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Windholz History: 

From Germany, to Russia, to America

A brief summary from the book JOHANNES AND MAGDALENA (PFEIFER) WINDHOLZ FAMILY by Oren Windholz. Click Here for More Info

The Windholz name literally transferred from the German is Windwood. As far back as can be determined, the ancestral Windholz name has always been spelled this way.

Present ruins of the Graf Catholic Church

Our earliest known Windholz ancestor, Anton, according to the Russian census of 1766, was born in Regensburg in 1739. Igor Titov first reported this during a visit to Ellis County in 1993. Saratov archivist Igor R. Pleve, however confirmed on June 20, 1998, that "We do not possess any information on the birth place of Anton Windholz. Most likely, Regensburg was the place the colonists assembled." Anton arrived in Graf, Russia in June 1766, at the age of 27 with his wife Maria Terezia, age 19. Her 10 year old brother Andreas Gerber accompanied them. They later moved to Mariental. Karl Stumpp, in his book on the migration to Russia, listed the following: Windholz, Anton 1765, m. Rosina Gerber in Rosslau [Germany]. Rosslau was not likely their place of origin either. Rosslau was one of the cities of embarkation for Russia. Hundreds of people were married en route to Russia in these embarkation cities. The last minute marriages were due to preference by Russian authorities for married couples. The age difference between our ancestral couple and their marriage before embarkation would certainly indicate a convenience marriage. Rosina and Maria Terezia are certainly the same person, wife of Anton. One other Windholz, no first name given, is recorded by Stumpp as having migrated to the Odessa region of Russia from Germany.

There are many different written and oral history accounts of the reasons Germans migrated to Russia. One was the impact of the Seven Year's War (1756-63). and the subsequent living conditions in Germany. Most likely the greatest attraction was the opportunity to acquire free land. Catherine the Great was a German born Princess who married the Emperor of Russia. Russia had vast stretches of undeveloped land and had always encouraged foreign settlers. Catherine issued an invitation (manifesto) to Germans and people of other countries to immigrate and settle these lands.

The Manifesto of the Empress Catherine II primarily guaranteed the free practice of religion, tax abatement, freedom from involuntary military service, land allotted for eternity, rights to purchase additional land, inheritance rights, and the freedom to leave Russia. The greatest period of migration to the Volga River region was from 1764-67, of some 23,000 people. Germany did not approve of this loss of people and took steps to ban migration to Russia in 1768.

Anton Windholz found the offers in the Manifesto in his best interest, found a young girl to marry and made the journey to Graf Russia. He was listed as receiving 162 Rubles, two horses, and one cow.

Anton Windholz, his new bride and her brother arrived in Graf (Krutoyarovka). The land of the colony was bordered in part by Mariental (Tonkoshurovka) and Herzog (Susly). Windholzes subsequently relocated to these two other settlements, with Herzog the home of Johannes and Magdalena before migration to America.

Anton Windholz was a Catholic as most likely were his ancestors. Until records on his ancestry are found, it is unknown how long the family was Christian. From earliest times, German churches were the greatest outward sign of their Christian faith. The Volga Germans also built magnificent churches in Russia.

The church in Herzog was one of the finest in the Volga
 Region. This picture was taken in 1910.

The immigration of the Volga Germans stretched from Canada to South America. The Windholz family was part of the contingent that settled in Ellis County, Kansas. Johannes and Magdalena (Pfeifer) Windholz were the first generation of the family in Kansas.

SS Mosel Johannes II Windholz came on this ship in July 29, 1876

The Windholz family homesteaded about 8 miles north of Herzog (Victoria). Herzog at the time bordered the north end of Victoria and eventually was incorporated into Victoria. The Windholzes belonged to St Fidelis Church in Victoria. The Windholz families were part of an effort with neighbors to form a new parish near their farms. Work Began on the Sacred Heart Church on Windholz land in the spring of 1899 with the corner stone laid in May. After delays due to lack of funds, completion was made in December of 1902. Fr. Emmeram Kausler, a Capuchin priest, was appointed the first pastor and took a heavy hand in church completion, even holding Christmas Mass in the unfinished Church in 1901. Fr. Emmeram drew up a plat of the village, which bore his name, and also saw to the erection of a school. By 1926, sixty families belonged to the parish. In 1967, declining numbers of parishioners and availability of priests forced the closing of the church. Sadly the church was old and fell into disrepair. The final end came in October of 1998 when a "suspicious" fire destroyed it.


The Sacred Heart Catholic Church was built on land donated by the Windholz Family in Emmeram, Kansas, Ellis County. The cornerstone was laid in May 1899. Click on the pictures to see larger photos!

The information on this page was used with permission from Oren Windholz, author of 


A 50-page book with many historical pictures and documents of the Windholz family. Published in 1999 after the second Windholz reunion. Origins of the family in Germany, life in Russia and acculturation into America. A family tree of all children of Johannes and Magdalena with pictures.

You can order your own copy for only $10.00 from: 

Windholz Reunion Committee

P. O. Box 1083

Hays, KS 67601-1083


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The Windholz Family of the United States
Volga Germans
From Germany, To Russia, To America

Website last updated 08/26/10