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A Summary of German Immigrants to Northeast Kansas

Sunday, February 26, 2023/Categories: History

A Summary of German Immigrants to Northeast Kansas

The Benedictine Abbey established by Bavarian monks in Doniphan in 1857 and moved to Atchison in 1859 became the focus of a significant German Catholic settlement band that by 1865 extended for several counties along the border with Nebraska. The most important of these were Wolf River in southwestern Doniphan County and St. Benedict (Wild Cat Creek) in northern Nemaha County. The overwhelming majority of settlers at St. Benedict came from Oldenburg.

In his 1962 Atlas and Statistics, Justice Neale Carman determined a so-called "critical year" for every non-English speaking group settlement in Kansas. The "critical year" was the approximate date by which time only about half of the families with children in a given community were still using the emigrant language or dialect in the home. Based on Carman's information, the Catholic German settlements in northeastern Kansas stopped using German fairly soon after arriving in Kansas. Most experienced the "critical year" prior to the First World War (Fidelity 1890, Flush 1900, Scipio 1905, Lancaster 1910, Easton 1913, Mooney Creek 1917). Even in larger settlements such as St. Benedict ("critical year" 1920) and Wolf River (1925) assimilation was already in progress prior to the war. The tenacity of the Low German dialect in St. Benedict, however, is evidenced by the presence of a handful of semi-speakers of the dialect today (2005).

From Linguistic Atlas of Kansas German Dialects

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