By Erasmus Braxmeyer, Mandan, North Dakota, born in the Catholic village of Sulz, Beresan District, South Russia (today Ukraine)
From the Thomas Hoffman Collection, Germans from Russia Heritage Society, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo
First, please pardon my poor English. I had no time, not the opportunity, to learn the language after coming to this country. The important thing was, after arriving here, to look for a job. I was fortunate enough to get a job at the German print shop in Mandan, working as a “printers devil”, which meant that I had to sweep the shop and clean the small printing press. This was a foot-operated machine on which letterheads, envelopes and some sales bills were printed. As black ink was used, I did look like a little black devil! This was where I learned to spell and read the English language. I will come back to this later.
The main purpose of this is to tell you something about the Braxmeier clan, or the “Braxmeier Family Tree.” I have been asked many times when the different spelling of “Braxmeier”. This is the correct spelling. I really don’t know why I started to spell the name with a “y”, nor why brother John (may his soul rest in peace) spelled it with an “o” rather than an “a” and changed the “i” to “y”. Of course, many have changed the spelling of their surnames, but this is beside the point.
The years and facts about the Germans immigrants from German to Russia, were obtained from Prof. Joseph S. Height of Franklin, Indiana, a descendant of Kutschurgan (Russia) colonists and presently professor of German Language and Literature at Franklin College of Indiana. The other man accredited with much information was Dr. Karl Stumpp, known as the “Patriarch of the German-Russian People”, a native of Alexanderhilf not far from Odessa, South Russia, and acclaimed the foremost scholar of German-Russian history. (see attachments 1 and 2)
Under the regime of Czarina Katherina II of Russia, who was a German born princess, a manifesto was issued. Agents of the Russian government were sent to Germany to persuade the German people to immigrate to Russia to settle in the very fertile steepes. This was in 1763-1768. Later, in 1804, under Czar Alexander I, this was repeated. The Russian government wanted the German immigrants as they were noted for the ambition and hard workers. The Russian government wanted not only farmers but also people who knew a trade, such as carpenters, blacksmiths etcetera. There were promised privilege of no military duty, practice of their own religion and language, and much more, and many German people immigrated to Russia. Most of the privileges were later withdrawn.
There is a gap between the years and the statistics obtained from Prof. Height and the years following. From memory from the age of four, information received from my sisters, and from a book our father brought over at the time of our immigration to this country, I will attempt to give you some facts of the family. Pro. Height states there were five different Braxmeiers. Your guess is as good as mine as to which one of the five is our ancestor.
Here are some statistics, not only from the “Braxmeier” clan but also from the “Stumpf” clan- our mother’s maiden name. We were able to get some facts from the information received from brother-in-law Frank Seidl and from some books father brought from Russia. Sister Ludmilla also furnished some of the names of our relatives.
GREAT GRANDFATHER: Franz Joseph Braxmeier, age 23, Walburg, Germany
GREAT GRANDMOTHER: Magdalena, born Bauer, age 27, Saarburg, Germany
GRANDFATHER: Joseph Braxmeier, born about 1814, died June 23,
1889 at the age of 75
GRANDMOTHER: Margaretha, born Reis, about 1823, died October 28, 1905 at the age of 82
FATHER: Johann Braxmeier, born March 15, 1852—died April 15, 1923
MOTHER: Katharina, born Stumpf, August 16, 1856, died May 29, 1930
PARENTS OF MOTHER: according to sister Ludmilla’s memory:
Grandfather Philip Stumpf, dates unknown
Grandmother Katharina, dates unknown
Children: Martin, Franz, Jakob, Katharina, Genoveva, Marianna, and Anna
Children of our parents, Johann and Katharina Braxmeier:
Martin—Sept. 4, 1875—1942
Anton—May 3, 1877—March 17, 1894
Joseph—March 21, 1879—March 24, 1879
Marianna—June 5, 1880—April 9, 1965
Daniel—Jan. 20, 1883—April 25, 1937
Raphael—Jan. 15, 1885—Aug. 25, 1937
Anna—Feb. 27, 1887—1973
Genoveva—May 11, 1889—Nov. 25, 1967
Ludmilla—Feb. 21, 1891—March 10, 1988
Erasmus—May 11, 1889—Jan 8, 1985
Rosa—Sept. 13, 1895—July 10, 1987
Philomena—Nov 4, 1898—July 8, 1988
Johann—July 19, 1901—Jan. 25, 1965
Elizabeth—Aug. 14, 1903—Jan. 16, 1970
The Year 1893
On May 11, 1893, I, Erasmus John, was born in Sulz. This same year brother Anton passed away at the age of 16. In 1879, brother Joseph was born and died in his infancy. I was the tenth child in the family.
During that year, father leased a tract of land in Yeschitsky, several miles to the south of Sulz. Due to a shortage of available farmland, especially families who had several boys as in our faily with three grown-up boys-Martin, Daniel, and Raphael-families started to move out of their place of origin. Yeschitsky was a small hamlet of a few farmers. Here two sisters were born-Rosa and Philomena.
After farming at this location for four years, father located a position of farm-manager in Koblewo, several miles to the east. This tract of land consisted of many thousands of acres and was owned by a Mr. Trazhthenherz who resided in Odessa. Kobelwo was strictly a Russian settlement and not far from the Black Sea. On clear days you could see the big ships at sea.
There were only three German families and perhaps two Jewish families, one of who worked for father and the other had a general merchandise store. Father’s job was to lease this land in small parcels to Russian farmers. The rental fee to start was the fourth or fifth shock of grain. Later the rent went up almost every year. Father’s salary was not paid in money but he had the privilege of farming 600 Dessjatin of his choice. This was equivalent to about 1600 acres which of course, made a large tract of land. Those were our good years- financially. I don’t remember a crop failure in those years. The land seeded into a large variety of grain such as wheat, barley, oats, rye, and some corn. I do remember that we had as many as five horse-drawn, two-bottom plows with as many ox-drawn. There was also a lot of fall plowing and winter wheat seeding done.
Brother Martin was married in Sulz to Rosa Kupper, and as customary, the wedding lasted two or three days. Farming was done together with the brothers Martin and Raphael, and part-time in the spring and fall brother Daniel helped manage the farming. Brother Daniel attended a teachers college in Grosslibenthal and attained a teacher’s certificate.
Father was steadily occupied with leasing the land. In the fall of the year during the threshing season, he was busy driving from one threshing rig to another. I remember that he had at least two of them going at he same time. Then, of course, he had to look after the hauling of grain, selling it and collecting the money, in addition to the bookkeeping.
In Koblewo, brother John and sister Elizabeth were born. There were still five or six in the family who needed an education, so father hired a lady teach who taught us for two years. After that we had a male teacher.
After six years, father bought a large tract of land in Kapustina, not far from Koblewo. After two successive years of crop failure, father sold this land and moved back to Sulz. In Sulz, father bought a home but did not take an active part in the operation of the farm which he and brother Martin rented not far from Sulz. Brother Raphael was drafted into the army shortly after that. Father owned a vineyard and also another parcel of land on which half was planted into grapes and the other half into fruit trees such as apples, peaches, apricots, cherries, plums, and a large variety of berries, along with walnuts. Father took care of both places and surely enjoyed this kind of work.
In the fall of 1905, I entered the Seminary in Saratof. The school term was from September until the early part of June. I attended for four successive years, until 1909, the year of our immigration. During these years sister Anna married Frank Jochim and brother Daniel married Elizabeth Kary.
THE IMMIGRATION TO THE NEW WORLD
The class of families who immigrated to another country, especially to America, were mostly poor and uneducated. In other words, it was a disgrace to leave the country. A number of relatives, who were quite well to do, could not understand why our father had decided to make the move. To their regret they learned later how wise he was in leaving Russia.
The years after the Russo-Japanese War brought much unrest. There was much burning and stealing. On many occasions the Cosaks had to be called to restore or prevent upheavals. In those days the radical element was not called Bolschevicks but Socialists. There were many arrests made under the Czar regime, was to blame for the existing conditions. I am sure father was aware of those conditions and perhaps foresaw the bad times coming, and made his decision to get out of the country while there was still time.
Just to mention other factors: A good number of our own people got quite rich at the expense of low wages and other factors. The hired hand was low-paid and ill-fed. Not only did some of the Germans acquire large tracts of land, but there were also a large number of Russians who owned thousands of acres of land. Besides this class of Germans and Russians, the Jews too were hated. The Jews owned a large share of the business establishments. And, if you recall past history, they were the first to be killed, sent to Siberia, or died of starvation.
In the fall of 1909, we embarked on the train in Nikoljef for Antwep, Belgium. Two other families immigrated with us, namely, Aunt Katherina Stumpf and family (who was married to mother’s brother Jacob and who had passed away) and Uncle Nikolas and Aunt Marianna Wetsch and their family Anut Marianna was mother’s sister. After a week here, we left for Quebec, Canada. Sisters Marianna and Rosa had to stay as the doctor found they both had Trachoma. The rules were that whoever had this eye defect would not be allowed to enter Canada. As a guide one of our cousins, Philip Stumpf, stayed with them. In Antwerp they were under treatment, and after a month or so they were allowed to proceed on their journey.
Instead of landing in Quebec they arrived in St.Johns, New Foundland, about two weeks before Christmas. Father was notified by telegram of their arrival. Father left for St.Johns and upon arriving was notified that both girls could not be released and had to take some more treatment which lasted another six weeks. They finally arrived some time in Feburary the next year.
I will now continue with our arrival in Quebec. From Quebec we went to Winnipeg where we all stayed in an immigration home next to the depot. Before we immigrated to Canada, one of our uncles, Martin Stumpf, had preceded us and was living in Mandan, North Dakota. Father intended to settle in Canada because he was perhaps told there were a lot of homestead to be had.
After a week or so in Winnipeg, it was decided to proceed to Mandan. At that time we did not know just when the two sisters, who were still in Antwerp, would arrive in Canada. It was decided that I would stay in Winnipeg and wait for their arrival. After a couple weeks, I received a letter from father that I should come to Mandan that he had a job lined up for me. This was when I started to work in a print shop, as I stated above.
We issued a German Weekly newspaper, “North Dakota Herald”. Four pages were set by hand and the other four pages were already printed and came from some company in Minneapolis or St. Paul. After the four forms were ready, we carried them to a print shop around the corner. I believe it belonged to a Mr. Young. This shop had a newspaper press. The editor at the time was Mr. Steinbruck. If I remember correctly, Mr. and Mrs. Steinbruck had a family consisting of one daughter and three or four sons. The sons were employed on the NP Railroad, either as conductors or brakemen. At this writing, I think there is one son still in Mandan, namely George.
The Herald was sold the following spring to a Mr.Baker, who I believe was a banker in Bismarck. Shortly after that the Herald was sold again to Mr. Nadolsky and Mr.Lengowsky in Dickinson, where they had bought another weekly Germans newspaper and combined the two. Mr. Nadolsky was shop foreman on another weekly newspaper in Richardton, North Dakota, “Der Volksfreund”, issued then by the Abbey.
After helping out in Dickinson for a short time, I assumed the position of Mr.Nadolsky in Richardton. In 1914, I was married to Margaret Sturn, and in 1915 we moved to Solen. There I had a job with the Helbling Implement Company, and in the fall of 1916, I joined the late Frank Wetsch, brother-in-law, in a general merchandise store. I retired in 1946 and moved to Bismarck
I am coming back now to the farm operations in North Dakota.
In the spring of 1910, father bough a section of land a couple
miles from Judson from an Mr.Bierbaum. It seems that the former
occupant did not believe in cleaning the barns, so there was an
accumulation of two to three feet in manure! There was nothing
left to do but clean up the place. Brother Raphael, who came over
to America after getting out of the army, sisters, Genoveva, Ludmilla,
Rosa, and Elizabeth and, I suppose, brother John had to help.
This was quite a change in life from what most of us were accustomed
to. Father worked very hard in digging up rocks, the land was
full of it, and I think there are still plenty rocks left. Here
again, there were there or four crop failures, so there was no
way of meeting the payments on the contract.
A year of so after our department from Russia, brother Daniel had an auction sale and disposed of all the farm machinery and livestock. Brother Daniel was also farming nearby in Judson. (He and brother-in-law Frank Jochim and their families arrived in Mandan in the fall or winter) In the spring Frank Jochim bought a farm joining ours in Judson and he too tired his hands at farming. After several crop failures he quit farming and moved to Bismarck where he was employed at the Oscar H. Will Seed House. From Bismarck he moved to Solen and operated a hardware store for a couple of years. Here again, due to crop failures and the start of the depression, the hardware business was not every profitable.
All left Judson and settled in Solen where father and brother Daniel leased a section of land from Indian, Andrew Ironroad. Father had a home built in Solen and, due to his advanced age, retired. Later brother Daniel bought a farm in Morton County, and brother Raphael too tried his hand at farming. Then, as we all remember, came the dreadful twenties and thirties which forced hundreds of families off the farms and consequently resulting in business failures.
Brothers Daniel and Raphael and brothers-in-law Frank Jochim and Frank Seidl and their families moved to the west coast. Perhaps it was for the better, both for them and their children, and the children especially had a much better change to get the necessary education and had a better chance for a decent living. Brother John, after attending a business college in Bismarck, worked for a time in a tailor shop and later started to travel for a made to measure clothing concern until shortly before he died.
The following brother and sisters were married in this country:
Marianna to Edward Loran, Genoveva to Frank C. Wetsch, Ludmilla
to Frank Seidl, Erasmus to Margaret Sturn, Philomena to Fred Landeis,
Rosa to Peter Stein, Raphael to Annamaria Scherger, John to Irene
Tavis. (I and sister Ludmilla had a double wedding-10/12/1914).
After mother’s death sister Elizabeth enter the Benedictine Convent at Mt.Angel, Oregon. She is now Sister Loraine. (Deceased Jan 16, 1970)
Brother Martin was the only one who remained in Russia and had to experience all the dreadful times that came with the Revolution. After losing practically everything, he settled in Odessa with his family and had a job as a njight watchman. He passed away in 1942. After ther retreat of the German army, the remainig family landed first in Rumania, then in Poland, and finally arrived back in the country of their origin as displaced persons. There they were housed in a so-called DP camp.
The quota for immigrants from Germany to the United States was very low; consequently a long waiting list. A distant relative and also an Irish Catholic who owned a garage in Fairview, Alberta, Canada, came to their rescue as their sponsors. In the early 50’s they arrived in Canada. Even though here too they were housed in very cold and primitive remodeled garages, et cetera, at least they found jobs. Some of them worked at two or three different jobs. From here all of them moved to Vancover, British Columbia. Here they found better jobs and more opportunites to have their children educated. I supposed they could write a lengthy book about their experiences, all the misery they endured in Russia and their flight from them. But, then again, perhaps they would just like to forget and not even think about this. Their good mother passed away on November 7, 1964.
The forgoing is a short history and also a short biography of some of the brothers, sisters, and of myself. I was not trying to exaggerate or minimize some of the facts, and if they made errors in presenting facts or dates, it was not done intentionally. This will, at least, give the future generation, if they wish to continue the “family tree”, something to work on.
I thought it would be of some interest, especially to the younger generation, to try to illustrate how we lived in Russia. I am referring to the six years when we lived in Koblewo where father had the farm manager’s job. Of course, we did not have the conveniences then as we have now such as electric lights, and whatever went with it, but remember that in those years there were not many conveniences of that nature in this country either, but we lived quite comfortably.
Our home, with the rest of the buildings, was located on a tract
of land, approximately two acres. The yard was divided into two
sections. One section was called the “white” yard
and the other the “black” yard. Our home was in the
“white” yard and consisted of 14 rooms with a kitchen
where the meals for our family were prepared. Ther was also an
ice house, blacksmith shop, horse stable with hayloft, machine
sheds, and several other storage places. In the “black”
yard there was home for the caretaker, kitchen and dining area,
and sleeping quarters for the hired help, also granaries, chicken
house, and cow barns. This whole complex was either surrounded
by buildings or by a five-foot high wall, build from rocks. A
night watchman was employed the year-round. This was precautionary
measure. The Russians liked to steal.
Historical District Archives
Dept. 134 Sec. 25 No. 62
Copy of Translation Dniepropetrowsk
Titular Councillor: Baleman:
Superintendent of German Colonies
R E V I S K A I A – S K A S K A (census Registration)
Gouverbement of Cherson, District of Cherson
Date: March 12, 1816 : Village of SULZ. Beresan Colonly/Odessa
Fam. No. 14a: Colonist Jakob Braxmeier, born 1781
Emigrated from Walburng, district of Hagenau,
Alace (France) in 1809 (?).
Fled in 1811 to Feodosia, in the Crimea
Fam. N. 31: Colonist Joseph Braxmeier, Catholic; Farmer, age
Emigrated from Walburg, district of Hagenau,
Arrived in Russia: October 5, 1909
His wife: Magdalena, age 21.
Children: Genoveva, 4; Joseph, 1.5 years old
Crown land: 60 dessiatines (i.e. 162 acres).
2 horses; 2 cows; 1 steer; 1 calf; 1 wagon; 1 plow
Date: Year 1840: Conrad Keller’s List (from Odessa Archives)
Village of Sulz. Beresan Colony
Fam. No. 16: Colonist Joseph Braxmeier, age 53 from Walburg/Alsace
His wife: Margaretha, 56, nee Hoffman.
Children: George, 22 Elizabeth (adopted), 8 years old
Fam. No. 20 a Joseph Braxmeier, 24, son of Colonist Joseph
His wife: Anna- Eva, 19, nee Meuchel Braxmeier.
Child: Phillip, 1 year old
Fam. No. 20b Markus Braxmeier, 21, son of Colonist Joseph
His wife: Genoveva, 19, nee Kupper Braxmeier
Joseph Braxmeier: Schoolmaster. He was born in Walburn, Alsace (France) in 1786, and settled in Sulz, Beresan Colony in 1809, where he became the second schoolmaster in 1820, after the tragic death of the first school master, colonist Georg Warter, who had returned from Alsace to get his aged blind mother, was robbed and murdered by a band of thieves at Radizivilow. His mother was also killed.
Joseph Braxmeier was a stern school teacher, highly respected by his students. He died December 14, 1861, at the age of 75 years. There were two other Braxmeier schoolmasters in Sulz: Franz and Martin.
Explanation and Comment: The ages given are for the partiacular
year of the census. Thus, colonist Jospeh Braxmeier would have
been born in 1788 (i.e. 1816 minus 28 years). Jakob Braxmeier
had two sonds: Joseph (born in 1815) and Markus (born in 1819).
In 1840 Joseph Jr. had one-year old son, Philipp.
(I have no records after 1840).
Historical District Achieves
Dept. 134 Sec.25 No. 62)
Titular Councillar Baleman:
Superintendent of German Colonies
Deviskaia-Skaska (Census Declaration)
Governemnt of Cherson, District of Cherson.
Date: March 12, 1816 Village of Speier. Beresan Colony/Odessa
Fam. No. 87: Colonist Jakob Stumpf, Catholic, farmer, age 27
His wife: Elizabeth, age 30
Emigrated from Riedselz, district of Weissenburg, Alsae (France)
Arrived in Russia: November 1, 1809
Children: Franz, 1 month old
Crown land: 60 dessiatines (162 acres)
2 horses; 2 cows; 3 steers; 1 calf; 1 wagon; 1 plow
Date Year: 1840 Village of Speier/ Beresan Colony
Fam. No. 108: Colonist Jakob Stumpf, 52, from Riedselz/Alsace.
His Wife: Maria-Eva, 49 , nee Schardt.
Children: Peter, 11, Johann, 6; Maria, 15, Dominika, 4 years
Copy Historical District Archives
Dept. 134 Sec. 25 No. 62
Reviskaia-Skaska (Census Declaration)
Date: Year 1840 Village of Sulz. Beresan Colony/Odessa
Fam. No. 62a: Phillipp Stumpf, age 20. Came from colony of Speier.
His Wife: Katharina, age 18, daughter of (deceased) colonist Johann Meuchel and widowed mother Katharina, nee Kuhn
Explanation and Comment: the ages given are for the particular year of the census. Thus colonist Jakob Stumpf would have been born in 1789 (i.e. 1816 minus 27 years). Since Jakob Stumpf was only the pioneer settler by that family name, we must assume that Phillip Stumpf (born 1820) was one of his sons. Jakob Stumpf was settled in Speier, but Phillip, after his marriage to Katharina Meuchel, moved to Sulz, and inherited the property of his deceased father-in-law. He seems to have been married in 1839. (No records after that date).