Lesterville, Dakota Territory (later
September 13, 1888
Translation of letter from German to English
Written to Teplitz, Bessarabia
I got both your letters. Last Sunday I went with them to Andreas on Neths' farm. We both are still healthy, thanks be to God, and we strongly hope you are too. George Neth finished threshing and is too lazy to write. I was there for three hours. Today it is one week since I returned from Central Dakota. I went as far as McPherson County. I took some of my boss's (Christian Welse) horses with me, which I sold there. It was slow going, since we went by freight train. The horses were loaded in a wagon, and I went in the person carriage. But at each station I had to look for the horses. Everything went well and I sold the horses; so my boss was satisfied when I returned. Then I got to Central Dakota without paying anything. The time was counted as working hours, so I even got paid.
I really liked the area, and couldn't ask for anything better. It is flat or rolling hills and you find white stones, like around your church. Also, our old barn at home was plastered with similar stones, only those stones were flat and these are round, but hard as the devil. You can't work on them with ordinary instruments. But they have some stone hammers here with which you can work on many stones. The very hard ones were covered with straw, the straw was lit to heat up the stones, then a lot of water was poured over it. The stones then burst into plates and can be used like that. The very hard stones are put down into the soil so deep they don't give trouble while plowing. This way the land is cleaned of stones.
The land is very fertile, better than South Dakota. The grass grows better than in South Russia. There is Quecken, Salber and yellow Sahnen that grew close to the mill. Father sometimes collected them. They are thought to be good for tumors and grow eight and ten inches high.
This years harvest up there [central Dakota] is very good. To my calculations and what the people are saying, they had an average of about 100 Pud Dessjutin. Here in South Dakota, the wheat average is about 25-35 pud or about 6-7 bushels per acre, in Central Dakota 25-30 bushels. (one bushel has 60 pounds, so 1-1/2 Pud).
Up there they also have much better wheat [varieties] than here. There the people have No. 1 wheat. Here the farmers only raise second choice.
It's said that winter up there is cooler than in South Dakota. Frost starts 2 weeks earlier in autumn and lasts 2 weeks longer in spring. The people up there are doing pretty well, unless they have debts.
Now you still can get land about 10 to 15 miles away from the biggest train station. Naturally you can't wait, for then the best will be taken and picked out.
The last train station is called Eureka, and is 122 miles southeast of Bismarck and is 1-1/2 years old. It has "12-12" grocery stores, where you can get anything you'd need for living, for money of course. Also 2 banks, a printing press, and a wheat elevator where farmers sell their grains, 2 beer parlors where thirsty people can quench their thirst, for money, 3 restaurants when hungry you can eat enough for money, and a butcher shop (don't forget, all is available, but for money!).
Then there are living quarters. When one does not know an American town it is difficult to imagine, what a new town looks like. What was just desert 1-1/2 years before, is now a small town 1/4 the size of Teplitz, only built closer together. The town grew just like a mushroom. While I was there, they worked on a church. The school building was finished. Engines, wagons, ploughs, etc., you get everything in this town. I liked it so well, that by spring I will have moved there. Whether you are coming or not, there is more life there and more money than here in Lesterville. In South Dakota heating is done with manure like in Russia.
The Missouri river is only 40-55 miles away. If you go there you can chop wood, for as much as one wagon load for $1.50, as much as 2 oxen can pull. But people, who don't want to work, will stay poor like everywhere in the world. As I heard there they sold pieces of land (claims) for 400, 500, 700, up to 900 dollars already. Two to three years ago the land didn't belong to anybody. You can break the ground with 2 strong oxen.
The people are mostly living in small cottages. Similar to Mahler's cottage on the old dam. Most of them are people who haven't been here long, just like me. They are living here 2 to 3 years already, and came here poor as church mice.
Here near the Missouri River they didn't have a good harvest either, even not this year. I saw watermelon, cucumber, flax and corn. But I think the corn would not get ripe because of the early frost.
I could not finish this letter on September 13, so I will continue today - September 18. Today we had the first light frost in South Dakota, but it didn't do any damage in the vegetable garden. During the day it still is pretty warm, but the nights are fresh.
I don't know what kind of church it will be, that they were working on in Eureka, I don't know. There is a strong Reformed Church out here, so I believe it is a Reformed Church.
In America you don't need plow leaders (ackertreiber), Andreas does it like a true farmer. He puts leading rope around his waist and puts a few horses to the plow and holds on to the plow - if the plow has to go deeper, it is pulled up at its handles, if it has to go flatter, it will be pulled out. The plows are made from iron, except the handles.
Do not worry about Andreas. Georg Neth told me that up to now no immigrant learned the American way of working in such a short time as Andreas. There are more calendars here than in Russia.
Heinrich asks what you should do with my exercise books and other
books when you are coming to America. Well, let August Stephan read
them all and sort them out. Burn the exercise books and all that
is not good anymore. But the books with Russian Geography, Natural
Science, Grammar, Speech are all useful books, please bring them.
Tomorrow I will write August Stephan. He then can sort [through] all the pads and books, he knows what is useful. The good books you tie together and put in your luggage. Please bring the following: Geometrics in Russian language, a small book I bought myself. Also when I was with Klotz, I wrote prayers, baptism liturgies, etc., in a small self-bound book. If you can still find it at home, bring it, because I could well use it here. Also bring a black book- in the front it has Bible verses and in the back it explains about repentance. It also explains the difference between atheists, materialists, etc., and many biblical explanations by Pastor Meyer in Sarata, please bring that also. Russian or German history, poetry, all teaching books bring with you.
You can bring your furs, too, but please don't buy new ones. When the furs are ripped and worn out here in America, you can buy a new one with the fur on the outside. Last week I bought a fur coat of Siberian wolf with 2 inch fur on the outside. It is padded on the inside. If you don't have too much luggage, bring Andreas' fur. Do not buy fur in the hope to sell it here. Also, do not bring old bed sheets or clothes. No hand tools because it's easily replaced. You should prepare carry-on luggage, no more than you can carry. You can bring 150 pounds American or 165 Russian pounds or 4 Pud/5Pud luggage with you per person. In Russia, Austria, and Germany you will have to pay freight for it, but on the boat and to your destination it is free. Don't forget to look for your luggage when changing trains. How the travelling goes, I wrote to you before in a letter.
In Bremen, don't forget to go to Missler, he is an honest man and will not cheat you. Do not go through Hamburg or Stettin. If you meet some agents (spies) on the way, tell them you are on your way to Stettin. You will find carriages from Missler at the Bremen train station. They will take you to Missler, with all your luggage, naturally. One or two days before you leave home, you could write to Missler, so he can pick you up at the train station.
Take tea and sugar with you on the boat. Sometimes the stuarts [stewards] in the kitchen will not give you any tea water. But don't get discouraged and send away; go to the Captain and ask him to escort you to the kitchen, so you will get what you want. When they open your luggage at customs be careful that it gets closed well again so nothing gets lost. Please bring some tobacco for me. But you have to put it in a small bag. If you are asked about it, say it is for your own use. Also bring a little wine for testing.
That is all I have to say. I wrote in other letters before what
I want you to bring for me.
Our appreciation is extended to Robert Erberle, Lehr, North Dakota, for sending the original text of this letter.
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