Klassen, David (1813-1900)
David Klassen: delegate and pioneer; born 30 August 1813 in Pietzkendorf, Prussia, the son of Abraham Klassen (1766-1813) and Maria (Klassen) Klassen. His father died eight months before his son's birth. David was the youngest of five children. David was one of few people to participate in both the Prussian and the Russian emigrations. He moved to Russia in 1833. David was elected by the Heuboden branch of the Kleine Gemeinde in Russia as a delegate to scout for new settlement opportunities in North America in 1873. In 1874 he served as co-leader of the first group of 65 Mennonite families who arrived in Manitoba, Canada.
David Klassen was baptised in 1830 in Prussia. He was married on 31 October 1835 in the Molotschna colony to Aganetha S. Brandt (d. 1904), daughter of Peter Brandt (1770-1819). Sometime between 1847 and 1850, David and Aganetha Klassen moved to the village of Margenau, Molotschna Colony. In 1860 David and his wife welcomed their 15th child -- she was the 10th to survive to adulthood. In the mid 1860s the family moved to Heuboden in the Borozenko area near Nikopol. David was a successful farmer and remembered for a beautiful orchard he planted at Heuboden.
David Klassen and Cornelius Toews (Gruenthal) were chosen as delegates to North America on 4 February 1873 at a large brotherhood meeting in Blumenhof. They were given a set of questions to ask both the American and Canadian government about possible settlement and left on 15 April for America. After arriving in New York, they traveled by train throughout Pennsylvania and Indiana. Johann Funk was their host. Eventually they met at Fargo and headed up the Red River to Manitoba. In Winnipeg they received a warm welcome from William Hespeler who led them on three excursions to land areas open for settlement.
David Klassen was one of the delegates who went to Ottawa, where they received a letter from the Department of Agriculture dated 25 July 1873; it included fifteen statements granting the Mennonites all the privileges that they sought – reserved land, freedom from the military and the right to direct their own schools.
David Klassen was not convinced of the economic viability of the East Reserve, and negotiated to create a settlement near Morris, Manitoba which became known as the Scratching River Settlement.
Involvement in the community was one of David Klassen’s interests. He was the Brandältester, or manager, of the church’s fire insurance plan brought over from Russia. David held that position for six years until his son-in-law took the job. With his language skills, David was a mediator between the Mennonites and various government officials, facilitating communication between the two groups. He also wrote extensively.
David Klassen died in Rosenort, Manitoba on 12 October 1900. His wife Aganetha predeceased him by four years.
David Klassen’s life was a testament to quiet dedication and service. His determination and good judgement helped a large number of people start new lives in Canada.
GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 5.03 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2007: #6718.
Klassen, Harv and David Klassen. “David Klassen (1813-1900) ‘Kjist.’” Preservings No. 11 (December 1997): 96-97.
Scharfenberg, Lorilee. “The David K. Klassen Story (1874 delegate)” accessed on the web 8 Nov. 2007 at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~eidse/webdoc2.htm.
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MLA style: Huebert, Susan and Alf Redekopp. "Klassen, David (1813-1900)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. October 2007. Web. 24 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/klassen_david_1813_1900.
APA style: Huebert, Susan and Alf Redekopp. (October 2007). Klassen, David (1813-1900). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/klassen_david_1813_1900.