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Gerhard Wiebe, minister and elder: born 25 July 1827 South Russia, the eldest of six children of Gerhard Wiebe (30 September 1800 – 11 February 1858) and Agatha (Dyck) Wiebe (7 September 1804 – 1875).  On 12 June 1847 Gerhard married Elisabeth Dyck (17 October 1828 – 26 December 1876), daughter of Dirk Dyck (12 March 1786 – 9 September 1850) and Sara (Penner) Dyck (26 October 1787 – 29 April 1847). Ten children were born to them, with seven reaching adulthood: Johann, Gerhard, Isbrand, Heinrich, Peter, Jacob, and Dirk. After the death of his first wife, Gerhard married Elisabeth (Defehr) Loewen (4 April 1823 – 9 November 1908).  She was the daughter of Jacob Defehr (13 November 1780 – 1823) and Maria (Peters) Defehr (1 March 1781 – ca. 1799) and had been previously married to Wilhelm Esau and Peter W. Loewen. Gerhard died 5 May 1900 in Chortitz, East Reserve, Manitoba.

At the age of 12 his parents moved to the new Bergthal settlement that had been founded in 1836. Here he completed his elementary education and was baptized on 26 May 1846 by Elder Jacob Braun. Wiebe began serving the church as a deacon, a calling for which he was ordained on 25 November 1854. On 23 November 1861 he was ordained to the ministry and on 27 March 1866 he was ordained to the position of Elder, an office he held until 1882.  Although initially Wiebe was not in favour of emigration, after some persuasion he became the colonies leading advocate. Emigration was undertaken as a result of changing Russian laws that the Bergthal Colony perceived to threaten the churches control of education and their exemption from military service. Emigration was already begun when the village of Bergthal was almost entirely burned. Soon after this Wiebe came with his family to Canada arriving in Quebec in the summer of 1875, settling in the village of Chortitz in the East Reserve in Manitoba.

His first three years in Canada where marred by the tragic deaths of his wife and three children. In spite of his personal losses, Wiebe continued to serve the church. He worked to maintain control of private schools; negotiate a loan and repayment with Ontario churches; and even helped organize churches in the United States. Wiebe will also be remembered for his sudden and unexplained resignation as Elder in 1882. Many have speculated on the reason for his resignation but we have yet to find any record explaining why after a routine visit to the West Reserve, Wiebe resigned as Elder and never preached another sermon.

In his book Ursachen und Geschichte der Auswanderung der Mennoniten aus Russland nach Amerika, Wiebe not only gives an account of the coming of the Bergthal group to Manitoba, but also presents the extremely conservative religious and cultural views of the Mennonites of his day. In minor details he was less conservative than Johann Wiebe, elder of the Old Colony Mennonites of the West Reserve, but basically the two men were of the same spirit. The traditional cultural patterns, such as the closed village community, the independent parochial village school, and the autonomy of the Mennonite communities, were as dear to him as to Johann Wiebe, although these patterns disintegrated more rapidly among his followers than among the Old Colony Mennonites led by Johann Wiebe. His conservative attitude was noticeable when Johann K. Funk, who was more progressive, became leader of a group that favored, among other things, better education. This minority group became known as the Bergthal Mennonite Church, while the larger following of Gerhard Wiebe came to be called the Chortitzer Mennonite and Sommerfelder Mennonite Churches. Gerhard Wiebe took a course between the extremely conservative Old Colony Mennonites, led by Johann Wiebe, and the more progressive Bergthal Mennonites.

Bibliography

Brown, Sharon H.H. Unpublished materials in possession of revision author, 2002.

Ens, Adolf. "Wiebe, Gerhard." Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto; Laval, PQ: Université Laval, 2003–. Web. 15 September 2013. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/wiebe_gerhard_12E.html.

Archival Records

Gerhard Wiebe fonds at the Mennonite Heritage Centre: Vol. 2122-10.


Author(s) Ted E. Friesen
Cornelius Krahn
Date Published December 2005


Cite This Article

MLA style

Friesen, Ted E. and Cornelius Krahn. "Wiebe, Gerhard (1827-1900)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2005. Web. 12 Jul 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wiebe,_Gerhard_(1827-1900)&oldid=104002.

APA style

Friesen, Ted E. and Cornelius Krahn. (December 2005). Wiebe, Gerhard (1827-1900). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 July 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wiebe,_Gerhard_(1827-1900)&oldid=104002.




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