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Jacob K. Peters 1856-1927

Jacob K. Peters 1856-1927

For many years I have tried to gather information on the Mennonite settlement in the area known as the Saskatchewan Valley. This is a title given to a block of land stretching between the North and South: Saskatchewan Rivers as its east and west boundaries, with Warman in the south and Rosthern to the north. In the course of this research, I discovered a person that I am sorry that I never had the privi1ege of meeting. He died many years before I was born and yet I feel that he would have been an interesting character to know. The following biography is a collection of church and government records and oral histories. Hopefully it reflects in a small way the life and struggles of this man. Jacob K. Peters is his name.

He was born in a Mennonite village in Russia on December 24, 1856. He was the only child born to his parents, Jacob and Katharina (Nikkel) Peters. Less than three years after his birth, his mother died. Jacob's father married three months later in June of 1859 to a single lady, Maria Reddekopp. Seven children were born to this second marriage, three of whom died very young. Jacob's stepmother died in 1871 and his father married a third time to a Catharina Thiessen in 1872. Another 10 children were born to this third marriage. Three of these children also died as infants.

When the Mennonites first. . . . [line missing] This was a common practice which did not include the signing of adoption papers but a mutual understanding of helping a brother in a time of crisis. One year passed after the death of his first wife when Jacob married Aganetha Kauenhoven. They were married April 1, 1882. There were not any children born to this second marriage. Jacob's daughter Sara presumably returned to be raised by him, but she died March 22,1885, nine days less than five years of age.

About the time of his first marriage, Jacob Peters lived in the village of Hoffnungsfeld, only a short distance. . . . . [line cut off].

As early as 1888 some families had begun to migrate south, but it is believed that Jacob K. Peters and his young bride moved to the Langdon, North Dakota area in about 1893 or 1894. While many returned to Manitoba because the south was not to their liking, Saskatchewan became the home for others.

For approx. seven years the Peters' resided in North Dakota. In the fall of 1901, Jacob and his wife moved to Saskatchewan together with some of the Penner family who had also moved to North Dakota from Manitoba. Their train was to take them to Rosthern. but they all got off at . . . . [line cut off].

Minister of the Interior, on Aug. 26, 1902. He explained to Mr. Sifton his circumstances: of the house and blacksmith shop he built in March 1902, and the 20 acres he broke and cropped, assuming that since Mr. Caswell lived in Saskatoon and did not make the improvements on the land that he may be entitled to do so. Jacob Peters explained that he believed Mr. Caswell's motives to be that only of speculation. For now, Mr. Caswell had come along and offered the land to Jacob Peters for $8.00 an acre, and if he did not purchase he would have to move off. Since the Peters were poor people, they were unable to pay this amount; he was therefore forced to leave. I'm unaware of where he and his wife moved to at this point.

Their second choice for land had more positive results. The Peters homesteaded the SW 6-37-5-W3 in the area south of Warman known as Clark's Crossing. This quarter also bordered the South Saskatchewan River. In February of 1903 they obtained entry for this land and built themselves a 16 x 32' framed house valued at $500. They also erected the following buildings: a log stable valued at $50; a blacksmith shop valued at $25; and a log granary valued at $25. They also fenced 25 acres which they valued at $15.

In 1903, they broke five acres and cropped none; in 1904, they broke 20 acres and cropped 25; in 1905, they broke 10 acres and cropped 35. Their livestock consisted of: four cattle, three horses and two hogs in 1903; 8 cattle, three horses and two hogs in 1904; 12 cattle, three horses and two hogs in 1905; six - . . . .[line cut off].

This did not help, but after a while the horses did calm down and the Peters' began their trek to Schoenwiese.

Besides being a farmer, Jacob K. Peters was also a blacksmith. Wherever he lived he constructed a black smith shop in order to build or repair almost anything made from metal. He had a good reputation for his skills as a blacksmith.

In approx. 1910 or 1911, the Peters' moved from Schoenwiese village to the village of Osler. Mr. Peters continued to do his work as a blacksmith and operated a small livery barn here as well. People boarded the trains in Osler and left their 'horses at the Peters' place until they returned.

Jacob Peters was also a chiropractor so many people came to have their bones and muscles repaired. Mr. Peters enjoyed making jokes while he would chiropract on his patients. If it was a minor injury, i.e. like pulled muscles in an arm; he would call to his wife to retrieve an axe, implying that the limb may be beyond repair. Or if it was more serious he would tell his wife to bring the shotgun, jokingly implying that the whole person was beyond repair.

Since the Peters' lived in the town of Osler, there was little hay that could be cut for his animals for the following winter. So Mr. Peters cut hay east of Osler near the South Sask. River. One day while cutting hay, an insurance man came around and tried to sell Mr. Peters an insurance policy. Mr. Peters seemed interested and was prepared to sign. The insurance man asked him at the last minute how old Mr. Peters might be. . . . . [line missing].

Delegates sent out by the church found the Paraguayan government to be receptive to them. So in December of 1926, a large group of Bergthalers, including the Jacob Peters moved to Paraguay.

When they arrived in Paraguay, they settled in the city of Puerto Casado, waiting for land to be surveyed and for the railroad line to be completed which was to take them to their new home. For about 10 months people waited here. This was a very difficult time for many. They had sold all their possessions in Canada and, having no income in Paraguay, many suffered from severe poverty. The heat was also something they were not accustomed to. Many returned to Canada and some, needed to borrow money in order to do so.

Jacob K. Peters died here a the age of 71 on June 10, 1927, His wife moved into the Paraguayan Chaco with the remaining Bergthalers from Saskatchewan. There she died, but the date is unknown.

Jacob K. Peters is remembered in Saskatchewan for his talents as a blacksmith and chiropractor. But probably his most outstanding characteristic was his sense of humour. One example of this is when he was asked why he, at such a old age (70-71), would want to migrate to Paraguay, he replied that "the group was taking him along to scare away the wild apes!" He had good sense of humour and always had something to say. He was also nicknamed 'Nat Klose' (Santa Claus) because of his big beard and his jolly nature.

Photograph contributed by Mr. and Mrs. John D. Klassen, Warman.

When the Mennonites first arrived in Russia in 1788, they were granted certain privileges which included the freedom to conduct their own schools in their own language, freedom from military service. By the 1870s, the Russian government leaders were beginning to change their minds on these issues.

Delegates from this Mennonite community were sent to North America in 1873 and they were able to guarantee certain privileges for these Mennonite people. By 1874, the first group of Mennonites left Russia to settle in Canada and USA. Jacob Peters came Canada as well, with this first migration of Mennonites. His family came to Canada Irom Russia on the S. S. Polynesian. This ship arrived in Quebec City on July 6, 1879. ['he Peters family settled in Manitoba on the west side of he Red River, known as the West Reserve. This block of land was set aside strictly for Mennonite settlers, where they recreated village patterns as they were accustomed to in the steppes of Russia. The Peters became residents of the village of Ebenfeld, where Jacob also lived until 1880.

Jacob K. Peters' first mariage was to Helena Hiebert on March 23, 1880. Thirteen months after this marriage, his wife died leaving Jacob with a three week-old-daughter named Sara. It is quite possible that his daughter was given to another family to be taken care of.

[a line missing due to clipping]
. . . feld, only a short distance from his parents' village in Ebenfeld. The village of Hoffnungsfeld was very different from the village of Ebenfeld. Jacob's parents belonged to the Old Colony Mennonite Church and Ebenfeld residents were Old Colony Church members. Jacob, on the other hand, belonged to a group that later became known as the Sommerfelder Mennonite Church. By the early 1880s the village of Hoffnungsfeld, where Jacob lived, had become the centre of some new religious developments. All residents of Hoffnungsfeld village were dropped from the membership of the Old Colony Church because of some of the new religious trends the residents had adopted. Soon after this, Mennonite Brethren missionaries also found receptive people in Hoffnungsfeld and formed a church.

Jacob Peters' second wife, Aganetha Kauenhoven, died July 3,1892. Later that fall, on Nov. 17, he married for the third time to a young lady named Saara Harder. She was 17 years younger than her husband, but they proved to be a compatible couple.

Due to the shortage of land and the severe winters, some Mennonites from the Manitoba West Reserve chose to move south. Oregon, Kansas and the Dakotas became the home for only a few and this did not take on proportions of a mass migration. Included, in this group was Jacob Peters and his wife.

[line missing due to clipping]
. . . .them, but they all got off at Osler. The Jacob Penner family went to live with the Jacob Schmidt family near Kronsthal (east of Osler) and the Jacob Peters stayed in the Osler area as well. The Penners and Peters families were good friends and hoped to permanently settle near each other. The land that Jacob Peters chose as his new home in Saskatchewan proved to be a big mistake for him. The land SE 12-39-4-W3 was five miles east of the town of Warman, adjacent to the South Saskatchewan River and directly west of the site now used by the Clarkboro Ferry.

John Caswell homesteaded the SW 12-39-4-W3 and purchased as a pre-emption quarter the quarter SE 12 which Jacob Peters also selected. Mr. Caswell was not residing on this land when Jacob Peters and his wife decided to squat on it. Mr. Caswell had moved off the land and had not made the necessary improvements on it, but had not canceled his entry so no one else was entitled to move onto this land. Since good land was hard to find, Jacob Peters had moved onto this land, assuming that if he resided on it he would have the first choice to it when the entry was finally canceled by Mr. Caswell.

The Peters were ordered off this land on June 30, 1902, by the Dominion Lands Agent at Prince Albert. Jacob Peters appealed this decision by writing to the Honorable Clifford Sifton in Ottawa, the . . . .

[line missing due to clipping] . . . . .and two hogs in 1905; six cattle, three .horses and two hogs in 1906. The location of this second homestead was probably not coincidental. Their neighbors included many Mennonites, including their friends, the Penners, from North Dakota. In about 1905 the area of Clark's Crossing had grown considerably and a need was felt for education for the children. Since there were many Penner families in the area, the school was named the Penner School. Jacob K. Peters served on the first school organization committee.

As can be seen from their past history, the Peters' had moved many times in the course of their lives. Their stay at Clark's Crossing was also short lived. They moved into the village of Schoenwiese, (north of Warman approx. 10 miles), for a couple of years. Jacob's father had died in 1893 and his stepmother married a Jacob Guenter. Mr. Guenter homesteaded a mile southwest of Schoenwiese village. Many of Jacob's step-brothers and sisters also lived in the area, so the move to Schoenwiese placed him closer to his family.

One man who was then a young boy remembers the day that the Peters moved to Schoenwiese from Clark's Crossing. The wagon was loaded but the horses just refused to pull it. In desperation, Mr. Peters put dirt in the horses' ears which was believed to settle them down.

[line missing due to clipping]
asked . . . . . . . last minute how old Mr. Peters might be. Mr. Peters replied 70. 'The insurance man said no more, returned to his car, started it with the crank and drove away.

Jacob Peters and his third wife, Saara Harder, never had any children together. They both apparently enjoyed the presence of children in their home. As they got older, they felt a need for some physical help around the home. Jacob Doell, a son of Johann and Helena Doell of Schoewiese, went to live with the Peters in the village of Osler. Jacob Doell went to school during the day. In exchange for room and board, Jacob would help with the daily chores like milking the cow and chopping firewood.

The Peters were both mem bers of the Bergthaler Mennonite Church. Services were held in the village of Osler in homes and in the surrounding area as well. Delegates from the Bergthaler Church were sent to find a new home for their people in 1921. The government was now forcing these Mennonite people to send their children to the English public schools. When these Mennonites arrived in Canada in 1873, they had been promised by the federal government that they would be able to operate their own schools with their own curriculum and in the language of their choice (namely, German). Now the government leaders took this control of their schools away from these Mennonites. The dele. . . . . .

Mr.and Mrs. John D. Klaasen, Warman.

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