Gottlob Lerch: A Story

By F.B. Urban

Translated by Ingeborg Wallner Smith, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, 2003, 96 pages, softcover.

The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is pleased to announce the publication of Gottlob Lerch:, A Story by F.B Urban. This book was originally published in German by the Wartburg Publishing House, Chicago, ca. 1890-1900.

Gottlob Lerch was a simple, hard-working man who immigrated from the Kuban Region of Russian Empire to the plains of North Dakota to make a new life for himself and his family. From this book the reader learns about the natural obstacles and financial challenges a German Russian homesteader encountered in trying to make it a go on the vast, dry prairies and semi-arid climate of the North Dakota plains.

We know very little about the origins of this book or its author. We cannot even be certain that Gottlob Lerch was an actual person or a composite made up in the mind and memory of its author, F.B. Urban. However, based on the histories of other German-Russian pioneers to the Dakota we can deduct from this story that the experiences of Gottlob Lerch, whether based on fact or fiction, tell an authentic and unique story of one particular German-Russian immigrant family.

The main character, Gottlob Lerch is not depicted in the most favorable light by the author. In fact, Urban is quite critical of Lerch’s obstinate personality, domineering nature, and unrelenting greed for land, the most coveted possession of the typical German immigrant. With revealing and insightful detail the author describes Lerch’s quarrels with his neighbors, his wife, and his fellow Lutherans, especially in regard to land and money. At the end of the tale we witness a sort of metamorphosis in the subject’s character after he nearly loses the one thing more important to him than land, his only son and heir.

Related Articles:

Review of the book by Doug Bieber

Review of the book by by Edna Boardman

Review of the book by Ingeborg Wallner Smith

Gottlob Lerch: A Story

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