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All of the early immigrants to the United States from Nieder-Monjou settled in Russell, Ellsworth, and Barton Counties in Kansas. Many Evangelical, Catholic, and Mennonite families from Russia made Kansas their home beginning as early as 1874. The following article by Jacob Christian Ruppenthal is rather long but gives first hand information about the Germans from Russia who settled in central Kansas. Judge Ruppenthal was a prolific writer and historian. He died in 1964 at the age of 95.
THE GERMAN ELEMENT IN CENTRAL KANSAS.
Written for the Kansas State Historical Society, by Jacob C. Ruppenthal1.
IN the study of the diverse ethnical and racial ements [elements] that have made the United States the nation that it now is, considerable attention has very properly been given by several writers to the Germanic influence, including therein all European sources whose people are by race and language essentially German whatever be the nation or government to which they yield allegiance. But such works are necessarily general in their nature and presentation of facts. Each state and region deserves a more intensive study to secure in detail the elements which produced the larger influence. In central Kansas are found representatives of practically all Germanic peoples on earth. Not only Germans from nearly all kingdoms, grand duchies, duchies, principalities, electorates and free cities, present or past, but Germans of a common origin, common speech, customs, religion, traditions, traits and characteristics from beyond the German Empire; Germans from various parts of Austria, as, e. g., Styria, Tyrol, Croatia, Bukowina; Germans from Poland, whether in the German Empire or in Austria or Russia; Germans from southern Russia, particularly the provinces of Saratov and Samara; along the river Volga, and from Kherson (Odessa) and from Bessarabia; Germans from Switzerland; Germans from South America and from South Africa, children of immigrants thither from Russia, who in turn left the Fatherland for the Russian steppes in the time of Catherine the Great; also Luxemburgers, Hollanders who are Germanic in origin and in the basis of their speech.
Even among the current names many may be noticed that unquestionably show a German origin when the bearer no longer knows anything of the ancestor's descent. Numerous simple German names are speedily Anglicized, and thus the owner's German forbears are forgotten. Such a Teutonic name as Schoen (Schon) [(Schön)] is by careless school teachers, ignorant or indifferent public officials or by merchants, scriveners of legal documents, or by its possessor—unfamiliar with the fearful and wonderful intricacies of English spelling, transformed into the decidedly Hibernian form of Shane. Viereck becomes Fearhake, Steinmetz changes to Stimils, Pfannensliel to Faneslil, Schwarz to Swartz and Swarls, Heim to Hime and Himes, Weinbrenner to Winebrenner, Krehbiel to Kribel, Milhlberger to Milberger, Lehmann to Lamon or Layman, while Weis, Weiss and Weisz become Wise, Bauer becomes Bower, Gauer becomes Cower, and Hauer, Hower, Junker turns to Younger, Jung to Young. The ending dorf gets an added f (-dorff); the word Eisen turns to Isen, etc., Braun becomes Brown, Müller becomes Miller, Bühler, Beeler.
Back in the formative days, when Kansas was gradually taking political form and shape, the Germans of the country farther east took a profound interest in the contest to organize Kansas and Nebraska and to make them free. Especially the idealists, whose democracy in 1848 led to their expatriation, either by choice or by force, from the Vaterland, looked to Kansas as the battle ground of world-forces where, to their minds, freedom and not slavery must prevail, and from the time of the free-soil conflict down to the present the state has had the attention of the Germans. Among the early papers established in the new territory was the Kansas Zeitung, which apparently issued its first weekly number at Atchison, K. T. [Kansas Territory], July 15, 1857, since number two of volume one together with later issues are on file in the Historical library, and number two is dated July 22, 1857. Much of the volume is in duplicate, though unfortunately the first number is missing from each file belonging to the state. The sub-title of the paper boldly announces itself “An organ for free speech, free soil and free men.” Dr. Karl Fr. Kob was editor and publisher; the price, $2 a year, with twenty-six cents for postage if to be sent by mail. In English in number two appears this: “The ‘Kansas Zeitung,’ the only German paper in the territory; and on the Missouri river, will have a larger circulation than any other journal printed in the Territory. The settlements of Germans spread over almost every part of the Territory, every city contains more or less Germans, mechanics and business men; in all the cities and towns up and down the Missouri, the German element is a very considerable part of the population.” What was then stated, whether upon the basis of hope or of actual fact, has been, as to the population, largely true ever since. The same paper in its issue of September 9, 1857, describes “Humboldt in Allen county, laid out by Germans and Americans on the Neosho river with streets parallel to the river; the cross streets are: Uhland, Herder, Schiller, Tritsehler, Gotthe. Robert Blum, Wieland, Jean Paul Lenau Strassen.” The paper's Manhattan correspondent on September 16, 1857, says, “About 20 German families and mechanics here.” Apparently at this early date Germans had pushed out well toward the center of the future state of Kansas. Within the next ten years, Germans had taken a strong, though unsung and inconspicuous, part in the building of the state, expecially [sic] in a material way. The rolls of volunteers of the Civil War as recorded for Kansas regiments read in some places like Uhlans or Hussars in their wealth of German names. But the descendants of men who at the beginning of the Christian era, in the Teutoburger Wald, broke the power of Rome and wrenched from Augustus Caesar the despairing lament: “Bring back my legions, Varus,” have devoted themselves to the task at hand from day to day and have not glorified in words their race nor preserved in song and story the splendor of German achievement in helping bring civilization and culture to the prairies. Germans were in the armies that garrisoned the forts and posts over the state; Germans were in every gang that built the railroads as well as the settlements. When the Union Pacific graders, in June, 1867, were cutting and filling through Russell and Ellis counties, a German named Theodore Goekler was a sacrifice to the spirit of conquest, as the Indians in a raid shot him on the site of the present town of Gorham, Russell county, while he was bringing a load of limestone with his ox team from the quarries to the north to be used at a culvert. Two years later, in May, 1869, when the Indians again raided Russell county, among the men of the railroad track hands or section gang who were wounded was Adolph Roenigk, a native of Germany, now of Lincoln, Kan., who has told the story of that fray. One of the men killed at the same time was Alexander Keefer, whose name suggests a possible German origin (Kiefer, Kuefer, or Küfer?), and the pump man who came out of his dugout on the present site of the city of Russell, and with his rifle caused the savages to fall back from the fleeing men on a hand car, was John Koch, a German.
Among the sixty or more German newspapers founded at some time in Kansas, several have been in central Kansas, such as Kansas Staats-Zeitung, Dr. L. Rick, editor, Edwards county, 1878-'79; the German-American Advocate (partly English), Hays, Ellis county, 1882-'86; Zur Heimath, David Goerz, editor, Halstead, Harvey county, 1875-'81; Nachrichten aus der Heidenwelt, Halstead, 1877-'81; Das Neue Vaterland, H. von Langen, editor, Newton, 1879; Newton Anzeiger, 1887-'92; Das Kansas Volksblatt, Newton, 1897-'98; Der Hausfreund, Newton, 1889-'90; Der Burrton Anzeiger, October 31, 1892; Emporia Zeitung, 1888'92; Freundchschafts-Kreis, Hillsboro, Marion county, 1885-'86; Hillsboro Anzeiger, 1888-'97; Freie Presse, Hillsboro, 1890; Der Kansas Courier, Hillsboro, 1891-'93; Zionbote, Hillsboro, 1895-'98; Der Farmer's Anzeiger, Marion county, 1883; Kansas Staats-Zeilung, Marysville, Marshall county, 1879-'81; Kansas Herald, Hutchinson, Reno county, 1888-'90; Kansas Rundschau, La Crosse, 1897-'98; Stern des Westens, Wichita, Sedgwick county, 1879; Wichita Herold, 1885-'98; Kansas Volksfreund Great Bend, Barton county, Philip Schmidt, editor, current in 1879; Monatsblaetter aus Bethel College, David Goerz, editor, Newton, 1909, to date (a monthly as its name states); Post und Volksblatt, Newton, H. P. Krehbiel, editor, current 1909; Der Deutsche Westen, H. J. Martens, editor, McPherson, McPherson county, current 1909; Hillsboro Journal, current 1909; Der Marshall County Courier, John Hoenscheidt, editor, current 1909-'11; Der Wichita Herold, John Hoenscheidt, editor, current 1909; Hillsboro Vorwärts, current 1911 to date, Entz & Enns, publishers; Barton County Presse, Ellinwood, John Hoenscheidt, editor, current 1911; Kingman County Telegraph, John Hoenscheidt, editor, current 1911, Kingman; Der Herold, 1911 to date, H. P. Krehbiel, editor, Newton; Zionbote, current 1911, McPherson, All the foregoing are on file in the State Historical library at Topeka. Doubtless many more periodicals have been printed in German, but forgotten. A number of papers printed in English have responded to the needs and wishes of a large element in some communities by printing a German page or German column. The News-Republican, of Hays, has done this for several years. A few sometimes use German plate matter, but this does not meet the demand for local news and local flavor. At present the German newspapers and magazines of Kansas are found largely in the central section of the state, although the greatest among them in circulation and perhaps influence are farther east and in the large cities. Those now current are: Der Kansas Kinderfreund (monthly), Winfield, Cowley county; Pittsburg Volksfreund, Crawford county; Lawrence Germania, Douglas county, Henry Albach, editor; Monatsblaetter aus Bethel College, Newton; Der Herold, Newton, Harvey county; Hillsboro Vorwärts; Tabor College Herold, monthly, D. E. Harden, editor-in-chief, Hillsboro; Zionbote, Hillsboro; Der Wichita Herold; Kansas Staats-Zeitung, Kansas City, Wyandotte county. These publications reflect nearly every shade of political opinion, and also include educational, religious and independent expression. The long list of German papers and their short lives suggest eloquently that the zeal and enthusiasm of learned and able editors did not always find the necessary backing in subscriptions and advertisements. Two newspapers that flourished for a short time about 1900 were Der West Kansas Bote and Der Russell Recorder, both issued at Russell, and having a circulation in a half-dozen central counties.
Each federal census discloses many facts about the Germanic influence in Kansas. In 1880 it showed that there was not a single organized county in the state but had German inhabitants in considerable proportion to its whole population. It may be added that great numbers of settlers who appear as natives of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri, as well as other eastern states—even Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina—were Germans of the first generation born in America. The great colonies of Pennsylvania- Germans who settled in Kansas from 1870 to 1880 or later, in Dickinson, Saline, Ellsworth, Russell, Lincoln, Osborne, Barton and other counties, are of course German in origin, although their ancestors for two of three or four generations had been on this side of the Atlantic.
The census of 1880 in its report on foreign-born gives the following figures: German Empire, 28,034; Russia, 8032 (it may safely be said that these people were Germans almost to a man, as the Slav immigration into Kansas has been very light); Switzerland, 2668 (nearly all of these are Germans and German-speaking, and very few from the French or Italian cantons of the little old republic); Poland, 1200 (these are no doubt largely Germans and but few Slavs); Austria, proper, 1285 (this probably excludes Czechs and all Slavs); Luxemburg, 310. In an analysis of the figures from Germany we find evidence of a condition that is everywhere true in central Kansas, that the Germans from Germany have not come in great colonies but in small groups, single families and individuals. Not a few of them settled originally in states farther east, and later removed to Kansas. Indeed it is safe to say that very few came direct to Kansas, but rather that they reached this state mediately by way of earlier settlement in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, and various other commonwealths. In detail the 28,034 natives of Germany who in 1880 were found to have settled in Kansas were distributed to the German states as follows: Prussia, 10,720; not specified as to locality, 8213; Hanover, 1812; Bavaria, 1696; Württemberg, 1665; Baden, 1638; Hesse, 741 (whether electoral Hesse or Darmstadt or both is not stated); Saxony, 725; Mechlenburg, 374; Oldenburg, 191; Nassau, 82; Brunswick, 82; Hamburg, 89; Weimar, 4; Luebeck, 2. This diversity of birthplace made easier a wide dispersion of the Germans over the whole state and was a strong obstacle to the development of an insuperable clannishness. It also made very easy the absorption of Germans into the general body of the people. Intermarriage of Germans with natives of other countries or of long American lineage has been everywhere common among the first generation of those born here, or even who came when in childhood, and not a few German immigrants have married spouses of different extraction. The district court records of all central counties show a heavy proportion of applicants seeking and securing American citizenship to be Germans. To illustrate: In the counties of Ellis and Marshall to the end of the year 1911 there had been granted final citizenship papers to applicants to the number of 704 in Ellis county and 1051 in Marshall. Out of these the Germanic element was: Ellis county: Russia 391, Germany 115, Austria (chiefly German) 45, Switzerland 7. In Marshall county: Russia 3, Germany 406, Austria 85, Switzerland 58. Since then to the end of 1913 there have been 92 applicants for citizenship in Ellis county, nearly all of them Germans, largely from Russia, and 13 more filed in 1914 up to June.
The Germans by race, blood and speech, whatever their allegiance nationally in Europe, have been very slow in Kansas to press for recognition in a public way. They have been content to build railroads, establish settlements, erect houses and other structures, till the soil, enter mercantile pursuits and then banking, and have left to other races the professional careers and preferment in public office. There has been no pulling together by the race for a specific object, although much effort had been made at times, especially by interested nonresidents, to arouse all Germans in hostility to the prohibitory amendment and prohibition of the liquor traffic. The results can not be very gratifying to the agitators, for opposition even by the older generation is nowadays but rarely voiced anywhere, and the rising generation accept present conditions without protest when indeed they are not themselves enthusiastic supporters of the Kansas idea in relation to intoxicants. Gradually the ranks of the teaching profession in the state have been much augmented by Germans, the children of Germans, Russians, Austrians, Swiss, etc. In pioneer days the fierce struggle for existence too often limited pitiably the chances of these Germans' getting even a common-school education, but year by year the rolls of the classes of common-school graduates in each county show an increasing proportion of Germans. A natural result is a gratifying proportion of Germans enrolled in the high schools, and then in the colleges, with a decided tendency for many of these to become teachers—possibly a working out of the primal instinct which philologists allege to be the original of the name by which Germans know themselves—Deutch [Deutsch], from deulen, to indicate, explain, interpret, expound, declare. A number of German youths have entered the Christian ministry—almost all of them Catholics and Lutherans—a few have studied law or are doing so, and fewer still have turned to the medical profession. As for public office, their tastes have been such as to make little demand for the share to which by numbers they might deem their race entitled. In the legislature of 1913, perhaps a half dozen senators-are of German extraction, only one or two from the central region—and about seventeen representatives, nearly all of them from the center. Very few state officers could claim German ancestry; probably not a single member of the supreme court since its organization, and only a handful of district judges out of more than 200 who have occupied the bench. Of all these latter, it is said that only one could understand, speak, read and write German [Here he is speaking of himself.]. The average county of central Kansas usually has from two to four county officials who are German or of that race, counting the representatives and the commissioners. Ellis county is an exception in that all of its officials except representatives (of Irish descent) and one commissioner (of Bohemian descent) are German from Russia, Germany or Austria, or children of such. Kansas has never gone to the length of some states. Ohio, for example, which permits legal publication notice in lawsuits to be printed in German papers.2
An epochal movement for Kansas was the immigration from Russia 1875-'78, and in less degree thereafter, of great colonies of Germans. The main features of this migration have been so well described by the scholarly Capuchin Father, the Reverend Francis S. Laing of Victoria, in his article on German-Russian Settlements in Ellis county, published in Kansas Historical Collections, volume eleven, that it would be a work of supererogation for the writer of this sketch to attempt to add thereto. These immigrants came to America largely, if not wholly, from the Russian provinces of Samara, Saratov, Kherson and Bessarabia—chiefly the two first named. Bessarabia lies along the west side of Russia, bordering on Moldavia or Rumania, and has been in Russian hands only since 1812. Kherson lies just east of Bessarabia, along the north shores of the Black sea and between the Dniester river on the west and the Dnieper river on the east, and contains the large port of Odessa, by reason of which the settlers from that region who are in Kansas are usually called Odessers or Odessans. Saratov and Samara are much farther east and somewhat north, lying on opposite sides of the great river Volga, chiefly between fifty and fifty-five degrees north latitude, on the immense plains or “steppes” of Russia. Samara lies eastward from the river and colloquially is known as Wieseseite (meadow side) as more level and even, while Saratov to the westward of the river is similarly called Berg seite [Bergseite] (hill side) because of greater undulation. The immigrants from Samara came mostly from the district of Nowousensk (in German Bezirk, in Russian Ujest [Ujezd], is the word translated “district”). Possibly a few may have come from the district of Nikolajewsk, lying next to Nowousensk northward. Those from the province of Saratov are probably all from district Kamyschin, though a few may have come from the district of Saratov to the north or district of Atkarsk to the northwest. Such of these villages as are peopled by Germans have two names, one local, colloquial and German; the other, formal, official and Russian. The settlements date back to the time of Catherine the Great, about 1760, when colonists from Germany, streaming together by families and as individuals, rather than in masses, emigrated to Russia.
The names of the villages are here given both in German and in Russian, but this is meant to be exhaustive of the villages on the several districts, and is not designed to be either assertion or guaranty that immigrants came from each such village. A strange feature of the topography of the country is that although the province of Saratov lies for so many miles along the Volga river and extends many miles westward to the country of the Cossacks and the province of Tambov, only a little of the land is in the valley of the Volga, and the most part is in the valley of the Don river, and drains to the Black sea instead of to the Caspian. The watershed between Don and Volga is very close to the latter river.
PROVINCE OF SARATOV, OR SARATOW.
District Of Atkarsk.
|German name of village.||Russian name of same.||Religion of village.|
District Of Saratov.
|German name of village.||Russian name of same.||Religion of village.|
|Neu Straub||Neu Skatowka||L.|
District Of Kamyschin.
|German name of village.||Russian name of same.||Religion of village.|
|Degolt [Degott]||Kamenoi Owrag||Catholic.|
|Gobel (Goebel)||Ust Grasnucha (Graesnucha)||C.|
|Kohler (Koehler)||Karaulay Bujerak||C.|
|Mtiller (Mueller)||Krestowoi Bujerak||L.|
|Neu Donhoff (Doenhof)||Neu Gololobowka||L.|
|Neu Norka||Neu Norka||L.|
|————||Nischni (Nijni) Bannowka||R.|
|————||Scherdakowka (or Tscher-)||R.|
|Schuk [Schuck]||Grasnowatka (Graesno-)||C.|
|Werchna Dobrinka||Werchna Dobrinka||Lutheran.|
|Werchnaja Grasnucha3||Werchnaja Graesnucha||L.|
PROVINCE OF SAMARA.
District Of Nikolajewsk.
|German name of village.||Russian name of same.||Religion of village.|
|Beaurgard [Beauregard]||Beaurgard [Beauregard]||Catholic.|
|Kana [Kano, Kaneau]||Kana [Kano, Kaneau]||L.|
|Ober Monjou||Ober Monjou||C.|
All these villages in Ujest [Ujezd] Nikolajewsk lie along the southeast bank of the Volga river, extending from its tributary, the Grosser Jrgis at the north, southward between the Volga and its branch the Kleiner Karaman, except Nieder Monjou, Philippsfeld, and Beckerdorf, which lie on the south bank of the Kleiner Karaman well toward its mouth. In Ujest [Ujezd] Nowousensk, too, the villages lie near the streams. In the northern part they are close to the Grosser Karaman and its branches the Metschet and the Nachoi. Through the center of the district and flowing to the southwest is the river Jerusslan, and its arm the Busjuk. Far eastward are the Grosser Usen and Kleiner Usen. All the data mentioned and the names of villages as well as their religions are taken from a “Map of the Volga Colonies, 1910,” given as supplement to the calendar Volksfreund, and printed in the city of Saratov, Russia, at the printing office of the periodical Energie. In general he lettering is in Roman, but a few words occur in Russian, and more in German (Gothic).
District Of Nowo Usenk.
|German name of village.||Russian name of same.||Religion of village.|
|Kosakenstadt [Engels]||Pokrowskaja Sloboda||(Railroad station.)|
|Rosenfeld||———— (on river Nachoi)||L.|
|Rosenfeld||Norka (on r. Jerusslan)||L.|
|St. Jerschow, railroad station.|
|St. Mokrous, railroad station.|
|St. Nachoi, railroad station.|
|St. Pless, railroad station.|
|St. Urbach, railroad station.|
|Stahl||Stepnaja (on Volga)||L.|
|Stahl||Swonarewkut||L. (on the Grosser Karaman.)|
The immigration of Germans from Russia has been particularly heavy to the counties of Ellis, Russell, Barton, Rush, Marion, Harvey, and to many other counties has been considerable, including Shawnee, Ellsworth, Ness, Trego, Gove, Logan, Graham, Sheridan, Cheyenne, and probably others. Only a few times since the '70's have they come in great numbers, but every year has witnessed the arrival of a few in perhaps each of the counties named. In addition to those who came direct, not a few have arrived here after an unsatisfactory sojourn in some other land. About 1902 a colony that had been induced to settle in southeastern Mexico came to Russell county, by the aid of their countrymen and public-spirited citizens of Russell. They had been led to Mexico by glowing stories of land agents, but the climate killed many of them and enfeebled nearly all the rest. So noticeable was the effect of heat and fever that for several years after the colony reached Russell it was possible to recognize the “Mexicaner” (as they were for a while called by the Germans) by their saffron complexion, which gradually became normal again. Some who settled in South America, especially Argentine and Paraguay, and perhaps a few from Brazil, came to central Kansas. A few families who settled in South Africa also came. Although of German blood and race, knowing little or nothing of any language but German, and having forms of worship, whether Catholic or Protestant, as they took them from Germany on migrating, these people are usually called Russians by most people. They are themselves usually careful, however, on all proper occasions, to call attention that though born in Russia they are not Slav but German. Among the first colonists in Kansas but very few were familiar with the Russian language, and fewer still could read or write it. The later comers, however, have shown constantly increasing familiarity with Russian, indicating that in the forty years since the first comers arrived here the Russian government has been trying to teach Russian to its German settlers, somewhat after the fashion that they learn English here. A study of the German language as used by the Russians here presents an interesting study in many ways. The writer has made a study of the German used, with a special view to ascertain how much of the Slav the colonists absorbed in their sojourn since 1760 on the Volga, and has been able to find only about fifty foreign words, Fremdwoerter, mostly Slav, but a few that seem rather French or Latin or both. It is safe to say that if these Russians were to remove in a body to some other land, as they did from Russia hither, they would for hundreds of years to come possess and use English words picked up and absorbed into their German in less than forty years here. The number of these words is many times as great as they absorbed in Russia in a hundred and fifty years. Such is the difference in the capabilities of the two nations to absorb a people, and to such degree is America the “melting pot” of nations. The words in use more or less in the German speech of the Russians of Kansas, particularly in Ellis and Russell counties, are:
|brosch||land once cultivated, but gone back to grass.|
|galosche||overshoes of rubber or leather.|
|gofta||short jacket for woman.|
|gas||petroleum; also its products.|
|grulitz; gruelitz||a small closed porch.|
|gumia, gumja, gumya||partner, pal, pard (comrade).|
|kalotsch||loaf of white bread baked in a big outdoor oven.|
|kardus||a cap (possibly from Carthusian garb).|
|konieren||to torment, to ill treat a sentient being. (French, counieren?)|
|jemtschick||driver of a vehicle|
|manischka||shirt with ironed bosom.|
|manschetten||cuffs on shirt.|
|messit||bran and straw mash for feeding live stock.|
|klapot||a lawsuit; hence, any trouble.|
|nubi||a part of apparel, perhaps a fascinator.|
|natschelnik||a kind of court officer.|
|ninatte||a negative, as "by no means."|
|paletot||cloak or overcoat.|
|parscholista||go away (village of Catherine, Ellis county).|
|plet||a wide whip or riding quirt.|
|pachschu||a garden plat.|
|sarai||a small building to a house, but disconnected.|
|stuft||a measure of about a quart.|
|samovar||tea steeper or self-cooker.|
|sedilka||bridge or back band on harness for draft animals.|
|scharmand||pretty; fine garment; considerable in amount.|
|tulup||a garment; a greatcoat.|
|tuppke||leggins; felt shoes.|
|verkolumpiren||lapsus linguae; slip of tongue.|
|vergallopiren||slip of tongue.|
|winna||a plant like wild morning-glory.|
The Russians so far have been largely farmers. In Ellis county they occupy most of the farm lands south of the Saline river, and in several townships are almost the exclusive inhabitants. They are mainly from Samara, with a few from other provinces, and are almost all of the Roman Catholic faith. In Russell county they occupied the southern townships at first, but have spread so that to-day every township in the county has some Russians. Lincoln township is almost wholly inhabited by these people, and in this township the first settlement was made in October, 1876. The Russians of Russell county are nearly all from the province of Saratov, though a few are from Samara and several families from Bessarabia. Along the west border where the settlers of Ellis county have extended eastward the Russians are Catholic, but most of the settlers in Russell county are Lutheran. At first nearly all were, but the German Methodist gained a number of adherents among former Lutherans. In the eastern part of the county are some few Mennonites and kindred believers, chiefly Baptist in practice, but who can hardly be said to have a distinctive denominational name. In Ellis county the rising generation has remained practically to a man with the church of their ancestors, but in Russell county a considerable number of youths have become affiliated with various English-speaking congregations of Methodists, Congregationalists, Baptists, United Brethren, etc. While the Russians are very largely Lutheran, the several congregations to which these belong adhere to at least three different synods, namely, the Missouri, the Iowa and the Nebraska synods of the Evangelical Lutheran church. Parochial schools were early established in nearly all Russian settlements, wherein German was taught and the catechism and religious matters, as well as the fundamentals of common-school training; but these schools have gradually diminished in numbers and activity in Russell county, and are now often limited chiefly to giving such religious instruction as is essential for confirmation of the youths into the church. In Ellis county, on the other hand, the parochial schools are large and strong, well attended and vigorous in every village. It should be mentioned that the Russians settled in villages in Ellis county in much the way that they dwelt in Russia, but that very early the settlers in Russell county went out on their homesteads, and that the village or form of communal life never took hold in Russell county. Numbers of young people, especially the young men of Ellis county, go away to various colleges, in addition to those who attend the Catholic College at Hays, which has been established about five years and has grown rapidly. Probably a smaller relative proportion of Russian youths of Russell county go off to college, but their enrollment in the high schools of the several towns of the county is quite large.
In eastern Trego county are Russians similar to those of Ellis county, while near the center of the county are others chiefly from Russell county or from the same villages in Russia. Others about Collyer are of the Odessa, or more properly Kherson, province. The town of Park, formerly Buffalo Park, in Gove county, and the township of Payne, are settled largely by Russians from Samara or Odessa. They are Catholics. In Graham county is a settlement of Catholic Russians at St. Peters, while some Lutherans are found elsewhere in that county. In Sheridan county, at Angelus, is also a Catholic colony. In Logan county, about Oakley and Monument, are Lutheran Russians. In Cheyenne county is a colony that laps over into Colorado, most of them from Odessa. The settlements and villages of northern Rush county are similar to those of adjacent Ellis county. Barton county has large numbers of Russians, especially in the northern part toward Russell county, and Ellsworth county has some too. Most of the Barton county Russians are from the province of Saratov, and Lutheran, though there is one church of Calvinist faith, the Evangelical Reformed or Reformirte church, which contested with the Lutheran for the adherents of the Protestants of Germany since the days of Luther and Melancthon [Melanchthon]. One family of Russians in Russell county, if no more, Philip Ochs, was reared in that faith.
In the early days of central Kansas very many of the Russians and quite a number of other Germans worked upon the railroad, as section hands or track laborers, to help eke out an existence when the country was new and when crops failed and markets for the little produced were poor. Many men, expecially [sic] in Ellis county, left the wife and children upon the farm or government homestead, and labored on the Union Pacific railroad far westward in the state and even over into Colorado, and thereby made a living for the family when hot winds blew. When native-born Americans by thousands left the region, these people indomitably held on, and as a result are to a great extent in fair to affluent circumstances. The average number of children in any German family of central Kansas, whether Russian, Austrian, Swiss, or from Germany, is quite large, but perhaps larger among the Russians than among other Germans. As a result, not only have the Russians steadily reached out farther and farther to buy good lands about them in all these counties and to start newer settlements here and there in neighboring counties, but they are continually contributing a stream, light indeed, but unceasing, to other states and to Canada. To those who have arrived in America within the past ten years, the beet fields and sugar industry of southwestern Kansas and of Colorado offer allurements in the work offered and the occupation therein of men, women and children. Some few families make periodic excursions to work a while in the beet industry, and then to return to central Kansas.
The natives of Germany are found in every county and in almost every township and community. Almost every school district in central Kansas has one or more families of Germanic origin. People of Hanover are most numerous of those from any one state of Germany, and also form more compact settlements than most other Germans. These settlements are found in Lincoln county about Sylvan Grove, in Ellis county near Walker, in Gove county near Grinnell, and also in Mitchell, Osborne, Ellsworth, Russell, and other counties. They usually maintain a church and a parochial school in the community. Some of them are Catholic and some Lutheran. Plattdeutsch, or Low German, is usually the dialect in colloquial use in these communities among themselves, although all the Germans of Kansas, whether from Germany, Russia, Austria, Switzerland or elsewhere talk High German substantially as is in use in Germany. In addition to his knowledge of High German, the official and literary language of Germany, almost every German is familiar with the dialect of his people or the community from which he came in Europe. They are all thus diglottic if such a term may be used in speaking of the dialects of a common language. The student of German can readily tell the part of Germany from which an immigrant has come, by his speech when he drops into the dialect or provincial usage, just as an educated American can tell the Southerner, the New Englander, the Westerner and the Pennsylvanian, one from another. Even those Germans who have spent their lives, or where their ancestors have done so, in settlements in Austria and Russia and elsewhere, still show by their speech, to some degree, the ancestral home in Germany. The softened speech, the general absence of the burring r, the less guttural pronouncing of ch and g, the less rough sibilation of s and z, and the general tendency to incline from the harsher to the softer cognates in all cases, shows plainly that the Russians are south German in origin, even where they have forgotten from whence their ancestors migrated to Russia.
On the latter point, it may be said that only a small part of the people know what was the home of their ancestors before their removal to Russia. There is considerable evidence that many, or possibly most of those who have inherited the Catholic faith, came from Bavaria, but others among them came from Alsace, and possibly along the Rhine. Some of the Protestants are from Württemberg. There are also family histories, and traditions as well, that suggest a French origin to some. The well-known name of Basgall in Ellis county is said to be originally French, as Paschal. The name Dewald, or DeWald, in Russell county bears some appearance of having the French prefix de before the German wald, a wood, a forest. A few names, Slav in form, are encountered, but not often. Otherwise the family names or surnames of all the Germans of this region of Kansas are pure German. There is, too, a sameness of given or Christian names that is almost monotonous, though these vary somewhat according as the peoples are Catholic or not. John, Jacob, Peter, Henry, George, for boys, and Mary, Anna, Elisabeth, Paulina, Amalia, Catharine, for girls, are almost universally used, and the family in which none of these is found would perhaps be an unusual one. Among Russians, Alexander appears quite often, as well as Nicholas, and also for girls, Barbara. Christian, Frederick, William, Augustus, David, Samuel, are frequent among Protestants, and Alois or Aloysius, Ignatius, Cornelius, Francis, Anasthasius, among Catholics, while Philip and Andrew and Michael appear among both.
It has been noted by philologists that in colonies the speech of a people as brought from the mother country tends to remain unchanged much longer than in its native land. The French of Canada to-day is said to be rather that of the seventeenth century than that of France to-day. In confirmation of this principle, it is apparent that the German of our Russian immigrants is rather that of the middle eighteenth century than of a later period. Various words and phrases are in use that are no longer readily recognized in Germany to-day, and a number of words retain senses which were common two centuries ago, but have become obsolete in Germany. This has led to the need of some little care in translation in court. In nearly every county of central Kansas, and at nearly every term of court, some one or more witnesses appear who are not sufficiently familiar with English to be able to trust themselves to testify in that language. In the use of interpreters it has been found necessary to have them remember some differences between recent and older German; for example, the word freund (friend) is very generally used in the older sense of relative, rather than the modern sense of friend, and with a literal translation as friend by an inexperienced person the real meaning is wholly lost. Halb-bruder is used, not in its literal signification of half-brother, but as cousin, that is, half of the blood relation that the parents had to one another as brothers.
Among the villages listed above, the names Zurich, Basel, Luzern and Unterwalden are so thoroughly Swiss as to suggest such influence, while Lui, Louwe and Strassburg direct attention to possible French or border sources. Whether Schwed has to do with Sweden, and whether Estonia is also Scandinavian, is a query. The recent work of Dr. M. D. Learned of the University of Pennsylvania in cataloging the sources of American history, especially of its Germans, found in the German State Archives and published by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D. C., leads to a belief that a smiliar [sic] work as to migrations eastward from Germany to Austria, Russia and elsewhere would have great historical value to us of Kansas. Indeed, Dr. Learned says that in his work of research he came across much matter that concerns those migrations of the seventeenth century. It may be possible even yet to find in those old archives the story of the streaming together of the various human units from far and wide to form the caravans that went from Germany out upon the eastern steppes, and who by a stern grapple with adverse climate, hostile Kirghis and other obstacles were tempered to subdue the plains of Kansas and to change the short-grass prairie to the waving wheat fields of the golden belt.
The Germans from Austria are not very numerous. The largest settlement is probably that in western Ellis and eastern Trego counties, near the town of Ellis. These people are from the duchy of Bukowina (beech woods) at the extreme east end of the crown lands of Galicia. Bukowina contains about four thousand square miles—as much as four or five average Kansas counties. Only a small part of its inhabitants are Germans, and they are immigrants thither in some former time. These settlers of Trego and Ellis counties are mostly from the villages of Pojani, Nikoloi, Illischesti, Fuerstenthal, Schwarzthal, and Tereblestie. Most of them are Catholic, but some are Lutheran. Other than these, Germans from Austria are not so often encountered in central Kansas. Among the Bohemians, who have large colonies in Ellsworth, Russell, Trego and other counties, German surnames are occasionally found, and some few persons who speak German as well as Czech, but whether this indicates German blood is not certain. However, very many Bohemians and Moravians of central Kansas ethnically, seem by size, stature, build, hair and complexion to be Germanic rather than Slav.
The Germans of central Kansas can not be said to belong to any single type within the Aryan family. There has probably been a very slight admixture of Latin blood, and still less of Slav. One or two individuals have been observed among the Russians whose stature, and limbs, and hands, suggested, in their short, square stockiness, the possibility of Hun, Tatar or other influences in incursions from the East. In size the Germans of this section probably are as the average of Americans, though the Hanoverians may be somewhat larger. Once in a while a brachycephalic skull is seen, but in general the head is the long head of the north of Europe. The nose is usually straight, but there are a few convex or Roman noses, and a much larger proportion of concave noses, especially among those who come from the extreme north of Germany. The similarity of many north Germans to Scandinavian types is very evident. The color of the hair in most cases is light, from the tow or flaxen “;whitehead” to shades of deep brown; others are darker to jet black, and there is a sprinkling of red of all shades from light to dark. Eyes in most cases are deep blue to gray, but there are very many dark eyes, from a light yellow gray or light brown to the deep black. Like the color of hair and eyes, the complexion varies from the fairest blond to the most swarthy.
A few Swiss are scattered here and there in nearly every county, and nearly every county has one or two or more people from Luxemburg. In Gove county near Grinnell a colony of Hollanders settled in the early '80's, but scarcely one is left. It may be that the change required to adapt themselves to their new environment was too great. Of Germans who immigrated from eastern states, the Pennsylvania Germans are by far the most numerous, most compact in settlement and most prominent, although Germans from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, Virginia and elsewhere are noteworthy.
Tacitus, many centuries ago, writing of the Æstii or Æstyi of eastern Prussia, along the Baltic (Suevic) sea near the Vistula river, said: “They are more patient in cultivating corn and other produce than might be expected from the general indolence of the Germans.” But whatever the old Roman thought of the Germans of that day, the charge of indolence has not justly survived, and expecially [sic] not to the Germans of central Kansas. Beginning with the more urgent work of the pioneer settler and of railroad building and operation, they next aided largely in breaking the prairies and reducing the soil to a high state of cultivation. Then considerable numbers engaged in mercantile pursuits. They have contributed artisans out of all proportion to their total numbers. Wherever a blacksmith, stone mason, plasterer, carpenter, cabinetmaker, shoemaker, tailor or weaver is found, he is almost invariably a man of skill, a mechanic “who needeth not be ashamed” of the work of his hands. It is equivalent to a certificate of excellent workmanship to say that any of these are German. In nearly every town, however small, Germans are merchants in all legitimate lines of industry. Nearly every bank numbers Germans among its stockholders, its officials and employees. A knowledge of German is found useful by every one who possesses it in even a slight degree anywhere in central Kansas. The German influence is strongly reflected in the curriculum of many high schools in the evident tendency to increase attention to German and decrease the study of Latin. The word Dutch as a term of reproach or deprecation is but little heard in recent times, though not uncommon a generation ago. The word Rooshan (Russian) for a time took its place, but in turn is passing out of vogue. The complaint, bitterly made for a while, of the ability and will of all these various kinds of Germans to live cheaply and work for very low pay, has gradually stilled. It has steadily become apparent to even the most unthinking, that stern necessity and not arbitrary choice led to such of these practices as made many native Americans look upon Germans as unfair competitors. The Germans who by industry and thrift have gained comfort and affluence, and even quite a degree of wealth, are no longer feared as working too cheaply. Almost every German has had an insatiable desire to own his own home, to be a landowner if farmer, and a lot owner if a town dweller. Accordingly he has secured much of the choicest of farm land as well as good town property. In many counties these immigrants are among the very richest of the inhabitants. In Russell county, if Henry Krug is not to-day the wealthiest man in the county—largely in lands, though possessing other property, cattle, bank stock and houses—he is among the first two or three. In 1876 he landed at Russell, a young man, from Saratov province in Russia, with little means. The same story is duplicated in most counties. When once a tract of land was secured, the German soon built a good house and good barns and other farm buildings. If he borrowed money, it was to buy more land. The improvements made were very largely as permanent as human skill could make them. Stone and cement were always preferred to frame or wood, as more enduring. After the house was built, bare and uninviting as it often was at first, furniture and furnishings were added as rapidly as the means of the owner permitted. Dealers tell with what persistence their German customers demanded the best and most durable furniture, quality rather than show, quite regardless of expense. Bedroom sets, wardrobes, tables, chairs, pianos, organs, cabinets, cupboards—all kinds of household furniture were added to the house as soon as the owner was able to buy and pay for it. If the larder was lean at first, a change came with good crops and better times. Automobiles may be found on many farms of Germans. The taste for music, art, education, literature, books, grows daily and rapidly. Almost every German family subscribes to one or more newspapers, and often to several, in each language. Very many families take English local papers and learn the news through their children, when the elders can not read English. The linguistic ability of nearly all Germans is worth remarking. The examination of hundreds of Germans in the court of the twenty-third judicial district, upon application for final citizenship, shows that nearly all of them can speak, read and write German, and most of them can read and write English in addition to speaking it. Almost invariably their knowledge of English has been gained by the most severe study on their own part out of school, as few who came here above the age of ten ever had opportunity to study in an American schopl. One can not but wonder how many native Americans, who glibly talk of the ignorance of foreigners, would learn to speak, read and write any foreign language without going to school, if they were transplanted to a foreign country after reaching maturity and gained their daily livelihood by hard manual labor. The German, accustomed too to the simplicity of his own language with its phonetic spelling, has had to contend with the fearful and wonderful combinations of letters, quite often wholly irrelevant to the sound to be expressed—which make up English words according to conventional spelling. But in addition to generally knowing German and English, many of them know other languages. Those from Russia often know more or less of Russian, from ability to talk it a little to skill in speaking, reading and writing it. Those from Austria generally know another tongue somewhat. The men from Bukowina often know a little Roumanian. The Russians who spent some years between Russia and here in South America generally know Spanish or Portuguese, or both. A bitter complaint was lately made by an applicant for citizenship in Russell county district court, whose application was dismissed at behest of the United States government on the ground that he could not speak English, as required unconditionally under the naturalization law of 1906. He said he had learned to speak, read and write German as his mother tongue in Russia; had learned to speak, read and write Russian at the desire of the Russian government in the schools of his province; had learned in early manhood to speak, read and write Spanish in Argentine, South America, and finally arriving in the United States at middle age, he found himself no longer able to learn languages as in earlier years; and now, after his children had gone to Kansas schools and had become fairly well educated in English, their father was unable to confer citizenship upon them because he himself could not learn English.
The proverbs, quaint sayings, current jokes, riddles, etc., are much the same among all these German peoples. Rivalry of race runs high among them, though perhaps much more good-natured than in the old country, and they tell with enjoyment rather than seriousness the anecdotes that are supposed to indicate the characteristics of the different peoples, the wit or shrewdness of one nation and the dullness of another. The feeling of unity due to language and blood, and perhaps influenced too by the unity of forty- eight states in our federal Union, is stronger than in Germany itself, although in thinking of conditions abroad, jealousy of Prussia sometimes manifests itself among Hanoverians and Bavarians. The alleged arrogance of the Prussian on his own soil is not, however, reproduced at all on this side of the water. The ancient jokes on the Hessians being dull-witted, Blinde Hessen, are at times repeated, especially the one about drawing an ox up to the church roof to enable him to eat the grass on the roof which the villagers did not know how otherwise to dispose of, and of tying the rope about the ox's neck in elevating him. When he stretched out his tongue in choking, the bystanders remarked that already he was reaching out his tongue for the grass on the roof. Sometimes another region may be the butt of the joke. The taste for trees, flowers, shrubbery is perhaps not so general among those reared on the plains of Austria and Russia as among those from Germany. The love of music, great among all of them, may possibly be more general, too, with those from Germany.
Marriages are made young. At first they are chiefly within the clan, that is, the settlement or community, or with very close kindred thereto. There have been some intermarriages of cousins of the first degree. After a few years' residence here, the marriages much more often occur with persons of other communities, and then of quite different nations, or stocks; but among Catholics they are almost always within the membership of the church. In Ellis county it has been noted that where Low Germans, or Plattdeutsch, from Hanover have lived side by side with Germans from Russia, members of the same church, intermarriage between Hanoverians and Russians has come about but recently, despite many years of association. Non-Catholic Germans have married into other races with great freedom, especially with other strains of Germans. This is greatly accelerated by the acquaintance gained with other peoples in the public schools, in the English-speaking churches, in the colleges and in business, as well as acquaintance with various other Germans of similar tastes and faith, at church, at parochial schools, etc.
Our Germans, whatever their origin, almost universally cherish the great virtues of honesty, industry, thrift, temperance, piety, love of children, respect for elders and those in authority. Teachers everywhere bear testimony that pupils in all German communities are easily governed because they have been always taught at home to obey parents and teachers. To make a living in any other way than by honest labor subjects the person to suspicion. Gambling makes no appeal to them. Excesses in the use of intoxicants are not frequent and are constantly rarer, though never more plentiful than among hard-working Europeans in general. A drunkard is despised or pitied according to his need. Violators of the liquor laws are not respected. Race suicide is viewed with horror as a grave evil, and in some forms as a fearful crime. The vices of Americans are regarded as including sloth, love of ease, desire to gain wealth without useful labor, ambition to hold office as a sinecure, going to extremes in almost everything, excess either in drinking or in abstinence, a passion for risk or the gambling instinct, irreverence, disrespect and disregard for age and authority, lack of purpose, lack of perseverance, unwillingness to do anything thoroughly, lack of training and want of skill in most handicrafts, living beyond means, extravagance, love of display, impatience to get results, impracticality, and race suicide. The younger generation differ more or less. Some of them forget the great virtues of their people, see only the ephemeral faults and foibles, and seek to become American by aping the vices rather than the virtues of the land. In this they succeed equal to the most sanguine expectation when they try. These are comparatively few. The steadier element among the youth are eager to become fully Americanized by absorbing everything that America has to give that is worth while, and at the same time, with firm hand they hold to the solid virtues of their German ancestors, and seek to spread these virtues among all with whom they come in contact. These are the young Germans who are becoming leaders in business, school, church and politics. They resent any and every sort of aspersion or reflection upon them because of race, and leave nothing undone to remove all things that might seem to justify adverse criticism. It is hardly necessary to say that, except in a few instances and in case of recent comers, the average traveler going through central Kansas is wholly unable to tell by garb, looks, speech or otherwise, when he meets a youth, whether his ancestors came over the sea twenty-five years ago or three hundred. In fact, it may be questioned whether there is any similar area in the United States where the English language is so well spoken, so free from solecisms, colloquialisms, dialect, provincialisms and strange accent as in central Kansas. There is no mouthing, no nasality, no whining. The Germans have always been open-minded. They have been painfully conscious of their limitations in a strange land, hence always eager to learn the best way and the right way in everything, as far as they could. In the matter of voting, it is a common observation in central Kansas that ballots are very rarely spoiled and votes rarely lost in any German precinct, because all the voters apply themselves painstakingly to learn what has to be done and how to do it; after this they make no mistake.
The German American National Bund has organized at several places in central Kansas, such as Salina, Great Bend, Ellinwood, Wichita, Hanover, Wamego and Alma. The turners have not done so much in the central parts of the state as in the large cities on the border.
Within the Lutheran church, the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Nebraska claims perhaps the largest following in central Kansas. Its reports, from the sixteenth in 1905 to the twenty-second in 1911, are in the State Historical Library. In 1905 it reported congregations in Kansas at Hanover, Dubuque, Greenleaf, Home, Russell, Stickney, as well as other places. In 1906 it reported a congregation at Milberger in Russell county; in 1907 another at Dorrance; in 1908 at Glasco, Cloud county, and Hoisington, Barton county; in 1909 a preaching station at Oakley in Logan county. In 1910 the synod was held at Russell. Two additional stations or congregations were reported, in Paradise and Fairfield townships, respectively, in Russell county. All of these have arisen to activity in recent years. The German Methodists organized in Dickinson county in 1860. The church edifices erected at so many points in this section are almost always of stone when Catholic, and generally of frame when Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist or Mennonite, etc. There are probably more well-built, commodious stone churches within Ellis county than in any other county of the state, outside of large cities. There are twelve or more in as many towns and villages, not including one in Gorham just across the line in Russell county, and among them is the great church at Victoria in the village of Herzog, one of the large places of worship west of the Mississippi river.
Many of our Germans—chiefly from Germany—fought for the Union in the Civil War. A number have been since in the regular army. A few were in the Spanish-American War. Considerable numbers have served in the armies of Germany, Austria or Russia. Russians now in central Kansas fought the Turks in 1877, or the Japanese in recent years. Others did garrison duty in Siberia, and some in Samarkand in the heart of Asia. Various Germans wear the Iron Cross for excellent service in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-'71, and others were engaged in the Schleswig-Holstein War, the Seven Weeks' War, etc. Others served under arms in Austrian service.
An ancient Roman writer said of the Germans: “In all important matters, they consult their women.” This is not the popular conception of Germans of to-day by other people. But certainly the adoption of the suffrage amendment to the constitution of Kansas in 1912 will work some results. Already it is apparent that the German women will to a very large extent exercise the right of Ihe elective franchise. The belief is general that the Germans have never insisted upon taking their full share of what is due them in public affairs, and that unless their women vote the rightful influence of the Germans will be unjustly reduced.
Jacob C. Ruppenthal was born In Philadelphia, Pa., January 16,1869. In August, 1877, his parents came to Kansas, settling in Lincoln county; in 1881 they removed to Russell county, and there the subject of this sketch grew to manhood. His education was received in the public schools of Lincoln county, the Salina Normal University and the University of Kansas. He followed many lines of industry before he was admitted to the bar, in 1895, and began the practice of law in Lucas. In 1896 he moved to Russell and was elected county attorney, and re-elected in 1902; in 1906 he was elected judge of the 23d judicial district, which office he still holds. On January 1, 1895, he was married to Miss Sarah Spalding, who died January 15, 1914, leaving him three children.
Judge Ruppenthal is active in many societies and has contributed many articles along various lines to magazines and newspapers.
|2.||Report Proceedings Kansas Bar Association, 1911, p. 101.|
|3.||This is a different village from Dreispitz, which lies very close to the Volga river, while the other Werchna Dobrinka lies to the northwest beyond the rivers Llowka and Karamysch and near the headwaters of each.|
Source: "The German Element in Central Kansas." by Jacob C. Ruppenthal. Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1913-1914. Vol. XIII, pp. 513-535. Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society, 1915. Digitized by GOOGLE.
|1.||Three Volga German families are known to have settled in central Kansas after a sojourn in Cape Town, South Africa. The Johann Carl Friebus and Johann Christian Friebus families settled in the Wilson, Kansas area and the Johann Jacob (Dominic) Hertling (Hertlein) family went to Hays, Kansas.|
|2.||Families from Bessarabia who settled in Russell County, Kansas include Morgenstern, Schwandt, Radke, and Resner.|
|3.||"Estnische" probably refers to the Estnische Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche (Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church).|
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