Classification scheme: 

Title: Nicolai and Katharina (Willms) Martens fonds

Dates of creation: 1926-1929, 1933-1937, 1939-1940, 1942-1951

Physical description: 18 cm of textual records

Biographical sketch: Nicolai ("Nic") Martens (1900-1950) was born to Jacob and Maria (Poetker) Martens of Wiesenfeld (Ekaterinoslav, South Russia), the first of eight children. He taught in the Molotschna Colony before immigrating to Canada in 1924 along with six siblings (his parents and a brother had died by 1923). He studied at the Mennonite Collegiate Institute in Gretna, Manitoba and became a teacher in Ontario. In 1926, he married Katharina Martens in Manitoba. 

Katharina ("Tina") Willms (1902-1979) was born to Abram and Katharina (Rempel) Willms in Muntau (Molotschna, South Russia), the third of nine children. The family immigrated to Canada in 1924, settling first in Manitoba, then moving to Leamington (1928), Vineland, and finally the Virgil area in 1935.

After Nic and Tina's wedding in December 1926, Nic sought work teaching. By 1928 the couple was in the Leamington, Ontario area where Nic worked for the railway and Tina in a factory. In September 1928, Nic began Normal School (teacher's college) in London, and in October Tina joined him, working in London as a maid. In 1929, Tina gave birth to daughter, Vera. By the fall of that year she was a patient in the Queen Alexandra Sanatorium in London. This was a treatment centre for tuberculosis. While she was there, Nic had a job teaching in Forest, then Cochrane, and later at the Mennonite settlement of Reesor. He was also briefly in Toronto. In 1934, Tina entered the Niagara Peninsula Sanatorium in St. Catharines. By 1937, Nic was teaching in Kapuskasing while Tina had left the sanatorium but was still in Niagara, probably living with family. In 1940 Nic was teaching in Neustadt where Tina and Vera joined him. Shortly after, them moved to St. Catharines where Nic worked as a draftsman at English Electric, and died in 1950. 

Custodial history: Donated to the Mennonite Archives of Ontario by granddaughter Lorna Morgan in 2014.

Scope and content:The fonds consists predominantly of correspondence between Tina and Nic Martens during their courtship and when Tina was a tuberculosis patient at the sanatoriums in London and St. Catharines. An autobiographical sketch by Nicolai Martens recalls scenes from his childhood in Wiesenfeld. Transcription and translation of the correspondence and sketch was done by Katherine Klassen of Winnipeg, whose husband is Tina Martens' cousin.

Notes: For photographs related to the Martens family search the Mennonite Archival Image Database.
Further materials related to the Martens family may be found by searching the Archives or the Library.
Original archival description created 2016 by Laureen Harder-Gissing.

File list:

  1. Autobiographical sketch, "Aus meinem Leben" by Nicholai Martens
    Note: English translation printed in They came from Wiesenfeld, Ukraine to Canada / Katherine Martens, trans. and ed. Winnipeg, Man.:K. Martens, 2005 , pp. 45-48.
  2. Correspondence, 1926-1929, 1933-1937, 1939-1940
    Note: This file consists of the original letters in German
  3. Correspondence in English translation, 1926-1929, 1933-1937, 1939-1940
  4. Correspondence in German transcription, 1926-1929, 1933-1937, 1940, 1942-1951
    Note: This file includes transcriptions of letters from 1942-1951 which do not appear in the original correspondence or English translation files. Also includes a German transcription of "Aus meinem Leben."


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