St. Joseph's Colony, Katharinental Colony, Kronau-Rastadt, and Odessa (1886-1904)

By Alan B. Anderson, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

St. Joseph's Colony near Balgonie originated in 1886 with the arrival of eight families who had migrated from the Josephstal Colony in the Lieventhal group near Odessa in South Russia or Ukraine, founded by Catholics from Alsace and southwestern Germany in 1804 (an earlier Josephstal colony had been established by Lutherans near Ekaterinoslav of Dnepropetrovsk in 1789). By 1892 there were thirty families in St. Joseph's colony. However, as a result of financial debts (C.P.R. loans with 6% interest rates, and crop failures) by 1895 the NWMP reported that many were already leaving (Pohorecky, 1978: 27). Disliking the expected Canadian settlement pattern of residing on scattered homesteads, the remaining families decided in June 1898 to organize a Dorf (communal village clustered around a church) in Russian-German style, remnants of which still exist (Becker, 1976; Zimmermann, 1936; Lehmann, 1939; Giesinger, 1974: 360-1).

Between 1890 and 1893 at least fifty-three families migrated from the communities of Rastadt and Munchen (founded in 1809 in the Beresaner colonies in the Anajewer region northwest of
Nikolajev, by immigrants originally from the Palatinate, Baden, and Alsace); as well as from Klosterdorf (founded 1805 in the mixed Swedish-German "Schwedengebiet" colony, near Berislav on the Dnieper, by Catholic settlers from Austria, Swabia, and southwestern Germany (Giesinger, 1974: 361 etc.). These "Schwarzmeerdeutsche" - Black Sea Germans - settled south of St. Joseph's Colony, establishing St. Peter's R.C. Parish by 1894. Some of these Russian-German immigrants decided to form Dorfs similar to St. Joseph's; so twelve families established Rastadt-Dorf (Seven Colony), twenty-one Katharinental (Fourteen Colony, named after the original community of Katharinental in 8 the Beresaner colonies), and another eighteen families came in 1898-9 to establish a fourth Dorf, Speyer (named after another community in the same area in South Russia) (Metzger, 1930; Lehmann, 1939: Giesinger, 1974: 361 etc.). The villages of Davin, Rastadt, and Kronau came into existence, the latter two named after communities in South Russia (the Kronau colony in South Russia, west of Nikopol, had been founded in 1870 mostly by Baden-Wurttembergers).

This Russian-German Catholic settlement in Saskatchewan expanded rapidly southeast to Viban, Odessa (named after the principal port-city on the Black Sea), and Kendal, as well as south toward Sedley and Francis. By 1896 there were already more than two hundred German families in this region, almost all of them immigrants from German colonies in south Russia (Giesinger, 1974: 361). The vast majority were Catholics, but a substantial Lutheran minority had developed with the expansion of the settlements (these Lutherans will be discussed in more detail later in this report).

It is interesting to note that during the Thirties the Deutscher Bund organization was active in this settlement, with an Ortsgruppe (a major local Bund chapter, having at least fifteen members) at Viband and a Stiitzpunkt (a minor chapter, with at least five members) at Kronau (Wagern, 1978).

From census data (1971), we may discern that of the seven incorporated towns or villages within or at the periphery of the settlement, four now have German majorities - Kendal with 82.4%, Vibank 75.0%, Odessa 62.9%, and White City 60.0%; while the others have substantial German minorities - Francis 48.5%, Sedley 37.7%, and Balgonie 25.2% (Davin and Kronau are not incorporated).


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