Mennonites


MENNONITES are members of a Protestant religious group originating in Germany and the Netherlands in the 16th century. In 2001 there were 35,495 Mennonites living in BC. The name originates with Menno Simons, an early leader of the group. Members began immigrating to N America in response to persecution, and the first Mennonites in Canada settled in Ontario in 1786. Another wave of immigrants came from Russia during the 1870s and colonized southern Manitoba, then spread across the West. The Mennonites who began arriving in BC in 1928 were refugees from Russia, where civil war and collectivization had ravaged their colonies. They settled at YARROW, near CHILLIWACK, on land reclaimed from Sumas Lk and around ABBOTSFORD and CLEARBROOK. There was also a settlement at BLACK CREEK on VANCOUVER ISLAND. These early settlers were particularly successful at DAIRY FARMING and raising BERRIES. They tended to live in self-sufficient communities, apart from mainstream culture, and to worship at their own churches, open their own schools and shun worldly activities. Their communities prospered; in the post-war period the segregation dissolved as a new generation began to use English instead of German and to move into urban areas in increasing numbers. To facilitate this transition, 2 Mennonite Girls' Homes (Madchenheims) were established by the Mennonite Church in VANCOUVER to provide support for hundreds of young women who came to the city as domestic workers beginning in the 1930s. The homes operated from 1931 to 1961 and functioned as employment agencies and hostels for orphans and immigrant women.