Witmarsum Colony, Paraná State, Brazil
The history of Witmarsum began on 7 June 1951 when the families who had not yet left the Krauel Colony in Santa Catarina State, bought the Cancela ranch (17,000 acres; 7,600 hectares), located on the highlands of Paraná State. 70 km (45 miles) west of Curitiba. During the next five years the Krauel settlement, whose central civil district was also called Witmarsum, was terminated and the settlers moved to Paraná. The purchase of this land was made possible by a North American loan of $30,000.
Witmarsum was divided into five villages. Each family was allowed to purchase 100-200 acres of land. Through the purchase of ca. 1,000 acres of land in 1980, a new settlement called Colônia Primavera was added to the Witmarsum community though it lies 35 km. (21 mi.) from the main center. This land accommodated nine families.
The buildings of the original owner of the ranch became the center of colony activities. It was there that a creamery, shopping center, hospital, school, administration offices, silos, feed factories, and other necessary institutions were established. The settlement was operated as a producer-consumer cooperative.
There was one Mennonite Brethren (Associação das Igrejas Irmãos Menonitas do Brasil, AIIManitoba, Canada) congregation and one Mennonite church (GCM; Associação das Igrejas Menonitas do Brasil; AIManitoba, Canada) in Witmarsum. Both congregations were active in evangelism and social welfare. There was much poverty in the area. A Portuguese-speaking congregation was established in Witmarsum. The Fritz Kliewer School included students from kindergarten to grade eleven. In the senior high classes agricultural training was available, as was general education and special courses in teacher training and in music.
Witmarsum made significant economic progress in the last decades of the 20th century. The dairy industry was modernized, and pedigreed livestock was in great demand throughout the land, yielding significant additional income. In 1986 over 5,000 tons of wheat, ca. 4,000 tons of soybeans, 8,000 tons of corn, and 2,500 tons of barley were harvested; 1,650 head of cattle were sold. Milk production exceeded 5 million gallons. The cooperative was responsible for these activities and employed 350 people. In 1987, 190 families lived in Witmarsum, most of them also employing additional workers. There were no marketing problems for the products of the settlement. Paved roads, electricity, telephone, and plumbing helped to make the settlement progressive and fully modern. -- PP,Jr./HenEns
Núcleo Leiteiro, near Lapa. In 1970 a new settlement was founded some 60 km (37 miles) from Curitiba, near the town of Lapa, to provide milk and dairy products for the rapidly growing city of Curitiba. By 1987, 26 farms had been established, all with full modern conveniences. The limited number of settlers, however, allowed the establishing of only the first four years of elementary school. Other German-speaking settlers also moved into the area. It became a flourishing settlement. In addition to a Mennonite Brethren congregation Lutheran, Reformed, and Church of God congregations were also established. -- PP,Jr.
Clevelândia. A Mennonite settlement was established 20 km (12 miles) south of the town of Clevelândia, Paraná State, in 1953, with 44 farms, concentrating primarily on dairy production. The school, Mennonite Brethren congregation, and Sunday school were terminated already within the first eight years, in part because of the early death of the founder and teacher Franz Hübert, in part because of crop failures and marketing difficulties. The settlers left the colony for Curitiba, Witmarsum, Bagé, and Canada. A thriving missionary congregation remained active in the area. -- PP,Jr./HenEns
Guarituba. A settlement founded 1948 in a suburb of Curitiba, Guarituba flourished especially in the late 1950s. Ca. 35 dairy farms were established with a daily production of ca. 2,000 gallons of milk. A Mennonite Brethren (AIIManitoba, Canada) congregation as well as an AIMB congregation (GCM) and a school were established. With the founding of the Clevelândia settlement in southwestern Paraná, however, some of the strongest farmers left for that community, followed by others moving to Boqueirão, Witmarsum, and Canada. The farms were sold to non-Mennonites. By 1966 the settlement had been dissolved. -- PP,Jr./HenEns
Fazenda Modelo at Ponta Grossa. In the late 1950s an attempt was made to purchase a model experimental farm comprising ca. 7,500 acres (3,040 hectares) from the state of Paraná. It was conveniently located along a main route between Curitiba and Ponta Grossa, some 40 km (25 miles) from Witmarsum. Negotiations with the department of agriculture in Rio de Janeiro seemed promising and the Witmarsum administration waited for further state action, but nothing happened. In 1977, when Brazil"s president, Ernesto Geisel, visited Witmarsum, the need for more land and the request for purchasing this farm was mentioned to him. He showed much interest in the plan and promised to pursue this, but nothing happened. Bureaucratic and political considerations seemed to block the progress of this plan.
Colônia Primavera near Palmeira. A small but successful settlement was begun in 1980 when ca. 1,100 acres (450 hectares) lying 35 km (22 miles) from Witmarsum near the city of Palmeira were purchased. Nine young farm families from Witmarsum located on this land. It was in fact an extension of Witmarsum itself and considered a part of that settlement in every way.
Colônia Concórdia in Bahia State. The need for more land for young Witmarsum farmers continued. Early in the 1980s a large suitable tract was located some 700 km (435 miles) north of Brasilia, some 2,000 km (1,250 miles) from Witmarsum. The land itself seemed promising, the climate fully acceptable, the price seemed reasonable, and credits with low interest rates were available. Consequently an area of nearly 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares) was purchased in April 1984 by 48 Mennonites coming not only from Witmarsum but also Curitiba, Lapa, and São Paulo. It was agreed that the settlement would be autonomous and independent of Witmarsum. The land was subdivided, wells were drilled, and farming began.
The big surprise came in September 1987 when colonists from the adjacent state of Goias, accompanied by police, came and occupied a good part of the land. Discussions and study indicated that the states of Bahia and Goias could not agree on the boundary line between them and the disputed area ran right through the purchased acreage. Negotiations were unsuccessful and the Mennonite settlers were not willing to let the situation climax to a crisis through coercion. Consequently they abandoned the land they had purchased in Goias and relocated in Bahia, a move which scattered the settlement far beyond what they had earlier anticipated. Some of the participants withdrew from the project, but others were determined to continue realizing their vision. An excellent crop was harvested in 1987. In that year more than 30,000 acres (12,000 hectares) were already being cultivated, with expectations that this acreage would soon double and triple. The undertaking remained a private venture however, with Mennonites from other parts of Brazil not participating in the project. It was clear that this area presented excellent opportunities for young families seeking to establish themselves.
Fazenda Santa Rita near Palmeira. In 1985 it became possible to purchase ca. 1,100 acres (450 hectares) adjoining village number 4 in Witmarsum. However, since the price of this land was very high, its purchase benefited the established farmers more than the young couples who were unable to finance the venture. -- HGK
1959 Article from Vol. 4
Witmarsum (New) Colony, a Mennonite colony established in 1951 in the state of Paraná, Brazil, some 45 miles (72 km.) northwest of Curitiba, by the remainder of the former Krauel colony in Santa Catharina, when about half of that group moved to Bage in Rio Grande do Sul. A tract of about 20,000 acres (8,100 ha.) was purchased from Senator Robert Glasser by a co-operative composed of the heads of the settler families. By September, 1951, 70 families had purchased farms of 125-250 acres (50.6-101 ha. ) each, but in 1953 only 52 families with a total population of 319 were living there. The occupation is dairy farming and cattle raising. In 1958 three churches had been established in the colony, the Mennonite Church, the Mennonite Brethren Church, and the Free Evangelical Mennonite Church. -- HSB
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 931-932, v. 4, p. 1138. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
To cite this page:
MLA style: Pauls, Peter, Jr., Henrique Ens, Horst Gunther Kliewer and Harold S. Bender. "Witmarsum Colony, Paraná State, Brazil." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 25 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/W583.html.
APA style: Pauls, Peter, Jr., Henrique Ens, Horst Gunther Kliewer and Harold S. Bender. (1989). Witmarsum Colony, Paraná State, Brazil. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/W583.html.