- 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).
I. The Immigration
After the invitation by his Majesty Czar Alexander of glorious memory was proclaimed in Wuerttemberg, in 1804, by his consuls and ambassadors, many would-be colonists left their homeland and migrated to Russia. Three transports, each consisting of 60-65 families, departed from Wuerttemberg that year, namely the 14th transport in the spring, the 16th in the summer, and the 23rd in the month of October. In the city of Ulm they obtained passage in river barges and sailed down the Danube as far as Stockerau, near Vienna. From there they traveled overland, at their own expense, to the frontier town of Radzivilov, where they remained in winter quarters for two months. From Radzivilov the Russian Crown provided the immigrants with transportation and a daily food ration of 10 kopeks per adult and 5 kopeks per child.
The organizer of these transports was F. Ziegler, who also conducted them from Wuerttemberg to the colony of Grossliebental, which they reached in June, 1805. Fifteen families were directed to settle on the Baraboi river.
II. The Founding of the Colony
On June 29, 1805, sixty-five families, most of whom had been quartered in Grossliebental and Ovidiopolis, were conducted by Court Councilor Brigunsky, with the assistance of chief mayor Brittner, to the steppe where they were to be settled. The location selected was in the valley of the Baraboi river, 25 versts from Odessa. On this site and throughout the surrounding steppe the colonists encountered nothing but tall grass and an old excavated well.
Seeing nothing but steppe and sky, many of the settlers were stricken with regret and fear, and most of them became homesick for their native land and their former habitations. However, when the need is greatest, help is nearest. After 8 days each householder received 15 thin poles of wood with which to build a family dwelling. For roofing the settlers had to use tall grass, about 3 feet in length, but this offered no protection against rain, snow, and wind. Hence, in the fall of 1805, some Russian soldiers arrived, to build 4 semelankas' clay huts, but before these could be completed, there was an outbreak of diarrhea among the settlers. The fact that several families were crowded into each semelanka caused the epidemic to grow to such proportions that 36 families were completely wiped out, and only 29 families (with some losses) were still alive in the spring.
For the poor immigrants this winter was tragic beyond description. In a short time, death had snatched away many parents from their children, and many parents had to witness the burial of 2, 3, or 4 children at the same time. There was no thought of funeral services. The lifeless bodies, dressed in ordinary clothes or wrapped in a linen sheet, were loaded, seven to ten at a time, on a wagon and hauled to the burial ground, where they were interred without coffins. To be sure, the authorities started to build wood-frame houses in the fall of 1805, but these were not completed until the spring of 1806, and by then most of the immigrants were already dead.
III. The Aid given to the Settlers
As soon as the immigrants arrived in the colony of Grossliebental, the Crown gave each of them so-called "day-money" or "food-money", which amounted to 10 kopeks for adults over fifteen, and 5 kopeks for each child. This money was in the nature of a gift, and was paid to the colonists for two years. Most of the immigrants had come without any significant funds, although there were also some well-to-do people who did not accept any travel aid or food-ration money. It is not possible to indicate the value of the possessions which the immigrants brought with them, for almost all the old-timers are gone, and the few surviving descendants have no information.
Not long after they were settled, each householder received farm equipment, seed grain, a wooden wagon, a yoke of oxen, and 50 rubles for the purchase of a cow. Three or four farmers had to share the use of a plow and a harrow. For each householder the total advance loan, including the cost of the wood-frame house, amounted to 355 rubles.
IV. The Naming of the Colony
For some time the colony had no name. When several colonists finally thought of calling it Katharinenau, the elders of the community discussed the matter and decided to name it after the beautiful Bavarian town of Neuburg, whose scenic beauty had impressed them as they were sailing down the Danube from Ulm to Stockerau.
V. The second and the third Settlement
Since only 29 of the 65 pioneer families were still living in the spring of 1806, an additional 13 families who had arrived from Wuerttemberg were also settled here. These did not have to suffer much from the aforementioned epidemic, because they had been able to obtain a few suitable dwellings, but some families also were carried off. However, since these 13 families did not suffice to fill the quota set for this colony, and since other families were still being wiped out in 1806, 1807 and 1808, another contingent of 29 families from Hungary was settled here in the spring of 1807. These did not have to endure much sickness, because they were able to obtain proper housing. Both the settlers of 1806 and those of 1807 received the same "day-money" and advance loan as the settlers of 1805.
The colony now comprises 60 farmers, each of whom owns 49 dessiatines of Crownland. In all, there are 93 families living here.
VI. The Properties of the Soil
The land belonging to the colony is bounded on the east by the steppe of Grossliebental, on the south by the steppe of Alexanderhilf, on the west by the Dniester, and on the north by the steppes of the (Catholic) colonies of Franzfeld and Mariental
The soil of our steppe is very fertile and well suited for the production of grass and grain, because its top layer consists of black humus mixed with saltpeter, while the sub-layer consists of a lime conglomerate and, occasionally, of white clay.
The first settlers from Wuerttemberg did not use this land from 1806 to 1809, because they were all artisans. Besides, in those years all of them were kept busy fighting diseases and epidemics. Only after those who had emigrated from Alsace to Hungary, where they engaged in farming, arrived here with horses and wagons in 1807, and concentrated on agriculture and animal husbandry with successful results, did the Wuerttembergers also learn to make use of their 49 dessiatines. The Alsatians from Hungary were the real pioneers of agriculture in this colony, which has made such progress that the local colonists at the present time not only cultivate their own steppe but also some 900 dessiatines of leased land.
The land here is also good for gardens and tree plantations. Acacia, elm, mulberry, ash, and willow trees do very well in the valleys. The pear trees show good prospects, but the apple, plum, and apricot trees grow slowly, and after producing a few years they begin to decline. However, it cannot be generally claimed that the rapid deterioration of the trees is caused solely by the nature of the soil, the prevalence of drought, and the depredation of caterpillars, for in many gardens the owner's neglect and indifference is to blame.
We still have no tree plantations, for those established in the last two years cannot be designated as such. The situation regarding vineyards is much the same. Twenty years ago vineyards were planted to the north of the colony, but today many of them have been completely destroyed. It should be stated that the vineyards were not established in a good location.
Neuburg has no other enterprises except the stone quarries located in the Cniesterberg, 10 versts from the colony; and a tract of bulrushes in the valley.
VII. Special Events
Among the special events that had an impact on the destiny of the colony we must mention the floods. When a sudden thaw or rainfall occurs in the winter months, so that the still frozen ground cannot absorb the water, masses of ice that pile up in the river bed blockade the current and cause it to overflow the banks. We have had four such floods, namely in 1829, 1835, 1838, and in February of 1845. The last one did the most damage, for the water completely destroyed four houses that were made of stamped earth. People tried so save the household furniture and utensils, but much of it was ruined. Other houses located near the river also suffered considerable damage. The fodder that was not carried away began to rot. The total damage caused by these four floods is estimated at 12-14,000 silver rubles.
Among other unfavorable events were the locusts. They arrived for the first time in 1824, and only in the fall of 1827 were the fields completely cleared of these predatory invaders. In the course of those four years they had caused a great deal of devastation.
We have had no epidemic diseases since the outbreaks that rook place between the years 1805 and 1809. We have had only 9 fires in the colony, but in each case only a single house or barn was destroyed.
VIII. A Comparison
If one compares the present with the past, one is surprised that the colony is in such good condition, despite the numerous crop failures and other harmful setbacks.
a. Dwellings. When the colonists settled here they were first put up m tents and then in wood-frame huts. In the winter the cold and the wind drifted through them with such ease that the lamp in the room was almost extinguished. Soon after, so-called "stamped-earth" houses were built, and these proved to be more livable. However, as soon as a few good harvests were brought in, the German spirit could no longer remain content with such houses. Accordingly, in 1820, several colonists began to construct larger houses equipped with several rooms. Other well-to-do farmers followed their example, and today only 9 "stampedearth" houses are to be seen in the village. The pioneer colonists, of course, had no thought of building solid cellars from stone. They simply dug a hole in the ground, covered it with reed and sod, attached a rickety little door, and the cellar was complete. Today almost every household has a spacious cellar with stone vault.
b. Schoolhouse and Schooling. In the first three years a professional teacher conducted school in his own home. The following year a schoolhouse was erected on the site where the present school building is standing. Because the first school house was built too small to begin with, it became necessary to enlarge it in 1821. It served both as a school and a church for the next 19 years. However, after the community was blessed with several rich harvests, it began, in 1832, to build a house of prayer next to the old schoolhouse. The building was completed the same year, except for the steeple, which was erected two years later and equipped with 2 bells. The interior of the church is enhanced by the presence of an organ with six registers.
The operation of the school was quite accurately described in an article that appeared in the first issue of the Unterhaltungsblatt which came out this year. All schoolmasters who taught in the local school in the first fifteen or twenty years had little interest in the proper education of the children. They were content if they had enough wine and brandy to benumb their brain, so that they would not hear the pandemonium in the school, and, in some cases, were able to enjoy a nice little nap.
c. Plantations. Until 1820 there were no trees or vineyards in the colony, for the people generally thought it useless to plant any. At the present, Neuburg has one of the finest plantations of shade trees and is surrounded by gardens. It has also some very nice nurseries, and many farmers started new vineyards in the fall of 1847. Behind the stone walls fronting the street, where there were ditches in former times, acacia and mulberry trees have been planted, giving the village a charming aspect.
To whom does the community owe its present state of well-being? First of all, to
God, our loving Heavenly Father, who has sometimes given us very fruitful
harvests and protected us against war and famine. Secondly, to the authorities
goes a large share of the credit for the progress of the colony. We are
especially indebted to His Majesty Czar Alexander of glorious memory, to His
Majesty Czar Nikolai I, to his Excellency Duc de Richelieu, to General von Inzow
of blessed memory, to Councilor of State von Hahn, now chairman of the Welfare
Committee for Foreign Settlers, and indeed to the entire Welfare Committee.
Neuburg, April 6,1848
Village clerk: J. Gast
Schoolmaster: E. Eberhard (author)
Scanned by Dale Lee Wahl
Coordinated with GRHS Village Research Clearing House
Coordinated with AHSGR/GRHS Translation Committee Chairman
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