The Soil was Everything for the Germans From Russia
"The Soil was Everything for the Germans From Russia." North Dakota Horizons, March 1992.
If Lawrence Welk's success as a world-famous entertainer is worth
celebrating because of his uniqueness, then the legacy of how his
tenacious parents - and thousands of others like them - traveled
to a lonely new land in search of a better life is worth remembering
because of its commonness. Their decision to leave Russia, where
they were under increasing religious and political persecution to
abandon their German heritage was not an easy one. It was a decision
that required faith in God and in their ability to adapt to sparse
new surroundings. German-Russian pioneers of the Great Plains had
Ludwig and Christina Welk emigrated to United States in 1893.
They traveled by train to Eureka, S.D., which was a regional center
of commerce and which promoted itself as "Wheat Capital of the World."
Probably like many others who arrived with few worldly goods and
much faith with determination, they purchased oxen and wagon to
complete their travel to Strasburg. The wagon box was tipped over
and used as shelter until a more permanent dwelling could be built.
After touring the sparsely furnished Welk house, John Cogan of
Mishawaka, Indiana, was reminded of earlier settlements near his
home. This simple life-style is similar to what you might see among
the "Amish or Quaker people, where they live an austere life-style."
The Welk homestead was built in approximately 1895, using materials
and building methods learned years earlier from Russian soldiers
on the Ukrainian Steppe. The house is constructed of bricks made
of mud-clay, wheat straw and water combination that was mixed like
concrete and poured or stomped into wooden "block-molds" and left
to dry in the prairie sun. After the blocks were stacked to form
walls, they were covered with a limestone plaster and water mixture
to protect them from eroding. The walls of the house are between
10 to 24 inches thick, providing much insulation from the extremes
of sub-zero winter winds and the blazing summer sunlight. The house's
exterior clapboard siding was installed years later, when it was
Reprinted with permission of North Dakota Horizons.
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