of Alberta

  1. Peters, Johann fonds, 1857, 17 pages

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    Peters, Johann fonds, 1857, 17 pagesAccession 2022.007

    Title and Physical Description

    Peters, Johann, fonds, 1857, 17 pages

    Administrative/Biographical History

    Johann Peters was a member of the Chortitza Mennonite Agricultural Association.  His family had migrated from Prussia to Russia in 1806 when Johann Peters was only ten years old.  As an adult he became a prominent and influential community leader.   When the Chairman of the Guardians’ Committee of the Foreign Colonists visited the Chortitza Mennonite settlement, Peters was asked him to write a history of the establishment and subsequent experiences of  the pioneer settlers.  It was to be based on available documents, Peters’ personal knowledge and familarity with many of the original pioneers, and his own experiences and observations.

    Custodial History

    The location of the original version of this report, written by Johann Peters, and the person who prepared this typewritten copy of the report, have not been documented.  This copy of the report, which provides much interesting information about the early history of the Chortitiza settlement, was part of  Walter Quiring’s library which was purchased by Ted Regehr shortly before Walter Quiring moved from Canada to Germany.  It was donated by Ted Regehr to the archives of the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta in 2022.

    Scope and Content

    Peters responded to the request of the Chairman of the Guardians’ Committee with a 13 page report to which he attached a copy of the Charter of Privileges (Privilegium) granted to the Mennonites by Tsar Paul I in 1800.  While not one of the original pioneer settlers, Peters knew many of the most prominent members of that generation and was actively involved in the subequent, often very difficult, efforts to establish a prosperious community.  In his report Peters first discusses the circumstances which prompted Tsarina Katharina II to invite foreign settlers to colonize former Turkish territories taken by Russia during the Seven Years’ War.  He describes the work, difficulties and controversies encountered by Mennonite community leaders, many of whom Peters knew personally.  His report focuses more on the economic, and specifically agricultural challenges, rather than on church-related developments.  In addition to economc and environmental problems, the early settles also had to content with hostilities by some of the local people.  Several instances of robberies and hostilities by local inhabitants are documented.
    The report, written in German in 1857, ends on optimistic and patriotic notes.  Peters describs the situation at the time the report was written thus:   “All the dangers, difficulties and obstactles against which our fathers fought are now in the past.  We have gained a love of our new Fatherland and live happilly and satisfied under the mighty protection of our country’s esteemed and beloved father, and under the wise administration of high authorities.  We now enjoy in peace the golden fruits which have been brought forth and  have ripened so gloriously as a result of the sacrifices, suffering and dangers of our elders.  We bless the decision which led them to Russia, and respectfully praise God’s provisions which have made all things so good.”

    Source of Acquisition

    Gift by Ted Regehr.


  2. Regehr, Katharina H., fonds,1950-1970, 5 cm.

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    Accession 2021.018

    Physical Description

    Regehr, Katharina H., fonds, 1950-1970, 5 cm

    Administrative/Biographical History

    Katharina Regehr was born in the village of Prangenau, Molotschna colony in 1894.  The family moved to the Terek Mennonite settlement in 1901.  Sharply increased hostility by some of the  local people following the overthrow of the Tsarist government forced the family to leave the Terek in 1918.  Like many others, Katharina endured numerous hardships in the 1930s and during World War II before being evacuated westward by retreating German military forces.   She was able to migrate to Canada in 1948.  She maintained contact with relatives and friends in Russia and in Germany and copied many of the letters she or other friends and relatives received into small notebooks.  Also included in the notebooks were poems, stories, autobiographical notes and smaller bits of other information.   It is a rather eclectic collection documenting conditions in Russia, Germany, and contacts between people there with their relatives and friends in Canada.  Katharina Regehr visited and stayed for a time with her oldest brother, Peter H. Regehr, in Coaldale, Alberta, before retiring in British Columbia where she died in 1982.

    Custodial History

    After, or perhaps already before Katharina’s death in 1982, many of her papers came into the possession of the children of her oldest brother, Peter H. Regehr.  Nephew Jacob Regehr, Peter H. Regehr’s son, translated and privately published Katharina Regehr’s recollections in 1992.  He subsequented donated a copy to the Library of the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta.  These notebooks were donated by Marge Friesen, the daughter of Cornelius Regehr, another nephew of Katharina Regehr.

    Scope and Content

    The fonds consists of four booklets or folders of material
    Folder 1-1 Letters written by relatives and friends in Germany, 1950-1959, and copied by Katharina Regehr.
    Folder 1-2 Letters written by relatives and friends in Germany, 1959-1970, and copied by Katharina Regehr
    Folder 1-3  A somewhat eclectic  collectionLetters, notes, stories, copied by Katharina Regehr.
    Folder 1-4 A small, somewhat eclectic collective of original letters and other written material collected by Katharina Regehr.

    Source of Acquisition

    Donated by Marge Friesen, daughter of Katharina Regehr’s nephew, Cornelius Regehr.




    See also, Jacob M. Regehr,  Recollections from my Life by Katharina H. Regehr, 1894-1982, Self-published, 1992.  A copy is available in the Library of the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta.


  3. Janzen, Anna, fonds, 1926-1958, 2 cm and one CD

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    Accession 2004.032

    Title and Physical Description:

    Janzen, Anna, fonds, 1926-1958, 2 cm and one CD

    Administrative/Biographical History

    Anna Janzen (nee Anna Barg), the daughter of Isaak Barg and Maria (Dueck) Barg, was born 8 November 1911 in the village of Fuerstenwerder, Saporoschnia settlement.  She migrated from the Soviet Union to Canada in 1926.  There she married Aron Janzen on 11 January 1931.  They lived in Coaldale, Alberta, where Anna Janzen died in 2008.
    Over the years the family received numerous letters from relatives still in the Soviet Union.

    Custodial History

    The letters and some supporting documents were entrusted to Erna Goerzen who photocopied and translated them, and also preserved a copy on a compact disc.  The original copies were returned by Erna Goerzen to Anna Janzen.

    Scope and Content

    The fonds consists of a manuscript entitled “Familien Briefe aus Ruszland, 1926-1958, Sammlung von Anna Janzen, Englishe Verfassung-Uebersetzung, Heinrich u. Erna Goerzen,”  It includes the translated version of letters received by members of the Janzen family from relatives in the Soviet Union, together with an account by Anna’s father-in-law of the family’s journey from the Soviet Union, and some supportive genealogical information.  Also included is a separate folder contianing more extensive genealogical information, and another folder containing photocopies of the letters which are also preserved on a compact disc.

    Source of Acquisition

    Donated to the Mennonite Historical Society of  Alberta by Erna Goerzen.



  4. Harder, David, Diaries, 1915-1918, 2 cm

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    Accession 2021.016

    Physical Description

    Harder, David, Diaries, 1915-1918, 2 cm

    Biographical History

    David Harder was born 6 December 1891 in Friedensfeld, Sagradowka, the son of Kornelius and Katharina (Janzen) Harder. When he was five years old the family moved to Suworowka in the Caucusus.  After his marriage to Helena Toews in 1912, members of the extended Harder family, including David and his wife, moved to Siberia.  They first lived in the village of Schoensee in the Slavgorad Mennonite settlement where David bought a farm, but soon turned it over to his younger brother Jacob.  He was more interested in carpentry work.
    In 1914 David was drafted and joined the Forestry Service.  That program had been greatly expanded to include not only work in forestry camps, but also on fire brigades and with the Marine Department, building, repairing and maintaining marine facilities and working on river boats and barges carrying freight and supplies.   David, together with other Mennonites, worked mainly on the Ob and Chylum rivers, or their tributories, in west central Siberia.  From December of 1915 until November of 1918 David kept a diary, written in cursive Gothic German script.  It is contained in three notebooks.
    In 1917, while on leave, David Harder bought a second farm, again together with his younger brother, Jacob.  They did the farm work together, but David also continued work as a carpenter.  He also did maintenance work on a flour mill for Russian owners.
    In 1923, the family sought permission to emigrate to Canada.  After waiting several years they were granted the required visas and left on 28 October 1926.  They travelled from Moscow to Riga, Latvia, in a boxcar with two other families.  In Riga tragedly struck the family.  David had become ill on the journey and, upon arrival in Riga, collapsed while moving baggage.  He was taken to the hospital where he died on 7 December 1926.  His wife and four children were guarantined in Riga until July 1927 because one of the children had trachoma.  Before they left Riga, Helena gave birth to a son, Jacob, on 3 June 1927.  She continued her journey to Canada as a widow with five children.

    Custodial History

    Helena, David Harder’s widow, brought the diaries along to Canada.  After Helena’s death the diaries came into the possession of David’s son, Jacob D. Harder, who, as noted above, had been born in Riga after his father’s death.  Jacob Harder, with the help of other family members and friends, transcribed and translated the diaries.  Rhonda Harder Epp, Jacob D. Harder’s daughter received the diaries after her father’s death.  Rhonda and her sister donated the origianal diaries and the English translation, to the archives of the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta in 2021.

    Scope and Content

    The fonds consists of three notebooks in which David Harder wrote about his experiences while serving in the Forestry Service during World War I.  Also included is the English translation by Jacob D. Harder, with assistance from other family members and friends.

    Source of the Acquisition

    Donated by Rhonda Harder Epp and her sister, granddaughters of David Harder and daughters of Jacob D. Harder


    See also Accession 2003.022, Jacob D. Harder fonds, which contains additional information about the Harder family.

  5. Coaldale Altenfest. 1930’s-1969, 9 photographs

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    Accession 2017.014

    Coaldale Altenfest, 1930s-1969, 9 photographs.

    Administrative/Biographical History

    It was, for many years, the practice that Mennonite men and women at Coaldale, Alberta, who were over the age of 65 met annually for an Altenfest (Seniors’ Festival).  Members of both the Mennonite Brethren and General Conference Mennonite churches participated.  All, or almost all, had migrated from the Soviet Union to Canada in the 1920s.  There was much visiting, some singing, a devotional, and a light lunch at which the shared Russian Mennonite religious and cultural heritage took precedence over denominational differences.  It was customary to take a group photo at these celebrations.

    Custodial History

    Received from Lynnette Toews Neufeldt as part of a large collection of miscellaneous books, hymnals, photographs and other archival items.

    Scope and Content

    The 9 photographs are approximately 24 cm x 20 cm in size and held in a special photograph album.  The earliest of these photos in marked as being in the 1930’s. followed by one marked 1949, others marked 1949 or 1950, 19501 or 1953, 1953, 1954, next two undated, and 1969.  They are arranged chronologically.

    Source of Acquisition

    Donated by Lynnette Toews Neufeldt.


    Filed with other larger photograph albums.


  6. Friesen, John W., fonds, 1984, 2 cm

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    Accession 2021.005

    Title and Physical Description:

    Friesen, John W., fonds, 1984, 2cm

    Administrative/Biographical History

    John W. Friesen, born in Saskatchewan, was for many years a professor with the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary.  He holds several university degrees including a D. Min from Christian Bible College and a Ph. D. from the University of Kansas.  He is best known for his numerous articles and several books on indigenous spirituality and culture, but has also examined aspects of Mennonite religious and educational history.

    Custodial History

    This manuscript was donated by Peter Dyck of Calgary

    Scope and Content

    This 36-page manuscript, entitled “Concepts of Mennonites in School Curricula,” is based on a study undertaken as part of the conceived mandate of the Mennonite Bicentennial Commissionof Waterloo, Ontario, and was undertaken at their request.

    Source of the Accession

    Donated by Peter Dyck of Calgary.


  7. Connie Thiessen fonds, 2020, 5 cm.

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    Title and physical description

    Connie Thiessen fonds, 2020, 5 cm.

    Administrative/Biographical History

    Connie Thiessen is the daughter of Dietrich Thiessen, 1929-2020 and Nettie (Dueck) Thiessen, 1929-2004.  Members of both the Thiessen and Dueck families had come from the Soviet Union to Canada in the 1920s, and eventually settled at Coaldale, Alberta.  There were numerous siblings in both the Thiessen and Dueck families.  These are stories and short biographies of Connie’s ancestors, parents and siblings of her parents.

    Scope and Content

    In her manuscript entitled “Early Stories & Family Trees,” Connie Thiessen provides detailed genealogical information about her ancestors, their expereinces in Russia/Soviet Union, the migration to Canada, subsequent experiences in Canada, and short biographical information about her grandparents, parents and numerous uncles and aunts.  Both the Thiessen and Dueck families were supportive and active participation as members of the Coaldale Mennonite Brethren Church.  Much of the information is drawn from personal recollections, or diary entries ,of various family members.  The manuscript includes numerous family, church  and individual photographs.
    After their marriage Connie’s parents moved from Coaldale to Lindbrook, but Connies includes very little information about her own, or the family’s experiences after that move.

    Source of Acquisition

    Gift by Connie Thiessen

    Access Restrictions



    See also: short entry by Connie’s father, Dick Thiessen, on the Thiessen family, and the shrot entry by Connie’s grandfather, Rev. Jacob P. Dueck, on the Dueck family, in Coaldale, Gem of the West, 1900-1983, (Coaldale Historical Society, 1983), p-. 886-887 and 456-457 respectively/

    See also MHSA Accession 2016.021, Jacob E. Dueck fonds.  Jacob Dueck was a younger brother of Nettie (Dueck) Thiessen (Connie’s mother).

  8. Hilda Dick fonds, 1890-1992, 2 large family photograph albums

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    Hilda Dick fonds, 1890-1992.

    Accession 2020.001.

    Administrative/Biographical History

    Hilda Dick was born in Coaldale Alberta on 4 May 1927, the daughter of Johann and Liese (Regehr) Dick.  She attended the Readymade elemntary school, the Coaldale Mennonite Brethren Bible School, and then, after a series of short-term jobs,  trained as a nursing aide in Calgary.  She worked in  hospitals in Lethbridge and Coaldale before joining the clinic staff of the Coaldale doctors, where she worked for 34 years.

    Hilda and her twin brother Walter came from a large family comprised of eight sons and five daughters.  Hilda was the only single adult sibling, but always took a keen interest in the lives of her siblings and many nieces, nephews and later grand-nieces and grand-nephews.  After Hilda’s parents retired and moved to a house in town, Hilda provided care and support.  After her father’s death in 1968, she lived together with her mother who died in 1892 at the age of 102.

    Hilda accepted an important retirement project when she went through numerous family photograph albums and then compiled two large  albums – one focusing on photographs of the Dick family, and the other on the Regehr family.  The albums provide a comprehensive overview of the families’ Russian background and their Canadian experiences.

  9. Goerzen, David D., fonds, 10 cm, 5 cds, 18 photos

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    Accession 2020.006

    Goerzen, David D., fonds, 10 cm., 5 cds, 18 photographs

    Administrative/Biographical History

    David D. Goerzen was born 17 September 1923 in the Mennonite village of Kalantarowka in the Caucaus region of the Soviet Union.  He was the eldest son of David Peter Goerzen and Susanna (Wiens) Goerzen, and married Margaret (Nachtigal) Goerzen.  The Goerzen family migrated from the Soviet Union to Canada in 1925 and lived for short periods of time in various places before settling on a farm on the Rosebud River betweem Crossfield and Acme, Alberta.

    During World War II David Goerzen performed alternative serivice as a conscientious objector, both as a farm labourer and as a worked in the Banff and Jasper National Parks.  His service included working, “unawares” on what was called the Habbakuk project.  It involved construction of the largest prototype of Sir Winston Churchill’s secret “Ship of Ice” – a large, flat, insulated floating frozen block of ice, reinforced with sawdust as a binding agent. Such a mixture was vertually impervious to submarine attack or bombardment and was expected to serve as a landing and possible refueling field or spot for wartime trans-Atlantic flights.
    After the war David Goerzen bought a half-section of land on the Rosebud River where he farmed until his retirement and move to Saskatoon in 1988.   David Goerzen died in Saskatoon on 24 March 2009.
    A few years beforee his death David Goerzen was contacted by Eco-Nova Productions asking for and filming an interview focusing on his wartime service as a conscientious objector, and specifically his work on the Habbakuk project.  That led to further work, including filming of the sunken wreck in Patricia Lake, Jasper National Park of the great Habbakuk ice ship.

    Custodial History

    The fonds was donated to the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta by Margeurite (Goerzen) Jack, David and Margaret Goerzen’s daugher.

    Scope and Content

    The fonds consists of three distinct sets of files.  First, there are files contining information and photographs pertaining to the Habbakuk project.  Second, there are files containing genealogical information about Margaret (Nachtigal) Goerzen’s family.  Third, a few items pertaining to the Goerzen and nearby farms.

    Source of acquisition

    Donation by Marguerite (Goerzen) Jack, daughter of David and Margaret (Nachtigal) Goerzen.

    Finding aid

    Habbakuk files

    1. Ecopress folder of documents, reports and correspondence from various sources, collected by David Goerzen. pertaining to the Habbakuk project.

    2. Ecopoess folder of photographs and supporting information pertaining to the Habbakuk project and, collected by David Goerzen

    3. Mixed folder of official government documents, correspondence and reports pertaining to the Habbakuk project.

    4. Four compact discs recording interviews with David Goerzen and filming of the sunken wreck of the Habbakuk project.

    5 .Fourteen pictures taken while filming the sunken wreck of the Habbakuk project in 2006.

    6. U-Haul use of Habbakuk information in the promotion of that company’s services.

    Nachtigal family genealogical and family papers.

    7. File containing genealogical information on various branches of the Nachtigal family.  Margaret Nachitgal,  b. 9 December 1929, daughter of Johann Nachtigall and Sara Baergen, was married to David Goerzen.

    8. Nachtigal family – Russian official documents pertaining to their migration from the Soviet Union, in 1926.

    9. Nachtigal family – Canadian official documents pertaining mainly to citizenship matters.

    10. Correspondence between Gerhard Baergen, Margaret (Nachtigal) Goerzen’s grandfather and his daughter Sara, Margaret (Nachtigal) Goerzen’s aunt, describing several of Gerhard’s trips, including searches for land.
    The letters were written in German Gothic script, but some have been transcribed and translated.

    11. Three Gerhard Baergen photographs: 1, Wedding photograph, 1902, of Gerhard Baergen and Margaretha (Baerg) Baergen; 2 Funeral, December 1912, of Margaretha (Baerg) Baergen with her husband and their six children.  The  youngest child, Sara, married Johann Nachtigal .  They were the parents of Margaret (Nachtigal) Goerzen’s mother. 3. A later photograph of the Gerhard Baergen family.

    Additional David Goerzen files.

    12. File of short stories collected by David Goerzen, including a longer manuscript entitled “Stories from the Burns Ranch.”

    13. Aerial photograph of the Goerzen farm, and clippings about the auction sale in 1988.


  10. Camrose Mennonite Fellowship fonds, 1979-2011, 60 cm and one photogrpah album

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    Camrose Mennonite Fellowship fonds, 1979-2011, 60 cm and one photograph album

    Accession 2019.010

    Administrative/Biographical History

    The Camrose Mennonite Fellowship traces its beginnings to a meeting in the basement of the Murray and Sylvia Lauber home in March of 1979.  Participants decided to schedule once a month and later bi-weekly Bible studies.  On 11 April 1980 the decision was made to organize formally as a Fellowship. That was followed later in 1980 with the adoption of a constitution and incorporation of the Fellowship

    Members came from several different Mennonite backgrounds.  The group therefore sought membership in three Mennonite conferences and joined both the Northwest Mennonite Conference and the Conference of Mennonites in Alberta (now Mennonite Church Alberta).

    The group met in several community places before leasing and then purchasing the church bulding of  the Church of the Nazarene at 5204 – 53 Ave. in  Camrose.

    John and Kathy Lenshyn moved to Camrose and joined the fellowship in 1981.  John was of Roman Catholic background.  He had, however, completed a degree at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and accepted a less than full-time call to serve as pastor of the Camrose Mennonite Fellowship.  He served in that capacity for five years, followed by David Letkemann who served for two years.  Peter and Agnes Nickel joined the Fellowship in 1990 and Peter served as pastor until 1996, at which time he retired officially.   The Nickels, however, contined to serve the Fellowship in many ways until Agnes’s death in 2006.  After Peter Nickel’s retirement, Eric Mierau serverd as non-resident part time pastor for a few years.

    Activties of the Fellowship included Sunday morning worship services, Wednesday evening family nights, Bible studies, young peoples activities, two summers of Daily Vacation Bible School, and numerous potluck and family celebrations.

    Membership in the Fellowship was always small.  Over the years there were often signficant transitions.  With the departure of some families and insufficient resources to engage a full-time pastor, it was decided in 2010 to dissolve the Fellowship.  The closing service was held on 26 June 2011.

    Custodial History

    The records of the Fellowship, together with a photograph album, were donated by Murray Lauber who initiated the first meetings and who, together with his wife Sylvia, provided continuing strong leadership and support.

    Scope and Content

    The fonds consists of files pertaining to the organization of the Camrose Mennonite Fellowship, minutes and reports of council and congregational meetings, subject files and church bulletins.

    Finding Aid: List of Files

    1-1 Constitutions, 1989, 1993 and 2009.
    1-2 Incorporation, 1980 and purchase of a  building, 1987.
    1-3 Policies, 1980-1985.
    1-4 Congregational and Annual Meetings, 1980-1984.
    1-5 Council Minutes, 1980-1981.
    1-6 Council Minutes, 1982.
    1-7 Council Minutes, 1983.
    1-8 Council Minutes, 1984,
    1-9 Council Minutes, 1985.
    1-10 Council Minutes, 1986.
    1-11 Congregational Meetings, 1985-1987.
    1-12 Congregational Meetings, 1988-1989.
    1-13 Congregational and Council meetings, 1990.-1993
    1-14 Congregational and Council meetings, 1994.
    1-15 Congregational and Council meetings, 1995.
    1-16 Congregational and Council meetings, 1996.
    1-17 Congregational and Council meetings, 1997.
    2-18 Congregational and Council meetings, 1998-1999.
    2-19 Congregational and Council meetings, 2000-2001.
    2-20 Congregational and Council meetings, 2002-2003.
    2-21 Congregational and Council meetings,  2004-2006.
    2-22 Congregational and Council meetings, 2007-2009.
    2-23 Dissolution, 2012.
    2-24 Closing Ceremony and History of Camrose Mennonite Fellowship, 2011 by Murray Lauber.
    2-25 Membership lists.
    2-26 Membership, Baptism and Transfer records.
    2-27 Brief History published in Mennonite Reporter, 1981,
    2-28 House Church Information, 1980.
    2-29 Church Rental/Lease, 1982.
    2-30 Church and Conference constitutions.
    2-31 Correspondence, Conference of Mennonites in Alberta, 1981-1985.
    2-32 Correspondence, Northwest Mennonite Conference, 1981-1986.
    2-33 Correspondence, Northwest Mennonite Conference, 1981-1986.
    2-34 Correspondence, Church and Conference commissions, 1981-1985,
    2-35 Correspondence, Conference of Mennonites in Canada, 1982-1985.
    2-36 Correspondence, General Conference Mennonite Church, 1982.
    2-37 Correspondence. MCC, 1978-1984.
    3-38 Pastoral Search, 1986,
    3-39 Refugee Sponsorship, 1988.
    3-40 “Neighbours Near and Far” Missions course, 1986.
    3-41 Monthly Announcements, 1980-1983.
    3-42 Bulletins, 1984,
    3-43 Bulletins, 1985.
    3-44 Bulletins, 1986.
    3-45 Bulletins, 1987,
    3-46 Bulletins, 1988.
    3-47 Bulletings, 1989.
    3-48 Bulletins, 1990.
    3-49 Bulletins, 1991.
    3-50 Bulletins, 1992.
    3-51 Bulletins, 1993.
    3-52 Bulletins, 1994.
    3-53 Bulletins, 1995.
    3-54 Bulletins, 1996.

    Photograph Album, kept by Sylvia Lauber providing insights and focusing on both formal and casual events in the history of the Camrose Mennonite Fellowship.  The photos are being screened by Bill Janzen, a member of the Fellowship for many years, who is providing essential information about the more noteworthy photographs.