Wiens, Jakob (1816-1888)

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Jakob Wiens. Preservings Photo.

Jakob Wiens: surveyor and writer; born 14 June 1816 in Neu Osterwick, Chortitza Colony, Russia, to Jakob and Sarah (Brandt) Wiens. He was the youngest of 12 children and the only surviving son in the family.  Jakob was baptized on 20 May 1835. On 8 September 1836, he married Katharina Klassen (1817-1885) in Kronsthal, Chortitza Colony. The couple had eight children, one of whom died young. The Wiens family immigrated to Canada in 1876 and settled in the village of Hoffnungsfeld in the Manitoba Mennonite West Reserve.

Like his father, Jakob kept a meticulous account of the family’s history, recording his own childhood and his major family events. He collected historical and theological writings. The accounts of the 1848 cholera epidemic, history of the Mennonite emigration from Prussia and the subsequent establishment of Kronsthal, and other significant events in local history provided teaching material for his role as a village teacher, and it also preserved the immigrant’s heritage. Devotional literature, theological musings, recipes and folk remedies for various ailments fill his journal.

When Tsar Alexander II abolished serfdom after 1860 and ordered landowners to yield some of their land to the freed serfs, land surveyors had a difficult time keeping up with demands on their time. Jakob had done some surveying work in the past, and he began again to work in that capacity. The patience and organization he learned through that work were useful later, when many of the Mennonite colonists decided to leave Russia and to move to North America. Jakob was a co-leader of one of the last groups to leave for Canada during the 1870s, and in his father’s tradition, he kept a careful record of the journey. After landing in Quebec, the immigrants moved westward by river steamer until they reached Manitoba, where Jakob’s land surveying skills were useful once again.

By 1879, Jakob Wiens and his family were well established. Jakob began to write articles for a German-language magazine, the Mennonitische Rundschau, detailing life in Hoffnungsfeld. He wrote occasionally for four years, giving news and reflecting on the theological implications of the trends he saw developing in the Mennonite settlements. In 1887, he travelled to the East Reserve with a pastor from Pennsylvania and later wrote a lengthy report on the churches and people they visited. He continued writing reports for publication till shortly before his death.

Jakob died on 9 July 1888 in Hoffnungsfeld, Manitoba. He made a significant contribution to the written record of every-day faith and life of his Mennonite community.


GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 5.03 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2007: #162545.

Plett, Delbert F.  “Jakob Wiens (1816-88), Hoffnungsfeld, Manitoba.”  Preservings No. 17 (December 2000): 26-37.

Wiens family fonds (Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives, Winnipeg)

Author(s) Susan Huebert
Date Published December 2007

Cite This Article

MLA style

Huebert, Susan. "Wiens, Jakob (1816-1888)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2007. Web. 27 May 2018.,_Jakob_(1816-1888)&oldid=96847.

APA style

Huebert, Susan. (December 2007). Wiens, Jakob (1816-1888). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 May 2018, from,_Jakob_(1816-1888)&oldid=96847.

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