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Feist Farm was Homesteaded by one of First Five German-Russians to Settle in Strasburg Area: Jacob Feist Arrived in 1888

Burke, Allan. "Feist Farm was Homesteaded by one of First Five German-Russians to Settle in Strasburg Area: Jacob Feist Arrived in 1888." Emmons County Record, 27 June 2002, 1 & 8.


There will be lots of activity this week at the Albert and Angeline (Houn) Feist farm north of Strasburg because most of their 10 children and 8 grandchildren will be home for the Strasburg Centennial.

The Feists and their farm has special significance because Albert's grandfather, Jacob Feist, was in the first group of five German-Russian immigrants to homestead in what is now south-central Emmons County, and Jacob donated the land for the first Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church and cemetery at what was then known as Tiraspol. He and neighbor Egidi Keller also established the Tiraspol community's first store, The Bazaar.

The five-member group of bachelors included Sebastian Bauman, Joseph Baumgartner, Joseph Burgad, Joseph Kraft and Jacob Feist.

Natives of the Strassburg area of Russia, they came to New York City on the steamship, S.S. Trave, from the German port of Bremen. They traveled by train from New York to Eureka, S.D., where they spent the winter of 1888. In 1889, the men homesteaded in Emmons County.

Brothers of Jacob who settled in the area included Damion, Casper, John and Joseph.

Jacob married Barbara (Schwahn) Wald on May 13, 1889. They were married by Father Bernard Strassmeier, either at Fort Yates, where Father Bernard was headquartered, or at St. John¹s Church.

Barbara also came over on the S.S. Trave but in April of 1889. With Barbara on the ship were other members of the Feist and Kraft families plus the first members of the Keller and Schwab families.

Her sisters also married settlers. Agatha, married Egidi Keller; Katherina married Peter Kraft and Regina married Lorenz Schwab.

Jacob built two sod houses to claim his land, and both were within a short walk from where the present farmstead is located. Nothing remains of either house, although Albert remembers there was a dirt pile where one of the houses stood.

Jacob had no formal education, so he joined forces with his brother-in-law, Egidi Keller, who had some education as well as bookkeeping skills, to open The Bazaar on his homestead land. Egidi was the grandfather of Charles Keller, Sr., a neighbor of Albert's.

The tiny Tiraspol community included the church, rectory and the store.

Strasburg was founded when the railroad came to the area, and it made sense for Jacob and Egidi to move their store two miles into the new town. It was moved to the site where the BEK Communications building now stands. Years later, it was a bowling alley and was destroyed by fire.

After the store was moved to town, Jacob and Egidi were joined in owning the business by Damian Lauinger, Michael Baumgartner and J.J. Baumgartner.

The decision by the diocese to move the church and rectory from Tiraspol to the new town was not universally popular, but it was finally accomplished. "My uncle once told me that Father Justus Schweizer would walk from Tiraspol to the farm to visit my grandparents, and he would come barefoot in the summer," Albert said. "He would have a meal and visit everyone in the neighborhood before walking back to the rectory."

Father Schweizer served Sts. Peter & Paul from 1903-1906.

Albert said his dad told him of his memories of the church being moved to town.

Many of the graves from the Tiraspol Cemetery were moved to the new cemetery in town, but the cemetery, with its iron crosses, remains a landmark on the Feist farm.

A family story that Albert heard many times as he was growing up was about Joseph Keller, a son of Egidi Keller.

"A band of Gypsies came through the neighborhood when nearly everyone had gone to Strasburg for Mass," he said. "Some of the Keller children stayed at home, including Joseph and an older sister. The girl saw the Gypsies coming toward the farm with their horse-drawn buggies, so she went inside and locked the door. Joseph was playing outside in the sand, and they picked him up and took him along."

"When they got to our farm, they must have seen people coming from town because they dropped off Joseph nearby."

"When the Kellers found out what happened, they set out in pursuit of the Gypsies. Jacob saw them and joined the chase. They caught up with the Gypsies and horse-whipped the perpetrators," Albert said. "That was prairie justice."

There were no trees in the Tiraspol area, so wood had to be gathered about eight miles to the north along Beaver Creek.

"My grandfather and Egidi Keller took a team of oxen and a wagon to cut wood along the creek, and they intended to get back home before dark," Albert said. "The wagon broke down, and by the time they got it fixed it was dark. My grandmother told me it was pitch black when they got to our farm, and they found it only because she had hung a lantern outside for them."

History books about the Strasburg area say that Jacob devoted his time to the store, but the truth is that he was heavily involved in farming. He eventually owned over 15 quarters of land, including land south of Strasburg.

Jacob and Barbara had 10 children: Damian, Joseph, Jacob, John, Catherine, Sebastian, Peter, Barbara, Paul and Anton.

John farmed with his father and married Magdalena Schlosser on Nov. 24, 1924. She was the daughter of Peter and Eva (Kuntz) Schlosser.

"Dad said it was like a summer day when they got married," Albert recalled.

A dance floor was built at the farm for a wedding dance, and the celebration lasted at least two days, which was customary for German-Russian weddings in those days, according to Albert.

John and Magdalena then took over the family farm, and Jacob and Barbara moved to Strasburg.

Jacob died July 9, 1933, and Barbara died April 11, 1949.

John and Magdalena had five children. Edward (Margaret) of McKenzie, Florence (Mrs. Sylvester) Meier of Zeeland, Albert (Angeline), Geneva (Mrs. Joe T.) Vetter of Linton and Clarence, who lives in Minneapolis, Minn.

Albert married Angeline Houn, daughter of John and Magdalena (Jacob) Houn, at St. Michael¹s Catholic Church east of Linton on January 15, 1966.

They took over the farm and later bought it from Albert's parents, and John and Magdalena moved to Strasburg. Albert farmed with his dad for a number of years.

"This farm had milk cows on it for well over 100 years," Albert explained. "We sold the last cows in 2000."

Albert said milking was ideal for the family since he and Angeline have 10 children.

"The farm kept the kids busy, and it was a good life for them as they grew up," he said.

The Feists milked from 50 to 65 cows, which was a good sized family operation.

Their children include: Gordon Jerome was born on August 19, 1966, and married Laura Rohrich on October 24, 1987. Charmaine Marie was born on November 2, 1967, and married Kelly Patrick Swanson on September 20, 1991. Loren Shawn was born on November 20, 1969. Gerald Dean was born on January 26, 1971. Marvin Lee was born on August 15, 1972, and married Tina Vetsch on September 11, 1999. Steven Dion was born on November 17, 1975. Dwayne Jason was born on February 16, 1977. Sheldon Jonathon was born August 17, 1979. Keriann Corinne was born on March 5, 1982. Aric Donavan was born on February 27, 1984. Aric graduated from Strasburg High School in May, and for the first time in 30 years Albert and Angeline won't have a child attending school in Strasburg.

Angeline said raising 10 children was not as difficult as it may sound. "Everything falls into place, and we didn't think much about it," she said.

The kids had horses to ride and were busy with school activities as well as helping on the farm.

Albert and Angeline have seven quarters of land, all of which is now in CRP. Four of their quarters were part of the land Jacob put together. The Feists have visited Europe twice, in 1985 and 1989.

"The wall came down in East Germany about two weeks after we got home in 1985," Albert said.

They visited many relatives in Germany and met people from their ancestors' same village (Strassburg).

"I can remember that my grandparents sent money to the relatives who remained in Russia," Albert said.

Albert and Angeline speak German, and they were able to communicate well on their trips.

"Aric says I am so German that I laugh in German," Albert joked.

The Albert and Angeline Feist family includes, back row, left to right, Charmaine, Loren, Albert, Angeline, Sheldon, Marvin, Dewayne and Gerald; front row, Steve, Karriann, Aric and Gordon.
Jacob and Barbara Feist are pictured later in life.
These men owned the Strasburg Bazaar. They are, back row, left to right, Damian Lauinger, Michael Baumgartner and J.J. Baumgartner; seated, Jacob Feist and Egidi Keller.
Jacob and Barbara Feist would probably not recognized their homestead today, although the house they built in 1905 is the home of Albert and Angeline Feist. The house has been remodeled many times over the years, and all of the out-buildings have been replaced.
Albert and Angeline Feist are pictured by their home. He is holding an antique bottle found on the farm, and she has some traditional German-Russian soup spoons they were given on one of their European trips.
There was lots of snow at the Feist farm after the Blizzard of 1966.
John and Magdalena Feist are pictured on their wedding day in 1924.
John and Magdalena Feist are pictured in the 1940s on the homestead.
Albert is pictured with his older sister, Florence.
Albert and Angeline Feist

Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.

Other books about Strasburg, ND, can be located at these GRHC website pages:
As We Reminisce: Strasburg, Emmons County, North Dakota
Moments to Remember

Saints Peter and Paul's Parish Centennial Book 1889 - 1989: Strasburg, North Dakota

Saints Peter and Paul Parish Golden Jubilee Book

Strasburg Centennial Book: 1902 - 2002

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
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