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Cornelius Hamm 1878-1947

Cornelius Hamm (Aeltesta) 1878-1947

Aeltester Cornelius Hamm was born Nov. 5, 1878 in Neuendorf. Russia to Martin and Maria (Peters) Hamm. At the age of 13. he moved with his parents to southern Manitoba. They arrived in Rosenfeld on Aug. 19. 1891 after 6 weeks of travel.

The Hamm family lived in Manitoba until 1899. They then moved to Saskatchewan and Cornelius took up a homestead in the Relnfeld area (east of Hague) on the NE22-Tp41-R3 W of 3. He did not build a house on his homestead, but went to live with his parents on their homestead approx. 10 miles northwest of Hague. Here he lived with his parents from 1899 until 1903. Cornelius returned to his homestead in order to make the following improvements: in 1900 he broke 10 acres and cropped none. In 1901 he broke 10 acres and cropped 10. In 1902 he broke 10 acres and cropped 20. In 1903 he broke none but cropped 30 acres. He also built a stable in 1902 valued at $50.

Cornelius was married on Nov. 13, 1904 to Katharina Guenter. She was born Sept. 23, 1886 to Jacob and Margaretha (Bueckert) Guenter. Her parents both came to Canada as young people in the 1870's with their parents and lived in the village of Schoenwiese in Manitoba.

In 1892 Katharina's parents took up a homestead east of Rosthern.

Cornelius and Katharina became members of the Bergthaler Mennonite Church. It was not long before the church recognized the leadership qualities of Cornelius Hamm. He was elected as a deacon in July of 1908, and ordained as a minister on June 23, 1909. This was a job that received no monetary payment. These ministers served several churches on a rotation basis and also conducted services in homes in outlying areas. They also visited the sick, the widows and took care of their own poor, elderly, disabled and disaster victims. Extreme heat and cold and stormy weather also tested the dedication of these servants.

In 1926 a large of number of Bergthaler prepared to move to Paraquay. This was in reaction to a promise that the government had broken. When Mennonites came to Canada in 1873 they were promised the privilege to conduct their own schools in their own language. In 1918, these schools were forced closed by a new provincial law; Mennonites refused to send their children to English public schools and many paid stiff fines.

The Bergthaler elected delegates in 1921 to find a new home which would promise them these privileges. Rev. Jacob W. Neufeld and Rev. Johann Friesen were elected and found the Paraquayan government receptive to them. Aeltester Aaron Zacharias and a small group of Bergthaler moved to Paraquay in 1926. It was here that Aeltester Zacharias died in 1927.

The Bergthaler who remained in Canada were now without an elder and elected Cornelius Hamm to fill this position. He was ordained as elder on Aug. 15, 1928 by Aeltester David Doerksen of the Swift Current Sommerfelder Church.

Aeltester Hamm led the church through many difficult times. The "dirty thirties" left many people very poor, landless and destitute. Many of these took homesteads in northern areas of the province. Aeltester Hamm and his colleagues continued to serve these outlying communities with spiritual, emotional and physical nourishment as well.

A result of the 1930's was also the decline of the 'Waisenamt.' It was an organization for the protection of the widows and orphans. It had also become a lending institution for members wanting to buy land, machinery, etc. When the land would not produce crops, farmers ceased to pay their money owing to the Waisenamt. Aeltester Hamm recognized that it would be the poor, the widows and the orphans who would suffer as result of this. He provided strong leadership in trying to collect and distribute the monies owing to these estates.

Aeltester Hamm passed away on Jan. 25, 1947. For some time he had suffered with a rupture. On Jan. 18 he received an operation but within a week of the operation he died. His wife Katharina remained on the farm with her two single children. She passed away at the age of 91 years on Jan. 31,1978.

The photo was contributed by their son Cornelius C. Hamm of Rosthern.

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