St. Francis, Kansas a look at the past
Germans from Russia Memorial
FROM EUROPE TO RUSSIA TO KANSAS
The Black Sea Germans of Cheyenne County, Kansas began their immigration journey in the early 1800’s when they left Europe to resettle on the “steppes” of South Russia. They left behind fertile farm land that had become impossible to survive on due to wars, high taxes and catastrophic weather conditions that caused famine, drought and a population explosion of field mice all across Europe.
In Russia, the untilled prairie was generous to the new immigrants. With hard work, patience and determination, they were able to prosper. The letters sent home reported successful harvests, abundance of new land, and the freedom from authorities. They were able to acquire new land for new generations... until they couldn’t.
In the late 1800’s, the political climate changed. “Foreigners” were no longer able to purchase land. They faced higher taxes and faced persecution for maintaining their German culture. Eventually, all the promises made to them when they first arrived were taken away.
During this time, American railroad agents were sent to Europe and Russia to “market” America and in particular, the Homestead Act that would give farmers 160 free acres. The railroad subsidized or paid in full all travel expenses. They needed farmers growing crops that would eventually be shipped to markets by train around the country.
Once again our ancestors left their homes so they could continue to do what their ancestors had done for hundreds of years. The DNA was strong. They were farmers. The soil was in their blood.
They left Russia with their families and often neighbors. They traveled by train to Hamburg, Germany where they boarded ships headed to America. When they arrived, they were greeted by railroad agents who helped them navigate the confusion of arriving in a new country.
Most of the German-Russian immigrants who settled in Cheyenne County stopped in Sutton, Nebraska and stayed in accommodations provided by the railroads near the station.
Here they could regroup after a long journey. Some immigrants had specific destinations determined by relatives and friends who had already been settled. Others would learn about new territories opening up and would board another train for their final destination.
In our ancestors case, it was Cheyenne County.
SETTLING IN NORTHWEST KANSAS
The Black Sea Germans of Cheyenne County, Kansas
to be continued.