Way It Was: The North Dakota Frontier Experience: Germans from Russia
Review by Mary Lynn Axtman, Fargo, North Dakota
Tweton, D. Jerome and Everett C. Albers. The Way it Was: The North Dakota Frontier Experience: Germans from Russia Settlers. Fessenden, North Dakota: Grass Roots Press, 1999.
The editors, Albers and Tweton, selected eighteen first person
Germans from Russia histories as recorded in the 1930s by interviewers
working in the Works Progress Administration. These histories, two
of them by women, were selected to best represent the different
German Russian settlement areas in both Russia and Dakota Territory
along with the religious traditions of Evangelical, Catholic and
Mennonite of the Germans from Russia immigrants.
The book begins with acknowledgements to an impressive list of
scholars and historical societies who aided and advised with the
collection of materials, period maps and pictures which add interest
to the various histories and book overall.
Dr. D. Jerome Tweton, a North Dakota history professor at the University
of North Dakota writes an explanatory history of the Germans from
Russia that includes Dr. Timothy Kloberdanz's ten unique characteristics
of the Black Sea settlement of the Northern Great Plains. A second
chapter by Everett C. Albers discusses the noticeable differences
between the Reichsdeutsch and the Volksdeutsche settlers who often
lived in the same communities.
The eighteen histories gives the reader many interesting details
about pre-immigration Russian life, the trip to America via train,
ship, and finally wagons, and the settlement on the open prairies.
One such family arrived with 3 cents left in their pockets to begin
life in America. Of interest also are the accounts of settlement
loan fraud that left some settlers with nothing after years of trying
to prove and establish their claims.
This book includes several indexes of places, origins, conditions,
and travel along with churches, schools and other items.
The Way It Was is a great way to learn some of the answers
to the questions we wished someone in our families had asked our
immigrant ancestors before they died.