Copyright 1996, DLW -
Bremerton, WA 98311-
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
the Czar himself. Only a minority decided to settle in this colony. Our
colonists were allotted 4306 desjatins of agricultural land in the
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
Most of the newly-
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 -
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
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-
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
Schoolmaster: A. Roeder
Church trustees: J. Leibbrandt
(Important Note -
The significance of the name "Hoffnungstal" (Hope Valley) stems from the fact
that the original settlers, who were Separatist -
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!