SOUTHWESTERN NORTH DAKOTA
23297 Pompeii Dr
the period 1892 to 1912 about 600 German families from the Hungarian
province of the Banat homesteaded in Stark and Hettinger counties of
Southwestern North Dakota(1). This
main region of
settlement in ND overlapped somewhat into adjacent areas of Morton, Mercer
and Dunn counties. These homesteaders
were decedents of Germans, primarily from the middle and upper
, who had been recruited by the Austrian Crown in the period 1722-1788 to
. It is convenient to refer to these
German-Hungarians as Banaters. The
had been reconquered by the Austrians from the Turks in 1715 and was at that
time a vast, swampy, depopulated wasteland. Though
the efforts of these German colonists, at a staggering cost in lives, the
swamps were drained, land cleared and roads, cities and towns built.
The population of the
constituted the first line of defense against Turkish inroads from across
into the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The
perseverance, diligence, industry and ready adoption of progressive farming
methods caused the Banat German-Hungarians to be among the most prosperous
of the various ethnic populations of the Austrian Hungarian Empire as well
as making the
, by the end of the 19th century, one of the most prosperous areas of the
Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Following
World War I the
was partitioned between
the end of the 19th century the population of the
was largely a mixture of Germans, Serbs, Romanians and Hungarians.
In most cases these various ethnic groups lived in separate villages
and even when living in the same village tended to ignore each other. The
Banat German-Hungarians developed and maintained their own dialect, customs
and traditions. Maintance of these
traditions contributed to the tight knit solidarity of Banaters when they
migrated abroad as well as more currently with the
groups now living in modern day
was little new migration from
after 1788. During the period 1782 to
1900 the German-Hungarian population of the
increased by natural growth from 75,000 to 410,000.
This expanding agrarian population created pressure for additional
farm land and led to the founding of daughter villages from the original
settlements throughout the 19th century. By
the end of the 19th century no further farmland was available for settlement
. The tight knit Banat Germans with
their long pioneering traditions, agricultural background and culture were
ideally suited by their mental outlook and experience, for homesteading on
the high prairies of Western North Dakota. The
search for prime farmland, available at low cost, was a factor in the
decision of many Banaters to migrate and homestead in the
first Banater known to migrate in Southwestern North Dakota was Johann Braun(2,
3) who arrived with his family in
on the ship “Salle” from
23 Mar 1889
. Eight days later, on 1 April 1889
he filed a homestead claim for land in Stark County, and a declaration of
intention to become a United States citizen, in Dickinson, N. D.
Clearly, Johann Braun was a man with vision and a purpose.
John Braun was born in Kl Jetscha and had married Anna Mayer of
Deutsch Bentschek on
6 June 1881
where they had lived a number of years.
Kilzer, in his memoir(2) describes Johann Braun
as enterprising, well educated and widely read.
Hand-me-down accounts(2,3) indicate that
he came into possession of a flyer distributed by the Northern Pacific
which described the promise and possibilities of homesteading in
. After arrival, Johann Braun had
maintained close contact with friends and relatives in the
, particularly D Bentschek and nearby Josefsdorf, and wrote letters back
describing the availability of free land and the prospects of farming in ND.
Braun had sent back samples of Durum hard winter wheat grown in
. This wheat was superior to that
raised in the
and made a favorable impression on the knowledgeable Banaters.
Two years later, Peter Mayer, Johann Braun’s brother-in-law,
and Michael Scharick both from D Bentschek arrived on
26 Jun 1891
with their families on the “Werkendam” from
. They too, settled near Johann Braun
1892 a major migration of Banaters to
13 Feb 1892
a group of eight families from D Bentschek disembarked in
from the ship “Hohenzollern”, destined for
. The heads of these families were
Martin Andor, Georg Hubert, Peter Kilzer, Martin Roth, Emmert Koenig, Stefan
Kilzer families and the widow Katherine Kirchner and her kids.
One single man, Josef Kilzer, also traveled with this group.
Both Stefan Kilzer and Josef Kilzer report being met in Richardton by
Johann Braun and staying with the Braun family for some time, until they
found homesteads of their own.
scattering of single families and two other family groups also arrived later
that year. On 8 September 1892, the
families Schroeder, Haas, Goetz, Lefor and Faulhaber arrived in
and were followed, on the 16 December 1892 by the Wog, Puljer, Freer, Roth,
Seros, Harle, Anton, Morganthaler, Engel and Heckel families who entered the
. These two later family groups came
from Josefsdorf. During the year 1892
about 23 families can be documented as arriving from the
. The following year 32 Banater
families similarly arrived in ND. The
1893 migrants came in five groups, the first two of these consisting of D
Bentschekers and the remaining three of Josefsdorfers.
In addition, nine other families came in this year in ones and twos,
most often from Josefsdorf. During
the years, 1894-1896 migration from the
nearly ceased. In the following two
years, 1897-1898, a renewed, larger wave of Banaters arrived.
When the year of arrival as indicated in the Federal census is
plotted against the number of arrivals one gets a profile of the Banat
migration rate to
. See Figure I for a plot of this
arrival data. These results show that
migration to ND went through 3 maxima, 1892-1893, 1897-1898 and 1905.
These 1897-1898 arrivals came largely from Josefsdorf, Bakowa,
Nitzkydorf, Setschan, Blumenthal, Dolatz and Ernsthausen, all villages which
either were closely situated in the area of D Bentschek-Josefsdorf or were
related to Josefsdorf through heavy internal migration.
on this arrival data, which shows a limited area of origin of the first
German-Hungarian settlers to ND, the decision to migrate to ND must be
ascribed to the efforts made by Johann Braun to communicate his satisfaction
with the lands available in ND to those back in the
with which he had close contact. Eventually,
Banaters arrived in ND from villages distributed from all over the
. In general these ND Banaters tended
to come from poorer villages in the Banater Hecke or Hill country or those
places which were more subject to vagaries of nature, especially those
localities located in the flood plains of the Theiss, Temesch
and Bega rivers.
term chain migration is used in immigration studies to describe the process
whereby relatives and friends follow the initial migrant abroad in a
By their letters back home first arrivals could offer advice on
employment prospects, living conditions and orientation in a
locality. In this way the later
arrivals would settle in a somewhat familiar community composed of relatives
and friends from home and find the support they needed to help them to get
established in a new region.
evidence supports the idea that John Braun initiated the chain migration of
the Banaters to
. This key roll in initiating
migration to ND is supported by the fact that most of the follow-on arrivals
in 1892 and 1893 came from D Bentschek and Josefsdorf, the communities with
whom he had the closest contact and upon whom his letters back home would
have had the greatest influence. Of
the 32 families who arrived in 1893, 15 came from Josefsdorf.
Early passenger ship lists did not record the names of friends or
relatives to whom newly arrived migrants planned to join.
This information was generally recorded after 1896.
Where the data are available, it is clear that most Banaters intended
to settle near relations or a friend.
later, and larger, Banat immigration(ca 100,000
occurred in the decade after the turn of the century(5).
The twentieth century Banaters tended to settle in larger American
cities, for example,
, etc. Many came with the intent of
staying only a few years, hoping to earn monies sufficient enough that they
could return home and re-establish themselves with a more secure future.
A large proportion of these later immigrants were single men and
women. Only 15-25% of
arrivals in the early 1900’s, came with their families.
This tendency is also correlated with their village of origin.
striking points stand out when comparing ND Banaters with those
immigrants of the early 1900’s. Almost to a man, these ND migrants arrived
accompanied by their families. And,
especially as measured by the standards of the day they mostly arrived with
relatively large amounts of money. Clearly
immigrants had sold out their property in the
, were immigrants of some substance, who had come to
to stay. They had no intention of
returning to their former homes.
various maxima and minima in the
arrival profile for ND(Fig I) do not seem to correlate with either economic
or political events on either side of the
. In considering other possible
reasons for the roller-coaster arrival profile, the low migration rates in
1894-1896 and 1899-1902 and the ready ability of Banaters already in ND to
assist new arrivals the data argues that a period of two to three years was
required for the initial immigrants to establish themselves and to be in a
position to advise other relatives and friends in the homeland on the
prospects of homesteading in ND. Thus
the minimum in migration rates for 1894-1896 and 1899-1902 reflects the time
lag necessary for the arrivals in 1892-1893 and 1897-1898 respectively to
establish themselves and arrange for subsequent relatives and friends.
The authors are indebted to Anton Kraemer for advice and
encouragement and to Helen Kilzer and Bernie Schwindt for copies of Kilzer
and Schmidt mss.
Dreyer, David, Banat Family History
Series Vol I, “Family History Research for North Dakota Pioneers from the
, self Published.
Kilzer Josef, “Mein Lebenslauf”, unpublished ms, Hatter, J. S. and
Dreyer D., Banat Family History Series Vol. V, in preparation.
Schmidt, J. Peter, “Reminiscing” unpublished ms. Deciphered and Edited
Veroli R. J. and Sinke, S. M., Eds., “A Century of European Migration
1830-1930”, 1991, Univ of
Dreyer, David Banat Family History Series Vol III, “Some Banaters in Pre
World War I United States Passenger Shipping Records”, self-published.