Classification scheme: 

Title: Agatha (Loewen Duerksen) Schmidt fonds

Dates of creation: 1918-2002

Physical description: 17 cm of textual records, maps and photographs ; two video cassettes

Biographical sketch: Agatha Schmidt (1922-2016) was the child of Agatha (Janzen) and Franz N. Loewen. The couple had six children; three survived infancy. The family lived in Gnadenfeld, in the former Molotschna Colony, Ukraine. Franz Loewen was a minister. He attended seminary in Switzerland and was ordained in 1911.

Although Franz Loewen formally renounced his ministry after the Russian Revolution, he still faced harassment by the Communist authorities. The family moved to a town near Berdjansk in hopes of escaping persecution. While there, Franz Loewen died of typhus and the family retured to Gnadenfeld. Agatha finished school and became a teacher in Mariawohl. She married Aron Duerksen in 1943. The couple had little time together as Aron was in the army. In 1943, Agatha, her mother and two sisters left Gnadenfeld on the Great Trek to Poland and Germany. In 1948, they immigrated to Canada.

Despite repeated attempts, Agatha was unable to learn Aron's fate, and he was declared missing. In 1951, Agatha married Ernest Schmidt, a widower with two sons. Ernest, the son of Johann and Helene (Riediger) Schmidt, was also from Gnadenfeld. 

The couple had one daughter and lived in Kitchener where they were members of Waterloo-Kitchener Mennonite Church. Agatha eventually served as a lay pastor there. She learned to paint, and created approximately 250 paintings. In 1982 she wrote an autobiography, entitled "Footsteps," which she shared only with family during her lifetime. A 1987 or 1988 reunion of the villagers of Gnadenfeld inspired her to write the community's history. She also became a genealogist, and consulted on numerous Mennonite families, mostly related to either her or Ernest.

Custodial history: Items 1-19 were donated to the Archives in 2019 by Alice Sahagian, daughter of Agatha Schmidt. Items 20 and 21 were given by Agatha Schmidt to Marlene Epp, and donated by Epp to the Archives in 2023.

Scope and content: Gnadenfeld research, Mennonite Heritage Cruise materials, family history and genealogy materials.

See also:

Collard, Sarah, "A visual rendering of Agatha Schmidt," 1992. Hist.Mss.13/77, Mennonite Archives of Ontario.

Schmidt, Agatha Loewen. Gnadenfeld, Molotschna, 1835-1943. Kitchener, Ont.: A. L. Schmidt, 1989 and 1997. Copy located in the Milton Good Library.

Klassen, Pamela E. Going by the Moon and the Stars: Stories of Two Russian Mennonite Women. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1994. Copy located in the Milton Good Libary.

Three paintings by Agatha Schmidt are in the Conrad Grebel University College art collection: Exodus II,  Off to Siberia, 1941 Sept and My Home in the Ukraine.

The following monographs were not kept. Copies are located in the Milton Good Library:

Epp, David H., and Nikolai Regehr, Heinrich Heese, Historische Schriftenreihe Des Echo-Verlags ; Buch 8. Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada: Echo-Verlag, 1952.

Epp, Helmut Adolf, Four Generation Genealogical Listing for Peter Heidebrecht (ca. 1715-1770), His Wife Katharina Braun (1721-1777)[...], Fonthill, Ontario: Helmut Adolf Epp, 2002.

Peters, K., and Henry J. Riediger. Genealogy of Abraham Riediger, 1782-1992. Leamington, Ont.: H.J. Riediger, 1992. Agatha Schmidt provided corrections for the 1992 edition.

Original archival description created 2019 by Laureen Harder-Gissing.

File list:

  1. Gnadenfeld research maps and clippings
    Includes two larger maps and original sketches of everyday Mennonite life in Russia by Agatha Schmidt located in map case
  2. Mennonite Heritage Cruise booklet, 1995
  3. Photograph album, Mennonite Heritage Cruise, 1995
  4. Franz and Agatha (Janzen) Loewen family record pages from Bible, 1918-1955
  5. Anna (Loewen) Bendiks diary excerpts, 1941-1946
  6. Rempel and Schmidt genealogy and family history:
  • copy of photograph taken at the 50th wedding anniversary of Aron J. Rempel and Anna (Goerz) in 1902 and identification of people in photograph
  • manuscript entitled “The Rempel Family” by Charles (Karl) Klassen which includes a genealogy of the descendants of Abraham Rempel (1859-1922) and Elizabeth Schmidt (1859-1933)
  • transcripts of interviews with Aaron Rempel (1893-1994) and John Klassen: “Aaron Rempel tells of the Rempel and Schmidt families,” “John Klassen tells of the trip from Orenburg to the Molotchna,” “John tells of the soldiers and father,” “Aaron Rempel tells of one of the episodes with the soldiers,” “Aaron Rempel tells of his conscription and service,” “Aaron Rempel tells of the Revolution and emigration to America [first Mexico, then Canada],” “Aaron Rempel tells of Abram’s death,” Aaron Rempel talks about Alexander Voth and his family”
  • notes on the founding of the village of Gnadenfeld
  1. Weiler genealogy and family history
  • Reminiscence of our father Jacob Wieler (1865-1956)
  • Jakob Weiler descendants
  1. Loewen genealogy notes and correspondence
  2. “Loewen genealogy” manuscript compiled by Betty Stansberry, 1979
    Note: Manuscript includes many annotations by Agatha Schmidt
  3. Heidebrecht genealogy notes and correspondence
  4. Pankratz genealogy notes and correspondence
  5. Janzen genealogy notes
    Scope and content:  Contains pages from Katie Peters, Genealogy of Johann Janzen, 1752-1977. 1st ed. Winnipeg, Man.: E.J. Klassen, 1977. The pages are annotated by Agatha Schmidt.
  6. Heinrich Heese (1787-1868) genealogy and family history
  7. Johann Schmidt (1888-1951) and Helene (Riediger) Schmidt (1886-1974) genealogy, 2002. Also includes wedding invitation for Ernest and Hildegard (Isaac) Schmidt, 1945.
  8. Johann (“Hans”) Janzen (1752-1823) and Maria (Bergmann) Janzen (1758-1808) descendant chart (located in map case). - Drawn by Rev. Abraham H. Epp, [195-?]
  9. Settlement map for Reesor, Ontario (located in map case)
  10. “Gnadenfeld Reunion: 1988.” – Manitoba. – video cassette (2 hours)  : VHS. - Includes video of speeches, a worship service, a photography session and a visit to the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach. With an accompanying list of people on the bus to Steinbach introduced in the video by Agatha Schmidt.
  11. “Filadelfia: Aus dem alltag einer Mennoniten Siedlung” / Victor P. Martens ; writer and producer,  Frank Kilgus ; camera, editing and narration. – [1996?]. -  Asuncion, Paraguay : F.K. Productions. – video cassette (90 min.) : VHS.
  12. "Footsteps"  / Agatha Loewen Schmidt. - Kitchener, 1982.
  13. Children of Anna (Rempel) Dyck and Peter A. Dyck
    Scope and content: A manuscript written by Anna Dyck found in a family Bible describing the births, personalities and childhood illnesses of her 8 children. Several died young. German, with English translation. 7 pp.
  14. Letters by Margaretha (Rempel) Loewen to her siblings, 1923-1936
    Scope and content: Typescript copy of letters written by Agatha Schmidt's aunt Margaretha Loewen (1900-1947) in the Soviet Union to her siblings in North America. An attachment by Agatha Schmidt tells of the fate of Margaretha and Jacob N. Loewen and five of their children in the Soviet Union. One of their children was able to immigrate to Canada in the 1940s.
  15. Paintings
    Exodus II
    Off to Siberia, 1941 Sept

    My Home in the Ukraine


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Mennonite Archives of Ontario
Conrad Grebel University College
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Waterloo, ON N2L 3G6

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