Collection PP - Jake Peters Sommerfeld Mennonite Church collection

Consultation of Manitoba Sommerfeld ministerial with Old Colony and Saskatchewan Bergthaler leaders Women at the consultation of Manitoba Sommerfeld ministerial Aeltester David Doerksen Bishop Peter Toews with his wife Maria Klassen Bishop Jacob J. Froese Bishop Jacob J. Froese Bishop Jacob J. Froese Bishops David Wall and Abram Peters Conference of Bergthaler, Chortitzer and Sommerfeld leaders in Saskatchewan Sommerfeld village private school class photo Grossweide Sommerfeld Mennonite Church building Former Sommerfeld Mennonite church in Altona Former Sommerfeld Mennonite church in Altona Former Sommerfeld Mennonite church in Altona Sommerfeld Mennonite Church in Altona
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Jake Peters Sommerfeld Mennonite Church collection


  • 1873-2013 (Creation)

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1.15 m of textual records
56 photographs

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Jacob Ernie Peters was born 1955 in the Winkler area of Southern Manitoba. He grew up attending the Sommerfeld Mennonite Church. He attended the Winkler Bible Institute (WBI) and Canadian Mennonite Bible College in the late1970s and worked for a time at the Mennonite Heritage Centre archives in Winnipeg in the 1980s. He has authored or co-authored several books including The Waisenamt : a history of Mennonite inheritance custom, 1985; Mennonite private schools in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 1874-1925, 1985; Church, family and village : essays on Mennonite life on the West Reserve / edited by Adolf Ens, Jacob E. Peters and Otto Hamm, 2001. He resides in Winnipeg and has interest in Mennonite history, bird watching, and the game of bridge.

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Biographical history

The Sommerfeld Mennonite Church is one of the more conservative Russian Mennonite churches in Canada. It was formed in 1893 as a result of conflict with what became known as the Bergthaler Mennonite Church over assimilation. Higher education was one of the visible manifestations of this conflict. The members of this church had moved to the Mennonite West Reserve (current day Altona/Winkler area of Manitoba) from the East Reserve (current day Steinbach area of Manitoba) around 1880. These immigrants originated in the Bergthal Colony of Russia and came to Canada in 1874-1876. About 2/3 sided with the mother church on the East Reserve, the Chortitzer Mennonite Church. The other 1/3 broke away with the newly elected bishop Johan Funk. This smaller, culturally more accommodating, group was known as the Bergthaler Mennonite Church of Manitoba.

Bishop Abraham Doerksen was ordained in 1894 by Bishop David Stoesz to lead the larger group which became known as the Sommerfeld Mennoniten Gemeinde. Emigration started in the late 1890s and early 1900s to new settlements in the Swift Current and Herbert areas of Saskatchewan. (In Saskatchewan they are known as Bergthaler). In 1922 some emigrated to form the Santa Clara colony in Mexico and in 1927 to the Menno Colony in Paraguay due to distrust of the Canadian government who was making it harder for the church to educate their children in ways important to them. In 1948 another wave of Sommerfeld Mennonites moved to Paraguay again because of the lack of trust in the Canadian government.

In 2007 the Sommerfeld Mennonite Church had churches in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. The growing membership was largely rural based.

Archival history

This material has been collected from numerous sources inside and outside the Sommerfeld Mennonite church by Jake Peters from ca. 1985-1990 and donated to the archives in September 2007. Smaller one document donations have come from Jake Peters since the first large donation.A collection of bulletins and some correspondence were deposited in September 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Jake E. Peters

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Scope and content

This fonds consists of research files collected by Jake Peters with the unrealized hope of writing a history of the Sommerfeld Mennonite Church. The materials are a mix of copied and original materials in German and English that detail the experiences of the Sommerfeld Mennonite Church and its leaders. Peters started as early as 1979 with the collection of materials when he conducted interviews in the villages of Sommerfeld and Neubergthal about the early history of the Sommerfeld Mennonite Church. On this trip he collected some materials which he deposted at MHC much earlier than the bulk of materials. The collection has been divided into the following twenty-two categories primarily by the compiler.
1) Bibliography research
2) Endeavors at writing Sommerfeld History
3) Sommerfelder pre history
4) Early observers of West Reserve Life
5) General leadership oriented historical file
6) Sommerfeld Church and the wars
7) Minutes and correspondence from ministers
8) Migration
9) Schisms
10) Church meetings functions, and activities
11) Statistical data
12) Ideology, theology and sermons
13) Social concerns and broader involvement
14) Local congregations and people
15) General West Reserve materials
16) Various Sommerfeld diaspora communities
17) Swift Current and Herbert area Sommerfeld Mennonite Church
18) Assorted non Sommerfelder research materials
19) Addendum
20) bulletins and correspondence
21) Early collection of materials related to the Sommerfeld church in Neubergthal and Sommerfeld
22) Photographs.

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At the Mennonite Heritage Archives:
-Peter A. Toews fonds
-Jacob Unrau fonds
-Jacob W. Friesen fonds
-Abraham Doerksen fonds
-David Stoesz family fonds
-Sommerfelder Mennonite Sermons
-microfilm #265 (Includes sermons by Cornelius Stoesz, Peter Zacharias, Henry J. Friesen, Jacob Unrau)..

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