Religion played an important role in the lives of the immigrant Volga Germans in Sheboygan. Since most had come from Lutheran churches in Russia, they joined or formed Lutheran churches here. Trinity Lutheran was the first church the immigrants joined. That was followed by St. Stephen’s, Ebenezer, St. Andrews, St. Pauls and Immanuel Lutheran. This picture of St. Stephen’s was taken in 1908. The church was located on the northwest corner of Erie Avenue and 14th Street in Sheboygan. Because so many German Russian families lived on Erie Avenue, it was known as Russian Boulevard by later descendants.
This finely woven camel’s hair blanket was made by machine in Russia. On loan from Ed and Marge Canisius of Sheboygan.
Camels were kept by Volga Germans families as beasts of burden. Irma Zitzer recalled a story about the first camels that came to Schulz. The horses were so afraid of the camels that they ran away. After a few days the camels and the horses got along quite well. She said camels were cheap to keep, were very strong for heavy work like plowing, and provided wool that was spun into yarn. Her mother brought a quilt to America which had camel’s wool batting. The wool had come from her favorite camel named Shirley.
In the village of Schaefer, Gottlieb Hermann and his two brothers Gottlieb and Johannes owned two camels. Vaska was the one-humped male, while the two-humped female was named Musha. Along with learning the camel’s names, Sophie Hermann also learned the command to make the camels kneel. It was chug chug. Sophie remembered they would really pull heavy loads, and their wool was so warm. Unfortunately, they were stolen one night.
Pickling the Watermelon Harvest in Russia.
Artist’s depiction of villagers pickling the watermelon harvest. Licorice root tea, anise seed was brought to a boil and cooled. Cherry tree leaves were added to the brine. Six to seven inch diameter watermelons were placed in large crocks or wooden barrels and covered with brine. Weighted boards on top kept the watermelons under the brine. The mix was cured for eight weeks.
Sheboygan Press, 1911
Utensils for Eating
Fred Zitzer’s aunt Katherine Lerch remembered the eating utensils in Russia, “…we all had our spoons and bowls, which were wood. They looked more like big measuring spoons, and we had forks.”
By 1921 the Bolsheviks were the ruling party in Russia with their organized terror against all enemies of the revolution. The Volga Germans suffered greatly from this. Aunt Katherine said, “Everything went poor. You could say very poor.” You couldn’t go buy what you needed. If a glass broke you couldn’t get another. You know toward the end we didn’t have cups for coffee anymore. We had to use our wooden bowls and spoons.”
Katherine mentions a big bowl was placed at each end of the table and each person dipped their spoon into the bowl to drink their coffee or tea. She explained you eat it from your bowl and drink it from your spoon.
A lot of things got left behind when we left Russia, but not the recipes. We enjoy those to this day.
German Russian houses in Enders at left and Louis at right.
This authentic men’s costume consists of an embroidered Sunday shirt, trousers and high boots. All the pieces were brought to America from Russia. It is being modeled by ten-year old William Nichol, grandson of Peter and Judy Kaland. Please notice that this costume just fits a boy of ten leading us to believe our ancestors were slight of stature. William is also holding the wedding Bandstock (ribbon cane).
Volga German churches