Random Acts of Living


Monday, March 23, 2009

1877 Letter 2nd Translation plus a Letter from a Cousin

Charlotte from the Menno-Roots mailing list that I'm a member of offered to have her mother, Erica (Penner) Lepp translate the letter(s). Most of it is the same as the first translation with a few differences that make sense with what we know of Mennonite life at that time.

Letter Page 1

Fuerstenwerder 16 October 1877

To you dear brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law in America.

For some time I have wanted to write you but until now this has not materialized.

Therefore with my writing I want to be your guest and want to chat with you about things

that have occurred. Motherkin has passed away but I think you may already have

known this through my husband’s and Fatherkin’s letter since my husband wrote

immediately on Sunday evening and Fatherkin on Monday morning. Then my husband

and Johann Willems went to Tokmak to a funeral of a Russian and they took the letters

with them. Tuesday was a funeral.

On Thursday the 30 of September there was a wedding at Gerhard Willems. The school

teacher married Anna Reimer. We also attended the wedding. From there I went to

Motherkin. She was swollen and felt cold, it was rather shocking to touch her. Her body

as well as her hands were

Letter Page 2

quite swollen up to her elbows. Then Maria brought her some Moos (fruit soup) and she

ate a little. She said that her independent eating would soon be over since she could not

hold the spoon securely in her hand. I told her that that Mrs. Frank Kornelsen passed

away yesterday. She replied saying it would not be many days before people would say

that she was dead too.

It was so by the following Sunday October 2nd at 7:30 AM was the hour that our dear

Heavenly Father called her home.

Jacob Brauns from Friedensruh attended her funeral and told us that Johan Braun was not

well. He was sick in bed for 8 days. On October 13 he was buried.

On the 8th of Oct we have butchered a cow. On the 13th of October they arrived with a

little son named Abraham. The mother

Letter Page 3

Mrs. Neufeld told us about Mrs. Henry Siemens (struggles). She went completely insane

Mrs. Neufeld says it was exactly like it was with her brother Henry. They could not help

her so Mr. Siemens took her home. There she lived only a few days.

Now I want to report to you on our farming situation. We have had a rich harvest: Wheat

138 Tsch. Barley 99 [1]Tsch, Oats 30 Tsch, Rye expecting to get 18 Tsch. that still hasn’t

been threshed. Potatoes 50 Tsch. Corn yielded very well. We hauled it all to

Astrikanki (?)


The corn had up to 3 cobs to a stalk. We have already received it (?)

Lastly the watermelons yielded exceptionally well. I have cooked 7 pails of syrup, so I

will stop writing because I am so busy with sewing and knitting.

Sincere greetings from me to the children. Greet all acquaintances. Farewell

Elizabet Friesen.
[1] Tschetwet is a measure (abt 3 litres?)

Letter Page 4

Now you dear ones you will wonder why this letter was not mailed sooner but I thought

we would be able to sell but now there is no prospect in view for the businesses are quiet.

Jacob Goertzen sold his place to his son in law Dietrich Peters for 2500 Rubel. No one

else has sold (anything)?

No one buys wheat. Barley chop (ground barley) for feed is sold in Takmok. So you to

can see what the prices are.

Maybe the war will soon be over. Then we think the prices will rise. The Russians have

captured the large (Leugtung? Plentno?) when they took about 54,000 Turks captive. At

Kars is a Leptung which they took as well with many Turkish prisoners. Enns in

Margenau says it costs the Russian military 60,000 until the month of October.

Mr. Sawatsky and Mr. Isaak from Ruekenau were here and collected for 11 villages in

Turkey. They are Lutheran people who have been robbed of everything, but no lives

were lost. We are all well, we are greeting you, “ade” .

Sent 17 December.

Peter Friesen (?)


I have also received a letter from my dad's cousin, Raymond Wiebe. In his letter he tells me that Fuerstenwerder was a Dutch Mennonite village whose name would translate as "The Prince's Meadow" or "The Prince's Grassland". He then directs me to a map on page 15 of "The Groening and Wiebe Family 1768 to 1974" book that, at present, I have loaned out. I was going to borrow my dad's copy, but forgot the last time we were in town. On page 15 is a map, Raymond writes:

Notice the words "Gross Tokmak" along the top of the North Mennonite Villages (English "Grand Tokmak") was the "county" just north of the Molotschna Mennonites. The city of Tokmak was that "county seat". Then we look down to the central Molotschna villages of Fuerstenwerder, south to Margenau village, right up the creek to Alexanderwohl village and lower left to Ruekkenau village. English translation of Ruekkenau is "Rich Valley" and English translation of Margenau is "Margaret's Valley". The above is helpful context to this letter. I assume and agree that the wife Elizabeth Friesen starts the letter. Then her husband Peter Friesen wrote and finished the letter. I have been told that adding the letters "OF" to a name makes it "masculine".
Yes, all our immigrant families which left south Russia (Ukraine) during the 1870s, left many relatives behind. This made leaving Russia so sad and tearful. Only 25% of the 1874 to 1879 Mennonite families left for America. Therefore most Mennonite families that came to America had left at least 50% of their Uncles, Aunts, cousins (even children) back in south Russia. Your Aunt Katharine and your great Grandmother, Katharine Wiebe Klassen saved this letter for over a century, at this stage we are not able to say whether Peter and Elizabeth Friesen were "Klassen" family relatives or "Wiebe" family relatives.

He goes on to mention resources that we can search to possibly find the answers to our questions. Some of these resources may still be in Russia (1858 and 1868 census) written in German, some may take little more effort like the German newspapers at Tabor College. I think my next step at this point will be to take a look at the GRANDMA database (I have version 4.1 but haven't installed it) and see what I can find. I recently purchase "Grace Meadow, The Story of Gnadenau and Its First Elder, Marion County, Kansas" by David V. Wiebe (Raymond's father) and from it realized that the Elder Jacob Wiebe married Justina Friesen in 1857. So there's one tie with a Friesen family. I also have a copy of "They Seek a Country" by David V. Wiebe, but I don't know if either one will help with the specific information I need. I'll post more as I find it.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi!
I'm Klaus from Germany.
I can't read the gothic script myself, but I went to a friend of my father with the first page and he transleted this page for me. To judge after this first page, the second page is more exactly in this second translation.

It was very interesting to read this old letter...

Anonymous said...

Excuse me for the mistake. The first page is more exactly in the second translation.

Moonshadow said...

Greetings, Klaus! I appreciate you taking time to check out the translation. It IS all very interesting, isn't it.

gabe said...

So interesting. Watermelon syrup? Wow - I'm going to ask my mom if she knows about this. She's 90 now.
Thanks.

Moonshadow said...

Oh Yes, Gabe! I learned of watermelon syrup some time ago. Our AHSGR chapter has a folklore meeting every January and learned of it at one of these meetings. I also learned that there are also two different recipes for pickled watermelon. The Mennonites have a recipe that they actually pickle the rind, whereas most people only pickle the meat of the watermelon. Here's a recipe online...
http://www.recipesfromnewspapers.com/mf/1/3454
Scroll almost to the bottom of the following link and you'll find one source of information on making watermelon syrup...
http://www.mhsbc.com/news/2003/2003v9n3.htm
Mother Earth has a recipe for watermelon syrup...
http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/1977-07-01/Make-Your-Own-Sweetner.aspx
I know my ancestors worked in sugar beet fields but I don't recall mention of watermelons as a substitue for cane sugar.

gabe said...

Thanks! I will check out these links.

Al Rempel said...

Jacob Goertzen, who sold out to son-in-law Dietrich Peters, was b 5 Aug 1815 and died 16 Sep 1888 Mtn Lake, MN (GRANDMA #275120). Jacob's son Jacob b 4 Dec 1854 (or 1854 or 1856 in other EWZ records) #36784 had second wife Maria Friesen b 19 Jan 1864 Fuerstenwerder, # 939726, who is probably daughter to this Peter and Elisabeth Friesen.

Moonshadow said...

Thank You, Al! I'll check out the connection.

Momo Fali said...

That is absolutely fascinating! I loved reading that letter. Life seems so simple, and yet SO HARD back then!