Tarutino - 1848 Village History
Copyright 1996, Elli Wise

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


The colony Tarutino was founded in 1814 in the province Bessarabia, district Akkermann, right next to the earlier founded colony Borodino. German emigrants constructed Tarutino in a deep valley close to the Kugelnik river, 90 werst south of the gubernatorial city Kishinew. The landscape, marking the colony, indicated that the entire area may have originally been covered by the ocean. The land, rolling in a wave like fashion from north to west, was indented with more or less deep valleys. In the higher elevations, at the depth of 1-1/2 to 2 Faden, there were layers of clay and layers of fossil rocks. The black soil, mixed here and there with sand and crushed fossil rock, was preferred for cultivating grain. During seasons with lots of rain, the harvests were plentiful. However, during the dry seasons, the heavy alkali condition of the soil became apparent and the harvests were rather meek. Regardless of wet or dry seasons though, the vineyards seemed to produce equally good harvests. There were no woods at the time of settlement and there were no signs of orchards in the early years. Trying to comply with orders of the higher authorities to plant woods proved rather difficult. The condition of the land did not allow the trees, planted in higher elevations, to grow well. The underlying clay and and limestone prevented the trees to reach maturity, causing them to die off early. Trees had a better chance for growth in the low lying areas, where the soil was more fertile. Nevertheless, with eagerness and perseverance, the colonists were able to use the land to its full potential.

At the time of their arrival, the emigrants found the land occupied by 10 Moldavian lessees. They lived there as nomads and were grazing their herds on the grass rich pastures of the steppe. In folklore, the colony is still called 'Anshakrak' or more rightfully 'Chanschakrak'. Etymology seems to be that years before, when the Tartares had lived there, this colony was to have been the estate of the Count Chan. The emigrants used the name 'Elisabeth', liked by the higher authorities, during the early years of settlement. In 1817, the regiment changed the name officially to 'Tarutino', as memorandum to a battle fought on Oct 18, 1812, near Tarutino (against Napoleon).

The earlier lessees of the land cleared out, leaving it to the Germans. Lead by Russian officials, the Germans had emigrated in different groups from the kingdom of Poland, Prussia, Bavaria, and Mecklenberg. They found crude huts made of shrubbery and clay available to them. The huts provided shelter for 100 families. The first mayoral official that settled in Tarutino, was Gottfried Scheucher. The colonists had not all come at once, instead they had arrived here as small parties, and in 1816, the colony was completely filled, counting 136 families.

Exhausted from the long travel, they were in need of rest and the huts were equipped with only the most necessary household items. Most of them were poor and some of them only came with what they wore. The crown provided each family, per person, a pound of flour and an allowance of grits, to support their need for food. To be able to do most necessary farming, each family received a wagon, a team, farming equipment, a cow, 6 Tschetwerik of seed grain and some household items. The Crown had authorized for the colonists to receive the necessary items to start out with. Each family was counted as having received an advance of 819 Rubel and 87-1/2 Kopek. The authorities, however, were not aware that ruthless lower officials shortened the supplies, mostly by lacking delivery of provisions and equipment or delivering bad or spoiled goods.

A noble consideration of the miserable condition of the colonists was the the granting of 20 'free years', before they were to start to repay their advance. The earliest settlers were the poorest but the later ones had brought many possessions and even had a sizable sum of cash.

In the beginning the colonists had to endure several difficulties. Not knowing the language, it was very hard to communicate with the local citizens. Unfamiliar with the characteristics of the soil, they were unsuccessful in the way they farmed. Having come from wooded areas, they endured hardships in the cold of winter by not having enough wood and lacked warm clothing. Many died during the first years and several became discouraged. Mercifully, even by poor farming, the harvests became plentiful, the cattle started to thrive, and there was no lack of food. The development was fairly even from 1815 to 1818. After that they started to prosper but with it came corruption of their customs. They hardly cared for church or schooling, indulging in eating and drinking was spreading like cancer; rowdiness and thefts were a daily dilemma.

Naturally, the children grew up not having decent manners and without the necessary education. The after pains of that time are still with us today, but with God's help and with the higher authorities care, things have enormously turned to the better. The immoral behavior and the lack of Christianity had caused confusion and brought separatism to the community in1841; this behavior was not characteristic of Germans, who had the reputation of being honest, hard working people.

Generally, there were no bad mishaps that could have negatively influenced the colony. There were some earthquakes in 1819, 1828 and 1838; in 1824 and the following years, they experienced locust swarms that kept their crops rather meek. They endured a cattle epidemic in 1825 that seriously reduced their stock. They had been spared the devastating epidemic of 1829, which had claimed many lives in the other villages. However, the cholera epidemic in 1831, claimed 81 casualties, mostly adults.

The year 1833 was the saddest to remember. Immense drought condition prevented any harvest, bringing the cost of wheat to a high of 10 rubel in silver per Tschetwert. The winter of 1840/41, was the harshest the German colonists in Bessarabia remember to have experienced.

Deep snow had covered the grounds for a long 5 months, bringing on such a shortness of feed, that the poorer farmers could not afford the high cost. A bale of straw cost 20 to 30 silver rubels and a bale of hay was double that price. To add to the hardship, the cattle price was so low that a couple of oxen only brought 35 to 40 silver rubel. From 1841, and through the later years, the harvests were only fair. Another epidemic in 1845, caused great losses of cattle and horses, and still causes loss of stock here and there. In spite of all that, the colony spruced up, more gardens, orchards and woods were planted. Every 14 days on a Tuesday, they had a cattle and fruit market, offering the colony a special trade opportunity. But even this reflected the influence of the bad mannerism from before. What they had easily earned, they just as quickly spent, suggesting that being a marketplace was not in the best interest of the colony after all.

The advancing prosperity of this colony is credited to farming, wine making, raising cattle and the diligence of the women, who spin wool and weave throughout the winter, producing almost all the clothing needed. Lately, the increased planting of gardens and trees earned the colony a friendly prestige. One would hope, that through the mercy of the Almighty, and the earnest, well meaning guidance of the authorities, the spiritual and material concerns will be raised more and more. Be it God's will!

Colony Tarutino, 30 April, 1848

Mayor: Roeder
Assistants: Fredrich, Wiedmer
Colony Secretary: Karl Raugust (Ranguht?)
Lay preacher/Teacher: Daniel Martin (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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