Epp, David Heinrich (1861-1934)

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David Heinrich Epp: teacher, minister, elder, and writer; born 30 May 1861 in Chortitza, South Russia, the sixth child of Heinrich Epp (1827-1896) and Anna (Siemens) Epp (1831-1863). When David was less than two years old, his mother died of measles and his father married Elisabeth (Perk) Lepp (1830-1904) in 1872. David married Anna Hamm (22 February 1864-1934) and they had three children: Heinrich, David and Gerhard (who died in infancy). David died 19 October 1934 in the Soviet Union.

David taught at Osterwick and Rosental, both villages in the Chortitza Colony, in 1878-1899. In 1886 he was chosen minister of the Chortitza Mennonite Church, and in 1899 accepted a call to the Ekaterinoslav Mennonite congregation. At the same time he taught in the elementary school at that place and also gave religious instruction in the local business college. In 1912 he moved to Berdyansk and devoted all his time to co-publishing the Botschafter and to church work. For many years he served as chairman of the Kommission für kirchliche Angelegenheiten (KfK), which was organized in 1910 to represent the Mennonites in dealing with the government. In this office he performed a very valuable service. He made repeated trips to the capital and secured more favorable conditions that made it possible for the Allgemeine Mennonitische Bundeskonferenz to continue to meet.

In 1914 at the outbreak of World War I the Botschafter, like all other German periodicals, was compelled to cease publication. He was thus deprived of his livelihood, and he became impoverished. In 1923 the Lichtenau-Petershagen Mennonite congregation (Taurida) invited him to serve as elder to re-establish the torn congregation. With clear vision, great skill, and much charity, he succeeded in this undertaking. In 1927 he was called to his home congregation of Chortitza and served it as elder until 1931 with marked blessing, in spite of the most unfavorable conditions imaginable, for the Communists hindered his every step. As one without any legal rights, as were all the preachers, he was so heavily taxed that neither he nor the congregation was able to raise the funds. He therefore resigned in 1931. He nevertheless continued his pastoral care privately, and was able to strengthen and revive many an oppressed heart in that difficult time. D. H. Epp was the last ordained elder of the Chortitza Mennonite Church.

Through his pastoral care of the mentally disturbed in the insane asylum at Ekaterinoslav, he became aware of the need for a Mennonite mental hospital to give better spiritual and physical care to patients in the brotherhood. By means of energetic appeals and propaganda in the Botschafter, lectures and pamphlets, he succeeded in interesting the congregations in the idea, and thus Bethania came into being, which was supported by all the Mennonites of Russia. He also saw the need of a better education for girls and became a co-founder of the Chortitza Mädchenschule (Girls' School).

As an author David Epp also accomplished much. He wrote of himself, "My inmost feeling urged me to serve wider circles with a pen in my hand." By private study he acquired a good knowledge of Mennonite history, and as the first fruits of this study he published in 1889 (for the centennial celebration of the founding of the Chortitza colony) Die Chortitzer Mennoniten. In 1896 he wrote Kurze Erklarungen und Erlauterungen zum Katechismus. . . . This book was intended for the "young men and women who are preparing for baptism, that it may be a good friend to them, in which they may be able to find inspiration and instruction, to bring to the sacred act a consecrated heart." The book was well received, and was published in a second edition in 1898. The third edition (1941) appeared after his death at Rosthern, Saskatchewan. In 1909 appeared his valuable biography, J. Cornies, Zuge aus seinem Leben und Wirken, the second edition of which was published in 1949 at Rosthern. In 1910 appeared his centennial booklet, Die Memriker Ansiedlung.

Before the founding of the Botschafter, David Epp was an active contributor to the Mennonitische Blatter, and also to the Odessaer Zeitung. Many of his articles appeared in the Mennonitisches Jahrbuch (H. Dirks) and in Unser Blatt. In the last years of his life he sent many contributions to Der Bote of Rosthern.


GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 5.00 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2006: #127002.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967, Vol. I: 597.

Author(s) Dietrich H. Epp
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published 2005

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MLA style

Epp, Dietrich H. and Richard D. Thiessen. "Epp, David Heinrich (1861-1934)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 2005. Web. 29 Jul 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Epp,_David_Heinrich_(1861-1934)&oldid=146412.

APA style

Epp, Dietrich H. and Richard D. Thiessen. (2005). Epp, David Heinrich (1861-1934). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 July 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Epp,_David_Heinrich_(1861-1934)&oldid=146412.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 235. All rights reserved.

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