The Unrein Family History
This page is dedicated in loving memory to my Great Great Grandparents, Gerhardt and Anna Eva Unrein, who had a dream for freedom and more importantly a vision on how to realize that dream. They trusted their faith that they were making the correct decision for their family. Little did they know that their decision to come to America on August 6, 1878, would affect so many generations. Their journey to America not only provided immediate freedom, but it also gave their children's children's children the freedom that many of us take for granted. Our dreams - like Gerhardt and Anna Eva's are not always easy to achieve, but they are worth pursing! The decisions we make or don't make today will have a major affect on generations to come.
"To achieve all that is possible, we must attempt the impossible--to be as much as we can be, we must DREAM of being more"
The Unrein's journey from the Rhine, to the Volga and to the Plains of Kansas
John Gerhard Unrein and his family settled in Munjor, Kansas in 1881. They traveled from Obermonjou, Russia, to Hamburg, Germany by train then boarded the Ship "Bahia" to America. According to the Passenger Lists that were created by Gwen Pritzkau (work paper No. 9, dated October 1972, page 62)where the Unrein's that made that trip: Great Great Grandfather John Gerhard "Hangerd" Unrein (39), Anna Eva Boes-Unrein (38), Lucia (17), Johannes (12), Phillip (8), Joseph (6) and Nicklaus. The ship sailed to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and the family stayed there for approximately two years. The story that I have been told is that the Brazilians needed people for farming and made a financial deal with the captain of the Bahia to bring the people to Rio instead of New York.
The Unrein family lived in Obermonjou, Russia for several generations, approximately 100 years. They had come from Germany originally because Czarina Catherine of Russia asked the Germans who were willing to work cultivating the land in certain regions of Russia. Most of that land had hidden depths of all kinds of precious metals and ores, plus the land had rich soil for the growing of wheat and other grains. Today, the Germans that migrated to Russia are referred to as the " Germans from Russia".
Catherine promised the Germans many things: Free land to farm, religious freedom, freedom to speak their home country language, initially wouldn't have to pay taxes, they could govern their own their own settlements and would not have to serve in the Russian Army. These promises were exchanged for the German's well known agricultural skills. As I mentioned earlier, the land was raw, rugged uncultivated land but what was not told to the Germans was that the settlements were subject to bloody raids by wild mountain tribesman that lived in the region. The situation was a formidable undertaking.
What John Gerhard Unrein and his wife Anna couldn't know was that there was much unrest among the German Russians by the time they were born. Their families had come to the Volga Valley with the great hopes and promises of tools and assistance, most of which never materialized. Instead, many Germans where cheated out of what little money they brought with them. In spite of the bitter times, the Germans made first class, very productive farms and communities from the land that was allotted to them. Their Russian neighbors became jealous and later Czars wanted to throw out the inherited guarantees and "Russianize" them.
A new law conscripting young German men into the Russian military was passed, which meant six years without furlongs to be with family. They could no longer practice their own religion. There was no more land allocated for the expanding families. Continued raids on the settlements were devastating. The mountain men would enter the settlements, rape the women, kill the men and children and take what ever they could ride away with.
There was talk among the Germans Russians of leaving and going to the new country, America, where land was given to farm on the Midwest Plains. Five explorers were chosen: Nickolas Shamme of Graf, Peter Leiker of Obermonjou, Joseph Ritter of Lucern, Peter Stoecklein of Zug, and Anton Wasinger of Schoenchen. From Obermonjou the party went to Hamburg via Katharinenstadt, Saratov, Warsaw and Berlin. They proceeded to America on a ship provided by the "Hamburg-American Ship Lines". They visited many places before returning to Obermonjou. On their return they brought back a pound of soils, some prairie grass, paper money and all kinds of descriptive literature. With these promising reports many families departed for America. This was a very difficult time for many families were torn apart leaving one branch in Russia.
It is unknown how John Gerhard Unrein and his family traveled from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil to Munjor, KS. John Gerhard Unrein died in 1881 (est. 41 years old) and is buried in the St. Francis Catholic Cemetery. His widowed wife Anna, later married Anton Schneider. Anna died during February 22, 1910. Their children lived long lives and had many children. John Unrein, the oldest son of John Gerhard Unrein, my Great Grandfather, lived in Munjor, KS until later on in his life when he moved to Hays, KS. John lived in Hays, KS until he passed away in 1958.
To learn more about the migration of the Germans from Russia journey from the Rhine, to the Volga and to the Plains of Kansas, read "Conquering the Wind" by Amy Brugardt-Toepher and Agnes Dreiling.
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Revised: 27 Nov 2016 12:58 PM