Camel caravans were common in 1881 Tashkent
Photo: 1977 Ethiopia © Mennonite Heritage Archives by Eric Rempel and John Wieler
In 1880, a group of Mennonite migrants from Molotschna travelled over mountains, through deserts on camels, and by covered wagons to Asiatic Russia. Their perilous journey is shared in these letters to the Rundschau.
There were blessings on the trip, like when the Muslim community of Serabulak welcomed the Mennonite wanderers. One of the writers below, Helena Graewe (1865-1942) #88939, was baptized there in a mosque, along with 24 others. The group finally settled in Ak Metchet, Uzbekistan, near Khiva, where “locals still remember their excellent wood craftsmanship, agricultural productivity and the introduction of new technologies including photography.” (Reimer, Canadian Mennonite)
However, a contemporary report from 1884 was grim: “The Mennonites seeking a home in Central Asia … have found their long tedious journey a total failure, have lost what little means they had, and their friends in America are now helping some of them to come to this country” (Herald of Truth, 15 July 1884). Helena Graewe #88939 was one of the new immigrants to America that year.
I translated the letters below with the help of DeepL and Google. I added paragraph breaks and bullets for improved clarity. Where possible, I included GRANDMA numbers for those who could be identified in the helpful genealogical database of the California Mennonite Historical Society. I’m also grateful to Elena Klassen, who transcribed the first letter and messages from Tashkent. Sources are below.
I pray that you are staying safe in this difficult time of COVID-19. Reading of the difficulties that others went through certainly puts into perspective what is important.
- Irene Plett
Anna Martens: Shopping in Tashkent
published 15 Sept 1881 p 1-2
Copy of a letter from Tashkent dated 23 April 1881.
Dear friends and brothers and sisters,
I don’t need to write how the journey went, because you already know from other Rundschau letters.
Our farm here is almost in the same condition as we had there, of course not as fancy. We sleep in a bed that we nailed together from boards. At the wall I have a Schüsselbank [bowl bench?] made from the ceiling boards that we had in the wagon.
My husband has already acquired a workbench for the winter, which is made here of walnut wood, as well as some equipment. The wood for work is mostly poplar wood that is cut into boards 7 ½ - 10 feet long and 6 ½ - 10 inches wide, and costs from 10-50 kopeks per piece. The wood [Stellmacherholz] is significantly worse here than it is at your place. The handles of the wagon are bent from a piece of freshly grown elm wood, and are priced at 75 kopeks to 1 ruble. The spokes are cut from elm boards and cost 6 kopeks each. The middle wood for the carriages must also be made from planks or round timber. We have a cross-footed table, a long bench and two short benches, all painted.
Our cow and calf cost us 20 rubles. She gives about 7 quarts of milk every day. The cows here are of a Russian breed, but smaller in size than the ones you know. Our cow is black in color. We slaughtered the calf. Our cow gives milk even without a calf, but some don’t want to give milk without a calf. There are sometimes nice cows here, but they lack German care.
We have horses and wagons, too. Some of the brothers have earned up to 200 rubles transporting pebble and stone during our stay here. In good weather, two men with a wagon earn up to 12 rubles and even more per week.
We still always have food; we have eaten fish quite often. I can say that no one has suffered any lack among us yet, for which we cannot thank the Lord enough. The food here is not very expensive either:
Clothing is available here at different prices. The clothes from the Sardinians, from whom we buy the most, are cheaper than those in the old homeland. The people here engage in trade and handicrafts and profess Mohammedanism. But the goods in the Russian trading houses are more expensive.
The Kyrgyz look a lot like the Sardinians, but are more like the Tartars and are more apathetic than the Sardinians; they are mostly employed in caravaning. They have tied their camels to each other in the following way: a rope is pulled through the animal's nasal cavity and one is tied to the other, and up to 50 camels are driven one after the other. The caravan leader (a Kyrgyz) sits on the first camel and in that way he travels with his caravan from place to place.
Finally I have to report what it looks like in and outside the city. In the city of Tashkent, almost all the alleys are decorated with avenues of willows standing on water channels. These willows stand at an unusual height and have their branches full of green foliage so that we can walk and ride in their shade when the sun is hot. The irrigation canals, which are sometimes made of wooden tubes up to 3 fathoms [18 feet] high above the valleys that cut through this town, roll through the town in many places.
As for the grain in the fields, I can report that the grain fields here are all irrigated. It is different here with us than it is there with you, for when the heat starts there the rivers dry up; but here the water in the rivers rises when the snow melts in the mountains. From these rivers, irrigation canals of up to 50 versts [33 miles] are led into the fields to irrigate the grain. The barley has already thrown the ears and in some places it is already white for harvesting. The wheat here is now at the height of an arskin [28 inches].
We have already fed our horses fresh clover for a month. The fodder here used to be expensive; the clover, which is tied in bundles of about 10 inches in diameter and one arskin [28 inches] long, cost 4 rubles per hundred when we came here, but is now available at 2 rubles per hundred; but old clover costs 3 rubles per hundred. Two horses need 7-10 bundles of old clover a day, but with fresh clover, twice as much. We fed our horses mostly such clover and only 3 puds of barley, while we borrowed the gelding to transport stones. They are much better now than when we left you.
Fuel is also expensive, but the Lord made sure that it did not cause us much expense, because from before Christmas until quite some time after the holidays the weather was so fine that we sat in the living room with open doors. The main source of fuel here is cane; it used to cost 4-8 kopeks per bundle. Split firewood costs from 5-7 rubles per fathom [6 feet]. One fathom yields about 1 ½ of a German wagon full.
The cold was insignificant for us this winter, the windows only froze a little a few times, but it was mostly kothig because it rained very often. At the beginning of March it got quite warm, up to 25 degrees R. The apricot trees were already in full bloom in the middle of February. Now, from a week before Easter to a week after Easter, April 23 [date of letter], it rained at night, if not during the day.
I want to add that my husband now produces brick molds for the local brick factory; he gets 1 ruble each. He has already finished 10 pieces and should make another 10; the expenses come to 20 kopeks each. I've also made some money sewing for the brothers and sisters.
I will also add that on the way here, nine of our people died. They were:
On the way, five horses fell, and five had to be sold because of weakness of age and physical damage. We travelled 18 weeks less one day, and the whole distance is 3550 versts [2,354 miles]. We missed 26 days, not including Sundays, owing to buying food and animal feed, deaths, childbirth, rain, etc.
The sand desert extends for 325 Werst [215 miles]. We travelled there from 32-49 versts [21-32 miles] a day. My husband was feverish during the journey, but he was still able to take care of everything, and became one pud lighter. I was also ill on the way and suffered greatly; however, during this time I had to cross the mountains, which stretch across 150 versts [100 miles] and were quite rocky.
From the time that we arrived here, in total twelve died, including:
On the journey 6 children were born, and here in Tashkent, 9 children.
The wife of Joh. Wiebe of Wernersdorf, is lying suffering, but everything is in the hands of God the Almighty.
We are still living in Tashkent, and we do not know when we will move to the countryside or further away, although our deputies have already looked at land 300 versts [200 miles] from Tashkent. But since our dear Tsar died at this time [Alexander II was assassinated on 13 March 1881], and our General [Konstantin Petrovich von] Kaufmann lies afflicted by the blow, and is represented by another who must first find his way into office, our cause remains unfulfilled. But the Lord will make all things well; we ask that you will remember us before God; and so I will close my letter and greet all my friends and acquaintances.
formerly from Wernersdorf
Our address is best written in Russian and with Russian letters:*
Tscheres Orenburg [через Orenburg - through Orenburg, per Elena Klassen]
w.gorod Tashkent (в город Ташкент, per Elena Klassen)
Via Europe to Asiatic Russia.
* Unfortunately, we do not have the Russian font in our printing house, otherwise we would have used it for the first three lines of the address.
The Rundschau editorial office
Jacob and Agatha Janzen: A Special Report on Deaths
The authors of this letter may be Jacob Franz Janzen (1844-1917) #109399 and Agatha Neufeld #109401 (1842-1916). They mention three daughters and six sons; the eldest, Jacob who died in 1881. The couple in GRANDMA had two more sons, one born in Kazakhstan after the letter was written. No dates are given for son Jacob #109549, who is placed third in birth order.
published 1 Feb. 1882 p. 2
Tashkent 5 Nov. 1881.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, what could be nicer and what could be more joyful than dedicating our lives to the Lord in faith?
With no less joy, last Saturday, October 31st,* I was allowed to read your valued letter, cancelled Sept. 3rd. Dear beloved brother, as you have asked us to share in your emotions, I must also ask you to sympathize with what we feel. But I feel strange. I don't know if it is joy or sadness that you should take part in; our part must have deep sighs and some tears.
We have changed our place of residence many times since we celebrated our wedding. We have lived in as many places as the number of our children, and that is six sons and three daughters. We have never made a burial mound anywhere else, but here in Taschkent, one of the 28 graves that we have made hides the shell of our eldest son. Otherwise I would be clear that I would ask you to cry with me, but the Lord did it, and praise God, we know our Jakob is with Jesus. With his last breath he assured us that he would go to Jesus. So on the one hand we can be happy, he has overcome his body, but on the other hand, we miss him very much.
He helped in the school last winter, but now Heinrich Janzens’ son Kornelius is taking his place. This also answers your question as to whether Janzens are here. Jakob Funk is also here, he is still alive.
On October 9th we welcomed three families from Molochna and six families from Kuban. Their journey here was a happy one. They suffered very little from illness, nobody died, except at Am Trakt [Mennonite Settlement] (Volga), a small child died while they were driving the vehicles there. Until then, they had driven by steam. No horses died either.
You can also expect letters from the family of H. Janzen and their children, everyone sends greetings. Anna is sick, Heinrich is also ailing.
J. Funk also sends his best regards. He has it very drock right now here, because he has all sorts of things at hand. He is now setting up a workshop, intending to earn his living with carpentry and painting.
I received the Rundschau a few days before your letter, so I got to know it. I really like the paper. I would like to thank the person through whom I receive it. I am happy to be able to write to so many dear friends and acquaintances at the same time through this paper. In this way I can also give the many loved ones in America a sign of life and love, which I couldn’t do if I had to write to each one.
Then today I noticed Heinrich Schmidt, my former student in Gnadenthal. I still owe him an answer to a letter I received from him at the Kuban. Back then I was delighted that one of my students was writing so kindly. Answering immediately was not to be and so it remained; I’d like to make up somewhat for this omission. I lost his address.
On November 7th, the day before yesterday evening, snow was falling here, although the leaves haven’t completely fallen from the trees. Today the sun is shining; it’s doubtful whether the snow will last until evening.
The summer heat was more bearable than we’d have thought. Indeed, it was often up to 49 degrees R., but our people have always been able to continue their work: driving, stones, pebbles, bricks and earth, in short what there is to drive the Fuhriohn.
The rain has not disappeared as early in the spring as we are used to this year, and it has started to rain earlier in the autumn than expected. The last early rain came at Pentecost, and the first late rain on the 16th Sunday after the Trinity Festival, and there are 17 weeks in between where it has not rained, which is unusually little. The laws of nature are also decreed by the Lord our God.
To the astonishment of our relatives and friends, we have to say that we still don't have a place to settle. Those young people who were 15 to 20 years old when they moved here, are already legally obliged to serve. And no matter how much they like us here, one is in Skruppel about this matter. God knows how immigrants are given free rides and the Crown gives us land gladly. Also I can't leave it unmentioned that here in the city we’ve been given accommodation free of charge for the second winter already, including locations for school and church services.
We are held in high esteem for our worship; in fact, we enjoy respect here that reminds us of that "Hosanna" in Jerusalem, God knows whether the "Crucifixion" will soon be remembered. As far as this respect is concerned, of course, the Russian people say this superbly, but the locals also deserve our praise in this respect.
They are mostly Mohammedans, and their customs and practices are still quite old-fashioned. Many sights remind one of various expressions in the Bible. When you look at the local architecture, you think of the four who dug up the roof to leave the gout-ridden man before Jesus [Mark 2:4]. Because they simply laid beams on the wall, then covered them from one beam to the other with split willow branches the thickness of a child's arm (sometimes quite dense). Then comes a bordan, a man-made mat woven from dry cane rods, half bigger and half smaller, the size of a lid of a German box; these are then made from split cane, quite beautiful, up to the size of a small double scrubbing door rfp. cir.. 4 arskin [9’4”] long and just as wide. On these bordans, which are also used for various other purposes, earth is poured on top of them, which is then trodden on and smeared with good clay. With some effort it is then possible to get a bed with a sick person through it. No nail, neither wooden nor iron, is needed for such construction.
When one succeeds in tying the camels together again, one after the other, often with butter, clover or alfalfa on their tails, and they are either tied with a rope with their mouths closed, while the rope is tied around their undersides and muzzle, as we do for cattle or a pig to be slaughtered, or they have a specially made net over their mouths, then that scripture comes to mind: "You shall not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain.” [Deut. 25:4]
I am also reminded of the negotiations regarding Elimelech’s land and the marriage of Ruth [Ruth 4] by the peculiar construction of courtyard gates, often under a rather large, carefully constructed roof. Under such gates there is room for quite a gathering. When friends meet who rarely meet, or who love and honor each other, the greeting is so ceremonial that one thinks that this is why the Savior forbade greetings when He sent His disciples out with special orders.
But I must brief so that my letter will get mailed. Enclosed you will find a letter from brother [in Christ] Johannes Penner, former district teacher of Koeppenthal [Am Trakt] (Volga). He came with us from there as a parish teacher, and as such went with us to Bukhara, where the brothers from the Volga went to seek there what has not yet been promised to us here, freedom also for the young men in question. For one of them had been hit by the Loos, and the authorities made demands of him. Later news from Bukhara does not bring anything more pleasing than the said letter from brother [in Christ] Penner. If you think it is suitable, give it a place in the Rundschau. Otherwise you may insert what seems suitable to you. Your brothers and sisters,
Jakob and Agatha Janzen
P.S. A special report on deaths: since New Year’s Day, three husbands have died here from among our people:
Four young people have died:
Also, 12-year-old Tiene Wall from Alexanderkron died, and several children under 2 years of age. The total number of deaths since New Year’s Day is 27.
The family of Dietrich Braun from Blumenort long for news about their dear children in America; they greet them warmly. Their Tiene died here. They also warmly greet Franz Ediger of Gnadenfeld and ask for a message and their address.
A warm greeting to all who remember me.
* The letter from Elkhart, America, to Tashkent, Ufa took about two months, which is a long time, but at least it makes it possible to have a correspondence with loved ones far away. At the request of several of our readers, we will give the address again, and even more completely than in issue No. 8, Volume 11. One writes in Russian:
Tscheres Gerek [?] Orenburg
Mennonite ... (Name) - ....
Via Europe to Asiatic Russia
(The last line is written in English.)
The editorial office.
Johann Penner: Evictions in Uzbekistan
published 1 Feb 1882 p 2:3
The following letter from one suffering person to another was made available to us by brother [in Christ Jakob] Janzen [above]. We consider it an important contribution to the history of the migrants. It is also interesting that it looks into the inner community relations and expresses the mutual friendly attitudes. It reads as follows:
Written at the Bukharian border on 11 Oct. 1881.
My dear brother Jakob Janzen! I wish the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ to you, yours and all our brothers from before! I had resolved not to write to you before we had settled down. But now that such a suitable opportunity has arisen through the brothers from your midst, who have brought us our things left behind in Kaplanbek [in Uzbekistan], I will not stay with my predecessor.
We have not yet come to rest; the state of our affairs is this: About five weeks ago we were expelled from Bukhara after we had waited a week for the emir's decision. The departure had to happen quickly. Two wagons were broken, Mr. Fast's little Agnete had to be buried, the grave was already completed, but no delay was granted. Mr. Fast had to take his child with him as a corpse, and the wagons with the broken wheels were lined up. But nevertheless we cannot complain about Unbill; one of the commanding officers even gave sugar to several children.
We were accompanied for some versts into Russian territory, and we had tentatively finished with Bukhara. We found a fatherly friend in Mr. Ratschalnik, the head of the government of Katte-Burgan. He revealed to us that on both sides of the Russian-Bukharan border, there was a rather large piece of arable land, without irrigation, suitable for wheat cultivation. It was about 16 versts [10.6 miles] long and just as wide, and belonged to two mosques in Samarkand [in Uzbekistan]. We were told that it was leased land and that the lease price for one year was a fraction of the yield. We were advised to complete the settlement on the mosque land in Samarkand with the people who ruled over the land, about six mullahs and one merchant.
We sent Herman Janzen, Gerhard Esau and Cornelius W. Penner. After they had been there for 1 ½ weeks, they came back without the transaction completed. The mullahs liked it and were glad that we wanted to settle on their land, but we needed the permission of the Samarkand councilor Shalnik and the Bukharian emir. The latter gave it right away, but he had made a journey to southern regions, so it would take some time before his reply would arrive. That was the result of the trip to Samarkand.
Then last Monday we received an order from the Governor General through the Katte-Burgan councillor Schalnik that E. Quiring should appear. So we set out for the second time to cross the border, which the councilor reported to his authorities, including that we took E. Quiring with us. We had been shown the mosque land already before that, so we now knew where we had to go. Twelve versts south of the valley of Ssaraffshanthal, there is a high mountain range, on the north side of which we had been shown a spring; we moved there.
That was Tuesday. The following Thursday, Bukhara officials appeared again and ordered us to leave Bukhara. The land we were on was not mosque land. We replied that we could not return to Russia under any circumstances, that we were subject to laws there that we could not accept. They [illegible] allowed us to drive on the mosque land, where we were to wait for further orders.
Later, October 13th.
Yesterday I did not get to write, I had been awake during the night from Sunday to Monday with old Dietrich Wiens #25820 from Blumstein, who arrived here very ill. While we held evening prayers, the suffering brother was delivered from this life of pilgrimage and misery. May God in grace give him the inheritance that is prepared for us from the beginning of the world….
In a short time I’ve told you the state of affairs. The Saviour says: "In the world you have fear;” we experience this abundantly. He continues: "But be comforted, for I have overcome the world" [John 16:33]. There one learns to seize the profession of faith for eternity. The earth denies us everything. How dark it becomes so often before our eyes, but for the righteous the light must always rise again in the darkness, and through the blood of Christ we are righteous.
My dear, I would have many things to say to you, but how can ink and pen replace the living word! I was very glad to hear that you, like me, had read a letter from brother Cornelius Dyck and [illegible] P.(?) Quiring, that you intend to join us. Where to?
Well, God can't leave his promises unfulfilled. Let us cry out day and night that He will save us in a short time.
Today I spoke to uncle Klaassen (he was really suffering, is now somewhat better) about your situation. He said, "The day we will be united with the Molotschna brothers and sisters will be a Friday, a day of great joy for me.” He was moved so much that his voice trembled.
Oh brothers, God has admitted that He came to divide, but He cannot allow us to remain separated. Can God then be silent when you and we bring a request before His throne, the request for unity in Him? And if He rejects our poor stammering, He cannot ignore the request of His Son, our representative, John 17: 11. [“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” NIV] Unity in spirit, embraced by the bonds of holy and sanctifying peace, becomes our common property. The community of Jesus must become united in Him. Let us not ask, “But how shall it be?” I am also at the end of my thoughts, but let’s call out and believe that it shall be. If it is wanted by God and us, what shall prevent us!
Dear brother, do write sometime. I heard that you’re teaching school again. God bless you and strengthen you with His love and patience. It pains me that brother Abr. Peters is still suffering so much; may God preserve him. Brothers, I love you, oh, I loved you more. Greet brother Peter dearly from me, and the same to Uncle M. Kl., who also sends you his greetings. Greetings to all dear brothers in office, brother Abraham Wiebe and Braun. The family of Cornelius Wall is right in your area; my warmest greetings to the whole dear family, and from my wife, who also greets your dear wife. Are you all healthy?
May God strengthen us in the days of the cursed earth. Oh how much anxious longing, sighing of the creature and the children of God. May God help us through Jesus in our homes. Jerusalem that is above, she is the mother of us all. Oh dear brother, what will it be like when we enter the pearly gates of Salem and move into the homes that Jesus has prepared for us? No matter how many “Kyrie Eleisons,” [Lord have mercy], then our Hallelujahs will echo towards the throne of God and the Lamb with a strong cry of victory. “Over a little one.” [“Just a little while”? John 14:19: Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” NIV] Who knows how soon that will be?
With heartfelt love, your brother [in Christ] and fellow pilgrim to Jerusalem in heaven,
Messages from Tashkent
published 1 Feb 1882 p 3
I was especially interested in this series of messages from Tashkent as it tells us more about Anna Pauls, one of the residents who died in 1881. Her husband, Dietrich Peters (1859-1932) #2339, married again and later moved to California. The Thomas Koop family was also identifiable in GRANDMA.
Peter Pauls (1837-1881) #586039 and Anna Gaede (1839-1902) #1320186 have four children listed in GRANDMA. The first three were born in Friedensruh; the fourth, Heinrich #262218, after this letter was written in Tashkent. The father died in December the same year. Heinrich later moved to California. Daughter Anna (1862-1881) is new to GRANDMA.
Peter Pauls #586039, formerly in Friedensruh, read with interest in the "Rundschau" the news of the daughter of his brother Heinrich Pauls #34153, formerly in Fürstenwerder. Since he does not have the address of H.P., he would like to find it out through the "Rundschau". At the same time he wishes to inform all his friends and acquaintances about the most important events in his family in the same way.
This is especially the fate of their daughter Anna, which is very close to their hearts. She was baptized after our arrival in Tashkent on December 17th of last year with a few young people, namely Dietrich Peters (1859-1932) #2339, son of our brother [in Christ] and elder A. Peters #2336 (1833-1882), and Helena Wiebe, daughter of Abr. Wiebe from Wernersdorf. On April 19th of this year she entered into marriage with D. Peters #2339, and after a period of only 11 weeks death called her away from here. She was ill for 25 days, most of the time speechless. She died on July 6th at the age of 19 years 3 weeks. What a series of experiences in such a short time.
Kornelius Dueck, formerly in Wernersdorf, (completely paralyzed/crippled) would like to know how his cousin Kornelius Wiens is doing in Minnesota and asks for his address.
Peter Dahlke, formerly in Friedensruh, has read with heartfelt joy the lines written by Peter Funk, formerly in Friedensruh, now Newton, Kansas, in issue No. 3, Volume 2, of the "Rundschau." He sends him and his children his warmest greetings. He and his family are happy and well, except for the eldest (step-) daughter in Tashkent.
Johann Doerksen from Wernersdorf (single, blind), wants to ask through the "Rundschau" for the address of the sons of Jakob Doerksen (doctor), formerly in Bergthal, now in Manitoba. He, D., is currently quite well here.
Thomas Koop (1836-1908) #328864 from Tiegerweide would like to learn anything about his wife's brothers, Abr. (1827-) #67900 and Heinrich Boese, (1819-1879) #51164, formerly from Sagradowka and Blumenort. His wife and children are healthy, praise God. His daughter Anna (1859-1941) #2036 is married to Jakob Wiebe #2008, the son of Peter Wiebe #1994 from Wernersdorf.
The family of Martin Janzen informs their mother, the widow of Ar. Reimer from Fuerstenwerder, that the letters are lost at the address sent to her, if any were sent, because we are still in Tashkent. Best regards to mother and siblings. The Janzens are healthy.
Helena Graewe: When the waves are strongest, just pray
published 23 Feb 1916 p 5
In this letter 35 years after travelling to Tashkent, Helena Graewe (1865-1942) #88939 recounts the tragic losses of two family members on the journey. Helena and the surviving family migrated to the U.S. in 1884, settling in Newton, Kansas.
Hillsboro, Kansas, February 8, 1916.
Dear editor and readers, I’d like to write something again. The weather is beautiful today; the sunbeams are lovely. But the snow is still firmly on the ground and doesn't want to melt easily.
It’s been pretty cold for a while. There are a lot of sick people this winter, and the flu has spread to nearly every home; it was the same with us. It showed up quite strongly this year. If you catch a cold, it’s difficult to get rid of it.
Aunt [wife of] Bernhard Schmidt has been lying sick for a while, she feels even more lonely than usual in such hours. For health reasons she has not been able to go to church for many years. Old Aunt Peter Schmidt [Helena Duerksen #2879] is now ill, probably old and tired of living [she lived until 1933]. The Lord knows the right time and hour. Some people have to go who would love to stay here, and some stay who want to leave. But the Lord misses nothing, his way is good.
The young man, Peter Warkentin, is still lying on his sick bed. As many people write and ask about him, I would like to let you know how he is. As many know, he fell from a scaffold on May 8th in California. His backbone was so damaged that he was helpless from that moment. He was there in the hospital for a month. Then his stepmother, Mrs. A. C. Schmidt, went there to get him, which I wrote about earlier.
Then they brought him here to the Goessel Hospital [in Kansas], where he was for two months. Then his desire to be back home again was so great that they tried to get him. And it went even better than they thought, so he has been cared for at home for six months. During that time, he was so seriously ill for several weeks that anyone who visited him thought that his end was very near.
But again, dear God thought differently than we short-sighted people. His ways are not our ways, we have to say that so often. Now Peter can eat a little and sleep more. He can read something on his own. But it is not easy for him and for his parents who care for him, and it requires earnest prayers. But the Lord gives strength, and so proves that this verse is true:
When the waves are strongest,
When drawn by silent power,
Your soul pushes upwards,
After the highest struggle,
Just pray! Just pray!
The family of B. G. Doerksen of California, I received your letter. Thank you! You ask about my dear parents, Heinrich Graewe #265716 and his wife [Anna Schmidt #86923]. The children took the letter to them. They were very happy and send their greetings. They live in the town of Goessel. Sometimes they feel lonely, as Father can no longer be with a lot of people, because then he gets a bad headache. But he is happy, or both are, when we visit them.
He often speaks of his loved ones who have gone before him, and how scattered they are, sunk in their graves. One son [Peter Graewe #265719] died in Russia at two years of age. The other, [Heinrich Graewe #265718] at 19 years of age, died on the trip to Asia after we had been traveling by wagon for 18 weeks. The winter was quickly approaching and we stayed in the city of Tashkent for the winter, where we all got typhoid fever. He had to die from it after he was laid up for 40 days. He was buried in a cemetery for soldiers.
Then a year later, when we were still on the trip, his dear wife, our beloved mother [Katharina Giesbrecht #265703], became very sick. She was so sick when she had to ride in the wagon for several weeks, then on camels through the desert, which was almost impossible, then on an open barge on the water. Then she died and was buried in a wild forest in the country. And we drove on and never saw her grave again.
He has had an eventful life so far, and that affects his spirit. He has now journeyed together with this second mother [Anna Schmidt #86923] for 29 years, and almost 25 years with the first. They can still care for themselves, which is a great blessing.
But I want to stop. Please excuse me that this has become too long. I didn’t want to, but maybe it’s because I’m so alone today, and went on longer than I normally would.
(We don't think anyone will mind. Ed.)
Greetings to all readers. Goodbye!
Helena [Graewe] Warkentin #88939
In addition to the GRANDMA genealogical database of the California Mennonite Historical Society, other sources include:
Irene Plett is a writer, poet and animal lover living in South Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.