Home | Loewen | Prussia | Russia | Immigration | Photos

Ellerwald; 2 Trift

     At this point in time, we can only say, with certainty, that our Loewen family line reaches back to about 1735, the approximate date of Isaac Loewen’s birth. Beyond that, it is only speculation based on best guesses and anecdotal accounts gleaned from documents produced by various individuals related to our Loewen family. One assertion is that we are descended from a Michael Loewen (1706 – 1810), who had quite an illustrious military career during the Thirty Years War. We must leave that for others to verify.

     Much of what we know about our ancesters who made Prussia home comes from the census undertaken by the Prussian government of the late 18th century. The oldest census of Mennonites in Prussia was taken in 1776, by order of King Frederick II the Great, and for most practical purposes it marks the barrier for most family researchers which is difficult to overcome. Through the efforts of Adalbert Goertz, the Prussian Census enables us to establish the place of residence of our Loewen ancestors prior to their emigration to Russia in the late 18th century. Beyond that, we have only Church records to rely on, which have not been consistently preserved.

     After the death of King Frederick II in 1786, his successor and nephew King Frederick William II was not nearly as tolerant as his great uncle. Since the Prussian army was based on the landowners and their resources in manpower and horsepower, and since the Mennonites were granted religious freedom and exemption from military service, it became increasingly worrisome to the military that Mennonites kept increasing their land holdings and thus, would decrease the military land base which was called the canton system.

     The new king agreed to the suggestion that land holdings of Mennonites be frozen and issued the Edict of 1789 which regulated and limited Mennonite land ownership. Each land acquisition from non-Mennonites was made dependent on a special permit (Consens). A Consens was not necessary for transfer Mennonite-to-Mennonite or if the Mennonite purchaser would relinquish his military exemption Privilegium. Whether Consens was granted or refused depended largely on local government recommendation and on how much land was sold by Mennonites to non-Mennonites.

     In the 1776 W. Prussia Census, Isaac Loewen is listed in Walldorf with 5 sons and a daughter. He was a member of the Ellerwald Gemeinde. Abt 1735 is simply a rough guess as to when he was born. Family notes of Elmer Thiessen give his death date as 1797. As he is included in the Elbing/Ellerwald Church records, it is safe to assume that Walldorf must have been in the near vicinity of Ellerwald.

     From 1789 on, we have periodic land censuses up to 1868 when the Edict of 1789 was repealed. The 1789 Census/General-Nachweisung of West Prussian Mennonites lists a Jacob Loewen residing at Ellerwald, 2. Trift/Amt Elbing. He is recorded as possessing 10 ‘Morgen’ of land (approximately 13 acres). A land-transaction document indicates that Jacob Loewen sold a parcel of land in 1796, and furthermore, this same document lists Jacob's wife and children (see document). Ellerwald lay between the Nogat River to the west, and Elbing to the east. It was organized into five “Trifts”, which were essentially five narrow streets, each with a few homes/farms along both sides. These “Trifts” were side by side and parallel to each other. Today they bear Polish names: Jozefowo, Janowo, Kazimierzewo, Adamowo and Wladyslawowo.

     Although Jacob’s date of death is not known, he must have died before 1811 as a Widow Loewen (Katharina Driediger) is recorded as having lived in Ellerwald 2 Trift, according to the 1811 Elbing area census, with four sons and one daughter. The sons were aged 27, 17, 15 and 13, while the daughter was aged 7. Since his eldest surviving child that we know of was born ca. 1784, Jacob was probably born ca. 1755. It is unlikely that his wife was a widow with surviving children from a previous husband when he married her, since the David Epp diary that records her death states that she only had two husbands; the first marriage lasted 38 years and the second lasted 7 years. If Jacob died in 1811, then the year of marriage would have been 1773. The family lived at 2 Ellerwald 2 Tr. in 1789. According to researcher, Schapansky, Jacob was the son of Isaac Loewen, whose widow married Peter Rempel and lived in Schoenhorst, Chortitza. Therefore Jacob was probably not the son of Michael Loewen (b. 1743) as has been stated in some genealogical compilations.

     Immigration records in 1819 show that the Widow Loewen (Katharina) lived in Ellerwald, along with her son Johann (1800 - 1848) and daughter Margaretha (1804 - 1869).