of Alberta

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

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 Barnaul Colony where David bought a farm, but soon turned it over to his younger brother Jacob.  He was more intersted in carpentry work.
In 1915 David was drafted and joined the Forestry Service in the Tomsk area.  That program had been greatly expanded to include not only work in lumber camps, but also on fire brigades and working in 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.  Throughout the time of his service David kept a diary, written in cursive Gothic German script and contained in three notebooks.
In 1917, while on leave, David Harder bought a second farm but again rented it to his younger brother while he made his living at carpentry and doing maintenance work on a flour mill for Russian owners.
Beginning 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 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, with the help of other family members and friends, transcribed and translated them.  Rhonda Harder Epp, Jacob D. Harder’s daughter received the diaries after her father’s death.  Rhonda and her sister donated the diaries 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 Forsteidienst during World War I.  Also included is an English translation by Jacob D. Harder, assisted by 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.