Thiessen, Heinrich J. (1854?-1905)
Heinrich J. Thiessen: newspaper correspondent; born 2 May, likely in 1854, in Hierschau, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, South Russia, to Jakob and Margaretha (Harder) Thiessen. He was likely the fourth of five children in the family. Somewhat late in life, he married a widow with three or four children, Maria (Duerksen) Rempel of Halbstadt, widow of David Rempel; the family included two girls and two boys, possibly none of whom were Heinrich’s own children. Heinrich wrote extensively for the Mennonitische Rundschau, contributing articles on Mennonite people and communities in Russia until the end of his life. The exact date of his death is unknown, but he was buried on 14 February 1905, according to the Russian calendar.
From about 1861 to 1868, Heinrich studied at the Hierschau village school, achieving second place in his class during his final year. He and his family often visited friends in the Crimea in the early 1860s, and for a time, Heinrich kept up a correspondence with friends there. Little is known about his early adult life, but he likely married somewhat late. He married Maria (Duerksen) Rempel, who had three or four children. She was likely considerably older than Heinrich, since one of the children was only about ten years younger than he was. Although it is likely that he had no children of his own, Heinrich became very much involved in his step-children’s lives.
Sometime before 1899, Thiessen moved to Michailowka, west of Gross Tokmak, but he traveled extensively, especially to the villages of the Molotschna Mennonite Settlement. He visited many churches, later writing reports for the Mennonitische Rundschau on events such as the election of ministers, as well as letters including general descriptions of the life and work of people in the colony, and even official hospital reports. Between 1899 and 1904, at least 38 of his letters and reports were published in the Rundschau. He reported on life in Hierschau in great detail for the village’s residents who had moved away, even describing each property along the main street. He also kept up an extensive private correspondence with friends and relatives in North America and elsewhere.
The last article Thiessen wrote for the Mennonitische Rundschau was a report dated September 1904, in which he reported on several large fires in the Molotschna, commented on preparations for the Russo-Japanese war, and greeted a friend. Likely shortly afterwards, he became ill and was no longer able to write, since no more articles from him appeared in the paper. There was no further word about Heinrich in the Rundschau until a reader inquired about him and was informed that the writer had died, with the burial having taken place on 14 February 1905. Although the editor promised to publish an obituary in a later issue, none ever appeared.
Heinrich J. Thiessen was a dedicated writer, committed to preserving his community’s history and to helping people connect with their roots. Although his own life was not very well recorded, he helped his family and community to understand themselves and their surroundings better and to appreciate their history and the factors that had shaped who they were. Through his writings, he left a legacy for future generations.
Huebert, Helmut. Hierschau: An Example of Russian Mennonite Life. Winnipeg, MB: Springfield Publishers, 1986: 178-181.
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MLA style: Huebert, Susan and Helmut Huebert. "Thiessen, Heinrich J. (1854?-1905)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2010. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/thiessen_heinrich_j._1854_1905.
APA style: Huebert, Susan and Helmut Huebert. (November 2010). Thiessen, Heinrich J. (1854?-1905). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/thiessen_heinrich_j._1854_1905.