Fonds PP - Johann and Maria Neufeld fonds

Identity area

Reference code

CA MHC PP

Title

Johann and Maria Neufeld fonds

Date(s)

  • 1906; 1926-1979 (Creation)

Level of description

Fonds

Extent and medium

10 cm of textual records

Context area

Name of creator

(1870-)

Biographical history

Maria Neufeld (nee maria Kroeker) was born in 1870 to Jacob Kroeker and Anna Zacharias. In 1875 she left Russia with her parents to start life again in Schoenwiese, Manitoba. She married Johann Nuefled in 1890 and they had eleven children. Between 1909 and 1913 the Neufeld family moved to Lost River, SK where Maria's father moved to in 1912. During WWI governments in SK and MB forced families to send children to public schools in an attempt at greater assimilation with the anglo-Canadian culture. Maria, Johan and some of their children moved to Paraguay to establish Menno Colony in 1926.

Name of creator

(1869-1950)

Biographical history

Johann Neufeld was born in 1869 in Heuboden, Bergthal Colony in Russia. In 1875 he immigrated with his parents to Manitoba. In July of 1890, Johann married and Maria Kroeker (1870- ) in the village of Reinland, Manitoba. They had eleven children: Jacob (Jun. 15, 1891 – Nov. 1972), Maria (Dec. 11, 1892), Johann (Aug. 4, 1894 – Aug. 14 1894), Margaretha Feb. 26, 1897), Johann (Feb. 17, 1899 – Oct. 4, 1901), Johann (March 5, 1902), Helena (Sept. 18, 1904), Cornelius (Jan. 28. 1907 – May 1937), Anna (Apr. 14, 1909 – Feb. 18, 1919), and Klaas (June 13, 1913).
During and after WWI, many of the Mennonite settlers in Manitoba became increasingly worried about the education reforms and the pro-British-Empire policies of the provincial government. From 1922 to 1930, many of these settlers migrated to Mexico and Paraguay. In late 1926, being in their late 50s, Johann and Maria Neufeld joined the migration to Paraguay, where they helped establish Menno Colony in the Chaco of Paraguay. Three of their children, the oldest two and the youngest, decided to go with them. Jacob, married to Gertruda Wiebe, and Maria, married to Abram Bergen, at that point had children themselves. Klaas, later Nick, the youngest of the siblings, moved to Paraguay as teenagers. In Paraguay, Nick married Maria Harder in September of 1937. In the early 1960s they moved to Bolivia. In 1972, “Uncle Nick” and his family with nine children moved back to Canada. Johann Neufeld passed away in January of 1950 in the village of Bergthal, Menno Colony, Paraguay. Only a few months later, his wife Maria passed away in September of the same year. Since Johann and Maria Neufeld and three of their children went to Paraguay, writing letters was the only mean of communication between them and their children and siblings that stayed in Canada. Letters were the only way in those days to communicate family news like births, hardships, diseases, and death.

Archival history

Margaretha Enns, fourth child of Johann and Maria Neufeld, collected and preserved the letters she and her siblings received from their parents and siblings in South America from 1926 to 1979. Margaretha’s daughter Mary translated to English some of these letters, which the majority are written in German Gothic Script. The original letters and the English translation were donated by the Enns family to the MHCA in 2009.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Enns family

Content and structure area

Scope and content

This fonds contains letters, photos, envelopes, postage stamps, and a school exam booklet from 1906 – 1907.
These letters are a valuable set of primary source documents for several reasons. They document a crucial chapter in the family history of Johann and Maria Neufeld over the time period from 1926 to 1979. In addition to that, these letters are a showcase for the stories that many other Mennonite families experienced through the 1920s migrations to Paraguay and Mexico. Most importantly, these letters give an outstandingly valuable insight into the daily life of the 1920s settlers in the Paraguayan Chaco and the moral and financial support these settlers got from their relatives that stayed in Canada.

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Accruals

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Described by Rodger Toews, March 2014

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Note

Accession number 2009-047

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