ExceWishek N.D., Diamond Jubilee, 1898-1973

Published by therpts from:

 Odessa Digital Library - 19 Nov 1995

  We who live or have lived in North Dakota owe much to our good Dakota earth,

and many of our tomorrows will have sprung from this wonderful land. We, in

Dakota, were a stopping-off spot for the pioneers who moved into the last open

spaces in the West at the close of the Civil War. "Stories of blizzards, Indian

massacres and grasshopper damage discouraged homesteading in Dakota. Land in

the north-eastern part of Dakota was surveyed and ready to be taken up in the

1870's, settlers were there and willing to take it; however, a big obstacle in

the way was the fact that they had to go 400 miles to the south to Vermillion in

Dakota Territory, to file papers. In spite of this difficulty, however,

homesteading gradually increased from year to year until the 1880's when the

trend began in earnest."

The first influx of settlers into McIntosh County began in the early 1880's,

but just who were the first; how did they find their way around; and what did

they see when they got here? McIntosh County came into existence by an act of

the Legislature of Dakota Territory held at Yankton, South Dakota, in January,

1883, when Logan County was divided and the southern portion named McIntosh

after one of the members of the Legislature. McIntosh County legally became a

county when the act was approved March 9, 1883. Except for a few hunters and

trappers and some travel, mostly military, over the Fort Yates trail which

traversed the County east to west, there had been no settlement of any kind.

In the early months of 1885, with a great influx of German-Russian immigrants,

the population became predominately German and has remained so ever since. The

propaganda of which we have spoken whereby the railroads plastered the country

with pictures of a bonanza land did not stop at the Atlantic. The great

steamship lines took it up and showered Europe with lithographs of the

extraordinary fertile lands, free for the asking, and induced about three

quarters of a million Europeans to buy transportation to the land of promise.

This little sketch is not concerned with the origins of any but those who

settled in the second bench of the rise in Drift Prairie Region of North

Dakota. These were predominately Germans from South Russia. They came in solid

trainloads in 1885 and the succeeding years to settle the higher lands of the

coteau which runs from the north in a gentle south-eastern direction across the

state. McIntosh was one of the first sections of the state to receive and settle

these people.

At the first mention of "German Russian," the newcomer is likely to raise his

eyebrows and ask "How come?" Well, they are not ordinary Germans and anything

but ordinary Russians. They were the descendants of what had originally been a

rigidly selected group. At the time that Jefferson was writing our Declaration

of Independence and Washington was winning the war of the Revolution which

followed, Catherine the Great, Czarina of all the Russians was prosecuting and

winning a war with the Turks who had overrun and permanently occupied the

district north and west of the Black Sea. Her armies drove them out. This great

district stood empty. It is now called the Ukraine, sometimes White Russia. It

was, from what we hear, a beautiful land, where almost anything could be grown.

Catherine was born a German princess and was married to a moron Czar. After a

series of intrigues and a few convenient murders she was proclaimed Empress.

Now, confronted with this smiling but vacant land, she thought of her native

Germany and the good people there. She conceived a gigantic colonization

scheme, or rather Potemgin her shrewd advisor thought it up for her and assumed

the task of carrying it out. It was a plan so immense, this first Rural

Resettlement, that, like its successor, it had to be abandoned when only a

quarter through. Even Catherine who could squander $60,000,000.00 couldn't find

the money for it all. They were to rigidly select German farmers and bring them

into Russia. They had to be not only good farmers but superb physical

specimens. They had to be married and the wives also had to have perfect

health. Each farmer was given about 100 acres of this fine black soil, mills

were built, "dorfs" were arranged and each given his own vine and fig tree.

All were promised civil and religious liberty, with perpetual freedom from

military service. The scheme looked good to a lot of Germans, and it was good,

while it lasted. As the years rolled along the bureaucrats forgot the bargain

and began to press. The young men were dragooned into the army and other

privileges were constrained. So thousands approaching military age took ship on

a journey to the land which had been described to them as a land flowing with

milk and honey. It wasn't but they were free and willing to adapt to a new land

which they could love, honour, and cherish.

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