Contributed by the City of Greeley Museums
In 1762 the Russian Czarina, Catherine the Great (herself a German) noted two major problems. First, Germany’s people suffered from continuing wars, starvation, high taxes, over crowding, and religious intolerance. And second, Russia’s western region along the Volga River and Black Sea was sparsely populated, leaving those areas vulnerable to invasion. To solve these two problems Catherine invited Germans to settle in Russia. Settlers would have freedom of religion, be able to keep their German language, pay no taxes, be free from military service, receive interest free loans for ten years, and funding would be available to help establish new industries.
Approximately 27,000 Germans settled in 104 colonies along the Volga River. The German States stopped the exodus in 1768 and the invitations from Russia to foreigners were halted in 1819 by the Russian government.
The German settlers farmed their Russian land, and the villages prospered. In 1874 the Czar of Russia, Alexander II, withdrew many of the benefits of their German settlers. Famine was the final unbearable hardship for these people so the Volga Germans were immigrating to South and North America by the thousands.
Between 1870 and 1910 entire communities of these Germans from Russia immigrated to the United States. Most settled in farming regions, especially Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Colorado. Timing was perfect for these immigrants to work in the fields and in the factories of the progressing beet sugar industry. Between 1899 and 1926 Colorado sugar factories were built in; Loveland, Greeley, Eaton, Fort Collins, Longmont, Fort Lupton, Ovid, Johnstown, Windsor, Grand Junction, Sterling, Fort Morgan, and Brush.