Franz, Heinrich (1812-1889)

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Heinrich Timon Franz: an outstanding teacher among the Mennonites of Russia, and with Tobias Voth and Heinrich Heese a co-founder of their school system; born 6 October 1812 in Horst, West Prussia, the son of Timon Franz (31 December 1775, Parsken, Graudenz, Prussia - November 1828) and Helena (Bartel) Franz (19 July 1770, Gogolin, Culm, Prussia - 30 October 1857, Gnadenfeld, Molotschna, South Russia). Heinrich married Agatha Suderman (15 May 1818, Kalthof, Gross Werder, Prussia - 17 September 1882, Halbstadt, Molotschna, South Russia), daughter of Abraham Suderman (1763-1840) and Anna (von Riesen) Suderman (1778-1851), on 19 September 1837. Heinrich and Agatha had four children (a fifth died in infancy). Heinrich died 27 May 1889 at Neu-Halbstadt, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, South Russia.

For three years Heinrich attended the Vereinsschule headed by F. W. Lange at Rodlofferhufen, near Marienburg; in 1832 he passed the Prussian teachers' examinations, became a tutor in his home town, then a teacher at the Brenkenhoffswalde school. After his immigration to Russia in 1832 he was for a short time a private teacher at Felsental, and 1835-1844 he taught in the Gnadenfeld village school. His abundant determination is attested by the fact that in order to learn the Russian language he served for two years as supervisor in the boarding-school of the Ekaterinoslav Gymnasium.

As a teacher in the Chortitza Zentralschule from 1846 to 1858 his influence was felt throughout the settlements in his teaching, in his influence on their school system, in the statutes he worked out for the Chortitza Mennonite schools and the schools in general. His deficient knowledge of Russian made him less effective in this field than his predecessor Heinrich Heese; but in German and arithmetic (including elementary algebra and geometry) he did outstanding work. With his "150 tables" in arithmetic and their key, Franz dominated the instruction in arithmetic for a half century, as he dominated religious music in the home, school, and church with his Choralbuch of 1860 with notes. Franz's most lasting influence lay in the strength of his personality and his Draconian severity in school. These traits also brought him into conflict with influential persons and with the Chortitza authorities, and he was consequently obliged to resign in 1858. He, of course, had enthusiastic supporters, but also outspoken opponents among his pupils.

Heinrich again turned to private instruction in Gnadenfeld and on the Rosenhof at Brodsky, owned by Jacob Dick. In 1880 he resigned, having devoted 50 years to teaching. He settled in Neu-Halbstadt, where he gave a few hours' instruction in religion in the secondary school for girls, and in 1888 he edited and published the poems of Bernhard Harder, the popular preacher of the Russian Mennonite brotherhood. His memory survived, and he was spoken of simply as "der alte Franz."


Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstat:  Verlagsgesellschaft “Raduga," 1911: 584 ff.

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 6.02 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2010: #12708.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 685 f.

Author(s) Benjamin H. Unruh
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published November 2010

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Unruh, Benjamin H. and Richard D. Thiessen. "Franz, Heinrich (1812-1889)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2010. Web. 12 Apr 2024.,_Heinrich_(1812-1889)&oldid=169191.

APA style

Unruh, Benjamin H. and Richard D. Thiessen. (November 2010). Franz, Heinrich (1812-1889). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 April 2024, from,_Heinrich_(1812-1889)&oldid=169191.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 379-380. All rights reserved.

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