Cornelius A. Ens, merchant, entrepreneur and farmer, was born 2 February 1884 in Michaelsburg in South Russia to Abram Ens and Elizabeth Reddikop Ens. He was the 10th child in a family of 11. As a boy of 15 he emigrated with his family to Blumenort, Manitoba where they lived for a few years before moving on to Hague, Saskatchewan.
Here, at age 18, he became a teacher in the German school, and, in typical fashion of the time, boarded from home to home for his support. He also obtained a homestead on land near Vonda, across the South Saskatchewan River east of Hague. However, he could not make the required improvements and had to forfeit his claim. A year or two later he tried again and homesteaded near the village of Edenberg which is about three miles (4.8 km.) north west of Aberdeen, Saskatchewan. Here he met and in 1904 married Anna Unrau a daughter of Jacob Unrau, Sr., the founder of the village.
Edenberg was in the style of a typical Russian Mennonite village where Ens’ father-in-law, Jacob Unrau, settled a number of his married children on strip lots of 40 acres (16.2 ha.) along the north side of the road and here he built Cornelius and Anna Ens a house with attached barn. That was to be Cornelius’s home until he died. With Anna he had five children before she died in childbirth. In 1915 he married Helena Fehr with whom he had six children.
Cornelius Ens was an entrepreneur, and though the farm was a mainstay, he left farming to hired hands and sons while he did other things. With the aid of a dictionary, he taught himself enough English to be called upon for assistance in dealing with English businesses or government. He ordered and regularly brought supplies from across the South Saskatchewan River from Hague or Rosthern or even from as far away as Saskatoon. He sold lamp wicks, kerosene, Bibles, hymn books, flour and other staples. By 1918 he built a small store and later a much larger one in Edenberg. In country store tradition, he did much trading and bartering for produce, and had a set of merchant tokes made for use in trade. These tokes were marked with the town of Aberdeen as their location. Ens’ store was also the unofficial post office for the village and surrounding area.
He also turned his hand to other enterprises. He bought a grinder and stationary engine to grind grain for people. He bought a steam engine and ran the Unrau threshing machine for a month or two each harvest. He had one of the first trucks in the village. He engraved names on Bibles. Already in his youth he repaired pocket watches. He added a lean-to to his house for his watch repair studio. Here, in his later days, he built replicas of Kroeger clocks; everything, to the individual sprockets, was hand sawed and filed. He built a dozen or more before he died.
Cornelius Ens was a Vorsänger in the Edenberg Old Colony Mennonite church. Though not from the conservative Old Colony background, Cornelius Ens remained a faithful member even in sending his children to the local Mennonite school in which all instruction was in German. After provincial inspectors found the school to be inadequate, Ens was fined several times in the early 1920s before he relented and sent his children to the public school.
Into this austere pioneering Old Colony farming community, Cornelius Ens brought entrepreneurship, progress and some contact with the larger community. That he loved culture and refinement is seen in the fact that as a young man he brought into the village a violin. He died in January 1960.
Interviews with Abram C. Ens, son of Cornelius A. Ens.
Hague-Osler Mennonite Reserve, 1895-1995. [Hague, Saskatchewan]. Hague-Osler Reserve Book Committee, 1995: 76, 651
Steinbach Post (January 1960).
Tannahill, Cecil C. An illustrated edition on banking, trade tokens, paper money & scrip used in the territory and province of Saskatchewan. [Published by the author] Cloverdale, B.C. printed by D.W. Friesen. 1980: 9.
|Author(s)||Alvin G Ens|
Cite This Article
Ens, Alvin G. "Ens, Cornelius A. (1884-1960)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 2008. Web. 30 Jan 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ens,_Cornelius_A._(1884-1960)&oldid=94523.
Ens, Alvin G. (2008). Ens, Cornelius A. (1884-1960). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 January 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ens,_Cornelius_A._(1884-1960)&oldid=94523.
©1996-2015 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.