Hoffnungstal Odessa - 1848 Village History
Copyright 1996, Paul Reeb

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

HOFFNUNGSTAL ODESSA (Translated by Paul Reeb)

The chief reason that induced so many people from Wuerttemberg to leave their blessed fatherland at the beginning of our century are attributed partly to the dire poverty and the grievous burden of taxation, partly to the proliferating new doctrine and the resultant changes in churches and schools. Among our colonists these innovations aroused the apprehension that their children might in time be deprived of the pure teaching of the Gospel.

Particular views among many of these people had given rise to the desire to be as close as possible to the Promised Land, and so their attention was directed above all to the southern part of the Russian Empire, especially since they hoped to be able to lead there a peaceful live in complete religious freedom, without fear of coercion or restraint of conscience.

Several heads of families therefore approached Baron von Stackelberg, who was then residing in Stuttgart, with a petition that they be permitted to settle in South Russia. Through this man's mediating efforts, His Most Gracious Majesty Czar Alexander sent the Russian ambassador a ukase in which the free exercise of religion was accorded to the applicants.

Accordingly a considerable number of inhabitants of various villages in the districts of Waiblingen, Backnang, Marbach, Kirchheim, Esslingen, and others organized two principal groups: the Unterweissach contingent, which was led by Johann Leibbrandt; and the Oethinger, which was led by Biechlingmayer and Jakob Lutz.

In May and June 1817 these two groups travelled to Ulm, from where they continued down the Danube through Vienna, Ofen, Orsowa and Galatz, and reached Izmail after manifold hardships. During the quarantine in Izmail, hundreds of them were wiped out through fatal illnesses, and many succumbed to a frightful epidemic after they arrived in Odessa, so that in many families only widows and orphans survived, whereas in some cases entire families perished.

Most of these immigrants continued their journey to Grusinia, despite the well-meant protestations of the Russian colonial authorities and, indeed, of the Czar himself. Only a minority decided to settle in this colony. Our colonists were allotted 4306 desjatins of agricultural land in the Maloi-Kujalnik valley, 50 versts east of the Dniester and the town of Tiraspol, and 220 versts from Cherson. Here they found a small village named Tsebrik (Zebrik), consisting of 17 dilapidated cottages which had neither roof or interior furnishings, and some building stone and lumber for 15 additional dwellings. The Russian Crown had planned these unfinished buildings for Bulgarian settlers.

Most of the newly-arrived settlers were given winter quarters in the neighboring villages of earlier German settlers, whereas the others braved the winter amid great hardship in these wretched buildings. The year 1818 was spent in preparing suitable dwellings. At last, in 1819, the settlers were able to begin with the very strenuous task of establishing their colony.

The first settlement was composed of 64 families including several craftsmen, all of whom received a Crown loan of 500 rubles for building materials, livestock, and agricultural equipment. Subsequently 30 families received a further loan of 3000 rubles. In addition, our settlers had at their disposal about 10,000 of their own money.

Thus, in 1819 -- the actual year of settlement -- 15 houses were constructed, and after another five years all of the colonists had their homes completed.

In a general meeting it was decided that the new colony be named Hoffnungsthal, in token of the immigrants' hopes for a happy future. The ministry gave its confirmation on December 2, 1819.

But let us now turn to a more precise description of the site of our colony. On the one side it is bounded by a chain of hills, on the other by reclining uplands. The location is healthful, and abundantly supplied with well water. The colony is completely isolated from all the other German villages, but adjoins Russian villages on every side: Peripljatofka on the north, Ghorie on the east, Zipulofka on the south, and Kusolof on the west. Except for 400 desjatins of barren soil that is even useless for pasturage, the land is generally quite fertile. The top soil is mostly black humus, partly mixed with salpetre and partly with sand. The subsoil consists of clay. Because of the many medicinal herbs growing here, a part of our land became known in the early years as the "Kraeutersteppe," the herbal steppe. Half of the entire steppe lands are used for the grazing of cattle.

When the weather is favorable, as in the present year, all types of grain do as well as in our fatherland, especially on fallow land. The spring wheat often does poorly owing to lack of rain and the intense heat of summer. Potatoes do not yield every year, but they are often produced in large quantity and are of excellent quality. Our Hoffnungsthal is, however, not yet rich in orchards, largely because fruit trees are difficult to develop and maintain. It is a pity that the life of these trees is so short. Nevertheless we do produce several sorts of wine. Only a few farmers occupy themselves with the raising of bees. The production of vegetables increases every year, but up to the present this is only for home consumption, largely because there is no opportunity to market the produce. The woods planted here are still very young, but with special care they are beginning to show promising growth.

As the colony has no springs, several dams have been constructed. There are several stone quarries that provide a very porous lime conglomerate in scanty
quantity. There are no sand stones available.

In the years since its founding the colony has enjoyed, with the blessing of God and the protection of the authorities, continuous growth and development. Without question it is one of the colonies that offers a pleasing sight to every visitor. Two broad streets intersect in the middle of the village, where the nice stone church, with its green tin roof, the surrounding stone wall and plantation of trees stands out quite impressively. Built by the colonists in 1840-42, it was enhanced by the addition of an organ in 1847.

The 120 white houses, many of them built of massive stone, have a most charming setting in the leafy greenery. Almost every house is adorned by a garden, and each yard is enclosed by a stone wall. In 1837 the community also bought a house for its spiritual leader, pastor Friedrich Wilhelm Poeschel, who came here from Saxony. A large school house, in which 250 children are to be instructed and in which the teacher will have living quarters, is now in construction and will soon be completed. Last year the cemetery was enclosed by a stone wall and can now be kept in good order.

The population has kept on increasing. The losses caused by people that moved away have been replaced by later immigrants for the Backnang transport and from the Marbach Ship, and also by other newcomers.

Considerable losses in human life have been suffered from several epidemic diseases, the prevailing fever in the early years of settlement, but particularly by the cholera of 1831, the typhoid epidemic of 1844, and several outbreaks of children's diseases, such as small pox in the current year. According to the latest census the population is 860, but if we include the large number of servants that have come here from other places, the number of residents would amount to one thousand.

We now come to the important events that have to some extent caused damage or hardship. Although, praise God, we cannot report the outbreak of any great fires ( 30 years only 5 houses burned down), we should not fail to make mention of the significant damage that was caused by the floods in 1822, 1830, and 1838. In the most recent flood the destruction of houses, cellars, yards, grain, hay, potatoes, etc. amounted to a loss estimated at 3,000 rubles. Severe storms, especially in 1822, also damaged several buildings, indeed a few houses were wrecked completely. The earthquakes of 1820, 1829, and 1838 did practically no harm at all.

The large herds of horses and cattle were considerably reduced by the livestock epidemics of 1828, 1833, 1844, and 1845. However, animal husbandry is flourishing, and even the unusually severe winter of this year has not been harmful, for our colonists were well provided with fodder, indeed they were able to offer supplies to very many of the needy farmers in the neighboring villages. Last year an area near the big dam outside the village was walled in, to provide a safe nocturnal retreat for the young cattle. Here the herdsman also has his hut.

Farming has become very extensive in our colony, because in the entire neighborhood much land for cultivation has been at the disposal of our colonists.

We have had only two total crop failures: one in 1822 and the other in 1833. Most harvests were good, some only mediocre. Generally the prices for grain were good, so that the colony prospered.

The swarms of grasshoppers in 1826, 1827, 1846 and 1847 did significant damage to our fields. But those of 1830, 1835, and 1836 caused considerable deprecation. We have hardly had any losses from hail, but several severe storms ruined our vineyards. A few month ago terrible hailstorm destroyed a
large part of our grain. In recent years bugs and caterpillars have damaged some of the fruit.

We take the liberty of mentioning an evil that has quite often plagued our village. I am referring to the frequent theft of property. There are few among us that have not had the sad experience of having their property stolen from the house, barn, cellar, vineyard or open field. At least 250 head of livestock, among them some of the finest horses, have been stolen by thieves.

Since 1835 our colony has enjoyed the right to hold bazaars. The market which is held every two weeks in an open square behind the village always provides a good opportunity for lively trade and is of considerable benefit to both the vendors and the buyers. Out other necessitates are easily available from the city of Odessa, which is not too far away, nor too close either, so that our colony is preserved from the many harmful influences.

By and large, contentment prevails among our settlers. They gratefully acknowledge the kind provisions made by the colonial office for their true welfare and they will always try to be worthy of this goodwill through their loyalty and obedience. With few exceptions they are active as farmers and craftsmen and eager to improve themselves, but they will also gladly accept the advice and suggestions given to them. It is particularly desirable that the discipline demanded by the church and the police be maintained in the future and exercised in a salutary way to the praise and honor of God.

We are especially grateful to God for the inexpressible grace of his cherished Word, which we enjoy in church and in school, and we pray that He may cause these institutions to thrive as the true culture of our village, our homes, and our hearts, so that our Hoffnunsthal may flourish materially and spiritually to the honor of God and our dear Lord Jesus Christ, to the joy of the higher and lower authorities, and to our own salvation in time and eternity.

Colony of Hoffnungstal, autumn of 1848:

Pastor: Friedrich W. Poeschel
Sexton: A. Fritz
Mayor: Fr. Metzger
Clerk: Gottfried Wagner
Sexton: Conradt.
Beadle: Mauch
Schoolmaster: A. Roeder
Church trustees: J. Leibbrandt, Jak. Lutz, Klotz, Lachenmayer
Assessors: Schlichenmayer, Zweigardt

(Important Note -- by Paul Reeb)

The significance of the name "Hoffnungstal" (Hope Valley) stems from the fact that the original settlers, who were Separatist - believers of the second coming of Christ on Mount Ararat in the Caucasus region, only foresaw their stopover to be temporary until they could continue to their original destination in the Caucasus. In other words, they were not giving up hope!

(Addenda to the 1848 Hoffnungstal History)

by Dr. Georg Leibbrandt
(Translated by Paul Reeb)

The colony of Hoffnungstal since its very founding has always been accorded a rather exceptional position due to the origin and motives that caused its founders to leave their former homeland. During the early part of the 19th century, especially in southwestern Germany, were the people affected by the strong and widespread teaching of chiliasm, that is, the accepted teaching that their religious hopes be directed toward entering the establishment of Christ's thousand-year kingdom on earth. Everything else was subordinated to this principle dogma, not only things regarding to religious matters, but also the exercise of present day material affairs and the planning for the future.

The supporters of this religious opinion were soon ousted from the church, but believing to have discovered true enlightenment, they formed new congregations outside the church to foster their religious life. Because they saw in the church the "whore of Babylon" and the betrayal of true godliness and the teachings of Christ, many believers were still not satisfied with their quasi-separation and demanded a formal dissolution of all church ties. Once, thus accomplished they become the true ecclesiastical separatists. They saw
themselves as the guardians of the gospel and the true believers who were called to preserve the purity of Christianity. Based on various points taken from the Book of Revelation, particularly through the highly learned Johann Albrecht Bengel* did they believe that by the year 1836 the end of the world would be established, the very same place where once before mankind was saved from the Flood through the ark of Noah.

Note: *Albrecht Bengel (1687 - 1752) was perhaps the founder of the Separatist movement, but later his students brought the movement into growth and coming to a climax with the advent of the 19th century. A special group among the Separatists were the Chilists who were primarily lead by Jung-Stilling, a member of the privy-council to the Grand Duchy of Baden. He predicted that Christ's thousand year reign of peace would begin in the East by 1833 or 1836. The chilists looked upon their expedition as a "likeness to the children of

At that time notion dominated individuals minds to a far greater degree than what generally would be the inclination of acceptance. Recognized scholars from many diverse fields of knowledge embraced these ideas, and not even men in politics remained untouched. The question was even raised in the British Parliament as to what actions their government might take to prepare for a welcome to Christ upon His second coming.

If one wishes to comprehend the rather unique historical status of Hoffnungstal, one has to proceed from the standpoint of such a history of ideas. Naturally, the economic depression, the overabundance of craftsmen, the crowded living conditions, the Napoleonic wars, etc., all played an important roll in the decisions of many to leave their homeland with house and goods to go into an uncertain future. Not only did they take upon themselves a most difficult journey, but the emigrants actually faced many threats to life and other great dangers by undertaking a goal as far as the Caucasus.

During the years 1816 - 17, the "Believers in the Last Days" belonging to both confessions (Lutheran and Catholic) assembled themselves into migratory contingents know as "Harmonien," the largest group (14 contingents) leaving from Ulm (spring of 1817) floating down the Danube River. By the time they had reached Odessa, death had wiped out more than half, among them even the leader of the first contingent, Johannes Leibbrandt, a master brickmaker from Unterweissach, Wurttemberg. They had to spend the following winter in the Odessa area (among colonists who had established themselves previously), and in the spring the greater portion continued their journey to the Caucasus;
however, a small group who had temporarily settled in a valley about 62 miles northwest of Odessa, remained behind, nevertheless still having hope to continue on to the vicinity of Mount Ararat in the Caucasus and to reach the "hallowed land" at a later date. They, therefore, named their settlement "Hoffnungstal," meaning "valley of hope."

In the following are presented the first community ordinances, which heretofore haven't been published, of the separatist colony of Hoffnungstal. (Further details about the founding of Hoffnungstal may be found in my literature, "The German Colonies in Cherson and Bessarabia," Stuttgart 1926, and "The Emigration from Swabia to Russia," Stuttgart 1928.)


  1. Because the colony of Hoffnungstal has upheld its own religious liberty, separated from all others, it abides by its own customs and elects for its own membership its own spiritual leader. The same shall be after any death of the spiritual leader, or when at an earlier date such leader no longer has the mental capacity to hold his position, or has otherwise had a moral lapse which after sufficient proof has made himself unfit to perform the duties of the spiritual post, so shall there be appointed another spiritual leader from our midst after holding another election by the congregation for a capable person who has heretofore lead an irreproachable life and can command the universal trust of the congregation.

  2. There shall also be elected two assistants for the elected minister of the Gospel, this election to be conducted under same procedures and stipulations as outlined above, and at the same time also be elected six persons from whom shall be selected by drawing lots those who must render punishment whenever a religious ordinance is violated which need not be handed over to a civil court.

  3. In cases, however, where settlements and peace cannot be achieved easily without both offices, the civil office pledges itself to offer all necessary support toward the befitting arrangement which will serve the colony for its spiritual and physical well being, in as much as no civil order is possible without the observance of the rules.

  4. By this means the two offices will have established the village council, under which all religious and civil ordinances shall be subordinated, and thereby complete and final determinations will be handed down for the colony, nevertheless with the adjunct, that those in the spiritual office will never meddle with the decrees and regulations of the higher authorities
    (government), in as much as those do not contradict the word of God and the true religion.

  5. It shall be the spiritual leader's highest duty to administer his office conscientiously and in strict faithfulness so that all teachings have their source from the Holy Scriptures and are not distorted there from and are presented to the listeners in an understandable language, and never shall the study lesson be presented in a philosophical or otherwise undignified manner. Likewise, this is also to be complied with by the assistants to the spiritual leader in the event that the spiritual leader is sick or absent. The latter shall attend all church services if not interfered with by a special emergency.

  6. During the forenoon of every Sunday and holiday a sermon shall be given by the ordained spiritual leader on the thereto specified gospel and epistle. During divine services, however, one of the assistants to the spiritual leader has the duty to watch that the school age children behave themselves according to the befitting regulations.

  7. Catechistical training shall be given to the single people every Sunday afternoon. During the summertime, however, following the catechism class an additional Sunday school will be conducted, whereat young people of both sexes from age ten until married will always be required to do written assignments. Should it not be possible for one or the other to get married, so is this person under continued obligation until the 25th birthday, and for each absence due punishment may be anticipated, excepting only in emergency cases.

  8. During the week two divine services will be held, namely on Tuesday and Friday. One Friday every month will be a day of prayer and repentance, and on this day while divine services are being held, everybody must refrain from labor or be subject to penalty, unless it might be in ones own home or on ones field. In cases of deaths where it is not possible to hold the funeral on a set church day, so in each similar instance the church day will be changed to another day, so also when there is urgent work, and after approval, the church days may be suspended.

  9. All baptisms taking place shall be scheduled on the above mentioned church days, unless it is a justifiable emergency, then the holy sacrament of baptism my be performed on another day. Holy Communion to Christ's memorial supper will be held on the usual appropriate days as announced during divine services. However, should an emergency arise, such as with a sick person, then Holy Communion may also be given at such a time. Should it, however, happen that some in the congregation omit Holy Communion, or are even haughty, so shall these upon their first offense be punished according to the words of God; the next time, however, they will be considered guilty for the inevitable punishment decreed by the village council. Similarly for persons who are negligent and lazy about attending divine services, or for juvenile delinquents, these also can expect to received their punishment through a jurisdictional convocation.

  10. Even so shall all wedding be performed during church days.

  11. No betrothal shall ever take place without the knowledge and voluntary consent of the parents on both sides, and where such is not possible, so shall the negotiations take place between the guardians and two witnesses. In like manner will the aforesaid also give notification of the betrothal to the spiritual leader. In no other manner can it be accepted.

  12. In addition to the divine services there shall be prayer meetings or devotional meetings, essentially during the winter time, on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday nights. These devotional meetings to be attended on a voluntary basis. Nobody will be excluded, nor will anybody be obliged to attend.


  13. It shall be the schoolteacher's highest duty to watch with a sharp eye for any pupils who have received from God talents above the others, to ever search out these by giving them advanced assignments so that the blessed talents of these children will not be applied to naughtiness.

  14. The teacher must convey to the schoolchildren his catechistical instruction and other religious lessons in the pure and exact text of the word of God, also in a manner neither pompous nor disrespectful, as is already mentioned under article five on church matters.

  15. It shall be impressed upon the schoolteacher that he pay the utmost attention to his pupils that her further their knowledge in reading, writing and arithmetic to the extent of their abilities. On the other hand, the parents of the children are also enjoined to note their duty to encourage their children to be diligent and to study with them at home on the assignments given by the teacher. Each time the child is absent from school without the teacher being notified as to the grounds for which the child remained home, the parents of the children will be summoned before the jurisdictional convocation and they shall not escape punishment.

  16. One quarter year before the pupils reach the age to leave school they must attend religious instruction give by the spiritual leader in order that they be prepared to take upon themselves the duties of the baptismal covenant. Should there be any, however, who have reached the age to leave school, but have missed too many sessions due to negligence or sickness, therefore not being capable to fulfill the duties of the baptismal covenant, it is then possible after examination of school records and by the directive of the village council to have the school years for such children extended.

  17. School inspections will be conducted twice annually: namely in the month of March and in the fall after the feast of St Martin (November 11th). Those making appearances will be the village mayor and the two assistants to
    the spiritual leader.

These orders are authorized by the mayor's office and ;the church president with the proviso that everyone be dealt with equally and punishment be in accordance to the transgression with due respect to all persons.
Undersigned by:

mayor, Kienzle
assoc. mayor, Dobler
assoc. mayor, Naeher
village clerk, Wall

Pursuant to the laws on our ethical and civil regulations and in accordance with the added amendments to and including the last article 25, two-wit: because of the incidence to cases of fornication, the village council has found it necessary to enact the following laws to thwart such acts in the colony.

  1. Should it happen that single persons of opposite sex have relations which through forbidden intimacy and unholy cohabitation brings to light a showing child and such is born to them, so shall a fine of 20 rubles (10 dollars) be paid into the church treasury by both parties. In the event that the man abandons the woman after such happenings and does not marry her, then depending upon the circumstance of the man's wealth and the verdict reached by the village council, the man has to pay either in lump sum or in annual installments to the mother for the rearing of the child until the 14th year.

  2. Should it, however, occur that the misconduct with such persons happens the second time, or even more times, so will the parties again be fined 20 rubles to be paid into the above mentioned treasury, and additionally, after the concurrence of the transgression by the village council, corporal punishment (flogging) will be inflicted, and on that Sunday in the house of prayer the teacher will bring the vile example to the attention of the whole congregation.

  3. Now should the woman's transgressions reach a state of lewd depravity whereby it is found that she has engaged in fornication with several male persons, and in the event of her resulting pregnancy it being that none of the alleged persons will claim fatherhood of the child, likewise, the woman not being able to give sufficient proof either, so shall each who has become a party to the case be fined 10 rubles; the child, however, will be give in care of the mother who shall receive both bodily monetary punishment as provided in the forgoing article 27.

  4. Now should it happen that married persons be found in adultery, as is mentioned under article 26, 27 and 28, so shall they likewise each be fined 20 rubles, but immediately upon their first offense shall they also receive corporal punishment. However, for subsequent offenses dealing with married person, the fine shall be doubled in both monetary and corporal punishment.

  5. It shall be made every father's solemn duty that he and his family carefully guard against such misconduct, that they devote themselves to a moral, chaste and virtuous life according to the words of God, and to carefully protect his family against all moral corruption so that the aforementioned examples of punishment may not be carried out to their and all our shame. Also, all members of the village council are to keep an ever watchful eye upon the morally lax in order that these be stringently warned, admonished and punished before the actual happening of such sinful doings.

  6. Should anyone not let himself be warned against such immoral ways of living, and a male person is found with a female person on a secretive basis, especially if at night in a room, or even moreover, in any compartment about the house, or else in any other illicit nook, or yet upon the field, and even though no accomplished fact is shown, so will the male person still be brought before the village council and fined 5 to 10 rubles in accordance to the evidence presented with his offense; the female person, on the other hand, shall be dealt a flogging.

These foregoing explicit laws were drawn up for the colony of Hoffnungstal, the same having been found necessary because of irrefutable acts and offenses, and such being herewith ratified in the name of the entire congregation as authorized by the colony of Hoffnungstal through the three elected men: (1) Christoph Fiechtner, (2) Leonard Harsch and (3) Michael Beutel.

These ordinances were validated by the Ministry of Interior in St Petersburg (then the capital city of Russia), and directed to the (Odessa regional) welfare committee for the colony of Hoffnungstal. Later, during the 1870s, the separatist colony of Hoffnungstal nevertheless was placed under the governing body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia.

(This data is being shared from the collection of Paul Reeb as translated by Paul Reeb.)

as translated by Paul Reeb
Coordinated with GRHS Village Research Clearing House
Coordinated with AHSGR/GRHS Translation Committee Chairman

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