From Russia to the Dakota Territory
"From Russia to the Dakota Territory 1884." Lodi Chapter Newsletter, September-October 2001: 4.
In January of 1940, Gottlieb and Christina (Huber)
Schatz of Linton, Emmons County, North Dakota, were interviewed
in their home on nine separate occasions by Leonard Jellema, as
part of a project to record the experiences of some of the settlers
in the Dakotas. Later, Mr. Jellema, a field worker for the Historical
Data Project, Liberty Memorial Building, Bismarck, North Dakota,
wrote a biography of each of the individuals he interviewed. The
following is what he wrote about Christina Huber up to the time
of her marriage. Christina was my maternal grandmother. - G. J.
Christina Huber was born at Gueldendorf, Russia on November 3,
1870, to Jacob Huber and his wife Johanna Huber nee Wolfer. Christina's
parents were both born in the same village, Gueldendorf, - her father
on April 14, 1844, and her mother in 1842. Christina was their eldest
child, followed by a son and a daughter, Jacob and Barbara, who
were born during the nine year interim between Christina and her
brother George, born October 10, 1879. These two, Jacob and Barbara,
both died in infancy in Russia. After George, two more daughters
were born to them in Russia, - Margaret in 1881, and Elizabeth in
When Christina was about four years old, the family moved to Wilhelmsthal,
Russia, and lived there nearly ten years. Her father was a farmer
and owned about 20 desiatiny, about 54 acres of land. They
raised wheat, oats, corn, rye, barley and potatoes, just as we do
here, but in a more primitive manner. It was Christina's job to
drive the four horses, two abreast, which pulled the plow, while
her father held the plow. At harvest it was her job to bind the
grain, which was cut with a scythe, into bundles, with straws of
grain. She was often kept out of school to help with the farm work.
She entered school at Wilhelmsthal when nearly six years old, and
attended it until she had reached the age of 13. About 50 children
went to this school, which she says, was a public school, but in
which they also received instruction in Bible history. Reading,
writing and arithmetic were also taught. The children of Lutheran
parents were given instruction in their catechism, to which the
parents of Baptist children were opposed, and from which their children
were excused. Christina's parents were Baptists.
Because of the small farm he had and very little prospect of adding
acreage, Mr. Huber decided to immigrate to America where much land
could be obtained free or at very little cost. On farms near Scotland,
Dakota Territory he had two sisters, one married to Anton Orth and
the other married to Peter Orth, brothers. These had emigrated a
few years before, about 1875, and were already moderately prosperous.
This fact was, of course, an added attraction.
When Christina was 13 years old in 1884, her father sold his land
and all personal property, except clothing and bedding, and with
his family boarded the train to Odessa late in September and arrived
in Hamburg three days later. Three days later they left this port
in the steamship Hamburg [in error the ship was the Moravia]. They
traveled third class and were on board 16 days. Due to a severe
storm at sea, Christina cried and said she wanted to go back home.
The ocean waters washed the decks. She was happy all the time, otherwise,
and was not at all seasick, though her father and mother both were
attacked. Because of her mother's illness, the care of the younger
children devolved upon Christina and she especially remembers she
had to wash Elizabeth's diapers. As to the food, she says she and
the whole family much enjoyed the potatoes and herring, the rye
bread and oatmeal that was served.
With them from Russia came:
Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Renz (Mrs. Renz was Mr. Huber's sister)
Mr. and Mrs. Carl Renz
Mr. and Mrs. John Krieg, their two children; and Mrs. Krieg's sister
Katharina Wagner, who later married Alex Walther
Mr. and Mrs. Philip Fischer, their three children and Mrs. Fischer's
They remained in New York only about half a day and took the train
to Scotland, Dakota Territory. They arrived three days later, about
the middle of October 1884. There they remained the following winter
with the Orth families, their relatives.
Mr. Huber had just $121.00 left when he arrived in Scotland. This
amount, with the clothing and bedding he had brought from Russia,
was all he possessed. From Anton Orth he purchased a yoke of oxen
on time. He paid for these about two years later. From another friend,
Mr. Billigmeier who also lived in Scotland, he purchased a wagon.
Anton and Peter Orth and other friends donated some furniture, including
a table, a few chairs, a bed and a kitchen range. Anton Orth had
also donated a two-year-old heifer with sale of the oxen.
On the 1st of May 1885, Mr. Huber hitched his oxen to the wagon,
loaded his family into it and, leading the cow, set out from Scotland
across the prairies to locate a homestead. They went by way of Ipswich
where Mr. Huber purchased some lumber for windows and door frames,
another bed and a couple of benches. From Ipswich they proceeded
in a northerly direction about 90 miles, until on the fourteenth
day of their journey they arrived at the location they had selected.
They had to go this distance from Ipswich because all the land between
there and Ipswich had been taken. True, there were a few isolated
claims and sections which had not been taken, but the party which
had set out from Russia wished to take up land close together, in
order to form a German Baptist colony with a congregation and church
of their own.
Mr. Huber's homestead was located about one mile west of where
Artas, South Dakota, now stands. The town, however, did not appear
for several years more. John Krieg's homestead was located about
one half mile southeast of Huber's, Philip Fischer's about one mile
west and the Renz's about 3 miles west.
Mr. Huber, his wife and Christina immediately set about the building
of a sod house. Mr. Huber and Mr. Krieg had bought breaker plow
in company and with this plow, Mr. Huber's two oxen and Mr. Krieg's
two horses, they turned the sod for the house. Christina and her
mother then hauled the sod to the building site while Mr. Huber
laid the sod. As the walls rose, Christina though now only 14 years
old, also lifted the heavy sod up to him. Then she in the company
with some neighbors took their wagon and ox team to the Missouri
River, a two-day-journey each way, to haul a load of timbers for
the roof rafters. Across these timbers smaller logs and branches
were laid. These were covered with straw and over all sods were
laid. The house was 14 ft. x 24 ft. and had two rooms. One of these
was the kitchen, about 8 ft. x 14 ft., and the other, used as a
sitting room and bedroom was about 14 ft. x 16 ft. One door led
outside from the kitchen and one door from the kitchen to the other
room. The kitchen had one window and the other room had three. All
windows were about 2 ft. square. The ceilings were plastered with
clay mixed with hay and straw and whitewashed. Into this house they
brought such furniture as they had taken with them from Scotland,
and the bed and benches Mr. Huber built of the lumber bought in
Mr. Huber also built in the house one of the Russian style stoves
for heating the sitting room. It was so constructed that the hay
and straw used for fuel was pushed with a stick, was on the kitchen
side of the partition, while the stove proper was in the sitting
room. This eliminated the dust and straw from the `best' room. The
chimney also was built in the partition and was visible only from
the kitchen. For cooking purposes they had a kitchen range obtained
from one of their relatives in Scotland.
During the first summer, before they had raised a crop, their only
fuel was hay cut with a grass mower which Mr. Huber had bought from
Charlie Paffer in Ipswich. Mr. Paffer had a general store and implement
shop in Ipswich and also purchased buffalo bones. During their first
years in Dakota they traded with him almost exclusively.
A creek ran near their home site and from this obtained their first
water. During the summer, Christina and her father dug a well about
18 ft. deep near the creek. Most of the hard labor of this well
and other work fell upon Christina, because her father was not well,
and she was much older than her brothers and sisters. Water was
drawn up from this well with a pail and rope.
Having come to their homestead location rather late in the season,
they had not much time left after building their home to prepare
the land for a crop. Christina and her father together with their
neighbor, John Krieg, broke about twelve acres. Huber sowed his
six acres to flax and a little corn. They harvested a little flax
with the mower and threshed it, but their corn was destroyed by
an early frost.
The following winter was a hard one for the Huber Family. They
had planted a small patch of potatoes but harvested only 1/2 bushel,
all the potatoes they had that winter. Mr. Huber had also helped
another man transport a number of pigs whereby he had received a
couple of little pigs, weighing about ten pounds each, as payment.
This was their meat supply. Trading facilities were poor and they
did not have enough money to lay in a large supply of foodstuffs
at any one time. However, they always had sufficient to eat.
During the early years they scoured the plains for buffalo bones
which they hauled to Ipswich 90 miles away to exchange for groceries.
While Mr. Huber drove the ox team and wagon, Christina walked beside
the wagon or some distance away with a sack into which she put the
bones. Whenever she located quite a large pile, she hailed her father
who then drove up to the pile. When they had a full load they took
it to Ipswich. This work was done in spare time or when there wasn't
much farm work to attend to.
During the summer of 1887, when Christina was 16 years old, she
made a trip to Ipswich in company with some neighbors to exchange
buffalo bones for groceries. Mr. Huber was not well at the time
and the family was in need of groceries. So Christina had to go.
Thirty miles a day was a good day's travel for oxen. They left early
on Monday morning and returned Saturday night. At night she slept
on the ground. In Ipswich she traded her buffalo bones at Charlie
Paffer's at whose home she slept that night. She occupied a bed
with the Paffer's hired girl. She says they were very kind to her.
They bought no clothing the first year in Dakota. They had sufficient
clothing along from Russia and mended these when necessary from
cloth obtained from other old clothes. In later years Mrs. Huber
had a spinning jenny and spun her own yarn from wool of their sheep.
From this yarn she made knit stockings and mittens. That was her
job. It was Christina's job to do all the sewing, all by hand of
course. Practically all the clothing worn by the entire family,
including the men's shirts and trousers and underwear, was made
in the home and mostly by Christina. She says her mother could not
sew very well; she took too large stitches. However, Mrs. Huber
hated idleness and brought up her daughters accordingly. After supper
they washed themselves, combed their hair, put on clean dresses
and sat down to knit, sew or to do some fancy work such as embroidering
or crocheting. Mrs. Schatz says she brought up her own daughters
in the same way and "not like the girls of today."
In 1886 a baby boy was born to Mr. and Mrs. Huber. This was the
last of their children. He died the following year and was buried
on a corner of the Huber homestead. This became the first burial
ground of the neighborhood. Christina remembers that she carried
the box containing the dead baby on her head to the grave, the young
men who had dug the grave walking beside her. Near Hubers' place
lived a family who, Christina says, "had a baby every year,
and every year one died." These babies were buried on the same
corner of Hubers' land. Later a church was erected on Mike Fischer's
land and a plot of land set aside near it for a cemetery.
Christina married Gottlieb Schatz January l, 1891, and both now
live in Linton, North Dakota. Mr. and Mrs. Huber spent the declining
years of their lives with Mr. and Mrs. Schatz while they were living
in Temvik, North Dakota. Mr. Huber died there in 1912 and Mrs. Huber
Reprinted with permission of Lodi chapter newsletter.