German-Russians – Alva

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Areas of German Colonization in Russia[
Areas of German Colonization in Russia[


As a youngster, I was confused as to why some people would call themselves “German-Russians”.  I was told that they were of German heritage and they came from Russia – but I wondered why they did not speak Russian?  It wasn’t until later in life that I read up on the history of the German-Russians and understood. This blog describes the history of these German-Russians and includes the biographies of German-Russian families in the Alva/Woods County area.

Who Were the “German-Russians”?

The Oklahoma Historical Society provides the following brief history of the German-Russians[1]:

“Among the millions of mid- to late-nineteenth century immigrants arriving in the United States from Europe were ethnic Germans who had immigrated to Russia in the 1765–1824 period. Poland’s rulers had encouraged Germans to settle in the province of Volhynia (between the Dnieper and Dniester rivers, part of Russia by 1797), and Russian rulers, including Catherine the Great, had promoted settlement along the Volga River (north of the Caspian Sea) and on the coast of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov beginning in 1750. As a result, in the 1760s groups began leaving various German principalities where wars, invasions, high taxes, and military conscription made life unbearable. Colonists arrived in the steppes (plains) when the Russian czars offered them free land, exemption from military service and taxation, and, to an extent, religious liberty. Between 1763 and 1862 an estimated one hundred thousand Germans moved to Russia, including Evangelical Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Baptists, and Seventh Day Adventists.

Living on the steppes, they continued to farm, primarily raising wheat, and adapted their system of agriculture to the new environment. They lived in compact villages, built partially subterranean houses similar to half-dugouts, and burned dried manure for fuel. These transplanted Germans prospered. By the middle of the nineteenth century most families owned land, and some were grain merchants or mill owners. The German colonists had become the most advanced agricultural group in Russia. Seldom mixing with or marrying their hosts, the Germans in Russia retained their culture and perpetuated it through their own educational system.

In the 1860s, however, their lives began to change. Czar Alexander II began to draft them into the army, and in the 1880s Alexander III began a “Russification” policy to establish better administrative control over the colonies. Volga Germans began leaving for the United States in the late 1870s, and Mennonites began moving in the 1880s, as did Black Sea and Volhynia Germans. The Great Plains of the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas, markedly similar to the Russian steppes, became populated by them, and many moved on into the plains of Oklahoma and Texas. …

Land was the factor that drew them southward into Oklahoma Territory. They were poor, and in Kansas they were forced to rent farm land. Beginning in 1889, when public lands were offered for homesteads in Oklahoma, they quickly took advantage of the opportunity to own farms. ..  German-Russians were also among the thousands who made the dash into the Cherokee Outlet in September 1893.”[1][2][3][9]10]

Russian Born Living in Woods County Townships

The townships in Woods County with Russian born citizens in the 1910 US Census.

Woods County Township Maps - German Russians
Woods County Township Maps – German Russians[11]
According to The Center for Volga German Studies At Concordia University[8], the following Volga German-Russian families are known to have settled in and around Alva: Abel / Ebel. Brickmann, Eichman, Fehrer, Geiger, Jaekel, Jauk / Yauk, Lehl, Schimpf / Shimp. and Windecker

The surnames of people (with the number people) who were born in Russia as recorded in the 1910 US Census for Woods County, Oklahoma are listed below by the townships in which they were living in 1910. These counts are shown in the above township map:

Alva: Fehrer, 2; Nikkel, 1

Avard: Basingen 1; Brickman 5; Buckman 1; Freeda 1; Golbeck 2; Herrmann 3; Kunz 1; Link 3; Werner 1; Wiebe 1; Windaken 3

Cedar:  Bevis 1

Driftwood: Waggoner 2

O’Bryan: Schultz 1

Patterson: Andraes 2; Bengerman  2; Bulkhard  1; Eck 1; Foey  1; Friesen 1; Hagan 2; Hane 1; Jansen  4; Jantz 2; Kaaz  1; Koehn 4; Koop 2; Kunz 1; Lewke 2; Pennel  1; Penner 2; Penny  1; Raaz  1; Reich  1; Reish 2; Rosfeld 2; Schultz 3

Penn: Fox 1

Spring: Balagen 1; Egner 1; Korell 2; Lehl 4; Rudy 1

Since this includes married women who were born in Russia, their maiden name is not known.

Family Biographies

The biographies of the following German-Russian families were taken from two books:“Pioneer Footprints Across Woods County”[4]  and “The First 100 Years of Alva, Oklahoma 1886-1986″[5]. There are more families in the Alva/Woods County area with German-Russian heritages(See Above) but their biographies were not in these books. Included are families where at least one spouse has an apparent German-Russian heritage.

Katherina Beltz

Katherina Beltz Haas was born in Kutter, Russia on January 4, 1875. She was very proud of the fact that she was a German, even though her family lived in Russia for many years due to a proclamation by Catherine-the-Great. Farmers were promised parcels of land along the Volga, and Katharina’s ancestors took advantage of the opportunity.

Life in Russia was hard. The weather showed no mercy. There were few weeks that the ground could be seen through heavy snow.

The church was the life of all villagers with all belonging to the same church in each separate village. The pastor was also the school teacher and he was very strict. He always carried a long stick and with only one good whack, could keep the children in line. The villagers were all frugal and all things were valuable. Katy remembered breaking a bottle of homemade ink. Her mother gave her a hard scolding because things were hard to replace and very precious. The clothing worn on Sunday was always carefully folded and put away in a trunk until the next Sunday’s use.

All children had responsibility . . . a certain chore they had to perform. Katy was in charge of the family’s flock of geese which she had to herd down to the “back” or stream located just north of the church. In the summer they would sometimes go west of the village where the creek ran into the Karamisch River which flowed north of the village until it joined the great Volga, near Saratov.

All the farmers lived within the village, but raised their crops out from their neat homes. In the evening, after a day’s work, the family would help with some home industry. The Beltz family would spin wool or flax and weave the cloth to be made into clothing for the family or profit. Some family member would start a tune and then they would all join in singing. Linen made from the locally grown flax would be spread on the wet grass to be bleached by the sun. On very cold winter nights the family slept huddled around and on top of the large, lowslung, brick oven and fireplace.

Katie brought to America a love for cooking the dishes that were common in Kutter and probably brought a hundred years earlier from Germany. The village was in a fertile area where many kinds of crops and fruits were grown. Abundant livestock provided meat, milk and leather. She cooked Kercha (cherries), Apfel (apples), and Zwiebl Kuchen. Rokka Brot (rye bread), Pickled Watermelon, Kraut, and Dill Gommeren (cucumbers), Leberwurst, Schnitz Suz and Kartoffels lies were favorite dishes, too.

The 100 year agreement had lapsed and the new rulers of Russia had invasion plans to conquer neighboring lands. The boys were being looked over by the Russians. The church was harassed, and the taxes imposed, and the Russian language was required in the schools. Life was becoming oppressive. Among the families that decided to come to America was the Beltz family. Katie’s father, George Heinrich and her mother, Elizabeth Weigandt had been blessed with Frederich, Katharina, Eva and Maria.

The two older boys, Adam and Heinrich, came to Kansas first. The railroads had acquired much land from the government and were building railroads to Dodge City and other terminals for shipping beef east.

Because Adam was of draft age, he had taken Frederich’s passport visa while Heinrich had his own. The boys worked for the railroad raising passage money for the family to come over.

There was one BIG problem. Frederich now had no passport!  Grandmother Magdalena (Schmidt) Beltz was too old to make the voyage, so Frederich was dressed as an old lady so he could use her passport. He kept this disguise all the way to America by pretending to be somewhat addled and not able to speak. Whenever he would forget and stand up straight, his mother would remind him — “Mach du kline!” (Make yourself smaller!)

The family left Kutter in November 1881, arriving in Baltimore, January 1892. They settled in La Crosse, Kansas. where they lived for three years. The two oldest girls, Katharine and Eva, worked as domestics in homes and a hotel. In 1894, the whole family moved to Oklahoma Territory to the thriving little town of Ingersoll.

Katharina married Christian Haas in 1897, as recorded in Woods County. Seven children were born to this union before Christian Haas died at age 37 from injuries suffered in an accident. The children became Lena (Haas) Meyer, Herman, Bismark, Sam, Clara (Haas) Cornelius, Helen (Haas) Berry, and Wilma Haas. Katie was widowed two more times (Joe Frey and Henry Brining) before she died in Cherokee in 1957.

In 1986, only two of Katie’s children survive — Helen (Haas) Berry of Stillwater and Wilma Haas of Alva. Wilma has made her home in Alva for the last 15 years.

Prepared by Helen Haas Berry, 1987[5].

Peter and Katie (Pflugrad) Brickman

Peter Brickman was born to Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Brickman on January 26, 1869, at Franezan, Russia. He was one of eight children. Katie Brickman was born Sep. 24, 1873, to Gottlieb and Louise Link Fehrer Pflugrad. Katie was the only child born to this union, but she had three half brothers from her mother’s former marriage. The parents of Peter and Katie were among many Germans who left Germany because of oppression and forced military service. They moved to Russia where Catherine the Great promised opportunities to establish new homes and have land to farm. Their parents could soon see that Catherine the Great would not be able to keep her promise.

With this in mind and with hopes of enjoying the freedoms that America offered, they emigrated to the new land. They moved from near Odessa on the Black Sea to Kansas, settling in the locality of Hillsboro. Peter was 6 years old when his parents came and Katie was 9 years old when her parents came. These two young people had many things in common, but did not meet until they were living in the United States. On Mar. 13, 1891, Peter and Katie were married in Marion, Kansas. There their first 3 children, Mary, Ben, and Rachel, were born.

In the year of 1898 they were beckoned to what was Oklahoma Indian Territory. They loaded a covered wagon with the bare necessities for life, took their family, and set out to farm in a land they were not acquainted with. Their thrift and hard work soon made a success of their adventure. They first located north and east of Avard on a relinquishment, where they lived for 5 years. Here a son, William, was born. Life was hard in those days. The children had to herd the cattle because there were no fences. They were cautioned to be careful of the prairie dog towns which contained many rattlesnakes.

Water was difficult to obtain. Katie had to go a mile west of Alva. The family moved here and lived in a granary. The second day in this home, another daughter, Lillian, was born. Later a small house was moved in. The three youngest children, Edward, Lucille, and Alice, were born here and Peter also passed away in this house. Along with their many farming interests, Peter, his son, Ben, and son-in-law, Isaac Jaekel, owned a threshing machine. They threshed their own grain and also threshed for their neighbors. With the threshing machine was a cook shack in which Katie did the cooking with the help of her daughters. Abundant meals were always on hand.

Katie Brickman was a lover of flowers, chickens, geese, ducks, and always had a big garden. She always managed to have some flowers blooming to give to her friends when they came to visit. After Peter’s death, Katie lived on the farm for five years with her son, Ed, and then moved to Alva, living first at 523 Center, and later at 1102 Maple. One of the joys of Peter and Katie Brickman’s life was to have their children close by and being able to set them up in housekeeping and farming. The only child to move to another locality after she married was the youngest, Alice, whose husband was already established in the Hitchcock, Oklahoma area.

Peter and Katie Brickman were both devoted members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, first attending a rural church that was held in the Manilla school house south and west of Alva. Peter saw the need of a church in Alva and was a principal organizer of the present Seventh Day Adventist Church located at tenth and Church Street. Peter passed away December 5, 1933, Katie passed away September 7, 1955, both are buried at the Alva Municipal Cemetery.

The descendants of Peter and Katie Brickman are, children: Mary (Mrs. Isaac Jaekel); Ben married Nellie Henricks; Rachel (Mrs. Fred Eichman); William married Mollie Eggleston; Lillian (Mrs. Sam Scaggs); Edward married Sylvie Meier; Lucille (Mrs. Jonas E. Siebenlist); and Alice (Mrs. Isaac Meier). Grandchildren are Eddith Jaekel (Mrs. Phil Jones), Esta Belle Brickman (Mrs. Adam Prowers), Clyde Eichman married Alberta Korgan; Gloria Glee Eichman, Towanda Brickman (Mrs. Wesley Mallory), Evertt Scaggs married Bobbie Shirck, Jerry Meier married Beverly Crain, and Yvonne Meier (Mrs. Dick Potter). Great grandchildren are Julie Prowers, Pam Eichman (Mrs. Rodger Goad), Jackie Eichman, Barbara Mallory, Charlene Mallory, Linda Scaggs (Mrs. Bill Hodges), Carol Scaggs, Shelli Meier, Randall Pot-ter, Merl Potter, and Michelle Potter. Great-great-grandchild is Stanley Goad.

Prepared by Mr. and Mrs. Edward Brickman, Mr. and Mrs. Phil Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Wesley Mallory, 1976[4].

William “Bill” and Mollie (Eggleston) Brickman

William “Bill” Brickman was born February 15, 1901, the second son of Peter and Katie Brickman. He lived near Alva all of his life. The early years held many of the usual adventures that all children have growing up, and still for his generation even the everyday things could be quite different. School for example could be a trial when your family spoke one language and your teacher another. Bill told of his first week at school when the teacher asked if he could count. Having an older brother and two older sisters, of course he could count. The only problem was he could only count in German. The teacher wasn’t at all happy when he found out all this and made it very clear that no German would be used in the classroom. School at that time was held at McKeever and like all the other children, walking or going horseback was the popular way to get to and from school.

He remembered that on the freezing snowy days his father would sometimes come for them in the wagon and how glad they were to see him, because they could wrap up in the warm quilts Ma had sent and get home to a big warm fire quickly. Another time Bill remembered seeing the first car ever to come by their home. With all the noise and confusion it caused, the dogs and younger children decided the only safe place was as far away as possible. They took off for a vantage point in the wheat field north of the house. There they watched from afar in awe and wonder. Such was their fright that it was several hours before the youngsters wandered back to the house. It took the dogs until late that night to get up enough courage to come home.

After attending school at McKeever, Bill continued his education at Normal in Alva. There Bill met Mollie Eggleston, the youngest daughter of Eliphalet and Rose Eggleston of Waynoka. Her birthday was November 3, 1903. Mollie was one of six children, Edith, Eliphalet, William, Vye, and Ted. Having two older brothers and two older sisters gave her some advantages when it came to doing the chores, but her younger brother, Ted, tells of a time they were to go cut corn for the livestock while the rest of the family went to town. They were young and being typical kids didn’t want to go to the pasture for one of the older mules, so decided to hitch one of the young half-broke mules to the sled. Things went fine until they were starting back to the barn. The dry corn stalks frightened the mule and he took off jerking the rope out of Ted’s hands, taking Mollie on a wild ride back to the house and around the barn. Most of the feed fell off by the barn and the mule stopped.

Mollie told of when she and sister Vye received china dolls for Christmas. They decided to take the dolls for a ride in the little toy wagon and had hitched one of the dogs up for the horse. Not wanting to pass up a chance to tease, the boys found a cat and needless to say, two little girls were very unhappy as cat, dog and dolls went flying up the road.

When Bill and Mollie met at Normal, they soon found that living in the country meant writing letters would have to do as part of their courtship. They were married February 18, 1925, and moved into their new home four miles west of Alva and made this their permanent residence. Their only child, Towanda Yvonne, was born in 1931.

Farming the land funny things could and did happen. Probably one of the most flustering things that could happen to the women was to get a meal ready for the threshing crew only to find out they would finish in time to move on to the next farm in line before the meal. This would cause a great deal of phone calling and hurried arrangements to set up tables and move pots and pans of food without chilling or spilling the contents. After the men were fed the women would clear a table and set down to their meal with a great deal of laughter and wonder who would end up in the same state of confusion next year.

Bill started farming with horses and lived to enjoy the luxury of diesel and hydraulic power. Always interested in soil conservation, he was one of the first farmers in the Alva area to change from the devastating use of the moldboard plow to such soil conserving practices as stubble mulch tillage, construction of terraces and contour farming. Mollie was always interested in sewing, knitting and any kind of handicraft that came along.

Their daughter married Wesley Mallory of Alva and they became the parents of two daughters, Barbara Yvonne and Charlene Susan.

In 1966, Bill retired from farming and planned to travel and enjoy retirement, only to find out that he had cancer.  Bill died on August 19, 1968, in his home and was buried at the Alva Municipal Cemetery. Almost five years later Mollie also died of cancer and was buried beside Bill.

Prepared by Towanda Yvonne (Brickman) Mallory, 1976[4].

John Henry and Maria Christina (Goeringer) Hort

John Henry Hort was born on September 20,1872 near Lauwe, Russia, he was considered a German-Russian. He married Maria Christina Goeringer on January 21, 1894 at Lauwe, Russia. She was born on May 23;1872 also at Lauwe, Russia.

They came to America through Ellis Island at New York in 1904, then on to Alva, Oklahoma by train. Maria’s sister Christina (Goeringer) Meixner and her husband had settled in Alva and had the first bakery here and her brother Peter Goeringer had also settled here. They were John Henry and Maria’s sponsors into America.

They settled in town where John worked at various jobs and in 1906 they moved to Colorado so that he could work in the sugar beet factory, they returned in 1908. After returning to Alva John worked on the Rock Island Railroad until 1918, when they rented a farm 10 miles southeast of Alva and lived there for a few years. After living there for a few years they rented another farm 1 1/z miles east of what is now Highway 64 and lived there for 18 years. They retired in 1945 and moved to Alva due to John’s ill health. Maria passed away on September 20, 1947 and John passed away on October 13, 1964 and both are buried in the Alva Lutheran Cemetery southeast of Alva. They were active in the Zion Lutheran Church where Maria was in the Ladies Aid Society.

There were 9 children born to this union: John Peter born on September 18, 1894 at Lauwe, Russia, he married Mary Elizabeth Goeringer on December 28, 1915. They lived in Cherokee, Oklahoma where he was employed as a Chef. In 1940 they moved to Alva where he was again employed as a chef in several restaurants. They had 3 children, 2 sons and 1 daughter: Margie (Webber) deceased; Carl, and Jack. Both sons served in World War II. Carl is a minister in Minnesota and Jack works for Boeing Company in Wichita, Kansas. He passed away on August 31, 1983 and is buried in the Alva Lutheran Cemetery:

Maria born on August 24, 1896, Lauwe; she died at the age of 14 years in September of 1910 and is buried in the Alva Lutheran Cemetery; 2 little girls were born consecutively in Lauwe and both died in infancy and are buried there;

Christina Marie was born April 8, 1902, at Lauwe, and she married Paul Joseph Honer;

Henry John was born October 30, 1905, at Sugar City, Colorado, he married Vera Warnick on May 18, 1928. He attended Northwestern and taught at Alva from 1931-1939. He was in 2 major wars: World War II and the Korean War. They had 3 children, 1 son and 2 daughters; John Henry III, followed his father’s footsteps and is now a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. Marillyn (Vernon) is a nurse at Mid-West City, Oklahoma; and Evelyn (Lescenski) is also a nurse and her husband is a doctor and they reside near Oxford, Maryland.

Henry John retired and made his home at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with the rank of Full Colonel of the 45th Division. He passed away May 11, 1971 and is buried at Oklahoma City. He taught at Manchester and Alva High School where he was football coach from 1938 to 1940 when he enlisted in the Army.

Anna Christina was born January 24, 1908 at Alva, she married Bill Holding on May 20, 1943. They made their home at Cherokee, Oklahoma where he was employed and she taught school and worked for the State Welfare Department. They retired at Woodward, Oklahoma;

Laura Clara was born October 6, 1910, at Alva, she married Carl Wheaton on May 11, 1928. She taught school at Ingersol, Greenleaf and was a cook in the Anthony, Kansas hospital. She later married Dean Frazer on September 21, 1968. Dean was employed on the Santa Fe Railroad and is now retired and they make their home at Manchester, Oklahoma. She did not have any children.

Herman Imanuel was born January 10, 1913, at Alva and he married Ida LuEtta Rogers on February 17, 1934. He attended the Alva Lutheran School and graduated from the 8th grade there as did all his brothers and sisters. They had 3 children, 2 sons and 1 daughter. His son Guy Henry was a doctor and is now deceased; his daughter Mary Lou (Mrs.Kenneth Mullbery) lives at Laverne, Oklahoma where she teaches in the Laverne Elementary School. Their other son is Larry. Herman taught at Greenleaf, Oakwood, Vici, and Hooker, Oklahoma and is now retired and lives at Laverne, Oklahoma.

Prepared by Christina (Hort) Honer, 1987[5]

Paul Joseph and Christina Marie (Hort) Honer

Paul Joseph Honer was born on January 21, 1891 near Oxford, Nebraska he was the son of Charles and Theresa Honer. Both were born in Hanover, Germany and came to America after their marriage where they settled in Nebraska for some years and then moved to the Natchez, Mississippi area. A yellow fever epidemic broke out in the area and Charles and Theresa both fell victims to the disease and are buried at Natchez. The children were left orphans and were raised in the orphanage until they were old enough to go out on their own.

Paul Joseph served in World War I out of Camp Dodge, Iowa in the artillery. He then made his way to the Alva area where he became engaged in farming and where he met and married Christina Marie Hort on November 25, 1920. They farmed 2 miles east of Alva on the farm where his youngest son Dean makes his home today. Paul passed away on May 26, 1939 and is buried in the Lutheran Cemetery southeast of Alva. Christina remained on the farm and worked a dairy and raised her children.

Son Paul Joseph, Jr. was born on June 14, 1926 and he attended the Lutheran school until the 8th grade and went to attend the Alva High School. He is the father of 4 children: David born on June 1, 1946, he served in the Vietnam War in Thailand and is now a construction worker in Suisun, California. He married Peggy Millar and they have 4 children: Paulina, Shelley, Malinda, and David, Jr.; Shirley born on December 30, 1954, she attended the Alva Public School System and Northwestern Oklahoma State University. She married Roger Hatlesstad he is employed in Alva where they now make their home; Judy was born on November 20, 1947 and was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Bill Holding. She attended school at Cherokee and later NWOSU. She married Larry McConkey and they make their home at Helena, Oklahoma; Darrel was born on February 9, 1949 and was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Bill Holding and he also attended the Cherokee School. He gave his life in the Vietnam conflict in 1969.

Christina and Paul’s daughter Edna Helen was born on August 14, 1929 at Alva where she attended the Lutheran School and the Alva High School and she graduated from Oklahoma State University where she obtained a degree in Home Economics. She married Eldore Meyer on June 1, 1952 he is a Lutheran minister and at present he is the District President of the Nebraska area and they make their home at Seward, Nebraska. They have 4 children: Dorene born February 24, 1954, she attended the Grand Island, Nebraska school system. She is married to Roy Neiderklein and they have 3 sons; Ryan, Jesse, and Nathan; Marilyn was born on April 3, 1955 and she also attended the Grand Island school system. She married Dr. Jay Yost and they reside in Kansas City, Kansas, where he practices and she is a nurse. They have 2 children, Sarah Jane and John III; Delois was born on May 3, 1957 and also attended the Grand Island school system and is presently a nurse’s teacher at Kansas City, Kansas is single; Stanley was born on December 14, 1960 and he attended the Seward, Nebraska school system. He married Stephanie Growich and they live at Irvine, California where he teaches at the Lutheran University.

Christina and Paul’s youngest child Dean was born on November 12, 1936 at Alva. He attended the Lutheran school until the 8th grade and then graduated from the Alva High School. He went to Northwestern State College but later transferred Oklahoma State University to graduate with an Agriculture Degree. He is the father of 2 children: Todd Alan born on June 25, 1965 and he also is attending Oklahoma State University is single; and Stacey Diane born June 29, 1966, she is attending Oklahoma University and is single. Dean is engaged in farming and sells insurance.

Christina now makes her home in Alva where she is active in the Alva Lutheran Church and works in the Ladies Aid Society. She raises flowers and works in her garden. She also is a member of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia and is very active in researching her family ancestors.

Prepared by Christina (Hort) Honer, 1987[5]

Harold and Freda (Brune) Lehl

The only child of William (Bill) and Rocena Wenninger Lehl, Harold Lehl, was born on September 15, 1913 2’/2 miles south of Ashley. When he was 7 months old his mother passed away on the on April 11, 1914 and was buried in the Short Springs Cemetery east of Alva. Harold’s father placed Harold in the care of his parents Mr. and Mrs John Lehl, Sr. John and Elizabeth lived on a farm 1 mile south of Ashley when they moved to Fort Morgan, Colorado, Harold went his first 2 years of school they lived there for 3 years. The family then returned to Oklahoma and made our home at 927 Maple street at Alva. Harold attended the Alva Public Schools and graduated from the High School located on the college campus. Harold and his Grandfather after Harold’s grandmother’s death returned to the farm and made their home with Harold’s father, William “Bill” and his family. Harold graduated from the training school on the college campus in 1931 and attended the college at Northwestern where he served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Y.M.C.A. and was a member of the college debating club in 1933. While attending Northwestern Harold worked at various places to help pay for his expenses – a few were the Burr’s Clothing Store on the west side of the square, then for J.W. Monfort and also at the farm during the summer months. His last employment was for his Uncle Fred Wenninger at Wenninger’s Supply, where he did mechanical work and just about everything else for several years.

Freda and Harold were married on August 18, 1935 at her parents’ home by Rev. E. F. Peters. Freda Marie Anna Brune was born on June 2, 1911 at Optima, Oklahoma and was the daughter of Julius William Brune, born April 4, 1883, New Haven, Missouri and Clara Katherine Marie (Freie) Brune, born February 27, 1885, Wellsville. Montgomery County, Missouri. Julius died on June 28, 1952 and Clara died on September 22, 1950 and both are buried in the Cherokee Cemetery.

Freda moved with her folks in her early years by covered wagon from Optima to Kingfisher, Oklahoma and they only lived there for a short while when they moved to the southwest of Cherokee to the Lambert-Yewed communities. She attended the Lambert school. She helped on the farm and worked out in houses keeping for various house people in Cherokee. Her brothers and sisters were: Albert, Edwin, Hilda (Krienke), and Helen (Smith).

Freda and Harold had 3 children; Kenneth Julius born on December 22, 1936, he attended the Lutheran School until the 8th grade then he graduated from the Alva High School in 1954. He went to Seward, Nebraska where he attended the Concordia Teacher’s Lutheran College and graduated in 1958. He taught 2 years at Garland, Nebraska outside of Seward and then went to Paola, Kansas to teach for 9 years before moving to Northville, Michigan and taught for 15 years in a Lutheran School. He is at present a represen-tative of school and civic fund raising pro-grams for Arc-Kon, Inc. in Chicago, Illinois. He married Christine Gretchen (Knispel) on July 4, 1959 at Papillion, Nebraska. She taught 1 year Zion Lutheran Garland, 1/2 year St. Paul Lutheran, First Lutheran 5 years, Public school in Northville 3 years and 13 years St Paul and she now teaches at the Concordia River Forest Lutheran College and is Director of the Early Childhood Department.

They have 3 children: Janise Marie, born on April 5, 1960, married Brett Robert Foreman on July 3, 1982. Brett was born July 19, 1961 and they have a daughter Holly Marie born on July 14, 1983. Janise teaches at St Paul’s 2nd grade at Northville and Brett is a manager of a hardware store and they live in Nori, Michigan. Their second child daughter Elizabeth Ann was born August 21, 1963 she went to the 8th grade at St. Paul of Lutheran School Northville, Michigan. and she graduated in 1985 from Seward, Nebraska, Concordia Teacher’s Lutheran College and she teaches Kindergarten at the Pilgrim Lutheran School at Houston, Texas. Their third child, David John, was born May 2, 1966 graduated from 8th grade at St. Paul’s Lutheran School and graduated from the Northville High school and now attends college at Concordia River Forest College in the Chicago area.

Freda Ann, Harold and Freda’s second child, was born on April 1, 1939, she also attended the Lutheran School until the 8th grade and graduated from the Alva High School in 1956. She attended the Seward Lutheran College as well and graduated in 1960. She taught 1 year at Kansas City, Kansas and 2 years at Orange, California. She now teaches in the Public School system in the 2nd grade and has been for 16 years in Lodi, California. She married David Theodore Mende on June 4, 1961 at the Alva Zion Lutheran church. David was born January 18, 1940 and he graduated from Seward in 1956. He taught at St. John’s Lutheran Parochial School for some years in Orange, California and was principal in the Lutheran School in Lodi and now is the Curriculum Co-ordinator of the Kindergarten through the 12th grade and Supervisor of Math and Computer and Freshman English at Lodi, California.

They have 3 children: Douglas David born February 10, 1963 he attended 2 years at Delta University and graduated from the Redlands University where for 2 years he was in basketball and in the All Conference at large received the Sportsmanship Award for the whole league and was president of the Student Body his senior year. He graduated with a Business Science in Environment degree and now works for Economic Research Institute. Their second child Michael James was born on February 10, 1965, at Orange, California. He attended grade school at St. Peters and graduated from the Lodi High school and attended 3 years at Delta University at Stockton, California and now attends California Poly-Tech University at San Luis Obispo, California majoring in engineering. Their third child Steven Mark was born April 19, 1967 at Lodi and he attended the St. Peters Lutheran elementary school and graduated from the Lodi High School and is attending college at California State University at Sacramento.

Harold and Freda’s youngest child, Ella Louise, was born May 1, 1943 and attended the Lutheran school and graduated from the Alva High School and she attended Northwestern Oklahoma State University for 2 1/2 years and graduated from Seward in 1966. She now teaches at the Lutheran School at Atchison, Kansas in pre-school and has for 10 years. She taught 1 year at Alva then she moved to Annapolis, Maryland and taught 6 years before she moved to Williamsburg, Iowa and taught there for 3 years. She has taught school for 20 1/2 years.

Harold’s wife, Freda, passed August 3, 1985 and is buried in the Zion Lutheran Cemetery and is greatly missed.

Prepared by Harold Lehl, 1987[4]

John and Elizabeth Lehl

John and Elizabeth Lehl came to the United States from Saratov, Russia, Norka (German) Colony. John Lehl came to America in 1885, one year ahead of his family consisting of Elizabeth, his wife, their son John II, and their daughter Christiana. They made their first home in Strang, Nebraska where John Lehl worked for the railroad. During their stay in Nebraska, two more sons were born, Adam and William.

Their next home was in Tacoma, Washington where two more children were added to the Lehl family, George and Elizabeth. The call of the prairie and an opportunity to acquire some land beckoned John Lehl to Oklahoma where he lived with his family in a sod house, south of the town of Burlington, not far from a sister of John’s, Mrs.Schwindt. We grandchildren remember very clearly the huge watermelon, mushmelon and cantaloupes raised on the Schwindt farm. How delicious the taste as we ate our fill under the shade of the great cottonwood trees on a hot summer afternoon.

Another child, Mary, was born to the family.

John Lehl finally acquired a farm of his own, located seven miles east and one mile south of Alva. This land was acquired from the State of Oklahoma School Land Commission. The application was made August 21, 1912. The deed was granted on September 17, 1912. The locality is commonly known as the Ashley Community. Shortly after acquiring the farm in 1907 Mr. Lehl built the house which still stands habitable to this day. A brass plate over the front porch has the year ‘1907’ written on it. It was 1907 that a terrible tornado passed through the Ashley Community killing two children of the Rudy family.

The Lehl name is located on the road which separates Woods and Alfalfa Counties. The Lehl home is located on the west side of the road in Woods County, though much of the family activities involved people residing in Alfalfa County.

After several years of farming, Mr. and Mrs. Lehl became afflicted with rheumatic ailment and had to seek residence in a more suitable climate. A sale of their farming equipment, livestock, and home furnishings was held, and he and his wife moved to Fort Morgan, Col. Browsing through the leaves of a notebook in which Mr. Lehl kept track of articles sold, we find 1 rake, sold to H. Smith, $2.50; 1 mower, sold to Harry Brunstetter, $7.50; 1 2-gang plow, sold to Hugh Martin, $47; 1 Sulkey plow, sold to E. H. Brady, $5; 1 garden plow, sold to J. W. Staker, $2.50; 1 binder, sold to M. B. Crawford, $8; 1 walking plow, sold to J. H. Schwindt, 504; 1 kettle, sold to H. Schick, $3; 1 black mare, sold to M. B. Crawford, $96; 1 5 yr. bay gelding, sold to M. Tatro, $75; 1 2 yr. bay filly, sold to Roy Hall, $40; 1 red cow, sold to J. H. Bagenstos, Jr., $57; 1 red heifer, sold to Mr. Vickers, $54; and 6 doz. chickens (hens), sold to Harry Foster, $51.

During their stay in Colorado, the family farm was cared for by their son, George, who later moved to a farm near Cherokee, Oklahoma.  Coming back to Woods County in 1922 Mr.and Mrs.John Lehl took up residence in Alva, at 927 Maple St. After Mrs. Lehl’s death in 1929 Mr. John Lehl then moved with his son William Lehl and family until 1934 when he moved into a rest home operated by a Mrs. Vincent till his death in 1937.

The family of John and Elizabeth Lehl consisted of twelve children, five of whom died in infancy. The others are John II, Christiana, Adam (their first living child in America), William, George, Elizabeth, and Marie.

John Lehl II married Clara Christoffersen in Tacoma, Washington. Later they came to Avard, Oklahoma where he was the manager of the W. W. Starr Lumber Company. They had two daughters Gladys and Georgia. An only son, John III, died in infancy. They moved back to Washington, and another daughter, Marjorie, was born there. John Lehl II died Jan. 8, 1942. Clara Lehl died Apr. 29, 1971.

Christiana Lehl married Jim Sallee. This family moved to Hutchinson, Kansas. Jim and Christiana had four sons: Charles, Harry, Walter, and Raymond, and two daughters: Pearl and Opal.

Adam Lehl resided in the Ingersoll Community with his wife, the former Flora Beard. They had two sons: John and Verne, and three daughters: Ersel, Ruth, and Elnorma. The family later moved to Scott City, Kansas where Adam died September 1, 1929.

William Lehl married Rocena Wenninger, and they had one son. After Mrs. Lehl passed away William married Pauline Schlegel. To this union were born three sons and three daughters. William and his family moved to the original Lehl family farm in the Ashley community where William resided until his death April 10, 1969.William Lehl was noted for his skill at working with metal and many a neighbor was aided by William’s ability to fix broken machinery. His abilities have been passed on to his sons who are still in the business of sales and repair of machines.

George Lehl was united in marriage to Izora Maddox, and to this union was born one daughter, Laberta.  George farmed the family farm near Ashley when his father was in Colorado. Then George and his family moved to a farm north of Cherokee, Oklahoma. After several years of farming the family moved to Cherokee where George worked at carpentering. George Lehl passed away Apr. 3, 1969.

Elizabeth Lehl was married to Albert Heibert and they lived at Lake Charles, La. Then they moved to Covina, California where Elizabeth died July 1, 1964. To this union were born two sons: Albert Jr. and Elmer, and a daughter Lavina.

Marie Lehl married Pearl Gatchel and resided in Mansfield, Ohio. She married Henry Flora in 1955. He passed away March 5, 1970. Marie is still living in Lancaster, Ohio.

John Lehl used to sit on the south side of the wash house and tell his children and grandchildren of the army of the Czars Millions, as the Russian army was called. He would tell of his forays in the Caucasis Mountains of Southern Russia when they fought the terrible Turks.

When we think of our loved ones who strived to do the best they could to give us a rich heritage, it causes us to stop and ponder: What purpose are we here for? Many things have been accomplished during the space of years recorded by the Lehl family.  In a single lifetime man has advanced in transporting himself by horse and buggy to rocketing to the moon and back home to earth again. All because man can unfalteringly depend upon the love, and wonderful, awful, natural, physical laws of God. John and Elizabeth raised their family and instilled a real pioneering spirit and love of God in their children and their children’s children.

Prepared by The children of William Lehl, 1967[4]

William and Rocena (Wenninger) Lehl

William Lehl was born to John and Elizabeth Lehl on Feb. 21, 1890, at Strang, Nebraska.  William was married to Rocena Wenninger on August 11, 1912. One son Harold Lehl was born to this union. Mrs. Lehl passed away on April 11, 1914.

On November 7, 1914 William Lehl and Pauline Schlegel were married. Pauline came over from Russia and landed in the United States on Thanksgiving Day of 1910. She came over on the invitation of an Aunt and Uncle, Henry Korell, Sr. For a while she worked in Alva for Mrs. Stewart, as a housekeeper. After their marriage, William and Pauline Lehl lived on a farm 6 miles south of Ashley in the Keystone community. Here William engaged in the art of Blacksmithing. He was one of the very few smithies in the country. In the Fall of 1926 the family moved to the present home site 7 miles east of Alva and 1 mile south. Here William continued in the Blacksmith work and took up water well drilling. He continued in this business until health and age forced him to retire. He sold his business to his younger son Carl, who at the present time operates the business in Alva, Oklahoma.

The children of William Lehl enjoyed a family spirit of getting along with what was available throughout the depression years of the 1930s. Mother Lehl always had a big garden and there was always plenty of food on the table. Clothes were sometimes a little worn and patched, but that was life. There was always a herd of cattle with the milking done by all the children in the morning and at night.

The children of William Lehl were: Harold, Elvest, Nellie (Mrs. Harry Lohrding), Freida (Mrs. Fred Staake), and Carl. Two children, Elmer Clarence and Lillian June passed away in infancy.

Prepared by The Lehl children, 1967[4].

Henry and Anna Wagner

Henry and Anna Wagner left Russia in their early 20s and early Spring of 1891 for the United States of America. They had enough of the long hours of toil from sun up to sun down or drudgery of making a living in Russia. They decided there was far greater opportunity in the New World (United States) as the people of Europe had spoken of the United States at that time, including liberty and the pursuits of happiness. It was 5 or 6 months before Henry and Anna set sail for the New World when this 100 year Immunity to Russian military training came to an end, and Henry did not care for any of it. When you were sent to the army in Russia, you went for a period of 10 years and no permission to go home and see your wife, relatives or anybody else. Like doing a ten year stretch in the penitentiary or worse.

In leaving Russia they had to go thru Germany to get to the sea port of Hamburg where they boarded an ocean liner for the New World. It was on there journey to Hamburg, and while crossing Germany when their first child Susanne died of pneumonia and was buried in Germany. Susanne and Mary were the only children born in Russia. Jake, Alex, Sam, Henry, Walter, Matilda, Bertha and Bill (Wm. G.) all born in the United States. Jake was born at Otis, Kansas.

Henry and Anna were thrilled and happy beyond expression when they got their first glimpse at the New World, for a while they could not believe what they were seeing. Russian government officials tried hard to scare them out of going to the New World. They would say: you want to go to that wild unsettled country and get scalped by the Indians. They soon found out there was nothing to this Russian scare. They entered the United States thru Ellis Island, main immigration point. They could not believe there was such a big town as New York over here in this wild country as Russian government officials would have them to believe.

The Russian Government used the number system in drafting men into the army. Henry Wagner drew a high number and knew he had about a year’s time to clear out, get out of Russia. Peter Brack and his family preceded Henry and Anna to the New World (United States) by 20 years. and it is he who Henry wrote to for money to bring his family to Otis, Kansas. After a month or so Henry received tickets for four and a little money to go on until they landed at Otis, Kansas..

After a delay of ten days at Ellis Island, they finally boarded a long passenger train for Great Bend, Olmitz, Glatis, Otis and other towns in that part of Kansas. Were they ever glad that the long tiresome journey from Saratof, Russia came to an end. Henry took a job with the Santa Fe Railroad Company, right away as the Santa Fe was building west. Henry walked three miles to the job for the first three months or more until he could buy himself a horse to ride. Santa Fe was paying $1.25 per 10 hour day – payday was once a month, and paid in gold. After putting in about three years with the Santa Railroad Company, the job was completed.

Henry Gallon, a brother to the late Fred Gallon who located north of Alva, took off several days to make the run in the Cherokee Strip opening and staked a claim 4 miles east and 2 north of Alva, and then went back up to Otis, Kansas to continue with his job as section boss foreman, under whom Henry Wagner worked until the job was completed. There were several other fellows who came down the same time with Henry Gallon but did not stay to prove up their claim. It was then when the Railroad job was completed, and Henry Gallon decided he wanted to go to California instead. He learned that Henry Wagner wanted to go to Oklahoma where land was cheap. It was then when Henry Gallon sold his claim to Henry Wagner for $40.00 known as the old home place and now owned by William G. Wagner “Bill” the youngest of the children. Better known as the SW 1/4 of Sec. 29-28-13. Conrad Brack (better known as Coon Brack) came down the same time and staked a claim NE 1/4 of Sec. 29-28-13 and later known as the Old Walt. Barthelmnew place. Conrad Brack stayed but a few months and returned to Otis, Kansas to enter into business there — later becoming an automobile dealer.

When Conrad Brack heard that Henry Wagner had bought the Gallon claim and was headed for Oklahoma, Brack offered Henry a good milk cow to take along with him as milk and eggs was Henry and Anna Wagner’s  main income for so many years, crop income later. Brack says to Henry this cow needs no introduction to that part of Oklahoma, as she just came from a were ready for the trip down there. So, Henry bought the cow, put a halter on her along with a ten foot rope and tied her to the back of the wagon; few pieces of furniture in the covered wagon and some food –  Henry and Anna Wagner were ready to head for their claim and Alva, Oklahoma. It was the second trip for the big red cow, and the last trip. The cow raised a number of calves.

Henry was a charter member of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church which was organized May 21, 1899 by missionary J. Lill. The first resident pastor was Herman Meier of Lockport, New York, serving the congregation for a period of 14 years.

Prepared by Mr. and Mrs. Bill Wagner, 1987[5].


Some of the Alva/Woods County residents with German-Russian heritage became members of Zion Lutheran Church – Alva. One of the founding members, Henry Wagner, of Zion Lutheran Church – Alva was a German-Russian[7].

I remember many of the people with German-Russian heritage who were neighbors and/or were members of  Zion Lutheran Church – Alva.  I attended the Zion Lutheran School with: Dean Horner, Kenneth and Frieda Lehl, Pat and Joan Wagner. Pete Hort was a chef who master minded the Zion Lutheran Men’s Club annual  “Chicken Noodle Supper”.

Harold Lehl was my father’s, best friend. Dad would tell stories about the adventures they had when they traveled together to the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Both Harold and my Dad had similar mechanical interests – Dad had his own shop including welding equipment and a forge for repairing his own farm equipment. Harold operated a commercial machine shop and when dad had a difficult problem he would consult with Harold.  When I was young, our two families would exchange regular visits.


1886-1999 – From the opening of the Cherokee Strip to the 100 year celebration.


Alva and Woods County, Oklahoma.


  1. Dianna Everett. GERMANS FROM RUSSIA. Oklahoma Historical Society. Downladed from: October 26, 2017.
  2. For a more detailed description of German-Russians , see:: William C. Sherman, The Germans from Russia, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection. North Dakota State University Library 1987.
  3. See Also:  Renee M. Laegreid. GERMAN RUSSIANS University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  4. Cherokee Strip Volunteer League. “Pioneer Footprints Across Woods County”, 1976.[6]
  5. Seekers of Oklahoma Heritage Association. “The First 100 Years of Alva, Oklahoma. 1886-1986″  Curtis Media Corporation, Dallas, Texas, 1987.[6]
  6. The biographies were reformatted as well as various spelling, grammar and other modifications were made.
  7. Zion Lutheran Church – Alva, Oklahoma 100 year celebration book “Zion Lutheran Church 1899-1999 Alva, OK”.
  8. “Alva, Woods Co., Oklahoma “The Center for Vloga German Studies At Concordia University Downloaded from October 26, 2017.
  9. Germans From Russia,  GENEALOGICAL REsEARCH OUTLINE, Family History Library. Down Loaded from October 26, 2017.
  10. Joel Clemmer. FRAKTUR AND THE RUSSIAN-GERMANS  FrakturWeb  Down Loaded from October 26, 2017.
  11. Maps down loaded 11 Nov 2017 from Maps ‘n’ More Created By Sharon McAllister at

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