Kornelsen, Gerhard E. (1857-1933)

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Gerhard E. and Anna Kor- nelsen. Preservings Photo

Gerhard E. Kornelsen: pioneer teacher and farmer; born on 16 May 1857 in Lichtenau, Molotschna Colony, Russia, to Mennonite Kleinegemeinde Aeltester Gerhard S. Kornelsen and his wife Maria (Enns) Kornelsen. He was the sixth of eight children in the family.  When he was 18 years old, he joined his family in immigrating to Canada, settling in Manitoba. Like his father he also became a teacher.  Starting in 1876 he taught in the village of Steinbach from October to April and farmed the rest of the time. After a few years, he discontinued teaching and continued his farming work. He also worked as a tanner for some years.  By the time he returned to teaching in Steinbach in 1888, English was becoming important as a language of instruction, and Gerhard was able to use what he had learned from his lessons with a local English-speaking teacher to introduce the language into his classroom. In 1889, he took over the management of a bookstore, and in 1897 when his school hired a second teacher, Gerhard became the principal.

The language issue in schools affected Gerhard E. Kornelsen profoundly. When most schools switched to English as the main language of instruction, some of the Kleine Gemeinde decided to start their own confessional schools, and Gerhard taught at the Steinbach Private School until it closed in 1919. Feeling the need for a new outlet for religious instruction once the church schools were gone, the congregations decided to begin Sunday School programs. Gerhard was elected Sunday School Superintendant at his church after his retirement in 1925, and under his guidance, the program was a success.

Gerhard E. Kornelsen was married to Elizabeth T. Giesbrecht (1855-1910) in Grünfeld (later called Kleefeld), Manitoba on 13 January 1878. The couple had ten children, one of whom died young. Three of their children became teachers.  After his first wife died, he married Anna Doerksen (1854-1937), a widow with three children on 5 May 1912.

Gerhard E. Kornelsen moved from his homestead in Friedensfeld into the town of Steinbach in 1925. His health deteriorated, and he suffered a stroke in 1931. He died on 2 February 1933 in Steinbach.


GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 5.03 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2007: #5968.

Schellenberg, David K.  “Gerhard E. Kornelsen, Pioneer Teacher.”  Preservings No. 18 (June 2001): 82-89.

Author(s) Susan Huebert
Date Published January 2008

Cite This Article

MLA style

Huebert, Susan. "Kornelsen, Gerhard E. (1857-1933)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2008. Web. 19 Apr 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kornelsen,_Gerhard_E._(1857-1933)&oldid=66077.

APA style

Huebert, Susan. (January 2008). Kornelsen, Gerhard E. (1857-1933). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 April 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kornelsen,_Gerhard_E._(1857-1933)&oldid=66077.

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