A Volga-German Homecoming
"A Volga-German Homecoming." Hays Daily News, 21-24 July 2001.
125th Jubilee Celebration
July 21 - 27, 2001
A Volga-German Homecoming
Liebenthal - Schoenchen - Pfeifer
Catherine - Munjor - Victoria
Thousands of German nationals immigrated to Russia between 1763 and 1767 during the rule of Catherine the Great. There they pursued the opportunity of freedom, local self-government and better economic conditions as she promised. They settled in villages on the Russian Steppe along the Volga River and thus came to be known as the Volga Germans.
The Volga colonies became quite prosperous after suffering through difficulties the first few years. Out of 104 settlements, 192 towns and villages eventually developed on both sides of the Volga River. However, by the late 1800s, when the "Russianizing" process began the colonists started to explore immigrating to the United States. Objecting to the compulsory military duty, the Volga-Germans began departing in 1875 with larger group movements in the years to come.
The week of July 21 to 27 the communities of Liebenthal, Schoenchen, Catherine, Pfeifer, Munjor and Herzog/Victoria will be celebrating their 125th anniversary of their new life in the United States. These communities invite you to come and celebrate this special anniversary week.
Liebenthal - is the oldest of the villages founded by Unsere Leute and the only one situated in Rush County. Located on Big Timber Creek, the original founders were among the large group that left Saratov, Russia October 24, 1875.
Also included in Liebenthal's activities will be public tours of the school building, history display featuring 125 years of artifacts, pictures, and souvenir items such as T-shirts, mugs, and plates.
Schoenchen - is distinctive among Unsere Leute for it is the last settlement founded by the Volga-Germans. It is the only one established in 1877 and the sole community created by spin-off from an original because of conflict among the first settlers. Schoenchen is an incorporated city and remains to be a tribute to the courage of those who braved obstacles to breathe life into this beautiful setting along the Smoky Hill River.
Schoenchen's afternoon and evening activities include the following: Carnival games for all ages, beer garden, and children's activities. Entertainment provided by Herman & Lauraine Dinges, Elmer VonFeldt, Country Dutchmen, Rosie's Polka Band.
Memorable items of the Volga-German settlers will be available along with items to celebrate the 100 years of St. Anthony Church.
The Catherine founders were the first to leave their Russian homeland. On October 22, 1875 they left Katharinenstadt the largest and most important of the German colonies on the Volga. Arriving in Hays on March 1, 1876, the Catherine settlers rented a building at the corner of 13th & Fort. They drove their wagons daily to the present site of Catherine and constructed dwellings. Upon completion of the homes the entire group moved together and formally established Catherine on April 8, 1876.
Catherine's afternoon and evening activities include: Food booths, tours of the church and school, parade of antique farm machinery, bingo, carnival games for children, beer booth, dinner at 5 p.m. and free street dance at 7:30 p.m. Souvenir booths will be set up to purchase memorabilia
The settlement of Pfeifer is located approximately 10 miles south of Victoria on the south bank of the Smoky Hill River. The founders were among the first of Unsere Leute to leave Russia. History is not completely clear on the exact arrival date but it does show they arrived either on August 21 or 24, 1876. Additional immigrants arrived in Pfeifer in October and November 1877. The early history of Pfeifer is like the other Volga-German communities in Ellis County. This is, common to the first immigrants, they endured crop failures, major depressions and poverty. They learned to be frugal and had a strong dedication to their faith and families, which still exists today.
The founders of Munjor were part of the largest single expedition of Unsere Leute to immigrate from Russia. On July 8, 1876, 108 families left Saratov arrived in Herzog in August, 1876 and stayed there for a few weeks and then moved to the present site of Munjor. Munjor remains a small, unincorporated village that is a deeply religious, highly industrious, and extremely progressive that continues to display an intense pride in their heritage.
Souvenirs will be available for purchase including historical books, cookbooks, beer mugs, plates, T-shirts, coloring books and more.
Herzog became the largest and most important of the Volga-German colonies in Ellis County established on April 8, 1876. Most of the early settlers were farmers and peasants and continued that livelihood in this country. The religious dedication of the early settlers is regarded nationally with profound respect of the unbelievable accomplishment associated with the construction of "The Cathedral of the Plains." Herzog was incorporated in 1913 and relinquished the Herzog name and took the name Victoria after Queen Victoria of England.
After 2:00 p.m. in Victoria, there will be food booths featuring hamburgers, brats, homemade ice cream, watermelon, pop, beer, lemonade, funnel cakes and more. Games for the children and souvenir booths will be available all day. A new cookbook titled "Sharing Our Best" 125 years of recipes and remembrances will be available for purchase all week.
*Factual information was obtained from Unsere Leute 100 The Official Centennial History of the Volga-German settlements in Ellis & Rush Counties in Kansas 1876-1976.
Information provided by the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau. Tel: 1-800-569-4505; Website: www.haysusa.net.
Website for western Kansas communities: http://www.haysusa.com/html/volga_german.html.