Immigration from Russia to the United States

July 4, 2009 at 8:00 am (Toepfer Roots) (, )

FREEDOM :: A Providential Move

The 3rd, 4th, and 5th sons of Johann Christian I; Johann Christian II, Johann Wilhelm, and Johann Heinerich and their families came to America during the migration from Russia in 1876. Their mother, Sophia (Rosine) Wiedemann, was still alive after the three sons came to America. We have no record of when she died.

The two youngest sons, Johann Carl and Johann Ludwig have never been heard from. We feel that they and their families left Russia before or during the Russian revolution. My grandfather, Johann Frederich Toepfer, son of Johann Wilhelm, had passed down the word to our family that he had heard the two youngesr sons, Johann Carl and Johann Ludwig, had migrated to South America. It is reported that in 1877 a large group from the Wiensenseite, about 300, left for Rio de Janeiro. This is one year after the three brothers left for the United States. The group that left for the Rio de Janeiro actually landed in Buenos Aires.

Others left for South America in later years but many reports came back of the poor living conditions that discouraged a large influx to South America.

At present, there is no organization that can be contacted for the immigrant information to South America. Therefore, it has not been possible at this time to conduct any research to try and locate possible relatives in South America. The few that may be in contact have done so by family letters. As far as we know, there have been no letters forthcoming from the relatives that either stayed in Russia or may have gone to South America. The Topfers (Toepfer) in North America and their posterity have remained in the United States.


The S.S. Mosel by you.

The S.S. Mosel

The estimated size of the S. S. Mosel is approximately 300 feet long and 40 feet wide. It had a very low water line and when loaded, the main deck was precariously close to the water.

Compared to a present day vessel, it would be similar in size to an early (1951) U. S. Navy Destroyer Escort (DE) of the Dealy class. The “DE” had a ships’ complement of 170 men. The assignment to a “DE” was the most difficult duty that a sailor could get because of the extremely small size of the “DE” as an ocean going surface vessel, (not to be compared to submarine duty).

To perceive the extreme hardship that our forebears endured, add in addition to the 170 persons on the ship, another 1454 souls. Now pack them on board an old, slow, sail/steam vessel, designed 100 years earlier! Those are the conditions under which our forbears struggled with when they made the crossing! Also, consider that those 1454 persons consisted of many older people, widows and children, expectant mothers, young adults, families, and babies.

There were those that died on the voyage, young and old. An older man had a fever for about 10 days. The family stayed at his side until he silently slipped away. They knelt around him and prayed. He was wrapped in a blanket, taken to the rail topside, and let slip into the ocean for a final resting place.

This trip, on July 21, 1876, a baby boy was born at sea to Johannes and Catharina Dinkel (the parents were 26 years od age). The trip for the Toepfers on this occasion was 21 days. That is 10 days less than a month! Most people these days cannot stand to be confined in their comfortable home for even one day.

SHIP LOG :: S. S. Mosel

The following was taken from the ship’s log:

The S. S. Mosel arrived July 29, 1876 from Bremen to the port of New York. They came from Fischer, Russia, a Protestant Village on the East bank of the Volga. They traveled in the steerage section of the ship and all were farmers. From New York they traveled by train to Ellsworth, Kansas, arriving on August 3, 1876.

Johann Christian’s family were passenger numbers 161 to 168
Johann Wilhelm’s family were passenger numbers 169 to 173
Johann Heinrich’s family were passenger numbers 174 to 179


When the Toepfers reached New York on July 29, 1876, they boarded a train that took them deep into the middle of America. They traveled for 4 days and nights and after what seemed an eternity, they reached their destination of Lincoln County, Kansas on August 3, 1876.

The settlements in Kansas were greatly influenced by the railroads. The railroad owned great parcels of land that they offered to the newcomers along with the promise of jobs. Land held by the Kansas Pacific Railroad was offered to the settlers at $2.00 and $2.50 per acre. This is the present site on which Victoria, Kansas now stands.

Our forbearer, Wilhelm Toepfer, settled in Ellsworth, Kansas, and his two brothers settled at Bunkerhill, Kansas. Later, Johann Christian Toepfer II settled around Ladysmith, Wisconsin. Johann Heinerick and family stayed on a farm near Bunkerhill, Kansas.

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