- 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
1. The beginning of the settlement was made in 1820 by 34 families consisting of
122 persons (71 male and 51 female) who were directed to this locality by
government officials. Since there were no dwellings to house the settlers, they
had to seek shelter in the homes of the colony of Rohrbach until 1821, when they
had built the clay huts, called semelankas, for which the government advanced
the necessary loan.
2. The colony was first located on the eastern ridge of the Sasika valley, about
midway between the colonies of Rohrbach and Landau, which are about 20 versts
from each other. However, in view of the lack of water supply the colony had to
be moved one verst farther to the south. The Sasika valley begins about 3 versts
to the north and continues in a southeasterly direction for 50 versts until it
reaches the Black Sea. The colony is about 110 versts from Kherson, the
administrative center of the "gouvernement", and 100 versts from Odessa.
The steppe assigned to the colony has an area of 4,143 dessiatines. Except for
the Sasika valley, the land is completely flat and has one to two feet of
topsoil consisting of black humus and loam, with a lower layer of clay, sand,
and gravel. The soil, though mixed with saltpeter, is very productive when there
is sufficient rainfall. It produces luxuriant vegetation and tall grain.
However, in periods of prolonged drought, which occur quite frequently, little
or nothing grows in the parched loose earth. The following crops are planted:
arnaut, spring and winter wheat, winter rye, barley, oats and potatoes.
Many years of experience and largely unsuccessful attempts have convinced the
farmers that the locality and the soil are not favorable for the production of
wine or the planting of trees.
There are no woods here, and the success of the plantations that were started in
1817 upon orders of the authorities cannot yet be determined.
At the southern end of the colony there are stone quarries that deliver an
abundance of good building stone for the colonists. Three dams and ponds have
been constructed by the community to provide water for the cattle during the
3. Out of love and fondness for His Excellency Superintendent General von Inzow,
under whose paternal guidance the colony was established, the community, at the
suggestion of its mayor Dietrich Lutz, requested that they be permitted to call
their settlement "Johannestal", after the surname of His Excellency. This was
4. In addition to the original 34 pioneer families who settled here, and of whom
27 had emigrated from Wuerttemberg, 5 from Prussian Poland, one from Saxony, and
one from Switzerland, other immigrants arrived in subsequent years: in 1822 8
families from Warsaw, in 1824 8 families from Baden, and between 1829 and 1831
14 families from Wuerttemberg. Thus the fixed quota of 66 families was filled.
Since the founding of the colony 13 families have moved away to other colonies
and, in 1842,23 families emigrated to Siberia.
5. The families who had come from Wuerttemberg in 1817 on the Danube waterway
were organized into parties which were led by the transport conductors Stephan
Schmidt and Johannes Gugel. The other immigrants came on the overland route
independently, without conductors. Until they were settled they remained in the
colonies of the Grossliebental and Kutschurgan districts. Most of the local
inhabitants are Lutheran; only a few belong to the Reformed Church.
All of them came to Russia during the glorious reign of the late Czar Alexander
I and in response to the gracious privileges granted by His Majesty.
6. The steppe that was allotted to the immigrant settlers originally belonged to
the Imperial Crown and was used by the local landowner Yeschitzki to pasture his
cattle. There were no dwellings to be found here to shelter the settlers.
7. Apart from the non-refundable food ration and travel money granted by the
government, the immigrants received an advance loan for the purchase of
building materials and farm equipment amounting to 660 rubles for each of the 34
pioneer families, or a total of 22,440 rubles. The property that most of the
immigrants brought with them consisted largely of clothing, bedding, and
household goods; only a few had actual cash, but this was spent before they
learned how to put it to good use.
8. Since our colony of Johannestal lacked water on its first site, but
succeeded, after many failures in getting a well with good drinking water one
verst farther south in the Sasika valley, the colonial officials acceded to
their request that the colony be re-established in the new location. In 1833 the
resettlement got underway and the construction of the houses was undertaken.
Special events and diseases. Since the founding of the colony 3 houses burned
down; one in 1830; one in 1831; and one in 1840. In 1842 a windmill went up in
smoke. In 1838 a fire that started on the steppe of a nobleman also burned it
down with its stacks of wheat and hay on 3 threshing floors and destroyed a
large number of shocks in the wheat fields.
There were earthquakes in 1829 and 1838, but they caused no damage.
Grasshoppers ruined much grain and grass in 1827, and also in 1846 there were
considerable traces of devastation.
In 1830 and 1845 many children died of the measles; otherwise there was no
There was a livestock epidemic in 1845 that wiped out half of our cattle.
Besides these losses, the colony had a total crop failure in 1833. In 1834 and
1842 the farmers did not even get their seed back.
9. The community owes its undeniable progress both in civic and religious
matters to the wise and paternal regulations enacted by the colonial
authorities, and to the preaching of the Gospel.
Of great benefit to the community was the resettlement which has provided
everyone with a plentiful supply of well water. The raising of sheep has shown
itself to be profitable, for several colonists have thereby become prosperous.
Very useful has been the establishment of the reserve grain depot in this
community, for in years of crop failure the poor people have been able to obtain
the needed grain. A few excellent harvests in 1825 and 1837 have enabled the
colonists to build a spacious schoolhouse (84 by 28 feet), in which religious
services are also held. The people have also been able to transform their
semelankas (adobe) into attractive houses.
Colony of Johannestal, May 4,1848
Mayor: Peter Martin
Burgomasters: Johannes Eisinger and Johannes Zimmermann
Village clerk: Michael Roll
Schoolmaster/Sexton: Valentin Wahl (author)
Scanned by Dale Lee Wahl
Coordinated with GRHS Village Research Clearing House
Coordinated with AHSGR/GRHS Translation Committee Chairman
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