The Kempf Family History

The Kämpf family is recorded as early as 1248 in Straussburg, Alsace. Later, Conrad Kämpf was prospering at Stamheim in 1730, near Calw (Nagold district in the northern Black Forest), Wuerttemburg with titled crest for family name, which indicated a heritage of flour millers and bread bakers. Later descendants became textile weavers and tavern-hotelers. Philip’s only brother Johannes (born 1775) returned in 1810 to Straussburg, Alsace, from Ebhausen-Egenhausen, for a long life of ninety-three years.

Philip Jacob Kämpf (born 1770) left the scenic lofty Black Forest village of Ebhausen-Waldorf (Nagold District), Wuerttemburg, in 1814, to seek better opportunities in Eastern Europe, especially to Czar Alexander I’s liberal enticements to German colonists to establish new South Russia agricultural settlements in newly-won lands from Ottoman Turkish Empire. With only one year stay-over at village of Koenigschuld, Polen, Philip Kämpf with his new bride, Friedricka Hein, sought to establish their family “paradise” on Budshak Steppe in 1816 at the newly-founded village of Beresina (Kogelnik Insel), Bessarabia, on the Kogelnik River. They were prosperous Lutheran Swabians in heritage.

Their only son Johann-Georg Kämpf (senior), born 1819 in Beresina, married in 1843 at Klöstitz to his bride Friedricka Schlauch, born 1820 in Beresina, to prosper in Beresina with six children. Their youngest son Johann-“Georg” Kämpf, born 1862 in Beresina, married 9 February 1884, at the Lutheran bishop-seat in nearby Klöstitz to his bride Gottliebina Stolz, oldest of two daughters of Johannes Stolz and first wife Elizabeth Reich. “Gottlieba” was born in 1865, in her Bessarabian village of Fere Champenoise Einst, commonly “Alt-Elft”, on the Kogelnik River.

Gottlieba was orphaned at four years at her sister Rosina’s birth, when mother Elizabeth died from childbirth. However, Gottlieba’s sole aunt Sarah Reich soon was her step-mother and affirmed many Reich family traditions, originally inherited from the historic 1805-1808 village of Bergdorf, Glückstal district of Cherson province, near Tiraspol, which was an ancient Greek city-colony.

Young Gottlieba was soon recognized as an outstanding achiever as textile designer, whose ambitious and distinctive skills attracted the rich textile heritage of the Kämpf family.

Before “Georg” and “Gottlieba” Kämpf planned their March 1901 immigration to America, physically feeble Friedricka Schlauch Kämpf (1820-1902) urged immigration and foretold their best future was to establish a new life among “those people with flying machines” – prophetic of modern aviation’s beginnings in 1904. Her brother Ernest Schlauch had already immigrated there.

As common concealment for traveler’s garments, their entire monetary wealth in Russian coinage was carefully sewn into inner linings and hidden pockets, especially worn by women and children – only to be unstitched and extracted secretly when anticipating payments of coinage.

Johann-“Georg” Kämpf, commonly “Hans-Yerk” in dialect, with his wife Gottlieba and five surviving children (traveled by railway from Leipzig, Bessarabia, to Bremenhaven, Germany) immigrated with first-class passage on the “S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse” Bremen steamship directly over the Atlantic Ocean to arrive at Castle Garden immigration/ customs agency on lower Manhattan, New York. The family traveled westward by railway to arrive at Kulm, North Dakota, where Uncle Ernest Schlauch greeted and hosted them temporarily near Jud, North Dakota. (Also, cousin Fred W. “Abby” Kempf was resident photographer and brass musician at Kulm for previous seven years.)

The Kämpf family within one year had registered a homestead claim at Jewell in Jewell Township on bleak, stony Coteau de Missouri moraine, east of Ashley, McIntosh County. Gottlieba’s “batzen”/sod house soon hosted Lutheran worship in her wohnenzimmer/ parlor, as she was deaconess/sacristan for Holy Communion linens and preparations. Later (circa 1908) her kitchen window viewed westward at less than forty feet to the newly constructed, gothic style, wood-framed Sanckt Johannes Evangelisch Kirche and north graveyard for her future burial in 1927.

By 1916, the “Georg Kempf” family with four younger children had now re-located in their Anglicized prosperity to fertile agricultural “Low Flats” farmland of the Maple and Elm Rivers. Gottlieba now presided over a spacious gabled two-storied wood-frame house, near the Walden Rural School, south of Forbes, North Dakota. In this house were generated many detailed memories of Gottlieba’s only grand-daughter Katherina Pahl, who minutely described each kitchen’s organized functions, plus venerable Saxony wheel for spinning more yet more yarns.

For two years, Gottlieba was widowed and briefly remarried, before her death in Ashley in 1927. In 1926, all textile treasures were entrusted to her oldest daughter, Maria Kempf Gebhardt of Monango, North Dakota, who made further inheritance decisions in 1961 to her two younger sisters Ottilia (Odelia) Pahl and Freidericka (Frieda) Rall.

Commentary by Jay Gage, Curator of Exhibits and Textiles, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller