Block Settlement

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The experience of living in geographically separate colonies in Russia and the group nature of the emigration from Russia to North America in the 1870s led Mennonites to look for large tracts of unoccupied land suitable for block settlement in the United States and Canada. The central plains offered the best opportunities for this.

The Canadian government, having just created the new province of Manitoba on land obtained from the aboriginal Indian nations, sought to attract European settlers by offering to reserve contiguous blocks of land and hold them for a period of time for homesteading exclusively by members of the group applying for such a reserve. In the United States the railroad companies owned sufficient lands to make possible concentrated Mennonite settlements in Kansas, Minnesota, and South Dakota.

In this way Mennonites from Russia obtained the East and West Reserves in Manitoba (1873-75) and the Hague and Swift Current Reserves in Saskatchewan (1894 and 1905). This allowed them in the next 50 years to maintain almost unchanged the organizational patterns of church, school, local government, fire insurance, inheritance regulations, etc., that they had developed in Russia.


Dawson, C.A. Group Settlement: Ethnic Communities in Western Canada. Toronto: Macmillan, 1936: 95-117.

Smith, C. Henry. The Coming of the Russian Mennonites. Berne: Mennonite Book Concerns, 1927:ch. 7-12.

Author(s) Adolf Ens
Date Published 1990

Cite This Article

MLA style

Ens, Adolf. "Block Settlement." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 12 Jul 2020.

APA style

Ens, Adolf. (1990). Block Settlement. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 July 2020, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 88-89. All rights reserved.

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