Katharina Duerksen and Maria Loetkemann

Classification scheme: 
Hist.Mss.1.259 (s.c.)

Title: Katharina Duerksen and Maria Loetkemann fonds

Dates of creation: 1950

Physical description:  15 pages of textual records

Biographical sketch: Katharina (Heinrichs) Duerksen was the wife of Johann Duerksen, an estate manager for Terek settlement estate owner and industrialist Hermann Neufeld. The Terek settlement, a daughter colony of the Molotschna, was formed along the shores of the Caspian Sea in 1901. The Duerksens had 13 children. 

Along with other Mennonites settlers, they abandoned the Terek settlement in 1918 due to the breakdown of law and order in the region.  The family arrived in Kalentarowka, Stavropol, Russia in 1919 and remained there for eighteen months. The family was able to move to the Molotschna Colony but eighteen months later they were forced to flee to the Crimea. In 1929 the family left Russia via Germany, arriving at their homestead in the Fernheim Colony, Chaco, Paraguay in 1930.

Maria Loetkemann was born 25 Oct 1916 in Halbstadt, Molotschna, South Russia, the daughter of Jacob Loetkemann and Wilhelmina Barendt. She moved to Grossweide, Friesland, Paraguay in 1947. She remained single her entire life and was a teacher in Grossweide. Maria Loetkemann died in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1983.

In 1950 in Paraguay, she typed out an account of the abduction of Hermann Neufeld in 1908, as told to her by Katharina Duerksen. Neufeld was kidnapped by bandits and held for two weeks. The incident, one of a series in the mostly lawless region, led the Mennonite settlers to appeal to the Russian government for protection.

Custodial history: The manuscript was donated to the Mennonite Archives of Ontario in 2012 by Loetkemann's nephew Arnold Neufeldt-Fast.

Scope and content: Contains a typewritten manuscript entitled "Die entfuehrung unseres principals Hermann Neufeld wohnhaft in Halbstadt, in der Molotschna Taurien Suedrussland."

Notes: Background to the abduction incident can be found in: Terry Martin, "The Terekers' Dilemma: A Prelude to the Selbstschutz," Mennonite Historian, vol. xvii, no. 4, December, 1991, pp. 1-2; C.P. Toews and Isaac A. Dyck (trans.), "The Terek settlement : Mennonite colony in the Caucasus, origion [sic], growth and abandonment" Yarrow: Columbia Press, 1972.


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