Worms - 1848
Copyright 1996, GRHS
Notes: Please see the Introduction to the
Village History Project
for additional information.
In the year 1810, with the building of houses for the immigrants who already had
arrived in Russia in 1805, the foundation was laid and the formal establishment
of the colony was begun.
The valley in which the colony of Worms is located is called the Zerigol; it is
93 versts (62 miles) from the city of Odessa, 86 miles from the governmental
district city of Cherson and only about 4 miles from the colony of Rohrbach.
The soil generally is strongly impregnated with saltpeter. The water at some
places lies just under the ground, but most often it is deep-lying and thereby
salty, so that only a few of the many wells of the colony provide good drinking
water. Some wells here even produce water which cattle and especially horses
refuse to drink, and since it is permeated with a bitter salt2, it is unfit for
watering trees or gardens. This deep-lying water and the spring weather that
often remains cold for three to four months are the reasons that neither trees,
vegetables, crops nor grass are able to thrive, and very often are so dried up
that later heavy rains are unable to restore them again fully, with only
middling crops or total crop failures resulting. Even when adequate rains in the
spring and at the beginning of summer provide nourishment for the crops to grow
to flowering and granulation, then, on account of later dryness and also of
destructive bean-sized bugs, reddish brown in color with black wings, which
invade large tracts of crop-sown fields in swarms and devour the
milky substance, only a few shriveled kernels are left. Local rains often fall
while the sun is shining, resulting in a so called mildew which, if occurring
after the crops have flowered prevents the kernels from developing. If, on the
other hand, similar rains fall when the kernels are ripening, they then remain
pale and thin, and cannot be marketed. Such crops, however, can be used for seed
and flour. When the weather is favorable, that is, when warm rains saturate the
ground during April and May, then not only every seed and blade of grass grows,
but also the trees grow rapidly and luxuriantly.
The soil here does not seem suitable for fruit trees for they grow with
favorable weather only six to eight years and then suddenly die. Acacia3 trees
are most suited for the soil here and, in the valley, willows thrive fairly well
and last longer. As the soil generally is composed of alkaline
ingredients, all fertilization is not only useless but harmful The most certain
way of ensuring a crop after several years of cultivation is to let the land lie
. fallow for five, six or more years in succession before being reworked. The
land then produces every kind of grain crop even with unfavorable weather.
There are no woodlands here. Rock quarries are at hand for the needs of the
Worms colony, providing building stones of such quality that no better are to
be found even in the famous rock quarries of Kujalnik near Odessa. The colony of
Worms received its name by order of the then superior magistrate Brittner.
There were 65 families that established the colony of Worms, coming from various
places as follows: 36 families from Alsace, 14 from Baden, six from Wurttemberg,
four from Palatinate, two from the Vogtland district, one from Westphalia, one
from Mecklenburg and one from Saxony.
Who their column leaders were is not known, as on the immigration trip several
columns might merge for awhile, then a column separate itself to join another
column. Some might have their own vehicles to make the trip alone. A few
immigrants recall a leader named Haffner.
For their settlement, 3,881 dessatines4 of crown steppe land were designated;
but there were no houses prepared to shelter the settlers, nor was there a
valley suitable for laying out a colony. Therefore, on order of higher
authority, through the intercession of the then superior magistrate, Mr.
Brittner, 1,000 dessiatines5 of land from the adjacent landowner Trotskewitsch,
in exchange for a similar piece of land, was assigned for settlement. And this
is the valley which, under the name of Zerigol and its characteristics, was
described in the second paragraph. This l,OOO dessiatine tract of land was
traversed by a Tschumaken road6, presently the main road to Wosnesensky. On the
tract were located four Russian houses and a tavern in which Russian families
lived until 1811. Since the plague visited its ravaging fury on these Russian
families that year and destroyed them, their houses, on the order of higher
authority as recommended by a special doctor of the district brought thereto,
were burned, the road blockaded, and Cossack guards posted so that no
communication could take place with the infected area. The immigrants were
spared and not one died of the disease, but they had occasion to see some of the
Cossack guards fall dead from their horses.
The colonists, on their arrival, received money to procure draft animals and
milch COWS, each family receiving 125 rubles, and a house built at government
cost, either of stone or compressed clay. As for the costs of the buildings,
this was unknown to the immigrants.
Most of the immigrants brought cash funds as well as a considerable amount of
clothing and other effects from the Fatherland, and many owned their own
vehicles. A large part of them used up their ready cash on account of the long,
difficult journey and on account of their large families, especially those who
did not understand the Russian money and the rate of exchange, becoming victims
of the Jewish moneychangers and traders. As a consequence, many of them were
forced to sell their clothes. Since they were not yet established and went into
winter quarters in 1809, their expenditures increased all the more until some
spent all the money which they had brought with them. Even so, there were some
who still had a considerable amount of money left. Presently there are only a
few of the original settlers still living who can give exact information about
the property and money brought along. They estimate the total amount of money
brought along to have been between 30,000 and 50,000 rubles.
None of the immigrants of the Worms colony at the time of the settlement
haveresettled elsewhere. Since the establishment of the colony, ten fires have
occurred as follows: in 1812, one house; 1813, one house; 1814, one house; 1816,
one house; 1817, one house; 1819, one house; 1826, one house; 1829, two houses;
1833, a barn with eight horses, a cow and some horse harnesses. No floods have
occurred as the valley is too shallow. Earthquakes were distinctly felt in the
Worms colony in 1829 and 1838, but caused no damage. The fields of the colony
were overrun for five years with grasshoppers, from 1823 until the harvest of
1828, when they suddenly disappeared. Countless numbers of them were killed by
the colonists themselves with the assistance of the authorities by driving
horses and cattle into the masses. They left many evidences of their destruction
behind, however, for during their stay here, little hay and few crops were
The exceedingly severe winter of 1824 caused many cattle of the colonists to die
of starvation. Some of the fir, colonists had to go to Poland to find work
there in order to provide for their families. In 1814 and 1815, acute sicknesses
prevailed from which few colonists escaped, u but very few died. In 1841,
however, there was an Al epidemic of an acute nerve fever7 which, in spite of
all al medical efforts, spread quickly, proving fatal to many ~ 4 colonists, old
as well as young. Cattle diseases were very :( prevalent in 1825 and 1829. In
1815, a hailstorm almost 1 destroyed the entire crop. It struck at 3 o'clock in
the afternoon and at 8 o'clock the next morning, hailstones were still lying
everywhere on the ground. There was another hailstorm in 1825, but with not so
much damage, destroying perhaps only a third of the crop. Another hailstone
occurred in 1828. but did very little damage. A complete crop failure occurred
in 1833 and in 1834 very few crops again were harvested in 18;J5 and 1836, there
were moderate crops.
The Worms community ewes its well-being to various favorable circumstances, to
the wise management of the authorities, to the preaching of the Gospel through
which many individuals came to a better religious enlightenment. Many have
turned from vice to virtue, and especially away from wastefulness, which in the
early years was condoned by the leaders of the colony, to thriftiness, diligence
and well-regulated lives, thereby being able to set their property in better
order and to attend to the welfare of their offspring For in the first years of
the settlement, the school was so poorly ordered that the young people were not
properly instructed in reading and writing, much less so in religion. The
natural consequence was a general decay of morality among the growing generation
and a lack of good example on the part of the parents. But the Almighty looked
upon our colony with graciousness and inspired the higher authorities to demand
discipline and moral uprightness, and then to forcefully strengthen the
preaching of the Gospel.
There were abundant harvests in 1818, 1825 and 1829 which enabled the community
in 1830 to build a new stone church, 90 feet long, 24 feet wide and 12 feet
high, to replace an old, small, decrepit building. There divine services are
being held and the youth are taught.
The bountiful crops of 1837 and 1843, as well as the raising of sheep which was
practiced extensively until 1841, gave the community the means to build many new
homes and farm buildings. But sheep-raising had to be given up entirely by the
colony because of insufficient grazing land. As the number of families increased
and grew larger, so too the herds and other livestock increased, contributing,
of course, to the prosperity of the colony.
Colony of Worms, April 28, l848
Church schoolmaster: Johann Fried Grosshans (author)
Associate (Councilman): Ochsner (?)
Associate (Councilman): Schumann
1. verst = 0.6629 miles.
2. Perhaps magnesium sulfate.
3. Similar 0 the locust.
4. About 10,479 acres
5. About 2,700 acres.
6. Tschumaken roads were roads oil Such Ukrainian caravans of wheat buyers
traveled. They traveled in caravans to protect themselves from robbers. The
Ukrainian buyers later would sell the wheat in Odessa.
7. Possibly a form of meningitis.
Coordinated with GRHS Village Research Clearing House
Coordinated with AHSGR/GRHS Translation Committee Chairman
Original translation: Theodore C. Wenzlaff
Publication: GRHS Heritage Review 18-4 (1988)
Scanned: Dale Lee Wahl
This document may be freely used for personal, nonprofit
purposes or linked by other WWW sites. It may also be shared with others,
provided the header with copyright notice is included. However, it may not be
republished in any form without permission of the copyright owner.
©2005 GRHS; Last modified 06/13/2006 19:29:15