| An Immigrant’s Dream Come True
Tandburg, Kathy. "An Immigrant’s Dream Come True." Common, Supplement to Beulah Beacon and Hazen Star, 7 January 1999, 1.
With many family farms being purchased by larger farms,
keeping the family homestead intact is more difficult than ever
in today’s farming community. Fortunately, there are a few
original homesteads still in family hands.
The Raymond Maas family farm 10 miles north of Hazen will celebrate
its 100th year since Grandfather Johann Mass filed claim to his
homestead in 1899.
The Raymond Maas
Family, from back left: Frieda, Desmond, Raymond. Front left:
Nancy, Randall, Jennifer.
100 years. It sounds like so long ago. Yet it was just yesterday
to Raymond, who still has vivid childhood memories of Grandfather
Johann and the stories he told. A story that starts the same for
many settlers. A story that starts with a dream.
In efforts to encourage settlement of its vast lands, the United
States Congress approved the Homestead Act on May 20, 1862 "To
secure homesteads to actual settlers on the public domain."
Settlers could lay claim to a homestead of 160 acres and after
living on the land for five years, it became theirs. Owning their
own land was a dream many would never have known in the old country,
where only the wealthy or the government owned land.
For generations, immigrants poured out of Europe bound for America,
the new world offering free land.
Many immigrants headed west, continuing until they found unclaimed
land. North Dakota was one of the last territories with homestead
Johann Maas was born in 1871 near Odessa, in South Russia. He was
home on furlough from the Russian Army in 1893 when his sister Pauline
and her family were leaving for America. Seeing his chance, Johann
left with them.
The family traveled to South Dakota where his sister’s family
settled. Johann worked as a hired hand with a threshing crew, until
he had enough to buy a team and wagon.
With no homestead land left in South Dakota, he headed for Mercer
County, where he had heard there was still land available.
After his arrival in Mercer County, Johann laid claim to 160 acres,
four miles north of Krem. It was a good location, with a creek near
He built a sod house and settled in. Eventually a large two story
home was built.
Johann married Katherina Krukenberg in 1897. He proudly became
a U.S. citizen in 1900. Katherina died in childbirth in 1909. Johann
married a widow, Maria Reich Kruckenberg in 1910. The couple raised
seven children: Friedrich, Ottilie, Bernard, Reinhold, William,
and two children by Maria’s first husband, Anna (Heine) and
Mercer County was now home to Johann. Sometime after his arrival
to the country, he met friends from Russia, Rahns and Richters,
who had also settled in the area. The families rejoiced in the familiar
faces from the old country.
As the years passed, Johann’s farm grew to approximately
1300 acres. He gave each of his sons one-half section of land and
his daughters received one quarter.
Johann supported his family off the land raising wheat, range cattle
and milk cows. He hauled cream to a creamery in Krem. Ray says the
creamery came to the farm to chip ice from the nearby creek and
hauled it back to town.
William stayed on the farm, marrying Ida Neuberger in 1934.
William and Ida
Raymond says he spent more time with Grandpa Johann than anyone
as a child, as Johann lived with them for many years after he was
In 1954 Johann moved to the Joachim Memorial Home in Beulah. In
1956 he was downtown picking up his mail when a car hit him. He
suffered a broken hip and died two weeks later of complications.
William officially took over the farm after Johann passed on.
Johann Maas, 1951,
at age 80
Raymond married Frieda Schwarz in 1961. The couple raised their
family on the farm: Randall, Nancy, Desmond, and Jennifer.
These children ran and played in the same places their father played
as a child. They hid in the same barn and in the same tall grass,
as they played their childhood games.
They fished the same creek their grandfather fished. They looked
out at the same wide-open spaces, across the same prairies, and
up at the same stars, as did the children who first lived in the
sod house across the yard.
Today, Raymond still raises the same crops and cattle as his father
and grandfather before him, although he says wheat is about the
same price today as it was when Grandpa was selling it.
In 1904, after five years of living and working the land, the homestead
officially became Johann’s. He received an official handwritten
Homestead Certificate No. 5559, Application 8007, with the red seal
of the United States Land Office, signed in ink by Theodore Roosevelt,
President of the United States of America.
The historic document has been passed down from Johann to his son
William when he took over the farm, and then to Raymond when it
was his turn to take over the farm.
The document remains with the land from which dreams of freedom
were made. The dreams of an immigrant. A dream come true.
The document represents county, state and national history.
Most importantly, to the Maas family, it remains a treasured piece
of family history.
Reprinted with permission of the Common.