Heart-wrenched families were tom apart, leaving one branch to stay in Russia. while transplanting the other to America, (United States, Canada, Brazil or Argentina). This “was in no ‘way as heartbreaking as would be the induction of a loved one into the Russian Army, with no leave to see family for the duration of the six year service, during which there was no opportunity to practice ones religion. “Intense feelings of joy, sorrow, excitement, and restlessness were everywhere evident prior to the departure. Possessions had to be sold, even linen and dishes, as light travel was essential to this long, arduous journey up the Volga river to Saratov, and by railroad to Bremen, Germany, often via England to America. Only bare essentials, and things of extreme personal value were taken from Russia. Most was divided among those who stayed. An extra fee was charged for anything over a hundred pounds. Because, in the Mir system all land was community land, it could not be sold. However, all taxes and obligations on this land had to be paid by the emigrant. Therefore, it was hard to raise money for the trip.
Obtaining a passport was a long and costly procedure. One had to go to the Vorsteher to receive the order allowing them to go. Dark clothes were worn by all, which solved the problem of changing, washing and carrying too many clothes. By the time they sold their property, paid taxes and bought passports, they had little left to spend or to save for a new start in the United States. Dinners and parties were given by relatives and friends who would stay behind. These were austere moments with many tears shed. Sleepless nights were spent concerned with the weather and other hazards of the long trip to come. On the day of departure, groups assembled for last embraces, kisses and handshakes, as they slowly proceeded with their wagons down the narrow bumpy roads to their destinations on the Volga river. Here they would load their possessions and bid their drivers, and the life they knew in Russia, good-bye. The engines began throbbing as they made their departure for Saratov, where they were herded aboard train coaches, with each family bearing a chamber pot, tin basin and a can of water to be refilled each stop. Lunches consisted of pumpernickel bread, cheese, cold meat, salt and raw onions, carried in baskets or clothes bags by a member of the family. Babies were breast fed. Their receptions throughout Russia and Germany were cool at best. They were no longer a part of either culture.
By train they would traverse Russia into Bismark’s Germany. This part of the journey was much more scenic than the desolate steppes of Russia. They would generally rest at the port of Bremen, prior to their crossing. Here they embarked, to mournful whistles of the steamships for the next leg of the trip, often docking in England to load cargo, and then for ports in the United States. The trip from Hamburg to New York was 3,536 miles. Seasickness and poor ventilation were the norm. Due to dramatic developments of the steamship in the later 19th century , crossings made by the immigrants were a far cry from the hardships of travel on the sailing ships of the 18th century. The time of travel was drastically shortened as competition arose to produce faster and greater ships with the object of crossing the Atlantic in the shortest possible time with the least discomfort. Life boats, rafts and other safety features were added. However steerage passengers where “the poor huddled masses yearning to be free” were given a minimum of space on the lower decks either fenced in with cattle like corrals, or by simply painted or chalk marked lines delineating the amount of space which they could occupy with no privacy or sleeping accommodations. There were scant sanitation facilities. Crossing the North Atlantic was very dangerous due to the frequent fogs. The most favorable time to cross was during the summer and early fall.
At the port of departure, they would be vaccinated and issued an inspection card that had to be submitted at port of arrival to avoid detention at Quarantine and on the railroads in the U.S. Once in the U.S., at some distance from shore, doctors would board the ship and give immunizations. Inevitably, some would be turned back. From these ports they would be solicited by agents from various land and railroad concerns for passage to Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and other destinations where they could then buy land, or find other sources of employment. Few returned to Russia. Many, once acquiring surplus in the United States, would send money to the Volga to bring relatives or friends through the same journey to this burgeoning land of opportunity. Otherwise, family contacts were generally lost after a generation. “The Original 30 year tax exempt period was extended to 1809. Surplus land and freedom from war promoted earlier marriages and larger families, which eventually led to land shortages. By 1767 land was reduced from the original 65 acres per landowner to a mere 35 acres. By 1875, this amount had dwindled to three and one-half acres a person. This, as well as the reinstatement of the draft, encouraged colonists to seek a new life, elsewhere.
Migration began from the Volga, when 261 Volga Germans, mostly Catholics from the Wiese (eastern shore of the Volga, plain side), sailed to Baltimore where they were enticed by a representative of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad, to Topeka. They were not satisfied with the high price of land ($5.00 per acre) and the lack of homesteads. They were then induced by an agent of the Kansas Pacific to Ellis county where land was $2.00 to $2.50 per acre. The migration of Protestants from the Bergse west shore of Volga, hill side) began when a small party (7 families and 2 single men) from Norka left New York, and then to Ohio, where they worked as ditch diggers for two years before removing to Sutton, Nebraska. All of these immigrants wrote encouraging letters back home, which augmented the good word spoken by delegates and agents for shipping companies and railroads. Sutton, Nebraska became a center for migration, even publishing a newspaper, in German, for the purpose of distribution to the Volga Colonies to encourage colonists to come to America. Sutton served as a base camp for Evangelical Volga Germans, who stayed on here until they recovered from their trip, and then moved on, if poor, to the cities, or later, the Colorado beet fields, for work, or if they could, venture further west for land. All found their stop in Sutton, unforgettable, and though short-stayed, considered this their home town in the world.
By the 1870’s, eastern Nebraska, like other prairie states was being penetrated by railroad. These feeder railroads were following the advance of the agricultural frontier, but in some cases, the roads advanced more rapidly than settlement. Financed chiefly by land grants from the government, it was essential that these roads find farmers to purchase their land. Farmers would also provide freight as supplies were shipped in and crops and livestock were shipped to market. Because of these financial conditions, the railroads became active colonizers, seeking purchasers for their land not only in the east but also among the dissatisfied peasants of Europe. They advertised heavily in foreign newspapers, working hand-in-hand with the steamship companies, did much to encourage settlement.
These railroads established towns every 8-10 miles, serving as depots and shipping centers. Among these railroads was the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company of Nebraska (B. & M. N.) Chartered in 1869. (Merged with Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (C.B. & Q.) in 1880, by which it connected to Union Pacific at Keamey, Nebraska.) By 1871 this railroad came into contact with the new town of Sutton, Nebraska. Early colonists from German-Russian settlements were arriving in the fall of 1873, 1874, from the Black Sea region and in 1875, the first group of Volga Germans arrived in Sutton from Balzar. A second group arrived in 1876 from Norka and Merkel. This is the migration which included J. George Kautz and family, which came from Merkel on the S.S. Frisia in August. Many of that ship’s passengers (i.e. Dietz, Deines, Bender) went, first to Lawrence, Kansas, then to Nebraska to explore prospects, finally settling in Russell county Kansas.
Sutton became a distribution center for immigrants from the Volga. Lincoln, Nebraska became a center in the 1880’s. Both had emigrant houses built to house new colonists. From Sutton, colonists moved to western Nebraska and Colorado, where they worked in the sugar beet industry. Many worked for the B. & M. N. railroad as section hands. The purchase of railroad land was expensive around $5 to $12 per acre. In Russia, the Land and Freedom populist secret society organized in 1876. That same year, as a result of the mission of an agent for the Burlington and Missouri railroad, who visited the Volga and met in private homes, undercover, discussing emigration (and later had to escape arrest by hiding in a hay wagon), eighty-five Volga German families, mostly from Norka migrate, via port of Bremen, Germany, arriving in New York on July 7, 1876 Here they were set upon by all kinds of land and railroad agents who sent them to various places like Milwaukee, Wisconsin (these later moved to Sutton, Nebraska), Red Oak, Iowa, Harvard, Nebraska, with the center of German migration becoming, Lincoln, Nebraska, due to the diversity of opportunities there.
Obtaining a passport was a costly procedure. By order of the government. one had to go to the town court, or “Vorsteher”, and the people had to be asked to let the emigrant leave. One had to clear all back taxes and other financial obligations, but could not sell the land as it belonged to the government. He then would receive the papers of release from the town secretary to take to the county office, and then to the district office, and then to the office of the Governor at Saratov, where he would get his passport, written in Russian, German and French. passport difficulties were common at the border. “Some Russian officials deliberately omitted names from passport lists in order to discourage emigration.” If questioned they would sometimes re-issue a new passport with another family name missing. Alexander Dupper in his article The Russian Imperia/ Passport For Traveling Abroad, published in the AHSGR CLUES magazine, 1979, part 1, states “In the villages and smaller towns one applied for a passport to travel abroad at the volost (canton, county). The canton forwarded the application to the uyezd(district), and the district forwarded it to the gubemeya (provincial government). In provincial capitals one could apply for a passport directly at the governor’s office. Once the decision was made to emigrate to America, the Germans in Russia always awaited the arrival of the passport eagerly. But the bureaucratic machinery moved very slowly in Russia, and many of the applicants found it necessary to grease the path of the passport from the provincial capital to the village. The Russian saying was: “Nye pomazshesh. nye poyedesh” (if you don’t grease, you don’t travel), and many rubles, [sic] especially the small 5 ruble [sic] and 10 ruble [sic] coins, disappeared into the greedy hands of the underpaid government officials. To bribe the Russian bureaucrats was a widely accepted practice before World War I. Knowing that one could get a passport directly from the Governor’s office almost in one day, some of the people took advantage of this.” Dupper further describes contents of the passports page by page. He states that most of the Germans from Russia were referred to as settlers, colonists ormeshchanin (commoners), but rarely as peasants.
There are accounts in various sources, of families hiding children under the women’s skirts, or bundling 2 babies to look as one to get everyone through customs. At the point of departure, they would be vaccinated and issued an inspection card that had to be submitted at port of arrival to avoid detention at Quarantine and on the railroads in the U.S. According to the obituary of Adam Kautz. it was on June 25 that Johann George Kautz and wife Katherina were the first family to leave Merkel, Russia, traveling with a group from neighboring Kratzke, for Germany by train, then sailing on the S.S.. Frisia from Bremen, Germany, on August 8, and arriving with family, August 22, at Castle Garden, New York, just a few weeks after the fire that had broken out on Sunday afternoon, July 9, leaving only the walls of the old, round fort, and a few buildings on the uptown side, including the Medical Quarters, Labor Bureau and Intelligence Offices. Reconstruction did not begin until September 11, thus the Kautz family witnessed the height of its ruin, with all debris still in place while the city of New York disputed whether to rebuild Castle Garden, or move immigration to Ward’s Island. They were not so unfortunate as the Russian Mennonites who arrived a month earlier and lost over a thousand pieces of luggage in the fire!
Typical emigrants from the Volga, Merkel born George Kautz, 51, Catherine, 48, George, 15, [John George], Catherine, 9, [Elizabeth Katherine], Heinrich, 21, Margaretha, 8 [actually age 14], [Adam 7], arrived in New York in 1876 at Castle Garden, as Ellis Island was not yet in use as a receiving station. Castle Garden had been Fort Clinton, built between 1807 and 1811, though it saw no real action in the War of 1812. The Fort was closed in 1822.
This white elephant was rented to the highest bidder, and renamed Castle Gardens when its central parade ground was decorated with trees and shrubs. It became a fashionable center for band concerts, fireworks, balloon ascensions and other entertainment. President Andrew Jackson and Lafayette spoke there. Eventually, two speculators roofed the fort, resembling a two-tiered wedding cake, capable of seating 6,000, with another 4,000 standing room. Phineas Taylor Barnum masterminded its debut. with Jenny Lind as the opening act in September of 1850.
Successful. though this was, this was a tough act to follow, and by the time the lease expired in the newly formed Commissioners of Emigration had their eye on it as a large facility to handle centralized immigration processing. Extensive repairs and remodeling were finished by August, 1855. Commission set rules regarding proportion of passengers to tonnage, the space allowed each passenger board, discipline, cleanliness, ventilation, food and cooking provisions, which to date had been deplorable Every ship was now required to supply a complete manifest of its passengers to a local customs collector “Immigrants who landed at Castle Gardens received a warm welcome compared to their predecessors Officials were able to efficiently “register immigrants quickly and help them to exchange money railroad tickets, transport baggage and find a job or a place to stay. Immigrants were now given protection, at least, from waiting swindlers and thieves, “predators being limited, ” in the words of one of the commissioner, “to fellow passengers.” Compared to the former free-for-all on the docks, the commissioners claimed, newcomers were now “enabled to depart for their future homes without having their means impaired, their morals corrupted and probably their persons diseased.” Soon this reputation became so well known throughout the world that after twenty years of operation, the New-York Times, Feb. 27, 1874, reported that “Castle Garden so well-known in Europe that few emigrants could be induced to sail for any other destination”.
Gardens interior was crowded, with the rotunda area divided into separate areas for English speaking immigrants and others. Two to four thousand immigrants could be processed in a day. To save room in 1867, the Labor Exchange building was built next door, so potential employers were not soliciting main building. Ships anchored near Castle Garden were inspected by customs officers. At this time, luggage was inspected, on board, also. Then one of two 150 ton barges ferried immigrants to the dock. After passing medical inspections, a clerk, in the main rotunda, registered each immigrant by nationality , former residence and intended destination. Some of these immigrants arrived desiring only to see the railroad agents! Agents of railroad companies were allowed to sell tickets at their own rates without commission restrictions. Although there were complaints of political patronage and ticket commissions as high as 15%, immigrants were usually able to by tickets to their destination without being cheated. Immigrants poured out the main (central) door while their baggage was hauled away in horse-drawn carriages. Often they were met by hired “runners” for the railroads to see them to their respective areas of the country. They could then board special “emigrant trains”.
These trains were slow, and “switched off’ at desolate junction points while more valuable freight could pass, without delay. Emigrant delays were caused by snowstorms, swarming locust (whose bodies made the rails dangerously slippery and stampeding buffalo that could overturn a train. For this reason, some “early locomotives in the west had water spouting devices to chase those stubborn buffalo off the tracks.”
This same year saw the arrival of several groups of Germans from Russia to Sutton, Hasting and Campbell, Nebraska. The earliest Russian immigrants to America just missed the Panic of 1873, grasshopper plague of 1874 and the depression of 1875. However, this was not a good time for the working man. A letter by an immigrant from Dietel, Russia who arrived in May of 1876, stated, “During the first year in America we would have been happy to walk back to Russia if it had not been for the ocian [sic]. That was the time “When a Feller needs a Friend.” I myself often thought that I would have preferred five years in the Russian army. From 1876 to 1880 laboring people had a hard time in the United States. A man who needed a pair of boots would have to pay $7.00 to $15.00 for a pair, but a carpenter received only $1.25 for ten hours work. This was in the year 1876.” This letter also revealed some of the expenses of the journey. “On June 1st we paid twenty-five rubles for our railroad ticket from Saratow to Eydkuhnen. At Eydkuhen we bought further tickets from an agent….one hundred rubles each [to Bremen]. When we arrived in New York we were met by many immigration agents, some of whom were crying, “Wisconsin has the best farming land.” But others said “Kansas” and some “Nebraska” and some “Iowa”. This immigrant paid $21.00 each for railroad tickets from New York to Red Oak, Iowa.
* Adam Giesinger quotes Sal1et that large numbers of Germans from Russia arrived in Nebraska: to Culbertson in 1879, Linwood in 1888, McCook and Valentine in 1892. The largest concentration in America was Lincoln, Nebraska. -From KatherIne to Khrushchev, pp. 354-355
Custer’s Last Stand at Little Big Horn occurred this same year, America’s Centennial, 1876. The typewriter introduced at the Centennial Exposition (May 10 to Nov. 10) in Philadelphia. Alexander Graham Bell perfected the telephone, while Thomas Edison invented the mimeograph. Colorado became a state and Rutherford B. Hayes was nominated President.
In the following year, 1877, the phonograph was invented by Edison. This was a pivotal year for the German colonists, with the advent of the Russo-Turkish War(1877-8), the Russian government began the draft of Russian citizens including the Germans in Russian who no longer had the protections of the Manifesto!
Edison invented the incandescent light bulb in 1879, at the same time Culbertson, Nebraska attracted colonists from Frank, Huck and Norka, Russia. The years 1880-1890 were good times for immigrants in the United States. On May 4, 1881, James A. Garfield was inaugurated President. On, July 2, Garfield was assassinated at Pennsylvania Railway Station in Washington, D.C. And, in the same year, Jesse James was shot in St. Joseph, Missouri. Colonists from Kolb, Russia, left Culbertson, Nebraska for Ritzville, Washington, as a result of crop failures, to become the first group of Evangelical Germans to the West Coast.