Doerksen, Abraham (1852-1929)

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Abraham Doerksen: minister and elder;  born 11 September 1852 in the village of Schoenthal, Bergthal Colony, Russia. He was the eldest of twelve children of Abraham Doerksen (1 November 1827 - 20 September 1916) and Katharina (Friesen) Doerksen (12 April 1832 - 4 March 1876). His father was married for the second time to Aganetha (Elias) Wiebe, a widow with no children; they had 9 children. On 16 July 1872 Abraham married Maria Dueck (26 February 1855, Russia-15 April 1931, Rural Municipality of Rhineland, Manitoba).  She was the daughter of Dietrich Dueck (13 June 1813 - 20 May 1883) and Anna (Unrau) Dueck (5 September 1813 - 18 May 1888). Abraham and Maria had 15 children, with the following 10 reaching adulthood: Abraham, Dietrich, Heinrich, Jacob, Peter, Maria, Katharina, David, Helena and Johann. Abraham died 25 January 1929 in Mexico.

Abraham grew up in the Bergthal Colony in South Russia and was baptized on 5 June 1872. His father was a manufacturer of plows, wagons and other machinery. Abraham along with his wife and young daughter Katharina left Russia in 1874 and settled in Manitoba. Their child died within a month of their arrival in Canada.  After living on the Mennonite East Reserve for a short time, they relocated to the village of Sommerfeld on the Mennonite West Reserve

The church on the Mennonite West Reserve (current day Altona/Winkler area of Manitoba) became divided over the issue of worldly influence, and higher education became the lightning rod. The majority disagreed with the newly elected Elder Johann Funk who promoted a school of higher learning and the development of the Mennonite Collegiate Institute (MCI) in Gretna, Manitoba. Mediation with the mother church from the Mennonite East Reserve (current day Steinbach area of Manitoba) under the guidance of Elder David Stoesz was not able to bring the two parties together. After Funk and his supporters parted (retaining the name Bergthaler Mennonite Church), the larger group was left without a bishop until Elder David Stoesz ordained Abraham Doerksen on Palm Sunday, 18 March 1894. This group eventually adopted the name Sommerfeld Mennonite church because Doerksen was from that village.

Elder Abraham Doerksen made numerous trips to visit the adherents of the Sommerfeld Mennonite Church as they spread to various regions in western Canada. In addition to his normal church work, he was on a committee of church leaders that negotiated with the Canadian government for military exemption for Mennonite men during the First World War. When the Canadian government withdrew some school privileges after the war, Doerksen was among a group of about 600 Sommerfeld church members who immigrated to Mexico in 1922 where he settled in the Santa Clara colony, north of Cuauhtémoc.


Abraham Doerksen papers at Mennonite Heritage Centre.

Author(s) Conrad Stoesz
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published December 2005

Cite This Article

MLA style

Stoesz, Conrad and Richard D. Thiessen. "Doerksen, Abraham (1852-1929)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2005. Web. 21 Oct 2021.,_Abraham_(1852-1929)&oldid=112833.

APA style

Stoesz, Conrad and Richard D. Thiessen. (December 2005). Doerksen, Abraham (1852-1929). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 October 2021, from,_Abraham_(1852-1929)&oldid=112833.

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