Höppner, Jakob (1748-1826)

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Jakob Höppner (Hoeppner): Mennonite deputy; born 3 January 1748 in Prussia. He was the son of Jakob Höppner by his first wife. Jakob was married on 12 October 1773 to Sara Dueck (17 November 1753, Neustaedterwald, Prussia - 27 February 1826, Insel Chortitza, Chortitza, South Russia) and they had six children that survived childhood: Helena, Anna, Maria, Katharina, Elisabeth, and Jacob. Jakob died 4 March 1826, just a few days after his wife, in Insel Chortitza, Chortitza, South Russia, where he was buried.

Jakob and his wife lived in Bohnsack, a village located in the Vistula Delta, where they rented a store, cafe, and inn. When Russian government official George von Trappe visited the Danzig area, he was impressed with Höppner's service at the inn and suggested that Jakob serve as a delegate when the time came for the Mennonites to explore the possibility of immigrating to South Russia. Eventually, Jakob along with Johann Bartsch and Jakob von Kampen (who later withdrew) were elected to serve as delegates.

Höppner and Bartsch traveled to Russia in the fall of 1786 to investigate the offer for colonization made by Empress Catherine II of Russia. They performed their task over the next year under very difficult circumstances, inspecting various sites and negotiating with Grigori Potemkin and other Russian government officials. The delegates eventually chose an area near Berislav and negotiated the rights and privileges required by the Mennonites if they were to consider emigration. On a trip to meet the empress, the carriage carrying the delegates overturned and Höppner's leg was injured. In spite of his injuries, Höppner and the group carried on to St. Petersburg and Catherine II verbally agreed to the Mennonite delegates' requests. The delegates returned home in November 1787 and were greeted with great enthusiasm.

The first few Mennonite families left for Russia in late 1787, and after a morning farewell service on Easter Sunday, 23 March 1788, seven families led by Höppner began their long trip to South Russia. After five weeks they reached Riga, and by the fall of 1788 a total of 228 families had arrived in Dubrovno, where they spent the winter. In the spring of 1789 the journey resumed. Upon reaching Kremenchug, Potemkin informed Höppner that the Mennonites would not be able to occupy the land originally selected near Berislav due to hostilities with the Ottoman Empire, and that they would have to settle on land owned by Potemkin near the Chortitza River. Unfortunately the land was much dryer, not as fertile, and not as near to market centers as hoped. 

When the emigrants reached the new colonization site at Chortitza in July 1789, all the resentment of the disappointed settlers, who had expected better land, was heaped upon Höppner and Bartsch. Höppner was expelled from the Flemish congregation. He was accused of misappropriation of funds and imprisoned in Ekaterinoslav, and was to be deported to Siberia. When Emperor Paul I died and was succeeded by Alexander I, Höppner was pardoned and released after a year's imprisonment. Meanwhile his property had been sold. Finally he was received into the Frisian church at Kronsweide, where he quietly spent the last years of his life. 

After his death a beautiful monument was erected in his honor on the island of Chortitza (Insel Chortitza). The monument has been moved to the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum in Steinbach, Manitoba.


Friesen, Peter M. Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Rußland (1789-1910). Halbstadt: Raduga Verlag, 1911.

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 6.02 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2010: #174689.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 346.

Huebert, Helmut T. Events and People: Events in Russian Mennonite History and the People That Made Them Happen. Winnipeg, MB: Springfield, 1999: 7-8.

Unruh, Benjamin Heinrich. Die niederländisch-niederdeutschen Hintergründe der mennonitischen Ostwanderungen im 16., 18. und 19. Jahrhundert. Karlsruhe: B.H. Unruh, 1955: 295.

Unser Blatt 1, 205 ff.

Author(s) David H. Epp
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published January 2013

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MLA style

Epp, David H. and Richard D. Thiessen. "Höppner, Jakob (1748-1826)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2013. Web. 5 Feb 2023. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=H%C3%B6ppner,_Jakob_(1748-1826)&oldid=145466.

APA style

Epp, David H. and Richard D. Thiessen. (January 2013). Höppner, Jakob (1748-1826). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 5 February 2023, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=H%C3%B6ppner,_Jakob_(1748-1826)&oldid=145466.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 811. All rights reserved.

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