Unruh, Heinrich Peter (1845-1927)

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Heinrich Peter Unruh: a prominent Mennonite educational and church leader in Russia; was born 23 March 1845, in the village of Alexanderwohl, Molotschna settlement, South Russia, the oldest of the seven children of Peter Unruh (1822-1900) and Sara (Schroeder) Unruh (1827-1914). He was married twice - first to Helena Löwen (1847-1885), then to Maria (Reimer) Löwen (1862-1940), (see additional information for further information regarding Heinrich's family). Heinrich d. 3 November 1927 at Muntau, Molotschna settlement, South Russia. Four of H. P. Unruh's children left Russia for Canada in 1924; his widow with some of the other children tried to escape from Russia in 1929, but they were forcibly returned, not to their former home, but to Central Asia.

Soon the family took up a homestead in the newly founded village of Nikolaidorf, a few miles from Alexanderwohl. In school he had an outstanding teacher, H. Richert, who later became a leader in the Alexanderwohl congregation in Kansas. His mastery of German, a good knowledge of Russian, his theology, and a wide range of information Unruh acquired through reading and study. Still quite young, he became a teacher in the village of Muntau near Halbstadt. In 1870 he was elected minister, first of Alexanderwohl, then of the Halbstadt-Ohrloff congregation. In 1885 he gave up teaching and went to America to visit his parents and other close relatives, all of whom had come to Kansas in the 1870's. In 1896 Unruh became elder of the Halbstadt congregation, which at that time separated from Ohrloff and became independent, and from that time he occupied an increasingly important position in school and church affairs, primarily in the Molotschna settlement, although his influence was felt also in other Mennonite settlements in Russia. For 31 years he was a leading member of the Molotschna School Board (Schulrat), whose function it was to supervise the teaching of religion and German in the schools, and almost as long he served as chairman of the Molotschna Church Conference (Kirchenkonvent). Several times Unruh participated in delegations to St. Petersburg to the highest government officials and also had an audience with the tsar.

In all these positions Unruh served his church with great devotion. He was loved and esteemed by all. In 1916, because of age and ill health, he retired as elder of the Halbstadt congregation. Soon after he suffered a stroke that made him an invalid for the rest of his life. He died in 1927, just before religious persecution began in Russia.


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

Goerz, Heinrich. Die Molotschnaer Ansiedlung. Steinbach, 1950.

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 5.00 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2006: #88470.

Schmidt, P. U. The Peter Unruh Genealogy. Goessel, 1941.

Additional Information

The parents of Heinrich were Peter Unruh (4 October 1822, Alexanderwohl, Molotschna, South Russia - 24 February 1900, Goessel, Kansas, USA) and Sara (Schroeder) Unruh (1 April 1827, Alexanderwohl, Molotschna, South Russia - 10 June 1914).

Heinrich's first wife was Helena Loewen (1847-1885). They had five children: Sara, Katharina, Johann, Helena, and Anna.

Heinrich's second wife was Maria (Reimer) Loewen (12 April 1862 - 5 May 1940). Maria had one son, Peter, from her first marriage, and she had two daughters with Heinrich: Maria and Agatha.

Author(s) Heinrich Goerz
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Goerz, Heinrich and Richard D. Thiessen. "Unruh, Heinrich Peter (1845-1927)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 12 Apr 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Unruh,_Heinrich_Peter_(1845-1927)&oldid=132472.

APA style

Goerz, Heinrich and Richard D. Thiessen. (1959). Unruh, Heinrich Peter (1845-1927). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 April 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Unruh,_Heinrich_Peter_(1845-1927)&oldid=132472.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 785. All rights reserved.

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