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THE town of Pfeifer is located ten miles south of Victoria on the south bank of the Smoky Hill River. The inhabitants of this town are for the greater part descendants of the German-Russians who emigrated here from the towns of Pfeifer, Kamenka, Semenoka and Rothamel in Russia.
Among the founders of the colony are numbered some of the very first of the Germans to leave Russia. They were the following men and their families: Joseph Stremel, Michael Meder, and Mathias Urban of Kamenka, and Christ Stegman of Pfeifer, Russia. They left their homes in October, 1875. At Saratov they were joined by the party of Justus Bissing and the others from Katharinenstadt, and at Bremen they united with a still larger group of emigrants from Herzog and other towns. With these they took-passage on the "Ohio," a ship of the North-German Lloyd line, sailing from Bremen on the second of November, and arriving at Baltimore on the twenty-third of the same month. Soon after they came to Topeka. Joseph Stremel afterwards left Topeka and remained in Herzog, Kansas, until 1877, when he removed to Pfeifer. The other three remained in Topeka until later in the year when a larger contingent from the west side of the Volga arrived. Then they accompanied them and assisted in the founding of the colony of Pfeifer.
The large group just mentioned left Saratov in the middle of June, 1876. It included: Andrew Desch, George Etzel, Anton Holzmeister, Gottlieb Jacobs. Joseph Jacobs, Matthew Jacobs, Michael Jacobs, George Schmidt, John Schmidt, Joseph Schmidt, Jacob Schoenfeld, all of Pfeifer, Russia, and John Meder and John Schlieter of Kamenka, The party also contained a large number of other families, but only the thirteen mentioned came immediately to Pfeifer and assisted in the founding of the place.
After their long journey from Russia the party arrived in Topeka on the twenty-third of July, and about a month later they came to Hays. Here the party separated, the thirteen mentioned in the list going to the site chosen for the colony of Pfeifer. Here they immediately set to work to erect such buildings as their means would allow.
During the following three years other settlers came in several groups so that when the period of mass emigration ended about 1878, the colony numbered 41 families, making a total of 171 souls.
Like the settlers of some of the other colonies, the people had some difficulties as to the location and naming of their town. The original site chosen by the first founders was in Section 25-14-17 of Freedom Township. The section had been railroad land, and was to be paid for in eleven annual installments. It was divided into shares so as to make the burden of the cost proportionate to the amount of land held by each. Trouble soon arose from the fact that some of the landholders were not able to pay for their shares. Others, too, objected to the location of the town, so finally, in 1884, the colony moved bodily to the northwest quarter of Section 36, which is the present site of the town. This quarter had been obtained by John Schlieter on the homestead plan. He divided the land into shares 44 feet wide and running the full length of the quarter. For every share he gave a deed of ownership to the purchaser on receipt of the purchase money.
The subsequent history of the town resembles so closely that of some of the other colonies that it is hardly necessary to follow it up in detail. The beginnings in every line were humble, and the good fortune of one year was often more than wiped out by successive failures of the following ones. But through all the hard times the people, with their characteristic perseverance, succeeded in making ends meet and now have as reward for their labors a comfortable but unpretentious little town surrounded by the fertile fields and farms from which they have wrested a livelihood.
Even more gratifying than the material prosperity of the village is the progress that has been made in the line of religion and education. Like in the other settlements it was impossible to obtain a priest immediately to attend to the spiritual needs of the people. A regularly organized school, too, was entirely out of the question, in the early time of pioneering. But education was not long neglected - the settlers saw clearly the necessity of training the mind and soul as well as the bodies of their children and lost little time in making provisions for this training. The parochial school at Pfeifer at present is a credit to the town and the results obtained there show that the efforts of the educators have not been in vain.
The first priest to attend the colony was the Rev. Father Sommereisen, who ministered there during the latter part of the year 1876 until the place was taken over by the Capuchins of the St. Augustine Province. In 1883 the secular priests of the diocese took charge. With the exception of one year they continued the work until 1892. In this year the Capuchins again took the place and labored in the mission until 1906, when Father Peter Burkhart, a secular priest, was made resident pastor. For twenty years he filled the post and was succeeded by the Rev. Father Weber who is now the pastor of the town.
The parish church, dedicated to the Holy Cross, was built in 1917-1918, and is a most artistic example of the gothic style of architecture. It was built under the able direction of the Rev. Father Burkhart. It stands and will stand for years, a lasting monument to the strong and lively faith of the people whose generosity and self-denial have made its erection possible.
Picture: Church of the Holy Cross, Pfeifer, Ellis County, Kansas
Picture: Holy Cross Church, Pfeifer, Kansas
Picture: View of Pfeifer, Ellis County, Kansas Group of Surviving Immigrants, Pfeifer, Kansas
Picture: Pfeifer Deceased -
1-2. John George and Anna Maria Urban; 3-4. John and Anna Schlieter; 5-6. Michael and Catharine Meder; 7-8. John and Elizabeth Basgall; 9-10. (Not identified); 11-12. Peter and Barbara Roth; 13-14. Mr. and Mrs. John Breit; 15-16. Mr. and Mrs. S. Urban; 17-18. Mr. and Mrs. John Basgall; 19-20. Gottlieb and Anna Maria Jacob; 21. Mariann Roth; 22. Peter Jacob; 23-24. Mr. and Mrs. George A. Urban; 25-26. Andreas and Anna Maria Jacob; 27-28. Joseph and Barbara Stroemal; 29. Mrs. Andreas Urban; 31. John Peter Breit; 32. Michael Roth; 33. John Basgall
Transcribed from The Golden Jubilee of German-Russian Settlements of Ellis and Rush Counties, Kansas, August 31, September 1 and 2, 1926
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