Heese, Heinrich (1787-1868)

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Heinrich Heese: an outstanding Mennonite teacher of Russia, a Prussian and a Lutheran by birth; born 14 October 1787 in Pomehrendorf, Elbing, Prussia, the seventh of nine children of Johann Heese (September 1749, Pomehrendorf, Prussia - 22 September 1814, Pomehrendorf, Prussia) and Dorthea (Fietkau) Heese (12 November 1745 - 9 March 1810, Pomehrendorf, Prussia). Heinrich married Katharina Penner (30 March 1791 - 3 June 1833, Ohrloff, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, South Russia) on 2 February 1810. The couple had 12 children, of which 7 lived to adulthood. Heinrich's second wife was Anna Martens (b. 8 December 1814), whom he married on 13 October 1844 in Chortitza Mennonite Settlement. They had ten children, of which four lived to adulthood. Heinrich died on 12 April 1868 in Einlage, Chortitza, South Russia, where he was buried.

As a youth Heinrich fled from French recruiting forces to the Mennonites in South Russia in 1808 and accepted their faith. Heese came first to Chortitza, where he took a position as secretary in the local government. In 1829 he was called by Johann Cornies to teach in the Ohrloff Vereinsschule, a secondary school headed by the Cornies family. For 12 years he taught about 60 pupils of a wide variety of ages all that he and Cornies considered essential for a Christian farmer. In his spare time he was Cornies' secretary, looked after his Russian correspondence with the authorities and supported him in his various reforms. In 1840 he was requested to teach Russian in the school about to be opened in the Chortitza. He worked out the regulations and a schedule of classes and expenses, and began to teach in a house assigned to him. The initial work was very difficult. It was not easy to find the necessary number of students or to gain adequate support from the parents and the church.

In addition to the work in and for the school, in which he also attempted to fit the less capable for a useful life, Heese worked on a plan to increase the yield of crops, made suggestions to improve the relations with Russian servants, gave advice on the improvement of dairy stock and the planting of trees, etc. So many demands of this kind were made upon his time and strength that he could not devote as much time as he wished to the school.

Heese considered the school a seedbed for the development of a feeling of community among the young people. In agriculture he saw the basis of the entire structure of the state; where agriculture is neglected the people grow poor and their culture disintegrates. Mennonites should be model farmers, if only in gratitude to the government. He advocated better equipment, methodical cultivation of potatoes, deep plowing, rotation of crops, letting at least 10 acres lie fallow but under constant cultivation, and the use of fertilizers.

In spite of his great services to the Mennonite settlements Heese met much hostility. In 1846 he had to yield his position to the youthful Heinrich Franz. In 1849 he moved to Einlage, took over the headship of a boarding school, and at the age of 62 passed the Russian teachers' examination at Ekaterinoslav. His students were for the most part the sons of Russian nobles. Heinrich died in 1868, having previously written his own funeral sermon.


Epp, David H. "H. Heese und seine Zeit." Botschafter 5 (Ekaterinoslav): 1910.

Epp, David H.  Heinrich Heese. Steinbach, Man., 1952.

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

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 6.02 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2010: 199356.

Heese, Heinrich. "Autobiography." Translated by Cornelius Krahn. Mennonite Life XXIV, No. 2 (April 1969): 66-72.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 269 f.

Neufeld,  A. Die Chortitzer Zentralschule. Berdyansk, 1893.

Author(s) David H Epp
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published November 2010

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Epp, David H and Richard D. Thiessen. "Heese, Heinrich (1787-1868)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2010. Web. 12 Apr 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Heese,_Heinrich_(1787-1868)&oldid=145436.

APA style

Epp, David H and Richard D. Thiessen. (November 2010). Heese, Heinrich (1787-1868). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 April 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Heese,_Heinrich_(1787-1868)&oldid=145436.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 686. All rights reserved.

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