Sarata - 1848 Village History
Copyright 1996, Elli Wise
Notes: Please see the Introduction to the Village History Project for additional information.
Sarata was planned out in 1822 by pastor Ignatius Lindl, who also can be regarded as the founder. Formerly a Catholic priest in a Bavarian country church, he was criticized several times for his deviation from the doctrines of the Catholic Church. His colleagues became hostile and filed complaints, as Lindl drew a large crowd of listeners. By his powerful sermons, softening the hardest demeanors, and with his condescending love, and friendliness, he paved the way to the hearts of all his listeners. As his position in Bavaria became more miserable, and driven by other emotions as well, he was sought people that loved him and ones that were interested in emigrating to form a community in South Russia. Even the highest Russian regiment offered to help accomplish his intention. So he traveled to St. Petersburg in 1819, to present his wishes and requests to his Excellency Emperor Alexander I. He not enjoyed as being reputable by the state officials but also enjoyed the privilege to personally be received by the Emperor. He was named priest to the Roman Catholic Church in South Russia and in 1822, supplied with privileges and money, he began to travel in search of a suitable place as his choice for settlement. He was advised by different sources that the Sarata Valley would be most suitable and so he chose the location where the colony is now. One has yet to find out if his choice was a good one. Lindl did not know the country site nor the condition of the soil, and he could not do better than to trust the ones that advised him. One cannot deny that this steppe had, before and after the settlement, a quite luxuriant plant growth, even with unfavorable seasons. Even though at the time of settlement, the Bavarians were Roman-Catholics and the Wuerttembergians were Ev. Lutheran, they united to the Ev. Lutheran belief, after having experienced some crazy things the Roman Catholic Church proclaimed back in the homeland. That contributed to Sarata being an Ev. Lutheran community right from the beginning. Pastor Lindl, however, was not granted a long stay in Sarata. He had to leave Russia in December 1823, since he had been appointed priest of the Roman Catholic church and did not serve as such. He returned to Germany and spent the remaining years of his life on charity. One has to grant him though that he was extremely helpful during the time of settlement. It became visible, that it was not of interest to focus and follow just one person blindly, and after he had left, much confusion and disagreement surfaced, and Sarata shows proof. Remarkably though was, that in the first years, the community was working together and had equally shared the harvest. Every one realized that it could not go on forever, and some of them would rightfully complain.
Sarata, Bessarabia is 50 werst from the district city Akkermann and 120 werst from the governing city Kishinew. It lies in the Sarata Valley below a vineyard to the east and mountain ridges reaching from the north to the south. The colony is built orderly and shapes into a long rectangle, divided by the main road through the center, leading eastward to Akkermann and westward to the rest of the German colonies. Besides main street, two more roads lead through the village running from south to north. All the forty-steps-wide roads are bordered by 4 fuss high walls and have a gate and walk way to each yard of the houses. On the 2 Faden wide strips between houses and walls, trees are planted. The houses are built in a simple, country style, somewhat low, and the roofs were covered with cane. The inside of the houses are roomy and each house has a well in the yard. The water is not very good since it is laden with alkali and salt, tasting bitter. Only from a few wells, was the water usable for drinking, cooking and washing. Some well water was not even suitable for the cattle. The wells on clay had the bitterest water and the sand based wells the drinkable water.
Everywhere behind the yards one can find gardens surrounded by fruit trees, and in good seasons they harvested vegetables. The whole east side of the colony is touched by the 'Sarata river', even though it is only water that has been dammed, long and deep, giving the appearance of a river. As it was only supplied by downpours and snow melts, certain areas dried up during a rain poor season. Cattle are being watered at the Sarata River, which is greatly valued since there is lack of good drinking water in the wells. There are sometimes fish and crabs found, but not especially tasty to eat, since the Sarata River is not a running water river and lacks the cleanliness and freshness thereof.
The colony is pleasing to look at during the growing season, especially from the east and west side. Even though nothing intriguing yet, it holds perfect harmony with the steppe. Especially, one notices the friendly church, surrounded by poplar trees, presenting the decoration of the village. The church tower projects a focus of the town and the church bells please all with their harmonic sounds.
The houses stand peacefully blended between the green trees, and invite anyone traveling to stop there to rest, and to nourish themselves. The water of the valley, even though not moving, adds to the picturesque scene.
At the south end of the valley, some distance away, is a plantation of cherry and plum trees and the inhabitants call it 'the woods'.
Bordering villages of Sarata are inhabited by Russians, Bulgarians, Moldavians, and Germans, who mostly settled later on. The colony Sarata presently counts 101 families and each possesses 60 Dessajatine of land.
III. NAMING OF THE COLONY.
The name Sarata was not a new one, since the valley and the water therein already had the name Sarata prior to the settlement. The colonists chose to keep the name of their colony as such. Before roads were built, travelers used to ask for the Sarata valley which was known everywhere. One does not know which language "Sarata" originates from, but suspects it to mean 'Salt valley' in the German language, possibly because of near by salt lakes.
IV. CONDITION OF THE LAND
The soil, generally, is laced with alkali throughout the valley. Here and there one finds concentrated alkali areas, where measly plants are scorched by the burning sun. With plentiful rainfall, the alkali areas would still produce lush grass. In the higher elevations the soil is less alkali and rather light weight; not preferable for farming, most of the steppe land is used for pasturage.
Fields that have been farmed for 5 to 6 years, need a rest period of 6 to 8 years to regain a 'wilderness condition, according to folklore.
The black fertile bottom land soil is only 3/4 to 1 fuss thick. Underlying it is the hard, yellow, thick layer of clay, unfavorable for planting trees and vineyards. Trees usually succumb after 10 to 12 years and vines after about 15 years, especially since there are a lot of droughts during the growing season. The new plants, replacing old ones, won't thrive well, not even with great care, indicating that the ground needs a long resting period. The usually wild growing trees like Locusts, have to be planted in different locations since even they have a short life span here.
In a lot of areas one can enhance the soil with fertilizer to get good crops, however, it is not advisable here, especially during the dry seasons, fertilizer can actually more harmful. The steppe land however, can be lush with vegetation if the rains come at the right times. When stunned by long drought, a good long rain brings the plants to grow again, thus providing decent crops.
Also unfavorable are the heavy winds and severe storms that sometimes blow for weeks, not only drying out the soil, but actually blowing away the seedlings as well. The north winds blowing during the hot season are favorable to the plants. Most disadvantageous is the wind from the south which carries the salt excreted from the salt lakes. This happens frequently and causes blooms to drop or unripe fruit to fall off. The grain looking ripe, needs more time to ripen, and sometimes has to be harvested too early. If one spends a long time outside during these south winds, one can taste salt on the lips. None of the other colonies experienced this harmful influence of the salt lakes.
As for the vineyards, the climate and partially the condition of the soil, is as well, unfavorable. The vineyards on the upper levels are usually doing better than the ones on the hillsides. The Sarata wine is of very good quality and even surpasses the wine of other German colonies. But production is rather small in the years of heavy frosts or if the grapes won't reach full size because of lack of rain. One will not find woods or even single trees in the steppes, instead one mostly finds aromatic herbs, flowers and luscious grasses. In some areas one can see fossil rocks showing through. Since it breaks down to gravel, Sarata imports building stones from 12 to 15 wersts away. One can not find any springs close by, nor in far distances.
In 1822, with the beginning of the settlement, there were 40 families. One half was from the kingdom Bavaria and the other half from the kingdom Wuerttemberg. The Bavarians came out of the districts of Burgau, Guenzburg, Lauingen, Dillingen, Werthingen, Landsberg, Friedberg and Fischen. They emigrated in 9 groups in 1821 to Russia under the leaderships of Michael Wagner, Joseph Schwarzmann, and bookbinder Maier. The Wuerttembergers came out of the districts of Heidenheim, Schorndorf, Waiblingen and Brackenheim and had emigrated already in 1820 under the leadership of Leopold Nille. The emigrants partially stayed in Odessa and partially in surrounding German colonies to await settlement. The stay in the city was to their advantage, since there were opportunities to earn their keep, whereas the people in the colonies had to support themselves by using most of the little goods they had brought with them. In the year 1822, more Bavarians and Wuerttembergers emigrated and the count of families rose to 60. In 1823, the last emigrants form Wuerttemberg arrived. They, too came in groups, but had no leaders. All of the emigrants traveled by land and did not incur many difficulties. In the Bavarian's homeland the main occupation was farming and the national drink was beer. The Wuerttembergers came from areas where their existance was mainly supported by cultivating wine. The latter agricultural branch proved not only important for Sarata but also was of importance to other colonies, which will be mentioned later on. At the time of emigration of the settlers, the steppe was still occupied by 2 Moldavians and one Bulgarian, who used the steppe as grazing land for their large herds. One still hears today of the 'Golden Time', when the herdsmen, often nomadic, acted as partriarchal counts. There were no borders and all the land they stepped on was considered as theirs. There was not much evidence left of the time of the Tartares, who had lived there before. The settlers did not find any houses and so they had to live in self erected crude huts of mud until their houses were built. The Crown supported the emigrants with 50,000 rubel, which was mainly used to built the houses and partially used for food. Most of the emigrants were rather poor, 10 to 15 had some means and 3 had plenty of goods.
VI. SPECIAL EVENTS
First we should think of all the need and misery almost each settlement was accompanied by, as was this one. Even though each emigrant arrived healthy, they soon became stricken with fever and dysentery. Almost each house had at least one ill person and in a lot of houses there were several family members in need of help and food. With wounded hearts, children had to look into the dying eyes of their father or mother or sometimes both, and stood as orphans in this foreign country. Parents saw their darlings from the middle of their prime wilt away as spring flowers. Husbands and wives, torn with pain, touched the hand of their loved ones for the last time. This misery was heightened by painful reproach of a different nature and mingled with the thought of the beloved homeland. The was a lot of mortality in the first year of settlement and compiled here the general reasons:
There were two earthquakes, the first on Nov 14, 1829 at 3 am and the second
on Jan, 11, 1839 at 9 pm. Even though heavy jolts occurred in both,
there was no damage. One needs to note though that the well water became unusable after the first earthquake and stayed that way.
Since the settlement, three cattle epidemics occurred. In 1828/1829, 700 cattle were lost, in 1835/36, 500 and in 1845/46, 600.
Locust swarms appeared in 1823, 1826, 1836 and 1847, however most came at a time that only in the years of 1826 and 1836 major damage was suffered.
VII. THE WELFARE OF THE COMMUNITY.
The Wuerttembergers in the local colony knew about this noble grape juice and were happy to see that corn grew well here, thus pointing it to be favorable for vineyards. Right away in spring, after their arrival, they planted vineyards, enduring a lot of sly comments of their fellow Bavarians. They did not worry about that and soon all their efforts were successful. When they brought home the first fruits and the Bavarians tasted them, they could have said, "A glass of wine should not be despised, especially when there is no beer."
With courage and eagerness the Bavarians also started to plant vineyards and, all of a sudden, the old winegrowers had plenty of students. Other previously settled German colonies also converted to this agricultural branch. Sarata gained the praise of having been one of the first German Bessarabian colonies that introduced the vineyards.
The community has used most of their land for grazing cattle since the beginning and were wise at that. In the many years of bad crops they could
sell their cattle and thus buy the necessary food and pay for the dues to the crown.
May our descendants live under the protection of the high Russian Regiment in peace and always be fearful and hard working servants, so they can be happy and enjoy the fruit grown on common noble grounds that sprouted love between authorities and servants.
Sarata, 24. April 1848
undersigned: The Mayoral Office
Mayor: Johannes Strehle
Assistants: Samuel Rossmann, Christian Gaessler
Lay Preacher/Teacher: Magnus Natterer (Author)
as translated by Elli Wise 6/96
Coordinated with GRHS Village Research Clearing House
Coordinated with AHSGR/GRHS Translation Committee Chairman
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