Leipzig - 1848 Village History
Copyright June 1997, La Rose Ketterling    

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


The province of Bessarabia, sometimes called lower Moldovia was once under the rule of Turkey,  but since the liberation from Buckarest on May 28, 1812, when his Majesty Kaiser Alexander shut  down that port, it was annexed by Russia. It is a region which extends from north to south with the  Dniester to the east, north of the Black Sea, west of the Pruth River and bordered by the Donau.  Most of the area is in a north and south direction and is stretched out valleys. There on the ridges,  melting snow and in many locations the abounding swells produce the steppe rivers which cut  through nearly every large valley. The rivers often cause flooding. Sometimes the hot summer heat can cause insignificant changes but sometimes they completely dry up.

As early as 1813, His  majesty Kaiser Alexander wanted to establish German colonies in Bessarabia. Tarutino was the  first established colony and Borodino was the second. In the autumn of 1814, more German  immigrants came by train from Poland, wintered in Moldovian villages and in the spring of the next  year, arrived in Tarutino and there government officials presented a plan for a colony on the steppe.  Also the same year, the government authorities provided building materials and the settlers built the  compressed clay/loam houses.

The colony is located on the left side of the wide basin shaped  valley formed by the Kugelnik River and is about 90 W (95.4km) northwest of the General's Forest.  The Kugelnik river winds thru this valley, flows near the colony and empties into the Black Sea.  This place on the steppe is 7434 dszi (209,072 acres) plus 1220 fadem(8540 feet) in area and has  many valleys and also some high hills and the Bulgarenberg is the highest peak. The soil of the  colony is mostly alkali mixed with yellow sand. The bottom soil is yellow and white alkali which is  not too fertile with rain and especially in the dry years there is very poor production of hay and food  crops.

The soil in this place is more suitable for the planting of trees and vineyards, but some groves and vineyards are sad looking because not all of the colonists are caring for them adequately. Most of the settlers had the preconception that "Nothing grows any way" but were shamed by the farmers who were diligent and labored hard and were very successful. There was no stone available for bridges, and therefore the settlers hauled rocks from the Moldovian steppe which was 10 W (10.6km) away. There were also no forests. The colonists' neighbors to the north in Skinosa were in a forest which was watered by small streams which flowed into the Kugelnik - the Moldovian name Cura de Stinosa. The Stinosa estuary reaches the colony on the north end.

For the first year and half, the colony was called Skinos and then for some time it was called Catharinensruh. In 1817, by order of the authorities, the name of this colony was changed to the present name of Leipzig in memory of the battle of Leipzig. (By command of President Muller of the Tarutino in the school subject #380). Leipzig is the most northern German colony in Bessarabia and is 75 W (79.5km) from the government city of Kischenew. At the founding of the original colony, there were 128 families, most from Poland and a few from Prussia. They arrived in 3 trains with the transport leaders, Martin Friesz, Friedrich Riesz and the late Peter Steinke.

It rarely happens that a train carried all the people of one colony and this is what happened in Leipzig since more settlers came after the main transport train. When the settlers arrived in this area, there were Moldovian and one Bulgarian sheep and cattle herders, and these herders resented the new name of the colony. In the upper half of the colony where the Stinos River drains, a Moldovian by the name of Isman lived and the valley was named Ismanstal. The middle of the southern part of the valley is Mitteltal.

A wealthy Bulgarian lived 1 1/2 W (2 km) to the south of the valley drained by the Kugelnik and that valley is called Bulgarenthal. In another valley on the eastern border, a colony was called Schaferthal since there were Moldovian sheep herders near the source of the Wali de Ljarka.

The settlers didn't find adequate housing when they arrived and first lived in poor huts that they built from the sod and which had grass roofs until they got wood from the government authorities. In addition to the building supplies, the settlers also got other supplies. Each family got a pair of oxen including a yoke, a cow, a wooden Moldovian wagon, a plow, a harrow, a spade, a hoe, 2 scythes, a hammer and until the first harvest, flour and grits. Also the immigrants received a daily allowance of 5 kopeks per person. Most of the settlers were of slight stature and were poor. The people from Poland used their financial means for the journey. Many came without horses and a wagon and were supported by others. It can be said that they arrived in Russia NAKED. Very few immigrants were wealthy.

Many people died during the first 2 years of the settling of the colony, mainly because they could not adapt to the climate or because of inadequate preparation for the living conditions. In 1823-24 grasshoppers did much damage in this area which resulted in crop failures. From May 28 until the end of September, 1831, 57 people died from cholera. Without regard for the noticeable punishment by God, most of the colonists were defiant and lived sinful and boisterous lives as if there was no God and showed no obedience to authority, however when one, an honest Prussian or German made praise an exception, one still heard only the impact of the sinful lives.

In the governing of the colony, every man thought he was right and in the beginning the mayors of the dorf were too cowardly, the government was too unorganized so that no one would help. One could say, that the authorities did not care enough for the welfare of the colonists, not wise and well meaning, as we now see it. It wasn't unusual to see the mayor conducting a colony meeting with a bottle of brandy in front of him. He did not get much respect in his governing and decision making and when he walked thru the dorf at night, stones were thrown at him.

At this time, there was trouble with the organization of the church and school. In most respects, the religious areas were in more disarray than the civic difficulties. The chief cause was the ethical ruin of the generation growing up. The parish didn't use discretion in the selection of the church school teachers and in 10 years there were no less than 11 school teachers in Leipzig. Upon examining the church books, one can see what kind of people were selected to be the teacher. One could write poorly and others could barely write in the register which is now used for record keeping. The school master who could herd either children or sheep was hired because he asked for the lowest salary and could get along with everyone- he was the best. It isn't a surprise then that under these circumstances licentiousness and demoralization went hand in hand. It is also no surprise that to this day, few colonists can read and even fewer can write. It was evident to anyone who was somewhat aware of the circumstances that the German settlers were on the way to moral ruin. The authorities, who earlier had given warning, should require extra vigilance and if necessary begin to control the colonist to get them to improve themselves. With the help of God, each person now acknowledges that "Next to God, we have to thank the well meaning regime for our well being".

In 1842-43 many German colonists were taken with wandering fever and this included Leipzigers who went to Serbia to try to better themselves. There many found distress and their graves, others wandered around homeless. Those who returned to Russia lived in poverty and misery and desired to again become colonists even though they had forfeited their rights because of their irresponsibleness. Because of the challenge and lure by the authorities, there was an active striving for betterment, the colonists began to improve the housing and field work and many set good examples that could be followed.

In 1843, 15 families from the Worms and Rohrbach colonies settled in Leipzig. Also since 1843, the school has recovered from the disorganization and "dusted itself off" and in the last years has met approved school standards and has won support for the development of these standards. Now the colony is developing for the better, as it tries to become as progressive as other South Russian colonies- there is much to hope for.

Colony Leipzig, April 13, 1848.
Adam Trautmann, church teacher and lay preacher
Writer for the colony Leipzig

Translated by La Rose Ketterling, Mercer North Dakota - 1997
Coordinated with GRHS Village Research Clearing House
Coordinated with GRHS Translation Committee Chairman - Ralph Ruff

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