DeFehr, Cornelius A. (1881-1979)

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Cornelius A. DeFehr (1881-1979)

Cornelius Abram "C. A." DeFehr was a successful Mennonite Brethren businessman in Russia and in Canada who was extensively involved in the affairs of the Mennonite constituency. He was born in Einlage, Chortitza Mennonite Settlement, South Russia on 6 October 1881 to Abraham A. DeFehr (7 October 1848 - 27 October 1923) and Helena (Peters) DeFehr (13 May 1849 - 1 June 1931). After his conversion through the ministry of Jakob W. Reimer he was baptized and joined the Mennonite Brethren Church in Petrovka in 1901. He was married to Elizabeth Dyck (28 August 1885, Nikolaifeld, Yazykovo Mennonite Settlement, South Russia - 23 March 1972, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) on 13 November 1903 in Millerovo, South Russia. Elizabeth was the daughter of Wilhelm I. Dyck (4 February 1854 - 2 March 1936) and Maria (Riediger) Dyck (1 July 1858 - 14 October 1896). Cornelius and Elizabeth had six children, with four reaching adulthood: Elizabeth, Abram, Cornelius and Wilhelm. Cornelius died 11 February 1979 in Winnipeg, where he was buried.

DeFehr's first business venture was a partnership in a manufacturing industry in Millerovo in 1904. This brought prosperity, especially during the years of the Great War (World War I). The Russian Revolution brought drastic upheaval, however, and eventually the family migrated to Canada. DeFehr soon (1926) established an import business in Winnipeg which became a prosperous family enterprise with branches in Edmonton, Regina, and Saskatoon.

Throughout the years DeFehr was very active in matters pertaining to the Mennonite people. In Russia he was appointed as one of the chief administrators of the massive relief effort during the famine. In Canada he was active in a large number of Mennonite Brethren committees, including the Winnipeg City Mission, the Mary-Martha Girls' Home, Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute, and Christian Press. DeFehr was also very active with the Mennonite Central Relief Committee of Western Canada, serving as secretary-treasurer for many years. He directed the resettlement of Mennonite refugees in Paraguay after World War II.

Although C. A. DeFehr was perhaps the most successful Mennonite Brethren businessman of his generation, he never lost his capacity to identify with people in many different circumstances. He was a true servant of his people.


DeFehr, Cornelius A. Memories of My Life: Recalled for My Family. Altona, MB: C. A. DeFehr, 1967.

Articles by Abraham C. DeFehr, Bernhard B. Fast, and John B. Toews in Mennonite Brethren Historical Society Newsletter, 5, no. 2 (Dec. 1982): 1-8, and 5, no 3 (April 1983): 1-6.

Author(s) Abe J. Dueck
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published August 2006

Cite This Article

MLA style

Dueck, Abe J. and Richard D. Thiessen. "DeFehr, Cornelius A. (1881-1979)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. August 2006. Web. 21 Oct 2019.,_Cornelius_A._(1881-1979)&oldid=115028.

APA style

Dueck, Abe J. and Richard D. Thiessen. (August 2006). DeFehr, Cornelius A. (1881-1979). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 October 2019, from,_Cornelius_A._(1881-1979)&oldid=115028.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 222. All rights reserved.

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