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Sons of Jacob Cemetery, as seen in 2004, was established in 1883 by the Garske Colony
Photo composite - Hal Ettinger (of blessed memory)

Sons of Jacob Cemetery in Devils Lake, North Dakota

A Monument Honoring the Original 1880's
Jewish Homesteaders of the Garske Colony
was dedicated on September 17, 2006

Sun is just up and lighting the eastern sky reflecting off fresh cut grass on the prairie.
Native flowers blooming along the trail.
Heavy dark rain clouds in the west framing the cemetery in a way only God can.
Our Flag and Sons of Jacob sign the focus point of the whole beautiful morning!
(May 28, 2012 at 6: 30 a.m ... Mike Connor))

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EVENTS, UPDATES & ADDITIONS

June-July, 2016
Cleaning the SOJ Cemetery Markers - by Joan Youngerman

May 4, 2016
History and Stories about and By Immigrants

December, 2014 a belated additon
Rare Native Prairie Greets Visitors - Photos by Shirley LaFleur, essay by Holly Mawby.

June 22, 2014
Tracing Solomon Kalov's Hebrew Epitaph
(By Dave and Stephanie Kalor-Robinson, great-great-grand daughter.)

June 20 & 21st, 2014
Rachel Calof Family Reunion and a Play Starring Kate Fuglei in Devils Lake, North Dakota
(Rachel was a Garske Colony homesteader.)


April 28, 2014
Dianne Siegel Ziskin spoke at the the Devils Lake History Center
View her lecture slides about the history of Jews in North Dakota and
her family's history in North Dakota, Why North Dakota ?

October 31, 2013
Article in the Grand Forks Herald October 31, 2013
(A Garske Colony homesteader descendent visits from Israel).

August, 2013
Rachel Calof Family Reunion and a Play Starring Kate Fuglei in St.Paul, MN
(Rachel was a Garske Colony homesteader.)

June, 2012
Remodeling and restoration
(photography by Mike Connor)

July 29-30, 2012
Reunion
(photography by several)

2012
A new " UNKNOWN" stone remembering those without markers installed.

   

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Garske Colony | Sons of Jacob Cemetery | Directions
Resources | Images | Media and other Recognition
Names of the Original Homesteaders | Letters from Homesteaders
Donations
Reflections on the Dedication by:
Dianne Siegel | Mike Connor

Visit the Devils Lake North Dakota Community Web Site ( www.devilslakend,com )
for information about Tourism, Economic Development, the Chamber of Commerce, etc.

 

Photographs

By Leighton Siegel
Cemetery overview and all markers
Dedication Ceremony
Reception after the Ceremony

By Various Photographers
More Pictures

Slide presentation by Hal Ettinger
A Journey Through Time

Media and other Recognition

* North Dakota Horizons 2007 Pg 1 Pg 2
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead 9-18-2006

Devils Lake Journal 9-18-2006
KLTZ TV Associate Press 9-18-2006
The Bismark Tribune 9-17-2006
The Wichita Eagle Kansas 9-16-2006
Grand Forks Herald 9-16-2006
Congress of the United States 9-15-2006
Devils Lake Journal 9-12-2006
Devils Lake Journal 8-2006
Neighbors 7-29-2006

Grand Forks Herald 7-29-2006
North Dakota Horizons Magazine 1978

Myer Shark obituary

Hal Ettinger obituary

 

* This article first appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of the North Dakota Horizons magazine, www.ndhorizons.com, and it is reprinted with permission

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Garske Colony

The Garske Colony near Devils Lake, North Dakota was settled beginning in 1883.   Many of the homesteads, but not all, were owned by Jewish families.  Each family occupied its own land, usually a quarter section of 160 acres.  Most houses were a mile or more from the nearest neighbor. The Calof and Greenberg extended families each had four homesteads that intersected at a corner, the four houses, barns, and granaries giving the appearance of a little village.  The area schoolhouse was nearby. 

According to one description, the earliest Jewish settlers of the Garske Colony were two brothers-in-law, Morris Kohn and Herman Kaufmann, who emigrated from a wine district in Hungary after a plague wiped out their vineyards.  Their story appears in The House That Shadows Built, a biography of Hollywood film magnate Adolph Zukor by Will Irwin (Zukor married one of the Kaufmann daughters). 

After arriving in America, Kohn and Kaufmann set off in 1881 with a capital of $380, a rickety wagon, and three horses which they put on a railroad box car for $60 heading to DevilsLake. There they mounted their horses and followed a guide several miles north across the trackless prairie.  As they were building their timber and tarpaper shack, one of the horses ran away. A spilled can of kerosene caught fire, consumed the newly completed shanty and set the prairie ablaze.  A fortunate rain halted this fire, but not before their new house was completely destroyed. The men returned to DevilsLake for supplies and this time they built a sod hut. They filed their claim, went into debt for money for a cow and farm machinery and planted forty acres of potatoes.   

Their venture was not successful. Morris Kohn soon gave up and moved to Chicago.  Herman Kaufmann stayed six years before also moving to Chicago. 
About the time these early settlers were leaving, Bennie and Phillip Greenberg and their families arrived to file claims. According to Early Jewish Agricultural Colonies in North Dakota by Clarence Anderson, the settlers lived through bitter winters, buried in blizzards, crowded into board shacks or mud huts with dirt floors.  Dried cow manure served as fuel for heating and cooking.  Bennie Greenberg eventually became the postmaster at Benzion. He remained in Devils Lake as a Justice of the Peace.  According to The Hole in the Heartland by Barrie Greenbie, Bennie Greenberg was one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave.  Phillip Greenberg also moved to Devils Lake and became a businessman there, later moving to Minneapolis. 

 

Original Plat map of part of the Garske Colony

North Dakota Homesteader's Sod House
[rs006661- North Dakota State University Archives]

 

Mike Connor tells us, "....had this picture of Garske in my office, don't know for sure when it was taken, but would assume sometime in the early 1900's....the store was run by a 'Hocking' Aarsby, my Dad talked about he & his 3 brothers earning 50 cents (not each) for unloading a car of lignite coal on the rail siding (over by the RR water tower)....by the 20's Dad said Garske had a lumber yard, bank, school, several grain elevator companies & of course the store. ....it would have been about an 8 mile walk or ride from near the Sons of Jacob cemetery to Garske, a long trip in those days. "

The Garske Colony was not the first community to have Jewish settlers, but it was one that succeeded.  Eventually 90 Jewish men and women filed claims in Ramsey County for land in this area. German philanthropist Baron de Hirsch played an important part in the establishment of this settlement. He believed that Jews would be better accepted in the United States if they were more like their neighbors and that translated into farming.  Thus many settlers received funds before making their way to North Dakota. The Minneapolis Jewish community and other communities in the United States sent food and money to help the settlers over the difficult times. 

Typically, the homesteaders would stay on the land the required number of years in order to receive their land patent. If their attempts at farming were unsuccessful, as most were, many homesteaders sold the land and used the money to move to larger cities such as Winnipeg, Minneapolis, St. Paul or Chicago. Some moved into the closest town, Devils Lake, to become peddlers, storekeepers or railroad construction workers.    

Devils Lake had a full Jewish communal life.  Jewish High Holiday services were held in the courthouse and court dates were not set in the fall of the year until holiday dates were scheduled. Most settlers adhered to Orthodox traditions. Rabbi Papermaster of Grand Forks served the community as needed and came every fall with provisions and to help prepare kosher meat for the oncoming winter. 

By 1912, the Garske Colony was the Northwest’s oldest Jewish farming settlement.  By the mid-1920s, however, the families had moved away and only the cemetery remained.

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Sons of Jacob Cemetery

The cemetery is located on the E1/4 of the SE1/4 of Section 27 in Sullivan Township, Ramsey County, ND, about 15 miles west of Edmore along Highway 17, and 2 miles south.  A strip of prairie in the area rises to a small hill. The cemetery is on the hill, is fenced, and measures 140 x 145 feet. The land originally belonged to the Kitsch family. A letter dated August 24, 1903 to Phillip Greenberg of Benzion confirmed that upon payment of $22.55 plus fees the community would own the five acres that include the cemetery as we see it today. 


Cemetery purchase agreement

From the records, the citizens who were instrumental in obtaining land for the cemetery were Phillip Greenberg, Jacob Goldberg, Abraham Adelman, John Calof, Ike Pyes, Sam Rosenthal, Jake Berkovitch, S. L. Wineman, M. Oxman, Max Pyes, H. Margolis, Moses Calof, Savol Calof, Maier Calof,  I Beaker, Max Torlovizke, D. Ruben, L. Koster, Mrs. Mill, M. Mill, Max Mill, B. Kanter, Sherovitz, S. Goldberg (some names are not legible and are just approximations). 
Information compiled by Pat Freije and Gail Melland suggests that the first soul interred in the cemetery was a 19-month-old boy named Kaufmann.  According to a story in North Dakota Horizons magazine, the Herman Kaufmanns settled in Dakota Territory in 1884 (other sources say 1881) and lived there for six years.  During that time, three more children were born.  The first burial would have been in 1888 or 1889.  There is no evidence of a grave marker for this child.  

Two newer headstones mark the graves of two Greenberg children who died at the turn of the century. Mrs. Irwin Epstein, a relative, was responsible for the new headstones. 

Evident markers in Sons of Jacob Cemetery found by Freije and Melland are as follows:

There are 12 recognizable graves but at least 15 people are thought to be buried there.  Others thought to be buried in the cemetery are from the families of Calof (Kalov), Sushansky and Kaufmann.

Cemetery survey map of 1933

Directions to the Cemetery Map (A star marks the cemetery)

From Devils Lake take ND# 20 north for 21 miles.
Turn right from ND# 20 onto ND# 17 and go east for 6 miles on ND#17.
Turn right from ND# 17 onto 88th Avenue NE when you see the green directional sign on a utility pole on south side of ND#17.
Go south approximately 1.75 miles on the gravel road (88th Avenue NE).


Turn right where you see the blue directional sign on the prairie trail.
The cemetery is approximately 1/8 mile west up a slightly sloping dirt/grassy driveway.
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Recommended Resources

Many books and articles have been written about life in early North Dakota.  Recommended resources include Rachel Calof's autobiography The Rachel Calof Story; The tour-de-force performance, RACHEL CALOF, A Memoir with Music Starring Kate Fuglei (Be sure to watch her 5 minute video.): Linda Schloff's And Prairie Dogs Aren’t Kosher; The exhibit Unpacking the Prairie; Dakota Diaspora: Memoirs of a Jewish Homesteader by Sophie Trupin; B. Greenbie's The Hole in the Heartland: An American Mystery; Sherman, Thorson, Henke, Kloberdanz, Pedeliski and Wilkins Plains Folk, North Dakota’s Ethnic History (pp. 388-406); Clarence Anderson's Early Jewish Agricultural Colonies in North Dakota. The Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest (www.jhsmw.org) also has many family histories and additional documentation about this period in Jewish history.

If you would like to make a donation toward maintenance of the cemetery please send it to:

Sons of Jacob Memorial
% M. Connor
8567 68th Street NE
Starkweather, ND 58377

Prepared by Dianne Siegel LSiegel005@gmail.com , great granddaughter of Davis Rubin, an early settler. Special thanks to Hal Ettinger (of blessed memory) for spearheading this project and to the DevilsLake Foundation and individual donors for their support.

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