Founder of society loves talking about Bukovina-German history
The Hays Daily News
Wednesday, March 23, 2004
By Phyllis J. Zorn
Posted September 8, 2018
In a message dated 3/23/2004 8:23:37 PM Mountain Standard Time, Oren Windholz writes:
This is the second year that we have been invited to present at the German Heritage Days in Hays. The complete program is on our web site and also just recently a panel added Joe Erbert and Ralph Honas as presenters. They also presented last year.
There was a number of articles in today’s paper about the events and pasted below is the one for the Bukovina Society. As those of you who have worked with the press know, an hour + interview can sometimes look a little different in print. However, the reporter did a nice job and seemed really interested. Although not a native, she lives in Ellis and has German roots. I regret lack of mention of other people and events I included in my remarks, but they have limited space. You take what you can get, as it is very good publicity for our Society. Sorry to be the focal point, there are many others deserving of credit.
For the Hays man scheduled to be the first speaker at German Heritage Days Friday morning, talking about the Bukovina-Germans is never a bother. After all, keeping the Bukovina German story alive is a high priority for him.
Oren Windholz, a founder of the Bukovina Society, headquartered in Ellis, will talk about the migration that brought his mother’s side of the family to Ellis County. His father’s side is Volga-German.
The main period of migration of Bukovina-Germans to Ellis County ran about 15 years, starting in 1886. That means they started arriving about 10 years after the Volga-Germans, Windholz said. “It was a slow, steady stream of people arriving in groups. Toward the end of that migration there were a few single people,” Windholz said.
Windholz said the Bukovina-Germans, faced with the fact their family lands were becoming smaller and smaller as farms were divided among children, found the promise of land in America appealing.
“Bukovina was an autonomous crown country that was only three-quarters the size of Kansas. During the time they lived there, large German families had just absorbed all the land,” Windholz said.
In America, the Homestead Act of 1862 made 160-acre parcels of land available for settlement to any head of household 21 or older willing to live on the land, build a home, make improvements and farm for five years.
In Europe, railroads promoted the settlement of America because encouraging people to settle the land brought customers for the railroad. “They had agents all over Europe recruiting people to come settle the land,” Windholz said. The groups were comprised of mostly family members and others who lived in the same villages in Bukovina, Windholz said. “Besides that distinction — that they came in those groups of families and neighbors — they came in groups according to religion,” Windholz said.
There were about 35 families of Lutherans and about 35 families of Catholics, he said. The Lutherans were known as Swabians, because before they went to Bukovina, they had come from Swabia. The Catholics were known as German Bohemians, because they came from Bohemia, which was part of the Austrian empire. “Once they got here, there were essentially two communities. The Lutherans located north of Ellis, where they built a church and their community surrounded that church,” Windholz said. “The Catholics joined the existing church in Ellis, because that was already formed.” Many of the family names of the Bukovina-Germans can still be noted in the Ellis community, Windholz said.
Among the Lutheran families were Armbrusters, Austs, Deutschers, Eggers, Frieses, Homburgs, Hoffmans, Hubers, Kerths, Kellers, Kings, Massiers, Sauers, Schonthalers, Tomascheks, Wendlings, Zachmanns and Zerfases.
Among the Catholic families were Ashenbrenners, Augustines, Baumgardtners, Beers, Erberts, Flaxes, Gaschlers, Geshwentners, Gnads, Honases, Landauers, Langs, Neubergers, Reitmayers, Schnellers, Schusters, Seibels, Tauschers and Webers.
Early on during the wave of immigration, they tended to go into farming, Windholz said. The later immigrants had more of a tendency to go into trades. During the last half of that migration, they began settling in other areas. They went south and west of Ellis as well as into Trego County, Yuma County, Colo. and the state of Washington. As for their influence on Ellis County, the Bukovina Germans were small in numbers and tended to live quiet lives, Windholz said. “I think a lot of their influence was the blending in,” Windholz commented. “In the city of Ellis you can see lots of indication that they became involved in agriculture and business. My grandfather, for example, owned a drug store.” The language they spoke presented a difficulty in communicating with the Volga-Germans, Windholz said. The Bukovinas spoke a more formal German as opposed to the lower German dialect of the Volga-Germans.
“The Volga-Germans had been so long away from Germany their language became more of a dialect. The Bukovinas, however, lived in a country where German was the official language,” Windholz said.
Windholz’s mother was Bukovina-German, and his father was a Volga-German. On both sides of his family, his great-grandparents brought their families from Germany, his grandparents immigrating as children.
Windholz was one of the founders of the Bukovina Society, headquartered in Ellis. The society was founded in December 1988 for the purpose of recognizing the 100 years the Bukovina German people had been here.