Holstein, as remembered by David Steinfeld

I was born April 8, 1889, in Holstein, Russia, in Saratov, near the Volga. Mother died when I was three weeks old, and my grandparents raised me until I was twelve years old. I had one brother, Henry, five years older than I, and a sister who would have been between Henry and me, who died when she was a baby.

My folks were blacksmiths. As far back as I can remember, my grandfather and dad used to make shovels for all the little colonies around the neighborhood.

I lived in a house about forty feet long by twenty feet wide. It was built of logs and had a straw roof. There was no floor in the house except a mud floor, and we hauled white sand from a distance to spread on the floors so there wouldn't be so much dust.

We had two rooms in our house. Grandfather and Grandmother lived in one part of the house, and the rest of the family lived in the other part of the house, in which there were four beds, one in each corner. There was a great, big table in the center of the house. We, at that time, had wooden dishes, and we all ate out of one bowl. We had a great, big mud oven with two big, round kettles where the folks cooked. This was also used to heat the house in the wintertime.

Our fuel was mostly dry limbs picked up from the forest. Each family had to pick it up clean to keep the forest clear from trash. If we didn't have enough dried wood, limbs and twigs, the government gave us permission to cut trees so we could have enough fuel for the winter.

We had about six horses, cows, sheep, goats, ducks, geese, and chickens. We had a lot of land, too, about two hundred by two hundred. There were outbuildings - a barn, a granary, a stable for the horses and for the cows, a stable for the sheep and for goats, and a chicken house, and it was fenced with willows wound around. They went out and cut the willows and then they wound them around like a basket.

The people never bought very much. The only things we bought were cotton goods and sugar. The rest we had to raise and make. We made coats and clothes out of sheepskin and wool. We wove it ourselves and made our own clothing. The women folk wore skirts made of wool, hand woven and handspun. All the socks they wore and all the mitts and gloves and the boots were made of wool. The men wore in the winter, coats made of sheepskin turned inside out, and most of the caps were made of rabbit skin or fox skin.

The only book we had at that time was the Bible There were no newspapers, no magazines, nothing really to be interested in. The only decorations we had in the house were colored pictures from the Russian and Chinese War that Uncle Dave (Martin) brought back with him from the Army.

For amusement we took wool that came from the cows and rolled it in heavy balls, and we played ball with those in the summertime. We amused ourselves with hiking and work, too. In the wintertime there were horse races, bull fights, rooster fights, and dances. People amused themselves in those ways and in going to church. We had one Lutheran church in that town.

In the summertime everybody had to work. The women had to help with the harvesting and help get the grain in, and had to chop their own wood. We had to haul the water supply from a creek. The whole colony had to haul it for about half a mile. It was certainly easy for the men in Russia in the wintertime, because all they did was just lie around and feed a few horses and cows they had.

It was a wonderful country. It was all oak trees and birch and willow trees. We could raise almost anything that we would put in the ground. We had apples, cherries, almost all vegetables. We had tomatoes, which were called Adam's apples. We raised everything that we needed. We raised potatoes, corn, watermelons, and pumpkins, and kept them all the year around in the cellar, which was warm in the winter and cold in the summer. We raised more sunflowers than anything else because we needed a lot of oil, and sunflower oil is good.

There were no railroads within a hundred miles, no communication, no telephones - nothing. The only big city we went to was Kamyshin. We had to get our raw materials for shovels and get our sugar from there.

The climate was awfully cold. I don't know what the temperature was, but in the wintertime we were all snowed in, could hardly get out from one colony to another.

I can never forget one summer, the last summer I was in Russia. We were threshing grain by hand, and a gopher dug up some old metal. Uncle Dave and I started digging down a little ways, and we found approximately a hatful of coins. They were old coins, and I don't know what they were, but they were all silver. Everybody in the community made earrings out of them. I suppose they were very valuable, but nobody ever thought of selling them.

My dad came over to this country in 1895, and I came over in 1900.

George Henry Steinfeld, b. and d. in Holstein
  1. George Henry Steinfeld, b. 1863, Holstein, d. 1906, Holstein
  2. Reinhart Steinfeld, b. Dec 3, 1861, Holstein d. April 27, 1934, prob. Oregon
     + Sabina Elizabeth Ruf, d. April 1889, Holstein
    1. Henry Steinfeld, b. 1886, Holstein, d. 1940, Salem, Oregon
    2. Female Steinfeld, b. 1888, Holstein, d. 1888, Holstein
    3. David Steinfeld, b. April 4, 1889, Holstein, d. 1960, Salem, Oregon
     +Katharine Elizabeth Kelln, b. Sep 1868, Holstein, d. 1933, Oregon


Lower Volga Project
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