Homeland Calendar 1998: Yearbook of the Germans from Bessarabia, Volume 49 (Heimatkalender 1998: Jahrbuch der Deutschen aus Bessarabien, 49. Jahrgang)

By Kurt Albrecht Schlechter

"Germany - U.S.A.", Heimatkalender 1998, Volume 49, Relief Committee of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Bessarabia, Hannover, Germany, 1998, pages 147-150.

More or less an editorial, it can be read in the calendar of 1951, why our ancestors were driven to emigrate. Hardly anything needs to be added in the first editions of the calendar, as long as we don't want to copy, to the sound reports by knowledgeable people.

In 1842 and 1849, it had been David and Friedrich Schlechter of Rielingshausen and Murrhardt, Oberamt Backnang of my family who had decided to emigrate to Bessarabia.

Nevertheless, after a few years many descendants of the early colonists were moved to leave Bessarabia again. The main reason: unkept promises of the Russian government. As these facts are sufficiently well-known, I don't need to go on about it.

Three sons of Friedrich Schlechter, a side-line from Plotzk, decided to immigrate to the New World.

Namely: Johann Friedrich (born 1832), Gottfried (born 1838) and Johann Jacob (born 1843) Schlechter. They found a new home in South Dakota.

My father came again into contact with these relatives through his occasional work at the Dakota Freie Presse and through the emigrant Emanuel Hiller from Sofiental who moved to the district by Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 1913. That's why I've read with great interest the article by Arnulf Baumann Besuch beim bessarabischen Zeitungsmann in Amerika in the calendar of 1969.

I can vaguely remember that my father had always been very happy when he received mail from Emanuel Hiller or Gottfried Schlechter in America.

These contacts had been abruptly halted when fate suddenly struck: resettlement from Bessarabia, WW II, evacuation from the Warthegau did not only bring us back to our original homeland, Germany, but made beggars of all of us.

Back then, they were almost pleading letters that my father had to write to the [United] States after the war. The Americans helped wherever they could. Typically enough, they did not hold against us that what had been engineered by the Reich. Family ties were still too strong. Christian parishes in the [United] States, non-denominational, Reformed, Baptists and others collected and sent gifts of love; the same way we can alleviate hardship there today for our poor, old homeland in the Republic of Moldova and the Ukraine, the former Bessarabia.

In this respect, the 26 American welfare societies which had been united in "Care" (Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe) should be remembered.

Once in a while an edition of the Dakota Freie Presse was in the packages at that time. Today, I am upset with myself of course that I didn't keep those copies; they would be museum pieces!

The economic miracle in Germany after the war took its toll on time and strength. After the death of my father I had my hands full to keep our heads above water. When we stood to some extent on firm ground, I remembered "our Americans".

Unfortunately I didn't know their address anymore. My first letter to the [United] States must certainly have caused peals of laughter at the post office. It went like this: To Gottfried Schlechter (born 1838!) or children, somewhere in the region of Kaylor, South Dakota. Don't laugh,- the letter arrived! Even if by the great-granddaughter, Marilyn in Scotland.

From then on a very close relationship developed among the descendants as probably only our fathers and forefathers were familiar with. They visited us, and my younger brother visited them over there twice. An intense exchange of information and photos, an exchange of Country-Western and folk music from there and from here intensified the friendship. On May 10, 1979, the following reports were published in the Schwarmstedter Anzeiger:

"Ties Dakota - Marklendorf":

When today a letter from the U.S.A. reaches Dietmar, Kurt or Victor Schlechter in Marklendorf it's not obvious that it is only a small piece in a chain of messages that represent a contact which had been kept for about 120 years. When in 1840, Gottfried and Friedrich Schlechter, great-great-grandfather of the three persons of Marklendorf from Murr at the Neckar, went to Bessarabia, the huge wave of migration to America which Gottfried's three sons joined around 1860 started. They settled in Dakota and set up a farm where their grandson Robert Schlechter is still living today. Only his daughter Marilyn doesn't bear the name Schlechter anymore since her marriage to Calvin C. Herrboldt. Now Dietmar Schlechter visited the Schlechter-Herrboldt farm in Dakota which meanwhile has become a modern American business. What life is like on such a farm today is reported by Heinrich Bartling of Norddrebber who traveled with him.

"On a farm in Dakota"
by Heinrich Bartling

We have almost reached our destination. Below us is already the terrain of South Dakota. A regular network of roads and trails divides into squares sizable pastures and corn fields. From above the land looks like a huge chessboard. We wonder about this characteristic but soon we know the reason. When the ancestors of the farmers of today moved here to the Midwest in the last century, the government made available to each one of them one square mile which is approximately 260 hectares. After 40 years of cultivation the land passed into the possession of the family and stayed this way til the present time. That's why even today you can see a farmstead on almost every square. And somewhere below us is our destination: the farm of Calvin C. Herrboldt.

'Sioux Falls' is written on the airport building. The name reminds of a water fall in the region of the Sioux Indians. Today, however, we see here white-painted single-family homes surrounded by lawns. After we have left the city, we drive probably 100 kilometers on a dead straight road. We pass vast corn fields almost ready for harvesting. Thin stalks of the golden-yellow crop are swaying in the wind. The pastures we pass are grazed off. The lush green of early summer gave way to light brown. Big wind turbines are turning and are pumping ground-water into the water holes. The drought is severe and the farmers' biggest wish is rain. While we hear of these problems, we turn onto a gravel road and soon afterwards the silhouette of the farm appears on the horizon.

The farmhouse built of wood and fixed up comfortably is the center. It is surrounded by garages, toolsheds and pigsties. Two grain elevators overtower everything and we see more of these silos in the distance; the other farms are just barely in sight. Today much more is cultivated than that square mile allotted to the forefathers because in the course of the time more land was added to the farm. Now corn is planted on 180 hectares, oat is harvested on 80 hectares and hay is made on 25 hectares. In addition, 350 heads of cattle are raised on big pastures and in barns 300 hogs are fattened.

How can this be possible in a family operation as we encounter it here? Surely, it isn't doable without hard work but we get to know three things that can considerably increase the quota. Help by neighbors is quite common, manual work is reduced to a minimum and don't underestimate how work is made as comfortable as possible. This becomes very clear to us when we go along to the field. The air-conditioning of the tractor lets us forget that the outside temperature is 40° Celsius. That way we reach the field in comfortable surroundings especially as lively songs are heard on the radio. The relatives of the neighboring farm are already busy with pressing the hay into bales. The bales are unloaded in groups by machines, just half as big as a car. We drive alongside the vehicle and the bales by means of a front-loader with long tines are picked up without the need to be lifted. In no time our wagons are full and we can leave again. 'It's time' we hear over the transmitter of the tractor which connects us with the farm because we are after all invited for the evening.

We are quite amazed when we come to the family picnic in the village. Probably 40 relatives have gathered to celebrate with us. Everyone has brought a little something: the one meat, the other fruit and that's the way a wonderful buffet is created. We have to eat a lot and we have to discuss many things with our hosts starting with the metric system up to the hunt which is a favorite activity in the spare time. Saying goodbye is difficult for us of course with so much kind heartedness but we take home with us an indelible impression, namely that beside all the many problems most of all in the cities there is another world over there: It is the impression of an America intact."

One of the latest letters of Marilyn (in German!) sounded a little sad. The original farm of an aunt had to be given up for reasons of old age.

In corrected German it goes something like this: [in English] Kurt, the picture shows the home where Gottfried Schlechter used to live when he came from Bessarabia in 1879. The very first house was made of willow boards and a thick grass roof.

They lived for a while in this summer kitchen (photo) until they built the big house. Upstairs was room for sleeping.

I'm walking through the old summer kitchen and am very sad. Many memories of yesterday are connected with it.

Aunt Clara got a house in Scotland. It was hard for her to leave the farm.

    "God Bless Your"
    Marilyn & Calvin

This report undoubtedly represents many German families and their fate in the distance. Close ties developed between the U.S.A. and Germany after WW II not only politically. Family relations have also been manifold. Bessarabian-Germans, Swabians, contributed considerably. I don't want to miss these relationships.

Sources and literature:

Arnulf Baumann:
Besuch beim bessarabischen Zeitungsmann in Amerika - Kalender 1969

Imanuel Baumann:
Die Gründe der Auswanderung unserer Vorfahren - Kalender 1951

Heinrich Bartling:
Auf einer Farm in Dakota "Schwarmstedter Anzeiger", volume 10, May, 1979

Hugo Haefner:
Ein- und Auswanderungslisten - Kalender, 1986/87/88/89/90/91

Karl Stumpp:
Verzeichnis der Auswanderer aus Deutschland - Kalender 1963/64/65/66/67/68/69

Translation by Claudia Müller, Halle, Germany

Reprinted with permission of Hilfskomitees der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche aus Bessarabien e.V, Hannover, Germany

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller