has directed its attention to the welfare of the colonists and has helped us in every way. The proximity of the commercial seaport of Odessa has also been in our favor. For here the colonists can sell their products, so that they are in a position to buy needed fodder from neighboring colonies that have a surplus.

Another advantage of the seaport is that it is possible to haul produce to the city or obtain needed supplies, especially fodder in times of scarcity. One of the best innovations, however, is the construction of reserve grain storage depots as a safeguard against want in years when crops are weak or completely lacking. Deserving of praise is also the "Unterhaltungshlatt", a newspaper that was first published in 1848. It appears each month in every village and contains many useful and instructive articles.

We sincerely recognize that we owe a debt of gratitude to God and to the imperial authority for being able to live in security and to enjoy the practice of our religious duties, free from oppression, so that our young people are as happy to be living in this country as their forefathers were.

Güldendorf, May 24.1848
Mayor: Hepperle
Burgomaster: Trost
Village clerk: Ziegler
Schoolmaster: Ferdinand Wild (author)

Scanned by Dale Lee Wahl
Coordinated with GRHS Village Research Clearing House
Coordinated with AHSGR/GRHS Translation Committee Chairman

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