Leipzig - 1848 Village History
Copyright June 1997, La Rose Ketterling
Notes: Please see the Introduction to the Village History Project for
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,
his Majesty Kaiser Alexander shut down that port, it was annexed by
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
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
The colony is located on the left side of the wide basin shaped valley
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
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
high hills and the Bulgarenberg is the highest peak. The soil of the
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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