History Culture Photographs
The Kempf Family: Germans from Russia Weavers
on the Dakota Prairies
Kempf Family History
Kempf Family, the “Kanapee” Shawl, and Bibliography
Shawls as a Kalideoscope of Colors
Die Familie Kämpf: rußlanddeutsche Weber auf den
Prärien der Dakotas.
A glimpse of a distinctive
folk survival/retention of a textile arts heritage through four
family generations of German-Russian Evangelical-Lutheran families.
Their cultural heritage of textile treasures, through Bessarabian
and Ukrainian culture of the 19th century and Anglo-American Culture
of the 20th century, is preserved for future generations.
Kempf, Norman R. The Kempf Family History: Johann Georg and
Gottliebina Kempf. Np, np, 1989. Germans
from Russia CS71.K32 1989
Mitchell, Johanna. The Stolz Family History, 1850- 1974,
np, np, 1974. Germans
from Russia CS71.S8755 1974
Swiontek, Loretta Gebhardt. The Kempf Family History.
Np, np, 1994. Germans
from Russia CS71.K32 1994
Gottliebina (Stolz) Kempf and Johannes-Georg Kempf with their
five children immigrated in 1901 to Jewell, ND, near Ashley
and Forbes, originating from the “Budshak Steppe”
of Bessarabia (now in Moldova and Ukraine).
Bringing their Swabian German heritage and Lutheran traditions
from the Black Forests (Schwartzenwald) of Württemberg,
this 1910 family photograph identifies Gottlieb, mother Gottliebina,
infant Fredricka, Ottilia, Reinhold, Rudolph, and father Johannes-Georg
with Matthias, Maria, and Jacob Kempf.
Photo is courtesy of Loretta Gebhardt Swiontek, great
granddaughter and historian for the Kempf Family.
Circa 1918 parlor portrait of Johann-“Georg” Kempf
and his wife, Gottliebina Stolz Kempf, who homesteaded in 1902
at Jewell, North Dakota.
Photo is courtesy of Jay Gage,
great-grandson of Johann-Georg and Gottliebina Kempf.
Circa 1922, their photographic portrait with pride of their
two-storied wood-frame house near Forbes, North Dakota.
Photo is courtesy of Jay Gage, great-grandson of Johann
“Georg” and Gottliebina Kempf.
In April 1901, the Johann-“Georg” Kempf family sailed
first class from Bremenhaven, Germany, to Castle Garden, New
York City, on S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse, 1897 Northern
Photo is courtesy of Steamship Historical
Society Collection, University of Baltimore Library; published
in “Ships of Our Ancestors,” by Michael J. Anuta,
Genealogical Publishing; Baltimore, Maryland, 1953, page 142.
Textile treasures were a Kempf family tradition. Well-dressed
daughters of John Friedrich Nill and Ottilie Kempf Nill (formerly
of Beresina, Bessarabia), circa 1912, at Jewell and Coldwater
(east of Ashley, North Dakota), McIntosh County. The Nill sisters
(left to right): Emma, Christina, Martha, and Katherina Nill.
[Their younger sister, Lydia, lived to be one hundred years.]
Photo image was donated in February 1998 to GRHC, courtesy
of Hulda Wacker Reinhardt, Long Lake, South Dakota/Sacramento,
A circa 1904 photograph of Maria Kempf, born in 1888 in Beresina,
is the oldest daughter of “Gottlieba.” Maria Kempf
Gebhardt, Monango, North Dakota, is the “family-keeper”
from 1925 to 1960 to be commended for successfully preserving
both family history and survival of these Bessarabian textile
Photo is courtesy of Loretta Gebhardt-Swiontek,
family historian and granddaughter of Maria Kempf Gebhardt.
This “Groomstub foto”/ “Brautpaar” wedding
portrait of groom Jacob Pahl, Merricourt-Monango, North Dakota
(born 1894 in Leipzig, Bessarabia to parents August and Dorthea
Maier Pahl, who immigrated in 1898 to Merricourt, Dickey County)
and bride Ottilia (Odelia) Kempf, Forbes, North Dakota (born
1896 in Beresina, Bessarabia to parents Johann-“Georg”
and “Gottlieba” Stolz Kempf, who immigrated in 1901
to Kulm, La Moure County) celebrated their wedding nuptials
on December 11, 1913 at Sanckt Johannes Evangelisch Lutherische
Kirke, Jewell, McIntosh County, North Dakota.
The new church meeting hall of Jewell was situated immediately
forty-feet west from the bride’s parental house, built
of “batsen”/adobe block walls. The unknown photographer
of this wedding portrait was probably second cousin Fred W.
“Abby” Kempf of Kulm, North Dakota, who immigrated
in 1885 from Beresina, Bessarabia.
Their lavish wedding party had five bridesmaids and five
groomsmen. The young bride, Ottilia, was escorted from her
family parlor to the nearby church meeting hall by the groom’s
uncle Ferdinand Pahl, who was famous for his deep resonant
Twelve-year old bridesmaid, Magdalena Schrum, baked and frosted
an impressive four-layered “Lady Baltimore” cake,
flavored with four oranges and grated orange citrus zest:
indeed, a rare commodity.
Ethnic German weddings and similar community events were
celebrated during early winter after harvest’s ingathering,
to respect heavy labor demands during fair summer weather.
This “arranged” marriage for first-born son,
Jacob (Jake) Pahl and Ottilia (Odelia) Kempf was one of eight
marriage ceremonies, before celebrating with a frugally- planned
joint reception and wedding dance in the same meeting hall.
“Arranged” marriages were traditionally expected,
especially to secure the eldest son’s family inheritance.
The Anglo-American notion of 19th century Victorian Romance
had limited impact as a courtship concept. Jacob and Ottilia
were not personally acquainted until a brief five minutes
during “d’ Brautschau” (showing off the
prospective bride) at six months prior to their wedding ceremony.
Two hired “match-makers” (Kueppelsmann) judicated
negotiations between parents for dowry agreement. The “d’
Brautschau” was the only opportunity for a prospective
bride to voice her scruples and choose to reject her groom
When groom’s mother, Dorthea Maier Pahl, realized that
her eldest son was yet unmarried at nineteen years old, she
quickly became a self-appointed matchmaker before formalities
of choosing “Kueppelsmann.”
Bessarabian-German textile traditions for wedding apparel
had 19th century distinctives: 1) a Battenberg bobbin lace
“Brustsmuck” (breast-bib); 2) a filament tape-lace
often-decorated frontal panels for a Victorian apron design;
3) a “Liebsband” or waist sash of white grosgrain
silk ribbon, with full bow worn on left, and flowing streamers
cascading from waist bow to hem-line of full-length skirt.
This same white silk ribbon was tied into a full bow on her
up-swept hair-“pug” knot or full braided “pique-tail.”
The white “Liebsband” was valued as the most
important symbol for bridal attire of full “honor”
in purity. The bride’s hair was adorned with a “Kranz”/crown
wreath and “Feil”/veil. This bridal headdress/
“Kranz” (Grenz) was a traditional wreath-crescent
of cascading white floral blossoms of silk or white wax, which
framed the young bride’s face.
Ottilia’s pastel blue silk dress has chevron arm pleats,
very popular during 1890’s in Beresina village. Filament
lace of mocha-brown decorated her Victorian apron panel, which
super-imposed on a full-length skirt. Preferred bridal garment
colors in the 19th century were blue, green, and bronze. Later
colors of fashion were black during the Victorian 1890’s,
while white bridal colors were introduced 1905 through 1920.
As traditional Bessarabian groom, Jacob wears a tailored
dark blue woolen men’s suit. The groom sports (usually
on his right chest) an elaborate “boutonnière”/
floral corsage of white silk floral blossoms, tied in a full
bow of wide white grosgrain silk ribbon (matching the bridal
liebsband) with two long-flowing streamers to his knees. These
long streamers were uniquely traditional among most Bessarabian-German
grooms, as a festive ploy to encourage more “pin money”
during reception meal and wedding dance.
Photo is courtesy of Jay Gage, grandson of Jacob and Ottilia
In Bessarabian-German households, the “Heiligen Ehrestand,”
marriage certificate of color lithography, was traditionally
displayed over the headboard of wedded couple’s bedstead,
often with a wedding portrait photograph.
Photo is courtesy
of Jay Gage, grandson of Jacob and Ottilia Pahl
Distinctively handsome with his handle-bar moustache, “schumacherei”
August Pahl (born 1863 in village of Leipzig, Bessarabia) and
his wife Dorthea Maier (born 1865 to her parents, Christian
Maier/Mayer, a skilled shoe-maker in Beresina, Bessarabia) homesteaded
in 1998 near Spring Valley Township (near Merricourt), Dickey
County, “at foot of the hills” (Missouri Coteau)
between Forbes and Merricourt, North Dakota.
August Pahl (whose West-Prussian grandparents, Gotthilf Pahl
and Christina Laechelt, immigrated in 1928-1831 to Leipzig,
Bessarabia from an ethnic German mother-colony of Annetta-Josephina,
Volhynia) continued his traditionally Volhynian “Schumacherei”
skills and successful shoe-cobbler/repair into his senior
years at Forbes, until 1942.
Photo is courtesy of Jay Gage, a great-grandson of August
Standing before their house entrance, south of Merricourt, and
speaking their Katschuerbisch Plattdeutsch dialect, Gottfried
Pahl and his wife Maria Kraft (Fey) Pahl, are the parents of
They originally emigrated during three Polish Partitions
of 1820-1823 from Marien-Werder village of Langenwerder, West
Prussia, to briefly east of Thorn at villages of Pildastie
and Lantschin. They immigrated in 1823 to mother-colony village
of Josephina across highway road from Annetta, west of Zwiahl/Novo-Volhynsk
city. The conifer forested peat-marshes caused much tuberculosis
and potato rot. In 1832, they again emigrated with Laechelt
cousins as part of Second Influx to Leipzig, Bessarabia. The
village of Leipzig/Skinos was situated on the Kogelnik River
in “Budshak Steppe,” near Kulm/Paulsberg village.
Photo is courtesy of Jay Gage, great-grandson of Gottfried
Katherine Pahl, the older of two grand-daughters of female lineage,
was the only grand-daughter of whom Gottlieba ever knew during
Katherina Pahl selected a wedding dress of crepe “China
grass”/China-silk/Ramie: lace gauze of acid-cut floral
pattern, which was inter-woven with a back-layer of Ramie-gauze
This exceptional quality street-length dress was worn for
her June 25, 1942 wedding ceremony to Edward Gage, her Old
American-English groom at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Timber Lake, South Dakota.
A special dress accessory was a triangular cellulite-plastic
brooch, designed with an art-deco cabbage rose. Single strands
of natural pearls, or a golden heart-locket with delicate
chain necklace, were additional accessories worn only for
this dress by Katherina.
Photo is courtesy of Ruth Gage-Boom, daughter of Katherina
These Volhynian-style infant shoes were custom-made and machine-stitched
by shoe-maker and shoe-cobbler August Pahl. August probably
apprenticed with his father-in-law Christian Maier of neighboring
These shoes were a fatherly gift for his first-born, one
year son, Jacob Pahl in 1894-1895 at Leipzig, Bessarabia.
These infant shoes, with additional two tassels of fringed
leather per shoe, were replicas of adult men’s dress
Photo is courtesy of Jay Gage, grandson of Jacob Pahl
Katherina’s cherished shoulder purse of hand-carved leather
with an antique-finish of dark maroon cordovan dye, depicted
of an original design of wild prairie roses and mare/colt heads.
This purse was designed and stamp-carved with “KG”
monogram in 1960 by her son, Jay Gage.
An experienced horse woman, this decorative leather pattern
memorializes the bride’s 1942 wedding flower bouquet
of fragrant wild roses (Rosa Arkansas Blanda) which were gathered
from roadside ravines just prior to her wedding ceremony.
Her preferred Chinese rose/peonies had just completed their
The honey birch sewing box, only of wood jointery (no nails)
and three wooden dowels, was a special gift crafted for Katherina
by her son in 1959. Katherina was avid with textiles.
Photo is courtesy of Jay Gage
This Madonna portrait- pose by great-granddaughter Edna Jenson
displays five antique 19th century textiles inherited from Gottliebina
Stolz Kempf of Beresina, Bessarabia, who immigrated in 1901
to Jewell, North Dakota:
1.) Rose-paisley bordered woolen maroon “tschetschka”/teuchle.
2.) White cotton camisole with “spider”/lozenge
patterns on crocheted yoke.
3.) Bunte gestrifte blachte/ “Bodenteppe” shawl/
4.) Vintage Kämpf family’s white cotton christening
gown with eyelet lace of 19th century origins.
5.) Black linen box-pleated skirt with four borders of black
satin appliquéd ribbon.
Photographer: JOM photography, Fargo, North Dakota. Photo
is courtesy of great-grandson, Jay Gage.
Dancer portrait pose by great-granddaughter, Edna Jensen with
19th century textiles of Gottliebina Stolz Kempf: floral serigraphed
“tschetschka”/Kopftuch/teuchle and colored-striped
Blachte/kanapee shawl/ “Kanabett schall.”
Photographer: JOM photography, Fargo, North Dakota. Photo
is courtesy of great-grandson, Jay Gage.
Frau Maria Stickel Rath of Wittenberg Village with her infant
wrapped in a “bunte” “Kinderplachte”
was painted by Bessarabian artist Hertha Karasek-Strygaviski.
Frau Rath wears a silk-fringed black woolen shawl as Kopftuck,
while her infant wears the traditional “Kinderhaeubchen”
(baby bonnet) often made of knitted woolen yarn with bobbin
lace or crochet lace trim. Specially crafted baby bonnets also
were encrusted with patterns of “en-graissel” (seed-bead/glass-bead
Photograph of oil painting: From the book,
“Es Führetekes Schicksals Hand: Bessarabisches Tagebuch,
This woolen “Blachte” (plachte) was produced by
hand skills entirely by Gottlieba Stolz for her wedding dowry
/ “Mitsift” in Alt-Elft, Bessarabia, in 1883 and
1884. The crochet woolen lace was added circa 1914-1916 at Jewell,
This woolen “Bodenteppe” of 43 inches wide and 96
inches long, probably was used as a day bed / “Canabett”
covering, hand-woven by Gottlieba in Alt-Eft in 1883.
is courtesy of Betty Schneider Rall, granddaughter-in-law to
The Schlabsz family had Swabish origins in Beresina, Bessarabia,
with some family relocating to Wittenberg, Bessarabia. Carolina
(Schlabsz) Sackmann of Jewell, North Dakota, cherished three
surviving plaid-twill blachte (karierte plachte) from Wittenberg.
Carolina Schlabsz wore a pristine plaid-twill plachte in
red and green woolen yarns. Carolina also wove an ingenious
woolen “bunte karierte plachte” shawl of mustard
yellows with elaborately colored torque-pattern crochet lace,
presently displayed in the textile archives of McIntosh County
Historical Museum in Ashley, North Dakota, in standard size
of 44x 77 inches.
Carolina’s daughter, Frieda Sackmann Kessel, inherited
this 1870’s woolen multi-twill plachte, achieving muted
pastel plaids with purple, coral-orange, and mint/olive green.
The chenille woolen yarns of the fillet-crochet lace fringe
featured velveteen knap from “felting” when “fullered.”
Variegated-colors of chenille yarns display traditional torque
patterns. This antique blachte possibly was woven in Beresina.
Photo is courtesy of Leona Woeszner Neu, granddaughter
of Carolina Schlabsz Sackmann.
This exquisitely hand-tailored, black, box-pleat linen skirt
was worn by Gottlieba’s oldest daughter Maria, when immigrating
to North America in 1901. The triple-ribbon skirt border of
black satin silk appliqué identifies prestige, family,
and village heritage. Metal eye-hook fasteners were used instead
of expensive buttons. Linen fabric was manufactured since 1895
in the neighboring village of Teplitz, Bessarabia.
is courtesy of Loretta Gebhardt Swiontek, great-granddaughter
of Gottlieba Kempf.
This white cotton christening gown with hem of detailed eyelet
and cut-work lace, was last used in 1915 at Monango, North Dakota,
for Lutheran christening of Gottlieba’s grandson, Ernest
Gebhardt. The quality of craftsmanship suggests this ceremonial
cotton gown (with liner garment) for infant christening was
a textile treasure in Kempf family, possibly since 1820 in Beresina
Photo is courtesy of Loretta Gebhardt Swiontek,
granddaughter of Maria Kempf Gebhardt
This woolen vertical-striped skirt with camel hair white stripes
was a very traditional example among ethnic German women. Christina
Marie Spiekar (Speager) wore this skirt in 1917, when she emigrated
to Manley, Iowa, from her native Volga German village of Norka/Wiegand
on the “Bergseite,” a major textile production center.
Stripes are indigo blue, red, yellow and white.
Photo is courtesy of Katrina Heagle's granddaughter, Sandra
The heaviest woolen blankets were also wrapped by women around
themselves as the heaviest shawl during severe winter cold,
since they did not wear coats for warmth. These 6 feet x 8 feet
“wollen-decken” often weighed over nine pounds.
These “double-weave” double layers were interlocked
during weave as reservable pattern, then felted and fullered
with nine inch long black-twisted fringes. This Kempf family’s
wollen-decken was dark olive green plaid pattern with plain
olive green border.
Photo is courtesy of Lorretta Gebhardt
Swiontek, great-granddaughter of Gottlieba and family historian.
This paisley-rose bordered “tschetschka” (chetsh-gah)
from Gottlieba’s textile treasures is 39” x 39”
in size. These fine woolen “Kopftuck” / head scarves
were distinctive for their serigraphed floral borders, produced
since 1810 in famous textile artisan village, Pavlov Possad,
Since brilliant aniline textile dyes were developed by German
textile chemists in 1853, popularity of Tschetschka shawls
soared during the Victorian era.
Photo is courtesy of Loretta Gebhardt Swiontek, great-granddaughter
of Gottliebina Kempf.
Ottilia (Odelia) Kempf Pahl received this 1913 wedding gift.
This cotton-serigraphed pastel floral border was the top cloth
and was traditionally displayed diagonally across center of
table top. The table was previously covered with two large white
table cloths draping over the table corners. This was the centuries-old
tradition for the ethnic German banquet table. The floral designs
are blue forget-me-not/anchusa and red trumpet vine with magnolia
leaves in coral-pink pastel border.
Photo is courtesy
of Jay Gage, grandson of Odelia Pahl, second daughter of Gottlieba.
Along with sister Odelia Pahl, Gottlieba’s third daughter
Friedericka Kempf (Frieda Rall) made many fancy kitchen aprons
of wrap-around pattern, commonly used by German “hausfrau”
with Victorian panels of colorful “ric-rac” appliqué
and cross-stitch, proudly displaying folk fascination with vivid
Photo is courtesy of Betty Schneider Rall, daughter-in-law
Two cherished survivals of black “koeppeln” / bobbin-laced
triangular church shawls/kopftuchen immigrated since 1940 with
Kempf family cousins from their village of Beresina, Bessarabia,
to the prairie provinces of Canada, according to textile historian/family
descendent Klaus Jansen. These koeppeln-type Koftuchen were
preferred with bold “tape lace” designs and considered
a prestige art form.
Photo is courtesy of Auf den Spuren: einer
Minder heit: Geshiote und Kultur der Deutschen in Russland/wdssr
(GRHC Archives DK34.G3 1989)
During the Victorian 19th century, Gottlieba Kempf was among
the fashionable. These black woolen shawls with elegantly knotted
silk fringe, were highly cherished fashion for German ladies
attending church worship. Gottlieba’s black shawls were
inherited by Kempf descendants.
This particular silk-fringed black woolen shawl was purchased
by Karl Kusler in 1910 when re-visiting his birth place in
the village of worms, Beresan District, Ukraine (South Russia),
northeast of city of Odessa. Karl Kusler was from the lineage
of George Kusler. Karl’s youngest daughter, Hilda Kusler
Hodgins of Glueckstal heritage and formerly of Beulah, North
Dakota, donated this family textile treasure in 1994.
Photo is courtesy of the Germans from Russia Heritage
Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo,
The Kempf Crest uses the "boss" design of original
Kämpf coat of arms.
The white cross on red field evolved from the rinds of flour
millstones used in Nagold district of Black Forest. Family
vocations were flour miller, bread bakers and textile weavers.
The Kämpf family is first mentioned in 1238 at Strausbourg,
to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested
by contacting Michael