In Touch with Prairie Living

March 2014

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

I am honored to share the life story of Beulah Margaret Dufloth White of Grapevine, T.X., born on May 5, 1908, who will celebrate her 106th birthday on May 5, 2014. Beulah (Bea) is a first generation American. Beulah is a founding member of the Glueckstal Colonies Research Association (

For many years I have corresponded via email with Beulah where she has shared her memoirs and poems. Beulah and I continue to stay in touch with email. In 2007, Beulah authored the book “Anamosa Stories,” essays from her childhood memories.

Beulah’s father, Philip, and her grandfather, John Dufloth, were born in Glueckstal, South Russia. The Dufloths were wheat farmers and the older boys worked in the fields and took care of the horses. They learned how to make the horseshoes and to shoe the horses. All of the children were expected to learn to knit their own socks, and the boys learned to repair the family’s shoes.

Beulah’s mother, Kathleen Blanche Oliver, was born in 1886 at Gettysburg, Dakota Territory. Her mother was a teacher and her father and all four of her grandparents had a college education. The Olivers were from Ohio. Beulah’s great-grandfather, Sir John Sullivan, came to Jamestown, V.A. to be a tobacco farmer.

Beulah writes, “Mom was a very good cook. I used to like to watch Mom when she made strudels. She made a delicious vegetable soup using a German/Russian recipe. She boiled the soup with allspice until the meat was tender and then added the cut up vegetables and liquid to cover them. When the soup was ready to serve, she added one half cup of thick sour cream. This was the Russian touch, she said.”

Beulah’s paternal grandfather had decided to bring his family to America from South Russia in March, 1889, homesteading in Potter County, South Dakota. He built a sod house on his 160 acres where he farmed for 18 years. In 1901, Beulah’s father, Philip, was old enough to quality for a homestead, where he built a small square frame house. In 1907, he moved the house to Tolstoy, S.D.. Beulah, writes, “My father did not know how to handle money. He would make a big sale and then invite the customer to go down to the local pub to celebrate the sale and then forget to take care of the bookwork when he got back. He lost money for the business and he and Uncle Jake decided to dissolve the partnership. Dad then opened a blacksmith shop.”

“We had an organ and sometimes my mother would play and we all sang. Dad always stood beside Mom when he was singing. Sometimes when I looked at him standing there, I would start to worry that he might be drafted into the Army. I was aware of the war (WWI) because our teacher taught us to know about it, and we were knitting wool scarves for the soldiers.”

“I loved the feel and sound of the prevailing wind but there were times when the winds would stir up a dust storm and we would all have to go inside until it was over. I can remember watching the dust blow in through the keyhole of our back door and form a drift on the kitchen floor. Prairie fires were even more frightening because our father would be out there with all the other men, fighting the fire. The winters in South Dakota were long and we would spend time listening to music from our grama-phone. It had a big horn and the music came from round disks shaped like a beer can. We all took a turn winding it up.”

Beulah shares, “I was eight years old when we moved from Tolstoy, S.D, to Anamosa, I.A. In 1916, my brother Roy was 6 years old, Dorothy was 4 and Gordon was 1. We rode on the train and I fell in love with the conductor. We arrived at night and the street lights had three big bulbs and it felt as though we were in fairyland as we walked from the train station to the hotel.”

“Tolstoy was a small town founded by Germans from Russia, and we spoke German at home (except my mother). Roy and I attended a small one-room school house and he was allowed to sit with me. The school in Anamose was so large and we were nervous and scared the first day of school. I was the only one to hold up my hand when the teacher asked for someone to recite the multiplication tables. She was pleased I rattled them off so fast and praised me.”

We at the GRHC wish Beulah (Bea) Dufloth a very special Happy 106th Birthday on May 5, 2014.

For additional information about the Friends of the GRHC, the 20th Anniversary Journey to the Homeland Tour to Odessa, Ukraine and Stuttgart, Germany (May 15-25, 2014), and donations to the GRHC (such as special collections, 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:

March 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