Katharina Reimer Claassen: pioneer and church leader; born in 1825 in Felsenthal, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, South Russia, to David Peter Reimer (born about 1784) and Maria (Neufeld) Reimer (born about 1789). She had at least one sibling, an older brother, Jakob, who was active in establishing the Mennonite Brethren Church. On 31 January 1847, she married Johannes Claassen in Gnadenfeld, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement. The couple had 11 children, at least five of whom died young. Katharina and her husband were among the founders of the Mennonite Brethren Church in Russia and were also instrumental in founding the Kuban Mennonite Settlement in the Northern Caucasus region. On 25 July 1869, Katharina died of malaria in the Kuban Settlement.
As a child, Katharina Reimer lived on the family farm in Felsenthal. In 1847, she married Johannes Claassen in Gnadenfeld, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement. Five of the couple’s children died as infants, and their son Johannes drowned at a young age in the creek near their home. Katharina’s husband was away at the time on one of his many trips. In addition to his work as a teacher, he was active in promoting better education and a teacher-training institute for the Mennonites. Johannes became involved in the process of getting official permission for these changes, traveling to government offices in St. Petersburg and elsewhere to obtain the necessary documents.
In the 1850s, Johannes and Katharina Claassen participated in revival meetings led by the preacher Eduard Wüst of Germany. They, along with others, became convinced that the Mennonite Church in Russia had become lifeless and needed reform. Soon, they began to meet on their own and in January 1860, they established their own church, later known as the Mennonite Brethren Church. Katharina and Johannes were active in the new church, and Johannes once again had to travel to St. Petersburg to gain legal permission for the new group to exist. During this time, Katharina kept Johann informed of how the group was progressing while he was away.
Even with official government recognition, many of the Mennonite Brethren experienced hostility from their neighbors. Soon, Johannes and Katharina Claassen began to explore the option of beginning a new Mennonite settlement away from the Molotschna. Johann traveled to St. Petersburg again, this time to gain permission to begin the Kuban Mennonite Settlement in the Northern Caucasus region. In June 1862, Johannes returned home with official permission for the settlement, and he and his son Jakob left in April 1863 to begin building a new house. Meanwhile, Katharina cared for the remaining children at home in the Molotschna until she was ready to join Johannes in the fall of 1866. Katharina worked hard in the new settlement but died there of malaria on 25 July 1869. Johannes later remarried and continued to build the settlement until his death on 24 December 1876.
Katharina Claassen was a faithful supporter of the early Mennonite Brethren church whose dedication to her family and community helped the new movement to thrive. Although her work was cut short through death, she played an important role in the development of the church in Russia.
GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 7.02 ed. Fresno, CA:, 2013: #12412.
Hecht, Linda A. Huebert. "Katharina Reimer Claassen: Faithful Disciple in Mennonite Brethren Beginnings." Web. 29 April 2013. http://www.mbhistory.org/profiles/claassen.en.html.
Huebert, Helmut T. Events and People: Events in Russian Mennonite History and the People That Made Them Happen. Winnipeg, MB: Springfield Publishers, 1999: 42-44.
Reid, David and Evelyn Schroeder. "Family: Johann Claassen/Katharina Reimer (F13077)." Web. 29 April 2013. http://reidgen.com/familygroup.php?familyID=F13077&tree=ReidFamilyTree.
Cite This Article
Huebert, Susan. "Claassen, Katharina Reimer (1825-1869)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 2013. Web. 1 Sep 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Claassen,_Katharina_Reimer_(1825-1869)&oldid=79651.
Huebert, Susan. (2013). Claassen, Katharina Reimer (1825-1869). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 1 September 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Claassen,_Katharina_Reimer_(1825-1869)&oldid=79651.
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