News and Information from a Surprising “Vetter” [Cousin] of North Dakota

Historical material on early times in North Dakota after emigration from Bessarabia, compiled by Heinz Fieβ.

Fieβ, Heinz. "News and Information from a Surprising “Vetter” [Cousin] of North Dakota." Mitteilungsblatt des Bessarabiendeutschen Vereins, April 2012, 16-18.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, CO. (Clarifications on North Dakota historyprovided by Dr. Homer Rudolf.)

It was noted in this year’s February and March issues of the Mitteilungsblatt that in July of this year a meeting of Germans from South Russia will take place in Bismarck in the US State of North Dakota. This event has provided me with the impetus to report on a surprising meeting of relatives in 1998, namely, with the deputy secretary of state in North Dakota, Robert (Bob) Schaible, and on his  research into his family history.

During years of searching for roots of the Schaibles, Bob Schaible’s attention came upon certain locales in Württemberg. Mostly by accident he discovered a Schaible family history written in 1989 by Artur Schaible, sr. He took up certain contacts and in 1998 he and his wife Roberta (Birdie) visited the Schaible family in Horb on the Neckar as well as my wife, Erika Schaible-Fieβ in Göppingen. Erika’s brother Artur had also been involved in a great deal of family research on the Schaibles, in which he was able to trace a set of ancestors – without a gap – all the way back to Matthaeus Schaible, mayor of Altensteig, born in 1580. It turned out that siblings Elvira, Artur and Erika in Germany and Bob of Bismarck in North Dakota have the same great-grandfather, namely, Johann Schaible, born on July 8, 1833 in Bessarabia!

Bob Schaible documented his research for anyone with an interest in it, and he presented us with a copy as well. In what follows I wish to present excerpts from his documentation (translated from the English by Heinz Fieβ)

In his document Bob Schaible wrote the following dedication: “This book is dedicated to the memory of HEINRICH SCHAIBLE and EMELIA BUCHWITZ SCHAIBLE (Bob’s grandparents, H/F.). With their hard work and self-sacrifice they provided us with a true model that we can emulate for all times.”

He also explained the background for the development of the book as follows:

I started to put intention into action around 1979 when I was preparing a brochure for a gathering of the Verworn family, and at the same time I was looking extensively into my Schaible roots. I became even more motivated to work on this book when a Schaible family reunion was being planned for Bismarck in 1990. I spent many, many hours researching the contents of the book, and I hope that it will meet with your interest. Clearly such a project is can never be entirely complete, and family histories do continue. Further work might be done in searching for the roots in Germany, Russia and even here in North Dakota.

Prussia’s Black Forest

One question I often asked myself was, “Where in Germany did the Schaibles originate?” The Church of the Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) has collected church/parish records containing information on many Schaibles from various regions Germany’s Southwest. The book Die Auswanderung von Deutschland nach Ruβland in den Jahren 1763 bis 1862 [Emigration from Germany to Russia between 1763 and 1862] by Dr. Karl Stumpp was also very helpful in answering my question. The earliest Schaibles mentioned by the Mormons and in Karl Stumpp’s book came from the central Black Forest area in today’s southwestern Württemberg in Germany’s Southwest. This region was part of the Prussian Empire and later became part of Germany. Information from both sources indicate that Schaible families lived around forty kilometers [ca. twenty-five miles] southwest of Stuttgart. It is known that other Schaible families lived west and northwest of Stuttgart. Many Schaible appear to have originated in the following areas of Württemberg:
Calw in SW Württemberg and
            Freudenstadt in Württemberg

[…] One must not forget that life for our forefathers (in Bessarabia, H.F.) was not easy. Many people died during the journey. Journeys through the steppes of Ukraine often lasted between twenty to twenty-five weeks, and somewhat fewer weeks when they came from Poland They arrived by boat and by wagon. During their travels, the Russian government normally provided a driver to accompany and take care of them. In many cases food rationing became a necessity. It is possible that living conditions in Poland and in Russia were similar to those during early days in the North Dakota Territory. No water in the house, no electricity, no telephone, the toilet outside, and a life filled with hard work.

They arrived in North Dakota before Grant County and Hettinger County existed as such. Grant County was established on November 22, 1916, Hettinger County on April 17, 1907. Without question, the Schaibles, Buchwitzes, and other families traveled as a group when they left their homes and the places of their roots. And they would never return to that land of their roots.

Ships to the United States, Trains to North Dakota 

Rail lines had not yet reached Leipzig (North Dakota, H.F.) or Mott. In 1910 both railroad lines reached New Leipzig (the Milwaukee Road RR line in May and the NP [Northern Pacific] in October) and Mott. The Northern Pacific line from Mandan to Dickinson was built in the early 1880s and was the main line through central North Dakota.

During the construction of the rail liens some of our relatives may have worked for the railroads to supplement their incomes. Some of them may have taken the Soo Line to the La Moure area, where they possibly had other relatives. There are Schaibles living in that area of the state. There were also some Schaible families who took the Milwaukee Road RR to get to Eureka in South Dakota. These, too, could be distant relatives of ours.

Leipzig, North Dakota

To get from Hebron to Leipzig, rented transportation of relatives might have been taken. There is no mention of established roads or bridges. Imagine taking specific paths along a set of markings (Grant County was surveyed in the early 1890s) and across certain creeks.

The community where the Schaibles and Buchwitzes first settled was surveyed in 1893. When they first came to Leipzig, they built houses and sheds using field stones, prairie grass, clay and bundles of straw. (At that time they built near Alt Leipzig, which lay eleven miles northeast of today’s Neu Leipzig or a mile south and three miles east of Christian Schaible’s homestead. (Cf. a Grant County map.) The Neu Leipzig community was founded in 1910.

Clay homes had advantages and disadvantages. They were warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but during those first years they did not have especially good roofs, which were said to leak when it rained. The settlers also used the available materials to erect smoke rooms, chicken coops and other farm structures. In some cases they may have been attached directly to the home. There was very little wood available for purchase, and the homesteaders made their own furniture, doors and windows. Life was not easy. They had no electricity (only petroleum lamps), no running water (a well in front of the house), no WC (we all know what they had!), and no modern conveniences. Food was canned, smoked or pickled and stored in a root cellar. Game was plentiful.

Many families owned their own coal mines or perhaps supplemented their incomes by working in coal mining.

Farm work was done with horses, and the equipment was rather basic: single-blade plows, harrows, rakes, wagons, mowers – everything pulled by horses – and even scythes were in use. Harvested grain was carted to town on horse-drawn wagons. Everything was done with horses or by hand. Homesteaders did have their own cows, geese, ducks, sheep, pigs, and other farm animals with which they eked out a living. Our relatives often worried about snow storms, prairie fires that might spread for miles, whirlwinds and tornadoes, grasshoppers, and other plagues. A whirlwind [tornado? – Tr.] hit the farm of Daniel Buchwitz and tore a part of the front room off the house.

Our forefathers’ lives were not easy. But our ancestors tended to be very modest people and they survived on the flat land of southwestern North Dakota.

Sunday was a day of rest, for going to church and for getting together with family members and friends -- a good opportunity to maintain community and to get to know the relatives.

After arriving in America, Christian Schaible, Henry’s father, lived in Section 14 of the community [township] 135- [range] 90. A stone shed reminds us of what Christian’s existence must have been like. Later he moved to Leipzig. Johann Schaible lived in Section 13 of 135-90. He and his family moved to Sunnyside, Washington in 1936. Daniel Buchwitz, Emelia’s father, lived in Section 8 of 135-90. There one can still see a barn built of sandstone and with walls two feet thick. It is still being used. There is also a sandstone home with an attached garage which today is owned by Reinhold Mueller of Leipzig. He is the son of Marie Buchwitz Mueller, Emelia’s sister. For a long time Daniel Buchwitz jr. and Rudy Buchwitz operated a farm west of their father’s.
Living West of Mott, Nord Dakota

Heinrich Schaible was twenty-one years old when he came to the United States (in 1910, from Leipzig/Bessarabia, H.F.) and had just turned twenty-two when he got married. Emelia Buchwitz was just three weeks shy of eighteen when she got married, right in her parents’ home. Pastor Georg Wolf, who cared for Mott and Trinity Lutheran Church (today called the Heupel Lutheran Church), officiated at the wedding. Subsequently they lived on a farm half a mile north of Neu Leipzig and in the center of a section. According to Albert [probably referring to Albert Schaible – Tr.] they moved into a two-story clay home that had only two rooms. But according to Albert Fiesz, who owned the land at the time, they lived in a small wooden home. It measured sixteen by eighteen feet. Later on, an addition was built on the east side of the house, enlarging the home to 16 feet by thirty feet. A large room on the ground floor served as a kitchen, dining room, living room and bedroom. The kitchen stove on the east wall of the room was used to heat the entire house. For a time, the only heating material consisted of dried cow manure and grain husks collected in the summer. The upper floor consisted of a single room containing nothing but beds. The children had to use an external staircase to reach the upper floor. Getting dressed and going down to breakfast must have been a very cold experience during winter time. The spot where the house once stood is now empty except for some stones from the foundation.

Their first nine children were likely born in that house, possibly with assistance from Dr. F.C. Lorenzen or a midwife. Those children were: Pauline, Wilhelm, Elsie, Johann, Rudolph, Albert, Hilda, Arthur and Oscar. Oscar was supposed to be born with the help of the doctor, but Emelia bore him without such assistance, and after his birth she put him onto her stomach until help arrived.

The farm had a horse barn with a stone floor, a wooden cow barn, a stone dam across the creek for gathering water from slow melt and any other water during the spring, a large garden surrounded by a stone wall, a hand-operated well, two deep areas in the creek bed for collecting water, and a large grazing meadow for the cattle.

In the farthest southwesterly corner of the property that Heinrich Schaible owned northwest of Leipzig two daughters of Johann Schaible are buried. One of the girls died from a shock and the other from a flu epidemic. The graves are no longer marked.

One of the children had to tend and water the pigs. On most days, that meant lugging an overly filled bucket from the house to the pig trough west of the cow barn. After the milk underwent the separation process, the cream-less milk would be fed to the pigs and calves. Even after they were fed, the calves still wanted more milk and indicated this by sucking on other calves’ ears.

Some of the children had to milk the cows. That meant first driving the cows from the meadow. In the stable, fodder was put into the trough to lure the cows into their box. Sometimes the cows’ teats had to be cleaned off because they had been soiled by the mud from the creek. Milking by hand took some time. To provide a bit of fun, someone might spray the car with warm milk from the teats. And the cats would lick themselves all over to get rid of the milk, with their tails staying quite active!

Sometimes the cows might crowd together and squeeze the people doing the milking. The milking stool was sometimes used to give those cows a different idea! After milking was completed, it was time to separate the milk and the cream. While this was being done, someone else had to clean up behind the cows. During winter the cows remained in the barn because of the cold. That was also the time to clean out the entire stable. A large pile of manure was collected during that time. It would later be carted away and spread over the fields to improve the soil.

The separator had a large crank that was turned by hand while the milk was poured through a large opening at the top. As soon as the separator reached the appropriate speed, a spigot was turned to separate the de-creamed milk from the cream. The resulting daily products found all sorts of uses in cooking. There was practically never a lack of milk. After the separation process, the boys would pour a little water through the machine to clean it enough so as not to require a massive cleaning before the subsequent separation. During the winter the separator was kept inside the house, and in the summer it had its place on the west side of the barn.

After breakfast it was time to get the horses harnessed up and ready for the day’s work, which included plowing, planting, cultivating, reaping with a binder, or whatever else needed to be done. There were many days when the girls milked as up to twenty or even more cows. This allowed the boys to stay in the fields longer.

Bob Schaible’s sketch of the farm home of Heinrich and Emelia Schaible in Neu Leipzig.

(To be continued in a subsequent issue)

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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