Bukovina (land of beech trees) was a sparsely populated crown land of the Austrian Hungarian Empire in the late 1700,’s and early 1800’s when the ruling Hapsburg family recruited German speaking people to settle its virgin forests. Lutherans from the Rhine-Palatinate and Württemberg in Germany and Catholics from the Bohemian Forest of Austria (now in the Czech Republic) migrated to Bukovina to farm and work in the glassworks. Although a minority in the multicultural country, they lived in ethnic German villages and communities preserving their language and customs.
After one to two generations in Bukovina, land became scarce and the New World looked attractive. Agents for the railroads passed out flyers all over Europe to recruit the hard working ethnic Germans to settle along their lines. The newspapers brimmed with ads announcing free homestead land, and in the case of South America, free passage. Bukovina Germans migrated to Canada, the United States, and South America. Some 70 families chose Ellis as their destination during a span of 15 years beginning in 1886. Later arrivals located in Rooks, Trego, Ness, and other Western Kansas Counties. Two other colonies were started, one in Yuma County, Colorado, and one in Lewis County, Washington. After 1900, some Bukovina Germans located in New York and Chicago. Stepping off the train in Western Kansas in the middle of a vast prairie was a stark contrast to their forested ancestral lands, but the hardy pioneers carved out successful lives as the largest concentration of Bukovina Germans in United States.
Bukovina no longer exists as a political entity. In 1919 the country was absorbed by Romania with the northern part ceded to the Soviet Union in 1947. The ancestral villages of the Ellis Bukovina Germans today are in Romania.