Heritage is like a belly button – everyone has one. Chances are yours’ like mine is probably rooted in or has some association with agriculture. There are many names my people have adopted throughout the years. German-Russians. Russian-Germans. Russo-Germans. They are all synonymous with a populace espousing a very rich culture oftentimes overlooked in history books.
The most notable and massive exodus of Germans into Russia occurred after Catherine II issued her second manifesto on July 22, 1763. Russia had many parcels which were “large contiguous areas of fruitful, uninhabited and unused land” (A people on the Move: Germans in Russia and in the Former Soviet Union: 1763-1997). The manifesto included attractive guarantees such as freedom of religion as well. My ancestors were attracted to the manifesto and particularly to a specific Sugar Company since their knowledge of sugar beet production was extensive.
My ancestors Henry Sr’s parents left from Hesse (a German province) for the Volga (the Russian steppes) and this is where they made their new life. Oats, wheat and barley were predominantly planted in the volga, though my family farmed sugar beets as well. Henry Sr. Schlothauer was born in Kraft Russia. He then married Julia Siegwart. The manifesto was revoked in 1871 by Alexander I. There was a growing animosity among Russians because of the special rights German immigrants had been granted. The near constant raids of the Cossack s and Bolsheviks were also very frightening. The land Henry Sr. would have amassed was only one acre. They made the brave decision to leave.
America the Beautiful
In September of 1911 my ancestors, carrying their life’s possessions traveled to Germany by train. In Bremerhaven
Germany they boarded the S.S. Brandenburg for the two week trip to the United States of America. Though they paid for first class they were put in steerage with the livestock and other immigrants in terrible conditions. Upon arrival at Ellis Island it was required they have someone to meet them, the promise of a job and two dollars in their pocket. After being segregated, examined and vaccinated and with 75 dollars in his pocket Henry Sr. and his family began the American dream.
After arriving in New York the family traveled to Offerle Kansas. Here Henry Sr. cleaned grain storage bins for $1 a day and Julia took in washing. In 1913 after a failed venture to grow wheat the family moved to Ft. Morgan Colorado. Here the entire family helped with the harvesting of sugar beets. Henry Sr. formed many partnerships and rented various farms throughout his life.
In 1939 Heinrich’s son Henry Jr. (my great grandfather) moved his family to Las Cruces, New Mexico. He develped underdevolped land into profitable farm land. He also purchased two ranches located in Deming and Las Vegas, New Mexico. It was through this process that he amassed a sizeable amount of money.
My great grandfather is Henry Schlothauer. His son Gary Schlothauer was almost always involved in the agriculture industry through farming, ranching and trucking having owned Schlothauer Trucking. Today though no longer involved in production agriculture he still enjoys caring for cattle and roping. My father Clay Schlothauer worked on my grandfather’s farms and ranches and was also involved in Schlothauer Trucking. Today he still enjoys competing in roping and is actively involved in the Las Cruces High School FFA Alumni.
As a small child I spent much time out at our arena, the shop and grandGary’s old office. His hideout is a small room with one of the only working bathrooms on the property, a sink, pool table, desk and hundred year old couch with the lingering smell of cattle and dirt. Yes when you sit on it, the dirt rises up from the couch and dances in the sunlight. The entire room is layered with dust and the floor an awful green color of worn concrete. Sometimes in the winter we would watch my grandfather crack pecans as the wood splintered in the background inside the ancient furnace. In the summer’s we would peer out the window’s toward our tire swing to see grandGary inviting us outside to treat us to a watermelon. Little acts of love I will never forget from his tough exterior. The fridge with the hundred year old food but mostly medications and syringes to doctor cattle. The desk and walls lined with photographs, cartoons, drawings, magazine articles and wood and metal signs of all shapes and sizes my grandfather has collected over the years. I never really understood why he tacked up so many. As I’ve grown I’ve realized that this is his special spot. He want’s to showcase our family’s legacy and our family. Because he is proud of where we came from and how we have prospered.
I come from a line of people who not only lived but prospered. A people that not only survived persecution, but were resilient in the face of adversity. I am proud to say that this is my heritage. I come from a long line of innovators that knew the value of a hard day’s work and were believers in the darkest times of creating a better livelihood for their loved ones. I come from a long line of farmers and ranchers who braved not only the barren Russian terrain but the frightening waves as they traveled across the ocean to the alien plains of the United States. I come from a long line of German Russians.