Wiebe, Heinrich (1839-1897)

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Heinrich Wiebe: Bergthaler minister and farmer, born 28 September 1839 in the village of Schoenthal in the Bergthal Colony in Russia to Gerhard and Agatha (Dyck) Wiebe. He was the fifth child in a family of six children. In 1859, he married Margaretha Falk (b. 26 March 1840). They had eight children. Heinrich died 30 January 1897 in Edenburg of the West Reserve in Manitoba.

Although born in Schoenthal, Heinrich Wiebe grew up in Heubuden, was baptized on 1 June 1859 and farmed in his home village. As a young man of 24 years Heinrich Wiebe was chosen to be a deacon in the Bergthal congregation in Russia, and one year later on 28 February 1865 he was ordained as a minister by Aeltester (Bishop) Jacob Braun.

As the problems of landlessness, military conscription, and Russification intensified, Heinrich Wiebe became a proponent of emigration to Canada and was selected as one of two Bergthal representatives to join an eleven-member Mennonite delegation to America in February 1873. Wiebe and Jacob Peters met the Ontario and Indiana Mennonites en route, toured the area reserved for the Mennonites in southeastern Manitoba, and traveled to Ottawa with William Hespeler to negotiate terms of settlement. Wiebe was one of the four signatories of the document directed to J. H. Pope, the Minister of Agriculture, the document that was to become the basis of the Order-in-Council giving Mennonites special privileges in Canada.

Upon returning to Russia, Wiebe gave a detailed report in favor of immigration to Canada. He corresponded with Jacob Y. Shantz regarding the financial needs of the emigrating Mennonites and later arranged for a loan from the Ontario Mennonites. Although Wiebe was one of four leaders that General von Todleben tried to dissuade from emigrating, he and his family were part of the first contingent to leave the Bergthal Colony in June 1874, arriving in Manitoba in August. When they arrived at the Schanzenberg sheds near present-day Niverville, Manitoba to find the émigrés discouraged, Heinrich served as a stabilizing force, encouraging them and often bearing the brunt of their disappointment and dissatisfaction.

Initially the Wiebes settled in the East Reserve, probably near Bergthal, although the exact location is unknown. Heinrich Wiebe was a signatory of the special address to Lord and Lady Dufferin in 1877, and of the "General School Decree" of 1878. By 1881 the Wiebes had moved to Edenburg on the West Reserve, where he continued to serve his community as minister and leader, particularly in school affairs. On the issue of higher education and change in general, Wiebe aligned himself with the group in favor led by Johann Funk, and became one of the leaders of the new West Reserve Bergthaler church begun in 1892. He continued to write on behalf of his community, especially in matters of the repayment of loans advanced by both the Government of Canada and the Ontario Mennonites. Several letters are preserved in the John F. Funk Collection in the Mennonite Archives at Goshen, Indiana. Heinrich Wiebe's contribution to the larger Mennonite landscape was to be an articulate agent of change for Russian Bergthaler Mennonites both in Russia and in Canada, supporting emigration, higher education, Sunday Schools and mission work when these were frontiers for his people. A memorial cairn was set up in June 1972 on highway 30 north of Gretna.


Klippenstein, Lawrence. "Rev. Heinrich Wiebe an Early Pioneer." Mennonite Mirror (January/February 1974): 37-39.

Lawrence Klippenstein. "Heinrich Wiebe 1839-1897: Bergthal Minister and Land Scout." Preservings  27 (2007): 53-60.

Schroeder, William. The Bergthal Colony. Winnipeg, MB: CMBC Publications, 1986: 131.

Author(s) Ernest Braun
Date Published January 2003

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MLA style

Braun, Ernest. "Wiebe, Heinrich (1839-1897)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2003. Web. 19 May 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wiebe,_Heinrich_(1839-1897)&oldid=136197.

APA style

Braun, Ernest. (January 2003). Wiebe, Heinrich (1839-1897). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 May 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wiebe,_Heinrich_(1839-1897)&oldid=136197.

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