In Schwaikheim, the vintner Georg Friedrich Fuchs founded a Stundist community in 1812 called the »Schwaikheim Harmony of the Children of God«. This separatist movement, named from the practice of meeting for an hour (»Stunde«) for bible study and prayer, rejected infant baptism and refused military service. In 1815 Württemberg separatists joined forces under the leadership of Fuchs in order to move to the Caucasus and thereby into the vicinity of Jerusalem and Mount Ararat, as the safe refuge of the true Christians. After selling their property and dealing with the necessary arrangements for settling their affairs as citizens, about thirty or forty families set out on the journey in the autumn of 1816.
The migrants travelled in covered wagons to the assembly point for the river port in Ulm. There they were put onto simple wooden barges, the so-called Ulm crates. The journey on these often overloaded barges lasted for weeks and was arduous and even life-threatening at some places on the Danube. In Vienna, they changed onto Austrian boats which took them via Budapest and Belgrade to the Bessarabian-Russian border town of Ismail. Here for the first time the travellers were held in quarantine. A lack of food and clean water led to epidemics, to which numerous migrants fell victim. The remaining group spent the first winter with German settlers in Großliebental near Odessa. From there 29 families, joined by another two from Großliebental, set out again in the direction of the Caucasus, with support from the Caucasian commander-in-chief, Lieutenant General Alexei P Jermolov (1777–1861). After crossing the Greater Caucasus mountains, the first band of emigrants arrived in Tiflis in September 1817.
From April to August 1817 a further 1,400 Swabian families who were willing to emigrate gathered in Ulm. In their own home communities in Swabia they had organised themselves into so-called »harmonies« – fraternal communities up to 50 families holding their goods in common, following the pattern of the early church, described in Acts 4,32 as originally living harmoniously together. The hardships of the journey severely reduced the numbers, so that in autumn 1818 ten conveys finally reached Tiflis and from there were dispersed further eastwards to the region of Yelizavetpol.
Pietists give priority to personal piety and Christian life over against the unity of the church and the pure doctrine of the Reformation. Johann Albrecht Bengel and the clergy around him had a lasting influence on shaping pietism in Württemberg through his redemption-oriented theology.
Building on the foundations of pietism, the Stundists (German »Stunde« = hour, here in the sense of an hour of prayer) held strictly to the Bible and religious revival. They were opposed to any kind of clerical rule and all outwardly liturgical worship practises. Influenced by these Württemberg immigrants, Stundist communities were also formed in South Russia.
The separatists had practised a radical form of pietism since the 17th century. Their view was that true Christianity can only be lived outside the official church. They rejected baptism, stayed away from church worship and also often refused military service. And in Württemberg they were an important movement at the forefront of eastbound migration.