Mr. and Mrs. John Kiest
Mr. and Mrs. John Kiest and John Felchle
tell of voyage to America and early experiences in
the United States.
Felchle, Clifford. "Mr. and Mrs. John Kiest (Kust)." McClusky Gazette, 1930.
When Napoleon conquered part of Germany he left French
soldiers to occupy the area. Napoleon went to Russia
and was frozen out in 1812. His empire crumbled and
some of his occupation soldiers stayed in the conquered
territory as civilians. Hauk and Boschee, both French
soldiers, stayed in Wurtemberg and married German
The Czar of Russia had married a German girl by the
name of Catherine and because of this Russia was friendly
toward the German people and invited them to Russia.
Mrs. John Kiest’s great-grandparents moved
to Russia in 1814. Possibly they took a boat down
the Danube and moved the rest of the way by wheelbarrow.
** They moved to an area near the Black Sea. Great-grandfather
Boschee was one and a half years old when his family
moved to Russia. Great-grandfather Jacob Lang was
carried to Russia as a nine month old baby. It is
said that he developed three natural sets of teeth.
He died at the age of one hundred and three years
at which time Mrs. John Kiest was seven years old.
In Russia, Mrs. John Kiest lived thirty miles from
Bender and twenty miles from Tiraspol, in the dorf
Kassel, in the state of Bessarabia. From Kassel, which
was situated in hills above a large valley, there
was a narrow valley about one block wide which led
to the Dniester River.
The houses were built out of rock and clay brick.
The roofs were made of rohr, which was similar to
the stem of the cattail which is a tall marsh plant.
A six inch layer of the rohr was sewn with twine to
the wooden roof frame. A roof would remain in excellent
repair after ten years of exposure to the elements.
Most of the Russians just stacked straw on their buildings
and it was very easy to differentiate Russian from
German homes. The house in which Mrs. John Kiest lived
as a child burned down when she was seven years old.
It had been a two bedroom, kitchen, and dining room
dwelling. Her mother was able to save only their clothes.
The cause of the fire was not determined. When she
was eight years old the house was rebuilt. They lived
in the new house for ten years. In their dorf there
were eight rows of houses, each row being two miles
long. The lots were two hundred and ten feet by one
hundred and five feet. A lot cost thirty ruble.
They had epidemics of cholera. Sometimes one fourth
of the population of a dorf would die. They would
dig large holes and haul people by wagon to the mass
burials. The last epidemic was when Mrs. John Kiest’s
father was twenty-four years old.
There were two Lutheran, one Baptist, and one Reformed
church in Kassel. The Baptist church was only one
block from Mrs. John Kiest’s home. Often after
she had gone to the Lutheran Sunday School, she and
other girls went out into the woods to pick strawberries
and flowers. The strawberries, which were plentiful,
were about as large as our tame ones.
Kassel had two flour mills and two oil mills. Mrs.
John Kiest’s father worked for fifteen years
in one of the oil mills. They produced oil from mustard,
pumpkin, and sunflower seeds. They used the oil for
cooking. They used pumpkins for human consumption
and also fed them to cattle. While her father worked
in the oil mill the rest of the family took care of
the fields. They rented land at two and a half acres
for fifteen ruble or they furnished everything and
the owner was given half of the crop as his share.
On July 10, 1905 Mrs. John Kiest and her brother,
August, left Russia by train to Bremen, Germany. They
had problems obtaining passports so they had to stay
in Germany until September of that year. Mrs. John
Kiest says she often cried during that time and found
life very difficult. She and her brother were able
to find work while in Germany, but it was difficult
work. The ticket from Bremen to Baltimore cost one
hundred nine dollars. When they got on board they
had only eleven dollars left. The steamer, Kassel,
carried six hundred passengers. They sailed for twelve
days. For three days they were restricted to lower
decks because of a storm. Mrs. John Kiest did not
become seasick but her brother became very seasick.
From Baltimore they traveled by train to Anamose,
North Dakota arriving there on October 3, 1905.
Mr. John Kiest’s family was also from Wurtemberg.
His grandparents were carried to the area of the Black
Sea as two year old children. Possibly they also traveled
by boat down the Danube. This was approximately a
generation later than the immigration of Mrs. John
Mr. John Kiest was born on January 24, 1882 in Klöstitz,
Bessarabia. His dorf was in a valley approximately
three miles wide and ninety miles long, with its mouth
entering the Black Sea. The name of the valley was
Shar Kadal. Their farm to market road was approximately
sixteen miles long and fifty feet wide. It was a muddy
road when it rained. Shade trees lined both sides
of the road. This area in Russia had a climate which
was mild although it would snow some in the winter.
It seldom was colder than ten degrees below zero.
Even in the winter, snow would sometimes melt away.
They had many apple, peach, and plum orchards, but
no citrus fruit. They did not have irrigation systems.
Mr. John Kiest felt the fruit was sweeter from unirrigated
orchards. They did not prune fruit trees. They only
cut off dry limbs. The fruit was packed in wooden
pails to be stored for winter use. Some of the fruit
was used by the family and some of it was sold.
His family had four vineyards. They made their own
wine and sold it for one ruble to one ruble and eighty
kopecks per measure which equaled four gallons.
They raised wheat, corn, cats, and rye. To thrash
the grain they spread it in heavy layers and used
horses to pull a big wheel made out of stone over
the grain. The stone wheel was pulled in a circular
path until the grain was thrashed.
A scythe was used to harvest hay and grain. The scythe
had a cradle so that a winrow would be formed. They
scythe was sharpened by beating it flat and then producing
a sharp edge with a wet stone.
They had a pair of oxen for about two or three years
after which they obtained horses. To plow the land
a three share plow was pulled by six horses.
Other activities included tending bee hives and some
times they went fishing. Mr. John Kiest remembered
selling fish to some Jewish people.
Because of the Russians starting universal military
training many of the people in the area of the Black
Sea became unhappy and looked for a new home. They
returned to Germany and from there took a ship to
the United States.
In 1901 Mr. John Kiest left Russia. He went to Bremen,
a sea port in Germany, and there boarded the ship
William The Great to the United States. He was on
the Atlantic Ocean for Christmas that year and after
a seven day voyage arrived in the United States in
1902. In 1901 William McKinley was president of the
United States. The president was assassinated September
6, 1901 and Teddy Roosevelt, the vice-president became
Mr. John Kiest and his family went by train to Kulm,
North Dakota where they bought nine cows, four horses,
a wagon, and house hold things. They waited until
spring after which they went by train to Bowden, North
Dakota which was the end of the railroad line at that
time. From Bowden to Goodrich they moved by wagon.
On March 5, 1906 Mr. and Mrs. John Kiest were married.
This was the beginning of a new life on a homestead
near Goodrich, North Dakota.
*May not be correct
Information Following May Not be Correct
1. Catherine II (1729-1796), called “the Great”,
was a German princess who became empress of Russia.
During her rule, Russia expanded greatly. She promoted
European, particularly French, culture in Russia.
2. This date is by my calculation. By history we
know that Napoleon was frozen out of Russia in 1812.
I expect the immigration of our forefathers to Russia
from Germany would not have occurred before 1814.
If this were correct than Mr. Jacob Lang would have
lived to the age of approximately 83 rather than 103
3. I once talked to a German physician who told me
that many of the southern German people migrated to
Russia by taking a boat down the Danube. This would
be about a 1,500 mile trip. Mr. and Mrs. John Kiest
remembered having been told that part of the moving
had been by wheelbarrow. I would expect the wheelbarrow
was used to the boat in Germany and from the boat
4. By history Nicholas II became the last Czar of
Russia in 1894. A revolutionary movement started in
the 1890’s when a series of bad harvests caused
starvation in some areas. Discontent among the Russian
people grew after an economic depression began in
1899. The number of student protests, peasant revolts,
and worker strikes increased. The general unrest in
Russia may have also been a factor in causing Mr.
and Mrs. John Kiest to leave Russia.