The Bukovina Germans in Lewis County, Washington

Mary Lee Rose

Published in the Seattle Genealogical Society Bulletin,
Volume 44, Number 4 — Summer 1995, pp. 171 – 177.
Copyright © 1995, Seattle Genealogical Society.

Posted with permission of the Seattle Genealogical Society and of the author, April 14, 1996.
Revised May 1, 1996.

Bukovina is located just east of the Carpathian Mountains in southeastern Europe. Since 1940 the northern half has been in the Ukraine and the southern half has been in northeastern Romania. My research has involved immigrants in Lewis County, Washington, from the villages in southern Bukovina.

It might be appropriate to review the history of the Germans in Bukovina. The history of Bukovina is a turbulent one. It was often the battlefield for disputes in southeastern Europe and under the domination of many countries until it was ceded to Austria by the Ottoman Empire with the 1775 Treaty of Constantinople, establishing Austrian sovereignty over Bukovina. In 1786 Bukovina became a district of the province of Galicia and in 1848-49, with a new Austrian constitution, Bukovina became an autonomous crown land and duchy.

Following the Austrian take-over, the Hapsburg emperors began recruiting experienced farmers, craftsmen, miners, glass workers and foresters to settle the area. Joseph II published the Patent of Settlement in 1782 promising eligible immigrants free transportation from Vienna to their new homes, a house with a garden, fields, draft animals, no taxes for the first 10 years and exemption from military service for the eldest son. Several thousand Germans emigrated from southwest Germany (Baden, Württemberg, the Palatinate), Bohemia and the Zips mountain region of what is now Slovakia.

The first group of Germans arrived in Bukovina in 1787 after waiting in Lemberg (now Lviv) in Galicia for assignment to a village. Some had waited for as long as three years. In 1790 the colonization program which had offered the special privileges was rescinded and although Germans continued to arrive after that date, it was without the terms granted to the original colonists. Most of the colonists in Bukovina were from areas that had suffered from wars, famine and a shortage of land. The prospects for a better life attracted them to Bukovina.

In their Bukovina villages these Germans maintained the customs, language and dialects of their ancestral homes and did not assimilate with other groups, thus keeping their own culture intact. Eventually most villages were able to build their own schools and churches.

Another event of significance to Bukovina researchers is the 1781 Patent of Toleration guaranteeing freedom of religion in Austria, leading to the immigration of Protestants to a previously Roman Catholic country. About one-third of the Bukovina Germans were Protestant, predominately Lutheran, and two-thirds were Roman Catholic. Between 1791 and 1861 Milleschoutz served as the official seat of the Lutheran parish of Bukovina. Beginning in 1861, Radautz became the official seat of the parish.

The Compromise of 1867 resulted in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a dual monarchy under the Hapsburgs, with the Austrian and Hungarian governments operating separately. Following World War I, in 1919, all of Bukovina was given to Romania under terms of the Treaty of St. Germain which broke up the empire.

The German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact was signed in 1939 and the Soviet Union prepared to move into Romania. The pact allowed the German population in those territories moving to Soviet control that year to move to Germany. In June of 1940 Soviet forces occupied northern Bukovina and living conditions became very difficult for the ethnic Germans. A further agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union, signed in September 1940, allowed anyone with at least one German grandparent to apply to a joint Soviet-German Commission for relocation to Germany. Most Bukovina Germans had left northern Bukovina by November 1940.

In southern Bukovina, German and Romanian governments agreed in October 1940 to allow voluntary emigration of ethnic Germans from that area. They were taken by rail to various locations in Austria and Germany, and held in relocation camps with very poor living conditions until after May 1941 when they were declared to be German citizens and relocated in Germany. Most worked in German factories and other industries, or on Polish farms. By late 1941 the able-bodied men were beginning to be drafted into the German army.

Toward the end of World War II, as Soviet forces advanced from the east, the Bukovina Germans were forced to flee westward. After the war few chose to return to Bukovina. The era of German colonists in Bukovina had ended.

In the late 19th century the Bukovina Germans were attracted to the United States and Canada. Ellis County in Kansas, Yuma County in Colorado, Lewis County in Washington and Saskatchewan Province in Canada were the destinations of many.

Heavily forested hills, fertile valleys and a moderate climate attracted Bukovina immigrants to Lewis County, Washington, in the mid to late 1880s. In the southwest comer of Washington State, where Lewis County is located, large hop fields were in need of agricultural workers. Timber companies were logging what seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of trees. Sawmills to process the trees were being built throughout the area. There was coal to be mined.

At the same time, the railroads were extending their trackage and influence. The agricultural, mining and timber industries required railroads to move products to market and the railroads needed timber for the railroad tracks and miners to dig coal for the steam locomotives. Men with blacksmithing skills were much in demand. The area was prospering and jobs were plentiful.

Many Bukovinians left Europe by ship from the ports of Bremen, Hamburg and Hanover in Germany and Trieste, now in easternmost Italy. Various ports of entry appear in the immigration records. Some of the earlier arrivals came through Galveston, Texas, because not only was it the least expensive route, it was convenient for those planning to visit relatives in Kansas.

Later, they traveled directly to Lewis County and came through the ports of Baltimore, Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Some came into Washington State from Canada. Blaine and Seattle in Washington, and Gateway, Montana are mentioned in the declarations of intention to become citizens.

Among those settling in Lewis County were immigrants from the following villages in southern Bukovina (now in Romania). Many of the village names are spelled differently on different maps: Alt-Fratautz, Althütte, Bukschoja/Bukschoya, Fürstenthal/Fürstenthal, Illischestie/Ilisesti, Kaczika/Cacica, Kapukodrului/Capucodrului, Paltinossa, Schwarzthal/Schwarztal, Stroiesti, Teodoresti. Other towns and villages which appear frequently in southern Bukovina records are Milleschoutz/Mileschoutz, Radautz and Suczawa/Suceava.

Most of the earliest people from Illischestie went to the far western side of Lewis County, to Lost Valley, situated between the small towns of Pe Ell on the Chehalis River, and Boistfort, an early Western Washington settlement on the South Fork of the Chehalis.

The year 1887 saw the earliest arrivals. They were Jacob and Regina (Sobolka) Ast, Adam (I) and Marianna (Boehmer) Huber Roos, Johann and Elizabeth (Ast) Roos, Antone Roos, Franz/Frank Roos, Katharina Roos and Dorothea Roos. Adam (I) is the great-grandfather of my husband, Gilmore Adam Rose. Marianna, who previously had been married to Johann Huber, was Adam’s second wife, whom he married in 1870.

Adam’s first wife, the mother of his children, was Katharina Armpriester, who died in Bukovina in 1869. Adam’s children were Antone, Franz/Frank, Katharina and Johann, mentioned above, and Carolina, Maria and Adam (II), who arrived in Lewis County later. Dorothea Roos was Adam (I)’s deaf-mute sister and Elizabeth (Ast) Roos was the sister of Jacob Ast.

This group was followed (all by 1889) by Heinrich and Carolina (Roos) Ast, Johann and Eva (Kelsch) Boehmer, Georg and Maria (Roos) Grohs, Michael and Katharina (Kelsch) Keller, Friedrich and Louise (Wendling) Knieling, Johann and Barbara (Wendling) Radmacher, and Louis and Caroline (Boehmer) Schiminesky. Friedrich Knieling was a nephew of Adam (I) Roos, Caroline Schiminesky was the daughter of Johann and Eva Boehmer, and Louise Knieling and Barbara Radmacher were sisters. Boehmer, Grohs and Schiminesky are not Illischestie names, but all were married to Illischestie women.

Most of these families had small children and soon after arriving they began organizing a school for them. Most of the families, men and women, were active in establishing the Lost Valley School of the Boistfort School District which opened in 1892. It was their first experience with public education in the United States and they were eager to participate. Because German was spoken in the students’ homes, Lost Valley School teachers were required to speak and write both German and English. Among the first enrollees were Frank, John, Katie, Lena and Phillip Aust (Ast), Fred Bomer (Boehmer) and Barbara, Fred and Jack Radmaker (Radmacher).

As seen in the school enrollees, the names of the German families were soon Anglicized but sometimes went through several variations before settling on the current spelling. For example: Ast=Aust, Boehmer=Böhmer/Bomer/Bamer (the current version), Radmacher=Radmaker and Roos=Rose.

Most of them had small farms in addition to working in the hop fields, in the timber industry (logging camps and sawmills) or for the railroad. The Northem Pacific Railway was establishing a line from Chehalis to South Bend, Washington, which was completed to Pe Ell on 15 February 1892. There were also smaller lines which served the timber industry. Within a few years some of the settlers had moved into the small towns of Pe Ell and Boistfort and to other nearby communities.

The Financial Panic of 1893 led to an economic decline and this may be the reason there were not many new arrivals from Bukovina until about 1900, when more immigrants arrived in Lewis County. Some continued to go to the Boistfort/Pe Ell area but many chose to make their new homes in Chehalis where there were employment opportunities in a furniture factory, sawmills and other industries.

In April of 1900 the Lost Valley families were joined by Johann and Anna (Ast) Kipper/Keeper and Adam (II) and Louisa (Ast) Roos/Rose. Anna Kipper and Louisa Roos were sisters. Adam (II) and Louisa Roos are my husband’s grandparents, and my father-in-law, Christian Roos/Rose, was one of the 13 children traveling with the two families.

Johann and Friedrich Mock and their families and several Zachmann families, all from Illischestie, lived several miles south of Chehalis in the early 1890s. They later moved into Chehalis. The Zachmanns lived and worked in Butte, Montana, when they first arrived in the United States.

Almost all of the Illischestie people were Lutheran, but there were not sufficient numbers of them to establish their own church. They affiliated with St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chehalis (about 15 miles northeast of Lost Valley) which shared a pastor with St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Winlock, about the same distance southeast of the valley. The pastor traveled infrequently to Pe Ell for church services, communion and confirmation classes in the homes of members and these were conducted in German. Differences over church policy within the Pe Ell congregation led to a division with neither faction ever able to build its own church. Among Bukovina names appearing in St. John’s records are Ast/Aust, Boehmer/Bamer, Grohs, Hehn, Janz, Keller, Kelsch, Kerth, Kipper/Keeper, Mock, Radmacher, Roos/Rose, Rumpel, Schiminesky, Sesserman, Wendling and Werb.

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church was organized in Winlock in 1905 after a division in St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church there, a division resolved in 1970 with reunification. Bukovina names appearing in the records of the Winlock churches are Ast, Mai, Mock and Werb.

Peace Lutheran Church was organized in Chehalis 14 May 1914 with John Mock and Frank Aust among the charter members. As late as the 1930s, pastors from Peace Lutheran and St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Churches would travel to Pe Ell for funeral services for their Bukovinian members. These were held in the Methodist Church in Pe Ell.

All of St. John’s services and confirmation classes were in the German language until 1929, Peace Lutheran’s were in German on alternate weeks until 1924, all of St. Paul’s until World War I and St. Peter’s until the mid-1920s when half of the service was in German and half in English. Early church records for all are written in German.

Most of the early Bukovinians in the Pe Ell/Boistfort vicinity are buried in the Boistfort Cemetery or the Pe Ell City Cemetery. Later, some were buried at Claquato Cemetery, southwest of nearby Chehalis. Others may be found in Winlock Cemetery in Winlock, Sunset Memorial Gardens in Chehalis, or Mountain View Cemetery or Greenwood Cemetery in Centralia, all in Lewis County.

In the late 1880s (prior to the 1889 Lewis County Territorial Census) Joseph Pekar/Pakar/Baker and his family from the village of Paltinossa settled in the Coal Creek precinct, east of Chehalis. They had lived in Kansas briefly after immigrating to the U.S. in 1887, before moving on to Washington. While Joseph Pekar changed his name to Baker, other Pekars who followed to Lewis County adopted the spelling Pakar. As the years passed, Joseph encouraged relatives to come from Paltinossa and surrounding villages, most after 1900. Bealy/Bialy/Bailey, Busek, Jabhauski/Jay, Kolosh, Kostick, Loy and Sturza were some of the surnames.

Most of this group were Catholic. St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church was built in Chehalis in 1888 and served the Catholic community until 1923 when St. Joseph’s Church was built there. In the early years children could attend Holy Rosary Academy which was established in 1895 and later, St. Joseph’s School (1923 to present) before enrolling at Chehalis High School.

Many of these German Bohemians were farmers, miners or loggers. As with the earlier settlers, most had small farms even though they had other jobs. Anton Busek, William Busek and Gus Pakar were miners; later they worked at other occupations. Fred Busek and his wife, Ludmilla (Pakar) Busek had a dairy farm. Matt Pakar worked in construction and built many bridges in Lewis County. His son, Frank Pakar, was also in construction.

The Tauscher family from Swarzthal/Swarztal and Bukschoja/Bukschoya was in Washington State by 1888. They immigrated in 1887 and lived for a year in Ellis County, Kansas, where they had relatives. They farmed on Logan Hill, southeast of Chehalis. Later, some of them worked in the furniture factory in Chehalis. Joseph Tauscher returned to Kansas in 1891 and Ambrose Tauscher moved to Oregon when the Doernbecker Furniture Factory relocated in Portland. Frank Tauscher and Wenzel Tauscher remained in Chehalis and continued to farm on Logan Hill. Thomas Böna/Bena, also from Swarzthal, married Cecelia Tauscher, daughter of Frank Tauscher, and they farmed near Agate, southeast of Chehalis. They later moved into Chehalis.

Doty, a few miles north of Pe Ell, was a small but booming town in the early part of this century and the sawmills were encouraging people to settle there. At its peak it had a population of about 1,000 but the mill moved away in 1930 and many people moved elsewhere. Several members of the Rumpell/Rumpel family were there as were Wasile Branzak and John Sesserman.

At least one family from Fürstenthal/Fürstenthal located in Washington. Joseph Aschenbrenner was in Winlock working as a logger in 1910. Census records indicate he came to the U.S. in 1890. John Baptiste Aschenbrenner was in Winlock as early as 1893. Aschenbrenner families from Fürstenthal/Fürstental are in Yelm and Rainier in Thurston County. The Aschenbrenner name is in Ellis County, Kansas, also.

I have found additional Bukovina surnames, not mentioned elsewhere in this article, in the naturalization records of the Lewis County Superior Court, where they listed Stroesti, Bukovina, as the place of birth and/or last residence. Mihai Branzak and Arsinte Mateicink lived in Chehalis at the time they filed their Declaration of Intention papers. Joseph Zerfas, from Illischestie, appears in the 1920 Federal Census but I have not found the name elsewhere.

This wave of Bukovina immigrants continued until 1914 when Europe was exploding into World War I. The Bukovina Germans here were frantic to get their extended families out of harm’s way. There were others who came after World War I, mostly young single men. Some of the families displaced by World War II joined relatives here after that war.

The Bukovina Germans were very self-reliant people. Most of what they needed they made themselves. Their farms and livestock provided most of their food. Gradually they enlarged and upgraded their houses and bought more land. They sent money to relatives in Bukovina and encouraged them to join them in the United States.

Those residing in the communities in and near Chehalis had a social life, often with other Germans in the area. In 1906 a group of Germans in Chehalis organized the Chehalis Liederkranz (liederkranz means “garland of song”), a singing society in the tradition of the all-male singing groups in Germany. One objective of the organization was to perpetuate the German language among the younger generation. From this small beginning by 1912 it grew to a chorus of 80 with a professional director. The chorus gave concerts not only in the Chehalis community but all over the state of Washington, and performed and competed with other liederkranz groups in sangerfests.

This led to financing of the 500-seat Liederkranz Hall in Chehalis, with a 300-seat banquet room, meeting rooms and other facilities used by the entire community. During World War I, the group disbanded, but reorganized in 1925 for a while. Older persons of German descent in Lewis County recall their fathers and grandfathers sang with the Liederkranz but do not know when the second group ceased to be active. The hall was severely damaged by an arson fire in 1918, and destroyed in a second mysterious fire in 1926.

Other groups which met there included The Order of the Sons of Hermann and The Daughters (later sometimes called Sisters) of Hermann. The Sons, organized in 1915, was a chapter of a national fraternal organization formed in 1840 in New York by Germans banding together against the prejudice toward persons of foreign birth. In the 1920s and early 1930s the Daughters of Hermann drill team competed with other chapters’ teams at the conventions. The Order of the Sons of Hermann no longer exists in Chehalis, neither does the Daughters. If records of any of these groups have survived, I have not been able to locate them.

The Bukovina Germans in the rural areas of Lewis County found much of their social life in the local Grange halls. The National Grange (officially, the Patrons of Husbandry), a fraternal organization established shortly after the Civil War, represents the interest of farmers. There are more than 29 Granges in Lewis County at present and each has a hall for its activities, which include traditional-homecraft contests, youthwork, and participation in Lewis County and Western Washington Fairs, as well as dances, potlucks and other social events.

Some of the descendants of the original settlers still live in the same area of Lewis county that their ancestors did when they first came to this country. Aust, Keller, Rose and Wendling families still are living in Lost Valley. Descendants of the Busek and Kostick families are in the Coal Creek area, east of Chehalis, in the area Joseph Pekar/Baker lived.

In each of these Bukovina German communities it usually is possible to connect each family to at least one other family who was living there. Whatever brought the first person to each location, almost everyone who came later was in some way related to family or families already there. This is true in Lost Valley, the Coal Creek area, Chehalis and Doty. There was a closeness among families and, in the early days, many married within their own group. Eventually members of the younger generation moved to larger cities and it was difficult to maintain contact.

In 1991 a Bukovina German Reunion was held in the Baw Faw Grange Hall near Boistfort. Nearly 250 Bukovina descendants attended and shared genealogy, early photographs and good German food. It was a wonderful opportunity for the younger generation to learn of their Bukovina German heritage.

In April of 1992 Dr. Kurt Rein of the Bukovina Institute in Augsburg, Germany, visited United States and Canadian Bukovinian settlements, as director of a project tracing the emigration from Bukovina to the New World. He spent three days in Western Washington conducting interviews with Bukovinian descendants, exploring the remnants of Bukovinian cultural heritage which might still be evident in homes of Bukovinian ancestry here, such as language, dialect, food and other ancestral customs. One immediate impression he noted was that the Pe Ell/Boistfort area is much like the southern Bukovina countryside, a similarity which may have prompted the Illischestie people to choose that location.

The Bukovina Institute is a research institution sponsored by the Federal Republic of Germany under the direction of the Ministry of Interior. Its purpose is to collect information on the history, geography and ethnology of Bukovina and it has a large library open to visitors. The institute staff also will respond to inquiries. The address is: Bukowina Institut Augsburg, Alter Postweg 97a, Augsburg D86159, Germany. Dr. Rein is a professor of language at the University of Munich and also works with the institute. He was born in Fratautz, Bukovina and, as a child, was among those who left Bukovina in 1940 and therefore has a very personal interest in the project.

Dr. Rein found that the Lewis County group of Bukovinians had assimilated into the population of the area, and that many had left the original settlement locations of their ancestors to move to the larger towns and cities. While most of the original immigrants had occupations similar to those in their homeland, such as logging and furniture making, those who had farmed in Bukovina did not always find agricultural conditions as favorable here and some had chosen other occupations.

He said this colony of Bukovina German immigrants was the least researched of any of the New World settlements and that much more research is needed to reconstruct the history of the settlers. To add a personal note, in the 15 years I have been studying them, I have located no one researching the Bukovina Germans in Lewis County as a group. In fact, only a few of them are working on their own genealogies. I hope others will take an interest as there is much to be done!

Until recently it was difficult for the amateur researcher to locate sources and records of the Bukovina Germans. We now have much more information available.

In Bukovina, records of baptism, confirmation, marriage and death were kept by the churches, either Protestant or Roman Catholic, depending on the person’s religious affiliation. Unfortunately, some records were lost during World War II although many survived and reappeared in Germany at the end of the war. Many of those records have been microfilmed by the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and are available through LDS Family History Centers.

In addition, records, photographs and genealogies for Bukovina people are being collected by the Bukovina Society of the Americas, P.O. Box 81, Ellis, Kansas 67637.

The largest collection of Bukovina records is in the possession of Paul Polansky, director of the Czech Historical Research Center, Spillville, Iowa, 52168-0183. Polansky has been doing eastern European archival research for more than 25 years and has built extensive databases with his primary-source findings. His holdings include previously hidden Catholic records that he photocopied in Bukovina during the past seven or eight years. The research center is registered as an Iowa not-for-profit institution.

Bukovina records and genealogies, as well as many German-language books about Bukovina, have been collected by Irmgard Hein-Ellingson, P.O. Box 97, Ossian, Iowa, 52161-0097. She wrote The Bukovina Germans in Kansas, A 200-Year History of the Lutheran Swabians and translated a 550-page primary-source-records compilation, Illschestie, A Rural Community in Bukovina, published in 1993. Her articles have appeared in German and American periodicals. She is affiliated and active in number of allied organizations, including the Bukovina Society of the Americas; Wandering Volhynien, Vancouver, British Columbia; the Historischer Verein-Wolhynien, Wiesentheid, Germany, and the Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies, and is on the editorial board of the journal of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia. There are other village or family-centered Bukovina researchers, to whom she refers inquiries.

I would be happy to correspond as time permits with others about the Lewis County Bukovinian settlers (please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope). My address is, 1620 Ethridge Ave. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506-3419. My telephone number is (360) 357-8563.


    Pagar (born in Dorna Watra)
    Sesserman (born in Suczawa)
  • BUKOVINA, village unknown (Married to Illischestie women)


Irmgard Hein-Ellingson who, for the past seven years, has told me that this story of the Lewis County Bukovina Germans needs to be told. She has helped me significantly with the Bukovina background.

Interviews with descendants of settlers.

1889 Territorial Census and 1892 State Census of Lewis County, Washington.

1900, 1910, 1920 Federal Census Schedules of Lewis County, WA.

Declaration of Intentions filed in the Superior Court of Lewis County, Washington, records now deposited at the Southwest Branch, Washington State Archives, Olympia, WA.

Washington State Death Index; obituaries and other articles in area newspapers.

LDS Family History Library microfilms, #0038957 and #0038958. Lutheran baptism, confirmation, marriage and death records of various Bukovina villages.

Records of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chehalis, WA.

Records of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Winlock, Washington.

The History of Lewis County, Lewis County Historical Society, Chehalis, Washington, 1985.

Research Guide to German-American Genealogy, German Interest Group, Minnesota Genealogical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota; 1991.

Hein-Ellingson, Irmgard — The Bukovina Germans in Kansas: A 200-Year History of the Lutheran Swabians; 1987, Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas.
Illischestie, A Rural Community in Bukovina, 1993.

Ramsey, Guy Reed, Postmarked Washington, Lewis & Cowlitz Counties, Lewis County Historical Society, Chehalis, Washington, 1978.

Schmidt, Alvin J., Fraternal Organizations, 1980, The Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut.

Tiller, Priscilla, The Wooden Bench; 1991, Fernwood Press, Adna, Washington.

Welisch, Sophie A., Bukovina Villages/Towns/Cities and Their Germans; 1990, Bukovina Society of the Americas, Ellis, Kansas.

About the Author

Mary Lee Rose, a resident of Olympia, Washington, is a member of the Bukovina Society of the Americas (Ellis, Kansas), the Lewis County Historical Society (Chehalis, Washington), the Pacific County Historical Society (South Bend, Washington), the Olympia (Washington) Genealogical Society and the Washington State Genealogical Society. She has written articles on the Lewis County Bukovina Germans for the Lewis County Historical Society and The Bukovina Institute of Augsburg, Germany,