Transcribed directly from
"Facts and Figures of the Family of Joseph and Catherine Naab
and their Journey from Immigration to the Present Time,"
written by Sister M. Clement Naab in 1984. 
The Naab Family
from the Steppes of Russia
to the Plains of Kansas
After a long journey over land and sea, the family of Andreas Naab with wife Catherine, their son Joseph Naab with wife Catherine and their two small sons, Joseph and Andrew, arrived in America. Their destination was Pfeifer, Kansas since the sister of Catherine, wife of Andreas Naab, was well established in that area having immigrated some twenty-five years earlier.

These people, known as Germans from Russia, have an interesting history. During the reign of Catherine the Great (Empress of Russia), 1762 to 1796, many German people were persuaded to come to Russia to develop and settle the area along the southern portion of the Volga River and near the Black Sea. Many promises were made to the German people in exchange for their hard work and expertise. Among these promises were exemption from taxes and military duty.

Those responding to the invitation to settle these areas of Russia were principally Catholics and Mennonites and Lutherans. Each group remained a close-knit unit who developed their own villages. History relates many instances of outsiders molesting the villagers, but the people developed strong ties to protect their families and their possessions.

During these troubled times, Russia was going through many internal problems. Changes were being made that affected the lives of the people.

Some of the promises made to these German people were now being taken away from them. Taxes were being imposed and their young men were being conscripted for military duty. It was in those years, the great exodus from Russia began. Large numbers gathered up their families and belongings and immigrated to the United States and Canada and South America. It was during this exodus that the Naab family came to Kansas. Their plans and journey were aided by the fact that Grandma Naab's sister (Marianna Stegman) was living in Pfeifer, Kansas.

Little is known about the family of Andreas Naab, except the fact that his wife, Catherine, had a sister, Marianna Schmidt Stegman, and a brother, John Schmidt, who had come to America earlier and lived in Pfeifer, Kansas.

The immediate family of Andreas and Catherine consisted of five children, all of whom died while very young during an epidemic of measles. Only Joseph survived. He lived and worked with his father and in his early twenties married Catherine Jede. Little is known about the family of Catherine, except that her parents died while she was a small child and another family raised her. Since there were no laws requiring people to send children to school, this little girl was not sent to school, but had to earn her keep by hard work in her new family. She married Joseph Naab at the age of twenty or twenty-one.(Even though she was deprived of the opportunity of going to school, I often marveled at the intelligence of my mother and how well she was able to manage her life and her family without the help of reading and writing.)As the internal problems of Russia increased, more and more of the villagers left their homes and farms to go to America in search of freedom and opportunity for their families. Families and friends joined together to travel in groups. One such group was the family of Andreas Naab with son Joseph and his family. Also, traveling in their company was a sister of Catherine Jede Naab whose name was Elizabeth. Little is known abut her except that she had a family and was traveling with the Naab family when they became separated on the way while the Naab family was detained in Hamburg, Germany because of the birth of their son, Andrew. It was at this time, Elizabeth and her family continued on their journey which took them to South America, thus separating the two sisters. They did not see each other again, but kept some contact by mail until all contact was lost during World War I.

The Naab family lived in the village of Kamenka where their first child Maria was born and died in infancy. Their son, Joseph, was also born here on October 20, 1896. Preparations were now underway for hte journey to America. Gathering their families and their personal belongings, they left Kamenka to travel some sixty miles or more to Saratov where the official departure was to take place. The passport shows the date of departure from Saratov was on December 5, 1898.

Another child was expected and it was hoped that the journey to America would be completed before the child was born. However, when they arrived in Hamburg, Germany, the authorities would not allow the family to continue on their journey until after the birth of the child. Andrew was born December 28, 1898.

Few details are known about travel across the ocean and the landing in New York. One date that was handed down with some importance attached was January 29, 1899. There is some question as to whether that was the landing in New York or the arrival in Kansas. (Since that day is Kansas Day, I like to think they arrived in Kansas on that date.)Even less is known about the trip from New York to Topeka, Kansas, but it is assumed they traveled by train. Their stay in Topeka was brief and then on to Pfeifer where Grandma's sister, Marianna Stegman, and her family lived. At last they were reunited with family and friends.

The next task as hand was to establish a home of their own. The details of this period have been lost, but many stories have been told of the hardships endured by these pioneers.

On July 31, 1906, the farm, 160 acres, in Park (Gove County), Kansas was purchased from William J. Albert, who had Homesteaded the farm for a short time. The certificate of the homestead transaction is included in this brochure. [I'll try to scan the photocopy in some time, but for now, don't look for it.  -- meg] They now owned their first land, but it needed a home. With their own hands, they built a sod house to give shelter to their family while other improvements were to be made. Later, a small frame house was to serve as their home for the remaining eight years they lived on that farm.

During these years, four children were born. Grandpa and Johannes (who died in infancy) were buried in the Catholic cemetery at Park. The Catholic church and school were only 2 or 3 miles away. Five of the children were old enough to attend the parochial school.

Times were hard and it soon became evident that the family could not make a living on this dry land.

Ater the wheat was planted in the Fall, a search was made for land that gave better promise of making a living for the growing family. On June 11, 1913, a farm 14 miles northwest of Kinsley, Kansas was purchased from W.H. Danler, L.A. Danler, Beatrice Danler in Edwards County. This 160-acre farm was the beginning of what was to remain the family home until our parents retired in 1944. Other acres were to be added later.

Wheat remained the principle crop throughout the years, with only small acreage given to corn for stock feed and roasting ears for the table. During those thirty-one years on that farm, there were many good years as well as some disouraging crop failures.

However, with careful planning and hard work, there was always food on the table and clothing for the growing children. The greatest hardships came in the early thirties during the "Great Depression" when people everywhere suffered the same fate. To further complicate the lives of these people, the Mid-western States were hit by the great drought which was followed by the dust storms. Day after day, the strong winds and blowing clouds of dust became so intense that Kansas and Oklahoma and surrounding areas became known as the "dust bowl". In those days, no one had any money and there were very few, if any, opportunities for jobs. When a little work could be found, men worked for as little as a dollar a day, women worked for as little as three dollars a week and were glad to get it. People suffered during those years and many became discouraged and moved to other parts of the country. Thousands went to California.

Somehow, the Naab Family survived that dreadful period of our national history. By this time, most of the children had become adults and some were married while others worked away from home. The two youngest were still in their teens and I believe the "Depression" was hardest of all on this age group. There were no jobs, no money, and no opportunities. In retrospect, one can see the part these hard times played in the formation of the characters of these young people. All the members of the Naab family developed a determination that does not give up. It is this quality that helped then survive those years.

As the national economy started to recover from the "Great Depression", life on the farm started to improve too. Clem was the only one of the children living at home then. He was married and had a family of his own, but continued to manage the farm with his father.

In 1944, Joseph and Catherine decided the time had come for them to retire from their labors leaving Clem and his family to take full responsibility of the farm. They bought a house in Kinsley, next door to the Sister who taught in the parish school. The new home was in the same block with St. Nicholas Catholic Church.

This was important to them as they valued the opportunity to worship at daily mass. Their new home was comfortable and they seemed to enjoy the peace and serenity of their new surroundings. Both remained in good health except for the usual ailment of old age.

In the mid-1940's, the Naab family got together again. This time to celebrate the Golden Wedding of their parents. With them came their spouses and their children. It was delightful to get acquainted with so many new members of the family. All joined in the joyful celebration honoring the "fifty" years of our parents marriage. Many interesting snap-shots were taken that day, providing much enjoyment even today as we browse through the boxes of family pictures. How people can change in 50 years!The last two years or so of his life, Joseph Naab showed signs of poor health. The family doctor attended his needs, but he was never a hospital patient. About sunrise on March 19, 1948, he died quietly and peacefully at home having remained conscious to the last. The family gathered for the funeral services. It was an occasion for members, living at great distances, to meet and visit.

After his death, the adjustment for the widow, Catherine Naab, was tremendous. All through their long lives both of them remained dependent on each other for their personal needs. All the outside business and most of the shopping was done by the husband and he was just as dependent for all his personal needs, (food, clothing, household management) on his wife. However, with the encouragement and help of friends and relatives and neighbors, she adjusted to her new life remarkably well. Her widowhood lasted eight yeaers during which time, her health remained good until the last few years. A light heart-attack and a back injury slowed her down considerably, but she learned to cope with that. Her final illness was brought on by a severe stroke which left her unconscious for a long time and paralyzed on the one side. She regained a measure of her awareness and a limited ability of speech during the latter part of her illness which lasted 99 days. She died peacefully in her sleep on March 7, 1956, at Mt. Carmel Hospital in Pittsburg. Both Joseph and Catherine are laid to rest in the family lot of St. Peter and Paul Cemetery at North Kinsley, Kansas.

The Naab Family Intro Page
The Naab Family from the Steppes of Russia to the Plains of Kansas
Recollections of Some Personal Experiences of the Naab Family