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Mennonites Celebrate 100 Years

By Denice Kuhns

Excerpt Reprinted with permission from Meade County News

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 Colorado.

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:

‘I 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.’

In 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 build.

In 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.

In 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 Church.

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.

We 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 go.

The 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.’

In 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 peaches.

The 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.

 

 

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