© Mennonite Heritage Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba (Last updated April 28, 2008)
Jacob Hoemsen (1879-1969) was born in the village of Hierschau, Molotschna to Heinrich Hoemsen and Agatha Friesen. In 1885 the family moved to the Memrik colony. After his father's death around 1886 or 1887, at least 3 of the children were sent to live with other families as orphans. His mother married J. Fast. Jacob was moved around from family to family year after year. In 1900 Jacob studied at a technical school in Dippoldiswalde, Germany, taking courses in bookkeeping and German. In 1901 he served his country in the forestry service (Forstei) as a conscientious objector as an alternative to military service. In 1905 he volunteered to serve with the Red Cross in the Russo-Japanese war and was stationed at Urulga. Here he visited the nearby areas of Nerschish, Manchuria, and Vladivostok on the coast. He was responsible for commissary supplies as opposed to attending to the sick and wounded. After serving for less than a year he moved to Halbstadt, Molotschna where he worked as the treasurer and bookkeeper of the local Co-op store. On May 1, 1910 he joined the firm of Franz and Schroeder in Halbstadt and later Tsaritsyn. During WWI he served as a medic (Sanitaeter) on board a medical train as the Russians fought the Germans. In 1915 he volunteered for a post at the front to be known as the "Flying Column". Now he wore a uniform and was the only non-Russian in the whole command working with the wounded. One night in May 1915 the unit came under heavy fire but he continued to work at serving the wounded. For this he and his unit received the St. George's medal 4th grade for bravery. In 1916 he was appointed "Officer in Time of War" with the rank of Lieutenant. He was responsible for record keeping and had others under his command.
Hoemsen was wounded in 1918 and returned to Halbstadt where he became an interpreter for the German occupying forces. With the rise of anarchy in the area while living in Waldheim he joined the Gnadenfeld Selbstschutz or self defense unit under the command of German officers. The German forces left in the fall of 1918 and the Machno forces and other bandits took over the area.
In September 1919 Jacob Hoemsen married Maria Heidebrecht (1895-). She was the daughter of Peter Heidebrecht and Maria Driedger. They lived in Ufa, Snamenka, Gnadental, the Caucasus and lastly in Kazahkstan. Peter was exiled twice. Peter and Maria had seven daughters and one son. Daughters Maria Hoemsen and Elizabeth Mathies immigrated to Canada with thier families in the 1920s. The rest of the family suffered a great deal under Stalin and the Soviet governments.
In 1919 Jacob Hoesmen found employment with the Franz and Schroeder firm and married Maria Heidebrecht in Gnadental. His employment ended in 1923 when the factory closed. A new position was found with the newly formed German Raion in Halbstadt in 1924 where he worked as a bookkeeper. In 1925 he, his wife and 2 daughters immigrated to Canada. They lived in Saskatchewan for 2 years, in Ontario for another 2 years and finally settled in Alexander, Manitoba near Brandon. In total he and his wife had 6 children: Margarita, Kay, Betty, Peter, Hugo, Verner. Jacob Hoemsen died on October 10, 1969 in Alexander, Manitoba.
The materials in this fonds consists of materials related to the life of Jacob Hoemsen and to the Heidebrecht family. The Homsen materials included letters to and from family members in Russia after WWI, documents, diary, and photos related to Hoemsen's experiences during various wars including the Russo-Japanese war of 1905, and a book of memoirs edited by his daughter Margaret Silver. This fonds is unique as gives details of the various conflicts of the early 20th Century in Russia and how a Mennonite moved from doing alternative service to serving the Russian and German war efforts and actively participating in the Mennonite Selbstschutz (self defense unit).
The Heidebrecht family materials consists of a manuscript by Margaret Silver that, with the help of old letters, reconstructs the life of the Heidebecht family as it struggled to survive in Russia under Stalin and the Soviet governments. Also included are photos and documents to his wife Maria Heidebrecht's experience as a student in Russia. This material is helpful in understanding the expereinces of the Mennonites after World War one, the collectivization of the farms, Stalin's purges, labour camps, famine, deportation and exile, great trek to Germany, repaitriation to the U.S.S.R., and life in Russia up to the modern era.
Hoemsen, Jacob, 1879-1969
Silver, Margaret, [ca. 1923], 20-
Inventory file list
The material in this fonds was deposited by Margaret Silver, Jacob Hoemsen's daughter in 1996 and archivist Lawrence Klippenstein prepared an initial inventory. In 2008 another donation was made by Silver consisting of the Hoemsen diary, immigration documents, and the "100 years..." manuscript.
English, German and some Russian
Described by Conrad Stoesz October 5, 2005, updated by Conrad Stoesz April 28, 2008.
No restrictions on access
1. Jacob Hoemsen, "Jakob's Journal: The Russian Years", 1995, translated, edited and published by Margaret Hoemsen Silver. -- 180 pages.
2. Russian certificate that Maria Petrovna Heidebrecht [Maria Heidebrecht] was registered in the Davlekanova Mennonite Church under no. 178 on December 3, 1895. Signed by Peter Pankratz.. -- 1911.
3 . Service certificate for Jacob regarding WWI medical corps. -- 1918. Included is an English translation.
4. Birth and nationality certificate for the Mennonite Jacob Hoemsen born 1879. -- 1924. Included is an English translation.
5. Health certificate for Jacob. -- 1924. Included is an English translation.
6. Commendation to Jacob for receipt of the St. George's Medal, 4th grade for bravery. -- 1918. Included is an English translation.
7. Letter of thanks and commendation to Jacob from the Franz and Schroeder factory. -- 1918. Included is an English translation.
8. Thank you letter to Jacob for service in the German Raion of Halbstadt. -- 1925. Included is an English translation.
9. Death certificate for Maria Hoemsen. -- 1922.
10. Low German text by Jacob Hoemsen. -- [196-?].
11. Copy of "Das Maerchen Vom Weihnachtsmann"/ Jacob H. Janzen. -- [196-?].
12. Brandordnung der eingewanderten Mennoniten in Manitoba und den Vereinigen Staaten. -- 1917.
13. Two notes books with notes taken by Hoemsen relating to the Russo-Japanese war of 1905. -- 1960.
14. Correspondence to Abram A. Mathies (Matties) of Kingsville, Ontario from Peter Heidebrecht, his wife Maria Driedger and their daughters Tina, Greta, Agnes, Susa, and Agathe. -- 1926-1939. -- Note: the original letters, as well as typed transcriptions by Victor Janzen, are in this file along with a 3.5 inch computer disk of the transcriptions. Background to the letters is provided in a note from Lawrence Klippenstein.
15. Transcriptions of letters sent to Abram A. Mathies (Matties), Kingsville, ON. -- 1926-1939.
16. Inventory of the letters to Abram Mathies (Matties) by Lawrence Klippenstein.
17. Envelopes used to send letters. -- [ca. 1925-1935].
18. Correspondence with Canadian Mennonite historians BB Janz, John B. Toews (Calgary), Gerhard Lohrenz and H.H. Goossen. -- 1963-1967.
19. Correspondence and articles written for the periodicals Der Bote and Mennonitische Rundschau. -- 1959, 1963-1967.
1. Three reports for Maria Heidebrecht from the Melitopol Girls' Gymnasium school. -- 1912-1913
2. Service certificate from the Red Cross regarding Jacob Hoemsen's duties during the Russo-Japanese war. -- 1905. Included is an English translation.
3. Semester report for Jacob Hoemsen from the Muellerschule Dippoldwalde, Germany. -- 1900.
1. Manuscript "100 Years of Family Love"/ Margaret Silver. This biography is of her mother Maria Heidebrecht Hoemsen and the Peter Heidebrecht family based on letters written to her and her sister Elizabeth in Canada. -- 2007. -- 309 pages.
2. Jacob Hoemsen diary. -- 1914-1915.
3. Immigration records (Russian to Canada) for Marie Isaak Heidebrecht and Abram Mathies. -- 1931-1937.
4. Triangle letter. -- 1946. -- Note:
see page 176 in "100 years of love" manuscript.
Photograph Collection Number 594
594:1 Drama group at the Tiege Maedchenschule. - ca. 1912. - 34 x 25 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a group of 13 girls dressed in their drama costumes posing for a photo in front of a painted backdrop depicting a forest. Costumes include sailor, king, clergy etc. The actors are enrolled in the Tiege Maedchenschule in the Molotschna colony. Back row, third from right is Maria Heidebrecht. -- Note: this photo will be placed in the over sized section.
594:2 Students of the Tiege Maedchenschule. - ca. 1912. - 34 x 25 cm [b&w].
This photo is of 12 young women of the Tiege Maedchenschule posing for a photo outside a brick building with their adult male teacher. Maria Heidebrecht is middle row second from right. -- Note: this photo will be placed in the over sized section.
594:3 Reunion of former Forstei workers in Russia at Springstein camp. - 1968. - 25 x 20 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a large group of older men posing for a photo at the Mennonite camp at Springstein, Manitoba known as Camp Assiniboia. These men are former conscientious objectors or Forstei workers who served in the forest in Russia.
594:4 Forstei Men at the Neu-berdiansk forestry camp. - 1900. - 42 x 34 cm [b&w].
This photo is of 33 young men posing for a photo outside a large brick building. They are all wearing their Forstei uniforms in their role of conscientious objectors and offering non military service to the country. Almost all the men have mustaches. 3rd row from bottom, 4th from right is Jacob Hoemsen. -- Note: this photo will be placed in the over sized section.
594:5 Students at the Tiege Girls' school [Maedchenschule]. - ca. 1912. - 42 x 33 cm [b&w].
This photo is of 66 girls of varying ages posing for a photo outside the brick Tiege Maedchenschule
building with their 3 women and 1 man instructors in the village of Tiege, Molotschna colony. Back row 4th from left is Maria Heidebrecht.
594:6 Russian orthodox style church. - 1905. - 9 x 12 cm [b&w].
Jacob Hoemsen volunteered to serve as a medical orderly in the Russo-Japanese war after his service in the forestry service in Russia. He was stationed at Urulga in the Trans-Baykal region and visited places including Nerchinsk, Streschinsk, Manchuria, which was at the centre of the conflict, and Vladivostok on the coast. The following photos are of this experience but are not identified or identified in Russian. The photos duplicates and are yellowed and faded. This photo is of a Russian orthodox style church, surrounded with a fence and 6 people walking on the street in the foreground.
594:7 Russian street scene. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a Russian street scene with a brick paved street and ornate stone buildings on both sides of the street. A few people and horse and carts can be seen. 2 copies, Russian writing on back of copy 1 which says Street in Vladivostok
594:8 Russian gate at Vladivostok. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of 3 men in winter clothing standing under a ornate Russian stone gate. A fence and trees are on both sides of the gate.
594:9 Russian brick building. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a large brick building with a fence in the foreground. The building has 4 "spires". Russian description: Urulga church.
594:10 Stone masons working. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a number of people (stone masons?) working with large quarried stones for placing along a wooded frame.
594:11 Large stone building on the coast. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is taken from a high vantage point looking down, through a fence, at a large stone building near the coast near a harbor. Ships can be seen on the water.
594:12 At the harbor. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is taken looking at the harbor where large steam ships as well as smaller sail boats can be seen on the water and on shore.
594:13 Red Cross workers at a building. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of 2 female Red Cross workers standing on the porch of a log building with gingerbread style trim. A flag is on the flag pole. A Russian description is at the bottom which says 11th department.
594:14 People standing outside a Red Cross building. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w]. This photo is of Red Cross workers, adults and children standing outside and sitting on the steps of a Red Cross building made of logs with gingerbread style trim. Russian description: 1st Surgical department.
594:15 Red Cross building. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of 3 people (extreme left) standing in front of a log building with gingerbread style trim. Some of the windows have shutters over them and a flag and pole are on top of the roof. A Russian word has been written on top right hand corner which says 11th department.
594:16 3 men in front of Red Cross building. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of 3 men standing in front of a fence and a log building flying the Red Cross flag.
594:17 Buildings. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a row of buildings with a wooden fence in front of them. The building in the foreground is a log building with a flag flying [Red Cross?] on top of the roof. The building also has window shutters. This building may be in Urulga where Hoemsen was stationed. Russian description: 8th department.
594:18 2 men standing outside a log building. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of2 men in uniform standing outside a simple log building that is flying a flag. Russian identification for the 2 men and more are on the bottom of the photo.
594:19 Log building. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a plain log building. On the roof is a flag and flag pole. A Russian description is at the bottom which says: Thiessen, Friesen and 2nd surgical department.
594:20 Red Cross building. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a Red Cross building (clearly flying a red cross flag) made of logs with white window trim. A stick fence is in front. A Russian description is on top right which says 6th department.
594:21 Men, horses, wagons in front of buildings. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a group of men standing beside horses and carts in front of some buildings in the winter. The building on the far left is a large well built building in comparison to the others in the photo. Russian description on lower left which says Main building 9th and 10th departments.
594:22 Red Cross log building. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a log building flying a Red Cross flag. To the right is a tent and then a large ornate brick building. A woman is walking in front of the Red Cross building while a man in uniform stands in foreground, far left.
594:23 Street scene. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a street with buildings on both sides. The road is unpaved and wide. Buildings on either side look like they may be the buildings in some of the other photos such as the Red Cross log house and larger brick building with window shutters. On the right. A guard's gate or post is in the middle of the road, in the background with a man walking from it towards the foreground.
594:24 Village. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a village of homes built of logs with hills in the background. Fences are also made of logs and the roofs are thatched. The buildings look fairly rudimentary.
594:25 Asian Red Cross workers. - 1905. - 9 x 12 cm [b&w].
This photo is of 3 Asian looking Red Cross workers posing for a photo outside a log building. The Centre person is sitting and had a Red Cross arm band on the right.
594:26 street scene. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of people walking along a street with house in the background. A larger 2 storey building is on the far left with a Russian sign on it that says [Bath?].
594:27 Mennonite Village. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of Mennonite looking houses, barns and buildings. The back states" Katerinovka mein heimatsdorf. Das erste ist mein vatershaus. Das zweite des Falk" This may be in the Memrik Colony.
594:28 Russian Port. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a Russian port showing buildings on the docks, ships in the water and a rugged coast line. Vladivostok was on the coast and Hoemsen did visit the city during his time working as a medic in the Russo-Japanese war.
594:29 Winter scene. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a bare tree in winter with tree and snow covered hills in the background.
594:30 Group of men outside a log building. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a group of 8 men and one dog outside a log building posing for a photo. Some of the men are in uniform. Back row, second from left is [Loewen?]. Russian righting on lower right which says Bakery.
594:31 Man outside Red Cross building. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a man in a white uniform and dark jacket [Loewen?] posing for a photo. A building flying a Red Cross flag is in the background. The building has a metal roof, window shutters and gingerbread style trim. Russian writing on lower right which says 4th department.
594:32 Two men sitting on door step. - 1905. - 7 x 10 cm [b&w].
This photo is of two men sitting on the steps of a log building. Left to right is [J. Tiessen and Loewen?].
594:33 Red Cross workers. - 1905. - 12 x 9 cm [b&w].
This photo is of 4 Red Cross, one woman and 3 men, workers standing in front of a fallen tree posing for a photo. They are wearing Red Cross arm bands. From left to right is Froese, Loewen, Nurse, J. Tiessen.
594:34 Man on shore. - 1905. - 9 x 12 cm [b&w].
This photo is of a man dressed in a fur hat and fur coat standing on the shore of a large body of water [ocean?]
594:35 Asian family. - 1905. - 9 x 12 cm [b&w].
This photo is of 3 Asian looking people outside a building posing for a photo. Am an sits on a chair, on the left is a young boy and a woman on the right, all wearing western style clothing. A fourth person is in the background looking through the window of the building.
594:36 St. George's Medal awarded to Jacob Hoemsen. - [198-?]. - 15 x 10 cm [col.].
This photo is of the St. George's medal 4th that was awarded to Jacob Hoemsen in 1918. Shown is a photo of the bronze medal attached to a orange and black ribbon. Russian words are on the medal.
594:37 St. George's Medal awarded to Jacob Hoemsen. - [198-?]. - 15 x 10 cm [col.].
This photo is a close up of the medal Jacob Hoemsen won for bravery in 1918. Shown is a head with Russian words around the outside.