Merck Family - Random Notes

Joseph John Merck, with his wife, Katherine Cecilia Eberle, brought his family from the Ukraine to the United States in 1912. This site will contain some random notes and comments about the family background, their experiences, the places they lived, and other subjects related to that topic. No particular organization of comments or articles should be expected.

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Location: Jacksonville, Arkansas, United States

Saturday, July 28, 2007

More Mercks

Back in December 2006 I wrote about a possible connection between our family and the Mercks who settled in Freeport, Illinois, about 1870. Francois Joseph Merck and his sons emigrated from Alsace, France, to Illinois. My grandfather, Joseph John Merck, was raised in South Russia and brought his family to North Dakota in 1912 after a three year stopover in Brazil and Argentina. His ancestors also had lived in Alsace. Through research of civic and church records, we have now linked the two families to common ancestors who had lived in the village of Schoenenbourg. Our group visited that village in June and learned that Mercks still live in that attractive community. JoAnn Merck Meyers, one member of the Illinois Merck family group, and I have been sharing information about our respective families and their history.

I have recently been communicating with a member of another Merck family, this one descended from Michael Merck who settled in Newark, New Jersey. He was born in 1823. Although we have identified a Michel Merck born that same year in Schoenenbourg, we have yet to confirm that it is the same person. Should Michael and Michel actually be the same person, we will have established a definite link to another branch of our family now residing in the United States. We are proceeding with some confidence to confirm this link.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Kutschurgan Churches

These notes are about the churches in the Kurschurgan villages we visited. The source of this data is Paradise on the Steppe, by Joseph S. Height, published by the Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Bismarck ND, 1973.

Mannheim: First church built in 1819 - field stone. Used until 1847. Bishop Lipsky consecrated a new church in 1861. That church was enlarged, completed in 1895 and consecrated by Bishop Zerr on October 27, 1896. Dedicated to Nativity of Mary. That was the church we saw. It had contained a main altar of white marble, with four side altars. Stations of the cross were nearly six feet in height. But perhaps the most exciting acquisition was the pipe organ from Bavaria, the "largest and finest organ to be found in South Russia". But in less than three decades, the organ was ripped apart and the Soviet plumbers used the pipes for gutters and rain spouts.

Elsass: Church built in 1827 - was small, but used for 70 years because they were affiliated with Mannheim until 1895. Their new church was consecrated in Fall 1892 by Bishop Zerr. Dedicated to St. Gabriel the Archangel, who was depicted in a large oil painting above the main altar that was imported from Tyrol.

Strassburg: To replace the original, a new, larger church was built in 1863. It was dedicated to St. Joseph. Built by Father Weber.

Baden: St. Michael's, the new church, was built in 1898/1899 and consecrated in 1901 by Bishop Zerr. In the early 1930s the communists demolished the tower. The good people of Baden secretly removed the church garments and vessels and only returned them to the church when the German-Wehrmacht marched into Baden in 1941 when religious services were again held.

Selz: The first church built in 1811, and rebuilt in 1830, became too small by 1859. Construction did not begin until 1897 and the basilica was consecrated November 25, 1901 by Bishop Zerr. Dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.

Kandel: Their church was built in 1892 - stone. It was consecrated by Bishop Zerr and dedicated to St. Michael.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Cherry Juice

Perhaps the most enjoyable refreshment we enjoyed during our visit to the Ukraine was the cherry juice served us by Luisa Riesling of Selz (Limans'ke). After visiting the immense Catholic Cathedral which the German pioneers had built there, we stopped to see the one room museum which tells the story of the German people who built the village of Selz. This museum is the result of work done by Luisa and Margarita Budayera, the former mayor of Selz.

Luisa was born in Selz in 1936 to Fritz Karl Mautner and Lydia Riesling. Her father worked for the Red Cross and Defense Society, training young recruits for the military. He was arrested in 1937, imprisoned and subsequently shot. As happened often at that time, the family didn't know what happened to him until he was 'rehabilitated' in 1985. Lydia was later arrested and imprisoned for six months. Luisa and her brother, Walter, lived in the Selz orphanage during that time. Lydia had to renounce her husband and change all of their names back to Riesling in order to reclaim her children.

When the Soviet Army was advancing from the east in 1944, the German residents fled for the West. Many were captured and wound up as slaves in the Soviet 'labor camps'. Luisa worked in the forest and in an iron mine in the Ural Mountains until she was liberated in 1956. She was then allowed to move to Kazakhstan. Luisa married Chokan Anton Josephovich, who had also been 'repressed' and had worked in coal mines in the Urals, and in 1974 the family moved to Latvia. They were allowed to return to the former home of Pius Riesling at Selz in 1992. Luisa's husband died in 2002, and Luisa continues to live in the Riesling house. Her daughter and family live nearby. Even though Luisa may move to Germany and join her brother, Walter, she prefers to operate the Selz museum she established to tell the story of the German people who lived there.

We were pleased when Luisa offered to show us her home. When we visited the cellar, she removed a large container of cherry juice. It was especially enjoyable to join Luisa in her vine covered terrace, to visit with her and to taste that delicious cool drink. It was an honor to be the recipients of her gracious hospitality.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


The village of Elsass (now Scherbanka) was a primary goal of our trip to the Ukraine. That village was the home of the Merck family prior to their emigration to the Americas in the early 1900s. With the aid of a 1944 map of the village, we walked on the ground of several homesites of Merck families who had remained in Elsass. We found the villagers to be very friendly. The director of the school gave our group a tour of the school building which soon will house a small museum devoted to the early days of the village. In greeting the family, the village administrator presented an invitation to us to return in 2008 to celebrate the founding of the village 200 years ago. A small group of photos of our visit to Elsass is now online.