Kassel [Russian: Komarovka]

by Homer Rudolf

Kassel is about 15 versts southeast of Glückstal, and 30 versts northwest of Tiraspol. Although it was not settled until 1810, the colonists arrived in the late fall of 1809, traveling without guides. The Odessa Kalender[OdKal] gives two different dates for the founding of the village: 1809 in the 1896 issue, and 1808 in the 1900 issue. The 1848 Chronicle is apparently in error when it says that they were placed into winter quarters in the homes of the already established colonies of Glückstal, Neudorf and Bergdorf. According to the chronicles of those villages, Neudorf was not settled until January 1810, and Bergdorf and Kassel in the spring of 1810. That means things were pretty crowded in the village of Glückstal in the winter of 1809-1810. The Glückstal Chronicle specifically says that the 122 families of Glückstal had to provide quarters for 293 families, totaling 1,304 individuals. Things eased up a little in January, when 490 people moved to Neudorf.

Kassel was pre-eminently a Franconian settlement with 80 % of the settlers from the Rhineland plain of Alsace, Baden and the Palatinate [Height, p.73]. It was the only Glückstal mother colony in which the Franconian dialect became established as dominant. In fact, of the 99 families that settled Kassel only 6 came from Württemberg. The others came from Alsace (60), Baden (12), Warsaw [actually the Duchy of Warsaw, Posen Province] (12), and Rhine Palatinate [Pfalz and Rhineland] (9). They consisted of 399 individuals – 205 males and 194 females. The Glückstal colonist, Heinrich Heilmann, served as the guide and advisor during the move to Kassel. The Crown had houses of stamped earth constructed for them, which were later replaced by stone houses. However, the 1848 chronicle states, “Local building stone is scarce and of poor quality, so that the colonists have to haul the needed stone from other quarries with great difficulty.”

Loans from the Russian Crown to the original colonists were 46,410 rubles for subsistence, 36,789 for settlement expenses, and 3,310 for the purchase of seed grain. Their possessions were estimated to have a value of 14,750 rubles.

Originally Kassel was located in a small tributary valley of the Dniester river, known as Kumurofka by the Russians. The valley originates near the then small market town of Domanov, and runs 45 versts south, until it joins the Dniestr river, near Bender. The land was being used by locals for the grazing of cattle. Kassel was selected as its name in recognition of Daniel Ficke, a deceased colonist who was a native of Kassel, Germany (according to [Kassel- 1848], but apparently he was not from Kassel) . The current name of the village comes from the name of the valley. Although the village site was selected because of the fresh-water springs located there, it was relocated in 1841 – after more than 30 years – because of recurring spring floods and insufficient drinking water at its original location. The five wells were only 12-15 feet deep, and frequently went dry. It was moved four versts to the east, to the elevated bank of the valley. Originally only half of the village moved, but due to a variety of problems, including financial ones, the remainder moved in 1843. The poorest among them received an interest-free loan of 1,200 rubles, repayable in 15 years [Ketterling].

The village received 6,948 dessiatines of crown land, and the 1914 edition of the Odessa Kalender [OdKal] states that it has 8,014 dessiatines. Many of the original colonists were not experienced farmers. In addition, local conditions were very different from those they had left. Couch grass was a problem in the area in the early years. It spread quickly, was difficult to eradicate, and the cattle would not eat it. Like the other Glückstal mother colonies, its land consisted of good topsoil. By 1848 the field crops were winter wheat, arnaut wheat, spring wheat, rye, barley, corn (raised for fodder), potatoes and melons. “Arnaut (also known as Glass wheat) is the oldest variety of wheat in South Russia, and is much sown, especially in Greece and Bulgaria. Arnaut has a hard grain, a longish form, and a very thin transparent skin. . . . Arnaut can be sown later than Hirka and fully ripens in 110 days. This wheat is seldom sown at present among the German colonists” [Keller, vol. 1, p. 89-90]. Viniculture in 1848 occupied 116 dessiatines of land (ca. 313 acres) , with 169,995 grapevines. Native oaks again only grew to a height of 20 feet when mature at 30 yrs of age.

In 1851 Kassel was separated from the Glückstal Lutheran parish, and established as a separate parish. Unfortunately, no details are known about the process. Because it had a significant population of members of the Reformed faith, a Reformed congregation was established there in 1861 as part of the new Neudorf Reformed parish. It is noteworthy that neither a separate Reformed church nor a school was constructed in Kassel. Somehow, the Reformed and the Lutheran congregations were able to share the already existing Lutheran facilities.

Progress of the village
1848 - has “new” schoolhouse-prayer hall
  - the Crown granted a 1,000 ruble loan for its construction, and later released the village from repayment
1851 - became an independent Lutheran parish with 12 congregations
1861 - Neudorf Reformed parish established on 4 Jan., including the Kassel Reformed congregation
1862 - 1681 residents
  - Lutheran church and parsonage
  - school with 250 children
  - still part of the Glückstal Wolost [Matthäi, p. 64]
? - sometime between 1869 and 1881 it became an independent Wolost
1909-15 - Konsumverein (community cooperative store) listed in [OdKal]
1911-15 - Kreditanstalt (Waisenkasse – Orphans Fund) listed in [OdKal]
1915 - [OdKal, p. 179] - includes a photo of a monument to Czar Alexander II in Kassel
Agriculture, etc.
1813 - middling crop
1814 - middling crop
1818 - livestock epidemic
1822 - crop barely yielded seed
1822-27 - grasshoppers
1823 - crop barely yielded seed - neighboring districts offered surplus grain at modest prices
1828 - livestock epidemic
1831 - cholera - 2 died
1832 - middling crop
1833 - total crop failure
1834 - livestock epidemic
  - smallpox
  - total crop failure
1835 - middling crop
1843 - smallpox
1844 - livestock epidemic - destroyed 680 head of livestock
  - smallpox - 44 children died
1846 - grasshoppers
1847-48 - livestock epidemic - destroyed 430 head


[Height] — Height, Joseph S. Homesteaders on the Steppe: Cultural History of the Evangelical- Lutheran Colonies in the Region of Odessa, 1804-1945. Bismarck: North Dakota Historical Society of Germans from Russia [now the Germans from Russia Heritage Society], 1975.

[Kassel-1848] —
“Chronicle of Kassel,” transl. by Joseph S. Height. – Copies of this translation are available in three sources: [Height, pp. 196-199]; [Glückstal-2004, pp. 106-108]; and at the website: www.Odessa3.org. – /Collections /Village Histories. The original German version can be found in [Leibbrandt, pp. 68-71].

[Keller] —
Keller, Konrad. German Colonies in South Russia: 1804-1904, transl. by Anthony Becker, 2d. ed, with some revisions by Adam Giesinger, 2 vols. Lincoln, NE: American Historical Society of Germans from Russia: 1980-1983.

[Ketterling] —
Ketterling, Lloyd & Adam Ketterling, transl. “Relocation Records of the Village of Kassel 1839-1854,” Heritage Review, 28/4, Dec. 1998, 18-38.

— Leibbandt, Georg. Die deutschen Kolonien in Cherson und Bessarabien: Berichte der Gemeindeämter der lutherischen Kolonien in der ersten Hälfte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts. Stuttgart: Ausland und Heimat Verlags-Aktiengesellschaft, 1926.

[Matthäi] —
Matthäi, Friedrich. Die deutschen Ansiedelungen in Russland. Ihre Geschichte und ihre volkswirthschafltiche Bedeutung für die Vergangenheit und Zukunft. Leipzig: Hermann Fries, 1866.

[Mertens] —
Mertens, Ulrich. Handbuch Russland-Deutsche: Ein Nachschlagewerk zur russland-deutschen und deutsch-russischen Geschichte und Kultur (mit Ortsverzeichnis ehemaliger Siedlungsgebiete). Darmstadt: Weihert-Druck GmbH, 2001.

[OdKal] —
Neuer Haus- und Landwirthschafts- Kalender für deutsche Aussiedler in südlicher Russland auf das Jahr ... Odessa: Druck und Verlag von L. Nitzsche, [published 1863-1915].

Homer Rudolf, 2009

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