Worms - 1848 Village History

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 harvested.

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)
Mayor: Gall
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

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