Memoirs of Father Anthony Kopp

Book review by Paulette Tobin

Kopp, Father Anthony. Memoir’s of Father Anthony Kopp. North Dakota State University Libraries, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, Fargo, North Dakota, 1999.

Charm and heritage: Two books tell the stories of Germans from Russia in North Dakota

More North Dakotans can trace their ancestry to the Germans from Russia than to any other ethnic group, and both these books have something to contribute to telling the story of this group's rich history.

Memoirs of Father Anthony Kopp was taken from Kopp's original manuscript, which he pounded out on an old typewriter shortly before his death in 1964. Born in Krasna, Bessarabia, in 1891, Kopp attended elementary school near Harvey, ND., and completed high school, college and theological studies at Assumption Abbey near Richardton, N.D.

Ordained in 1917, he served North Dakota parishes in Rosebud, Odense, Mott, Bowbells and Foxholm. He was a chaplain at Garrison (N.D.) Hospital when he died at age 73.

Kopp's manuscript was published faithfully with spelling errors and what the publishers call "the unique dialectical German speech" spoken by Germans to whom English was a second language. This may be colorful, but it also makes for some seriously strangled syntax at times.

Kopp's good nature and sense of humor shine through his stories of his family and of the joys and hardships of being a priest in western North Dakota. Some of what he wrote could have used more background. His stories of church infighting and Bishop Shanley's visits to Harvey, for instance, are more meaningful when you know that Bishop Shanley disliked the Germans from Russia intensely and vice versa.

Kopp's eldest brother,Pius, was the first in the family sent to Richardton for education, but rather than becoming a priest he fell in love, leading to nuptials not only for Pius, but for their sister, Angela. She met her future husband, John Bleier, at Pius' wedding.

At the wedding, Pius asked his friend John "whether or why he does not get married," Kopp wrote. "John Bleier said, "Give me your sister,' or 'Can I get your sister,' and the answer was, 'Go ask her.' He did ask her and she said 'yes.'"

Jolenta Fischer Masterson of Sequim, Wash., a native of Strasburg, N.D., who worked on the publishing of this book, said she came across several names and families that were familiar to her. If you had family members in western North Dakota, especially if they were Catholic, don't be surprised if they turn up in this book.

Reprinted with permission of the Grand Forks Herald.

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