Category Archives: History of the West

A Brief History of the Volga Germans

eunice-photoBack around 2012, when I first joined ‘Women Writing the West’, I somehow managed to start a correspondence with a fellow author in Kansas—Eunice Boeve. One might think that a romance author sitting in NYC and a predominantly YA and western author living out in KS had nothing in common, but Eunice and I have found a lot of common ground and continue our correspondence to this day.

Eunice was born and raised in Northwest Montana and Idaho, the middle child of seven born to a storytelling father and a book loving mother. She writes historical fiction novels for adults and young people, and for the past seven years has written a chapter story for a program called Newspapers in Education, from which her latest book, A Home in America, has evolved. Her books have received a number of awards, including a Kansas Notable book award. She lives in a small Kansas town with her husband and an aging red dachshund.

You can find all her books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and various other locations. Her website is: http://www.euniceboeve.net

Eunice has very kindly agreed to give away two copies of her book, A Home in America, to two people leaving a comment on this blog. And I’m pleased to announce the winners are Anne Schroeder and Colleen Donnelly.  Our thanks to everyone who left a comment!


Thank you, Andrea, for hosting me on your blog this month.

The history of the Volga Germans gives testimony to what the human spirit can endure, for they came to Russia and against incredible odds built a life from

Volga Germans

Volga Germans

literally nothing, but the ground under their feet. In 1763, Germany was in shambles, ravaged by seemingly unending wars and the demands of the ruling class, leaving the common citizen totally destitute. Then Catherine the Great of Russia offered land along the Volga River, free and clear with housing and horses and plows, and with no hope of a better life, they jumped at the Russian ruler’s seemingly spectacular offer.

But, when the first group arrived, there were no houses, no horses, and no plows. There was land, lots of land. But the nomadic tribes who had lived there for centuries considered it theirs. They swooped down on horseback, killing the men and capturing the women and children. With no place to go, no means to return to Germany and nothing there anyway, they stayed, and by sheer force of will, muscle, and faith, carved out a life on the Russian plains. That first winter, they dug caves for shelter with wagon boards for doors. These strong-willed people declined to interact with Russia in any way. They did not claim citizenship nor intermarry, but clung to their German language, customs, and religion as fiercely as they tamed the hostile land.

At first, they were promised freedom from the military, then Russia began to impose mandatory military service on males from sixteen to forty-five. With no feelings of loyalty to Russia, they felt no obligation to fight for the country, and many began to suspect that other demands would follow. With the idea of leaving Russia, they sent scouts to North and South America and these men brought back good reports of both countries, but favoring North America. Those who wished to immigrate and could manage the fares, left all they knew behind, sometimes even family members, and departed for the Americas.

Volga German Pioneer Memorial, Victoria, KS

Volga German Pioneer Memorial, Victoria, KS

Of those who did immigrate to America, many came to Kansas. Others settled in other states, including North Dakota, and Nebraska. For the most part, they kept together creating their own small towns. Those small towns around Hays, Kansas were given the names of the villages they left behind in Russia, like Herzog, Liebenthal. Pfeifer, Schoenchen, and Munjor, and, with the exception of Herzog, are still in existence today. Herzog is now Victoria. Settled by the English when the English left, the two towns became one. The fact that America is made up of a very diverse population, and English is the main language, made it almost impossible to exist in isolation as the entire Volga River Germans did for some one hundred plus years in Russia. So even the Volga German so steadfast in remaining German, began to mix with others, as have many other ethnic groups who came to this land we call America.


A Home in America, Book cover by Julie Peterson-Shea, published by Rowe Publishing  and available at http://rowepub.com/a-home-in-america/ and http://www.amazon.com/Home-America-Volga-German-Story/dp/1939054818/

   home-in-america-book-cover-image  A Home in America begins in the year of 1892, with Eva and her family living in the Volga River area of Russia settled by their forefathers from Germany in the mid 1760s. They have always considered themselves to be German and have kept their language and traditions, as promised them, along with being exempt from military service, when they settled this part of Russia. But 130 years later, Russia is disregarding those earlier promises and many, including Eva’s family believe they would be better off in America. Going to America, though, means leaving Great Grandmother behind. Great Grandmother, now old and blind, has been the only mother Eva has ever known, her own mother dying the day she was born. Father has remarried, but although she likes her stepmother very much, it is Great Grandmother whom she still considers her mother and she cannot bear even the thought of leaving this woman she has loved like a mother all her life.

This story began as a Newspaper in Education story and was featured in five Kansas newspapers for 8 weeks beginning Jan. 5, 2016, and told of their journey to America. The rest of the story chronicles their next year when they settle on a farm near Herzog (Victoria), Kansas.


 Excerpt

“After much thought and prayer,” Father says, “Great-Grandmother, Leah, and myself have decided it would be best for our family to leave Russia.” He pauses, then adds, “So next spring we will leave for America.”

I am so surprised, so shocked I think I could be knocked off this bench with a feather. Beside me, Great Grandmother bends her head in prayer and her fingers begin traveling the beads of her rosary, her lips moving in silent supplication. Fear clutches my heart as I realize how old, how feeble she has become. Will we leave her here, like Mia’s family will leave her grandmother?

I raise my eyes from Great Grandmother’s bent head and the rosary in her hands, to see if Father has noticed my fear and will reassure me with a smile, but he is busy answering Peter and Michael’s excited questions. Then I’m remembering this morning at the cow shed and how Leah had remained silent when I said I was glad we weren’t going to America and with a small jolt of anger, I turn to her.

Her brown eyes meet mine and they seem to ask for forgiveness, but I feel no forgiveness. She could have at least warned me! I close my face into a tight mask and blink back my tears and hold on to my angry thoughts so they do not become words. I know that Great-Grandmother cannot make such a long trip and I also know I cannot leave her. Then Great-Grandmother’s hand finds mine and my anger at Leah dissolves and I realize those words were not hers to tell, but Father’s.

A coldness settles over me as I listen to Father tell of the rumors growing stronger every day; rumors of Russia headed for war with Japan. And if they go to war, men and boys sixteen to forty-five will be called to fight for the Russian army. Peter will turn sixteen next summer, Father, who is forty, will have to go immediately. Michael at thirteen, nearly fourteen, is safe, but for how long? Wars can last for years.

Father says it was those same rumors of war that sent Uncle Johann and his family, to America and that we would have gone with them, but for Great-Grandmother. At his words, my anger, cooled, again rises up in me. Does Father think she can go with us now, even though she is now blind, and five years older?

 

 

 

 

 

Following Maria’s Journey by Anne Schroeder

anne-croppedFellow member of Women Writing the West and Past-President (2015), Anne Schroeder writes memoir and historical fiction set in the West. She has won awards for her short stories published in print and on-line markets. She and her husband, along with their new Lab puppy, live in Southern Oregon where they explore old ruins and out-of-the-way places. Her new release, Maria Ines, is a novel about an Indian girl who grows up under Padre Junipero’s cross and endures life under the Spanish, Mexican and Yanqui conquest of California.  You can learn more about Anne at http://www.anneschroederauthor.com and read her blog at http://anneschroederauthor.blogspot.com Continue reading

A Fence Around Her: Double-jacking Competitions

brigid-amos-headshot Brigid Amos’ young adult historical fiction has appeared in The MacGuffin, The Storyteller, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Words of Wisdom. As a  playwright, she co-founded the Angels Playwriting Collective and serves on the board of the Angels Theatre Company. She is also an active member of  the Nebraska Writers Guild. Although Brigid left a nugget of her heart Continue reading

Stepping Back in Time

anitaphilmarppAnita Philmar likes to create stories that push the limit. A writer by day and a dreamer by night she wants her readers to see the world in a new way.

Influenced by old movies, she likes to develop places where anything can happen and where special moments come to life in a great read.

Naughty or Nice?

Read her books and decide.


One of the reasons we enjoy reading historical fiction is because it gives us a chance to step back in time and experience another way of life. In McKee’s Ghost, we travel to Nebraska positioned in the heartland of America.

The small town of Shelton, Nebraska, has an interesting history starting with the way it acquired its name. Its original name was Wood River Centre and it is one of the oldest communities in Nebraska. The Great Western Stage Company established a stop here on it’s route to Fort Kearney. Years later, the Union Pacific railroad decided to use this town as a stop on its line to the west coast.

Patrick Walsh, the postman for this small town, wanted the name changed because of the confusion it had with another small community call Wood River. In 1873, he wrote the Postmaster General pleading for a new name. He renamed the post office to Shelton after Nathan Shelton, an auditor for the Union Pacific Railroad.

The town’s name shows no record of ever being officially changed. Probably to end the confusion with the other city, the citizens just started using the same name as the post office, and the name stuck.

Another interesting fact about the town is some of the residents of Shelton and Buffalo County raised Draft horses. The huge creatures were a much-needed asset for farmers. These animals were used to do the heavy lifting for their owners. Not only did draft horses plow the fields but also helped with other chores. These amazing creatures have a gentle disposition and don’t spook easily, making them perfect to have around a growing family. Living for twenty to thirty years, these animals were a solid addition to a farmer’s family.

Today, this area has a solid reputation of having some of the best breeders of draft horses in the state. Even today, the draft horse pull is one of the most popular events at the Nebraska state fair.

Like so many small towns across the country, Shelton, NE, has a unique history and has created a proud legacy of hardworking people building a solid future for their residents.


TGTBTGFInalCoverAbout McKee’s Ghost

His fiancée called off their engagement after be accosted by a ghost in his house.

Now, a beautiful ghost detective has shown up at his ranch, saying his brother has hired her to take care of the unwanted spirit.

Konnor McKee is more than happy with PSI Agent Ruth Oliva Wilson. One look and he was hooked. Now, if he can only get some help from a ghost, he might be able to secure himself a bride after all.

With the return of his ex-fiancee, his life is turn upside down by an angry ghost, a vindictive woman and a sexy medium. Konnor doesn’t know which way to turn.

Can he get everyone out of this alive and marry the PSI Agent?

Or has he lost all hope of a happy future because of the ruthless ghost of one of his ancestors?

Excerpt for McKee’s Ghost

The hands he’d dropped to her waist shifted. One drew Ruth deeper into his embrace while the other nudged her chin up with a knuckle until their eyes met. His searing gaze lit a fire, heating her core and arousing every cell in her body.

“No. The gentleman in me heads south whenever you enter the room. All I can think about is getting my hands on you.” Konnor sprayed his palms over her back and tugged her deeper against his chest. “I want you in a way I’ve never wanted a woman before, under me screaming while I make you completely mine.”

She gasped. “But you don’t even know me.”

“You’re wrong. Some instinct inside me knew the moment we met you belong to me. Now, all I need to do is convince you of that fact.” He dropped his mouth over hers. His kisses were gentle and sweet one moment, demanding and urgent the next.

The crisp flavor of the apple he’d just eaten played over her taste buds. Pleasure overruled the sound logic of keeping him at a distance. Instead, she gave into the tempestuous assault to her senses and slid her arms around his neck. Minutes passed. The hunger inside her growing until she couldn’t catch her breath.

He tore his mouth from hers, and she gasped for air. “Please, sweetheart, I’m not a patient man, especially when I’ve waited so long for you. I need—”

“Don’t say it,” she whispered and lowered her head to avoid eye contact. She’d tempted him, let him think if he asked for more, she’d willingly give him whatever he wanted.

Realizing how much she already cared for him, she rebelled against the likelihood of losing her heart to another man. More than once, she’d fallen into the trap of believing a man would love her no matter what.

Every time, she paid with a broken heart. This time, she needed to give him a day or two to come to terms with the true nature of her abilities. Once he saw her in action, he’d change. The desire he felt would wilt until he had no feeling for her at all.

“I’m sorry, but we need to take this slow.” She lowered her hands and pressed them against his chest. “Now, you should tend to your horses.”

Konnor studied her for a long moment before he slowly released his grip. “Make yourself at home. I’ll be back as soon as I’ve finished my nightly chores.”

She nodded, and he turned for the door with a sigh.

The light click of the latch falling into place felt like a shot through her heart. She’d come here determined to do her job and leave. However, Konnor had blindsided her with his charm. She’d broken her new rule of not becoming involved with a client.

Now, she had to figure out a way to keep her heart safe when everything inside her wanted to give in to Konnor’s demands.


Find Anita Philmar at

Website: http://www.anitaphilmar.com/

Blog: http://www.anitaphilmar.blogspot.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/anitaphilmar

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Anita-Philmar/e/B002BMBE8C

 

 

Because of Virginia City

Blaire EdensBlaire Edens is another fellow author from the Good, the Bad and the Ghostly.  She lives in the mountains of North Carolina. She grew up on a farm that’s been in her family since 1790. Of Scottish descent, her most famous ancestor, John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Guardian of Scotland, was murdered by Robert the Bruce on the altar of the Greyfriars Church at Dumfries. Continue reading

Native American Slavery

 

headFellow member of Women Writing the West, Alethea Williams is the author of Willow Vale, the story of a Tyrolean immigrant’s journey to America after WWI. Willow Vale won a 2012 Wyoming State Historical Society Publications Award. In her second novel, Walls for the Wind, a group of New York City immigrant orphans arrive in Hell on Wheels, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Walls for the Wind is a WILLA Literary Award finalist, a gold Will Rogers Medallion winner, and placed first at the Laramie Awards in the Prairie Fiction category. Continue reading

NOT Happy Trails

Patti Sherry-Crews

Patti Sherry-Crews

I met Patti Sherry-Crews when we each had a story in the Come Love a Cowboy anthology, and we are continuing to work together on a second anthology for Hallowe’en as well as a third one for Christmas. We’ve bonded over the fact we have both spent time in the U.K.—Patti studied anthropology and archaeology at Grinnell College and the University of North Wales. Continue reading

Does the West Define America?

Frederick Jackson Turner

Frederick Jackson Turner

A few months ago, Amazon came up with one of its ‘suggested reading’ promotions that actually interested me. It was a book, obviously meant for students of history, called ‘Does the Frontier Experience Make America Exceptional?’ What an interesting question, I thought: does it? Continue reading

TWO VIEWS ON THE OREGON TRAIL

When I was in school, Francis Parkman’s The Oregon Trail was on my reading list. At the age of thirteen, the formal writing and the lengthy, detailed descriptions of a time, scenery and people who did not in the least interest me, turned me towards another choice of book. So here I am, some fifty years later, with other interests, more tolerance, and certainly a more receptive mind.

Francis Parkman

Francis Parkman

Francis Parkman was born into an aristocratic Boston family, son of a well-connected and wealthy Unitarian minister. Plagued by illness most of his childhood, he was often sent into the countryside in an attempt to make him more robust. This, combined with his own enjoyment of James Fenimore Cooper’s novels, seems to have had a lasting effect on the young man whose walks in the woods always entailed carrying a rifle, just as his hero, Hawkeye, did. Continue reading

GOING FOR THE KILL: LORD DUNRAVEN AND THE LAND GRAB OF ESTES PARK

IMG_1890One of the highlights of my recent cross-country road trip was Estes Park, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. And how could it not be a highlight? Here is scenery that both inspires and excites in a corner of Colorado once called the ‘Switzerland of America.’ One of several wide valleys at around 8,000 feet, which include North Park, Middle Park, South Park, and Winter Park, FullSizeRender-18Estes Park itself was renowned for its beauty. Continue reading