(17 May 1872 Rosenort, S Russia – 12 Dec 1969, Coaldale, Alberta)
The following journey diary entries (from Russia to Canada July 7- August 14, 1926) were handwritten by Peter A. Riediger and recently transcribed/translated by his daughter, Margaret Riediger. The typescript, some photographs and other related materials can be viewed by researchers who visit the MHSA Archives..Margaret has written her own account of the journey and it is also available in this collection (and in the Archives).
Our Trip to America
July 7. Wednesday
Early morning we drove out of Klinock. At 3:45 our train came to Sorotschinsck but the train car was damaged.
July 8, Thursday
At 3:45 we boarded.
July 9, Friday
At 4:00 we entered Moscow and took lodging at the Charkowskyi Nomero.
July 10, Sunday
Had a quiet day.
July 11, Monday
We went to the Russian-Canadian Passenger Office where our passports were taken and changed to go through Sebesh, which cost us another 11 Rubel and 25 Kopeken per passport and about three days delay. We were also checked by a doctor and all were declared healthy (our whole family, 18 members). A few received medication; every day we went to the office. On the 11th the leader of each family was asked where they were going. We were told that we were going to Sunnyslope to our friend, O Funk.
July 17, Saturday
Finally, about half of our group got into the train car and we went to Sebesh. Early morning on the 18th, we drove through “The Gate” over the border. Right away we noticed the different clothing, different people, and were addressed as “Sir”.
In Sebesh our baggage was checked, but not thoroughly. If the inspector at Heaven’s Portal were not more thorough, then many big sinners would get through. Enough. Our whole group came through. Here I exchanged my last money, 150 Rubel – received $77.00 and a few cents. At the first Latvian station we had to change trains. From there the trains went faster and the stops were shorter.
Late morning we got to Riga. Here we were taken by car and our baggage by transport, to the city’s quarantine, which was taken care of by an agent. In the quarantine we had to wash, and our things were disinfected. Breakfast, dinner and supper in the quarantine lodging were good. We were also examined by a Feldscheritza (a high-ranking nurse).
Were examined by another doctor, had to wash thoroughly, and the men had to get their hair cut. In the evening we were taken to a different quarantine. The lodging and beds were good.
July 21, Wednesday
Our hair came under unmerciful scrutiny; many, even the womenfolk had to get their hair cut. Here we came before a consul. Food was always good. In the evening about 9:00 we came to the ship Kolpino. At 11:00 we were given supper. At the same time our ship left with app. 120 Mennonites. We each received a bed – the men were separated from the women wherever possible. The beds were good.
July 22, Thursday
In the morning we were far away from Riga. Soon we ran into a light storm, most of the people got seasick. Very few, myself included, stayed well. At noon only about 20 people were at the table, though the food was very good.
July 23, Friday
Yesterday we passed Sweden and Norway and this morning we passed Germany – very close. Strong wind. The waves carry a lot of foam. The ship is rocking badly. Many are sick, also Dave’s wife, Neta. I am feeling well; I am satisfied with everything. Many ships are going in different directions. July 24, Saturday. At night we entered the Williams Canal – met many ships. We got a German pilot. Early morning we passed under several bridges; above us the trains passed over. There was also a bridge that separated. Many airplanes. Here they loaded coal. We marvel at God’s greatness and the accomplishments of man. At 2:00 we left Williams Canal after the gates were pushed aside.
July 25, Sunday
Yesterday till evening the sailing was good. In the evening we played and sang several songs in the dining room. Sister P. Dick was taken to the sick room, and Sister Stobbe had a baby. Early morning the storm was bad. The ship rises and drops more than one Faden (Fathom – 6 ft.). Many are seasick again. Sister Stobbe had a son. Sister Dick is very ill.
July 26, Monday
In the morning (3:00) we were called to go to the doctor. We walked all around the ship, but didn’t see a doctor. In the evening we entered the Thames River. Now our ship has stopped, and we are waiting for the tide.
It looks marvelous here – ships on both sides and various buildings. The passengers are cheerful again. Sis. Dick is still very sick. Sis. Stobbe and her little son doing well. Because of the tide, many ships are grounded. At 7:00 we continue. A bridge was lifted up in front of us. We passed through and came to a draw bridge that goes very deep into the water. Soon the bridge is pushed to the sides and we pass through. Very soon we come to the dock; our baggage was loaded on to freight cars, and we (130) people stepped into (auto) busses and were taken to the train station. Here we boarded the train and soon we were rushing through the city and country side to the other station (Southampton) app. 80 Werst in 2 hours (1 Werst=1 Km.). From here we were taken by autobus to the quarantine building and right away we received supper. Each one had two eggs, bread and butter and tea. Soon we went to bed.
July 27, Tuesday
Praise God, all are cheerful in spite of the hard pillows and cold rooms. Here we met several Mennonites from different areas of Russia, who for various medical reasons had to remain behind. After breakfast we had to bathe and go to the doctor, naked. We, our whole family, all well. Afternoon the women had to get their hair checked again; that was a strict censorship. In the evening another 300 immigrants came, also our Samaritans (from Samara), almost all of them. This last group had a more difficult voyage.
July 28, Wednesday
Again all are happy and cheerful. The Lord’s grace is with us. We went into the city and bought a few clothes and footwear. After supper we had a meeting where Br. P. Reimer and K. Klassen served us with the Word.
July 29, Thursday
Thank God all are cheerful. In the evening about 10:00 we were given supper, then we Mennonites, about 200 of us, went into another room, sang a few songs and Br. K. Klassen led us in prayer. Then we bearded 5 autobuses and drove to the station. About 12:00 we left on the train for Liverpool; the train fled away at high speed (“rasend floh der Zug davon”).
Here a few of our people went on airplane rides, $1.00 per person. About 4:00 we were served bread and ham and cocoa. After sunrise, app. 7:00, we had bread and butter and milk.
July 30, Friday
At 3:00 in the morning we came to Liverpool; some were again examined by a doctor, then we all received a cabin number. About 1:00 we boarded a small ship. This took us a few Faden further towards our big ocean liner, the Metagama. Here again a doctor examined our mouth and hair. Then we were each given our cabin, at 1:45 at noon. At 5:45 a small steamer took our big ship, which is app. 16,000 tons, in tow and pulled us from the shore into the deep. At 6:00 our ship began to move.
July 31, Saturday
Thanks be to God, we slept very well. We sailed past Scotland and Denmark and are now lying at anchor in a bay at Ireland. Why, we don’t know. At 1:00 we started again after several passengers came on board.
Aug. 1, Sunday morning
Thanks to God, all are well; slept well, a few are sea-sick. The storm is getting stronger. From 3:00 to 4:00 we had a meeting, but very few attended. The storm is getting worse; for supper only a few. I can’t walk any more either.
Aug. 2, Monday
The storm is still severe, most are sea-sick. At noon it got even worse. Sometimes the water sprays onto the deck.
There is no lack of music on our ship. The bag-pipe music is “wiederlich” (terribly distasteful). There is a lot of dancing with it. The Salvation Army is here as well. One man is playing a small accordion; some sing and preach, but in the English language.
Aug. 3, Tuesday
The storm has increased but is more from behind us. The ship is rocking badly. Each day the clock is pushed back 40 minutes. Our ship, Metagama, is 650 ft. long. 52 ft. wide, two stories where the machines stand and the freight is loaded, underwater level, and 3 stories third class above water level. Then on the deck, in the middle, 3 stories first class. It has a loading capacity of 12,650 tons, water displacement 16,000 tons, 8,500 horse power, speed 16 miles per hour. Passengers: 893 third class, 250 first class, 280 ship’s personnel. The service is very good and the food too, but very strange for us. I ton equals 50 Pud (1 Pud is app. 40 lbs.)
Aug. 4, Wednesday
The wind is from the front again, very strong. The air very cold, near freezing. At breakfast our translator, a friendly Danish man told me that Mrs. G. Dick has had a baby and this baby would be recorded as English and will receive its education up to University. (This is the 7th child born on this ship and on this trip within 5 days.)
We all had to go to the doctor, he had to check whether we had all been vaccinated; some still had to be vaccinated. In the evening we went into the dining room with our violins and about 12 young people sang and played. A few English people sang along with the familiar songs. After we prayed we went to bed. Our music and singing was strange to most.
Aug. 5, Thursday
The storm is furious; the ship is rocking badly. Many are not well, and I too feel ill. It is quite cold. We can see floating icebergs.
Afternoon is Sunday School; app. 30 boys and girls are attending. David Goerzen and I are leading it. In the evening a service is held for Q. Dick’s little son. This causes great excitement.
Aug. 6, Friday
Slept badly as it was very cold. On both sides we see wilderness land – on the left side a large, shallow beach, in the background high hills. On the right side, steep, high mountains. On the ocean many icebergs. This is the first American coast – Newfoundland.
The passengers are a little more cheerful, for our house is not rocking as much anymore. Many are back on deck. The young guys are trying out their strength.
At suppertime the friendly translator asked me to give him the number of Mennonites on board the ship and a written statement that we are satisfied with the food and services. Later there was food and dancing in the dining room.
Aug. 7, Saturday
We are now sailing past the Island of Anticosti. The ship is going smoothly. Afternoon, at 3:00 G. Dick’s newborn was baptized by a bishop of the King of England. The Godparents were a high ranking general and a Minister’s wife (a companion of the Queen), dignitaries who also happened to be travelling on the ship.
The weather is getting milder. At 4:00 there is a big storm and rain. Land and mountains on the left side nearby.
Aug. 8, Sunday
5:45. Our ship has stopped; the luggage is carried on deck. Land and hills are visible in spite of a dense fog. Soon the ship moves again but in a different direction; then it stops again. The fog is too thick. At 10:00 we move again. Soon we can see the wonderful creation for the fog is lifting. Grand rocks are towering on both sides. Here and there on a number of them are splendid lighthouses. On some there are forests; some are bald. A little farther on we see the splendid cultivated fields and buildings on the shores of Canada. Everywhere one can see the magnificent culture that is far, far ahead of Russia. Also one can see a lot of forest and beautiful grain fields surrounded by various hedges. The buildings all very attractive and lovely, even the poorest worker is not only well clothed but has neat homes. Splendid!
The shores are getting closer now. One can see a waterfall app. 3 houses high and at least 6 ft. wide. The scenery is getting more beautiful all the time.
At 4:00 we left the ship. We are in Quebec now. We went through a long winding hallway high above the ground; below us people were walking. And there were autos. In a large room where we, over 1300 passengers, sat down on benches with backs on them. Soon we had to go to the doctor. A. Warkentin, Podolsk, and G. Dicks had to stay behind. At 10:00 in the evening we are on board a train. The train car is long and narrow, in the middle a narrow aisle, on each side seats for two, padded and covered with fine leather. Above us along the slanted roof, are trapdoors that can be pulled down to hold baggage or to lie down on them. Soon we are driving through the beautifully constructed and brightly lit city.
Aug. 9, Monday
This day again shows us God’s marvelous creation – hills and valleys, pastures, grain fields and a lot of forests. And the splendid farms with the fat, healthy horses. Black and red spotted cattle, pigs and fowl, and the farmers themselves occupied with haying and cutting the winter crops, and the oats is being harvested. The farm machinery is mostly on the fields. Also the attitude towards religion is different here. In London we received the Gospel booklets, here in Quebec again that was almost the first thing we received.
From time to time here on the train, bread, sausage and other things are offered for sale.
Other than Dav. Goerzen’s family, all of the Mennonites are going to Winnipeg – in four cars. Goerzens have to board a different train.
It is awe-inspiring, long stretches are very mountainous. Here we are suspended high above deep gullies; then again we are down in the depths, and all rock, but the rock is full of crevices (cracked) and growing forth out of these cracks are the most beautiful trees: birch, evergreens, pine trees, aspen, vetch and many beautiful big trees that I don’t know yet. Marvelous is God’s creation and the “Kunst” (ability?) of man.
Aug 10, Tuesday
Again we are amazed at God’s greatness in nature. What is man? Soon we are driving along side great rock walls, on one side 30 Faden deep ravines and more, and on the other side even higher, steep rock cliffs and through long rock tunnels. This is not land for us grain farmers.
At 2:00 two men from the Board of Colonization enter and organize the rest of the trip – a Wiebe and a Zacharias.
Aug. 11, Wednesday
Yesterday morning we were greeted by a heavy rain. Today we have bright sunshine. We can see a lot of flat, well-cultivated land between the large forests. The best grain fields are all fenced in.
At 7:00 in the morning we are in Winnipeg. We were taken down a stairway, far below the city, into a very brightly lit room. Here we see a small city beneath the big city. At the train car we were greeted by J. Riediger and G. Peters. This last one entertained us for about two hours, also we were visited by Dr. Klassen. Abr. Kroeker, H. Reimer, Heinr. Hiebert and others who are strangers to me. J. Dellesky was picked up by his cousin unexpected. There are many surprises and partings, 17 families have already been separated. Our board members are organizing the rest of the trip. Two young men have been hired by A. Kroeker to help with fieldwork – $3.50, free meals and lodging. Is. Peters lives near the city, app. 8 miles away. At 9:30 in the evening, Mr. Wiebe comes and takes us to the train car. There are only a few left now. So far the Lord has helped us. Also Warkentin’s daughters visited us this evening. J. Dellesky has already bought a farm. Winnipeg has over 300,000 inhabitants and was started only about 50 years ago.
Aug. 12, Thursday
Praise God. Again we are privileged to greet a bright new day with good health. Yesterday we left the mountainous country behind us and more and more large, flat, well-cultivated fields lie before us. Everywhere the crops are being harvested. In Herbert and surrounding area the crops look poor, some fields very poor as a result of not enough rain. Today there was a good rainfall.
In the cities we meet many Mennonites who give us different advice. Everyone has left us. We are alone with our family.
Aug. 13, Friday
At 4:15 at night we stepped out of the train in Calgary. Mr. Klassen from the Board at Acme came to meet us several hours ago, so now we can be calm again. We are astonished and it humbles us to see how concerned these good people are for our welfare. Now we are waiting at the station for our train. This city, too, is grand and modern.
Soon a Mr. Wiebe arrived who accompanied us and Klassen remained behind. At 1:30 we arrived in Acme. Here a number of Mennonites with cars were waiting for us. Soon all of us were separated. This old Mr. Wiebe took me, my wife, Suse, and Greta to their place. Here we were warmly welcomed and fed. This family and most others in the area are Mennonites of the Holdeman Church. They receive only truly born-again believers in to their church. Smoking and drinking alcohol, cutting their beard is sin to them. They are recognized as honest, but in some ways rather strict. They practice baptism by sprinkling. This church is the biggest here.
Aug. 14. Saturday
Praise God, slept well. In 37 days the first night in a home and a German bed. Breakfast was more the old time style. The day is raw, dreary and wet. Yesterday they had a heavy rain.
Last Updated 25 Mar 2005