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Aron Guenter 1874-1949

Aron and Helena (Ginter) Guenter

Aron F. Guenter (1874-1949) was born March 18, 1874, in Nu Chortitz, in the Chortitza - Colony of the South Ukraine, His parents, Franz (1822~1900) and Katharine (Dyck), his wife by the fourth marriage , were one of the first Mennonite immigrants, arriving in Canada in 1875.

Grandifather Franz Guenter was buried in Schoeniese, Man. Grandimother Katharine died in September, 1912, and was buried in the Guenter Cemetery on SE 25-40-5~W3 in the Hague-Osler Reserve.

On January 23, 1898, Aron married Anna Bergman,, who was born September 15, 1876. Tbey farmed in the village of Schoenwiese, Man., until 1908 when they moved to Sask. establishing a farm on SW 26- 40-S-W3 in the Hepburn area. Mrs. Guenter died April 22, 1913, at the farm house. There were 11 children from this union.

In February 1917, after almost four years as a widower, Aron married Helena (Ginter) Harms. Helena had five children of which one had died in infancy. To this later union. Mother Helena Guenter (1888-1954) was born in Neudorf, Russia, and had immigrated to Manitoba with her parents in I891. She was the daughter of the late Aaron and Helena (Penner) Ginter of Rosengard, Sask., and the granddaughter to Rev. Peter (1829-83) and Susana Hildebrandt (I830-63) Penner of the Chortitzer Colony - village of Schoenhorst, South Ukraine. Rev. Penner was a writer, school teacher, and served in the mlinislry of the church in Neuendorf, Chortitza, for 18 years. He was burled in Nipoiapale, Jesikof Church cemetery in December 1883,

The, Guenters, like many Mennonites, had been wanderers of the glohe, They were an agricultural family and their ancestry can be traced back to farming in the swampy estuary of the Vistula in Prussia (now Poland).

Our great grandparents, Franz (1761-1836) and Elisabeth (Isaac) Guenter emigrated from Damfelde, Marienburg, Prussia, arriving in Russia, Rosenthal, Chortitza on Jan, 18, 1818. It was an involuntary departure, but they were willing to start anew after having encountered hardships and perecutions by the Russian government. The real threat" to their existence had come in 1789, when a decree forbidding the sale of land to all Mennonites was set forth by the authorlties of Prussla.

lt came at a time when many needed to expand thelr holdings because of large families. This had many turn their attention to the representatives of Empress Catharine II of Russia, who came to Danzig in 1786, offering them a large block of land and new opportunities. The Guenters, with others in the group, consented to the move and established themselves in the village of Neuendorf on the right side of the Dnieper River, in the Province of Elaterinoslov, South Ukraine.

In 1871 the Mennonites felt threatened again when the Russian government proposed compulsory military service for the whole population. Again the map was studied to find a place where they would have complete exemption from military service and able to orient the chlldren in their own schools. They were granted this privilege by the Canadian government in 1873.

This prompted our grandparents Franz (II) and Katharine Guenter to leave Russia with their family and settle in southern Manitoba, Canada. A new farm home was soon constructed in the village of Schoenwiese. It was, however, through misfortune destroyed-by fire which left them in dire straights.

Our father, who was the youngest son, has oft related that due to these circumstances the family had to resort back agricultural methods that were unpleasant and, crude. To provide temporary protection from the weather, primitive log buildings were erected. They had to revert hack to plowing with oxen, which in that day, were cheaper than horses.

The Old Colony was the most conservative, church among the Russian Mennonites of the first migration. The stiff imposition of controls led to dissention, whereby, Uncle Gerhard, Uncle Peter, and father Aron moved out to settle on farmland of their own choice.

Uncle Peter and Aron moved to Saskatchewan, whereas Uncle Gerhard, who was dealt with very harshly by the church in Schoenwiese, later moved to Gretna, close to the USA border.

On their arrival in Saskatchewan the school question was still a lively topic of conversation in the Hague-Osler Reserve. Our parents, however, did not see it as crncial to their way of life.

They continued pressing for an established English school district. The two acres that were required for the school site, was donated, thereby showing the desires and need of education for the children. Father served as a memher of the school board for five years, as well as being the attendance officer.

Our 'parents often reflected on the particular system of rules for conduct in the German private school of the early day, Aron was scolded, and severely disciplined by the teachers for belng left-handed. He was told he would never achieve anything in life if he didin't change his ways.

Our father did finally comply, but continued making use of the saw and hammer witih his left hand. In spite of the consiered handicap, Aron made many furnishings for the household.

Our parents were very modest aout their accomplishments, but they planned and built up a farmstead that gained them entry to the nomination list for the Master Farm in Saskatchewan. They didin't win, but the excitement of the moment. when two cars with government officials arrived for inspection has never been forgotten.

-Submitted by Jacob G. Guenter

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