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Franz Martin Willms (1852-1921) was born on December 25 to Martin Willms and Anna Dueck as the 5th of 8 children in the Mennonite village of Tiegenhagen, Molotschna colony. In 1873 Franz married Maria Klassen (1854-1885), daughter of Abram Klassen and Maria Cornies of Ohrloff, Molotschna. Franz and Maria had five children. In November 1885, after the death of his wife Maria, Franz married Anna Rempel (1860-1940). She was the daughter of Isbrand Rempel and Katharina Wiens of Tiegenhagen. Franz and Anna had nine children.
Franz and Anna worked together in the administration of the Kuruschan Altenheim (old folks home) from 1910-1920. In 1903 the Halbstatdt municipality, within the Molotschna colony, decided to establish an old folks home for people who could not be cared for by their families. This was a centennial project. The municipality designated 35 dessiatines (1 des. = 2.7 acres) north east of the village of Rosenort, along the Kuruschan River in what was once a sheep pasture. To the east stood a forest protecting the home from the east wind. In 1904 a building committee was appointed and consisted of Gerhard Neufeld, Johannes Wiebe and Peter Loewen. The building was designed by Johann Bräul. It was opened in 1906 at a cost of 40,000 rubles covered by taxation of land owners and church collections.
The home could house 60 people in 18 rooms. The dining room had 5 large tables for all staff and residents. The home had running water and indoor plumbing. Much of the food for the residents came from their two-dessiatine orchard and 1.5-dessiatine garden. A barn held 12 cows and eight horses. In 1913 there were 64 residents and there were plans for expansion but these plans never materialized. The Red Army took control of the facility in around 1921.
In 1920 Franz M. Willms was required to give refuge to the White Russian army general Akimow [Feodor Feodorivich Abramov?]. In 1921 the Red army arrested Willms for protecting the General. Franz M. Willms was not heard from again. Anna and some of the children immigrated to Canada in 1925. Anna Willms died in Wheatly, Ontario in 1940.
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This fonds consists of two ledger books recording income, expenses, payroll starting on October 6, 1911. The diary portion begins on the same day and usually makes brief mention of weather, farm activities and travel. The second ledger continues the pattern of the first however some diary portions are more detailed with information on the political unrest and lists of people who were murdered.
In addition to giving a firsthand account of everyday life before and during the Russian Revolution, it is the only known record that documents the operation of the Kuruschan Altenheim.
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Finding aid consists of a file list.
Online version of finding aid available at: http://www.mennonitechurch.ca/programs/archives/holdings/papers/Willms,%20Franz%20fonds.htm
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