Fonds Volumes 608, 1663, 1664, 2113:2, 3477, 3800, 4167; Microfilm nos. 69 & 180. - Michael Klaassen family fonds

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Michael Klaassen family fonds

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CA MHCA Volumes 608, 1663, 1664, 2113:2, 3477, 3800, 4167; Microfilm nos. 69 & 180.

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  • 1859-1922 (Creation)

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16 cm of textual records

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Biographical history

Michael Klaassen, church leader,teacher and farmer was born on August 26, 1860 in the village of Koeppenthal, Am Trakt Colony, South Russia. He was one of three surviving children born to Martin and Maria (nee Hamm) Klaassen, grandson of Jakob Klaassen (1793-1879) and cousin of Rev. Jacob Klaassen (1867-1948). He was baptized by Aeltester David Hamm in 1877 and followed his parents to Central Asia in 1880 where he married Margaretha Janzen in 1883. Their marriage produced eight children, four of which died as infants. In 1885 they decided to emigrate to North America where they first settled near Beatrice, Nebraska, and then moved on to Bessie, Oklahoma in 1894 to homestead. During this time, Klaassen started a German and religion school, first for his children but then for other settlers. He was elected by Sichar Mennonite Church and ordained in 1896. In 1899 he organized Harold Mennonite Church, where he was made Aeltester in 1901. Klaassen and his wife, Margarete, celebrated their Silver Wedding anniversary in 1909, one year before she died. He then married Katharina Dalka. Their marriage produced seven children, 2 of which died in infancy. His son Johannes died tragically in prison during WWI, where he had been sentenced to serve a 25 year term for being a conscientious objector. This event prompted Klaassen and a number of other families to leave the U.S.A. for Canada in 1918, where they settled near Morden, Manitoba. Here Klaassen organized another Herold Mennonite Church and conducted services in this congregation until 1927. Michael died on October 18, 1934.

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Jakob Klaassen, minister and pioneer, was born on March 15,1793 in Fuerstenwerder, Prussia to Dirk and Anna (nee Penner) Klaassen. He was the fourth of 17 children, ten of which died as children. Klaassen married Helena Hamm in Petershagen, Prussia on February 10, 1818. Their marriage produced eight children four of which died as children. Klaassen was ordained in 1820. In 1856 he, his wife, their four surviving children and their spouses and children immigrated from Petershagen, Prussia to Russia. They settled in the village of Koeppenthal which was part of the Am Trakt Colony. Jakob Klaassen died in Koeppenthal on May 17, 1879.

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Esther Katherine (Cathryn) Klaassen was born in Morden, Manitoba, on June 18, 1921, to Michael and Katherine (Dalke) Klaassen. Michael was the minister of Herold Mennonite Church, and his father, Martin Klaassen, was a church leader in Russia before him. Despite financial barriers, Esther attended high school at Mennonite Collegiate Institute in Gretna, Manitoba, and later also attended the Mennonite Brethren Bible College in Winnipeg, studying the Bible, music and German. She married Menno Bergen in 1952, and together they spent 13 years serving in Mexico under the Commission for Overseas Missions of the General Conference Mennonite Church. They also served the church and its organizations in Gretna, Taber, Alberta, and Herbert, Saskatchewan. They retired to Winnipeg in 1984, where they attended Bethel Mennonite Church. Throughout her life, Esther was heavily involved in music, both as a teacher, and as a translator of hymn texts. She translated from German, English and Spanish for hymnbooks, Mennonite World Conference songbooks and the Gospel Light Hour. She also led church activities and translated Sunday School Materials. In her later years, she organized her family's genealogical records. Esther died on March 1, 2005 in Winnipeg.

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Custodial history

The materials in this fonds were passed on through various descendants of the family before being deposited at the Mennonite Heritage Centre. One file in this fonds was collected by David and Trudy Schellenberg of Winkler for the Christian Heritage Library.

Scope and content

This fonds contains contains some Klaassen family genealogy work, diaries and memoirs (1859-1922), and many letters from Johannes, a son of Michael Klaassen, about his lot as a conscientious objector in the United States during World War I. There is a diary of the trek to central Asia in 1880 and the years that followed. The letters relate to the families decision to relocate to Manitoba in 1918. There are sermons and sermon notes, and a one page school class schedule.

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Arrangement and description note: Archival Assistant Jim Suderman consolidated personal papers belonging to the same family in 1990 in order to reduce the number of manuscript groups and to quickly alert the researchers and archivists to other related collections (Manuscript group XX-29, XX-91) Updated by Sharon H. H. Brown December, 2002.

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Some copies of originals also available on microfilm.

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Finding aids

Inventory file lists and a detailed index of the letter between Michael Klaassen and his son Johannes Klassen during WW I.

Online version of finding aid available at:,%20Michael%20family%20fonds.htm

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Hand-written Gothic German

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  • English

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