Alexandertal, pages 9-12.
Alexandertal (Novaya Sosnovka, aka Neu-Schilling), a German colony of settlers-owners in Kamyshin District, 3rd stan [a smaller unit of a volost], Ilovlya volost. It is situated 149 verstas [1 versta = 3500 feet or 1.6 km] from Saratov, 30 verstas – from Kamyshin, 18 – from the market village Dobrinka and 5 verstas north-east from the volost village – colony Rosenberg (aka Umet). The village is located on the small elevation, at the Saratov-Astrakhan post road and close to the ravine called Brat, on the left bank of the Ilovlya River, 1.5 verstas from it and 4 verstas from the colony Neu-Norka, which is situated on the right bank of the river. The first settlers from the colony of Schilling (on the Volga River) came here in 1853. They first settled near the ravine – closer to the center of the land allotted to them by the government but the settlers who came later did not like that place and they all together moved to the lowland at the post road and spent the winter in the dug-outs. In the spring of 1854 high water destroyed their dug-outs and they had to move to the elevated land where the village is situated now. As majority of the resettlers came here from Schilling, the Russians called the new settlement Novaya Sosnovka and the Germans called it Neu-Schilling. Later on it got the official name of Alexandertal (Alexander's valley) after the Emperor Alexander II (the colony was called so already in 1859). Germans-Lutherans resettled here from different colonies, mostly from the Sosnovka volost. They got land allotments from the government – 14 1/2 dessiatinas [dessiatina = 2.7 acres] of convenient land per male according to the 9th Census Revision, 2,458 dessiatinas of land altogether.
According to the 1859 List of Foreign Settlers and the list of settlements of the Central Statistics Committee, published in 1862 there were in the German colony Neu-Schilling near the ravine Brat: 19 homesteads, 123 males, 90 females, a Lutheran prayer house. According to 1886 District Census there were in the colony: according to the 10th Census Revision (1858) – 204 males and 228 females. In 1877 2 families moved to America, in 1871 1 person became a teacher, in 1886 one more family moved to America.
According to the Register of the Ministry of Government Property (1859) there were here at the time of the 10th Census Revision (1857) 30 families, 126 males and 69 females. In 1886 there were 60 household owners, 227 males and 218 females, total of 445 people of both sexes. Besides there were 63 constantly absent families and 3 families of 10 people of both sexes who were outsiders. There were 51 inhabited houses, 44 of those were made of stone, 7 - of wood. The settlers had 48 ploughs, 3 winnowing machines, 128 horses, 86 oxen, 81 cows, 33 cows that give no milk, 53 calves, 311 sheep, 139 pigs and 70 goats.
The allotted land, according to the State Office, was 2,609 dessiatinas of convenient land. But according to the Provincial District Board there were 2,454 dessiatinas of convenient land and 1,139 1/2 dessiatinas of inconvenient land, total: 3,593.5 dessiatinas. In 1886 there were 267 souls, who had 2,255 dessiatinas of plowed field, 27.1 dessiatinas of water meadows, 117 – meadowland, 78.3 – forests, and the rest was under estates, pastures and inconveniently located.
In 1890 there were 378 male settlers-owners, 350 female settlers-owners, total: 728 people of both sexes, the allotment was 2,606 4/5 dessiatinas of convenient land including 2,525 dessiatinas of arable land and 1,777 1/5 dessiatinas of inconvenient land, total: 4,384 dessiatinas (there is big difference in figures in comparison with the information provided by the Province Zemstvo Board).
Allotments are all in one place situated to the east from the settlement. Meadows are located along the banks of the Ilovlya River, 1.5 versts away. Bushes and firewood forest (up to 78.5 dessiatinas) are 5 versts away from the colony. The location abounds in hillocks and ravines scattered around the allotment. One third of the land is black earth, 0.25 arshin [arshin = 0.71 m = 2.4 feet] deep, subsoil is red clay, which can be used to make bricks. The rest of the soil is saline, there is just a little loamy soil and sand. There is a lot of absolutely inconvenient land – totally saline. The first re-allotment of land took place in 1858: the land was redistributed between available 192 males according to the 10th Census Revision. Re-allotments took place every 3 to 5 years until 1873 when the land was redistributed between 260 available males. In 1874 the allotment was redistributed again – this time the pens were doubled in size so that it would be easier to fight with ground squirrels. In 1877 the pens were redistributed again as there were a lot arguments about their size and also the quality of soil. This time the pens were made even smaller than at the time of the first re-allotment, having been divided between 267 souls. That was the time when ground squirrels overcame the allotment, so it was decided to take the distribution to the extreme: the whole of the arable land was divided (excluding just a small field of fallow land) into lots 100 x 100 sazhen in size. Every household owner could then lease from the community as much land as he needed. Thus a household owner gets the whole allotment in one or two places and not in 15-20 small pens and can exterminate ground squirrels more successfully.
Money received from lease is spent to pay taxes, the rest goes into the village-community fund. The fallow field was divided between 267 souls. In 1884 a small lot in the steppe was ploughed up. The lots of the 97 absent males are leased. In 1886 more steppe was ploughed up for watermelon, melon or gourd fields. In 1887 that field was sown with wheat. As the land is leased in small lots to household owners from their own community and also to colonists from Kraft, Dreispitz, Dobrinka, and Rosenberg, there is no farming system. Everyone does what he wants. Crop failure happens quite often due to ground squirrels. Firewood forest is felled each year and then divided between households. Houses are heated with kizyak [pressed dung used as fuel] and straw. Kizyaks are often bought in neighboring villages: 3-5 rubles for 1,000 kizyaks. Before 1878 there were only cabbage fields in the colony, they were distributed in accordance with the number of souls. In 1878 the land under vegetable gardens and gardens was divided in accordance with the number of households and was in hereditary use after that. These vegetable gardens and gardens are situated 1.5 verstas from the colony along the Ilovlya River.
The households do not have any (vegetable) gardens right there, only barns. Settlers do not lease land outside of the community. They do not buy land. The total sum of all taxes and duties in 1885 was 2,519 rubles. The community has to take loans every year. There were the following businesses in the colony: 6 shoemakers, 2 blacksmiths. There were no mills or stores in the colony. There was 1 dairy, 2 blacksmith shops, 2 shoemaking shops, 1 bread supply barn. There is 1 church in the colony, the school was founded in 1854. It is housed in a public building and is maintained by the village community. In 1890 there were 47 boys and 47 girls, who went to school.
According to the Register of the Saratov Province Settlements (1894) there were in the colony 405 males and 376 females, the total of 781 inhabitants of both sexes. They all belonged to one community of settlers-owners, Lutherans, with the exception of 18 Baptists and 2 Russian Orthodox settlers. There were 1 shoemaker, 1 carpenter, 1 joiner, 1 blacksmith, 1 weaver. There were in the colony: 1 parochial school, 1 community blacksmith shop, 1 windmill, 1 dairy. There were 280 buildings: 92 were wooden, 188 were made of stones and mudbricks, more than a half of the buildings have wooden roofs, the rest – thatched roofs.
Translation and notes by Dr. Lyudmila I. Koretnikova
Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Saratov Province by A.N. Minkh (Saratov, 1898-1901)