Plett, Gerhard Julius (1860-1933)

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Gerhard Julius Plett: elder (Ältester) and teacher; born 30 June 1860 in Hierschau, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, South Russia, to Julius Johann Plett (24 January 1817, Blumenort, Molotschna, South Russia - 2 January 1892, Hierschau, Molotschna, South Russia) and Elisabeth (Voth) Plett (December 1831, Friedensdorf, Molotschna, South Russia - 26 June 1903). He was the second son of his mother and father but the eighth of 14 children in the family. He was baptized on 21 May 1897 in Margenau, Molotschna. On 3 June 1882, Gerhard married Elisabeth Klassen (4 June 1862, Fürstenau, Molotschna, South Russia - 2 June 1890, Sparrau, Molotschna, South Russia), daughter of Franz C. Klassen (ca. 1831 - 18 July 1898) and Katharina (Baerg) Klassen (b. 17 April 1838) of Fürstenau. The couple had five children, four of whom died in childhood. After Elisabeth’s death, Gerhard married Katharina Willms (15 January 1869, Nikolaidorf, Molotschna, South Russia - 27 January 1947), daughter of Gerhard Willms (12 August 1836 - 26 April 1894) and Maria (Baerg) Willms (1 March 1840 - 3 February 1909) of Nikolaidorf, on 27 December 1890 in Hierschau. The couple had ten children, three of whom died young. Gerhard died on 1 April 1933 in Friedensdorf, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement.

Gerhard grew up in Hierschau, where he obtained his primary education at the village school, after which he studied on his own under the supervision of a teacher. On 21 May 1897, he was baptized in Margenau by Ältester Bernhard Peters. He accepted a teaching position in a village called Schmak, near Spat in the Crimea. He was drafted in 1881 but was not required to perform his forestry service because of family circumstances.

On 3 June 1882, Gerhard married Elisabeth Klassen of Fürstenau. At about the same time, he was appointed as the teacher at the school in Sparrau, Molotschna, a position he held for the next six years. After some time in Waldheim, the family moved to Hierschau in 1890. There they bought a farm and also took over the management of a local white earth pit, as well as running a small store.

Gerhard’s wife Elisabeth died on 2 June 1890, soon after the family’s move to Hierschau. Later that year, on 27 December, Gerhard married Katharina Willms of Nikolaidorf. In all, 15 children were born to Gerhard, seven of whom died relatively young. Gerhard purchased the family farm in 1892 and was also elected district judge, a position he held until 1904, as well as being a member of the Molotschna Mennonitischer Schulrat (the school board).

In 1899, Plett was elected minister of the Margenau Mennonite Church, and in 1904, he resigned from his other responsibilities to devote himself to this work. He was elected Ältester of the church in 1907, and two years later, he also assumed responsibility for the Landskrone church and later the Alexanderwohl congregation. Gerhard kept meticulous notes on his work, and one year he recorded 400 trips for church business. As Ältester he participated in various committees and commissions, as well as looking after his own congregations.

In January 1922, Gerhard was arrested and imprisoned in the basement of a house in Waldheim, together with about 60 other men. He was soon allowed to return home because of deteriorating health and to resume his work; however, in 1928 he had to retire due to an advancing arthritic condition. When he was evicted from his home in 1931 because of high taxes, he lived in several different places until he finally went to stay with relatives in Friedensdorf, where he died on 1 April 1933. The funeral was held at the home where he had stayed for the last months of his life.

Gerhard Plett was a dedicated teacher, minister, and elder who persevered in his calling despite the many trials he endured. Throughout his life, he was an example of faithful service for his family and the community.


GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 6.06 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2011: #385892.

Huebert, Helmut T. Hierschau: An Example of Russian Mennonite Life.  Winnipeg, MB: Springfield Publishers, 1986: 156-162.

Additional Information

1959 Article

Gerhard Plett: elder of several congre­gations in the Molotschna, Taurida, Russia; born at Hierschau, Molotschna, in 1860. In 1882 he was married to Elizabeth Klassen, and in 1892 to Katharina Willms. The family consisted of three sons and six daughters. He supplemented his ele­mentary education by evening instruction from the local teacher and later by extensive reading and private study, and then served for several years as a teacher, first in a village of the Crimea, then at Sparrau in the Molotschna. Then he took over a farm at Hierschau. In 1899 Plett became the minis­ter of the Margenau congregation, in 1908 its elder, in 1909 elder of the newly formed Landskrone con­gregation, and in 1910 elder of the Alexanderwohl congregation. Before becoming minister Plett served for several years as district (Volost) judge at the Gnadenfeld office and later for many years as a member of the Molotschna Church Council (Kirchenkonvent) and the Molotschna School Board (Schulrat). Gerhard Plett was arrested in 1919 and spent some time in prison; in 1931 he was driven from his home and, broken in health, led the life of a fugitive until his death in April 1933. Devotion to duty and sound judgment were outstanding fea­tures of his character. -- Heinrich Görz, Mennonite Encyclopedia: Vol. 4, pp. 194-195.

Author(s) Susan Huebert
Helmut T. Huebert
Date Published 2010

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Huebert, Susan and Helmut T. Huebert. "Plett, Gerhard Julius (1860-1933)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 2010. Web. 7 Aug 2022.,_Gerhard_Julius_(1860-1933)&oldid=118882.

APA style

Huebert, Susan and Helmut T. Huebert. (2010). Plett, Gerhard Julius (1860-1933). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 7 August 2022, from,_Gerhard_Julius_(1860-1933)&oldid=118882.

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