Nowhere else have Mennonites developed a distinctive village pattern as did the Prusso-Russian group. To be sure, the Swiss Mennonites surviving as religious refugees in remote areas as pioneers on uncultivated land developed a pattern of settlement known as the Hof. In the Jura Mountains of Switzerland as well as in Alsace-Lorraine and the southern parts of Germany they became owners or renters of large farms and estates (Höfe), on which they established themselves in increasing numbers, developing some of them into small villages and hamlets. Some of the villages still indicate such an origin in the name ending in hof or heim. Among them are Spitalhof, Friedelsheim, Gerolsheim, Kriegsheim, Weierhof, Ibersheimerhof, and Kohlhof, all located in the Palatinate and Hesse. These places established and occupied originally by Swiss Mennonite refugees have in many instances grown to sizable villages or towns. Some are still primarily occupied by Mennonites, while in others the Mennonite population has become a minority. Today they reveal no peculiar Mennonite characteristics in the total pattern of the surrounding communities.
The Swiss Mennonites settling in Poland, Volhynia, and Galicia established some villages. In Poland they lived in Urszulin and Michelsdorf and in Volhynia in Eduardsdorf, Horodyszcze, Waldheim, Kotozufka, etc. These were the Swiss Volhynian Mennonites who later settled near Moundridge, Kansas, and Freeman, South Dakota. The Swiss Galician Mennonites established the villages of Falkenstein, Einsiedel, Rosenberg, Rosenhof, Kiernica, Horozanna, Ehrenfeld, Dobrovlany, Podusilna, etc. Some of these were not villages in the sense of a closely-knit unit. Even the closed villages were not always built according to a specific pattern. The early Galician villages of Falkenstein, Einsiedel, and Neuhof followed a specified plan. The others were mostly cluster villages (Haufendörfer). Most of these villages were occupied by the Mennonites for a limited time only. The Hutterite villages are described in the article "Bruderhof." The Swiss and German Mennonites settling in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and other states as a rule lived on individual farms, following the practice of their environment. One exception was Germantown, Pennsylvania, founded in 1683, which was mixed Quaker and Mennonite and soon became a town.
The Mennonites of Prussia and Russia developed a unique pattern of villages during their colonization and settlement efforts, which was also transplanted to Manitoba, Mexico, and Paraguay. This pattern, although of Germanic background, includes some features based on the religio-cultural background and development of the Prusso-Russian Mennonites.
During the first half of the 16th century Dutch religious refugees settled at the mouth of the Vistula River in Prussia, mostly under Polish authorities. Their villages became known as "Hollanderdörfer" or "Hollandereien." These settlements established by a certain type of settlers under certain contracts with the lords and administered in a certain way became the nucleus or background of the Mennonite villages of Prussia, Poland, and Russia, which were later transplanted to Manitoba. They differed from the type prevailing along the Vistula River. The medieval colony village of the Vistula area was as a rule organized by a "locator" who functioned as Schulze (mayor), through whom a lease was obtained from the royal owners of the land, and who invited settlers from everywhere to till the land on long-term leases. The locator did not pay rent and his office was hereditary. Such a village was established in accordance with the "German right."
The villages established according to the "Dutch right" ("Holländisch Weis' und Gebrauch") functioned on a different basis. A group of settlers entered an agreement with the landowner. The lease agreements differed. The lease was usually for 40 years. The office of the Schulze was not hereditary. He was elected from the village community and had no special privileges; the government was democratic. Originally the occupants of these "Dutch" villages were actually primarily Dutch by background and to a large extent Mennonites. Later on the term "Holländerei" came to mean nothing more than a village and land rented and established on the basis of the "Dutch right." The occupants of such a "Dutch" village could come from any part of Europe and belong to any creed.
By 1772 there were some 400 Holländerdörfer established in the Vistula region, but not nearly all were occupied by Mennonites or by Dutch settlers. Felicia Szper (p. 110) lists for 1676 the following villages as "Holländische Hufen" in the two Werders of Marienburg occupied by Dutch Mennonites: Platenhof, Tiegenhagen, Tiegerweide, Reimerswalde, Orlofferfeld, Pletzendorf, Orloff, Pietzgendorf, and Petershagenerfeld.
Horst Penner lists for the 18th century the following villages with a predominantly Mennonite population: Altebabke, Altendorf, Beyershorst, Blumen-Ort, Einlage, Freienhuben, Glabitsch, Gross-Plehnendorf, Gross-Walddorf, Halbstadt, Herrenhagen, Heubuden, Klein Mausdorf, Kozelicke, Ladekopp, Marienau, Neuendorf, Neunhuben, Orloff, Orlofferfelde, Petershagen, Pietzkendorf, Poppau, Pordenau, Reimerswalde, Rosenort, Rückenau, Scharfenberg, Schönhorst, Schönsee, Schmerblock, Schönau, Tiege, Tiegenhagen, Tiegerweide, and Wotzlaff.
The villages located on the Vistula were also characterized by being established in swampy areas that had to be drained. Ditches and canals led to the river at the elevated end of the land. Homes were located along the street, which at times followed the windings of the river. Villages established according to the old "German right" did not have the residence, barn, and shed under one roof, as did the Dutch villages, in which the barn was directly connected with the residence and the shed was attached to the barn, the whole in some cases forming a triangle. At some places the dwelling had an addition for the retired parents called Endenkammer. The porch added to this structure in many cases was of Prussian and not Dutch background.
In some instances the land of each farmer adjoined his yard. This would indicate that the pattern was related to the "Hufendörfer" practice. E. K. Francis classifies the Russian Mennonite pattern as a "Gewanndorf," which is characterized by the rotation of crops according to an established pattern. This was at times the case in Russia and also Manitoba. However, the Gewanndorf is a cluster of homes and farms, which the Mennonite village never was. The latter always followed a very symmetrical design, the houses being located in a straight line at regular intervals on one side or on both sides of the street. This village therefore more nearly resembled a Hufendorf. However, it developed peculiarities of its own. For this reason it is best to identify this type of village simply as Holländerdorf.
The Holländerdörfer established in the swampy regions of the Vistula Delta by Dutch Mennonites became the pattern not only for other settlers in that area, but were transplanted to entirely new and non-swampy locations in Poland and Russia. Naturally the environment somewhat modified the village pattern and practices. The low countries of the Netherlands and the Vistula areas were exchanged for the steppes of the Ukraine, where there was at times too little rainfall. Although the location of the villages was often chosen along rivers, such as the Dniepr or the Molotschna, the geographic and climatic conditions differed considerably. Hardly any dams had to be built to prevent flooding. The crops differed somewhat. The need for summer fallow made it necessary at times to adhere to an agreed-upon communal pattern of crop rotation.
The great genius and promoter of the uniform establishment of villages was Johann Cornies, who as chairman of the Agricultural Association introduced some rigid rules for the layout of villages, exact location of each building in the village, the construction of the buildings, the planting of the shade trees and orchards in the yards, the maintenance of the village street, the location of the school, etc. During the first half of the 19th century a significant feature of the Russian Mennonite village pattern was the communal pasture for all cattle, sheep, and horses. As a rule, the village consisted of a wide unimproved main street with 20 to 40 homes and farmyards on each side. The land of the individual farmer at times adjoined his yard. This was not always the case; if the land surrounding the village was not all of the same quality, it was parceled out to give all the farmers equal shares of both the better and the poorer land. The farm usually consisted of approximately 160 acres. The community had a cowherd who in the early morning drove the cattle and other animals through the village to the community pasture. The village generally had a corral at one end where the horses not needed for farm labor were kept overnight. In the morning they joined the herd. During the hot noon hours the cattle rested at the village pond, creek, or river. The cowherd was usually a native Russian and lived near the corral.
The older villages as a rule consisted of farmers with full-sized farms (Vollwirte) who had originally purchased the land, some owners of half-size farms, and some "Anwohner". The Anwohner lived in a suburb of the village, which had yards and homes for people without land (see Landless). They were as a rule the landless younger generation working for the farmers or in small industry. They were also the candidates for the establishment of a new settlement whenever money and land for this purpose became available. The establishment of new settlements and villages gradually became the responsibility of the Mennonite authorities of the mother settlement. Some of these settlements consisted of only a few villages, while others had nearly as many as the Molotschna settlement, viz., 58 villages. With slight modifications these villages were patterned after those of the mother settlements in the Ukraine. In the early days of the settlement the buildings consisted of a frame of lumber and walls of adobe brick, with a roof of straw and later of shingles. As the settlers became more prosperous they replaced the early buildings with brick structures having a tile or tin roof. The architectural pattern of the house, residence, barn, and shed as a rule remained the same (see Architecture).
The administration of the villages and settlements was similar to that in Prussia, i.e., according to the "Dutch right." The Schulze and other members of the village assembly (Schulteboat) were elected by the voters of the village. Usually the village was administratively a part of the total Mennonite settlement which had an Oberschulze as the mayor. During the early 19th century the Mennonite settlers were not responsible to the local Russian authorities but to the Fürsorgekomitee established by the Russian government to supervise and administer all foreign settlements in Russia. Toward the end of the past century, the Mennonite administrations became responsible to their local Russian administrations (see Government Among Mennonites of Russia).
With few modifications this pattern of village settlement and administration was transplanted to Manitoba by the Old Colony (Chortitza), Fürstenland, and Bergthal Mennonites. The more progressive Bergthal and Kleine Gemeinde groups on the East Reserve provided a disintegrating element when they realized that living on one's own farm had some advantages over the traditional village pattern. Hence many villages were abandoned. The transfer of some of the Bergthal Mennonites to the West Reserve introduced this influence also among the Old Colony and Fürstenland Mennonites. This and the matter of self-administration versus the acceptance of the municipality system and the parochial versus public school system became the vital issues that caused numerous schisms and the ultimate emigration of the more conservative element among the Old Colony, Sommerfeld, and Bergthal Mennonites to Mexico and Paraguay after World Wars I and II. At the turn of the century the Manitoba Mennonites established daughter settlements in the areas of Hague and Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Here too, as in Mexico, Menno in the Chaco, and Villarrica in Paraguay, they established villages on the old pattern of Prussia and Russia. Lack of some building materials and adjustment to the Latin-American environment have caused some slight deviations, but basically the layout, architecture, and administration of the village have been maintained.
A very interesting element in the Mennonite practice of establishing villages in various parts of the world is the naming of these villages. As is evident from the village names of the Marienburg Werder, the names were German. The reason for the choice of German names by Dutch settlers may have been that they dealt with authorities and lords who spoke either German or Polish. Some of these German names such as Orloff (although originally very likely Slavic) and Tiege were transplanted to the Ukraine. However, because of the multiplicity of villages established in Russia, most of the names originated there. In the early decades the names were primarily German. Toward the end of the past century they received at times an official Russian name while the settlers themselves gave them German names with a very strong poetic flavor. At the beginning of the 20th century, Russian village names (or even numbers) were used. During the anti-German feeling of World War I many German names were replaced by Russian names. As a result of World War II practically all the names were made Russian.
It was in Russia that the practice of using the same names for villages or daughter settlements flourished, like the repetition of names of grandparents, uncles, and aunts in a newly established family. Certain of these names in the daughter settlements of Russia, Canada, and South America were particularly popular. New combinations appeared. The popularity of names containing "Blume," "Frieden," "Rose," "Schön," or "Wald" reveals that the hard-working Mennonite farmers liked to give their villages poetic names. A new element was added in Russia when they began to name their villages after the czars. Many appendices were added to names such as Alexander and Nicholas (Nikolai). High officials were memorialized in names like Köppental, Konteniusfeld, and Hahnsau. In some instances the villages were named for the Russian noble from whom the land was purchased for the establishment of a daughter settlement.
The Manitoba Mennonites, who were primarily of the Chortitza or Old Colony background in Russia, used a considerable number of names of the villages from which they came, including some found in the Molotschna settlement. It is here that old forms are used to create new names through new combinations. Hardly an English name appears in the 110 villages established in the West and. East Reserves. Sometimes the same names are used in both Reserves. The Manitoba names were transplanted to the Swift Current and Hague settlements in Saskatchewan and to the settlements in Mexico and Paraguay. Some of the same names are used in the three (Manitoba, Swift Current, and Durango) settlements of Mexico. It is likely that the village assembly decided on the name. If the majority of the settlers came from one village, they simply agreed to use the same old name. At times the prefix Neu (new) was used, e.g., Neu-Schönwiese or Neu-Bergthal.
Some of the Mennonites of the Molotschna settlement who came to the prairie states in and after 1874 made an attempt to perpetuate the village pattern of Russia and Prussia. The Krimmer Mennonite Brethren established the village Gnadenau at Marion, Kansas, and the Alexanderwohl congregation settled originally in seven villages north of Newton. Also the conservative Kleine Gemeinde members of Jansen, Nebraska, settled in villages. But aside from these hardly any attempts were made to establish villages. The reason for this may be that the Molotschna Mennonites, being more progressive, were inclined to recognize and adopt the good practices of the new country. Although they had asked to have compact areas set aside in order to be able to establish their traditional settlements, they were not granted this privilege. The East and West Reserves were the Canadian answer to this request for the Old Colony Mennonites. As a rule the Mennonites in the prairie states had to be satisfied with the opportunity to purchase alternate sections of land along the railroads such as the Santa Fe and the Burlington. This made it difficult for them to establish compact settlements, and even more so to realize the old traditional village pattern with self-government. The few villages actually established soon disintegrated. However, driving along Highway 15 from Newton to Lehigh or Hillsboro, one can still see remnants of the villages of the Alexanderwohl community near Goessel. To be sure, there are Mennonite towns such as Goessel, Lehigh, Hillsboro, Moundridge, and Elbing in Kansas; Meno in Oklahoma; Henderson and Jansen in Nebraska; Mountain Lake in Minnesota; and Freeman in South Dakota; but they were not established according to the traditional pattern and cannot really be classified as Holländerdörfer. They are typical American towns of the prairie states.
Below is a list of Mennonite villages established in Prussia, Russia, Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Paraguay. This constitutes the first attempt to list in alphabetical order all Mennonite villages of Prusso-Russian background that could be classified as Holländerdörfer. Only the major Prussian villages of the Marienburg Werder are listed. Various sources were used, some of which conflicted. The list makes, therefore, no claim to completeness or to full accuracy. No attempt has been made to state which villages are still in existence and which have disappeared. The major point is to show how large a number of villages was established and how frequently the names were repeated by pioneers who generation after generation continued their journeys as "pilgrims and strangers."
Not all of the later villages in Russia that were given Russian names are listed. Numerous villages in Russia have doubtless been destroyed and very few are at the present occupied by Mennonites. Of the more than 100 Mennonite villages established on the East and West Reserves of Manitoba, only a small number have survived. This is the case particularly on the East Reserve. The traditional village life continues with a minimum of disturbance from the outside among the Old Colony Mennonites of Mexico and in some of the settlements in Paraguay.
The following list indicates how often the names were repeated in the various settlements. Only those that appear more than five times are listed.
The total number of villages of Prusso-Russian Mennonite settlements following the pattern of the Holländerdörfer is 769. The largest number was located in Russia. The total number of the alphabetical list of "Mennonite Village Names" is 327. The total number of villages including those duplicated in this list is 773. On one hand, this is not a complete list of villages established (the total would probably approach 1,000). On the other hand, not all villages are in existence any more and by far not all villages in existence are occupied by Mennonites today. Nevertheless, this study illustrates a very significant phase of the spread of Mennonites and the socio-economic pattern of their life with a unique religious and cultural background.
"Alexanderwohl Villages in Kansas, 1874." Mennonite Life IV (October 1949).
Bachmann, Peter. Mennoniten in Kleinpolen. Lemberg, 1934.
Dawson, C. A. Group Settlement, Ethnic Communities in Western Canada. Toronto, 1936.
"Dorf." Der Grosse Brockhaus. Wiesbaden, 1953: 326.
Driediger, J. "Farming Among the Mennonites in West and East Prussia." Mennonite Quarterly Review XXXI (1957): 16-21.
Francis, E. K. In Search of Utopia: The Mennonites in Manitoba. Altona, MB: D. W. Friesen & Sons Ltd., 1955.
Fretz, J. W. Pilgrims in Paraguay. Scottdale, Herald Press, 1953.
Gedenkfeier der Mennonitischen Einwanderung in Manitoba Canada. Steinbach, 1949.
Hein, Gerhard. "The Development of the Mennonite Hof of the 17th Century, Palatinate into the Mennonite Church of Pfalz-Rheinland Today." Mennonite Quarterly Review XXIX (1955): 188-96.
Hein, Gerhard. "Wie aus den Mennonitenhofen der Kur-pfalz im 17. Jahrhundert die Mennonitengemeinden in Pfalz-Rheinland von heute wurden." Der Mennonit (September 1954): 132.
Keyser, E. De Nederlanden en het Weichselland. Naarden, 1942.
Lehmann, Hienz. Das Deutschtum in West-kanada. Berlin, 1939.
Ludkiewicz, Zdzislaw. Osady Holenderskie na nizinie Sartawicko-Nowshiej. Torun, 1934.
Die Mennoniten-Gemeinden in Russland. Heilbronn, 1921.
Penner, Horst. Ansiedlung mennonitischer Niederländer im Weichselmundungsgebiet . . . Weierhof, 1940.
Peters, Elisabeth. "Life in a Mennonite Village." Mennonite Life XI (July 1956).
Quiring, Jacob. Die Mundart von Chortitza in Süd-Russland. Munich, 1928.
Schmiedehaus, Walter. Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. Cuauhtemoc, 1948.
Schmiedehaus, Walter. "Mennonite Life in Mexico." Mennonite Life II (April 1947).
Szper, Felicia. Nederlandsche nederzettingen in West-Pruisen gedurende den Poolschen tijd. Enkhuizen, 1913.
Unruh, Benjamin Heinrich. Die niederländisch-niederdeutschen Hintergründe der mennonitischen, Ostwanderungen im 16., 18. und 19. Jahrhundert. Karlsruhe-Rüppurr: Im Selbstverlag, 1955.
Wiebe, Herbert. Das Siedlungswerk niederländischer Mennoniten im Weichseltal . . . Marburg, 1952.
Wolfram, H. E. Die Niederlande und der Deutsche Osten. Berlin, 1943.
For a more comprehensive listing of Mennonite villages in Russia, please consult the following list compiled by Tim Janzen: http://www.mennonitehistory.org/projects/geography/index.html.
A listing of Mennonite villages in West Prussia has been compiled by Glenn H. Penner: http://www.mennonitegenealogy.com/prussia/West_Prussian_Mennonite_Villages_Alph.htm
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 821-827. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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To cite this page:
MLA style: Krahn, Cornelius. "Villages (Holländerdörfer)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 21 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/villages.
APA style: Krahn, Cornelius. (1959). Villages (Holländerdörfer). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/villages.