Johannes Schoessler was born in Walter, Russia on August 12, 1839 to
Jacob Schoessler and Catherine Benner. Johannes had one brother Jacob,
and five sisters, Anna, Elizabeth, Lena, Katherine, and Lizzie.
On September 5, 1859, when Johannes was twenty years old, he married
Anna Katherina Boekel. From the year 1861 to 1880, John and Anna
Katherina had eight children, Henry, Katherine, Magdalene, George, Anna
Katherina, John, Katherina Elizabeth, and Marie Elizabeth. All children
eventually immigrated to the United States except Marie Elizabeth who
remained in Russia.
Johannes drove stage coach from Walter to Saratov and back
regularly. The stage was a two-seated "Troika" rig drawn by three
horses. Mail, passengers, and staples like sugar, salt, tea, and coffee
were transported by stage. The distance from Walter to Saratov was 80
miles and the trip took 4 days one way. Johannes would rest overnight in
Saratov, then make the return trip. After a two day wait in the
village of Walter, Johannes would head again for Saratov on the Volga
River. In the winter a "Troika" sleigh was used. Johannes' eldest son
Heinrich would travel with his father in the winter. At times it was
necessary for Heinrich to drive the horse and Johannes to fend off
hungry wolves. One reason for the use of a third horse up front was
that if the lead horse was taken down by wolves, the horse could be cut
loose and sacrificed to the wolves and the other two horses would
continue one with the sled. 1
The story is told that Johannes caught a whiff of tobacco smoke as
he was driving the coach toward a small bridge. Before crossing the
bridge he investigated, and spied a band of robbers waiting in ambush.
Somehow he was able to foil their plans and elude them. 2
In the year 1876, when Johannes was 37 years old, his brother Jacob
and wife, Elizabeth Walter, immigrated to the United States and farmed
in Nebraska for five years. In 1883, brother Jacob joined sixteen other
families and migrated by covered wagon to Ritzville, WA. In 1886
Johannes brother Jacob homesteaded, prospered, and in 1901 was elected
Adams County Commissioner.
It seems that all of Johannes' and Anna's children (except Marie
Elizabeth) had already crossed the Atlantic. Daughter Anna Katherina
who married Conrad Walter died in Lincoln, NE in the year of 1905.
Johannes, at the age of 67 in 1906 immigrated to the new world with his
wife. They stopped briefly in Lincoln, NE, and then moved on to
Ritzville, WA. They were taken in by their son John who was leasing a
farm from the Ferriers about twelve miles east of Ritzville. 3
Johannes lived only four years in the new world. He died on October
29, 1910 of tuberculosis. His funeral was in the German Congregational
Church of Menno and he is buried in the cemetery where the church once
stood. The grave site is in the middle of a wheat field, and is in
disrepair. Only two cement gates posts are standing, no head stones or
markers exist and the graves have been burrowed into by wild animals.
Johannes Schoessler has returned to the dust and rests with others in
the midst of one of the Big Basin's wheat fields.
1 "Unsere Leute von Walter" by Jean A. Roth
3 Interview with Amelia Schaffer, Ritzville, WA
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