In Touch with Prairie Living

July 2014

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

I look forward attending the 44th Annual Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS) International Convention, July 23-27, 2014, at the Davenport Hotel, Spokane, Wash. For more information, go to

From August 7-9, 2014, I will be attending the Beulah, N.D. 100th Centennial. We will have Germans from Russia displays at the Beulah Civic Center, 120 7th Street NE, Thursday, August 7, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.; Friday, August 8, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, August 9, 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Beulah and Mercer County have a rich Germans from Russia cultural heritage. Many emigrant families came from these Black Sea, Crimean and Bessarabian German villages of South Russia (today near Odessa and southern Ukraine) to homestead on the prairies of the Beulah area.

On June 20, 2014, I attended the Tri-County Tourism Alliance monthly meeting at the historic St. Andrew’s Evangelical German Lutheran Church near Wishek/Zeeland, McIntosh County, N.D. The original sod church was built in 1893 by German-Russian immigrants from the the Glueckstal District Colonies, South Russia. Later a larger wooden church was built in 1906, locally known as the “The Beacon on the Prairie.” Photos can be seen here.

From August 1-3, 2014, there will be a “Party on the Prairie: Proving Up the Welk Homestead”, near Strasburg, N.D. Volunteers are needed to help with work on the barn and other buildings at the Ludwig & Christina (Schwahn) Welk Homestead, birthplace of bandleader Lawrence Welk. The person to contact to volunteer is Kevin at Strasburg – 701-336-7307. On Saturday, August 2, there will be local entertainment and food available at the Homestead between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Persons wishing to make a financial donation to assist with needed supplies for the Welk Homestead barn can go to For a direct donation, contact: Carmen Rath-Wald, President, Tri-County Tourism Alliance, 701-754-2504.

I returned early June from a memorable experience with our 20th Anniversary Journey to the Homeland Tour to Germany in May. Jeremy Kopp, GRHC Special Collections Associate, and Dr. Ann Braaten, Curator of the Emily P. Reynolds Historic Costume Collection, NDSU, were so helpful in coordinating and hosting the tour members while in Frankfurt, Regensburg, Munich, Stuttgart, and Alsace, France. I am most appreciative.

Jeremy Kopp writes, “It was a great opportunity to join the 20th Anniversary Journey to the Homeland Tour and to meet many wonderful tour members. I enjoyed the time we spent together. It is always exciting to meet people who are passionate about their ancestral heritage and history; it makes the mission of the GRHC so much more important when people are involved! I was a pleased to finally meet our colleagues at the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland and the Bessarabien Heimatmuseum in Stuttgart! It was great to visit and see the different ways they are working towards a similar goal as the GRHC.

“The highlight of this trip for me was being near my ancestral village of Kappelrodeck in the Baden-Wuerttemberg area. I was able to see many of the same landscapes that my ancestors once saw.”

Dr. Ann Braaten comments, “A highlight was connecting with a variety of Germans from Russia. Our tour members included descendants who had migrated to North America between 1880 and 1920. We had the opportunity to meet other German-Russians whose families had stayed longer in Russia. These included Bessarabian Germans who moved to Germany in 1945, as well as Volga Germans who were exiled to Siberia in the 1940s, and whose descendants relocated to Germany after 1989. Each person had his or her own story to share about how governments had impacted their lives. It was both fascinating and horrifying to hear their stories.

“The tour allowed me to see how beautiful Germany is with its rich landscape, bustling cities, and industrious people. We traveled through the fertile Rhine and Danube River valleys with our guided tours and learned the importance of these rivers in moving goods and transporting people to other parts of the world. Germany’s richness made me realize how harsh conditions must have been for families to pull up stakes and move to Russia to start a new life. I came away from the trip with a better insight into the experiences, history and spirit of the Germanic people.”

For additional information about the Welk Homestead, Friends of the GRHC, the 21st Journey to the Homeland Tour to Germany (May 14-24, 2015), 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:

July 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