Joanne Campbell, President   

  Frank Santos, Editor


      (559) 229-828   info@ahsgrfr-centralcal.org

Website- ahsgrfr-centralcal.com

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by Joanne (Ruby) Campbell

Greetings Everyone! Happy New Year! This is a time for looking back and looking forward.

During this year, we have had some very nice happenings at and about the Library/Museum. Here are some of the highlights for me:

-Seeing the research, preservation, and archival work done here is inspiring. We have come a long way and still have so much to do, but we are making progress.

-Working with this great team of Board Members is uplifting. We are asking deep questions and keeping our mission statement in mind. (We will be missing Sharon Henson as she has resigned from her Boutique Chair position. She put in a lot of hard work but now needs to take care of her family.)

-Working with Consultant Diane Bates, Member Sharon Bowie, and Vice-President Jim Deis, as they bring much to the grant writing process, so needed to help keep us going. (I look forward to meeting Consultants Julie Page and Jeanne Drewes as they help us with this process. The narrative is being carefully reviewed before being submitted in mid-January.)

-Seeing the fresh look in the Office/Greeting Room and Garage.

-Enjoying Cooking Classes, Embroidery Class, Noodle Making, Boutique Work, checking out the Fresno Art Museum and visiting with other historical groups who are trying to keep their history alive, as well as meeting Lori Hunter, who works with GFAMES (Greater Fresno Alliance of Museums and Educational Sites.)

-Enjoying the day with the Berg Family who came in with 99-year-old Margaret Berg Seib, who recognized a picture of her grandfather, Johann August Berg, one of the first GR’s to come to Fresno on May 8, 1887.

-Engaging in conversations with members like Franklin Diel, who brought a company employee picture complete with the names of each GR pictured, then the serendipitous time with my cousins, Kathleen Bier Flanders and Ron Buckhammer. As it turned out, Franklin Diel knew Ron’s father through work, so a set of nice memories was shared.

-Conversing with Annette Hergenroeder while we laugh a lot as we share “farmer’s daughters” experiences of working in the field/vineyard through our younger years.

-Getting a photo of the whole fire department crew from Station 9 (under the direction of Captain Todd Austin) and the photo of our library/museum when it was a fire station.

-Meeting with you all at Annual and Quarterly Meetings and Schmeckfest! 

Now, looking forward to the New Year! I hope to see many of you at our next event: the General Membership Annual Business Meeting on Saturday, January 27, 2024, at the Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens. (Prepayment is due Friday, January 19, 2024.) (Perhaps you can volunteer at the library or help fill an open Board Position.) Hope to see you there!


 A New Acquisition

The altar during the Schmeckfest

The Cross Church Altar was “Made in 1914 by Heintz Cabinet maker.” One of the Founding members of the church in 1892 was Gottfried Heintz. The Cross Church was the keystone of the early Germans from Russia community in Fresno.

The City of Fresno was incorporated in 1885. Our first Germans from Russia immigrant ancestors arrived in the Fresno in 1887. When they arrived, language was an obstacle they had to overcome. They settled in and found jobs as they could and started building their own community. In 1892 there were 167 Volga-Germans in Fresno. The early immigrants conducted prayer meetings in their homes from 1887 to 1891. The need was felt to organize a church. Upon a recommendation they contacted Mr. Jacob Legler from Straub, Russia to become their spiritual leader, he arrived in 1891 with his wife Maria Catherine Bier Legler and six children. Originally services were held in the parsonage and later in the Armenian Hall. The Church was organized with 85 members and named the “Evangelical Lutheran Cross Church.” In 1893 a committee started to look for some lots to build a church.

In 189, the members voted to build a church located on lots 25 and 26 in block 223 on F Street, at a cost of $400.

Inscription on the back of the altar: "Gottfried Heintz 1914"

In 1896, the church had a membership of 135 members in 56 homes, and it was voted that dues should be $2.50 per member per year. In 1897, a new bell was purchased. The first church building was erected in 1895 for $1,077.80. The building of a second church began in 1914 and was completed in 1915 with 673 members. In 1947, the church was moved two blocks from its home on F and San Diego Street to Los Angeles and E Street to make way for Highway 99. The Free Evangelical Lutheran Cross Church 80th Anniversary (1892 – 1972) Book contains a fuller text of the church's history.

With the addition of the altar, we believe we are now the main repository of original Cross Church artifacts. Our collection includes the Abstract Title dated 1898, the original ledger books containing the recording of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and deaths dating from the beginning of the church in 1892, an almost complete collection of confirmation class pictures, ledgers containing the minutes of the Ladies Aid Society and various other records.

The arrival of the Cross Church altar in our building has left tears in many eyes. Comments like, “We got married in front of this altar.” and “I remember being confirmed in front of it.” are not unusual. Some of the most important events in many families' lives occurred before this altar, creating memories and photo opportunities that last a lifetime.


Franklin and Ruth Diel in front of the altar on their wedding day.

Franklin and Ruth Diel in front of the altar today.


2 Shannon Bickford & Mike Hardy

6 Don & Lorrie Mitchell

11 Stephen & Sharon Henson

24 Tom & Susan Hendricks

28 Sydney & Sharon Bowie

Randy & Sue Graham

31 Vestal Alan & Connie Shelton

Russ & Deb Wood


4 Harold Kindsvater

Kathleen Lehman

Pam Marks

William Ryan

8 Bonnie Krum

Jerry Phillips

9 David Smith

Kathryn Moritz

Kristine Schmidt

11 Janice Heffington

12 Donna Flaherty

Ellen Patton

12 Randy Wood

Lydia Zimmerman

13 Nancy Richardson

18 Bob Lieder

20 Anita Van Dyke

Sharon Robertson

21 Desdamona Lieder

28 Carolyn Reinhardt

31 Christi Sharp

Elaine Karber



Connie Gouge Evans

Marilyn Johnson


Lt. Col. Lawrence “Larry” Stumpf, 1933-2023, of Riverside, California. Born to parents John Henry and Marie Elizabeth Stumpf of Kerman. He is survived by his wife, Phylis (Piper), daughter, Laurie Verner, and son, Davis Stumpf. He flew over 134 missions in Vietnam, retiring in 1979.


Franklin & Ruth Diel

Doug Eurich

Kathleen Flanders

Sandra Foley

Janice Gibson

Sharon Henson

Wayne Huber

Neil & Pam Marks

Bruce Maxwell

Kathy Mauson

Nancy Richardson

Carolyn J. Russell

Frank Santos

Suzanne E. Scheidt

Barbara L. Schenk

Tim Schneider

Laura Simon

Davis & Danae Zoldosky

In Memory of Richard Durpinhaus:

By Connie Coberly

Eilleine Schneider

Robert & Joan Zoldosky

In memory of Carrie Catherine Oehlschlaeger

by Janice Gibson

In memory of Roy Andersen

by Susan & Don Smith

Winners of Early Dues Raffle

Davis R. Boos, gift certificate

Deb Wood, gift basket



By Frank Santos

Could they be speaking of our CCC-AHSGR library and museum building? Fortunately, we are full of old stuff and even a few old people. So, who cares? We do. We care enough to try to preserve the history and culture of the Germans from Russia people. We care about the resources we can use to look up where our German people left from when they traveled to Russia. We care about where they settled in Russia and why they left Russia. We care about their migration into another world, including our greater Fresno area.

People today doing their genealogical research will have a resource they can come to and hopefully find answers currently unavailable on the internet. We care that our children and grandchildren will have a source to investigate their past family, including us, our parents, grandparents, and so on.

If you think, as we do, that our facility is worth saving for the future, then I would appreciate your help. While we can always add to our knowledge of our previous homes in Germany and Russia, that history has been and continues to be well documented. Where we in the local chapter of the AHSGR can accomplish something worthwhile is to document the trials of our early immigrants and their descendants here locally.

Over the years, many of our members have donated their family documents, photos, and mementos. While donor acquisition forms were filled out, much of what was collected was stored away. We need to go through and inventory the contents of our collection. We must properly preserve, process, and store materials where necessary. We need to scan our collection. We need to store the collected items in a searchable and retrievable manner. We have begun the process of itemizing our material in a retrievable database. In the future, we need to keep updating our records and tools as technology changes while still preserving the original documents and photos.

We need volunteers willing to work. Currently, we have a few people who are actively trying to preserve our heritage. With so much material and so little volunteer help, we may never accomplish our goal.

So, what it comes down to is, who cares? Do you care enough to help? If so, there are two ways one can help. The most important is to volunteer and work to preserve our past. The second way is to donate to our preservation process. Why is extra money necessary? Because proper preservation is a costly undertaking. While expensive, proper preservation practices are the best way to preserve our collection for future generations.

We would appreciate your help. Make a New Year’s resolution to do what you can to preserve our collection for the future, and then let us know when you can come in to help. 


Within our collection, we found a 267-year-old Bible donated to our museum in July 1993 by Mirium Irene Hohf. The inscription reads: Michael Hohf – Then Presented to Michael B. Hohf. Then presented in the year 1880 to Emmanuel B. Hohf. Ananicas K. Hohf Dec 13, 1915 – Miriam Irene Hohf Mar15, 1976 (adopted daughter of Ananias K. Hohf) – Daniel Leon Hohf Sr. June 1993.

A letter attached to the donation form stated that the Bible was first owned by Michael Hohf, a citizen of Germany, then presented to his son, Michael B. Hohf, who gave it to his son, Emanuel B. Hohf, who migrated to the United States of America settling in New Freedom, Pennsylvania in approximately 1892. The Bible was then given to his only son, Ananicas K. Hohf, known by his friends as A.K. Hohf, in 1915. On the demise of Ananias Hohf in 1975, the Bible was given in care to the adopted daughter of Ananias Hohf, Miriam I. Hohf. At his demise, Ananias Hohf resided in Hanover, Pennsylvania. At 25, he was baptized into the Brethren Church and was an active member until his death. To my knowledge, there are no Hohfs living in the USA presently. In German, I’ve been told Hohf means “of the court.”

 Age alone makes this book fascinating. We wanted to know more about the Hohf family, were they of German from Russia stock, so we did a little research using some of the tools available in our research area. We started our search in Pennsylvania, as the letter indicates. This is what we found.

Michael Hohf 1706-1777 Born Baden, Mannheim, Baden, Wurttemberg. Died York, Penn. Wife Barbara.

Heinrich (Henry) Hohf 1744-1783 Born and died in York, Penn. Wife Maria.

Michael Hohf 1768-1832 Born and died in York, Penn. Wife Maria.

Michael Hohf 1800-1879 Born and died in York, Penn. Wife Magdalena.

Emanuel B. Hohf, 1839-1915, was born and died in York, Penn. Wife Barbara.

Ananias K. Hohf 1888-1951 Born and died in York, Penn, Wife Carrie.

The 1973 obituary of Mrs. Ananias K. Hohf lists an adopted daughter Miriam Hohf.

So, the Hohf family were not Germans from Russia. But they were Germans and trace back to the same time and the same circumstances that caused our ancestors to leave Germany and move to Russia.


The Germans from Russia were not the first Germans to settle in the United States. For centuries, Europe had a long history of war after war. Some of the first Germans to emigrate to the US left to escape this warfare and settled in Pennsylvania in the late 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s. As is often the case, newcomers are not always welcomed with open arms. One of our founding fathers mentioned these people in his Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind (1751). “Why should the Palatine boors be suffered to swarm into our settlements and, by herding together, establish their languages and manners to the exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt to our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion.” Benjamin Franklin. Three quarters of these Palatine’s were indentured servants.

At the AHSGR we normally focus on the German people who migrated to Russia, but we should be aware that people of German stock have immigrated to the United States from the beginning of our country. As the saying goes, when you reach a fork in the road, take it. And our ancestors escaping Germany did. The following is an overview chronology taken from the Library of Congress.


1608 – Several Germans were among the settlers at Jamestown.

1700s – Small German-speaking religious groups' settling of the British colonies continued. Central colonies received the greatest part of immigration, especially Pennsylvania. As many as half of these immigrants came as redemptioners, agreeing to work in America for about four to seven years in exchange for free passage across the Atlantic.

1732 – The first German-language newspaper, Philadelphische Zeitung, was published in the United States.

1783 – As many as 5,000 of the Hession soldiers hired by Britain to fight in the Revolutionary War remained in America after the end of hostilities.

1790 – By this date, as many as 100,00 Germans may have immigrated to America. They and their descendants made up an estimated 8.6 percent of the population of the United States; in Pennsylvania, they accounted for 33 percent of the population; in Maryland for 12 percent.

1821 – The German custom of having a specially decorated tree at Christman time was introduced to America by Pennsylvania Dutch in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Later in the century, the Pennsylvania Dutch version of St. Nicholas Sinterklass evolved into America’s Santa Claus. The Easter bunny and the Easter eggs were also brought to this country by German Immigrants.

1848-49 – The failure of the revolution of 1848 to establish democracy caused thousands to leave Germany and settle in America.

1850s – Nearly one million Germans immigrated to America in this decade, one of the peak periods of German immigration; in 1854 alone, 215,000 Germans arrived in this country.

1860 – An estimated 1.3 million German-born immigrants resided in the United States.

1872 – The century-old privileges granted to German farmers settled in Russia were revoked by the Tsarist government, causing thousands of farmers to emigrate. By 1920, there were well over 100,000 of these so-called Volga and Black Sea Germans in the United States, with the greatest numbers in the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Colorado. In 1990, an estimated one million descendants of these Russian Germans lived in America.

1880s – In this decade, the decade of the heaviest German immigration nearly 1.5 million Germans left their country to settle in the United States; the greatest number ever, arrived in 1882.

1890 – An estimated 2.8 million German-born immigrants lived in the United States. A majority of the German-born living in the United States were located in the “German Triangle,” whose three points were Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and St. Louis.

1910 – In this year, an estimated 2.3 million German-born immigrants lived in the United States.

1920 – Roughly 1.7 million German-Born immigrants lived in the United States.

1933 – The coming to power of Adolph Hitler in Germany caused a significant immigration of leading scientists, writers, musicians, scholars, and other artists and intellectuals to the United States to escape persecution. By the end of World Warr II, there were some 130,000 of these German and Austrian refugees living in America.

1940 – An estimated 1.2 million German-born immigrants lived in the United States.

1950s – Between 1951 and 1960, 580,000 Germans immigrated to the United States.

1960s – Between 1961 and 1970, 210,000 Germans immigrated to the United States.

1970s – Between 1971 and 1980, 65,000 Germans immigrated to the United States.

1983 – The United States and Germany celebrated the German-American Tricentennial, marking the 300th anniversary of German immigration to Pennsylvania.

1990 – According to the Bureau of the Census, 58 million Americans claimed to be solely or partially of German descent.

It’s remarkable that we have a German Bible dated 1767 in our library. It’s also amazing that it was donated to the AHSGR in Fresno. It’s great that we can reconstruct the family history back to what is now Germany. Researching this family was easy because the family stayed in one area and the documentation was all in English.


by Alisa Lung Rodriguez

Our 2nd Annual Christmas Party and potluck was an amazing success! Almost 50 people attended this very festive gathering on Saturday, December 16th. For some, this was their first time visiting, and they assured us that they would return. The building was decorated for the affair. There was German sausage, kuga, salads, hot dishes, cookies, and candies spread on several tables. Our holiday boutique items were flying off the shelves along with homemade cookies and breads. The coffee was hot, and the friendships were warm. A highlight of the event was the Cross Church altar which is now on display. Visitors reminisced and found their own and family member photos in the confirmation binder, many taking new pictures with this great part of our GR history.  See our Facebook page for more photos and we hope to see you next year!


CHRISTMAS EVE MEMORIES – memory recited at Schmeckfest

A childhood memory in the 1950s–1960s. My family (Henry & Loise Deis, grandparents), aunts, uncles, and cousins would gather on Christmas Eve for a potluck and singing. We would gather in Selma and Fresno and sing jingle bells until Santa came to the door. Santa would sit in front of the Christmas tree and would call all the kids names one by one. We would sit on Santa’s lap and open a present. Then, off he would go to the next house. We continued this tradition as adults with our children and grandchildren until Covid.

Sandy & Edna Deis Farrel Edna, was Henry & Loise youngest child.



    When I talk to people about visiting our chapter building in Fresno, CA, I always tell them they will find more information and learn more about their ancestors than anywhere else in the city. Recently, I told a potential member, we are the only place in town that contains information about who and what they experienced as Germans from Russia both in Russia and America. Once we had GR churches, organizations, and entertainment venues where our people could get together to enjoy each other’s company. Once everyone in our community knew almost everyone else and much about their lives and job and family and where they lived. Nowadays, with intermarriage and loss of the German surnames, some don’t know much about what their ancestors braved both going to Russia and later coming to America.

    There are a few exceptions, one, being the Biola church where many GR’s still attend, but the main source of the culture and genealogy is the CCC-AHSGR. Like a village, all the information pertains to Germans from Russia. The people who started our chapter realized information about our time in Russia would become scarce after the generation who lived it. They copied as many records as they could find (some by hand) from the local Hall of Records and encouraged members to provide genealogies of their families. Traditions were taught, everything from hand sewing and embroidery to decorating feed bags, recipes that Gramma and maybe Mom, made from the old country, celebrating with polka dancing, drinking beer (and other alcoholic Beverages) was part of relaxing. They made huge batches of food like berrocks and German noodles to help pay expenses on our building. The GR’s never liked to owe anyone. Youth classes were held during the summer to tell grandchildren about the lives of their ancestors.

 One of our rooms is dedicated to objects used in Russia and early Fresno. I shudder when I see the primitive equipment our grandmothers used to feed and clothe their large families (some 10 or 15 or so.) We have spinning wheels and beautiful clothing made by our women. There are tools used for shoemaking, woodworking, and German sausage making. We have items from churches and pictures about farming, raisin making, etc.

    If you visit our building with its many resources, you might see records about your family or if you’re lucky a picture of a relative you’ve never seen before. If you come more often or volunteer to help us preserve this wonderful village, you may find out more than you expect. I’ve sat with more than one person talking about their background and discovered they were related to me or someone else in the organization. Knowing more about family can bring more information. I never knew how my grandfather got to America until one day sitting at the desk working for the youth camp, I had a Zoldoske come up to me and tell me he was my cousin. After I had established this was so, he told me Grampa came to America with his aunt and uncle and that gap was suddenly filled. It might not happen the first day or first year, but at some point, it could happen to you. We can use people who want this organization to run and who want to find out more about their ancestry. Make time for us. We need you. 


By Marilyn (Nilmeier) McDonald

Confirmation Memories from the 50’s

I was confirmed at the Free Evangelical Lutheran Cross Church in 1958 with a class of 53 under Rev. Carl Maier. This was a long-time tradition in our family as my dad was confirmed in 1929 and my mother in 1931 along with many uncles, aunts, cousins and my two older brothers. We attended a confirmation class on Saturday mornings learning and memorizing parts of the Lutheran catechism. I was 14 and a freshman in high school. The girls looked forward to picking out the perfect white dress and the best part was getting your first pair of “high heels.” (Actually, they were less than two inches, but were “high heels” to us. I wore them around the house and practiced walking without wobbly ankles.) The confirmation was held on Palm Sunday and again on Easter Sunday when we received our first communion. Our class recited in sing-song unison all the books of the Bible. Now, at age 80, I can still remember most of them as they were burned in our brain like multiplication tables. On Easter, we had to pass around a microphone, stand up and recite our individual piece. I remember being terrified to talk into a microphone in front of what seemed like “thousands” of people. As years passed, the classes were smaller and smaller as families diversified and old traditions faded away. I was fortunate to grow up with the rich Germans from Russia culture and traditions. Weddings were especially fun with good food, lots of beer and polka dancing.

Marilyn Nilmeier McDonald Confirmation class of 1958

Far Right

Mother Ruth Becker Nilmeier Confirmation class

Far Right


The altar was received as a gift from Norman Bitter, who stored the altar after the Cross Church transitioned to the Well. He was looking for a more appropriate and conditioned space to house the altar. It is believed Twilight Haven received the alter in 2019. Due to various problems this year, Twilight Haven filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which is now pending. Because of its historical significance to the Germans from Russia community the board decided to gift the altar to CCC-AHSGR Library and Museum. The altar was moved to its new home on December 5.

TWILIGHT HAVEN – A Brief History

At a conference of the German Congressional Churches, held in the Biola Congressional church from May 4-6, 1956, it was voted to proceed in the establishment of a rest home for the members of our churches. A chairman was chosen, and five members from each church comprised the committee to find a site, draw up building plans, and gather information. Eventually, the Cross Church forum voted to proceed on its own. On July 20, 1956, a mass meeting was called to lay plans. By-laws were presented and accepted at the October 7, 1956, meeting. The name was to be the Cross Church Home for the Aged, Inc. Fundraising efforts began, and a homesite benefit dinner was held on November 9, 1956, in the Edison Social Club.

Another group of interested laymen and ministers met in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on September 14, 1956, to discuss the possibility of establishing a home for the aged. The name was to be Twilight Manor. Since most of the persons were of German background, the two groups united. The merging of the two corporations into one strong unit, for one great purpose, called Twilight Haven, Inc. Twilight Haven was to be operated and controlled by the membership through its board of directors. Twilight Haven is a non-profit corporation. It is an entity and not a subsidiary of any church or social organization. In July of 1957, letters were written to persons who had invested in the two organizations requesting them to re-assign their investments to the merging organization. Twilight Haven. In May 1957, a combined financial drive was underway with gifts from 895 individual investors and churches. The first annual meeting was held on February 10, 1958. Groundbreaking services for the home were held on Sunday, February 14, 1960. The dedication service for Twilight service for Twilight Haven was held on Sunday, November 20, 1960. It was licensed in 1962.

The full text of Twilight Havens history can be found in the Free Evangelical Lutheran Cross Church 80th Anniversary (1892 – 1972) Book.


In the old country, every Sylvesterabend, New Year's Eve, the farmers would slice an onion, a Zwiebel, peal away twelve layers of its skin, and fill them with salt. These twelve layers of onions would be placed out overnight, twelve in a neat row. In the morning, the farmer could foretell which of the coming twelve months would be dry or rainy by referring to the twelve onion layers, according to how each had dried or not dried overnight. This would help the farmer to know the best months for planting and harvesting. After coming to America, the German farmers from Russia would often be heard complaining, “The Zwiebel Prophecy doesn’t work anymore. “And there was much confusion and then laughter over the old days' quaint “superstitious” beliefs. But the Braucherin in any village of the new country knew the truth: The Zwiebel prophecy stopped working because the people no longer believed in the old ways in the new land.

Sunflower Artist: Shannon Bickford