The John Schmaltz family of Emmons County: from Ukrainian Steppes to Dakota PrairiesSchmaltz, Eric. "The John Schmaltz family of Emmons County: from Ukrainian Steppes to Dakota Prairies." Emmons County Record, 20 November 2008, 25.
(Editor's Note: This is part thirteen of Eric Schmaltz's history of the John Schmaltz family.)
A New Home in North Dakota
The gravestone of Germans from Russia immigrants John and Clara (Bullinger) Schmaltz in St. Anthony’s Catholic Cemetery in Linton, North Dakota. For some reason, no death date of 1953 was carved into Clara’s side of the marker.
According to Peter A. Kraft’s (b. 1917) oral history interview with North Dakota State University, Johann and Agnes by the time of their voyage for America had a stepfather whose last name was Heintz. Perhaps one reason for their immigration to America was the stepfather, but that is pure speculation.
Peter also reported that Johann and Anges had at least six other siblings in Kandel: Anton, Lawrence, Alois, Peter, Wilhelm, and Anna Maria. The Russian census of 1882 for Kandel, however, does not corroborate these siblings’ names. The census only includes Ottilia (b. ca. 1871), Martin (b. ca. 1873), Katharina (b. ca. 1880), and of course, Johann (b. 1879). At least two other children came from the original marriage union: Peter's mother Agnes (b. 1882) and Leo, who died in childhood, birth and death dates unknown.
Eric Schmaltz. The author is immigrant Johann Schmalz’s great-grandson. Born in Minot, North Dakota, in 1971, he is Assistant Professor of History at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, where he teaches Modern European and World History. He expresses his eternal gratitude to old issues of the Emmons County Record as well as various extended relatives by blood or marriage who have assisted him with family history research over the past two decades, in particular Bro. Placid Gross, Mrs. Mary Lynn Axtman, Mrs. Nicole (French) Bailey, Prof. Amy Deibert, and Prof. Michael M. Miller.
Johann and Agnes departed Russia first for the German Empire. Ellis Island records list their point of departure as Bremen, Germany, the great port city that had long served as the gateway for Central and East European immigrants to the Western Hemisphere. Their passenger ship was German-built, the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse (Emperor William the Great). Years later, on July 26, 1914, the Germans scuttled the ship in Spanish West Africa to avoid capture by the British at the start of World War I. Some family members think that Johann (now John Schmaltz in the United States) might have spent a brief period living and working in Chicago, Illinois, before making his way from New York to North Dakota. It is reasonable to assume that he would have traveled by train through Chicago to the northern plains.
Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.