Written by Judy A. Remmick Hubert
If you passed by my great grandfather’s crumbling
headstone in Kulm, North Dakota you would probably
not take notice. His name isn’t in history
books, however, despite his lack of fame Karl Jacobovitch
Schweikert (Strong) should not be forgotten. The
man’s life passed through doors is forever
gone. His trade was blacksmithing, now a lost art,
he lived in the 19th century, now read in books,
and created new frontiers in new lands as well as
With the powers of my typewriter we can turn back
the pages of time to the day Karl was born on a
very hot summer morning on Friday the 22 of August
It was not unusual that the Schweikert men died
thousands of miles from their birth. His forefather
Jacob Schweikert, with his wife Sophia Herder, migrated
to Bessarabia in 1812 to a Russian village called
Borodino with 79 other emigrants of German background.
Jacob Schweikert had lived in Epyelheim/ Heidelberg-Baden
in the late 1700s. Then, in his nomadic movements,
traveled to Berlin, rottersdorf (Maszewo)/ Gostynin-Poland.
Just one step in front of Napoleon’s army
of 420,000 regulars and 600,000 reinforcements as
they marched to the bank of the Moskova River on
Sept. 7, 1812.
It was not until 1814 when the 17ers migrated to
the small village that the colony was placed officially
on the Russian records. That year they voted to
keep the Russian name Borodino in honor of the famous
Battle of Borodino where Napoleon was finally turned
out of their lives.
But the French were not the biggest threat to Jacob
and the others. The Turks had began to raid the
area in hopes to gain back Bessarabia they had just
lost under the new treaty with Alexander I of Russia.
He had to set up his forge with a gun always at
As time past, the threat of the Turks passed as
Bessarabia became more settled, but the true stories
faded into fables and tales. The fires which burned
at night because of ignited escaping natural gas
was turned into part of one fable.
The Fable was that under each burning fire was hidden a pot of
gold left from the fleeing Turks in 1812.
In the 1870s a Turk had returned to Borodino to claim his hidden
gold on the Michael Jarigovitch Heine’s property.
This directs me to the first known tale of Karl
in his youth: One night Karl and his younger brother
sat looking out at the burning fires that dotted
the valley near Borodino when the idea struck them
that they could gain their fortune by merely finding
the Turks gold. So the young men set out on their
adventure with only a part moon to guide their way.
When nearing the fire, which they had chosen to
investigate, Karl suddenly disappeared. His brother
halted and called out to Karl who had been walking
in front of him just a split second before. Up from
the bowels of the earth came Karl’s curtling
voice. “The Devil’s Got Me!” His
brother grew so frightened that he turned and ran
home. It was not until the next morning when Karl’s
absence was discovered that the younger brother
revealed that Karl had been captured by the devil.
Karl’s father organized a search party who
followed the youth to the place where Karl had vanished.
There at their feet was a hole and in the hole was
Karl perched on “his devil”, an old
steer who had stumbled in the hole shortly before
Karl. Laughter echoed over the area that morning
and generations that followed.
It seemed that Karl had felt himself fall downward that night
and the fall seemed to him as if he had gone down into the pit
of hell. When Karl recovered from the fall he felt his surroundings
with his hands. It was too dark to see. He felt horns and then
a tail. The first picture that flashed in his mind was that of
The tale showed Karl’s character that was
not to change the rest of his life. He sought quick
fortunes and many times sat in a deep hole of debts,
but he never gave up and ironically he help set
the pace that would end his family’s ancient
craft of the smithy shops.
How long the Schweikert family had been firing
metals is not known, except for tales which claim
they have never been anything else. If they made
draught-beams of birch in the time of the Donnerupland
plow found in Jutland it will never be known, but
the pages of Karl turns quickly to his nineteenth
year of 1881 in the month of March.
The magic of the typewriter found Karl in the forge
as he pulled out the red hot steel that would be
made into a new kind of plow.
The plow was based on the wheeled plough found
in the herrad of Landsper’s Hortus deliciarium
c. 1170, but this plow’s blade would win Karl
first prize in the local fairs and later first place
at the largest fair in Russia at Moscow.
His keen eye knew that his new plow was not like the old “Foolish
plow” that the Schweikerts introduced in the early 1800s
that were better than the crude “Russian plow” that
broke and bent on the clay soil.
He did not gain personal credit but soon the plow would be known
as the “German plow.”
With beads of sweat on his knitting brow, he told
the apprentice to pump the bellows as he placed
the metal once more into the glowing coals. As he
placed the steel on the anvil an explosion occurred
in St. Petersburg, the capital of Russia, which
seemed too far to make itself felt in a far away
The bomb had been tossed under the carriage of the Russian Czar,
Alexander II which seemed to set the fate of all the German-Russians
as well as the Romanov family.
In the fall of that year Karl won recognition as the new blade
parted the earth with such ease.
It is not known if he traveled to Moscow that year
or the next, but his travels bring me to the next
tale: In the shadow of Mt. Kasbek (Mkinvari) where
the Greek mythical Zenus stole fire from the heaven,
Karl found a Circassian friend who told him of the
finest Caucasus metals that could be used for his
plow. He showed him the Turkish artisans that made
the oriental Sword mixed with glass and later invited
Karl to his home. In that home, on the night of
the tale, the Circassian clapped his hands and out
from a side room came his three veiled wives. The
Circassian told his wives to lower their veils and
Karl would chose one of them whom he felt was the
most beautiful. Karl was unaware of the customs
and chose one of the wives. The Circassian grew
angry and drew his dagger as he spit through his
teeth of pearl, “You have disgraced my other
two wives and I must kill you.” But the Circassian
casted a smile across his aristocratic face and
stated that he would spare his life because Karl’s
friendship was important to his people.
The Circassians were known to have killed easily and without
These travels were filling Karl’s mind of
new ways and new methods. It was all like contraband
and was soon found being constructed in the Schweikert
But the mind of Karl’s became quite frustrated at the slow
response of the German farmers who were reluctant in adopting
“new fangled” ideas.
In 1884 Karl's thoughts of work mingled with the
face of a young girl, Katharina Henke, the daughter
of Wilhelm Wilhelmovitch Henke and Christina Johanova
Katherina was not free to marry him, and so he watched from the
distance until the news came that Katharina’s
betrothed had become a prisoner of war on Alexander
III’s Central Asian Conquest.
With a strong spirit Katharina refused to marry someone else
and hoped and prayed that her betrothed would return. Besides
she never really liked the gruff, unpolished rock, Karl.
As time pasted Karl became a steady visitor to the Henke home
and finally Katharina gave into the pressures set by her parents
and she agreed to marry Karl.
On November 22, 1884 after the harvest and the work had slowed
at the smithy, Karl and Katharina married in the Lutheran Church
in Klöstiz by Pastor Peters.
Their marriage was the third generation that had
married in Klöstiz and the second that had
said their vows under Pastor Peters.
The first forefather of Karl’s to wed in Klöstiz
was Jacob Jacobitch Schweikert (son of Jacob and
Sophia, nee Herder) to Margareth Butz (the daughter
of Barbara Johanova Scholder and Albert Butz).
The second to take his vows in Klöstiz was
Karl’s father, Jacob Jacobobitch Schweikert
with Johanna Bippus, the daughter of Johanna and
Johannas Johannesovitch Bippus.
The wedding was combined with many family customs.
The recipe handed down for the wedding cakes was
from the forefather Georg Frey, a baker of Aidlingen
Germany. The beer recipe was handed down from a
forefather Georg Balthasar Buz of Nagold/Calw’s
White Horse Inn. The brides head piece was made
by the Kränzler cousins because for generations
they had made the rosemary and myrtle crescent-shape
wedding headpiece. Even the name, when translated,
meant “bridal wreath”. The Schneider
cousins made the outer garments of Black satin for
the bride and fine serge for the groom. Even their
feet were fitted with shoes made by their relatives,
the Hager, who owned a large shoe factory in Kischniev.
Ahh, and the large banquet meal lay the Heusel geese.
The life of Katharina and Karl was not harmonious. Katharina
thought Karl was too much of a dreamer and she was greatly disappointed
in his whims. One minute they were wealthy and the next minute
poor as church mice.
In 1886 as the cool chill of the coming fall fills
the air, my grandmother, Christina, was born and
to be the oldest of seven children.
But the air carried more than a seasonal chill,
for discontent was impregnating the working classes
of Russia. A movement similar to the years prior
the French Revolution of 1789-93.
By 1888 the Jews, compared to the Huguenots in
French history, began their resettlement. All Jews
were told to return to their origin.
And at this time the Russian industry began to expand and the
peasant left their dilapidated farms to go to work in the cities.
As the birth of the labor movement occurred a new invention circled
Karl’s brain, but it was interrupted by the
decision of his father’s migration to the
I thought at first it was caused by the large implement
factory of Hahn’s that produced a mass supply
of plows, or the death of his first wife. The migration
was not a few people, but a large number.
Karl would remain in Borodino where his roots were deep. He did
not have the wonder lust of his forefathers. He would go on the
journey to aid the overland migration. The woman would go by ship,
except Katharina and Marie, John Hein’s wife.
The lost lover of Katharina had returned after his seven year
imprisonment and Karl felt it wise not to leave Katharina alone
in Borodino so he asked relatives to watch his daughter and new
The migration traveled the old trading land routes used since
ancient times. But it was not until the train reached the edge
of the Russian main land that I type about this event in more
At what seemed the edge of the world to Katharina, the Russian
main land narrowed down to the sea’s bankment
and across a long pontoon bridge was the land of
the Crimea. The bridge covered the water span of
the Perekip Isthmus and was very dangerous. For
you see, the weight of the wagons on the bridge
made the sea lapp up over the pontoons which made
the horses travel uphill all the way which was exhausting.
A number of people and all their worldly belongings
passed safely and even Marie Heine drove one of
the wagons across. Finally it was Karl and Katharina’s
turn. The weight was heavier than the others and
the tail gate by which Katharina sat sunk down and
licked continually at the salty sea. It was terrifying
to Katharina who saw the horses stumble and she
cried out, “Abba! Lieber! Oh, Vater!!”
and when the wagon reached the opposite side she
Soon to cross was Jacob Ruff, a great uncle of
my paternal side, who would later flee the Crimean
Taters with his life. But that would occur years
later when many of the people on the migration will
have returned to Bessarabia.
At this point the life of Katharina and Karl grow quite vague,
but we know that Karl’s father settled near
his cousin’s sheep farm near Eurpatoria, the
chief trade port town on the northwest coast.
Their cousins the Müellers had brought in
the sheep of Merino in 1804 and by the late 1900s
was only second to the sheep farmer. The Falz-Fein,
my father’s cousins, who owned 210 sq. miles,
hired 2,000 laborers for their 10,000 sheep. Today
the Falz-Fein is considered the best operational
collective farm in Russia.
This was not the last time Karl and Katharina ventured to the
The next well known story was taken once again overland in the
special wagon which Karl created.
Christina and Reinhold, Karl’s half-brother, describe the
wagon: It was indeed something special for the chassie was made
of light weight springs and the chassie was blue. Inside the carriage
was leathered in black but the fringe which hung down matched
the blue chassie. A great comfort to ride. The wheels were red
(the colors were remembered because Christina and her brother
Jacob would paint for extra money 35 plows a week and the beams
were always blue and the wheels always red). The wheels chimed
like a Swiss music box, the invention of Karl Schweikert.
“The wagon,” states Reinhold, “was driven to
where my parents, Jacob and Elizabeth, nee Hager, lived near Kotschubei.”
It is believed that it is located between Simferopol and Sebastopol
where in 1854 the English Light Brigade rode for 1 ½ miles
into Russian bullets as they charged to their death during the
It was on this visit that Karl was asked to take his talent to
the Caucasus Mountains.
He accepted and sent Katharina home to sell the
house and the two shops. Then he went to Tiflis
and saw what he could find, and sent for them.
While Katharina was selling the property, the villagers sent
Karl letters asking him to reconsider.
One of the letters from Tiflis, Christina recalls, stated that
the mosquitoes were as big as hens in Katherinfeld.
A few months later Karl returned and bought a new shop near the
mill and years later explained how people were dying from a fever.
He did not want to expose his family to such illness.
But was there more to the story?
Why did he buy land if he did not plan on returning?
Let’s take a look at the history books and see what could
have sent him home in silence.
There were young revolutionists springing up out of the terrible
conditions of Rothchilds oil refineries. A young man in the early
1900s called Stalin was part of the unrest. And there was yellow
fever and typhoid.
Perhaps Karl realized that soon all would leave Russia once again
as migrates to a distant land of unfamiliar customs and language.
The years to follow in Russia were to be called “Eve of
the Revolution” and in November of 1894 the head lines read:
Death of the Russia Czar
The Russian name of Neu-Borodino had been Alexander after the
Romanovs to whom some in the village claimed kinship. Alexander
I, II and III had ridden through her streets.
It was Christina and Ludwig who recalled the first time they
had seen the Czar Alexander III riding after maneuvers,
and next to him rode Daniel Michaelovitch Hein with
his officers glusters and saber blinding them with
delight. (Ludwig Hein was Christina’s boyfriend
much later and then to become her husband.)
The man to rule in 1894 was three years younger than Karl and
must have seemed puny and weak compared to Alexander III who could
bend steel bars with his bare hands like Karl.
The air was thick with bad omens and fear, for the uncertainty
of a new ruler was unsettling.
Marixt-Engle followers lurked everywhere.
In 1895 the Unions of struggle for the Emancipation for the working
class were being headed by V.I. Lenin and Y.O. Martov plus women
like N.K. Krupskaya and others.
Stalin continued in Baku and Trosky studied in Odessa.
Meanwhile, Karl was helping the farmers turn their methods out
of the dark ages. He helped bring in new machines from England,
Germany, Belgium and the United States.
The Mrash Harvestor, the brow-beater, the Milwaukee binder, the
McCormick “Daisy” binder and the Ohio “Buckeye”
took hold at the end of the 1800s.
Unfortunately, not all of Karl’s new fangle ideas were
accepted. The oil driven tractor was just too much for the farmers
and Karl lost all his money once again.
While Karl struggled to gain his feet; the farmer’s life
was eased. The farmer no longer had to use the scythe,
the hafted fork or the wimmowing basket. Seeds did
not have to be thrown out on the tilled soil by
hand. Yes, life was becoming easier.
While Karl made other fortunes and lost them on other wild schemes,
let us take a brief look at his wife, Katharina. She had become
the local mid-wife and delivered children by means of hypnosis.
The method of Katharina might have been considered “white
magic” for it places the woman in labor in a trace like
state resembling sleep in which the woman was susceptible to the
suggestions to Katharina. Therefore, it can be said that she too
was a woman ahead of her time for just lately the modern field
of medicine is finding out the benefits to such actions.
Christina was not sure of her mother’s methods and even
today is superstitious enough to rarely mention this part of her
mother’s life. It was at this time that Christina was nearing
womanhood and took in sewing to earn money for herself.
Let’s let her describe this part of her life: “The
fabric bought was from a man called Deweydee. He came in a wagon
filled with bolts of material once a week, sometimes more. We
could not buy our clothes like we do today in a department store.
All of it was sewn by hand and a few of us owned sewing machines.
I owned a Howe machine, something my father bought in Odessa from
an American trader.” She was asked about the styles of clothes.
“I designed fashions from pictures I had seen. Some were
the latest French and English garments. Wealthy women, like my
mother-in-law-to-be, Frau Heine, nee Stärr, ordered the latest
fashions and had shoes to match each dress.” The subject
then filtered about the beautiful Christina Heine who wouldn’t
wake the milk maidens and milked herself. “A kind and gentle
woman. A woman most Bolesvicks should have known.” The conversation
then went back to the sewing and I asked her about the military
uniforms. “They too had to be sewn.”
As she describes one of the uniforms a childhood story entered
my mind. Even to this day I can close my eyes and
hear the description of Christina Schweikert’s
future brother-in-laws uniform he wore before WWI.
Officer Daniel Michaelovitch Heine wore a beautifully
woven and expensive material of light blue wool.
The jacket was ¾ in length and of light blue.
It had gold buttons and gold braid telling rank.
The pants matched in color and were tailored. The
hat Daniel tipped on his head was lambs wool, and
dyed to match the uniform. Later Daniel would become
part of the elite German-Russian military group
who never left the Czar side. Then Christina would
sew dark blue with red piping for suite and cape.
Borodino and Karl were not isolated from the outside world. His
wife and children did not wear only the garments described by
other historians who describe billowing shirts and three cornered
The events which were to follow are difficult to explain. It
seems that Christina, the middle class craftsman’s daughter,
fell in love with the upper class family’s son, Ludwig Michaelovitch
Hein (Heyn or Hähn).
The discussions between Karl and Michael Jarigovitch Hein was
It lead to the results of Karl taking Christina with him to Hanover
for a large fair, and Ludwig was to be sent to the
University in Sarata.
But fate deemed a different plan.
All Russian universities were closed after the student demonstration
in St. Petersburg.
When Christina returned she found Ludwig still
in Borodino. Ludwig never attended a University.
Ludwig had never been a good student, was not saddened
by the loss of higher education, and soon proposed
Meanwhile the rural districts were marked by troubles. The working
classes had great strikes. Whole villages were burned
while the occupants were shot down, flogged, or
Nicholas II ordered the terrifying killings for one reason and
one reason only. He was trying to prove to the world that he was
Russian in mind, soul and blood. But his German relatives knew
that only a thimble full of Nicholas II’s blood was Salvic.
Nicholas II was German and he had married Alexandra, a German
De-Germanizing Russia was found a delightful treat for the Slavic,
who although of Germanic background, hated the Germans. All through
history, one can find the ruins of some battleground where the
Slavic and Germans fought.
The Kaiser of German, a cousin of Nicholas II, rubbed salt in
every German-Russian wound and began the upswing of Lenin and
the revolution, in hopes to get Russia as a coup.
It was the German-Russians who suffered.
It had been the statesman Orlov who in the 1700s saw German and
Russia as two great bull dogs pulling at the mongrel, Austria-Hungary.
In the winter of 1904, Ludwig was called into military
services, not as an officer, but as a private.
It was the 22 of Jan 1905 that fate began to crumble the Romanov
Dynasty. One of the Hein brothers, Chistof, described to me the
details of that day in St. Petersburg: “There were thousands
of proletarians walking behind Father Gapon to the Winter Palace.
The people wanted to have twelve hour working days and better
wage. But lurking in the shadows was the Lenin men who wanted
Nicholas II murdered. A shot rang out. Since the regiments had
been given orders to disperse the crowd the shot caused them to
run their horses straight at the innocent as well as the guilty
On that day more innocent fell then the guilty and it would become
known as “Bloody Sunday”.
And from that day on, only eye witnesses can give you accounts
on what happened to the German-Russians.
When Ludwig returned from St. Petersburg to Borodino he insisted
that Christina and he marry. On November 8, 1905 my grandparents
were married in Klöstiz by Pastor Peters.
What Karl’s thoughts were at this time is not known. Even
if he liked his son-in-law is lost to time. However, he and his
first born, Christina, watched Ludwig pack his trunks for he was
to be stationed at Omsk, Siberia. The Russo-Japanese war was raging
in the east and Russia was losing the battle.
Later that summer while Karl was in Odessa the ground shook under
his feet. The battleship Potemkin filled with mutineers was bombarding
the Germanized city of Odessa. The revolutionists went mad like
rabid dogs. Jews were slaughtered and Jewish hoes and shops were
gutted with flames.
Civil war was now in the making and Lenin with the German Kaiser’s
gold was taking the reins of Russia.
On March 27, 1910 Karl waved goodbye to Christina, Ludwig, his
first granddaughter, and his second son, John. The small group
was migrating to the United States, unofficially, and going on
a long deserved wedding trip, officially. Despite the official
papers Ludwig and John carried false identification. Once in Germany
the family of Mirback (a German who later tried to help Nicholas
II escape his prison in Ekaterinburg) booked them passage on the
Mein which landed far from Ellis Island.
In 1911 as the communists took more control of Russia, Karl wrote
to his father in Mumimbye, a suburb next to the Romanov’s
Black Sea villa in the Crimean. He told about his arrangements
to migrate to the United States.
Karl sold everything after his eldest sons, Jacob’s, wedding
to Emma Zieloff. To Karl’s regret his eldest son would not
Karl settled near Kulm, North Dakota and set up a new blacksmiths
Karl’s father also traveled to Kulm but left in 1912 for
A letter came from Karl’s son Jacob that he had moved to
Kherson and was working in a large farm implement factory.
Just shortly before WWI Karl’s daughter JoHanna married
While the German spiked helmets pushed towards Russia, another
of Karl’s daughter, Margaret, wed Peter Lepp in 1915.
As the German troops took control of Bessarabia, the Crimean,
and the Caucasus Mts., another daughter, Madeline in 1919 gave
her vows to Paul Grotwold and his second son John married Ida
With all the money Karl could find, he sent packages to his eldest
son, Jacob, and his family who were starving to
death. The reports seemed unreal.
This period of time is mentioned almost not at
all by the older generation. To my generation this
period of time is locked behind forbidden doors.
But I shall never forget when I was introduced
to the horrid of those trying years. I had picked
up a photograph of the family while gathering the
best pictures for my family book. I asked my grandmother,
Christina, who the man, woman and children were.
She grew quite sad and replied, “This is my
brother, Jacob, and his wife. And look at those
beautiful children. They did not grow much older
than this picture…” her voice broke
for a moment, “…see those lonely hands?”
She pointed at the hands of the children. “Before
they died they ate their own fingers down to the
knuckles…” She still to this day could
not understand how they could have starved to death.
“Jacob lived, but the others starved in the
land of plenty. No one would feed the people with
German blood. And if they would have fed Jacob or
his family the communists would have killed them
Karl heard that Jacob escaped to Germany and there was hope.
But the hope faded. Jacob was sent back to Russia because he was
a Russian citizen. Once in Russia, the communists arrested Jacob
and placed him in a concentration camp in Siberia.
Before Karl died a letter was smuggled out of the camp and Karl
knew his son was a prisoner in a salt mind.
The body of Karl began to trouble him.
Ten years after Karl’s father’s death, Karl was to
join the departed. The year of 1930.
And so the blacksmith perished into time and the burning sparks
from his forge has long ago disappeared. But off in the distance
waits the wagon with the chiming wheels and Karl Jacobovitch Schweikert
as he waits for his children one by one.
Thanks to him of yesterday and the lessons he has taught. For
in his flaming forge of life he has given a wealth of fortunes.
Thus by his gravestone I hear the anvil as it shapes a new time
filled with burning deeds and thoughts for he told others that
I might hear that faces should always be turned forward.