Isaac, Franz (1816-1899)

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Franz Isaac of Tiege, Molotschna settlement, Russia, was born 13 November 1816 in Tiege, the eighth of eleven children of Peter Isaak (25 October 1780 - 27 November 1857) and Margaretha (Wiens) Isaak (14 June 1781 - 8 January 1843).  Franz was married three times.  His first wife was Maria Hiebert (b. ca. 1820 - 9 May 1848), daughter of Johann J. Huebert and Catarina (Reimer) Huebert.  They were married on 30 March 1839 and had six children with only one living to adulthood, Johann.  The second wife of Franz was Elizabeth Klassen, whom he married in 1849.  They had four children, with only one living beyond infancy, Justina.  The name of the third wife of Franz is unknown.  Franz died in 1899.

Franz was a farmer, teacher, and after 1850 minister of the Ohrloff-Petershagen Mennonite Church. His chief contributions were his championship of toler­ance, easing the lot of the oppressed, and writing the book Die Molotschnaer Mennoniten (Halbstadt, 1908), in which he presents mostly documents pertaining to the economic, religious, and cultural life of the Molotschna Mennonites. His father started the collection of documents which he continued and which his son Franz Isaac, Jr., prepared for publica­tion, the latter stating in the preface "that a certain bias in the presentation cannot be denied." His struggle and "bias," according to P. M. Friesen (p. 703), finally led him to withdrawal from the min­istry and his congregation.

Isaac became a member of the Commission for the Landless, in which capacity he wrote many applications and represented the growing number of landless Mennonites of the Molotschna settlement (Molotschnaer Mennoniten, 27-86). His efforts along these lines were not in vain. In the documents per­taining to the religious development of the Mennonites of the Molotschna settlement we find his name attached to many applications in behalf of groups separating from the main body of  the Men­nonites, such as the Mennonite Brethren and the Friends of Jerusalem. In paragraphs between the documents in his book he freely expressed his con­victions, particularly in the concluding chapter (pp. 333-52). The following sentence is characteristic: "One is astonished and wonders how it is possible among Mennonites for the stronger group with their spiritual leaders at the helm, again and again to attack smaller groups as if they alone had the right to exist, not realizing that all Mennonites are merely a tolerated sect" (p. 345). He considered the "failure to recognize the line between the religious and the civil authorities and responsibility" as the crux of this problem (p. 348). Again and again he reproached the religious leadership for appealing to civil authority to achieve its goals; he believed that a spiritual leader must achieve his goal by setting an example of true piety and Christian living.

When the Mennonites of Russia confronted com­pulsory military conscription during the 1870's, Isaac was repeatedly delegated to represent the Molotschna Mennonites, together with men like Leonhard Sudermann and H. Epp. In contrast to those who thought that migration to America was the only solution, he was satisfied with the institu­tion of forestry service and expressed his "Russian patriotism" similarly to P. M. Friesen. Isaac championed an enlightened, educated, and democratic Mennonitism in Russia and was spiritually akin to the Friends of Jerusalem who separated from the main Mennonite body during the days of his activity. As a Mennonite historian, Isaac's chief contribution lies in his making available documents pertaining to the Molotschna Mennonites, most of which would otherwise be entirely inaccessible today.


GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 5.03 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2007: #2628.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 438.

Author(s) Cornelius Krahn
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published November 2007

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MLA style

Krahn, Cornelius and Richard D. Thiessen. "Isaac, Franz (1816-1899)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2007. Web. 28 Nov 2021.,_Franz_(1816-1899)&oldid=145492.

APA style

Krahn, Cornelius and Richard D. Thiessen. (November 2007). Isaac, Franz (1816-1899). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 November 2021, from,_Franz_(1816-1899)&oldid=145492.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 54. All rights reserved.

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