Klaas Peters 1855-1932
Bergthaler Emigration Recounted in Peters' Book
By Karen Briere
Emigrating to Canada must have been a frightening, exciting and sad period in the lives of the Bergthaler Mennonites.
Nineteen-year-old Klaas Peters (1855-1932) was chosen by members of the Bergthal Colony in Russia to write an account of their trek to Canada during the years 1874-76. Peters' writings, which were first serialized in Mennonitische Rundschau in 1890, capture that period of history well, and reveal the emotions involved with such a move.
Because he was there and part of it all Peters' writings keep the readers' interest high. This is no dry account of history. This is life as it was then.
"The Bergthaler Mennonites" is a translation of Peters' German work by Margaret Loewen Reimer published by Canadian Mennonite Bible College. The book includes a biography of Peters by Leonard Doell of Warman.
Doell's work expands on Peters' life beyond the Manitoba Reserves. Peters went on to become an immigration agent and in 1891 he was hired to show a delegation of Mennonites the Rosthern area.
A year later Peters helped 27 families settle in the area. Peters also arranged for and organized the 1895 settlement of 90 Old Colony Mennonites who formed the village of Neuanlage.
Peters himself homesteaded in both the East and West Reserves in Manitoba, Didsbury, Alberta, and Waldeck. In 1921 Peters and his family moved to Florida but they returned four years later to live in Hague. In 1927 he and his wife Katharina moved to Herbert where she died three years later.
Peters died two years after that and is buried along-side his wife In Herbert.
Peters lived a controversial life. In 1897 he left the Bergthaler Church to join the Church of the New Jerusalem (Swedenborgian). However, his contribution to the settlement of the Bergthalers can not go unmentioned
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