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Online Exhibits - From Far Away Russia, Part 4

Mennonite colony with homes grouped in a central village

Russian-Germans in Kansas

Growing Wheat

"Kansas will be to America what the country of the Black Sea . . . is now to Europe -- her wheat field."
--Topeka Commonwealth, October 15, 1874

The Russian-Germans arrived at a critical time in Kansas history. They brought new dollars to the state following a period of severe drought, grasshopper infestation, and depression. In 1874 alone they added an estimated one million dollars to the Kansas economy.

"They refute the statement so often heard in Kansas that a farmer cannot make money growing wheat alone. They have grown nothing except wheat for twenty-five years and are prosperous."
--Kansas City Star, June 26, 1901

Wheat harvest near Munjor

The Nation's Breadbasket

Russian-German farmers helped turn Kansas into the nation's breadbasket.

Unlike most other farmers new to the Great Plains, they already were experienced at prairie-style agriculture in Russia. Mennonites often are credited with introducing Turkey red wheat to Kansas (although this is probably a legend). This hardy winter variety flourished on the Plains.

Here, Alex Schumacher and his brothers (Volga Germans) harvest wheat near Munjor, Kansas, using a steam-powered threshing machine.

"Whereas 200 years in Russia left them unchanged from what their fathers were--less than ten years in the great state of Kansas . . . finds them with landed estates, herds of cattle and horses and finer houses than they or any of their fathers ever hoped to occupy in Russia."
--Topeka Daily Capital, March 20, 1890
  1. Introduction
  2. Lured to Kansas by Railroads
  3. Early Years in Kansas
  4. Growing Wheat
  5. German Customs With a Russian Flavor
  6. A Profound Faith