Der Mennonitische Friedensbote, vol. 18, no. 1, 1 January 1874, p. 2–3.


Christian Krehbiel with son David, ca. 1865

It was at the end of April 1873 that 3 of our Russian brethren, Jacob Peters3, Heinrich Wiebe4, and Cornelius Buhr5 arrived in Summerfield, which was a great joy to all of us since we had been waiting for a long time for a visit from Russia. Partly acting as representatives of the Bergthaler congregation in Russia, their purpose was of course not to spend a lot of time with us but to travel farther west and southwest to see the states of Kansas and Texas and, where possible, find an area which would be suitable for a new home. Since they needed someone with them who could speak English, and I had already promised to answer a call of the Bethel congregation by Tipton, Mo.,6 to serve the congregation there, I decided to go with the brothers that far, and from there on to Kansas. And if in the meantime no one else was found to go with them, I would also go to Texas. We had the good fortune that brother John A. Ruth was willing to accompany the brothers to Texas.7

So we five persons left Summerfield on May 2 at noon. I will never forget that hour, the last time I saw my son David, now passed on, so happy and in good health, smiling a goodbye from across the street. The next time I saw him he was very sick. Even today a tear falls for you, my angel; be blessed with your Lord who made your days of suffering more bearable so preciously through his rich comfort.

Without any untoward events we arrived the evening of May 3 at brother Christian Welty's. Since the brother was just that day in the process of erecting a rather large Swiss barn [Schweizerscheuer], most of the brethren from the area were there, and so we had a very pleasant evening, especially because of the Russian brethren and their interesting reports. The brethren Ruth and Wiebe came from Tipton with brother Daniel Neuenschwander.

Sunday, May 4, we gathered with the congregation in their beautiful meeting house. Brother Peter P. Lehmann and I preached in the morning; in the afternoon brother Wiebe preached. Then we had the preparation meeting for communion, after which we were divided up among the brethren for the night and met again the next day in the meeting house, where we were then honored to celebrate the Lord's Supper. This was a very precious occasion; brethren who until then had not known each other recognized one another in the Spirit and were strengthened by this bread and wine, partaking of one body and one blood. May the Lord in grace so order things that we all may partake of heavenly glory.


Mennonite church at Summerfield, Illinois, 1897

Yet the same evening Br. Chr. Welty took us to Tipton where we stayed overnight. Again we had, upon our arrival, a good time with B. Wenger, Singer and family.

If we experience pleasant days, they remain a lovely memory; just so these glorious May days which I was allowed to enjoy in your midst with these dear oppressed brethren. They were both a strengthening and a tempering for the storm that awaited my own. Oh let us remember one another before the throne of grace of our merciful Savior; yes, remember especially your lowly brother in your prayers, he has so much need of power from on high.

Early morning on May 6 we were transposed into a different sphere. About 6 o'clock the iron horse came snorting in and we hurried to make use of its great power, boarded the train and went via Sedalia, Fort Scott, Parsons to Neosho Falls where we arrived under God's protection about 8 in the evening. As arranged beforehand, we found Mr. Hearth, a land agent, on the train, and also received a pleasant welcome from Prof. Gutnaw, land commissioner of the MK&T land company.

Now the land inspection began. Mr. Gutnaw was good enough to accompany us. Wednesday, May 7, at 8:00 am we started out to the south by train to Parsons; there our benefactors arranged for two excellent wagons, and now we went in a northwesterly direction into the land, and then in a 10 mile southerly curve back to and through the town. The town, despite its age of 2 years, has taken on significant dimensions, with a fine schoolhouse and a repair facility for the railroad enhancing the appearance of the city. The land through which we traveled is beautiful prairie. With the train that came from the direction of St. Louis we traveled farther south to the Kansas border, to the town of Chetopa, which has also grown quite a bit. On May 8 we went again by wagon to the northwest, but first a few miles into Indian Territory. About 16 miles to a Mr. Johnson's, then in a northwesterly curve to Oswego to the train. In this area is very good land, with water 30 feet deep, limestone and coal are abundant all over in the Neosho valley, and here there was a good bit of forest. The railroad company owns much land which would be described as excellent. It would be preferable to some other western areas because of its coal supplies, if not for the legal disputes introduced by the inhabitants over whether the land claimed by the railroad company really belongs to the company. Until this question is settled, it is not advisable to invest here.8

On the morning of May 9 we viewed land some more and then drove until noon, back to Parsons, where I immediately received the news that my son was very sick; I started for home that same day. In order to get better train connections, I went via Emporia and Kansas City, but there had to lay over for about 8 hours; I used this time to visit my friend Ellenberger; our time together went quickly and not without benefit. Because of the layover I could not, as I had orignally hoped, arrive at home on the 10th, but only on Sunday morning. It goes without saying that I am thankful to God that my son was still living. I believed I could still feel the pulse of life as his arms embraced me. And who can describe the mother's feelings under such circumstances, when the father comes called from a great distance just then as if with lightning speed. Only God's goodness can help. The further course of events was made known in the obituary in the Friedensbote.

Now I need to fill in how my companions continued their journey.

As they later reported, they went to Kansas and visited Conselgrof [Council Grove] for a few days and the area where later brother Rempel bought land. Then they went west from Emporia, likely to Newton and then back to Emporia and down to Texas, where they spoke with the governor (if I am not mistaken) and received very friendly invitations to come to that state. Texas would be a place not to be overlooked if the social conditions were more appropriate.

In all, they came back to Summerfield 3 weeks later than I. From here the Russian brethren soon departed for St. Paul, Minnesota, where they joined with the other part of the Russian deputies and with brother John F. Funk traveled in the North; a travel report can be found in Herold der Wahrheit in 1873.9

It could also be said here that the brethren Sudermann, Buller, Ewert, and Schrag also visited us later and preached several times. We would be glad to hear them more often.

A short time had passed, the harvest was brought in, and other everyday things dealt with, when we heard that about 20 families of the Russian brethren had arrived in Elkhart, Indiana. Brother Bernhard Warkentin immediately went to Elkhart to them, and from there with many of them to Kansas. After they had stopped there for a time, I received a telegram on Sept. 1 asking me to meet the brethren in Topeka. I assumed that it must have to do with a land purchase, for the finalizing of which they wanted my presence. So I decided to undertake a second trip to Kansas.

A few days later two brothers, Jacob and Peter Funk with their families from Russia, arrived here. Their actual destination was Kansas, but they intended to wait here while the other brethren searched out a place. When they heard that I was going to Kansas, however, they decided to go with me.10 The next day, Sept. 2, we left Summerfield, and went via St. Louis and Kansas City, getting to Topeka around noon on Sept. 3. Instead of meeting the brethren there as we expected, they had already departed to the north. We could not comply with the request that we follow them and accompany them in the north; time and conditions did not make it possible.

But brother Funk wanted to see the land in Kansas, so Mr. A. E. Touzalin, land commissioner, made the best possibile opportunity to inspect the land under his administration belonging to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad company.

Provided with free passes, we left Topeka the next morning with Mr. Cooper and traveled southwest to Newton in Harvey County, where Mr. Cooper arranged for transportation, and took us from there in a northwesterly direction the same day to Lake View11 about 20 miles from Newton. We spent the night there and the next morning went a few more miles northwest, looking at the land. Here along the upper part of the Turkey Creek is a bit of forest and some very fine prairie land which is partially open for homesteading but can be purchased from the settlers and the railroad company cheaply. After we had looked around here, we went in a westward circle across the Little Arkansas river back to Newton. On this trip we had seen very nice land-although building stone and wood were lacking-which would in its overall conditions be very hard to exceed. Water is found 30-50 or more feet deep. Newton is already a respectable little city and since there is a branch railroad line going south, it is justified in hoping to eventually become a large city.

Still on the same day we went by train east to Florence, got a vehicle, and arrived safely at 11pm during thunder and lightning at Marion Center. In the morning we met brother Bär who lives in this town.

On Sept. 6 we went north across the Cottonwood River and here came to a house in which lived pure Germans, named Jacobs. The wife was alone at home and was very friendly; they were formerly Mennonite but now have joined the Methodists. Thus explained Mrs. Jacobs, and we found out quite a bit more of interest from her. A mile farther we met the wife of brother Hetwald [Heatwole?], the sister a friendly young woman at home alone. From her we heard quite a bit of worthwhile information. Now we went quickly to French Creek and the Cottonwood River, where we found a few exceptional sections of land through which that river flows. The Funk brothers later bought two sections and some other pieces of land, at about $2.50 per acre.

The land around Marion Center is generally good, in places somewhat stony, which however offers the advantage of providing good building stone, which is a good asset in a wood-poor area such as Kansas mostly is. We stayed the night in the town [Marion Center].

Sunday Sept. 7 we spent among the brethren there in brother Noah Gut's house. In addition to the residents of the house, the Bärs, Hetwalds, and Hunsbergers were also there. We had the opportunity to edify ourselves in brotherly love from the Word of Life. This was the first meeting of the Kansas brothers and sisters in the faith in which I participated. The memory of that day is very dear to me.

Soon, however, we had to part and go to Florence, where the next morning Mr. Cooper again expected us. He had gone home for Sunday.

Now we traveled west again to Halstead, 10 miles farther than Newton. There we got a wagon and drove in a northerly curve through the sand prairie to Burrton, the town that brother Ewert earlier had reserved. As the train from the west came, we boarded and came back to Emporia at 11pm. From here we traveled the next day, Sept. 9, at 12 noon on the Missouri Kansas Texas line, with Mr. Wittny to Council Grove. There were treated very liberally by Mr. Schaumlöffel. He is a successful businessman in that city. He is also involved in a coal mine that is starting up, which has two 300-foot deep shafts; the upper [vein?] over 4 [feet thick] and the second about 10 feet deeper a bit over five feet thick. In the company of Prof. Gutnaw and Wittny we visited the land purchased by brother Rempel. This is about 5000 acres, west of Council Grove about 18 miles. In this area there is quite a bit more land available for purchase, partly belonging to the Atchison land company and partly to the Missouri Kansas Texas company, so that here large areas of closed, contiguous land could be purchased, likely at a moderate price.

The land is situated high up and has a limestone base; Diamond Creek and other streams irrigate it to some extent. Even so, wells can be dug everywhere of 30-50 feet depth, so said one person.12

When we finished here, we went down the Neosho valley where we had the opportunity to see the about 800,000 acres of Indian reserve land that they [the Indians] had left and now was for sale under order of Congress.13 This is a very good piece of land; if it could be bought as a closed, contiguous piece, what fine settlements could be laid out here. The beautiful Neosho valley with a very fine forest! It would repay the effort of going to Washington to speak to Congress for it. We went to Hartford in Lyon Co. We visited brother Daniel Rich. He lives 2 1/2 miles from said town and in the past two years has made a nice farm from raw prairie. There are a few other Amish families living in this area, so that if a few more families would settle here a congregation could be started. The land here is very nice and good; good water, stone and wood in the area. The price of the land is likely 5-10 dollars per acre. Feed mills and sawmills in the area so that one isn't really going into the wilderness when one moves to this area; whereby I can advise all those who seek a new home, cheap land and social support.

After a short visit that was filled with news and up-building, we had to depart. Brother Rich brought us to the station and so we arrived with the Lord's protection in Topeka the same day, Sept. 11, at 11pm.

The next day we spent with the conclusion of the land purchase by the dear brethren Funk and with other business. On the morning of Sept. 13 about 1am we left Topeka and arrived home the same day at 11pm to find our dear ones healthy and safe.14

Indeed our loved ones at home were healthy, so we had cause to thank the dear Lord for his wonderful grace that He has given to us in every way.

Der Mennonitische Friedensbote, vol. 18, no. 2, 15 January 1874, p. 10

Again a bit of time had passed, and again after a preceding visit to Elkhart by the brethren Jacob Leisy and D. C. Ruth, three Russian brethren, Johann Fast, Heinrich Görtz, and Heinrich Flaming, were in Summerfield to travel together with several brethren from here to Kansas.

Although my earlier trips to Kansas were primarily to assist the Russian brethren, the one which followed now had a double purpose. This was because the brethren in Summerfield believed it was time that we seriously plan a new settlement in the West. What had been seen earlier in Kansas led to the opinion that Kansas was well suited for this. Especially Mr. Touzalin had made offers both for the Russian brethren and for us that it would be unlikely that we would find any better or more fitting.

Already a group had organized and the brethren Jacob Leisy, David Lehman and Abraham Stauffer, and my humble self named as a committee to inspect the land and conditions carefully and, if suitable and feasible, conclude an option to buy, pending general inspection.

Since brother David Goerz, our current teacher, had arrived at this time and likewise wanted to go to Marion Center in Kansas with his family, and also brother Heinrich Dester from Iowa had found his way here, so our group consisted of 11 persons.15

On Oct. 9 we left Summerfield. The 10th we arrived at Atchison at 11am and at 6:00 in Topeka, where Mr. Touzalin again provided us with free passes. We left at 3am, this time accompanied by Mr. Schmitt of Marion Center. Since in the meantime the Funk brothers with their families had moved there and had bought a farm of 160 acres with a good stone house, and also brother Riesens had already bought a 160 acre farm with a good house, we wanted to spend the evening with them. We remained with them until Monday and had excellent conversation, exchanging experiences and singing, also preaching Sunday morning in brother Funk's house. We felt so much at home because we were with our own people, and had a lovely meeting which was attended by a few other brothers and sisters. It almost seems to me as if these hours were a sign of future events.16

On Oct. 13, Monday morning, our inspection tour began. West, north, and east of the home place of our brethren, we diligently observed; Mr. Billings was, as last time, our friendly leader. This work took three days. We had the opportunity to see an expanse of the best land, watered by various smaller and larger streams, which give it charm; the luxurious growth of grass, combined with a supply of excellent building stone, leaves room only for one thought: the brethren have chosen especially well and the brethren still to come from Russia and Prussia can settle in their vicinity without any reservations. Especially since Mr. Touzalin offered very favorable conditions, through which it will be possible even for those without financial resources to begin a new home.17

On the 15th we came back to Florence late in the evening. The next morning brother B. Warkentin met us; he had been traveling in the north this whole time. We went together to Newton and from there we were driven by Mr. Hinse west over the prairie. As night found us, a few of the group found decent quarters; we others had the pleasure of occupying a bachelor's cabin, which did protect us from the rain that fell during the night.

In the morning a dark mass arose in the west almost suddenly; it rolled east with power. Sea gulls were being driven before it. "What is that" asked the group. Our host identified it as a fast approaching storm, which quickly arrived and just as quickly passed, leaving behind a cold wind which continued for almost our whole trip. On the way to this place we had seen very beautiful and good land, also today we saw good land as we crossed the Little Arkansas River to the west, then south across the railroad about 4 miles, northwest back via Halstead to Newton. Although at our farthest west we saw a bit of the sand hills, which continue from here a long stretch several miles west, the whole is good. This southernmost piece of land lies in the great Arkansas valley, and is therefore like the whole valley supplied with ground water, in that the soil and the edge of the water penetrate each other so that even in spring with high water this river does not overflow. The land north of Halstead is less sandy but consists of rich humus. The Little Arkansas has enough water and great enough fall to drive a mill. There is no building stone in this area, but it can be brought in by rail.18

Saturday we drove 24 miles south, as far as the branch line has been built so far, to Wichita. This is likely one of the most lively places in Kansas at present, because of the Texas cattle trade a great quantity of money changes hands here. The Texans are coarse and the cattle drivers are often immoral fellows. This environment and the flow of money draws a crowd of bad riffraff from the north; the two elements together make for the lowest kind of society I have found in a city. The cattle trade is supposed to be moved farther south in a year. Hopefully then the animal-like business will decline.

If only all the saloons, gambling, and dance houses together with their mischief would move away, then something really excellent could happen in this area. The land is very good here and the conditions pleasant. We returned via Newton to Peabody, arriving there at 8pm; Mr. Cooper, who had relieved Mr. Johnson a few days ago-Johnson had relieved Mr. Schmitt in Marion Center already-went to Topeka.

Sunday morning all the brethren except for Abr. Stauffer and Heinrich Grätz[sic] went to brother Hamberger's. Everyone was in good health and happy for our visit. With stories, songs, and devotions we passed a pleasant Sunday with the brethren. They have here a beautiful farm about 4 miles from Peabody and are very satisfied. In the evening the dear brother brought us back to town with his wagon.

Monday Oct. 20 about 9:00 Mr. Cooper came again with the train from Topeka. We boarded and went as far as Grannada [sic] in Colorado, where we arrived at half past 1 am.

On this trip we went to the frontier; already at Ellinwood the buffalo grass replaced the so-called blue stem [?]; by Great Bend the latter is no more to be seen, by Larned there is only buffalo grass; only where the fort's livestock used to be pastured was there a notable exception. The train went along the great Arkansas River; along its valley it has here and there good stretches of land which would be very inviting except that they are so far west and because of the extreme altitude above sea level; Grannada [sic] is at 2800 feet19 and the climb from Newton, which is 1300 feet above sea level20, is rather uniform; the rainfall is too meager to give the land the necessary moisture for production.

If in this area Culture has not done its work, so the eye finds some attractions. Prairie dogs, wolves, antelopes, geese and ducks in masses offer variety. Half-decayed buffalos and enormous bone heaps of the same animal, piled up in the towns, the multitude of trails on which these prairie inhabitants playfully came to the Arkansas river only a short time ago, show the visitor to this area, however, in what enormous numbers these grizzly heads must have been found here, before the annihilating lead of the white man reached them. Nevertheless, their time has passed; men, active men will in a short time have transformed these wastes into beautiful homes and the person can be thankful then who is deemed worthy to breathe this exquisite atmosphere, since I must here add that it is really a comfort to breathe here. Never before since I have been in the United States have I tasted such pure air; one feels urged to sing, which our whole party did. Very few hours after our arrival in Granada we left again for the east; since it was night I can offer no comment about this place. Only I feel I can say that it is yet very small.

In Larned we got off and stayed there until the next day. We used the time to get acquainted with the surroundings of the town, found that it was distinctly cold on the high ground north of town, but we saw good land; I dug 18 inches deep and found no variation in the soil. All brown-red loam with some sand mixed in.

Oct. 22 was a very cold day here. But we viewed land along the Pawnee river and I had the impression that if it would rain enough in this area I would want to live here, the glowing faces show the health of the people here.21

About 2 in the afternoon the train came from the west and we had to continue to Halstead, a few traveled to Newton. Halstead will be our base from which we think to begin our settlement, so it seemed necessary to give our attention to the place again.

After a 2 day stay we had the impression-as in our first visit-that this area is suitable for our purposes. So we noted 5 townships in which we thought to select land, in case we could agree with Mr. Touzalin about the price and other conditions.

On Oct. 24 we left Halstead and went by wagon to Newton, boarded the train there and went to Peabody, in order to look over again the area of the dear brethren Funk and Riesen more carefully and if possible to work out a favorable opportunity for the Russian brethren accompanying us. The weather was against us; it was cold. In spite of this we sought to fulfill our assignment, which we were able to do better than we first thought. In the meantime, the blessed Sabbath came again and we had the opportunity to be together and build ourselves up with preaching, song, and prayer, and admonish ourselves from God's Word, through mutual encouragement to loyalty and submission under the will of the dear heavenly Father.

Then our hour for departure had come. So we commended each other to the Lord and his grace, not without hope to see each other again in Marion County's glorious fields. And if not here then in those much more beautiful ones above in the Fatherland with Jesus.

The 29th we came again to Topeka, where we now sought to conclude a purchase. We wanted to select 15,000 acres of land, more or less, from the above-mentioned five townships; and also wanted to be free to do this up to May 1, 1874. For the land selected and taken up until now we offered $2.50 per acre. At least half of the purchase price must be paid in cash. The balance would be on a 5 year term with 10% interest.

The other land in the five townships which we did not claim by May 1-about 33,000 acres-should be reserved for our fellow believers for 3 years; with acceptance of a reduction of 35% of the currently established price, but with inclusion of the running interest.

No buyer shall be responsible for another, but each shall have the right to assume the land with payment of a fifth of the price, then a year of only interest, and in each of the following 4 years a fifth of the principal plus the respective interest.

The necessary cash payment we hope to have on hand since some of the brethren will pay in cash.

We did not come to agreement about the price, although later we were offered a reduction of 50%. We could not accept, although we left the matter open in the hope that the owners would consider a better offer.

The town of Halstead covers 480 acres, of which 80 is divided into lots; these are offered to us at half price at about $5000 including the mill site. We thought to accept this corporately by shares.

We wanted to work out something similar in Marion County, but could not because the Russian brethren did not think themselves authorized to do so. In spite of this, Mr. Touzalin was good enough to promise brother Fast to reserve 12 sections selected by him immediately near Funks and Riesens at a reduced price for 6 months, and additionally that he would set aside cheaper land with special consideration for needy Mennonites. Namely, 35% less than it would otherwise be sold. This should be seriously considered, especially because Mr. Touzalin also promised to take care of transportation from New York as cheaply as possible.

Friday, Oct. 31, we came back to our dear ones, with God's protection, and they were also in good health. Thanks be to God.

Additionally, I want to publicly express my thanks to Mr. Touzalin and Mr. Gutnaw for their friendly and very liberal provision of free and half-price passes and other free transportation.

Should something come of the purchase at Halstead, as I am hoping, I will with pleasure report it to the Friedensbote, in the expectation that many of the American and Russian brethren will participate under the above conditions. Notifications of interest in this would be good now.

I am also happy to provide further information to those interested, for which various things are at my disposal.

The above travel report can of course not claim to be a missions travel report, however considering the current movement in our denomination and the efforts to meet the needs of the General Conference on this trip, I hope that this trip, insofar as it corresponds with the efforts of our organization, can be seen as connected with my itinerant preaching duties and I will be excused for other neglected travels.

With brotherly greetings,

Chr. Krehbiel

Summary of my missions travel costs

Income
May 1, 1873
from missions acct of brother D. Bär$25.00
from board of Bethel church12.00
Total$37.00
Travel costs Tipton and back$22.00
remaining in account$15.00

Time expended for this purpose about 5 days

Oct. 4, 1873
Chr. Krehbiel