Rachel Calof (1876-1952)
Rachel Bella Kahn was born in Russia in 1876. Rachel’s mother died when she was four years old. Later on, she went to live with her aunt and grandfather. At age eighteen, Rachel traveled to the United States for an arranged marriage with Abraham Calof, who had family in America. He and his new wife, Rachel traveled to Garske, North Dakota, (near Devils Lake) to claim homestead lands. In North Dakota the family grew to nine children. The Calofs were members of one of the few Jewish settlements in North Dakota. While in North Dakota the family became well known and respected in the area. Rachel and Abraham Calof were also instrumental in establishing a local school district.
In 1917 the Calofs left North Dakota and settled in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1936 Rachel Calof began to record her autobiography in longhand. It was written in Yiddish using a standard tablet. After writing My Story Rachel Calof put it away in drawer where it stayed for many years. Rachel died in 1952 at the age of 76 in Seattle, Washington. Years later, her children donated her memoir to the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was discovered in the 1990s at the archives and published in 1995.
Rachel Calof's Story
Rachel Calof’s story began with her childhood in Russia. In 1894, 18-year-old Rachel journeyed from the Ukraine to marry Abraham Calof, a man she had never met. Together they traveled to Garske, ND, where they homesteaded. During their years in North Dakota Rachel Calof bore nine children. In spirited, unsentimental prose, Calof recounts their brutal existence on the homestead near Devils Lake: the harrowing winters with little food and even less fuel, the lack of privacy, the multiple childbirths under primitive conditions.