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In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the Austrian government sponsored a program of immigration to its most recent territorial acquisition, the sparsely populated Bukovina. Seeking skilled, able-bodies and dependable colonists, the emperor's emissaries combed the realm, offering various inducements for settlement. Among others who responded to the call were southwest Germans, collectively called Swabians, and Germans from the Bohemian Forest (today in the Czech Republic). These two groups made significant contributions to the economic development of Bukovina, in particular to its agricultural, lumbering and glass production enterprises. In time a population explosion created a land shortage, again setting people in motion. Promotions from the United States through the Homestead Act and the railroads attracted scouts from Bukovina to explore the possibilities of immigration to Kansas. Beginning in 1886 and lasting for about fifteen years, about thirty-five families from each of the two above-named German groups arrived in Ellis, Kansas, where they settled on the outskirts and in the western part of the town. Religious differences among them resulted in the emergence of two distinct communities: the Swabians were Lutherans and the German-Bohemians were Catholic. Nonetheless, their assimilation into American culture proceeded apace although the German language and customs persisted for several generations.
Through the Bukovina Society of the Americas, headquartered in Ellis, the descendants of Bukovinian immigrants are dedicated to the task of preserving their ethnic heritage through conventions, publications and the collection of relevant records and archival materials.
With the incorporation of Bukovina into Romania after World War I, the former Austrian crown land lost its name and identity. Partitioned today by Ukraine and Romania, the name "Bukovina" remains only a geographical expression.
Ellis is the boyhood home of Walter P. Chrysler who founded the Chrysler Corporation in his later years. The home is now a museum. Walt Disney has a family connection to Ellis - his grandfather, Kepple, moved his family to the Ellis area after buying land from the Union Pacific Railroad. Walt's father, Elias, moved to Chicago after he married in 1888.
Union Pacific Hotel in late 1890's
Burnes Residence in 1913
Ellis Jr. High School/Principal Edwin Harris in 1923
Information from the Bukovina Society
Forsyth Library Photo Archives
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