The Way It Was: The North Dakota Frontier Experience: Germans from Russia Settlers

Tobin, Paulette. "The Way It Was: The North Dakota Frontier Experience: Germans from Russia Settlers." Grand Forks Herald, 30 January 2000, 4B.

Tweton, D. Jerome and Everett C. Albers. The Way it Was: The North Dakota Frontier Experience: Germans from Russia Settlers. Fessenden, North Dakota: Grass Roots Press, 1999.

Charm and heritage: Book Tells the story of Germans from Russia in North Dakota.

The Way It Was: Book 4 also was written from first-person accounts. These stories were recorded in the mid-1930s by interviewers who worked for the Works Progress Administration and were gleaned from more than 5,000 stories stored at the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

This book is full of Dakota places settled by the Germans from Russia, including Eureka, S.D., and Linton, Kulm, Strasburg, Hague, Sykeston and Anamoose, N.D. There are families named Gross and Fischer and Opp, Freitag, Flegel, Kurtz and Klebe, Meyer, Mosbrucker and Schultz. Their stories are complemented with excellent historical photographs.

The Way It Was does well at telling why the Germans left Russia and about the trials and adventures of families traveling by ocean liner, railroad and covered wagon to their new homes.

But the book is made by its personal stories--of courthouse records being stolen and moved, of families surviving the winter in wagon boxes turned upside down, of a wagon pulled by a team made up of one horse and one cow, of dances and weddings, tragedy and loss, poverty and the struggle to make a go of it in a new land.

One of my favorite stories was told by Christian Maier, who settled with his young family in McIntosh County, N.D., in 1886. He had a neighbor named Andrew Schadler who in 1887 bought a couple of chickens from an English widow near Ellendale, N.D.

Shortly thereafter he returned to the woman to buy a rooster. She, however, spoke no German and he spoke very little English. The best Schadler could do at explaining why he was there was to say: "I want a chicken's man." The woman thought Schadler was saying he was a poultry buyer. Schadler finally got his point across by climbing on top a pile of waste, clapping his hands, flapping his arms and crowing.

This book would make a useful classroom tool for teachers of North Dakota history.

Reprinted with permission of the Grand Forks Herald.

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