In Touch with Prairie Living
By Michael M. Miller
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota State University Library, Fargo
As I write the April column, Prairie Public Radio
broadcasts “Growing Up German-Russian: A Radio
Series, Part II.” The audio clips are from GRHC’s
Dakota Memories Oral History Project and are aired
four times a day at 7:33 am, 6:30 pm and during the
final segment of the “Here It Now” shows
at 4 pm and 7 pm, March 24 to May 12.
The dates for the series are March 24, 28; April
1, 10, 16, 18, 21, 25, 28; and May 2, 6, 9, 12.
Please tune into Prairie Public Radio at 90.5 FM-Bismarck,
89.9 FM-Dickinson, 91.9 FM-Fargo, 89.3 FM-Grand Forks,
91.5 FM-Jamestown, 88.9 FM-Minot and 89.5 FM-Williston.
The Growing Up German-Russian radio series focuses
on the childhood memories of second- and third- generation
Germans from Russia. It consists of short clips about
memories of traumatic events, rural traditions, family
life and food ways.
The Prairies magazine, published from 1975 to 1986
by the Ashley Tribune, printed two articles titled
“Passage to Dakota” which featured an
interview with Andrew and Christina Neu who had celebrated
their 75th wedding anniversary in 1982. They were
married on October 1, 1907 at Delmont, SD.
This April column features some of the memorable excerpts
from this article. The following has been printed
with permission from the Ashley Tribune.
Andrew Neu states: “In spring [in Russia], around
the first of March, we took our shoes off and threw
them away. We had good weather. Not like over here.
We had no cyclones. Not like over here. It was nice
living over there. The houses were about two to three
feet thick. We’d build first with straw, and
in the morning the rooms would still be warm.
“Bread was baked in stoves which were round
and outside. We used a long stick and shover on the
end. We’d put a big loaf of bread on, about
three-fourths of a pound, and put it on sticks. We
bake bread that way. It was good bread. Sometimes
the stoves didn’t hold together very good. They
were may made of brick. One time someone said, ‘Jacob,
Jacob, hurry get money! the stove fell down.’
“One day we came to Rochham, South Dakota. We
moved from Menno, South Daota. We had a nice living
there. In 1932, when I started farming near Rockham,
I got 19 cents for a bushel of wheat, 11 cents a bushel
of barley, five cents a bushel of oats. I ran the
threshing machine for my neighbors, and for use of
my machinery and labor, I got $5 an hour. Anyone who
sold grain had to pay the threshing bill first. Some
paid. Some didn’t. I could still collect from
some over there.
“In 1943, we got $100 for an acre of wheat,
$25 for corn, $66 for oats and some alfalfa. We couldn’t
grow much. We didn’t have enough to feed one
“My father and mother owned a farm, which my
dad sold sometime in the late 1920s, and put all the
money from the sale in the bank. In 1930, when the
bank closed up, Dad got not a dollar out. He had nothing
for living, so they went to my younger sister and
lived there a year or so.
“In the winter of 1940, there was a farm sale,
161 acres. I went to Fergus Falls [Minnesota] to get
some money, but couldn’t borrow on land. But
my son-in-law in North Dakota had some money, and
he sent me $1,700. We bought the farm for $2,500,
in 1941. We had good luck there.
“Out in Russia, we had good-sized towns. The
farmers all live together in towns. If I was younger,
I’d go back. I still got my picture from my
church where I was baptized in Russia. We had a great,
nice church. Most people were Lutherans, but there
was one Baptist church and one Catholic church.””
For further information about the Germans from Russia
Heritage Collection, Dakota Memories Oral History
Project, the 2009 Journey to the Homeland Tour and
donations to the GRHC (such as family histories),
contact Michael M. Miller, NDSU Library, PO Box 5599,
Fargo, ND 58105-5599 (Telephone: 701-231-8416; Email:
Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu; GRHC website: www.ndsu.edu/grhc).
April 2008 column for North Dakota and South