A while ago Andrew and I paid a visit to the Mennonite Heritage Archives in Winnipeg. On this visit, Andrew was particularly interested in having a look at the diary of his great-great-great-grandfather Abraham Reimer, also known as ‘Fuela’ (lazy) Reimer. If you’re a Reimer and live in southern Manitoba, you’re very likely related to him, too!
The archives preserve important historic documents from a few denominations, including the EMC (or Kleine Gemeinde), which means it has a lot of relevant manuscripts for Steinbach and Blumenort history.
Abraham Reimer was born in Molotschna, South Russia in 1818. He was the son of Klaas Reimer, who founded the Kleine Gemeinde. In 1874, Abraham, along with the entirety of the Kleine Gemeinde, moved to southern Manitoba and founded villages, such as Blumenort and Steinbach, as well as many others that are no longer in existence.
He is buried in the original Blumenort Cemetery, which I have written about before.
The diary was handwritten by Mr. Reimer between 1870 and 1874, just up until the time before their immigration to Canada.
Archvist Conrad Stoesz also provided Andrew with a pdf of Steve Fast’s English translation of the diary, which was very useful.
Here’s a typical entry:
“Morning −3 degrees [25° F.], day −3 degrees [25° F.], snowed during the night, cloudy, snowed some during the day. There was an auction in Grunfeld of horses and cattle. Livestock was sold. The cows were still somewhat expensive, selling for 25 to 45 rubles. The old Fehrs were here for a little while in the morning and went home today. They were at Fasts for 2 nights.”
“Morning +4 degrees [41° F.], day +14 degrees [64° F.], forenoon rained some, afternoon clouds, fairly mild. In the afternoon Klaas Reimer had his sons ______________ get Abraham Penner from Rosenfeld with his 2–wheel cart to visit here. They stayed at Johann Reimers overnight. Klaas Reimer got a Lutheran doctor from Felsenbach, who stayed here for faspa, to go to Constantiushof. He came home at 8:30.”
He records a brief entry like this every day, usually about the weather and what was going on that day. There are a few interesting meterological events, many deaths of family members, and some references to emigrating to North America.
I read somewhere, though I can’t recall now, that perhaps by contemporary standards Abraham Reimer would not have been labelled ‘fuela’ (lazy) at all. It’s true, he wasn’t all that interested in farming and, in those days, that was the expected occupation for Mennonite men. Perhaps, though, if he’d been born in another time and another place, he might have been a scholar…or at least a blogger…ha ha!
Beyond the words, though, what was most fascinating was just the ability to touch and hold something in our hands that belonged to a distant ancestor. It’s important that works like this are translated so we can read them, but more importantly the original diary itself needs to be preserved for future generations.
It’s irreplaceable. I’m so glad we have the Mennonite Heritage Archives!