of Father Anthony Kopp
Book review by Mary Lynn Axtman, Fargo, North Dakota
Kopp, Father Anthony. Memoir’s of Father Anthony Kopp. North Dakota State University Libraries, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, Fargo, North Dakota, 1999.
Beginnings are usually difficult and the life of Fr. Anthony Kopp
placed him in many situations of new beginnings during the settlement
history of North Dakota.
Anthony Kopp was born in 1891 in Krasna, Bessarabia. His father
John, as a journeyman wagon builder, had traveled in the German
Russian areas as far east as the Crimea area where he met his future
wife, Caroline. They settled in Krasna after their marriage but
John continued a commodities trading and selling business between
Bessarabia and the Crimea. However, in February of 1894, Anthony's
parents and their five children, along with many other relatives
and acquaintances immigrated to America where other relatives already
lived. They first tried homesteading in Emmons County, ND, near
what was named the Krasna community. Through the Kopp family, the
readers learn details of the many difficult tasks which had to be
accomplished to ensure their very survival; such as shelter, food,
clothing, and the most critical, water for man and animal. There
were no established schools or churches here.
In 1897, the family moved to a new homestead north of Harvey, ND.
Again, the beginnings were difficult and schools and churches were
also non-existant here. After living here until 1908, his father
decided to move the family to Richardton, ND, where his children
might have better opportunities to attend church and school. Thus,
another beginning for the family. From here, several of the children
later moved to Montana to begin their lives in unsettled areas also.
In honest, factual and plain language, the readers journey with
the Kopp family, and later with Anthony as North Dakota becomes
settled, communities, churches and schools are established, and
life becomes a bit easier. We learn about the school curriculums,
the missionary clergy traveling to distant settlements, the hard
labor required by all family members and the isolation on their
claims. Later, through Fr. Anthony, we learn some of the hardships
of being a Catholic priest in western North Dakota ministering to
those, "Who are true Catholics and those others who are Catholics
in name alone."
"Memoirs" gives the readers a non-romanticized journey
through the settlement years of North Dakota that helps them to
realize that these immigrant folks were not some super-human developers
but rather very human people with faults and failings that affected
their lives and others around them. Yet, they helped to create the
North Dakota foundations many of us grew up in.
Our thanks to Mary Lynn Axtman for the review of the book. Mary
Lynn is a native of Rugby, North Dakota. She prepared the GRHC website
pages at "Outreach Programs & Family Reunions" about
the Bickler and Axtman families.