Long House In Kassel Former Kassel Church


Kassel - 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). 


The settlement of the German immigrants in this colony took place in the spring of 1810. The colony was founded during the reign of Czar Alexander I, upon the instructions issued by Governor general Duc de Richelieu, superintendent of colonies Rosenkampf, district mayor Roessler, and village mayor Pressler.

The site selected for the settlement was in the southwest part of the government of Kherson, 30 versts northwest of the administrative capital of Tiraspol. Originally the village lay in a small tributary valley of the Dniester river, but it was later moved 4 versts to the east and located on the elevated left bank. The valley, called Kumurofka by the Russians, takes its origin near the small market town of Domanov and runs 45 versts in a southerly direction till it joins the Dniester near the town of Bender.

The topsoil of the level steppe belonging to the colony consists of two feet of loamy black humus; only a small portion of the land is sandy. On the whole, the soil is of good quality, and if the weather is favorable the efforts of the hard-working farmer are amply rewarded. A special characteristic of the local steppeland is the prevalence of noxious couch grass. This is an utterly worthless plant for it cannot be used for fuel or fodder. Even in extreme hunger, the cattle will scarcely ever eat it. Known hereabouts as bittergrass or sourgrass, it thrives so luxuriantly in the meadows and the pasture that it stifles every other kind of grass.

Viniculture is carried on to a considerable extent on 116 dessiatines of land, although the plantations at the present time contain only 169,995 vines. However, as these produce a rich harvest in some years, this branch of agriculture could be profitably expanded.

The woods are rather insignificant, not as to the area cultivated but in regard to quality, for the largest trees attain a height of only 20 feet even after 30 years of growth. The native woods, consisting exclusively of oak trees, occur in a segregated area of 193 dessiatines in thirty dales that lie from five to eight versts to the east and debouch into the Kutschurgan valley. Also fruit trees, especially nut and apricot, have a chance of becoming productive here.

The kinds of grain and other fields crops that have proved to be most productive and profitable are: winter wheat, arnaut, spring wheat, rye, barley, maize, potatoes, and melons.

Local building stone is scarce and of poor quality, so that the colonists have to haul the needed stone from other quarries, with great difficulty.

The name of the colony goes back to the deceased pioneer settler Daniel Ficke, who was a native of Kassel, Germany. The name was adopted by the early settlers and was subsequently approved by the authorities.

When the colonists, in response to the generous invitation and the promised privileges, arrived here in the late fall of 1809, they were placed into winter quarters in the homes of the already established colonies of Glueckstal, Neudorf, and Bergdorf. The following spring, 99 families were settled in the aforementioned valley. They had come from various parts of Germany: 60 families were from Alsace (France), 12 from Baden, 9 from the Rhine Palatinate, 6 from Wuerttemberg, and 12 from the vicinity of Warsaw, Poland. In all, they numbered 399 souls (205 male and 194 female). The immigrants did not arrive in organized parties conducted by special guides. Individual families simply joined the regular transports. When the colony of Cassel was being established, the colonist Heinrich Heilmann of Glueckstal served as guide and advisor.

The steppe assigned to the Immigrants was not m the hands of a private landowner, but the Russians and the landed gentry in the neighborhood were using the area as grazing land for their herds.

In 1810 the Crown had houses of stamped earth constructed for the newly arrived settlers, and gave them the following grants-in-aid: 46,410 rubles for subsistence, 36,789 for the expenses of getting settled, and 3,310 for the purchase of seed grain. The generous aid given to the settlers, most of whom were poor, clearly attests to the paternal solicitude of the government. Some of the immigrant,, however, were boorish and immoral, and all of them were unacquainted with the peculiarities and the conditions of southern agriculture. Hence, despite the aid received, the people kept getting poorer and poorer. Successful and unsuccessful experiments in agriculture eventually led to more practical methods, and soon the colonists began to hope that someday they would enjoy a measure of prosperity. They recognized that hard work and upright behavior were also in Russia the foundation of individual and communal well-being. In the earth of South Russia a treasure lies buried which every persistent seeker can discover by dint of industry and right living.

The property which the immigrants brought with them from their homeland consisted of some cash money, household items, clothing, and bedding. The total amount can be estimated at a value of about 14,750 rubles. The prospects of a more prosperous future have, however, often been darkened whenever the diligent, honest colonists suffered all kinds of affliction and setbacks. From 1822 to 1827, and recently again in 1846, the locusts caused much devastation. In 1818, 1328, 1829 and 1834 there were serious livestock epidemics. The recent epidemic of 1844 destroyed 680 head of livestock, and in the past winter we lost 430 head. There were total crop failures in 1833 and 1834; and only middling crops in 1813,1814,1832, and 1835. In 1822 and 1823 the farmers hardly got their seed back, and the prospects for the future were grim. Fortunately, the neighboring districts offered their surplus grain at modest prices, so that our needs were taken care of. In 1834,1843, and 1844 outbreaks of smallpox carried off 44 children, and the cholera epidemic of 1831 exacted two victims.

At the time the colony was founded the mistake was made of locating it in the small side valley where there happened to be some fresh-water springs. The settlers paid dearly for this mistake, for the village was also exposed to recurrent spring floods which not only caused extensive losses of grain and hay, but also ruined the stamped-earth dwellings. In addition, the community lacked sufficient drinking water. In fact, there were only five wells in the colony, and though these were from 12 to 15 feet deep they often went dry, especially in the years of drought. The people, therefore, had no alternative but to reach the decision to relocate the thirty-year-old colony.

This decision was put into effect in 1841, when a majority of the colonists from the southern half of the village moved to an elevated site on the left bank of the Kumurofka valley, 4 versts to the east. The new colony was given the name Neu-Kassel, whereas the old village now was called Alt-Kassel. But the existence of the twin colonies lasted only two years. After the new colonists had established themselves and solved their water problem, most of those who had remained behind expressed their desire to be united with the others. The colonial authorities not only acceded to their request, but also granted the poorest among them an interest-free loan of 1,200 rubles repayable in 15 years. Those who were still reluctant to move had no other choice but to follow the majority, and in 1843 the remaining half of the old colony was evacuated.

A decent and practical large schoolhouse, as our new building can properly be called, is of greater importance and value for the young generation than is generally supposed. Here the children become literate and receive the kind of religious instruction that teaches them to be virtuous and patriotic citizens, obedient to authority and devoted to their occupation.

It is to be hoped that capable men will always be appointed as teachers of our youth, in order to promote and foster the common welfare of the community. We are grateful to the authorities for releasing us from the payment of 1,000 rubles of the loan, thus enabling us to erect the fine building which, for the time being, serves both as a school and a prayer hall. The colony also owes its well-being to the preaching of the precious, unalloyed, and pure Gospel.

Kassel, April 26, 1848
Mayor: Wanner
Assessors: Heer and Mehlhaf
Church schoolmaster: D. Winter (author)

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

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