Hoffnungstal - 1848 Village History

 Copyright 1996, DLW - 7370 Grevena Avenue NE,

  Bremerton, WA 98311-4046, (360) 692-8052

          HOFFNUNGSTAL ODESSA (Translated by Paul Reeb)

The chief reason that induced so many people from Wuerttemberg to leave their

blessed fatherland at the beginning of our century are attributed partly to

the dire poverty and the grievous burden of taxation, partly to the

proliferating new doctrine and the resultant changes in churches and schools.

Among our colonists these innovations aroused the apprehension that their

children might in time be deprived of the pure teaching of the Gospel.

Particular views among many of these people had given rise to the desire to be

as close as possible to the Promised Land, and so their attention was directed

above all to the southern part of the Russian Empire, especially since they

hoped to be able to lead there a peaceful live in complete religious freedom,

without fear of coercion or restraint of conscience.

Several heads of families therefore approached Baron von Stackelberg, who was

then residing in Stuttgart, with a petition that they be permitted to settle

in South Russia.  Through this man's mediating efforts, His Most Gracious

Majesty Czar Alexander sent the Russian ambassador a ukase in which the free

exercise of religion was accorded to the applicants.

Accordingly a considerable number of inhabitants of various villages in the

districts of Waiblingen, Backnang, Marbach, Kirchheim, Esslingen, and others

organized two principal groups: the Unterweissach contingent, which was led by

Johann Leibbrandt; and the Oethinger, which was led by Biechlingmayer and Jakob


In May and June 1817 these two groups travelled to Ulm, from where they

continued down the Danube through Vienna, Ofen, Orsowa and Galatz, and reached

Izmail after manifold hardships.  During the quarantine in Izmail, hundreds of

them were wiped out through fatal illnesses, and many succumbed to a frightful

epidemic after they arrived in Odessa, so that in many families only widows and

orphans survived, whereas in some cases entire families perished.

Most of these immigrants continued their journey to Grusinia, despite the

well-meant protestations of the Russian colonial authorities and, indeed, of

the Czar himself.  Only a minority decided to settle in this colony.  Our

colonists were allotted 4306 desjatins of agricultural land in the

Maloi-Kujalnik valley, 50 versts east of the Dniester and the town of

Tiraspol, and 220 versts from Cherson. Here they found a small village named

Tsebrik (Zebrik), consisting of 17 dilapidated cottages which had neither roof

or interior furnishings, and some building stone and lumber for 15 additional

dwellings.  The Russian Crown had planned these unfinished buildings for

Bulgarian settlers.

Most of the newly-arrived settlers were given winter quarters in the

neighboring villages of earlier German settlers, whereas the others braved the

winter amid great hardship in these wretched buildings.  The year 1818 was

spent in preparing suitable dwellings.  At last, in 1819, the settlers were

able to begin with the very strenuous task of establishing their colony.

The first settlement was composed of 64 families including several craftsmen,

all of whom received a Crown loan of 500 rubles for building materials,

livestock, and agricultural equipment.  Subsequently 30  families received a

further loan of 3000 rubles.  In addition, our settlers had at their disposal

about 10,000 of their own money.

Thus, in 1819 -- the actual year of settlement -- 15 houses were constructed,

and after another five years all of the colonists had their homes completed.

In a general meeting it was decided that the new colony be named

Hoffnungsthal, in token of the immigrants' hopes for a happy future.  The

ministry gave its confirmation on December 2, 1819.

But let us now turn to a more precise description of the site of our colony.

On the one side it is bounded by a chain of hills, on the other by reclining

uplands.  The location is healthful, and abundantly supplied with well water.

The colony is completely isolated from all the other German villages, but

adjoins Russian villages on every side:  Peripljatofka on the north, Ghorie on

the east, Zipulofka on the south, and Kusolof on the west.  Except for 400

desjatins of barren soil that is even useless for pasturage, the land is

generally quite fertile.  The top soil is mostly black humus, partly mixed

with salpetre and partly with sand. The subsoil consists of clay.  Because of

the many medicinal herbs growing here, a part of our land became known in the

early years as the "Kraeutersteppe," the herbal steppe.  Half of the entire

steppe lands are used for the grazing of cattle.

When the weather is favorable, as in the present year, all types of grain do

as well as in our fatherland, especially on fallow land.  The spring wheat

often does poorly owing to lack of rain and the intense heat of summer.

Potatoes do not yield every year, but they are often produced in large

quantity and are of excellent quality.  Our Hoffnungsthal is, however, not yet

rich in orchards, largely because fruit trees are difficult to develop and

maintain.  It is a pity that the life of these trees is so short.

Nevertheless we do produce several sorts of wine.  Only a few farmers occupy

themselves with the raising of bees. The production of vegetables increases

every year, but up to the present this is only for home consumption, largely

because there is no opportunity to market the produce.  The woods planted here

are still very young, but with special care they are beginning to show

promising growth.

As the colony has no springs, several dams have been constructed.  There are

several stone quarries that provide a very porous lime conglomerate in scanty

quantity.  There are no sand stones available.

In the years since its founding the colony has enjoyed, with the blessing of

God and the protection of the authorities, continuous growth and development.

Without question it is one of the colonies that offers a pleasing sight to

every visitor.  Two broad streets intersect in the middle of the village,

where the nice stone church, with its green tin roof, the surrounding stone

wall and plantation of trees stands out quite impressively.  Built by the

colonists in 1840-42, it was enhanced by the addition of an organ in 1847.

The 120 white houses, many of them built of massive stone, have a most

charming setting in the leafy greenery.  Almost every house is adorned by a

garden, and each yard is enclosed by a stone wall.  In 1837 the community also

bought a house for its spiritual leader, pastor Friedrich Wilhelm Poeschel, who

came here from Saxony.  A large school house, in which 250 children are to be

instructed and in which the teacher will have living quarters, is now in

construction and will soon be completed. Last year the cemetery was enclosed

by a stone wall and can now be kept in good order.

The population has kept on increasing.  The losses caused by people that moved

away have been replaced by later immigrants for the Backnang transport and

from the Marbach Ship, and also by other newcomers.

Considerable losses in human life have been suffered from several epidemic

diseases, the prevailing fever in the early years of settlement, but

particularly by the cholera of 1831, the typhoid epidemic of 1844, and several

outbreaks of children's diseases, such as small pox in the current year.

According to the latest census the population is 860, but if we include the

large number of servants that have come here from other places, the number of

residents would amount to one thousand.

We now come to the important events that have to some extent caused damage or

hardship.  Although, praise God, we cannot report the outbreak of any great

fires ( 30 years only 5 houses burned down), we should not fail to make

mention of the significant damage that was caused by the floods in 1822, 1830,

and 1838.  In the most recent flood the destruction of houses, cellars, yards,

grain, hay, potatoes, etc. amounted to a loss estimated at 3,000 rubles.

Severe storms, especially in 1822, also damaged several buildings, indeed a

few houses were wrecked completely.  The earthquakes of 1820, 1829, and 1838

did practically no harm at all.

The large herds of horses and cattle were considerably reduced by the

livestock epidemics of 1828, 1833, 1844, and 1845.  However, animal husbandry

is flourishing, and even the unusually severe winter of this year has not been

harmful, for our colonists were well provided with fodder, indeed they were

able to offer supplies to very many of the needy farmers in the neighboring

villages. Last year an area near the big dam outside the village was walled

in, to provide a safe nocturnal retreat for the young cattle.  Here the

herdsman also has his hut.

Farming has become very extensive in our colony, because in the entire

neighborhood much land for cultivation has been at the disposal of our


We have had only two total crop failures: one in 1822 and the other in 1833.

Most harvests were good, some only mediocre.  Generally the prices for grain

were good, so that the colony prospered.

The swarms of grasshoppers in 1826, 1827, 1846 and 1847 did significant damage

to our fields.  But those of 1830, 1835, and 1836 caused considerable

deprecation.  We have hardly had any losses from hail, but several severe

storms ruined our vineyards.  A few month ago terrible hailstorm destroyed a

large part of our grain.  In recent years bugs and caterpillars have damaged

some of the fruit.

We take the liberty of mentioning an evil that has quite often plagued our

village.  I am referring to the frequent theft of property.  There are few

among us that have not had the sad experience of having their property stolen

from the house, barn, cellar, vineyard or open field.  At least 250 head of

livestock, among them some of the finest horses, have been stolen by thieves.

Since 1835 our colony has enjoyed the right to hold bazaars.  The market which

is held every two weeks in an open square behind the village always provides a

good opportunity for lively trade and is of considerable benefit to both the

vendors and the buyers.  Out other necessitates are easily available from the

city of Odessa, which is not too far away, nor too close either, so that our

colony is preserved from the many harmful influences.

By and large, contentment prevails among our settlers.  They gratefully

acknowledge the kind provisions made by the colonial office for their true

welfare and they will always try to be worthy of this goodwill through their

loyalty and obedience.  With few exceptions they are active as farmers and

craftsmen and eager to improve themselves, but they will also gladly accept

the advice and suggestions given to them.  It is particularly desirable that

the discipline demanded by the church and the police be maintained in the

future and exercised in a salutary way to the praise and honor of God.

We are especially grateful to God for the inexpressible grace of his cherished

Word, which we enjoy in church and in school, and we pray that He may cause

these institutions to thrive as the true culture of our village, our homes,

and our hearts, so that our Hoffnunsthal may flourish materially and

spiritually to the honor of God and our dear Lord Jesus Christ, to the joy of

the higher and lower authorities, and to our own salvation in time and


Colony of Hoffnungstal, autumn of 1848

     Pastor:          Friedrich W. Poeschel

     Sexton:          A. Fritz

     Mayor:           Fr. Metzger

     Clerk:           Gottfried Wagner

     Sexton:          Conradt.

     Beadle:          Mauch

     Schoolmaster:    A. Roeder

     Church trustees: J. Leibbrandt

                      Jak. Lutz



     Assessors:       Schlichenmayer


(Important Note  --  by Paul Reeb)

The significance of the name "Hoffnungstal" (Hope Valley) stems from the fact

that the original settlers, who were Separatist - believers of the second

coming of Christ on Mount Ararat in the Caucasus region, only foresaw their

stopover to be temporary until they could continue to their original

destination in the Caucasus. In other words, they were not giving up hope!



Home Previous Next