The Odessa Record -

Another gathering of Germans in Montana


March 23, 2017

Fairfield, Connecticut (13 March 2017) Of significance to those whose descendants settled in the Yellowstone Valley 130 years later, three colonies were founded in 1767: Kautz (May 20), Dietel (July 1), and Kratzke (August 7).

To celebrate the 250th anniversary of the establishment of these colonies, the Volga German Institute at Fairfield University is hosting an all-day seminar series at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Billings, Mont., on Saturday, April 8, 2017. Early registration (before March 24) is $30 per person; registration after that is $40 per person. Registration includes an authentic Volga German luncheon and all sessions. The public is invited.

Dr. Brent Mai, Dean of Libraries and Director of the Volga German Institute at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., and Michael Frank from Vancouver, Wash., will be the speakers for the day.

Dr. Mai speaks worldwide on many topics related to Volga German history and culture. Dr. Mai, whose father’s ancestors emigrated from the German colonies along the Volga River, grew up in Western Kansas and holds degrees from Bethany College (Kansas), George Washington University, the University of Texas at Austin and Vanderbilt University. He was previously the director of the Center for Volga German Studies at Concordia University in Portland, Ore.

On behalf of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Frank serves as research coordinator for the colony of Kautz. He has been a speaker on many topics related to family history. He continues the decades of research on the Volga German families of Montana and southeastern Washington begun by his aunt, Elaine Frank Davison.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. with the first of six seminar sessions beginning at 9 a.m .: (1) Introduction to the Volga Germans and their Heritage; (2) The Geography of the Volga Germans; (3) Volga German Settlement of the Yellowstone Valley; (4) History of Dietel, Kautz and Kratzke; (5) Western European Origins of the Volga Germans and (6) The Volga Germans Today. The day concludes at 5 p.m.

Lunch is included with the cost of registration. The menu is being coordinated by Alice (Bangert) Blasdel of Vista Linda Catering in Somers, Mont. and will include cabbage rolls, potato brats with sauerkraut, kraut bierocks, butterball soup and kuchen along with other delicious sides.

The venue for the celebration is Pilgrim Congregational Church, 409 South 36th Street in Billings. Originally called First German Congregational Church, Pilgrim was founded by Volga Germans arriving in the area to work in the sugar beet industry. Its first building was dedicated on September 11, 1910. The present facility was constructed in 1936.

For additional information about the event including online registration, parking and accommodations, visit

Volga German Institute

The Volga German Institute was founded at Fairfield University in 2016 to document the cultural manifestations of the German-speaking minority that lived along the Volga River in Russia from 1764 to 1941. The institute sponsors workshops and seminars worldwide in this effort to share knowledge and understanding of the history and culture of the Volga Germans and what they and their descendants have contributed to the world as it exists today.

Fairfield University

Fairfield University, founded by the Society of Jesus in Fairfield, Conn., is a coeducational institution of higher learning whose primary objectives are to develop the creative intellectual potential of its students and to foster in them ethical and religious values and a sense of social responsibility. Founded in 1942, Fairfield is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2017. The University educates approximately 4,000 students each year through its College of Arts and Sciences, Dolan School of Business, Egan School of Nursing & Health Studies, Graduate School of Education & Allied Professions, and School of Engineering. Visit


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