Riesen, Peter von (1779-1847)

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Peter von Riesen: teacher, merchant, and city councilor; born 11 November 1779 in Prussia, the son of Abraham von Riesen (28 September 1756 - 18 March 1810, Ohrloff, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, South Russia) and Margaretha (Wiebe) von Riesen (October 1754 - June 1810, Ohrloff, Molotschna, South Russia). On 19 August 1800 he married Mrs. Maria (Tiessen) Wilcke (18 May 1757, Stolzenberg, Danzig, Prussia - 19 March 1818, Danzig-Schidlitz, Prussia), daughter of Peter Tiessen (1689-1773) and Catharina (Wiens) Tiessen (1720-1781), in Danzig-Schidlitz, Prussia. She was the widow of Jacob Wilcke (1747-1799) and had three surviving children from this marriage: Anna, Maria, and Elisabeth. Peter was married for the second time on 21 June 1818 to Margaretha Harder (23 August 1796, Marienburg, Prussia - 3 February 1837, Danzig-Schidlitz, Prussia), daughter of Claas Harder (1748-1810) and Helena (Suderman) Harder (1766-1814), in Danzig-Schidlitz, Prussia. Peter and Margaretha had nine children, of which five survived to adulthood: Heinrich, Helena, Abraham, Anna, and Johannes. Peter died on 24 September 1847 in Tiegenhagen, Prussia.

Peter grew up in Kalteherberge and later lived in Schidlitz, near Danzig, (then) Germany, and had close connections with the Kleine Gemeinde in Russia. He was the father-in-law of Cornelius Jansen. His name is associated with a revision of the German translation of Menno Simons' Foundation Book (Die Fundamente der seligmachenden Lehre unsers Herrn Jesu Christi: aus Gottes Wort kurz zusammengesasst) and its printing in 1834 in a three volume edition of several thousand copies. His associates in this undertaking were his brother Abraham von Riesen and perhaps another brother Klaas von Riesen, Abraham and Klaas being ministers in Russia. The brothers Abraham and Klaas appear later with the name Friesen. Gustav E. Reimer, however, is of the opinion that Klaas was Klaas Reimer, the founder of the Kleine Gemeinde and the brother-in-law of Peter von Riesen.

J. W. Mannhardt gives the following account of the "strange" story of this publication: Right after publication the book fell into the hands of a non-Mennonite who was offended by several arguments used by Menno in defending himself against Lutheran and Reformed theologians. Fearing further offense, the church board compelled the publishers to hide the entire edition in a church in the swamps of the lowlands. Twenty years later, when the von Riesen heirs demanded it as their property, a committee went to Königsberg to ask timidly whether the release of such books was permissible. The leader of the opposition was apparently Peter Regier, the elder of the Tiegenhagen congregation 1833-56, whose father, Abraham Regier, elder of Heubuden 1804-51, stopped the sale in Russia. But also David Epp, a leader in the revival movement, in his correspondence attacked the publication and offered to send several hundred tracts to convert the Kleine Gemeinde. On the other side Abraham Friesen protested that the foundation of the first nonresistant Christians was thereby rejected (see the Martyrs' Mirror). Wilhelm Mannhardt was right in assuming that the fear of the loss of their privileges played a role here. But a declaration of the 29 ministers on 10 August 1835, bases the withdrawal of the books on love for members of other faiths. Later the elders permitted the exportation of some copies to Russia, whence they have found their way to America. Copies are in Goshen College Library and Bethel College Library.


Friedmann, Robert. Mennonite Piety Through the Centuries. Goshen, 1949: 140.

Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft "Raduga": 75 f., 11-13.

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 16-11 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2016: #3592.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 511 f.

Mennonitische Blätter (1869): 38 (Wilhelm Mannhardt); (1903): 85 f.

Mennonitische Geschichtsblätter (1954,):14 f. (Ernst Crous).

Reimer G. E. and G. R. Gaeddert. Exiled by the Czar. Newton, 1956: 4 ff.

Simons, Menno. Die Fundamente der seligmachenden Lehre unsers Herrn Jesu Christi: aus Gottes Wort kurz zusammengesasst. Danzig: Peter von Riesen, 1834.

Töws, P. Eine seltsame Begebenheit, Angehend der durch Peter von Riessen von Schidlitz, bei Danzig in Preussen in Druck gegebenen Menno Simons Schriften. Gretna, 1911.

Author(s) Ernst Crous
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published May 2011

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Crous, Ernst and Richard D. Thiessen. "Riesen, Peter von (1779-1847)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2011. Web. 3 Aug 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Riesen,_Peter_von_(1779-1847)&oldid=146138.

APA style

Crous, Ernst and Richard D. Thiessen. (May 2011). Riesen, Peter von (1779-1847). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 3 August 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Riesen,_Peter_von_(1779-1847)&oldid=146138.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 332. All rights reserved.

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