Bukovina Immigration to North America

and a brief history of the Bukovina Society of the Americas

prepared for the Bukowinafest – Brasil 2001

Irmgard Hein Ellingson1

Posted with permission of the author on April 20, 2002

It is my pleasure to greet you across the miles, liebe Landsleute! I have been involved in Bukovina research since 1980, when my husband became the pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Ellis, Kansas, and since then have had the opportunity to meet Bukovina descendants in the United States, Canada, and Germany. Meeting you and sharing these wonderful days with you would have been a great privilege for me. Perhaps one day, God willing, I shall be able to do so!

I. Introduction

Bukovina was the easternmost crown colony in the Austrian empire following its annexation in 1775. This rural area of 10,422 square kilometers on the outer eastern curve of the Carpathian mountains was sparsely populated by about sixty thousand poor peasants and shepherds. Soon it became multinational as Poles, Ukrainians, Romanians, Jews, Germans, Serbs, Croatians, Slovaks, Hungarians, Armenians and others came there in response to the Hapsburg policy of religious toleration and the colonization programs of Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II. Within about ten years, the region’s population had more than doubled. By 1880, or within a century, it had multiplied tenfold. The region’s 1880 census data reported that twelve percent of the total population was Jewish with the remainder being Ukrainian (42%), Romanian (33%), German (19%), and Polish (3%), with smaller numbers of Hungarians, Slovaks, and others. These percentages remained fairly consistent through 1910.2

Bukovina’s economy remained agricultural with much of the land owned and administered by the state’s Religion Fund. Lands were divided and re-divided between heirs so that it became impossible to support a family upon a farm even with the supplemental income gained through a trade such as shoemaking, barrel-making, or blacksmithing. This fact, and the related rapid growth in population, contributed to the emigration from Bukovina beginning in the 1880s.

At that time, travel agents recruited German immigrants to the Americas by publishing ads in Bukovina newspapers and distributing flyers in the cities and villages. A 1913 survey found in the Czernowitz archives reported that 33,369 citizens had legally left the country between about 1880 and 1913. Almost 90% cited North America as their destination. Dr. Kurt Rein has estimated that another 10,000-12,000 might have emigrated illegally to avoid military service. Therefore the total number of Bukovina emigrants may have been about 40,000, or approximately 4-5% of the population. Many of these were Jews and Germans and comparatively few were Romanian and Hungarian according to Dr. Rein, who further notes that 40% of the German emigrants were Bohemian, 25% “ Swabian,” 10% Zipser, and 25% from various other backgrounds.3

Emigrants traveled first by rail for several days to Bremen, Hamburg, or other European ports, then by ship for about two weeks to U.S. ports of entry such as New York City, Baltimore, Galveston, and New Orleans, or the Canadian city of Quebec. From these ports, they journeyed again by train for several days to reach a center of Bukovina immigration. These included Ellis County in the State of Kansas, the Edenwold area in the Assiniboia district near Regina (now the Province of Saskatchewan, Canada), Yuma in the State of Colorado, Lewis County in the State of Washington, as well as Chicago and New York City. Smaller groups connected by their Baptist faith settled near Pocatello in the States of Idaho and west of Waco in the State of Texas.

II. Ellis County, Kansas/USA

What comes into your mind when you hear the word “Kansas”? Some of you may picture endless wheat fields and others might visualize steppe-like grasslands. The Bukovina Germans settled in northwestern Ellis County which does not fit these stereotypes. North of the city of Ellis, the prairie leads to the Arien Hills, as unspoiled and natural as when William G. Cutler described them in his 1883 History of the State of Kansas. Further north near the Rooks County line, high bluffs overlook the Saline River. These are two regions in which the Bukovina immigrants settled beginning in the summer of 1886. They had probably not heard that Cutler had written, “… [Ellis] is surrounded by a rough, broken country, altogether unsuited for agricultural pursuits, so that its country trade is very limited.”4

Why Ellis? Cutler wrote that it was the end of the third division of the Kansas Pacific Railway, whose roundhouse and machine shops employed many men. It merged with the Union Pacific, which continued to advertise and sell its land to Bukovina emigrants at the turn of the century. Although several families arrived when government land for homesteading was still available, many purchased adjacent lands at low cost from the railroad and thereby established a rural community extending west into Trego County and north into Rooks County.5

The first Bukovina emigrants in Ellis Township, a subdivision of Ellis County, were Lutherans who settled there in 1886. Johann Huber, the leader of this group, had been born in Unter-Wikow and married Klara Zachmann in Illischestie in 1871. He, his wife and children were accompanied by two Illischestie brothers, Philipp and Jakob Ast, their wives, Henriette König and Regina Sobolka, and small children. Subsequent immigration brought Ast, Zachmann, Huber, and König siblings as well as other relatives to Ellis County.

In the same year, 1886, the Catholic Franz Erbert from Buchenhain (Poiana-Mikuli) scouted the prospects in Ellis County. He returned in 1887 with his wife Rosalia Reitmeyer and their children. Accompanying them were Franz Flachs and his wife Franziska Augustin, Joseph Tauscher and his wife Theresa Bena, and their children.

Eileen Langley has noted that almost all of the 50 families who came from Illischestie, Fratautz, and Tereblestie to Ellis were Lutherans, and that 36 families who came from Fürstenthal and Poiana-Mikuli were Catholic (see her page iii).6 This has been assessed by the naturalization record and census research of Drs. Forsythe and Schneller, who documented 30 Bukovina German families in Ellis county in 1895, 81 in 1905, 110 in 1915 and 140 in 1920. There were also 18 Bukovina German families in Trego County and three in Rooks County.7

My research with the Lutheran community produced the following Bukovina family names: Armbrüster (now Armbrister or Armbruster), Ast (Aust), Deutscher, Fries, Huber, Irion, Janz, Keller, Kelsch, Kerth, Knieling, König (now Koenig or King), Mai, Massier, Reich, Rumpel, Sauer, Schäfer (Schaefer, Schönthaler (Schoenthaler or Schonthaler), Tomasheck, Wendling, Werb, Zachmann, and Zerfass. The Catholic immigrants Joseph Bozowicki, Johann Kuppetz, and Peter Tomasheck were either married to Bukovina Lutheran women before immigration, or married them in Kansas, and chose to be part of the Lutheran community.

The Lutherans were not able to organize their own congregation until 1897, when they purchased three acres of land located six miles north and a mile east of Ellis for the site of St. John Lutheran Church and later a parsonage and Christian education school. Ten years later, a second congregation, Christ Lutheran in the city of Ellis, was officially formed. A few families later joined a Baptist church in Ellis or became involved with the Seventh-Day Adventist faith. For the most part, however, these families tended to remain in the faith of their ancestors and stayed on the farm land homesteaded by their immigrant ancestors. When I lived among them in the early 1980s, I noted that they had a deeply ingrained Stolz, a German word meaning pride and independence, as well as a certain emotional reserve balanced by friendly hospitality. Perhaps their most significant contribution to their communities is their tenacious determination. Although others moved on, many Illischestie immigrants and their descendants chose to endure heat, drought, grasshopper plagues and financial hardship to remain upon the Kansas uplands.

On page 49 of his book Bohemian Germans in Kansas, Oren Windholz lists these Bukovina Catholic family names: Aschenbrenner, Augustine, Baumgardtner, Beer, Erbert, Flax, Fuerch, Gaschler, Geschwentner, Gnad, Hoedel, Honas, Kisslinger, Kappel, Kohlrus, Koslowski, Kubbitz (Kuppetz?), Kucharek, Laundauer, Lang, Nemeczek, Neuberger, Rach, Rankel, Reitmayer, Schneller, Schuster, Seibel, Seidel, Tauscher, and Weber. Additional family names of immigrant wives were Fuchs, Muehlbauer, Haas, Stadler, Bena, Schindelar, Hackl, Eigner, Straub, Adelsberger, and Beuer.

These Bohemian Catholics acquired farm land closer to town than did the Lutherans so within a few years of immigration, they were working at trades or operating businesses in Ellis and were also participating in local politics. Their earliest arrivals coincided with the construction of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Ellis which began in 1888. From the start, therefore, they worshiped with other Catholics, including Irish and Czech immigrants and Germans from the Volga River district of Russia. The first church was replaced about twenty years later with a beautiful, magnificent structure of Fort Hays chalk, or limestone, found in this part of the county. To obtain the stone for construction, top soil was removed from thick layers of rock which was then perforated by hand augers. Wedges were inserted into the holes and then tapped with a hammer until the rock sprang apart. This stone was then taken to the building site. This was a great effort without modern hoists or power tools since each stone weighed between 50 and 100 pounds.8

Although both groups spoke the same language and shared a place of origin, their interaction in Kansas was limited. Oren Windholz notes that both Catholics and Lutherans discouraged socializing and intermarriages, but that it did occur just as it had in Bukovina.9 The immigrant Richard Hoffman, born in Illischestie in 1901, told Oren that his mother, Luise Zehaczek Hoffmann, was the daughter of the Catholic Wenzel Zehaczek and his Lutheran wife Katharina Zachmann, who raised their sons as Catholics and their daughters as Lutherans.10
Because of the declining agricultural economy, an unstable oil industry, and increasingly low water levels, the population of Ellis County has been falling in recent years. The people have been, and are continuing, to move to Wichita and Kansas City, to Denver and Colorado Springs, as well as to Phoenix and Los Angeles. But you can wander along the country roads north of Ellis and still see the crumbling stone houses and farm buildings abandoned by the Bukovina pioneers, and you can still see their descendants farming the land and working in their community.

You may learn more about the Bukovina settlements in Kansas by reading my book The Illischestie Germans in Kansas: A 200-Year History of the Lutheran Swabians and Oren Windholz’s book Bohemian Germans in Kansas: A Catholic Community from Bukovina.

III. Saskatchewan Province/Canada

The northern American plains are awesome spaces with tall waving grasses, wild flowers, aspen (poplar) groves, and creatures large and small. In spite of a short, dry growing season, this land produced wheat yields of forty to fifty bushels per acre in the 1880s, which thrilled the newly-arrived Germans from the Dobruja area on the Black Sea. Among them was Phillip Butz, who had been born in Fratautz, Bukovina, and as adult, joined the Baptist religious movement and emigrated to the Dobruja in the late 1870s.11 His 1889 letters to his brother and to his Lutheran Mang brothers-in-law in Satulmare resulted in the emigration of a core group of Mang, Galenzoski, Reichel, and Sauer families from Satulmare and the Kornelson family from Itzkani, Bukovina.12

Butz and the Dobrudja emigrants lived in a settlement which they named Neu-Tulscha (also spelled Neu-Tulcea or New Tulscha), first settled in 1885. According to various accounts, the name was changed when the Reverend H. Schmieder, a Lutheran missionary, came to the district in 1889. He told Phillip Mang, Sr., that it reminded him of the Garden of Eden. Mang was perhaps thinking about the many aspen groves when he said that it looked more like woods than a garden and thereby introduced the name “Edenwald. ”This name was sent to Ottawa, the Canadian capital, for registration, but a clerical error substituted an “o” for the “a,” and the spelling has remained Edenwold.

The Edenwold cited in early records was a huge area encompassing hundreds of square miles in Canada’s North West Territories, which was then all the lands west of Manitoba. At this time in Austria, pamphlets were being circulated that described the opportunities in Canada, where men who were ages eighteen and older could obtain 160 acres of land as a free homestead after paying a ten-dollar fee. The immigrants flooded to Canada, only to find upon arrival that they would have to first clear the land before they could plant anything. They established their claims, then built sod homes using mud-plastered poles for the walls and sod-covered poles for the roofs.13

Family letters from earlier immigrants and these pamphlets convinced others to follow the core group to Canada. The 1890 arrivals cited in the Edenwold community history Where Aspens Whisper include Mang, Miller, Kohlruss, Brodt, Flaman, and Schmidt families from Satulmare; Karschmarski, Presser, Leibel, Miller, Koch, and Ritter families from Badeutz; Ast and Rumpel families from Illischestie; and a Huber family from Fratautz; “Frank, Adam and son” from Itzkani, Karst and Agopsowicz families from St. Onufry, and a Koch family from Arbore.

The book’s list of 1891-1892 arrivals includes the Mang, Leib, Weber, Sauer, Miller, Kohlruss, Tobias, Jaeckel, Schmidt (Satulmare), Zurowski, Stoudt, Galenzoski, Frombach, Schmidt, Lanz, Silzer, Goettel, Hamann, Walter, Wagner, Uhl, and Grandel families. A further examination of the book Where Aspens Whisper indicates that in the years before World War I, the following families arrived in the Edenwold area: Baker, Brandt (from Satulmare), Brucker (Radautz), Fuchs, Gattinger (Satulmare), Groeb (Arbore), Hollerbaum, Kramer (Radautz), Kurtz (Alt-Fratautz), Lindenbach (Hliboka), Manz (Arbore), Missikewicz (Arbore), Nargang (Alt-Fratautz), Radmacher, Reichel (Hadikfalva), Renner, Sager (Petroutz), Schmahl (Czernowitz), Schmidt (Arbore), Tomashefski (Arbore), Triffo, Wirth (Satulmare), and Wolf (Satulmare).

1892 marked the beginning of some dry years and an 1894 crop failure prompted many to leave for the Dakotas, Kansas, and Texas. Men who remained in Canada cut cordwood to haul to Regina to trade for supplies, and worked on government-sponsored road construction crews to earn money. Immigration stopped until 1899-1900 when a new wave began.

The history of St. John’s Lutheran Church, founded in 1890, and its daughter congregation St. Paul’s, founded in 1913, is presented in the book St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church 1890-1900, edited by Dr. Richard Hordern and published for St. John’s centennial. The book’s subtitle describes its contents: “Translations of the earliest church histories, and information on the early families of the congregation, translated from the parish registers of 1890-1927; With records of the work of the early pastors of the St. John’s congregation in the wider areas of the Districts of Assiniboia and Saskatchewan (North West Territories) 1890-1905, and later in the Province of Saskatchewan; and family history information from the St. John’s parish registers.” Edenwold was in fact the launching pad for German Lutheran migration and missionary work in the Northwest Territories, according to Hordern.

Other churches provided spiritual care to the immigrant community, and their separate stories are summarized in Where Aspens Whisper. The Edenwold Baptist Church, which existed from 1886 until1968, was served by a pastor with the Bukovina name Armbruster in the mid-1940s. The Edenwold Seventh-Day Adventist Church, founded in 1900 by Mang and Frombach families, later included Staudt, Sauer, Nargang, Flaman, Silzer, and Knoblauch families. It has since been closed. The Edenwold Apostolic Mission, which existed from 1921 until 1957, was attended by the Galenzoski, Sauer, Wirth, and Knoblauch families. St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, built 1937, has been the church for the Zurowski, Koch, Tomashefski, Fuchs, and other families.

For more information about this immigrant community, please read Where Aspens Whisper by Hannelore Frombach and St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church 1890-1900, edited by Dr. Richard Hordern. Additional research has been conducted by Richard Carruthers-Zurowski, a descendant of Bukovina immigrants to Saskatchewan, who contributed two articles in the book German Emigration from Bukovina to the Americas, edited by William Keel and Kurt Rein

IV. Yuma, Colorado/USA14

Beginning in 1886-1887, German Bohemians left Glitt, Lichtenberg, Arbore, and Solka, Bukovina, traveling by rail, by ship across the ocean, then to the end of the railroad line in McCook, Nebraska, which is north/northwest of Ellis, Kansas. The immigrants were responding the railroad’s advertisements of packages including cheap farm land, steamship fare, and free railroad tickets to their destination. The Bohemian settlers spent the winter in McCook, but then heard that in Yuma, Colorado, 125 miles further west, the government was giving away land to anyone who would live on it and develop it. By July 1887, Bukovina immigrants like Andreas Schneller had already filed a declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen and had built a one-floor house measuring 14 by 16 feet on land that he had claimed. Other immigrants included members of the Landauer, Turner, Trunde, Schatz, Fuchs, Winkelbauer, Korf, Krenzer, Baehr, Kinkle, Kunzman, Floshing/Wlaschin, Hackel, Blach/Block, Mathies, Kortus, Hickey, Heinzel, and Straub families .

Yuma is located on the High Plains in a vast, treeless steppe. At first the Bukovina immigrant community thrived because rains filled the streams and the grass was lushly green. But the rains ended in a few years so that the pioneers faced drought and financial ruin by 1894. Some packed their wagons and headed back east to Sutton, Nebraska, to join relatives. Others went south to Henrietta, Texas, where they picked cotton with freed black slaves and their descendants, then returned to Yuma a few years later. Another contingent joined Bukovina emigrants Franz and Louise Hickey in Dorchester in north-central Wisconsin but left again in the following spring. Along the way, an accident forced this group’s wagon train to halt in Mason City, Iowa, where some remained while the rest continued to Montrose, Iowa, and then southeast to Olpe, Kansas. A group from Yuma, including some who had returned from Henrietta, moved to Oregon.

Today Yuma pioneer descendants can still be found in Yuma although most are scattered in across the United States. Some have been seeking and recording the stories of their ancestors. For example, Paul Polansky can tell you about his great-great-grandmother, Theresia Maurer Schneller, who was born in Seewiesen, Bohemia, in 1823, married Josef Schneller in Fürstenthal, Bukovina, in 1840, and emigrated to Yuma, Colorado, in 1892 at the age of sixty-nine years. According to oral histories, she was blind, ill, and occasionally wandered off into the prairie alone. Her son-in-law and daughter, Paul and Katharina (Schneller) Landauer left her with his brother when they moved to Oregon in 1905. No record of her death or burial has been found, but apparently she was dead by 1907. Paul once interviewed a Yuma resident who knew the location of Josef’s and Theresia’s unmarked graves. This man said that some years after their deaths, a highway construction project necessitated the relocation of the cemetery and showed him where the unmarked graves are now located.

Theresia’s life took her across the Austro-Hungarian empire, then across the Atlantic Ocean, and halfway across the United States. As a girl, she played in the Bohemian Forest; as a young woman, she married and raised her family in the Carpathian foothills. Her life ended in darkness upon the vast treeless High Plains. But those who remembered held the keys to document of her life’s long journey.

Theresia’s son Andreas Schneller, who was mentioned above, left Yuma in 1894 and went to Dorchester. When the wagon train halted in Mason City in 1895, Andreas’s son Edward married a German-Russian immigrant Mathilda Redler and chose to remain there. But Andreas went on. He joined Bukovina families in Olpe, Kansas, where his first venture, a rented dairy farm, failed. His second effort, a chicken farm, ended with disaster when the birds died of cholera. He moved again, this time to nearby Emporia, where he attempted to be a door-to-door salesman and where on January 1, 1905, he committed suicide.

An interesting part of the Yuma story is that it appears to have been the location of the first Bukovina Society over one hundred years ago. They met on Sundays, usually at a farm home, to share a meal, letters from back home, and photographs. Photographs taken in Yuma were found in Bukovina homes in the 1970s when Paul Polansky traveled there. In Solka, he even met an old man who had been born in Petersburg, Nebraska, and returned to Bukovina with his parents when he was about eight years old. This man, who was over ninety years old, still spoke some English and talked about pioneer life in Nebraska. Local people referred to him as “the American.”

V. Lewis County, Washington/USA15

Lewis County, Washington, is located on the Pacific coast in the southwestern part of the state. It is a scenic area with tillable valley lands and forested hills which still support a logging industry. The Bukovina immigrants also found large hop fields and coal mines when they arrived and the railroad, which had reached Lewis County by then, needed lumberjacks to fell timber for tracks and miners to dig coal for the locomotives. This prospering region held offered many opportunities for industrious immigrants.

The Bukovina people in Lewis County had emigrated from southern Bukovina villages such as Alt-Fratautz, Althutte, Bukschoja, Fürstenthal, Illischestie, Kaczyka, Kapukodrului, Paltinossa, Schwarzthal, Stroiesti, and Teodoresti.. They traveled overland to Hamburg, Bremen, or Trieste to board ship for North American ports of entry including Galveston, which was the least expensive route and most convenient for those traveling to Kansas to join relatives there. Others went directly to Lewis County after passing through the ports of Baltimore, Boston, New York and Philadelphia; some came to Lewis County from Canada.

The first arrivals from Illischestie settled in western Lewis County in Lost Valley, which is situated between two small towns called Pe Ell and Boistfort, beginning in 1887. The group included Jakob and Regina (Sobolka) Ast, who were among the first immigrants to arrive in Ellis, Kansas, a year earlier, and Jakob’s sister Elisabetha with her husband Johann Roos, and Johann’s father, stepmother, and siblings. They were joined within the next two years by more Ast families as well as Böhmer, Grohs (Gross), Keller, Knieling, Radmacher, and Schiminesky families. Again, these families were related in various ways with ties to Illischestie, as seen in the fact that the Böhmer, Grohs, and Schiminesky wives had all been born in Illischestie. The spellings of family names were Anglicized. The Ast families adopted the Aust spelling, for example. Other examples of this are seen in the transition from Böhmer to Böhmer, Bomer, and Bamer, from Radmacher to Radmaker and Roos to Rose.

Most Bukovina immigrants operated small farms besides working in the hop fields, in the logging camps and sawmills, or for the Northern Pacific Railway. At this time, the Northern Pacific was building a line west from Chehalis which reached Pe Ell in February 1892. This prompted some Lost Valley settlers to move into Pe Ell, Boistfort, and other nearby communities to take advantage of the job opportunities.
An economic decline in 1893 may have been in a factor in halting Bukovina immigration to the area until about 1900. In time, new arrivals and some earlier ones settled in Chehalis where a furniture factory, sawmills and other industries offered jobs. Among these were more Illischestie people including the Kipper (now Keeper), Roos (Rose), Mock, and Zachmann families.

Although all Illischestie immigrants were Lutheran, they were never able to form their own church as did their relatives in Kansas and Saskatchewan. Many joined St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chehalis, fifteen miles northeast of Lost Valley, and the pastor traveled to Pe Ell to conduct church services and give religious instruction in family homes. Other immigrants became members of St. Paul’s or St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Winlock, which is about fifteen miles southeast of Lost Valley. Another Chehalis church, Peace Lutheran, was organized in 1914 with Bukovina immigrants John Mock and Frank Aust as charter members.

Paltinossa, Bukovina, was the home for another Bohemian Catholic immigrant group in Lewis County. Even before the 1889 Lewis County Territorial Census, Joseph Pekar (also known as Pakar or Baker) and his family were reported as living in the Coal Creek area east of Chehalis. They had left Bukovina in 1887, lived in Kansas for a short time, then moved to Washington. He encouraged relatives such as the Bealy (Bialy/Bailey), Busek, Jabhauski (Jay), Kolosh, Kostick, Loy and Sturza families to join him at about the turn of the century. These were German Bohemian farmers, miners, and loggers, most of whom attended St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Chehalis until 1923 when St. Joseph’s Church was built. Their children attended Holy Rosary Academy and later St. Joseph’s School before they went to Chehalis High School.

Schwarztal and Bukschoja were the homes of the Tauscher family, who emigrated in 1887. The brothers Frank (Franz), Ambrose, and Wenzel went to Lewis County. Their brother Joseph and his family went to Ellis County, Kansas, with the Erberts and in 1890, moved to Washington to join his brothers. Joseph and family returned to Kansas two years later because they did not like Washington’s damp climate.

At least one family from Fürstenthal/Fürstental, the Aschenbrenners, was represented in Washington. Joseph Aschenbrenner, a logger employed in Winlock in 1910, reported to census officials that he had arrived in the U.S. in 1890. Other Aschenbrenner families from Fürstenthal lived Thurston County, Washington, and in Ellis County, Kansas.

More information about this immigrant group is available in “The Bukovina Germans in Lewis County, Washington,” by Mary Lee Rose. It was published in the Seattle Genealogical Society Bulletin, Volume 44, Number 4 – Summer 1995, pages 171-177, and is posted on the Bukovina Society of the Americas web site. Mary Lee also contributed “Bukovina Germans in Lewis County, Washington” to the book German Emigration from Bukovina to the Americas.

VI. Urban Migration: Chicago and New York

Johann Christian Dressler, longtime Illischestie school teacher, noted that in the one hundred years following the arrival of Germans in Illischestie, there were 657 instances of immigration involving 1301 persons listed in the Illischestie church books. Of this total, 374 immigrated to North America and 47 to South America, mostly to Brazil. You might be interested in the names of the eight families who went to Brazil and the year in which they immigrated. They are Philipp Hassel (1888), Friedrich Keller (1888), Johann Roos (1887), Valentin Rumpel (1888), Josef Sauer (immigrated to Bosnia in 1895, then spent a year in Germany before going to Brazil), Johann Staudt (1888), Jakob Wendling (1889), and Johann Wendling (1888).16
Dressler lists Illischestie immigrants to North America in his Illischestie village history, Chronik der Bukowiner Landgemeinde Illischestie, pages 357-361. Naperville, a short distance west of Chicago, was the home of Duhai and Kelsch immigrants. Chicago itself was cited in regard to Duhai, Fritz, Hofmann, Irion, Kelsch, Knieling, Mai, Presser, Wagner, Wendling, and Zachmann families.

It is more challenging to trace immigrants to fast-paced urban America and yet there is often a way to do so. When I lived in Kansas, two women came to visit the St. John cemetery. They said that they were sisters from Naperville, Illinois, and were on a cross-country trip to visit Bukovina communities. Although I did not ask for their names and addresses, some years later I traced them by writing to a Lutheran church in Naperville. The pastor replied with the information that the Bukovina community in Naperville was centered in St. John United Church of Christ. Next I wrote to the pastor of that church, who was able to identify the women, Eve Hamann Bauman and Clementina Hamann Matter. Although Eve had died, Clementina remembered the trip and me. She introduced me to her surviving sister Wilhelmina Hamann Steininger, and both kindly welcomed me to the Naperville community in 1990. Werner Zoglauer, a member of our Bukovina Society international board actively involved in databasing records, is also part of this community.

The Bukovina people who immigrated to places like Chicago, Naperville, and New York City before World War I found work in shops, factories, and businesses, often with German-speaking employers. Many were unable to pursue the crafts or trades in which they had been trained in Bukovina and out of necessity, had to learn new skills. Typically these were unmarried young men and women, or married men who left their wives and children in Bukovina while they prepared the way for them in the United States. In her published research, Dr. Sophie Welisch has noted that these immigrants became bakers, stone masons, machinists, seamen, butchers, and tailors.

After World War I ended and Bukovina adjusted to the severities of life under Romanian sovereignty, a new wave of immigration began to urban America. These new arrivals found better pay and working conditions than had their predecessors. Unfortunately this ended in a few years when the Great Depression produced widespread financial losses, unemployment, and hardship.

A final group of Bukovina immigrants arrived in the years after World War II. These people had been resettled into German territory in 1940 and ended the war as displaced persons without a homeland. Some held American citizenship, or had immediate family whom they could join in the United States. Others entered this country in family groups after the immigration quota system was liberalized in 1952.

Dr. Sophie Welisch, who is in attendance at this event, can discuss these immigrants with you in greater detail. You will also be interested in reading the various carefully-researched, well-written works which she has published regarding the Bukovina people.

VII. The Bukovina Society of the Americas

The founding of the Bukovina Society of the Americas can be traced to September 1988, when Paul Polansky, Oren Windholz and I met for the first time. I had written my book The Bukovina Germans in Kansas: A 200-Year History of the Lutheran Swabians and in the process, had established communication with Dr. Paula Tiefenthaler and Frau Irma Bornemann of the Landsmannschaft der Buchenlanddeutschen (Bukowina) e.V. in West Germany, as well as with Dr. Sophie Welisch in Congers, New York. Paul had contacted both Oren and me in regard to his own Schneller ancestors and their relatives, some of whom had emigrated to Kansas. I invited Paul to meet me in Kansas and arranged for him to speak to Bukovina descendants at a forum held in the St. Mary’s School in Ellis. After that, the three of us talked about attending the 40th annual meeting of the Landsmannschaft in Augsburg, West Germany, and about the possibility of forming a Bukovina German group based in Ellis.

A notice was published in area newspapers inviting interested persons to attend a December 11 meeting in Ellis regarding this proposed Bukovina organization. On December 10, 1988, Oren and I drafted an agenda for a meeting and later that day, met with a committee including Bernie Zerfas, Darrell Seibel, Joe Erbert, and Ernie Honas. The next day, December 11, the Bukovina Society of the Americas was formed at the public meeting.

Oren, his wife Pat, and I traveled to Europe to visit Paul in May 1989. We attended the meeting of the Landsmannschaft and its affiliate the Kaindl-Gesellschaft, and became acquainted with the newly formed Bukowina-Institut and its directors, Dr. Johannes Hampel and Dr. Ortfried Kotzian. Oren, Paul and I received documents of honor and silver pins from these organizations and the City of Augsburg in recognition of our efforts for the Bukovina Society of the Americas.

The society’s first meeting was held in the Ellis High School auditorium on July 19-22, 1989. Within three years, the society had acquired museum and headquarters facilities in the former First Congregational Church in Ellis with the cooperation of the church’s trustees, Jack Nicholson and Mary Pearson, and the City of Ellis.

The society’s directors have been active on behalf of the organization. A number of board members and their spouses traveled to Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, to meet Bukovina German descendants in Edenwold as well as the Romanian Canadian Cultural Club. Paul Massier, his wife Dorothy and I went to Lewis County to attend a Bukovina gathering and while in Washington, I was the guest of Mary Lee and Gilmore Rose, who shared their family history research with me. As previously mentioned, I went to Naperville, Illinois, to meet Bukovina emigrants and their descendants. A memorable event was the society’s 1996 meeting in Waco, Texas, in conjunction with the German Genealogy and Heritage Conference and coordinated by Van Massirer.

VIII. Summary

One hundred and fifteen years ago, Bukovina people began to immigrate to Canada, the United States, and Brazil. The contact between their descendants and their cousins in Europe has been renewed through the efforts of the Associação Alemã-Bucovina de Cultural and the Bukovina Society of the Americas, with the support of the Bukowina-Institut, the Landsmannschaft der Buchenlanddeutschen (Bukowina) e.V. and the Kaindl-Gesellschaft. Next year, on July 18-20, 2002, the Bukovina Society will meet in conjunction with the Federation of East European Family History Societies in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. We hope to meet some of you, especially Dr. Celestino, there. These mutually beneficial relationships continue the tradition of multi-ethnic and multi-confessional heritage which indeed is Bukovina’s finest, most enduring legacy to us all. Thank you, dear friends, for your partnership in this wonderful venture!


  1. Irmgard Hein Ellingson, teacher, author, and lecturer, is the daughter of Germans displaced from Ukrainian Volhynia after World War II. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Winona State College and a master of arts degree in ministry with a concentration in congregational history from Wartburg Theological Seminary. She is a founding member and international director of the Bukovina Society of the Americas (Ellis, Kansas), a current member of the editorial board for the Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (Lincoln, Nebraska), and former U.S. representative for the quarterly publication Wandering Volhynians (Vancouver, British Columbia/Canada). Her publication credits include two books, The Bukovina Germans in Kansas: A 200-Year History of the Lutheran Swabians (Hays, Kansas: Fort Hays State University Ethnic Heritage Series, 1987) and Illischestie, A Rural Parish in Bukovina: Primary Source Material for Family History, translated from an unpublished manuscript compiled by Johann Christian Dressler, and shorter works in German, Canadian, and American periodicals. Irmgard has addressed conventions of the Federation of East European Family History Societies as well as AHSGR, the Bukovina Society, Polish Genealogical Society of America, Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, and other state/local groups. She has worked in Czech, German, Austrian, Canadian, and American archives but has especially enjoyed meeting her relatives from Russia, Kazakhstan, Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany. Her Berlin Document Center records research facilitated the 1999 emigration of her aunt and cousins from Russia to Germany.
  2. Petersen, Carl, et. al. Handwörterbuch des Grenz- und Auslanddeutschtums (Breslau, Germany: Ferdinand Hirt, 1933), 616.
  3. For a further discussion, see Dr. Rein’s comments in German Emigration from Bukovina to the Americas (Lawrence, Kansas: Max Kade Center for German-American Studies, The University of Kansas, 1996), 56-57.
  4. Cutler’s work is posted online at http://www.ukans.edu/carrie/kancoll/books/cutler. See the Ellis County link for more information.
  5. Further examinations are contained in “Adaptation and Contributions of Bukovinians to the New Homeland: The Bukovina Germans of West-Central Kansas” by James L. Forsythe and Helmut J. Schmeller, and in “From Mitteleuropa to Middle America: The Migration and Adaptation of the Bukovina Germans to Kansas” by Normal E. Saul. Both articles appear in German Emigration from German Emigration from Bukovina to the Americas.
  6. See her 1983 study titled Buried Ties to the “Old Country” (N.p.), page iii.
  7. Forsythe and Schmeller, 171-172.
  8. A picture of the church, physical description, and history are posted online at this address: http://www.lasr.net/leisure/kansas/ellis/attractions.html.
  9. See his work “Catholic Bohemian Germans in Kansas” in German Emigration from Bukovina to the Americas, page 80.
  10. The interview is presented in Windholz’s book The Erberts, page 18. Information about the Hoffmann and Zehaczek families appears in my translation of Johann Christian Dressler’s work Illischestie, A Rural Parish in Bukovina, Primary Source Material for Family History, pages 139-140.
  11. See Richard Carruthers-Zurowski’s work, “Between Imperial Hinterlands: Canada’s Bukovina German Immigrants 1885-1914,” in German Emigration from Bukovina to the America, particularly pages 130-131.
  12. Butz’s role in the immigration is discussed by Carruthers-Zurowski in “Between Imperial Hinterlands,” and by Hannelore Frombach in her Edenwold community history titled Where Aspens Whisper.
  13. For an overview of Edenwold pioneer history, see Where Aspens Whisper. Immigrant lists appear on pages 15 and 16.
  14. Material in this section was synthesized from Paul Polansky’s research, which he has generously shared with me in the course of our 13-year friendship. His article “Migration of Bukovina Germans to North America” appeared in Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Vol. 11, No. 4, Winter 1988. I included the Theresia Maurer Schneller story in my article “Bukovina Networking,” published in the FEEFHS Quarterly (Salt Lake City, Utah) in 2000.
  15. The following section is based upon the published research of Mary Lee Rose of Olympia, Washington, whose enthusiasm, generosity, and warm hospitality are much appreciated.
  16. Dressler’s statistics are cited in Chronik der Bukowiner Landgemeinde Illischestie, pages 347, 348, and 361.


Becker, Maria Lang; Jensen, Larry R.; Welisch, Sophie A. The Bori Story: Genealogies of the German-Bohemian families who in 1835 founded Bori in Bukovina (now in Romania) with History of the Village and its People.

Dressler, Johann Christian. Chronik der Bukowiner Langemeinde Illischestie (Freilassing: Pannonia-Verlag, 1960).

Dressler, Johann Christian; Ellingson, Irmgard Hein, transl. Illischestie, A Rural Parish in Bukovina: Primary Source Material for Family History (Decorah, Iowa: printed by Anundsen Publishing Company, 1993).

Ellingson, Irmgard Hein. The Bukovina Germans in Kansas: A 200-Year History of the Lutheran Swabians (Hays, Kansas: Fort Hays State University, 1987).

Ellingson, Irmgard Hein “Bukovina Networking” in FEEFHS Quarterly 2000 (Salt Lake City).

Frombach, Hannelore. Where Aspens Whisper (Edenwold Anniversary Committee: 1981).

Hordern, Dr. Richard, ed. St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church 1890-1900 (Edenwold: 1990).

Keel, William, and Rein, Kurt, ed. German Emigration from Bukovina to the Americas (Lawrence: Max Kade Center for German-American Studies, The University of Kansas, 1996).

Langley, Eileen E. Buried Ties to the “Old Country” (Ellis, Kansas: self-published, 1983).

Polansky, Paul J. Speech presented to the Kaindl-Gesellschaft of the Landsmannschaft der Buchenlanddeutschen (Bukowina) e.V., (Augsburg: 6 June 1987). Revised and published as “Migration of Bukovina Germans to North America” in Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Lincoln, Nebraska: Winter 1988), 27-34.

Rose, Mary Lee. “The Bukovina Germans in Lewis County, Washington” in Seattle Genealogical Society Bulletin, Volume 44, Number 4 – Summer 1995, pages 171-177. It is also posted on the Bukovina Society of the Americas web site.

Welisch, Sophie. A. “Bukovina-German Pioneers in Urban America.” Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans From Russia, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Lincoln, Nebraska: spring 1989), pp. 19 – 26. It is also posted on the Bukovina Society of the Americas web site.

Windholz, Oren. Bohemian Germans in Kansas: A Catholic Community From Bukovina (Hays, KS: published by the author, July 1993).

Windholz, Oren. The Erberts: A German Catholic Family in Austria, from Bohemia, through Bukovina, to America (self-published, n.d.)