Senger Family was one of the First Pioneer Families
in Emmons County
"Senger Family was one of the First Pioneer Families in Emmons County." Emmons County Record, 21 December
Editor's Note: The Michael Senger family was one of the first
German-Russian immigrant families to settle in Emmons County.
They arrived from Russia in 1886.
Michael Senger was born August 18, 1847, and died April 10,
1917. His father's name was John Senger. Michael was married in
Russia to Barbara Schumacher, who was born August 4, 1850, and
died September 9, 1915. Her father's name was Joseph Schumacher.
Michael's second wife was Katharina Roehrich, who was born April
11, 1859, and died April 9, 1949.
The Sengers' forefathers migrated from Germany to Russia in
1763 at the invitation of German-born Catherine the Great II,
then Tsarista or Empress of Russia.
The Senger's sod home is still standing southeast of Strasburg.
Irvin Senger of Strasburg and Clem Rohrich of Linton, both descendants
of the pioneer family assisted the Record with the story and photos.)
Early Homesteader describes trip to the river with ox
team. Lad of fifteen spent night in hills expecting to be devoured
by monster beasts.
By Anton Senger (Oldest son of Michael Senger)
In our family when we left our home in Strasburg, South Russia,
were my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Senger, myself, four other
brothers and two sisters. I was the oldest son, being fourteen
years of age.
My father owned two well improved farms of about 150 acres each,
about four miles from the little colony where all the farmers
lived. Farming operations there were carried on differently than
over here. The farms were located out in the country and the owners
or tenants lived in the little village, going out in the day to
do the field work and returning to the village at night.
The question has often come up as to what brought the German-Russians
to North Dakota. In the first place the main reason was that the
people there were oppressed. They were heavily taxed and just
as soon as a son was old enough he was forced to serve in the
Czar's army. It was to get away from this servitude that caused
many of them to leave that country.
The U.S. Government had an immigration agent working in that
territory as early as 1870 and as the farmers were accustomed
to raising wheat in a prairie country, he advised them to go to
North and South Dakota where they could adapt themselves easily
to the same methods of farming they were accustomed to. To all
of us America was a land of Paradise; where a person was free
of servitude and oppression; a land where taxes were low and where
great opportunities existed.
In the fall of 1885 my father sold his farm and turned all his
property into cash. The next spring in March we left by train
from Strasburg to Bremen, Germany, and from there took the boat
for New York. In our party were about ten families. We had second
class quarters on the boat and spent 11 days on the Atlantic.
I will never forget that trip. For five days I never got out of
my bed and I was the sickest I have ever been.
We spent one day in New York and then took the train for Menno,
South Dakota, where my father bought his farming equipment--2
yoke of oxen, 1 span of horses and six cows. We loaded them into
a box car and went on to Ipswich, South Dakota, the end of the
railroad. Father paid $120 for each yoke of oxen; $300 for the
team, and $20 each for the cows. He figured he made a good deal
for when we got to Ipswich they were selling for about twice what
he paid for them.
We left Ipswich on the last day of April 1886, and started out
across the country for our new home. It took five days for us
to reach our homestead nine miles northeast of Hauge on the Little
We lived in the covered wagon for a few days until we had the
shack built. Although there were quite a few neighbors to the
south of us, we were on the north end of the settlement and from
our place north our nearest neighbors were the people who lived
As soon as we got our shack up we walled it up with sod and
then looked for something with which to cover the roof. We had
heard that to the west somewhere was the big river where there
was plenty of timber for everyone. So we started out one morning
to get what was needed to finish up our home.
In the group were myself, my father, John Senger, Jacob Fischer,
Jacob Bolander, and George Gackle. The latter was a young man
20 years and a hustler. He soon afterwards started dealing in
the land and within a few years had made a fortune. The town of
Gackle in Logan County was named for him. There was no road to
the river and we had to make our way across the prairie the best
we knew how. Each of us had a yoke of oxen hitched to a wagon.
We left early in the morning and the day was plenty hot. There
was no track for the oxen to follow so I had to lead them all
At noon we hit a homestead about two miles north and two miles
west of where Strasburg is now. Our oxen were panting and their
tongues were hanging out of their mouths. We watered them there,
filled our jugs and started on--headed west. I found out afterwards
the place we stopped at was Wally Petrie's.
I will never forget my first night out on the prairies. The
farther we got the bigger the hills were, until, when night came,
we were right in the middle of them. I was scared to death, and
felt sure some unknown animal would surely eat us up during the
We picketed our oxen and rolled in blankets to sleep. But I
didn't sleep a wink. There were millions of mosquitoes. Then every
little while a coyote would howl on one side and then a fox on
another, and to make it more miserable for me, a night owl would
let out a screech in between. All of those different noises kept
the chills running up and down my back all night and I was glad
when morning came.
We arrived at Winona about noon the second day. It was a real
town and everything was booming. We made our deal for timber and
spent two days cutting timber and loading it up on our wagons.
We stayed at Winona during the night, camping near one of the
dance halls. The trip home was not so bad because we had our own
trail to follow.
That winter we spent three days in our sod shack while one of
the worst blizzards I ever went through hit the country. We used
hay for fuel and that soon gave out. The snow blew so hard we
couldn't get out of the house and all we could do was sit inside
and try to keep from freezing.
That same winter my father started for Eureka, South Dakota
for supplies for the family and was caught in the blizzard on
his way home. The trip in those times took nine days and there
were only a few houses on the way where a traveler could stop
if he was caught out in a storm. When the blizzard came we all
expected we would never see our father again, but he finally got
home. But when he arrived icicles were hanging from his beard
and his feet were frosted. The horses suffered a lot on that trip.
They had to break their way through hard crusted snow about every
step on the way and when they arrived at our place the hide was
all scratched off their legs from their hoofs up to their knees.
Those early days on the homestead were hard ones, as all the
old settlers know. But along with the hard times we had our fun
and enjoyed many pleasant evenings dancing and visiting in each
other's homes or visiting with each other on Sundays.
There were no churches nor any schools in those days. Later
we built a church north of Zeeland and as for a school, we took
care of that in our own home with myself as teacher. We had an
old slate we brought from the old country and that was our blackboard.
Our lessons were taken from the Bible and what other few books
we had brought with us.
Now, with the country settled up, we have schools within a short
distance from every home in the country and every town has its
churches and even the country districts are well supplied with
Michael Senger eventually owned 25 quarters of land which was
farmed by his sons and sons-in-law.
Senger children and grandchildren
- Barbara Senger married Anton K. Fischer, and they had nine
- Anton Senger married Marian Eisenzimmer, and they had nine children.
- Lorenz Senger married Marian Schweitzer, and the couple had
- Joseph Senger married Johanna Feist, and they had seven children.
- John Senger married Veronica Schnuur. After Veronica's death,
he married Katie Michael, and they had nine children.
- Katharina Senger married August Thomas, and the couple had eight
- Christ Senger married Marian Scherr, and they had nine children.
- Eva Senger married Sebastian Schmidt, and they had seven children.
- Michael Senger married Anastasia Rohrich, and they had five
- Ludwig Senger married Marian Schmidt, and they had eight children.
The family jewels
According to Senger family history, John Senger, Michael's father,
farmed land owned by a Russian noble, which was commonplace for
John's hogs were digging one day and unearthed a large steel
chest. John opened it and discovered it was filled with gold coins
and jewelry. An honest man, John gave it to the noble.
In gratitude, the noble gave John all the land he could cover
in a day on horseback, riding in each direction.
The noble also asked John's wife what she would like to have,
and she picked out a gold ring. He gave it to her, and it has
been passed down from generation to generations in the Senger
family since that time.
Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.