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Schoenhorst - Heuboden - Pretoria

     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). They received their passports from Danzig on May 26, 1819, and their visas to emmigrate were issued July 5 of that same year. They settled in Schoenhorst, Chortitza Colony in 1819, with 600 rubles of cash, horses valued at 120 rubles, and possessions valued at 250 rubles. Katharina was 80 years, 9 months, and 2 days old when she died (1839) as per David Epp's diary. The diary, which has been regarded by historians as very reliable, indicates that she had 12 children, 5 of whom had died by 1839. It also says that her first marriage (to Jacob Loewen) lasted 38 years and that her second marriage (to Abraham Neudorf) lasted 7 years. She had no children by her second marriage.

     Jacob Loewen (1829 - 1875) was the fifth of 10 children born to Johann Jacob Loewen and Helena Klassen. The Loewens lived in Schoenhorst, which is borne out by the fact that documents recovered from the Odessa Archives state that ownership of his home was transferred to his son, Jacob in 1860. This Odessa Archive file also states that he was listed at Schoenhorst #48 in the 1858 Census.

     In July of 1854, Jacob Loewen married Katharina Harder in Schoenhorst. They had 11 children, of which one died in infancy. Abraham Jacob Loewen (my grandfather) was the youngest, born in 1874, in Schoenhorst. One year after his birth, his father died and four years later, Katharina took a second husband, Gerhard Klassen, just four months after his first wife died. Abraham was orphaned five years later, at the age of 9, when his mother, Katharina, died. As a side-note, Gerhard Klassen is an ancestor to my own wife, Grace Klassen, and this is not the only instance where the branches of our two trees have "rubbed together".

     Abraham lived with his older sister, Katharina Regier (1860 - 1908), for one year, after which he moved to Heuboden, in the Borozenko Colony, where he lived with his Aunt & Uncle, Jacob and Katharina (Loewen) Schellenberg. Katharina's first husband, Aron Rempel died in 1874, and after her marriage to Jacob Schellenberg, they moved to Heuboden. This is where Abraham attended school and grew into adulthood. Jacob and Katharina Schellenberg raised their grandson, Peter J. Schellenberg, who had been orphaned at the age of 3. As Abraham was the oldest, he was called on to take responsibilities that an oldest son would carry.

     After immigrating to Canada, Peter Schellenberg took up residence on Huntingdon Road, in Abbotsford, B.C., only 1 km. from where Abraham Loewen retired to after farming in Alberta for the first 20 years. It became Abraham Loewen's daily routine to walk to Peter's home for a visit. (These details were not known to me at that time. Peter passed away in 1966, and Abraham lived another 11 years, dieing at the age of 103.

     In 1897, Abraham married Maria Eitzen (1876 - 1957) from Schoenwiese. They lived with the Schellenbergs until 1904, when they and their four children moved to the newly-opened colony of Orenburg; to the village of Pretoria. Nine more children were born to them in Pretoria, however, two died at a young age, and Johann, the second oldest, died of typhoid in 1921 at the age of 22, on his way home after serving with the Red Army.

     The years in Pretoria were difficult years; some years of good crops and others of very poor crops. The last years were marked by the trials imposed by first the Revolution, followed by the Civil War and famine. It was Red Cross and Mennonite Central Committee food that rescued them from starvation. During one of those challenging years, 1918, Abraham was elected as Village 'Schulze' (not unlike a mayor) and was tested on numerous occasions by both the Red and White Armies that made demands on the village for supplies.

Canada Calls

     When the invitation was extended, in 1926, for anyone wishing to emigrate to Canada, Abraham and Maria Loewen accepted, against the advice of others and the temptation to stay in a year when the harvest looked so promising. In fact, their oldest daughter Helena, had been corresponding with acquaintances in Canada, and it was she who urged her parents to act on the opportunity to emmigrate. As time showed, it was the last opportunity, and many who turned down the opportunity, came to regret their decision.

     In September, 1926, the family sold what they were allowed to sell, packed what little they could, said their goodbyes, and set off for a new land where they knew no one. One son, Jacob, elected to remain in Russia to complete his university studies, fearing that to travel to Canada would only mean that he would be relegated to a life of farm work, something he always had disdained. Despite his promise to follow once his studies were completed, his exit was permanently closed by Stalin within a few years, and Jacob lived out his long life in Russia as a Geology professor. He married and had two children, and on three separate occasions, all three have been able to visit Canada in the post-Cold War era. In addition, brothers Martin and Henry both, on separate occasions, were able to visit him in the USSR. Unfortunately, his parents never had the opportunity to see him again. Abraham Jacob Loewen was the only member among his siblings to leave Russia, however, a number of his nephews and nieces also made the decision to emigrate.



Orenburg Colony

A.J. Loewen House & Yard Sketch

Village of Pretoria Layout