It’s been a century since the first Mennonite settlers arrived in Meade,
staking their claim and making a home. After months of deliberation by
the “Kleine Gemeinde” church of Jansen, Nebraska it was approved to make
the long trip from Nebraska with Kansas being chosen over Canada and
First to make the trip were P.F. Rempel, Jacob B. Friesen, AJ Friesen,
and Rev. Cornelius L. Friesen in September and October of 1906 during
horse and buggy days. The group settled 20 miles from the railroad
station in open prairie and on free range with cattle all around.
Jacob F. Issac recalled those early days in an excerpt from the Meade
Globe Press around 1948:
will remember the days when we sat on the plow all day with a team of
horses hitched to it. It meant that one had to have a good team of
horses, and a more especially a good driving team. These horses were
cared for too, washed and cleaned and they stood under blanket when not
in use. The one in the lead with a good pair of drivers kept the the
lead, and woe the man that tried to pass.
Plowing our land and hauling our wheat to town 20 miles gave the young
folks quite a thrill and inspiration. We almost always went in groups to
town, 12 to 18 wagons being loaded with wheat and these were strung out.
The horses were trained to follow the wagon ahead, and we men, as many
as we could, would get on the front wagon and visit. The six hours it
took to get to the elevator passed more quickly this way.’
December of 1906 A.H. Friesen, Henry F. Isaac, Abe E. Reimer, John Glen
and Peter F. Isaac joined those settling in Meade. In early 1907 Jacob
S. Friesen, Minister Martin T. Doerkson, Jacob F. Isaac, Jacob J.
Friesen, Henry F. Reimer, John F. Isaac, Jacob F. Reimer, K.B. Reimer,
John M. Classen, John F. Bartel, Cornelius J. Classen, George J. Classen
and Henry Loewen Sr. arrived as well.
Many arrived by train and made their first homes together at the Ranch
House, where the Ira Scott family lived. They lived here for a couple of
months while building their barns and chicken houses, where they moved
upon completing them. The houses came last as they took much longer to
the beginning the settlement held church in a home that was bought with
the land. They had three preachers, Rev. Martin T. Doerksen, Rev. Jacob
J. Friesen and Rev. C.L. Friesen. They later built a schoolhouse and
held their church services there. Due to restrictions with
transportation the congregation held church in two different buildings
but remained one church. The south ‘Kleine Gemeinde’ was located at 22
and S Road and the north ‘Kleine Gemeinde’ was located at 25 and Y Road.
1941 the ‘Kleine Gemeinde’ church disbanded. As a result some of its
members attended the EMB Church for almost a year. In 1943 the EMB
church leaders met with the ‘Kleine Gemeinde’ group to help them
organize in the North church, later known as the Emmanuel Mennonite
Another excerpt from Jacob F. Isaac states:
‘When the Mennonites arrived in rural Meade it was open prairie. There
were no roads laid out but cattle trails and wagon tracks existed. The
outlook was dry, and the encouragement given us by the people of the
area was not too promising. They said that the country had been settled
at three different times, and that the settlers had left. The cattleman,
knowing that they would have to give up their free range, did not
encourage us either. But the trust of these settlers rested upon the
promise of the Almighty, who created Heaven, earth and man.
soon became familiar with the climate, and the ways of doing in this
country. The climate was mild and plowing was not hindered through the
winter. We started to plow up the prairie as much as was needed to plant
crops, trees and more to show the people that we were trying to make it
first year we raised corn, but in later years it did not yield good, so
it came out of practice. Kaffir, maize and cane were raised. Wheat was
light in yield up to 1914 when a good crop was raised, but it was not
like in modern days with modern equipment.’
1907 they had 17 ½ bushels of wheat per acres on an average; corn 35
bushels per acre; oats 20 bushels; and sufficient potatoes for their
use. In 1908 wheat averaged 14 bushels per acre, corn 12 bushels; oats
20 bushels; with more potatoes than they could use. In 1909 wheat
averaged 85 bushels per acre.
Prior to the Mennonites coming to the area there was not much wheat
grown. Due to its success, everyone started raising wheat.
Some of the prices the settlers paid in 1906 include 20 cents an hour
for carpentry, 5 ½ cents each for fence posts, $1.75 for a pair of adult
shoes, 25 cents for a meal in the Café and 65 cents for a bushel of
Mennonite population increased quite rapidly in the Meade area with
large families being typical of most of the Mennonites who settled here.
Henry L. Friesen, son of A.H. Friesen, was the first Mennonite baby born
in western Kansas.
Staying true to their traditions, these Mennonites lived a rather
exclusive lifestyle. For a number of years they controlled the district
schools and had their own high school, the Meade Bible Academy. With the
school consolidation of the 1950’s and 1960’s the country schools that
were all over Meade County were closed one by one. The Mennonite
children were integrated in to the Meade public schools forcing the
Academy to close in August of 1966.