Book review by Mary Lynn Axtman, Fargo, North Dakota
Kopp, Father Anthony. Memoir’s of Father Anthony Kopp. North Dakota State University Libraries, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, Fargo, North Dakota, 1999.
Beginnings are usually difficult and the life of Fr. Anthony Kopp placed him in many situations of new beginnings during the settlement history of North Dakota.
Anthony Kopp was born in 1891 in Krasna, Bessarabia. His father John, as a journeyman wagon builder, had traveled in the German Russian areas as far east as the Crimea area where he met his future wife, Caroline. They settled in Krasna after their marriage but John continued a commodities trading and selling business between Bessarabia and the Crimea. However, in February of 1894, Anthony's parents and their five children, along with many other relatives and acquaintances immigrated to America where other relatives already lived. They first tried homesteading in Emmons County, ND, near what was named the Krasna community. Through the Kopp family, the readers learn details of the many difficult tasks which had to be accomplished to ensure their very survival; such as shelter, food, clothing, and the most critical, water for man and animal. There were no established schools or churches here.
In 1897, the family moved to a new homestead north of Harvey, ND. Again, the beginnings were difficult and schools and churches were also non-existant here. After living here until 1908, his father decided to move the family to Richardton, ND, where his children might have better opportunities to attend church and school. Thus, another beginning for the family. From here, several of the children later moved to Montana to begin their lives in unsettled areas also.
In honest, factual and plain language, the readers journey with the Kopp family, and later with Anthony as North Dakota becomes settled, communities, churches and schools are established, and life becomes a bit easier. We learn about the school curriculums, the missionary clergy traveling to distant settlements, the hard labor required by all family members and the isolation on their claims. Later, through Fr. Anthony, we learn some of the hardships of being a Catholic priest in western North Dakota ministering to those, "Who are true Catholics and those others who are Catholics in name alone."
"Memoirs" gives the readers a non-romanticized journey through the settlement years of North Dakota that helps them to realize that these immigrant folks were not some super-human developers but rather very human people with faults and failings that affected their lives and others around them. Yet, they helped to create the North Dakota foundations many of us grew up in.
Our thanks to Mary Lynn Axtman for the review of the book. Mary Lynn is a native of Rugby, North Dakota. She prepared the GRHC website pages at "Outreach Programs & Family Reunions" about the Bickler and Axtman families.