In Touch with Prairie Living

June 2013

By Michael M. Miller
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo

I write this June column while in Stuttgart, Germany after the 19th Journey to the Homeland Tour to Odessa, Ukraine. With tour members, we visited the former Bessarabian and Black Sea German villages near Odessa, it was truly an unforgettable experience. In a future column, I will share with you the memorable days of April in southern Brazil filming and interviewing for Prairie Public Broadcasting’s 2014 documentary on the story of the Germans from Russia in South America - Argentina and Brazil.

Upon returning from Germany, I will be at the Ashley, N.D., 125th celebration. The GRHC and the Tri-County Tourism Alliance will have displays and information tables at the City Hall on Thursday, June 20, 3-8 p.m.; Friday, June 21, 10 am-6 p.m.; Saturday, 22 June, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The impressive new hardcover book, ‘Ewiger Saatz - Everlasting Yeast: The food culture of the Germans from Russia in Emmons County, Logan County and McIntosh County, North Dakota’ will be available for the first time. Ashley and McIntosh County, N.D., have a rich German-Russian cultural heritage. Many immigrant families came from these Black Sea and Bessarabian German villages of South Russia (today southern Ukraine) to homestead on the prairies of south-central North Dakota. Today, McIntosh County is one of the most heavily populated areas in the USA of Germans from Russia.

Ashley, the county seat of McIntosh County, was named after Milwaukee Railroad executive, Ashley Morrow in 1888. Many of the immigrants who came to the Ashley area were of German descents from Russia where they lived in colonies and retained their German language and customs. Settlers made their homesteads on the shores of a lake and named their community Hoskins. Wagon boxes were turned upside down and used for shelter until oxen hauled lumber from far away towns for their roofs, houses and barns. With the coming of the railroad, the citizens of Hoskins chose to pick up their town and move it three miles to the east, where they founded Ashley.

I will be at the Hazen, N.D., 100th Centennial celebration with GRHC displays & information tables at the building on main street beside Jensen Jewelry for Thursday, July 4, 1-7 p.m.; Friday, July 5, 10 a.m-5 p.m.; Saturday, July 6, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The Hazen area of northwestern North Dakota, includes many German-Russian families with Bessarabian and Black Sea German ancestry, especially immigrating from Crimean German villages.

Hazen was founded in 1913, located near Lake Sakakawea, the largest lake in North Dakota, and the third largest man-made lake in the USA. From the book, “Hazen Jubilee Book” published in 1988, there is mentioned: “If Hazen wants to point to its real beginnings, it has to look to Alexander F. “Sandy” Roberts, who arrived in the fall of 1892, squatted on what was to become Hazen, and in 1894 filed a request for a post office to be named Hazen. However, it was another 29 years before Hazen became a town. Hazen was named for A.D. Hazen, who was third assistant postmaster general in the summer of 1884.”

Krem, north of Hazen and today a ghost town, was established in 1899. The name of “Krem” was a nickname for Crimea, where many of the German-Russian immigrated. A flour mill was built in 1899 to mill the local grain since it was difficult to travel to the Missouri River, where grain was hauled by boats. Sam Richter, Martin Netzer and John Kunz formed a partnership to build the mill. After 1914, when the town reached its peak of about 300 families, the outward movement proceeded steadily moving to Hazen. There was even the “German America” newspaper published with English and German languages published in Krem from 1912 to 1916.

There is an excellent article published in “North Dakota History” in 1972, “Krem: The City on the Hill” -- The article states, “The name Krem is attributed to Carl Semmler who is said to have called it because he was an immigrant from Crimea. In fact, Semmler came from Old Arzis, Bessarabia, which is quite a distance from Crimea. A different version of the story holds that Mr. Semmler was a school teacher in the Crimea and his wife was a native of the region. Whatever the truth of the matter is, one fact cannot be overlooked: a large percentage of the new settlers of the area actually came from the area of Russia they were so proud of to call “Crim.”

For further information about the Friends of the GRHC, the 20th Journey to the Homeland Tour to Odessa, Ukraine and Stuttgart, Germany (May 15-25, 2014), and donations to the GRHC (such as family histories and photographs), contact Michael M. Miller, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 6050, Dept 2080, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 (Tel: 701-231-8416; Email:; the GRHC website:

June column for North Dakota and South Dakota weekly newspapers.

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