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« Iowa Wends | Home | Lay Leaders of the Mi… »

Nebraska Wends

Sunday 20 May 2012 at 10:12 pm.

This article first appeared in the October 2006 issue of the Texas Wendish Heritage Newsletter and was last revised on May 20, 2012.

Nebraska became the home for two groups of Wends. Both groups were from Lower Lusatia not far from Cottbus and migrated in the last three decades of the nineteenth century. The Wendish pastor, Mato Kosyk (Kossick) visited both communities and in all likelihood he informed the two groups of each other, but nothing indicates any association between the two.

The first group originated from the villages of Scadow, Stradow, Muckwar, Gosda, Proschim, Lieske, Senftenberg, Welzow, Terpe, and Greifenhain and settled in Johnson County in southeastern Nebraska. The towns in Johnson County nearest to the immigrants’ farms were Sterling and Burr.

The earliest identifiable Wend in Johnson County was Matthias Panko who migrated with his wife and six children in 1869. Others who joined him included Gottlieb Wusk who migrated in 1877, Matthais Wusk with a family of seven in 1880, and John Rulla who migrated in 1881 with his family of seven. One of the Wends who settled in Johnson County in 1880, Christian Pohlenz, had migrated to Wisconsin in 1859, but most of the others traveled directly to Nebraska. By 1884 the influx of Wends ended with the Kaspar/ Kobisch family.

There was intermarriage between the Wendish families, but with such a small group and without continued migration, the Wendish language and traditions died quickly. A faint memory of the Wendish heritage existed in 1973 when A. F. Wusk, grandson of Matthais, acknowledged that his ancestry was Wendish. The best documentation for the Wendish presence was from Pastor Mato Kosyk. He was a founder of the German- speaking Nebraska Synod and a pastor in a neighboring county. He visited Sterling in the 1890s and spoke Wendish with old settlers. Even though the first generation of Wends fondly remembered the old language, Kosyk noticed that the children were speaking neither Wendish nor German, but English. When he asked for financial support for the construction of a Wendish building in Germany the response was meager.

Other Wendish surnames in Johnson County were Boslau, Lehrack, Mucha, Merting, and Pech.

The second Wendish group originated from the villages of Sielow, Scadow, Gross Gaglow, Schmellwitz, Petershain, and Willmersdorf and settled in Clay County near such towns as Clay Center, Inland, and Hartford.

This migration also began in 1869 with the arrival of Robert Hendreschke, Fred Kockrow and John Koinzan, but it continued on until 1906 with the migration of William Wenske. It mirrored the Johnson County group in that most traveled directly to Clay County, although two families, those of Augustus Hoppens and Gottfried Nowka, lived in Michigan before they went west.

Another similarity was that they traveled as separate families such as John Schuppan and Martin Lobeda, or as individuals such as the Wenske brothers who migrated in 1892, 1898 and 1906. Two young bachelor Wends, Martin Nesow and Christian Nowka traveled back to Europe in 1898 and returned with wives.

The Wendish tradition was stronger in Clay County than in Johnson thanks in part to continued immigration. Emma Wenske, who visited Sielow in 1967 and again in 1980, does not remember Wendish spoken among the Clay County people, but she heard her father sing Wendish songs as he rocked the baby. Most of these Wends also joined the Nebraska Synod and enjoyed carrying on Wendish conversations with Pastor Kosyk. Their bonds to Europe were not much stronger than those in Johnson County and when Kosyk asked for contributions for another Wendish cause, he received only one gift.

The Wends helped in the founding of a Lutheran country congregation when Wilhelm Fitzke contributed land for a church, cemetery, and parsonage. In 1942, during World War II, when an extensive area east of Hastings was taken by the United States for a Navy ammunition depot, the land of the congregation was also included. The cemetery at South Inland, as it was called, remained, but the church building and the parsonage were moved to Clay Center. The cemetery continues to exist for Zion burials and the tombstone for Christian Lobeda identifies Cottbus as his place of birth. Three Wendish families affiliated with a German Congregational Church in Inland.

Other surnames in Clay County are Selko, Konzan, Konzak, and Kieschke.

(See pages 212 to 217 in Trudla Malinkowa, Ufer Der Hoffnung: Sorbische Auswanderer nach Übersee.

To view my original notes regarding the Nebraska Wends, click here.

eleven comments

David Mischke

I have been doing research on my family for the last couple of years. My g-grandfather, Charles (Carl) F Mischke immigrated to the US in 1854 from Wisbuhr and Manow Pommern. I have been chasing the name origin. I have been trying to follow the Wend possability. He settled in Frankfort, Neb. which is now under the Lewis and Clark lake up by Crofton. Is it possible that it is of Wend origin. Thanks

David Mischke - 02/22/2013 23:26
George Nielsen

Even though someone named Mischke from Pomerania could well have had Slavic ancestors, the likelihood of a connection with the Wends (Sorbs) of Lusatia is remote. Germans used the term “Wends” in as generic way to refer to Slavs. Read up on the Kashubians. The were Slavs that lived in Pomerania and had been “Germanized” well before 1854.

George Nielsen - 03/21/2013 01:34

I’m an archaeologist from Museum in Koszalin. Since June I’ve been working at an excavation site in Wisebuhr churchyard (building was destroyed in 1954 or 1956). We found relicts of two churches – from 16th and early 18th Century:
Since began the excavation I’ve been looking for any informations about the church – photos, memories, documents. Do you have any contact with people who lived in the village before WW II?

I’ll be grateful for any informations and suggerstions.

Best regards

Andrzej Kuczkowski
(Departament of Archaeology
Museum in Koszalin)

Comment certified by Dan as being legit 8/26/2013

Andrzej - 08/20/2013 10:31
Danielle Southard

I am a descendant of a Nebraska Wend, Matthias Panko. I would be interested in any information anyone would have about either the Panko’s or other families that migrated to Nebraska with them.

Danielle Southard - 03/13/2014 13:48
Ashley Pohlenz

This is very interesting to read. I have been working on some genealogy of my family and Christian Pohlenz is my 3rd great grandfather. I have been to visit his grave in Sterling, NE. Thank you for posting this information so that I can learn a little bit more about the people he was a part of.

Ashley Pohlenz - 08/31/2014 09:37
Sandra Jeppsson

My maternal grandmother is Emma Pew (Foss-Panko), daughter of Matt Jr. Panko and Anna Marie Wusk. I have an extensive record of the Panko -Wusk-Boslau-Straube families, which was compiled by Ruth A. Borchers. I received this by responding to something I found on the internet at least ten years ago. I don’t know if it is available at this time. My mother tells me that the records from the area or origin (formerly Eastern Germany) have all been destroyed. But we have some documents in the U.S.A., including a Exit Permit (in fancy German handwriting) for Mattis and Marie (Koppentz) Wusk to come to America.

Sandra Jeppsson - 07/9/2015 05:40
K. Schaefer

My paternal Grandmother was Ida Koinzan, daughter of Fredrick Koinzan and Anna Marie Kockrow. We were always told they were Germans. But quite recently I discovered they might have been Wends. Would be grateful for any information on the Koinzan and Kockrow families in Nebraska

K. Schaefer - 09/25/2015 23:57
George Nielsen

Sandra: Thanks for your message. More information on Nebraska families is available under “Hot Projects” then “Nielsen’s Notes” and then “Nebraska.” If the information you have would be available for inclusion in the Wendish Research Exchange’s holdings, I’m certain all would be welcomed and appreciated. Please contact Weldon@Wendishresearch.org for more information.

George Nielsen - 09/29/2015 16:42
George Nielsen

K. Schaefer: For the Nebraska Family Pages click on Hot Projects; then on Nielsen Notes; then on Nebraska. The names you mention are on one of the pages.

George Nielsen - 09/29/2015 16:45
Dan Rolf

George, I’m absolutely blown away by this information. Christian Pohlenz was my grandfather’s great grandfather. We have copies of Christian’s immigration papers from the Kingdom of Prussia, but didn’t realize he was a member of the Sorbian minority. If not for your blog we may have never known. My Grandpa is still going strong in his mid-90s, and will find this fascinating. Thank you

Dan Rolf - 01/20/2016 23:27
Jason Nowka

Blown away as well! Have just started on genealogy of my family. Gottfried Nowka is my 3rd great grandfather. I have found his homestead papers, in Nebraska etc. Curious as to the knowledge of him living in Michigan before Nebraska? I am definitely going to research this site in more detail, as I have accidentally just stumbled upon. I mainly am having great trouble with the continuation of “Nowka’s” in Germany/Prussia, and nor do I read/write German, which is a bummer when I find german transcripts of birth etc. I barely just read/learned about the whole sorbian/wendish background. Of course I am greatly interested who Gottfried’s parents were, I have found possibilities. Curious about beliefs, if they were slavs, or todays poles etc.. Thank You, Jason Nowka

Jason Nowka - 03/28/2016 10:35

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