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28 July 2017

On This Day, 28 July 1765

The location of Franzosen on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region,
AHSGR map #6)
Franzosen was originally founded as a Roman Catholic colony by Baron Jean de Boffe, who,  along with Antoine Meusnier de Precour and Quentin Benjamin Coulhette d'Hautervive, formed one of the three groups of vyzyvateli that settled foreigners in Russia beginning in 1764.  Franzosen was settled by 58 French families.  It was the first colony settled by a director instead of the government.  Some state that by 1834, the Catholic colonists had moved to Russian town, and Lutheran colonists from Messer, Kautz and Grimm had moved in.  By one account, dated 24 October 1768, the French left the colony much sooner than that: "The new village was named Rossoschi (the Germans called it Franzosen). Although this village received preferential treatment in its early years, it proved to be a failure. Its French inhabitants gradually all deserted it."

Below is a letter published in Die Welt-Post, a German language newspaper read by many Volga German immigrants in the United States and Canada, published between 13 April 1916 to 18 September 1970. The translation is a part of the American Historical Society's village files.


Page 3, Die Welt-Post, Thursday, January 24, 1924

From Colorado and Russia

Loveland, Colorado
December 30, 1923
Valued friend F. A. Lorenz:

I am sending the enclosed letter to you that came from my parents in Franzosen; I would like it to be printed in the Welt-Post so that the other readers can receive and read its contents. I wish you and all the readers of the Welt-Post a Happy New Year. I respectfully remain your reader,

Jacob Mill


The Letter from Russia

Franzosen, 5 November 1923
To: Jacob Mill
1275 E. 3rd Street
Loveland, Colorado

Much beloved son and all your family:

We are all still wonderfully healthy and wish the same health for you. We inform you that we now live in Franzosen. We would have written you sooner but we ran out of money. It costs 150 million ruble to send a letter. With you there the cost of mailing a letter is a small thing, but here it is often an impossibility. Why don't you write more often, dear children? My dear son and daughter-in-law: to whom can I turn to in my poverty other than you? I, your father, am already 62 years old and still I must endure poverty. We have nothing but one cow, that is the extent of the livestock we have to work the farm. As one so often sees, poverty leads the poor to steal, may God protect us. Much is stolen here, but I would rather starve to death than steal a stranger's property.

You wrote that you wanted to send us a hundred dollars, but we would be happy with a third of that so we could just buy a horse if it is at all possible, and thus we could quickly help ourselves out of this emergency.

The harvest here was very poor. The weather is very cold and there is nothing to burn for fuel and also no clothing. Marick's sister in Messer visited us and she was astonished at our poverty. She said: "If I had known I would have brought bread and cakes for you." They have no emergency because they have lots of money and crops. We would also be doing well if the trip to America had not gotten in our way. [It appears that these people made an attempt to go to America, but because of insurmountable obstacles were forced to come back, as was the case with so many people...Welt-Post Editor].

As I wrote in July of 1919, in order to get through the great war, it cost us 5 horses and besides that 2 cows, a steer, a goat, a small cart, 2 sets of harnesses, 10 stands of barley, 12 stands of hay, much of the crops in the field and a lot of clothing. All of that caused us to fall deep into poverty. There, I have now answered your question about how we fell so deeply into poverty. Everything was gone and we stood there with empty hands and had to start over; then there were also debts. One was still able to buy things then. A Horse cost 7,000 rubel; but today a Horse costs 30 billion ruble, a cow costs 18 billion ruble and for a sheep one must pay 2 billion ruble. A "kuhl" (200 pfund) of flour costs 7 billion. An arschin of gingham costs 250 million ruble. A pud of wheat costs 550 million and everything else is the same way.

In view of this sad state of affairs I ask you again, dear children, to help us with the necessities. We did receive the clothing bundles you sent but only after a delay of a year and 2 months. The things had suffered greatly on the way and had rotted. Your brother Emanuel had hoped for some new clothing because he was getting married; however, he was disappointed.

Location of Franzosen, now known as Pervomayskoye, Saratov, Russia. 
Dear son: Be so good as to seek out Gottfried Reichel. His people have written him many times but have received no answer. Tell him he should send his parents money because they are also in great emergency and poverty.

With deeply affectionate greetings, I remain,
Your father

The address of Gottfried Reichel is as follows:
Mr. Fred Reichel
Rural Route Box 1




Learn More: 
A Letter from Mr. J.R. Forster, F.A.S. to M. Maty, M.D. Sec. R.S. containing some account of a new Map of the River Volga. Warrington, October 24, 1768. Read Nov. 8, 1768, "Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia," Vol.16, No. 4, Winter 1993.
American Historical Society of Germans from Russia – Village Files
Human Capital: The Settlement of Foreigners in Russia 1762-1804, Roger P. Bartlett, 1979. preview
2017 marks the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Mother colonies along the Volga River. There are many events throughout the year to commemorate the anniversary, and the Germans from 
Russia Settlement Locations project joins in the celebration of this rich Volga German heritage.  

The German immigrants that came to the Volga region were among first colonists to take up Catherine the Great on her manifesto. They came from Hesse, the Rhineland, the Palatinate and Württemberg.  They are also among the most well researched and documented groups of German colonists in Russia. Thus far, the Volga Mother colonies settled between 1764 and 1767 are the only colonies that have precise dates they were settled.  

For more historical and current events related to Germans from Russia, see our calendar page or link to our public Google calendar.



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27 July 2017

On This Day, 27 July 1765

Two Lutheran Volga Mother colonies were founded by the Government on this day, 27, July 1765: Rosenheim and Schwed.  They are only about 3.7 miles or 6 kilometers apart. 



The locations of Rosenheim and Schwed on
Karter der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region,
AHSGR map #6)
Locations of Rosenheim (now Podstepnoye, Saratov, Russia) and Schwed (now Leninskoye, Sartov, Russia)
today. 


The old Lutheran church in Rosenheim, Volga.
Photo courtesy of Wolgadeutch.net

Rosenheim's first Lutheran church was built in 1821, some 54 years after it was founded.  After renovations, it was dismantled in 1876.  In 1884, a new brick building was begun and dedicated on 21 September 1886. The ruins of the church still stand today.  A few photos along with a 360-view of the interior are available on Google Maps, and there several more photos on Wolgadeutch, a few of which are included here. 



Staircase to the balcony.
Photo courtesy of Wolgadeutch.net
The nave facing the pulpit.
Photo courtesy of Wolgadeutch.net



A house in Leninskoye today, then known as
 Schwed or Svonarevka.
The 24 founding families of Schwed (Швед) came from Sweden, Saxony, Nuremberg and Danzig. Because many of the original settlers were from Sweden, the colony was named Schwed, probably by the colonists themselves. An order dated 26 February 1768* declared all German villages should have Russian names, so Schwed was given the official Russian name of Svonarevka. It's current name is Leninskoye, clearly renamed (again) after the Russian Revolution and the establishment of "national names" by the Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (1918-1941). 


Plat map of Schwed, 1930, drawn by Viktor Herzog.
Map courtesy of AHSGR village files. 

*Regarding renaming the German settlements in Russia, neither the original document nor the text of the 26 February 1768 "decree" survived. It was likely destroyed at some point, but references to it permeate early Volga colony histories, leaving little doubt that it did indeed exist. The details remain lost to history.  It was not on the Russian law books for that period, so it was probably simply a directive out of the Saratov of the Guardianship Office of Foreign Settlers. Renaming of villages was pretty constant through World War II, making a list of all such names particularly valuable to researchers.




Learn More: 
American Historical Society of Germans from Russia - Village Files
Center for Volga German Studies - Rosenheim, Schwed
Volga German Institute - Rosenheim, Schwed
Wolgadeutsche (History of the Volga Germans) - Rosenheim/photos, Schwed/photos



2017 marks the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Mother colonies along the Volga River. There are many events throughout the year to commemorate the anniversary, and the Germans from 
Russia Settlement Locations project joins in the celebration of this rich Volga German heritage.  

The German immigrants that came to the Volga region were among first colonists to take up Catherine the Great on her manifesto. They came from Hesse, the Rhineland, the Palatinate and Württemberg.  They are also among the most well researched and documented groups of German colonists in Russia. Thus far, the Volga Mother colonies settled between 1764 and 1767 are the only colonies that have precise dates they were settled.  


For more historical and current events related to Germans from Russia, see our calendar page or link to our public Google calendar.





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26 July 2017

On This Day, 26 July 1767

Kukkus was founded on this day as a Lutheran (Evangelical Reformed) Mother colony by LeRoy and Pictet, a co-operative company commissioned by Catherine the Great to recruit and settle Germans in Russia.

Below are excerpts of an undated personal recollection of Kukkus written by Phillip Debus, who was born there on 9 February 1912 to Philip Debus of Kukkus and Maria Katherina Neff of Dinkel. The full document can be found in the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia’s village files.







"Our house was in town – it consisted of the main house, a granary, a couple barns for the horses, cows and sheep, and a big manure pile. Dad had one camel – he was mean – didn’t like me, so Dad got rid of him. We also had a big old goose that didn’t like me either – he’d chase me every time he’s see me and peck at my legs till they’d bleed, so Mom got rid of him...

"Our gardens and orchards were all about 2 miles outside of town as was everyone else’s due to limited space in town. Apples was one of the main items raised…along with raspberries and gooseberries. In the garden we raised potatoes, carrots, onions – the standard vegetables everyone needs.

"In the village, the people hired a herder – who would take the cows to pasture in the early morning and bring them home in the evening. When you’d see him coming in the morning, you’d turn your cows (usually 2 to 4) out in the street – he’d take everyone’s cows out to the pasture and let them graze then return them to you at night so they could be milked…


The location of Kukkus on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region, AHSGR map #6)
"My dad served three years in the Russian army with the Cossack division on the Manchuria border. He was on furlough from the army when he married my mother.

"Then came the revolution – my dad and I were on our way down to get water with the wagon on which was a huge wooden barrel – could perhaps hold about 500 gallons, when we were about a block from home, the Bolsheviks who had stationed themselves at the end of the street waved my dad to go back. Dad turned the horses around, rushed back to our yard, shut the gate and then they fired volleys down the street to make sure the streets were cleared before they entered… My mother put pillows in front of all the windows and hid us kids behind the stove…they took all the food supplies, but Mom, anticipating this, took bags of food and buried them in the back, covering the new diggings with manure. They also took all the cows and horses except for 2 of each. When we ran out of food, Mom pulled up the baseboards away in the granary and gathered up the grain the mice had carried away and ground it up and used it for food…


Location of Kukkus, today known as Privolzhskoye, Sartov, Russia.
"During the revolution once night, my folks heard gunshots, which were quite common in those days as the German soldiers were always running away. This was late in March. In the morning, Mom went out to milk the cows and hear a voice say, “Is that you Phillip?” Mom said, “No this is Katherina.” I believe the young man’s name was Rosenthal. He was hiding under the barn. He was the man they were looking for. My mother went back to the house and told my dad about the man under the barn. Dad went out to the barn and pried up some boards and brought him up. Mom got some food ready and took it to the barn…The folks discussed what to do as this was a dangerous situation. Dad knew if he was caught hiding this man he would be facing the firing squad, so the plan was that being it was late in March and people were preparing their orchards for the growing season, Dad would hitch the wagon and take it around back to the trap door on the barn with lots of gunny sacks in the wagon. Dad stood in the front yard as a lookout as the officer’s headquarters was on the corner opposite our house. When dad signaled all clear, the man crawled in the wagon thru the trap door – Mom covered him up with lots of gunny sacks – Dad opened the gate and Mom drove the wagon real slow out of town to where the orchards were and left him out. We later learned he made it into Germany and on to the U.S.”






Learn More: 
American Historical Society of Germans from Russia - Village Files
Center for Volga German Studies - Kukkus
LeRoy and Pictet
Volga German Institute - Kukkus
Wolgadeutsche (History of the Volga Germans) - Kukkus




2017 marks the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Mother colonies along the Volga River. There are many events throughout the year to commemorate the anniversary, and the Germans from 
Russia Settlement Locations project joins in the celebration of this rich Volga German heritage.  

The German immigrants that came to the Volga region were among first colonists to take up Catherine the Great on her manifesto. They came from Hesse, the Rhineland, the Palatinate and Württemberg.  They are also among the most well researched and documented groups of German colonists in Russia. Thus far, the Volga Mother colonies settled between 1764 and 1767 are the only colonies that have precise dates they were settled.  


For more historical and current events related to Germans from Russia, see our calendar page or link to our public Google calendar.





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25 July 2017

On This Day, 25 July 1765

The location of Fischer on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet
(Map of the German settlements in the Volga Region,
AHSGR map #6)
Fischer (Фишер) was founded as a Lutheran colony by the Crown on 25 July 1765, although some sources cite it being settled as early as 1764. It was located on the Wiesenseite side of the Volga and named after an early settler.  An order dated 26 February 1768* declared all German villages should have Russian names.  The Russian name for Fischer was Telyauza (Теляуза), named for the nearby creek.

According to one account, at founding, 2,300 acres were allocated as arable. Unfortunately, 135 acres of hay fields and forest were washed away by the Telyauza creek between 1765 and 1798. In addition, much of the other land was too saline or sandy to farm, and repeated attempts to cultivate the land resulted in failed crops. The final total of usable farm land ended up being only 682 acres.

The current name of Fischer is Krasnaya Polyana, Saratov, Russia; however, that name does not show up on Google Maps. And of you search for the name Krasnaya Polyana in Google Maps, you will be taken to a different Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. One of Google Map's sources for place names is the GEONet Names Server (GNS), which is among the sources we also use for current and historical name validation. The name is recorded as an "unapproved" name. All the evidence it presents, including the historical name of Fischer, confirms the current name. Regardless, it seems Google Maps doesn't include the name.

Long explanation short: Be sure to include the coordinates wherever you use the name in your research so that you can be sure you always have the correct location. You never know when the name is going to change again.

Location of Fischer, unofficially known today as Krasnaya Polyana, Saratov, Russia


*Regarding renaming the German settlements in Russia, neither the original document nor the text of the 26 February 1768 "decree" survived. It was likely destroyed at some point, but references to it permeate early Volga colony histories, leaving little doubt that it did indeed exist. The details remain lost to history.  It was not on the Russian law books for that period, so it was probably simply a directive out of the Saratov of the Guardianship Office of Foreign Settlers. Renaming of villages was pretty constant through World War II, making a list of all such names particularly valuable to researchers.




Learn More: 
American Historical Society of Germans from Russia - Village Files
Center for Volga German Studies - Fischer
Volga German Institute - Fischer
Wolgadeutsche (History of the Volga Germans) - Fischer




2017 marks the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Mother colonies along the Volga River. There are many events throughout the year to commemorate the anniversary, and the Germans from 
Russia Settlement Locations project joins in the celebration of this rich Volga German heritage.  

The German immigrants that came to the Volga region were among first colonists to take up Catherine the Great on her manifesto. They came from Hesse, the Rhineland, the Palatinate and Württemberg.  They are also among the most well researched and documented groups of German colonists in Russia. Thus far, the Volga Mother colonies settled between 1764 and 1767 are the only colonies that have precise dates they were settled.  


For more historical and current events related to Germans from Russia, see our calendar page or link to our public Google calendar.





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22 July 2017

On This Day, 22 July 1763, Catherine the Great's Manifesto Issued

Today is a big day in Germans from Russia history. It's the day it all began. The day that would change the course our ancestors' lives and of history.

It's the anniversary of Catherine the Great's issuance of her second Manifesto inviting foreigners to settle in her Russian Empire. The Germanic states, then still a part of the Holy Roman Empire and not Germany as we know it now, were devastated by five generations of wars beginning with the Thirty Years' War in 1618. Catherine's offer must've seemed like paradise, and many Germans took her up on it and these early pioneers settled colonies in Russia along the Volga River near Saratov. 

It began with 106 Mother colonies, and it grew and expanded beyond the Volga region with ethnic German settlements numbering well over 3,000 across present day Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakstan and Turkmenistan.  German emigrants who left Russia settled again in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. 


By the Grace of God!

We, Catherine the second, Empress and Autocrat of all the Russians at Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod, Czarina of Kasan, Czarina of Astrachan, Czarina of Siberia, Lady of Pleskow and Grand Duchess of Smolensko, Duchess of Esthonia and Livland, Carelia, Twer, Yugoria, Permia, Viatka and Bulgaria and others; Lady and Grand Duchess of Novgorod in the Netherland of Chernigov, Resan, Rostov, Yaroslav, Beloosena, Udoria, Obdoria, Condinia, and Ruler of the entire North region and Lady of the Yurish, of the Carhlinian and Grusinian czars and the Cabardinian land, of the Cherkessian and Gorisian princes and the lady of the manor and sovereign of many others. As We are sufficiently aware of the vast extent of the lands within Our Empire, We perceive, among other things, that a considerable number of regions are still uncultivated which could easily and advantageously be made available for productive use of population and settlement. Most of the lands hold hidden in their depth an inexhaustible wealth of all kinds of precious ores and metals, and because they are well-provided with forests, rivers and lakes, and located close to the sea for purpose of trade, they are also most convenient for the development and growth of many kinds of manufacturing, plants, and various installations. This induced Us to issue the manifesto which was published last Dec. 4, 1762, for the benefit of all Our loyal subjects. However, inasmuch as We made only a summary announcement of Our pleasure to the foreigners who would like to settle in Our Empire, we now issue for a better understanding of Our intention the following decree which We hereby solemnly establish and order to be carried out to the Full.

  1. We permit all foreigners to come into Our Empire, in order to settle in all the gouvernements, just as each one may desire.
  2. After arrival, such foreigners can report for this purpose not only to the Guardianship Chancellery established for foreigners in Our residence, but also, if more convenient, to the governor or commanding officer in one of the border-towns of the Empire.
  3. Since those foreigners who would like to settle in Russia will also include some who do not have sufficient means to pay the required travel costs, they can report to our ministers in foreign courts, who will not only transport them to Russia at Our expense, but also provide them with travel money.
  4. As soon as these foreigners arrive in Our residence and report at the Guardianship Chancellery or in a border-town, they shall be required to state their true decision, whether their real desire is to be enrolled in the guild of merchants or artisans, and become citizens, and in what city; or if they wish to settle on free, productive land in colonies and rural areas, to take up agriculture or some other useful occupation. Without delay, these people will be assigned to their destination, according to their own wishes and desires. From the following register* it can be seen in which regions of Our Empire free and suitable lands are still available. However, besides those listed, there are many more regions and all kinds of land where We will likewise permit people to settle, just as each one chooses for his best advantage.  * The register lists the areas where the immigrants can be settled.
  5. Upon arrival in Our Empire, each foreigner who intends to become a settler and has reported to the Guardianship Chancellery or in other border-towns of Our Empire and, as already prescribed in 4, has declared his decision, must take the oath of allegiance in accordance with his religious rite.
  6. In order that the foreigners who desire to settle in Our Empire may realize the extent of Our benevolence to their benefit and advantage, this is Our will – :
    1. We grant to all foreigners coming into Our Empire the free and unrestricted practice of their religion according to the precepts and usage of their Church. To those, however, who intend to settle not in cities but in colonies and villages on uninhabited lands we grant the freedom to build churches and belltowers, and to maintain the necessary number of priests and church servants, but not the construction of monasteries. On the other hand, everyone is hereby warned not to persuade or induce any of the Christian co-religionists living in Russia to accept or even assent to his faith or join his religious community, under pain of incurring the severest punishment of Our laws. This prohibition does not apply to the various nationalities on the borders of Our Empire who are attached to the Mahometan faith. We permit and allow everyone to win them over and make them subject to the Christian religion in a decent way.
    2. None of the foreigners who have come to settle in Russia shall be required to pay the slightest taxes to Our treasury, nor be forced to render regular or extraordinary services, nor to billet troops. Indeed, everybody shall be exempt from all taxes and tribute in the following manner: those who have been settled as colonists with their families in hitherto uninhabited regions will enjoy 30 years of exemption; those who have established themselves, at their own expense, in cities as merchants and tradesmen in Our Residence St. Petersburg or in the neighboring cities of Livland, Esthonia, Ingermanland, Carelia and Finland, as well as in the Residential city of Moscow, shall enjoy 5 years of tax-exemption. Moreover, each one who comes to Russia, not just for a short while but to establish permanent domicile, shall be granted free living quarters for half a year.
    3. All foreigners who settle in Russia either to engage in agriculture and some trade, or to undertake to build factories and plants will be offered a helping hand and the necessary loans required for the construction of factories useful for the future, especially of such as have not yet been built in Russia.
    4. For the building of dwellings, the purchase of livestock needed for the farmstead, the necessary equipment, materials, and tools for agriculture and industry, each settler will receive the necessary money from Our treasury in the form of an advance loan without any interest. The capital sum has to be repaid only after ten years, in equal annual installments in the following three years.
    5. We leave to the discretion of the established colonies and village the internal constitution and jurisdiction, in such a way that the persons placed in authority by Us will not interfere with the internal affairs and institutions. In other respects the colonists will be liable to Our civil laws. However, in the event that the people would wish to have a special guardian or even an officer with a detachment of disciplined soldiers for the sake of security and defense, this wish would also be granted.
    6. To every foreigner who wants to settle in Russia We grant complete duty-free import of his property, no matter what it is, provided, however, that such property is for personal use and need, and not intended for sale. However, any family that also brings in unneeded goods for sale will be granted free import on goods valued up to 300 rubles, provided that the family remains in Russia for at least 10 years. Failing which, it will be required, upon its departure, to pay the duty both on the incoming and outgoing goods.
    7. The foreigners who have settled in Russia shall not be drafted against their will into the military or the civil service during their entire stay here. Only after the lapse of the years of tax-exemption can they be required to provide labor service for the country. Whoever wishes to enter military service will receive, besides his regular pay, a gratuity of 30 rubles at the time he enrolls in the regiment.
    8. As soon as the foreigners have reported to the Guardianship Chancellery or to our border towns and declared their decision to travel to the interior of the Empire and establish domicile there, they will forthwith receive food rations and free transportation to their destination.
    9. Those among the foreigners in Russia who establish factories, plants, or firms, and produce goods never before manufactured in Russia, will be permitted to sell and export freely for ten years, without paying export duty or excise tax.
    10. Foreign capitalists who build factories, plants, and concerns in Russia at their own expense are permitted to purchase serfs and peasants needed for the operation of the factories.
    11. We also permit all foreigners who have settled in colonies or villages to establish market days and annual market fairs as they see fit, without having to pay any dues or taxes to Our treasury.
  7. All the afore-mentioned privileges shall be enjoyed not only by those who  have come into our country to settle there, but also their children and descendants, even though these are born in Russia, with the provision that their years of exemption will be reckoned from the day their forebears arrived in Russia.
  8. After the lapse of the stipulated years of exemption, all the foreigners who have settled in Russia are required to pay the ordinary moderate contributions and, like our other subjects, provide labor-service for their country. Finally, in the event that any foreigner who has settled in Our Empire and has become subject to Our authority should desire to leave the country, We shall grant him the liberty to do so, provided, however, that he is obligated to remit to Our treasury a portion of the assets he has gained in this country; that is, those who have been here from one to five years will pay one-fifth, while those who have been here for five or more years will pay one-tenth. Thereafter each one will be permitted to depart unhindered anywhere he pleases to go.
  9. If any foreigner desiring to settle in Russia wishes for certain reasons to secure other privileges or conditions besides those already stated, he can apply in writing or in person to our Guardianship Chancellery, which will report the petition to Us. After examining the circumstances, We shall not hesitate to resolve the matter in such a way that the petitioner's confidence in Our love of justice will not be disappointed.

Given at the Court of Peter, July 22, 1763 in the Second Year of Our Reign.

The original was signed by Her Imperial Supreme Majesty's own hand in
the following manner:

Printed by the Senate, July 25,1763


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