The text of this page was begun on 18 June and last updated on 30 Setember 2003 -- rak. You do want to be careful. There is another Stahl -- Stahl-am-Tarlyk. That is a very different place!
The progenitor of our Kraus family on the Volga first settled in Stahl-am-Karaman which was and is on the eastern or plains side (wiesenseite) of the Volga.
According to cousin Brent Mai (vol.I,p.28), Stahl was founded by the Russian government on 9 July 1766; its Russian names were Svonarevkut and Swonarewkut; its religion, Lutheran; and its official populations: 152 (1769), 171 (1773), 256 (1798), 3,940 (1912) and 2063 (1926). Beratz, pp.353, 355 and 359 confirms that it was a "crown" colony as well as the date and most of the figures. (p.355). Our cousin David F. Schmidt in his AHSGR Journal Stahl article (Vol.14, no.1, Spring 1991) pp.15-27, includes a table showing population for 18 different years from 1769-1926 (p.15).
David is and has long been the AHSGR Village Coordinator for Stahl-am-Karaman.
The colony is situated across the river from Saratov, about 33 kilometers to the northeast on the Great Karaman River. The village belonged to the parish of Rosenheim where there was a pastor and a parish church at least as early as 1798.
My great great grandfather Johann Burghardt Kraus, coming from the Thuengen (Denig or Dening or Gening in Russian transliteration) Barony, arrived in Stahl on 22 June 1767 according to the First Settlers' List which has him in household #37 (Pleve,e-mail, 14 Jan.1998). For more regarding Johann Burghardt, click on him ... he is #64 in my ancestral tree.
I have not seen any source which actually gives his first name, but given the naming conventions of the time and of our family his first or baptismal name surely was Johann. The name which was used, which I believe to have been his middle name, is spelled differently almost every time it is used in the village records. It was a very difficult challenge to Russian clerks!
Cousin David's article is a presentation of the Stahl First Settlers' List, which probably dates for late 1767. If you have any serious interest in Stahl, you must read it!
There are 49 households in the list. Households numbered 32 through 49 are all Lutheran farmers from the Thuengen Barony in northwestern Bavaria -- the place is not clear in the record, but David got it right with some neat detective work which he describes in his article. Household 49 is listed as a Krau household and Prof. Pleve thought it might be a Kraus household. However, cousin David says it turns out to be a Grau household. David listed househod #38 as a Kraus household in his article, but later concluded that it was a Krutsch household. Households 36, 37, and 43 all have Kraus members, all of whom surely were closely related although the list only gives relationships within households:
#36 SCHNEIDER, Johann Adam 27, wife Anna Katherina 22, and daughter Katherina 1 [this couple are the ancestors of cousin David; the wife was a KRAUS; I have seen the marriage record in the German parish records -- rak. In addition, according to cousin David, this couple and their children were living in the same house as the couple of household #37, just next, at the time of the 1798 census.] However, the Stahl 1798 census, household #3, mistakenly gives Katherina's family name as KRAUTE.
#37 KRAUS, Adam 25, wife Margaretha 22, brothers Burnhard 21, Johann Kaspar 16, and Johannes 13. The Russian typescript which David used for his article had Burnhard's name wrong. The three younger brothers all left to get married in Doenhof during 1775-94. Adam is listed as Adam KRAUS still owing on his government loan in 1785. By the 1798 census, the Stahl Kraus families apparently are no longer using the KRAUS name; Adam Kraus and his wife apparently used it through 1785 but have died. Household #26 in that census is headed by the widow, Sabina KRAUSE 53. There is no hint as to which KRAUS(E) she had married, but it could have been Adam if his first wife, Margaret died before him. At any rate, Sabina appears 1) to have come from some other unnamed village (there is no Sabina in the Stahl First Settlers' List), 2) to have first married a SCHNARR, and 3) to have had no Kraus children, at least none that lived to 1798. In this census she lives with her SCHNARR son, his wife and their three children (one of these three who was 1 year-old was mistakenly said to be 16 in one translation of this census). Apparently Adam and Margareta had no children unless the wife in the 1798 census household #22 (Katarina (KRAUSE) KNOLL 28) was theirs. I think it more likely, since her husband is labeled as having come from Krasnoyar that she is the offspring of the unrelated Krauses who had settled in Krasnoyar.
#43 KRAUS, Johann 28, Anna (SCHNARR) 21, Anna's brother Michel SCHNARR supported by her after the death of colonist Johann SCHNARR. Johann is referred to as a KRAUS in 1785 in listing his debt, but, along with the rest of his family, as a KRAUSE in the 1798 census, household #8. By 1798 Johann has remarried and has two daughters (Susanna 5 and Regina 2) by his new wife, Anna Margareta (REIN) 31. A son, Johann Daniel 19, presumably Anna (SCHNARR)'s son, lives with them. A possible full sister of Johann Daniel's, is the new wife in household #6, Anna Katherina (KRAUSE) SCHIFFLER 20.
The early years were very tough going, especially on the wiesenseite where Stahl was. Beratz, whose sources on the early years of the colonies are mostly from the wiesenseite, lists many problems: seed grain that arrived from the government much too late (p.153), bad soil (p.154) that was often too stony or sandy (p.155), damage done by flocks of wild geese (p.155), and, most importantly, an almost decade- long drought that began the year the colonists arrived(p.154). In addition, the Pugachev rebellion against the Czar in August of 1774 ravaged many colonies [not Stahl] and spread terror to the others [including Stahl] (pp.199-209). More importantly, from 1771 until possibly as late as 1776, marauding bands of Kirghiz tribesmen, raided the villages on the wiesenseite, utterly destroying four of them, killing, raping and kidnapping elsewhere (pp.212-236). Again, Stahl itself was not hit but neighboring villages were and the terror was described as almost paralyzing.
Under these conditions, many people sought the comparative safety and better agricultural conditions of the bergseite on the western side of the Volga. Among them were Burghardt KRAUS and his two younger brothers. To continue their tale, go to Doenhof where all three went for their brides, and sooner or later to live and die.
The toll that the conditions described above took on Stahl was horrendous. Of the 49 households listed in the 1767 First Settlers' List, fully 25 and perhaps as many as 27, had completely died out or moved away by 1798. That is over 50%! None of the missing households would have been completely eliminated simply by the death of elderly folk.
For those who held out in Stahl, including some Kraus families, things got better. By 1798 there were at least 12 and maybe 14 households made up completely of folk from other colonies but now residing in Stahl.
At the time of the 1798 census, Popov the census-taker, reported that all were diligent farmers, with seven also practicing a skilled trade. All lived in satisfactory conditions, buildings being old, but in good repair, consisting of houses with porches, barns, granaries, and stables. All buildings were constructed of wood and were enclosed with wattle fences with gardens behind every house where all sorts of vegetables and tobacco were grown. Half had orchards but there were no apiaries or mills (Mai, pp.216-17).
As you can see from the population figures, the place thrived in the 19th century.