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Manitoba History: Review: Delbert F. Plett (editor), Pioneers and Pilgrims, the Mennonite Kleine Gemeinde in Mantoba, Nebraska and Kansas, 1874 to 1882

by Rev. S. C. Sharman
St. Andrew’s Anglican Church

Number 21, Spring 1991

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct all inquiries to

Pioneers and Pilgrims, the Mennonite Kleine Gemeinde in Manitoba, Nebraska and Kansas, 1874 to 1882. Edited by Delbert F. Plett. Steinbach: D.F.P. Publications, 1990. 604 pp., index. ISBN 0-9694504-0-0.

Pioneers and Pilgrims is the fifth volume of the Mennonite Kleine Gemeinde Historical Series and a sixth volume, Documents of the Mennonite Kleine Gemeinde 1812-1874 is planned.

This particular volume covers the years from 1874 to 1882, years which saw the migration of the Mennonites of the Kleine Gemeinde from Imperial Russia to North America and the division of 1882. In Manitoba, they settled in the East Reserve, around the present town of Steinbach. In establishing an agricultural settlement, the Mennonites utilized the farming skills which they brought with them. Over the years they also established schools and churches throughout the East Reserve.

This volume is a collection of documents; “the epistles, diaries and memoirs of the pioneers.” It is divided into five parts. The first part contains a selection of the letters written by the first pioneers in North America to their families and friends in Russia, as well as their replies. The second section contains the personal accounts and memories of the pioneers. These describe their journeys from Russia, the first days in a new land and the growth of Mennonite communities and farms. The third part of the book reproduces a number of secondary works, historical sketches written by descendants of the pioneers. The chapter “Our Schools” is particularly important for understanding the role of education and religion in their lives. The fourth section contains family histories and the fifth “a documentary exposition of the 1882 division.” The reader is reminded of the strength of their Christian faith and their unshakable belief in the connection between daily life and life in the hereafter.

Pilgrims and Pioneers is the story of Mennonite pioneers in Manitoba settling a new land and as well the story of pilgrims seeking a land where they would find religious freedom. This reviewer found the historical accounts of their faith particularly interesting. It is a strength of this book that it brings the reader into such an intimate contact with the individual members of the Kleine Gemeinde.

This volume represents a major step in the publication of the materials for the study of the history of the Mennonite community in Manitoba.

Page revised: 17 November 2013

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