Title and Physical Description
Johann Peters fonds. – 1857. – 17 pages of textual records
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 familiarity with many of the original pioneers, and his own experiences and observations.
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 subsequent, often very difficult, efforts to establish a prosperous 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 economic 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 describes the situation at the time the report was written thus: “All the dangers, difficulties and obstacles against which our fathers fought are now in the past. We have gained a love of our new Fatherland and live happily 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.