| Heat Can't Dampen Festivities
Aust, Scott. "Heat Can't Dampen Festivities." Hays Daily News, 23 July 2001.
Volga-German Homecoming: 125th Jubilee Celebration
|Sheldon Werth, 7, enjoys the ring toss during
the games as part of the Volga-German Homecoming 125th Jubilee
Celebration on 7-22-01 in Schoenchen. Sheldon is the son of
Steve and Laurie Werth of Schoenchen. (Photo by Steven Hausler)
A blazing sun and triple-digit heat did little to dampen spirits at
Sunday's Schoenchen festivities, the second stop in a week-long celebration
of the 125th anniversary of the founding of Volga-German communities
in Ellis and Rush counties.
While older folks sought the shade when visiting with neighbors
and maybe had a beer and a bratwurst, the youngsters moved back
and forth between the dunk tank, dart throw and hoop toss, seemingly
oblivious to mercury readings of more than100 degrees.
After a morning Mass celebrating the 100th anniversary of St. Anthony
Catholic Church, most people spent the day under the "big top"
set up on church grounds.
Four polka bands took turn s entertaining the crowd, including
Herman and Lauraine Dinges, the Country Dutchmen featuring the Dorzweilers
from Catherine, Rosie's Polka Band with Ed Pfeifer, and Elmer VonFeldt's
Tony Leiker, 62, who grew up in Liebenthal and Schoenchen and attended
Hays High School, has compiled more than 155,000 names of descendants
of the Volga-Germans.
Now residing in Lubbock, Texas, Leiker said he used about 40 years'
worth of genealogical information provided by Lawrence Weigel and
another 40 years' worth of data provided by Alvin Konlofske, Garden
City, as well as two genealogists in Russia to compile a vast family
tree of Volga-Germans.
Some of the original family names native to Schoenchen include
Werth, Bieker, Zimmerman and Tauscher, Lieker said.
"I've got 56,000 Brungardts alone," Leiker said. "I
didn't intend to do it on all the families, I intended to do it
on the Leikers, and I discovered the Leikers were related to everybody
Originally, Leiker said he started out in genealogy as a help to
his sister, Jane Dreiling, by putting the information on a computer.
But it soon became a hobby.
"It's still a hobby," he said. "I go back to the
original settlers in Russia, from Germany, and list their names
and where they were from."
Though family stories would be interesting to compile, Leiker said
he only has the names and family trees.
That would be overwhelming," he said.
|Wes Turner, left, visits with his brother
Roland, both of Quinter, as they escape the heat under a tent
on 7-22-01 during the Volga-German Homecoming 125th Jubilee
Celebration in Schoenchen. Six towns in Ellis and Rush counties
are celebrating their 125th anniversaries together during a
week of activities. (Photo by Steven Hausler)
Wichita resident Saundra Werth leafed through the Werth family
book with her husband, Marcellus, whose grandparents were natives
The Werths had been in Park for a high school reunion and stopped
in Schoenchen on their way home but said they won't have time to
go to the other communities' celebrations.
I have to go back to worth tomorrow, Saundra Werth said. "It
would be fun. He's retired, so he could do it, but I have to go
Area Volga-Germans are descendants of a group of Germans who settled
in the previously uninhabited steppe regions near Saratov, Russia,
on the Volga River in 1762 in response to an offer made by Catherine
the Great of travel costs, religious freedom, 30 years of tax exemption
and freedom from military duty.
They prospered in that area until 1873 when a law was passed requiring
the induction of their sons into the Russian army. Scouts were sent
o America, and the first groups arrived in Ellis County in 1876.
Leiker said his grandfather, Peter Enslinger, served six years
in the czar's army and was being recalled for more service but escaped
through Poland and came to Kansas.
Schoenchen, founded in 1877, was a spin-off from Liebenthal because
of conflict among the first settlers
Reprinted with permission of The
Hays Daily News.