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German Settlements

St. Peter’s Cathedral, Muenster, constructed 1909.
Frank Korvemaker (Heritage Branch)

A considerable proportion of German immigrants came directly from German colonies in Russia, or indirectly via Russian-German settlements in the United States. Following her direction of the Russian conquest of Turkish-held territories north of the Black Sea from 1763 to 1774, Empress Catherine II wished to rapidly resettle Russia’s new annexations with agricultural people loyal to her. As a result, an invitation was extended to farmers in Central Europe to establish ethnic colonies in Russia, on condition that they would enjoy religious freedom, no Taxation for ten years, freedom from serfdom, and permission to emigrate from Russia after paying all debts to the Crown. The first colonies in Russia were organized on the Volga by Germans from the largely Protestant region of Hessia between 1764 and 1778. These “Wolga-Deutsche” (Volga Germans) were to be distinguished from the “Schwarzmeer-Deutsche” (Black Sea Germans) who settled later north of the Black Sea. In this latter region, colonies were founded by German and Swedish Lutherans from the Baltic coast (1787–1804); German Catholics and Lutherans from predominantly Protestant Prussia, and from mixed Catholic-Protestant Alsace-Lorraine, Rhineland, Baden-Wurttemberg, Switzerland, Silesia, Bohemia, Posen, and central Poland (1789–1855); Mennonites from East and West Prussia (1790–1854); Hutterites of Austrian and Moravian origin (1843); Jews (1809–50); as well as Bulgarians and other ethnic groups.

Interior of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Watson.
Watson and District Heritage Museum

Among the specific factors causing Germans to emigrate from their colonies in Russia may be mentioned: the progressive deprivation of rights and privileges granted by Catherine II, particularly the ukase of June 4, 1871, which subjected Russian-Germans to military service, removed their right to extensive political autonomy, and increased pressure toward Russification in Community Schools. Germans were forced to emigrate from their colonies in other regions in Eastern Europe—including Bessarabia (today in Moldavia and Ukraine), Dobruja (now in Romania), Bukowina (Ukraine), Galicia (Ukraine), Volhynia (Ukraine), Transylvania (Romania), and Banat (Romania and Yugoslavia)—for similar and other reasons. For example, in Dobruja, a severe drought in 1884 and the imposition of military service the previous year added to the existing problem of land shortage.

These German Lutherans (the Adam and Dietrich families) immigrated in the 1890s and settled in the Landestreu district near Langenburg. This 1911 photo shows the new home of the Adam family.
Ninita Hautz

The German influx into the United States from Eastern Europe may have reached 200,000 annually during the early 1880s. Large areas of the Dakotas and Minnesota were converted into replicas of the Russian-German colonies. Until the notion of German separatism became passé with the assimilated third and fourth generations and with the surge of anti-German feeling during World War I, the homes, schools, ethnic press, voluntary associations, and churches in these settlements all collaborated in an attempt to preserve German identity, promote a segregated German lifestyle, and prevent intermarriage with non-Germans. Even political separatism was persistently encouraged, and as late as 1862 attempts were made to have German become an official language.

As for the Germans who then migrated into Saskatchewan from the United States (many of whom had previously moved from Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, within the same generation), the increasing problem of finding large tracts of good agricultural land caused many to look north at the rapidly developing Canadian west. Germans, from whatever specific origin, were lured to Saskatchewan because of: the ready availability of inexpensive, good farmland; solicitation by Canadian immigration authorities and agencies; the promise of exemption from the military service feared in so many European regions; the encouragement of prominent Germans invited to tour the west and to organize large colonies (notably Count Hohenlohe-Langenburg, president of the German Colonial Association, and F.J. Lange, a founder of the Catholic Colonization Society); the successful precedent set by the earliest German settlers; and the influence of German newspapers and writers.

Most of the Germans who settled in Saskatchewan did not immigrate directly from Germany. In 1916 only 15,328 residents of the prairie provinces gave Germany as their country of birth, whereas 101,944 indicated that German was their mother tongue. According to one estimate, only 12% of the ethnic German immigrants who arrived in western Canada before 1914 were Reichsdeutsche (homeland Germans) from Germany; the remainder were mostly Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) from Eastern Europe—44% from Russia, 18% from the Austrian Empire (Austria-Hungary), 6% from Romania—and another 18% came from the United States. Among the reasons why relatively few immigrants from Germany came to Saskatchewan were ignorance of Canada, fear of the northern climate, and the German government’s discouragement of emigration.

Some of the German settlements in Saskatchewan were homogeneous in both religious affiliation and precise regional origin (such as those founded by immigrants from a specific religious colony in, for example, southern Russia); but other settlements revealed mixed origins yet common Religion, or conversely common origin yet mixed religious affiliations. On the whole, though, German Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Mennonites, and Hutterites tended to form their own settlements or colonies. Many of the German immigrants concentrated in their own bloc settlements; many others did not, electing to settle in ethnically heterogeneous areas. Some settlements were planned; other German concentrations came into existence gradually through chain migration.

German Catholic Settlements

Four major settlements of German Catholics developed in Saskatchewan: St. Joseph’s Colony near Balgonie, immediately east of Regina, and the adjoining Katharinental, Kronau-Rastadt, and Odessa colonies, in 1886–1904; St. Peter’s Colony, centred on the town of Humboldt in north-central Saskatchewan, in 1902–12; a second St. Joseph’s Colony, in the west-central region, in 1905–10; and a series of adjoining colonies in the area around Prelate in southwestern Saskatchewan, in 1907–13.

St. Joseph’s Colony, Katharinental Colony, Kronau-Rostadt, and Odessa (1886–1904). St. Joseph’s Colony near Balgonie originated in 1886 with the arrival of families who had migrated from the Josephstal Colony near Odessa in South Russia or Ukraine, founded by Catholics from Alsace and southwestern Germany in 1804. The settlers decided in June 1891 to organize a dorf (communal village clustered around a church) in Russian-German style, remnants of which still exist. Between 1890 and 1893, more families arrived from the communities of Rastadt and Munchen (founded in 1809 in the Beresaner colonies northwest of Nikolayev, by immigrants originally from the Palatinate, Baden and Alsace), as well as from Klosterdorf (founded in 1805 by Catholic settlers from Austria, Swabia, and southwestern Germany). These Schwarzmeerdeutsche (Black Sea Germans) settled south of St. Joseph’s Colony, establishing St. Peter’s parish by 1894. Some of these Russian-German immigrants decided to form dorfs similar to St. Joseph’s: Rastadt-Dorf, Katharinental (named after the original community of Katharinental in the Beresaner colonies), and Speyer (named after another community in the same area in South Russia). The villages of Davin, Rastadt, and Kronau came into existence, the latter two named after communities in South Russia (the Kronau colony in South Russia, west of Nikopol, had been founded in 1870 mostly by Baden-Wurttembergers).

This Russian-German Catholic settlement in Saskatchewan expanded rapidly southeast to Vibank, Odessa (named after the principal port-city on the Black Sea), and Kendal, as well as south toward Sedley and Francis. By 1896 there were already more than 200 German families in this region, almost all of them Catholic immigrants from German colonies in south Russia. From 1971 census data, we may discern that of the seven incorporated towns or villages within the settlement, four had German majorities (60–80%)—Kendal, Vibank, Odessa, and White City—while Francis, Sedley and Balgonie had substantial German minorities (between a quarter and almost half of the total population).

St. Peter’s Colony (1902–). The settlers of St. Peter’s Colony came largely from the American states. With the rapid opening of Saskatchewan to settlement during the 1890s, German settlers from the closest American states began to move north; in many instances they sent petitions to their former parishes for further immigrants to found new colonies. One such petition was received by a Benedictine priest in Minnesota, who then persuaded his superior, the abbot at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota to establish a German Catholic colony in Saskatchewan. This abbey was in the heart of a large German Catholic colony. An exploration party was sent to Saskatchewan, headed by Rev. Bruno Doerfler and consisting of representatives from several parishes. Upon their return to Minnesota, the decision to establish the colony was made and the Volksverein German-American Land Company was founded. In 1902 this company, in conjunction with the priests of the Order of St. Benedict and the Catholic Settlement Society of St. Paul, Minnesota obtained colonization rights to a vast area in north-central Saskatchewan: fifty townships, covering 1,800 square miles. The German-American Land Company was responsible for buying 100,000 acres of railroad lands in the district selected and for selling it to settlers desiring more than the usual quarter-section homestead. The priests were to develop parishes and be primarily responsible for the expansion of the settlement. The Catholic Settlement Society extensively advertised the venture and assisted the settlers in filing for their homesteads.

With the arrival of the Benedictines from Cluny Priory, Wetaug, Illinois in the new colony in 1902, and from Collegeville, Minnesota the following year, settlement was under way. By the end of 1903, over a thousand homesteads had been filed and eight parishes established: St. Peter’s monastery and parish at Muenster, St. Boniface (Leofeld), St. Benedict, Englefeld, Annaheim, Bruno, St. Joseph (Old Fulda), and Marysburg. Within five years after the commencement of settlement, there were over 6,000 German Catholics in the colony. Most were second- or third-generation German-Americans whose forefathers had immigrated from the Reich and who arrived from Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas; but some were from Russian-German colonies from the Banat region (today in Yugoslavia and Romania). The Order of St. Benedict in the colony had been incorporated in 1904 as a complex organization of governing schools, associations, and whole communities. A German-language newspaper, Der Bote, began publication at Muenster the same year. Humboldt was being converted from a “wilderness of sloughs and bluffs” into the largest town in the region (with a population of over 2,000 by 1914). A dozen more parishes had been added in 1904–07: Lake Lenore and St. John Baptist (Willmont; Humboldt, Watson, St. Martin, St. Scholastica, St. Patrick’s, and St. Oswald Immaculate Conception; and Dana, St. Gregor, and St. Bernard (Old Pilger).

During the next few years the colony continued to expand and its German identity was further ensured. Another four parishes came into being in 1908–12: St. Leo (St. Meinrad), St. Gertrude, Carmel, Peterson, and Cudworth. The first Katholikentag, a conference of German-Catholics, was held at Muenster in 1908, with delegates from various settlements in Saskatchewan as well as from Minnesota and Manitoba; other Katholikentage were held at Humboldt in 1910 and 1914. In 1909 the Volksverein, a German-Catholic voluntary association, was formed in Winnipeg; it was to play an active role in St. Peter’s Colony for many years. It was during this period that two women’s religious orders were imported from Europe: in 1911 a few Sisters of St. Elizabeth, from Klagenfurt, Austria, immigrated to Humboldt, where they founded the first of a series of Hospitals; and a couple of years later Ursuline nuns left their convents at Cologne and Hasseluene, Germany, to organize a convent and St. Henry’s School at Marysburg, and in 1919 moved to Bruno, where they established a large convent and Ursuline Academy. In spite of the effect of World War I on discouraging the preservation of the German identity, the colony continued to maintain a distinctly Catholic, if not German, character and to expand. In 1922 Der Bote became an English language publication, the Prairie Messenger (Der Bote had been defunct since 1918 due to legislation against printing in German). The last important Katholikentag was held at Muenster in 1933. By 1951–52, the remnants of the Volksverein were merged with the Catholic Immigration Society for western Canada. But progress as a colony was also evident. In 1921 the settlement was declared an “abbacy nullius,” equivalent to an autonomous bishopric. St. Peter’s College was founded at Muenster in 1920, and new parishes continued to be established in 1925–36: Naicam and Holy Family Mission, St. Benedict, Pilger, St. James, and Middle Lake.

Relatively few of the settlers of St. Peter’s Colony had immigrated directly from Europe: they came primarily from Minnesota and the Dakotas, although some of these German-Americans were first generation. Today the German Catholic population of St. Peter’s Colony, one of the largest German bloc settlements in Saskatchewan, is estimated at close to 19,000. Included are three towns (Humboldt, Cudworth and Bruno), seven incorporated villages (Lake Lenore, Middle Lake, Muenster, Annaheim, Englefeld, St. Gregor, and St. Benedict), four unincorporated villages and hamlets (Carmel, Pilger, Fulda, and Mayrsburg), and over a hundred named localities. In addition to the German Catholics of St. Peter’s Colony proper, there are several thousand people of German origin in the adjacent areas to the south and east. In 1971 the German proportion in communities within St. Peter’s Colony ranged from approximately half (in Humboldt) to well over 80% (e.g., at Pilger).

St. Joseph’s Colony at Kerrobert (1905–10). Only a couple of years after the inception of St. Peter’s Colony, plans were already being made for the establishment of an even larger German Catholic colony. F.J. Lange, a founder of the Catholic Colonization Society, conceived the idea of a vast German Catholic colony covering 200 townships—about four times as large as St. Peter’s Colony. During the summer of 1904, Lange selected the Tramping Lake area in west-central Saskatchewan as the focal point for a new colony. The resulting St. Joseph’s Colony covered a larger land area than St. Peter’s Colony, making it the largest German Catholic settlement in Saskatchewan in this sense; but it never attained the population of its predecessor. Lange’s high expectations were not entirely fulfilled, and government officials agreed to the bloc purchase by the Catholic Colonization Society of seventy-seven townships, of which fifty-five (equivalent to the extent of St. Peter’s Colony) eventually had German majorities. As in St. Peter’s Colony, the Catholic Colonization Society collaborated with a religious order—in this case the Oblate Order from Hunfeld, Germany—in the planning, development and settling of St. Joseph’s Colony. The first settlers arrived in the Tramping Lake area in early summer 1905. The colony did not develop quite as rapidly as St. Peter’s Colony, but by 1911 it included over 5,000 people of German origin, and an estimated 7,000–8,000 by 1914. Most of these settlers were Black Sea Germans, many of the first arrivals in 1905-08 migrating after first settling in the Dakotas, whereas later arrivals in 1908-10 tended to come directly from South Russia.

The parishes comprising St. Joseph’s Colony were St. Paschal (Leipzig), St. Michael (Tramping Lake), St. Franziskus (Ulrich), Our Lady of the Assumption (Handel), Our Blessed Lady of Mount Carmel (Karmelheim), Broadacres, St. Francis Regis/The Assumption of Our Lady (Kerrobert), Sacred Heart (Denzil), St. Henry (Leibel), St. Anthony (Grosswerder), St. Peterskirche/St. Peter’s and St. Donatus (near Cactus Lake), St. Elizabeth (Primate), St. Mary (Macklin), St. Johannes/St. John, Holy Rosary/Rosenkranz (Reward), St. Charles/Selz (Revenue), Our Lady of Fatima (Landis), Holy Martyrs (Luseland), St. Joseph (Scott), St. Peter (Unity), and St. James (Wilkie). Beyond the original boundaries of the colony were to be found Our Lady of Lourdes (Coleville), Our Lady of Grace (Dodsland), Immaculate Conception (Major), and an early mission at Ermine. Within or at the periphery of St. Joseph’s Colony there are today six towns and thirteen villages. Among towns, in 1971 Macklin had the highest proportion of German population (almost 70%); Luseland, Wilkie and Scott had proportions in the 40–49% range; while in Unity and Kerrobert about one-third of the population was of German origin. Among villages, there was wide variation in the German proportion: seven villages were predominantly German, with the highest proportions (80–100%) at Leipzig, Primate, and Tramping Lake.

The Prelate Colony (1907–13). As the settlement process in St. Joseph’s Colony was nearing completion, a fourth major German Catholic colony—or rather a series of colonies—developed around Prelate in southwestern Saskatchewan. As early as 1889 a large Russian-German settlement of migrants from Volhynia and Galicia began to develop just across the border in Alberta; eventually a very extensive expanse of territory on both sides of the border (between Leader, Maple Creek and Medicine Hat) would be settled primarily by Russian-Germans. Beginning in 1908, Russian-German Catholics established a series of colonies and parishes on the Saskatchewan side, which included: the original parishes of Sts. Peter and Paul at Blumenfeld (1908); St. Francis Xavier at Prelate (1910); Prussia Colony, centred on Leader (1919); St. Anthony, serving Mendham and the Speyer district (1914); Immaculate Conception at Krassna (1911); Sacred Heart at Liebenthal (1914); St. Mary at Rosenthal (1913); St. Mary at Richmond (1912); Sacred Heart at Lancer (1918); St. Joseph at Shackleton (1916); St. Joseph at Josephtal (1915); Holy Trinity at Rastadt (1922); and Maple Creek (1913). Later parishes included St. Mary at Fox Valley (1929), St. John at Johnborough (1943), St. Mary at Lemsford (1948), Golden Prairie (1949), and St. Michael at Burstall (1969).

Liebenthal was named after Liebenthal, Kansas, from which some of the settlers had migrated; this Russian-German colony in the United States had been established by migrants from the Liebenthal group of Catholic colonies immediately west of Odessa, founded in 1804–06 largely by migrants from Alsace and southwestern German regions. Germans from a variety of regions had settled in central Poland between 1795 and 1806, then moved to establish colonies in the southern Bessarabian region southwest of the Liebenthal colonies after 1814. These Bessarabian colonists were the forefathers of the settlers of the Krassna, Rastadt and Rosenthal districts in Saskatchewan; the original Krassna Colony had been founded near Akkerman (Belgorod Dnestrovskiy) in Bessarabia in 1815. While these adjoining colonies around Prelate were predominantly Catholic, they included several pockets of strongly Protestant settlement. In 1971 people of German origin comprised a majority of the population at Leader; villages having the highest German proportions were Mendham (82.9%), Richmound (76.2%), Lancer (73.2%), Prelate (64.3%), and Fox Valley (60.4%). Besides these rural parishes, there are other districts in the region with substantial German proportions: Krupp, Rosenfeld, Sagathun, and Kuest. Rural depopulation has taken a severe toll on the rural parishes comprising the settlement. One by one, country churches have been closed and occasionally even removed or demolished, such as at Rosenthal in 1943, Krassna in 1944, Josephstal and Rastadt in 1962, Shackleton in 1963, Johnsborough in 1967, Lemsford in 1982, and Speyer in 2001.

Smaller Catholic Settlements. While the four major German Catholic settlements were developing, a number of smaller Catholic concentrations came into existence. One of the earliest was the Grayson-Killaly area immediately south of Melville, settled largely by Volksdeutsche from Bukovina, Bessarabia, Galicia, and Poland. Grayson, first settled in 1896, was first called Nieven, but was renamed in 1903. The Mariahilf Catholic Colony outside Killaly was founded in 1900. The Killaly Catholic parish came into being in 1910, and Grayson and Goodeve (northwest of Melville) also had Catholic churches. In 1971 two-thirds of the population of Grayson were of German extraction, compared to about 70% in Killaly.

Another small German Catholic colony, St. Aloysius, developed around the town of Allan in 1903-07; approximately half of the population of Allan is of German descent. All across the southernmost regions of Saskatchewan small German Catholic concentrations soon came into existence. To the southwest, German Catholics began to settle near Shaunavon in 1907-08, and established a strongly German Catholic parish in 1914, assisted by German religious orders; in 1971, about one in five people in Shaunavon was of German origin. Another four German Catholic parishes or missions were established in this region between 1910 and 1921.

In the south-central region, Russian-Germans founded Billimun Colony in 1910, near Mankota. Hungarian Germans founded St. Elizabeth Colony in 1908 near Glen Bain. German Catholics also settled in 1908–14 around numerous communities in this region; many of them came from the midwestern United States, particularly from German-American settlements founded by immigrants from the original German colonies in Russia. But in all of these communities, people of German origin now constitute only a minority. In the northwestern region of the Saskatchewan prairie, the St. Walburg area was first settled between 1901 and 1912 by people of German origin, primarily Catholics from the Reich, Bavaria, Austria, and Luxemburg. German settlement in this region developed gradually in several stages. German Catholics settled around Goodsoil, about 100 km north of St. Walburg, during the 1920s, and later around the neighbouring community of Peerless, as well as further west with Mennonites around Pierceland, near the Alberta border. In 1929, immigrants arrived directly from Germany (mostly from Thuringen, but also from Holstein, Westfalen, Mecklenburg and the Baltic coast) to establish the Loon River settlement between St. Walburg and the more northerly communities mentioned. These immigrants, as well as the Germans around Goodsoil, apparently were ardent nationalists: Goodsoil boasted the strongest Deutscher Bund chapter in the entire province; and strong Ortsgruppen (chapters having at least fifteen members) were organized at Loon River, St. Walburg, and Paradise Hill, as well as a Stützpunkt (chapters having from five to fifteen members) at Blue Bell near Pierceland. In view of their strong pro-National Socialist sentiments, the Loon River Germans decided in 1939 to return Heim ins Reich—home to the Reich. However, a German presence in this particular district was maintained, the return migrants being replaced in 1938-39 by German refugees from the Sudetenland, newly annexed to the Reich. In 1971, people of German origin constituted little more than a quarter of the population of St. Walburg, but almost two-thirds of Goodsoil and a majority of the population in the Barthel-Loon River district. Finally it should be noted that throughout Saskatchewan substantial Lutheran minorities often developed within predominantly Catholic German settlements.

German Protestant Settlements

Lutherans, Baptists and Adventists of German descent established four principal colonies plus numerous smaller concentrations. The major Protestant settlements (excluding Mennonites and Hutterites) were established almost simultaneously: Neu Elsass (1884), Hohenlohe (1885), Edenwold (1885), and the Volga German Colony (1887).

Neu Elsass Colony (1884–). The Neu Elsass (New Alsace) Colony was the first German colony to develop in Saskatchewan. In 1884 twenty-two families took up homesteads around Strasbourg, approximately 80 km north of Regina; they were led by D.W. Riedl, an enterprising German immigration agent from Winnipeg. This community may have been named after Strasbourg, the principal city of the German-speaking province of Alsace in France; however, it is more likely that both community and colony were named after the communities of Strassburg and Elsass, within the Kurtschurgan colonies northwest of Odessa, in South Russia, which had in turn been established by Alsatian migrants back in 1808–09. Still another possibility is that, given the fact that some of the settlers in this colony in Saskatchewan came from Russian-German colonies in the United States, the Alsatian nomenclature may have been imported into Saskatchewan from any of several American colonies, founded by immigrants ultimately of Alsatian origin (in Kansas and the Dakotas).

The original bounds of Neu Elsass Colony (ca. 1885) included Strasbourg, Duval, Bulyea, Earl Grey, Gibbs, Silton, Dilke, Holdfast, Penzance, and Liberty—in other words, the region around the central and southern portion of Last Mountain Lake. But the area of German settlement expanded into surrounding areas, in effect doubling its territory. The settlement remains predominantly Lutheran; some communities and districts are strongly Lutheran, such as Strasbourg, Markinch, and the Fairy Hill district; and Lutherans also settled around Duval, Govan, Earl Grey, Southey, Cupar, and Lipton. Baptists concentrated around Serath, Gregherd, Southey, Earl Grey (where a Baptist congregation actually had been founded originally not by Germans but by Swedes in 1906), Nokomis, and later Strasbourg. Yet certain communities west of Last Mountain Lake were strongly Catholic. In Strasbourg itself, a Lutheran church was built in 1907, followed by a Baptist one in 1927, a Catholic one in 1943, and an Adventist in 1953. The highest German-origin proportion is found at Markinch, where in 1971 three-quarters of the population claimed German descent, and at Southey, where two-thirds claimed German descent. Chamberlain, Earl Grey, Holdfast, and Lipton were predominantly German, while people of German origin comprised 40% at Duval and approximately one-third at Strasbourg, Nokomis, Aylesbury, and Quinton.

Hohenlohe Colony (1885–). The Hohenlohe Colony began to develop around Langenburg, close to the Manitoba border, at the same time that the Neu Elsass Colony was developing. It was named after Count Hohenlohe-Langenburg, president of the German Colonial Association, who had toured the West and encouraged German settlement. Under the guidance of D.W. Riedl (the immigration agent also instrumental in the founding of Neu Elsass Colony), German Lutherans began to settle around Langenburg in 1885, in the Landshut, Hoffenthal, Hoffnungsthal, Berisena, and Landestreu districts; they came not only from Germany, but also from “Russian” colonies (actually in Ukraine). While the colony retained a Lutheran majority, in 1889 Catholics from Bavaria and the Black Sea colonies arrived. The Russian-German proportion here was further augmented with the arrival of settlers from the Bessarabian colonies in 1891; by 1896 the colony included fifty to sixty Russian-German families, with approximately 300 members. A unique self-help organization which came into being in this colony in the early pioneering years was the Germania Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Langenburg, first advocated in 1909 by George Haas, a prominent farmer in the Hoffenthal district, who had migrated from Menno, South Dakota. Today both the town of Langenburg and the village of MacNutt retain German majorities.

The Volga German Colony North of Yorkton (1887–). Only a couple of years after the Hohenlohe and Neu Elsass Colonies first began to develop, Baptist immigrants from the Volga colonies in Russia (Wolgadeutsche) settled around Ebenezer. The Russian colonies from which they emigrated had been founded in 1764–68 near Saratov, mostly by Protestant and Catholic migrants from Hessia. A strong Volga Baptist colony grew in the area around Ebenezer, Gorlitz, Hampton, Rhein, and Springside; whereas to the east, Volga Lutherans concentrated around Rhein, Stornoway, Runnymede, and Togo, where they merged with the German Lutherans of the Hohenlohe Colony to the south. A Lutheran parish was first organized at Runnymede in 1917; this congregation joined with the Togo Lutherans in 1921, and both were served by an itinerant pastor based at Rhein. In addition to these Volga Germans of Baptist or Lutheran religion, Volhynian Germans settled in Yorkton. Expansion of the vast Ukrainian settlement around Yorkton has steadily diminished the German proportion in these communities: none of them now retain German majorities, although in 1971 almost half of the residents at Rhein and Ebenezer claimed German origin.

Edenwold Colony (1885–). In 1885 a group of Baptist immigrants from the region of Dobruja, in Romania, founded the colony of New Tulcea (later renamed Edenwald, then misspelled Edenwold), northeast of the city of Regina. Migrants from the German colonies near Odessa in Bessarabia had resettled in Dobruja during the 1840s-50s. During the 1860s, Baptist missionaries from the Danzig congregation in Russia were responsible for creating a Baptist majority in Kataloi colony and a significant Baptist proportion in the other two Protestant colonies, Atmagea and Cincurova. Religious quarrels as well as difficult economic and political conditions (Dobruja became part of Romania in 1878, bringing about revoking of privileges, restriction of landholdings, and state control of schools) resulted in the emigration of Germans from Dobruja to North Dakota in 1884 and Saskatchewan in 1885. Gradually, the Saskatchewan colony became more heterogeneous in terms of both the origins of its German population and their religious preferences. The colony’s name was changed by German immigrants from Bukovina; other Germans arrived from German colonies in Poland, Galicia, and Russia, and from Germany. A strong Lutheran congregation had been formed by 1893, and Adventists concentrated in the area of Edenwold village. Two-thirds of the population of Edenwold were still of German origin in 1971. The other communities in the settlement (Frankslake, Zehner, and Avonhurst) are unincorporated hamlets.

Other German Lutheran Concentrations. A variety of other, smaller German Lutheran settlements developed across Saskatchewan. In southeastern Saskatchewan, a concentration of German Lutherans and other German Protestants plus some Catholics, developed around Lampman and nearby communities. Yet none of the unincorporated communities in this area still retain a German majority: Germans constituted a third of the population at Lampman in 1971 and less than a quarter in Estevan, but only a smaller minority at Alameda, Roche Percee, Bienfait, Oxbow, Benson, Stoughton, and Arcola. Volga Germans settled in the Arcola area. German and Norwegian Lutherans settled together in a number of communities in southern Saskatchewan, such as at Torquay, Oungre, Tribune, Bromhead, Minton, Lake Alma, Gladmar, and Regway, to the west of Estevan; at Midale, between Estevan and Weyburn; and at Ibsen and Lang near Yellow Grass, northwest of Weyburn. In all of these mixed communities, German population comprised only a small minority in 1971; the highest proportion was attained at Torquay, where a quarter was German. Volhynian Germans, mostly Lutherans but including some Catholics, settled around Yellow Grass as early as 1895; there their descendants made up a little over a quarter of the village population in 1971.

German concentrations in the south-central region tended to be predominantly Catholic, but small concentrations of Lutherans were found in the Spring Valley-Ormiston area, as well as at Pangman, Mossbank, Assiniboia and Coronach. Further west, a predominantly Lutheran settlement of Volga Germans emerged around Hodgeville; German Lutherans mixed with Mennonites at Hodgeville, Kelstern, St. Boswells, Vogel, and with both Mennonites and Adventists at Flowing Well. Lutheran settlement extended north to the Chaplin-Ernfold-Uren area, and Lutheran minorities were found within extensive Mennonite settlement in the Swift Current and Vermillion Hills regions (Swift Current, Waldeck, Herbert, Stewart Valley, Central Butte). Further west, in southwestern Saskatchewan, German Lutherans settled around Gull Lake-Simmie-Illerbrun (named after an early settler from North Dakota in 1907), and Maple Creek; and Russian-Germans settled south of the Cypress Hills around Consul-Vidora-Robsart. North of Maple Creek, within a predominantly Catholic settlement, Burstall was a largely Lutheran community; a Lutheran congregation came into existence at Mendham in 1914 and an Evangelical one the next year; while Leader had Lutheran, Apostolic, and United Brethren churches in additions to its strong Catholic parish.

Just across the South Saskatchewan River to the north from Leader, the Eatonia-Dankin-Glidden area was settled by Lutherans as well as by Catholics, Mennonites, and most recently Hutterites. A majority of the residents of Glidden are German, as are over a third of Eatonia’s. Within St. Joseph’s German Catholic Colony, occupying most of west-central Saskatchewan, Lutherans were concentrated around Luseland, Kerrobert, and Wilkie. Further north a strongly German Lutheran church was established at St. Walburg in 1937; another German Lutheran congregation in this region was founded at Meadow Lake. In central Saskatchewan, small concentrations of German Lutherans developed within or near Mennonite Settlements, such as at Hague (where Volhynian migrants settled). The Dundurn district was settled by German Lutherans (a couple of decades before Mennonites settled in this area), under the leadership of E.J. Meilicke, who brought German-American homesteaders.

German Lutherans settled in the Lanigan area, at Lanigan, Leroy, Watrous, Jansen, Esk, and Dafoe. In 1971 approximately two-thirds of the residents in the village of Jansen were German; their predecessors were Russian-Germans; those in the nearby hamlet of Dafoe were Volga Germans. In the east-central region, a small but cohesive German Protestant settlement developed west of Melville (where in 1971 over 30% of the population was of German origin). The village of Neudorf (over 70% German) was settled as early as 1890 by Russian-German Lutherans. The neighbouring community of Lemberg (where people of German origin predominate) was settled by German Lutherans from Galicia (Lemberg is the German name for Lviv, the principal city of Galicia in the western Ukraine). As in most Galician, Black Sea, and Bessarabian German colonies and their offshoots in Saskatchewan, in Lemberg the Germans spoke a Swabian dialect because their forefathers had migrated to the Russian colonies from Swabia and other southwest German regions. German Lutheran congregations were also established in the predominantly Catholic villages of Killaly (where three-quarters of the residents were German in 1971) in 1926, as well as at Waldron (over a third being German). Both Lutherans and Mennonites settled around Duff (over two-thirds German), while German Baptists settled at Fenwood (over a third German), and with Catholics at Goodeve.

German Lutherans were also scattered throughout the region to the south across the Qu’Appelle Valley. The Whitewood area was settled by German-Swiss as well as Reichsdeutsche from Hannover; the small village of Oakshela, between Broadview and Grenfell, was settled by Volksdeutsche from Galicia and Volhynia. Polish-Germans, specifically from the Tomaszow-Mazowiecki and Wengrow areas in Poland, settled around Wapella in 1928 and built their Lutheran church in 1936. Other Germans settled around Fairlight, Kennedy, and Kipling; yet in 1971, Germans constituted only a small minority in those communities. Windthorst was named after Ludwig Windthorst, one of the organizers and leaders of the Centrist Party in Germany and an able opponent of Count Bismark; it was settled around 1909 by Lutheran Russian-German immigrants from the Vladimir-Volynskiy area north of Lemberg (Lviv) and other Volhynian-Galician German communities. Further west, substantial pockets of Lutheran settlement developed within the large Catholic colony between Odessa and Balgonie as early as 1891, when Lutherans arrived from the Black Sea and Bukovinian colonies. They organized a Lutheran congregation at Vibank in 1909, later affiliated with others at Kronau and Davin, and another at Francis.

Recent German Settlement. Most of the Germans who have immigrated into Saskatchewan since World War II have tended to come from Germany rather than ethnic German colonies in Eastern Europe, although shifting international boundaries during the immediate postwar years have continued to bring ethnic Germans to western Canada as refugees. Today the German population of Saskatchewan numbers at least 275,060 (according to 2001 census data), almost a third of whom (30.6%, 84,280) claimed to be solely of German origin whereas over two-thirds (69.4%, 190,785) claimed to be only partially of German origin. People of German origin (in whole or part) have become the largest ethnic component—28.6%—of the total provincial population. Yet 32,515 people, representing only about 12% of the population claiming German origin, reported German as their mother tongue, reflecting the fact that a large proportion of the descendants of earlier (pre-war) ethnic German settlers no longer speak German.

Alan Anderson

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Further Reading

Anderson, A.B. 1990. German Settlements in Saskatchewan. Saskatoon: Saskatchewan German; Giesinger, A. 1974. From Catherine to Krushchev: The Story of Russia’s Germans. Battleford, Saskatchewan: Marian Press.

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