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Schönfeld Mennonite Settlement (Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine)

Schönfeld  - Photo provided by Margreta (Kornelsen) Gronski

Schönfeld Mennonite Settlement was located in the district of Alexandrovsk, province of Ekaterinoslav (now Zaporizhia Oblast), Russia. The nucleus of the settlement was the estate consisting of 14,000 acres which was purchased from D. N. Brazol, 20 July 1868. This land was located north of the Molotschna settlement and east of the Chortitza settlement and differed from most of the other Mennonite settlements of Russia because it was primarily purchased by individuals and scattered over a large area interspersed by numerous other German settlements and Russians. Only a few of the villages resembled the traditional pattern. Most of the dwelling places were scattered on estates. A second purchase of land was made in 1869 from the nobleman Chonuk. As in the first case the settlers came from the Molotschna. Two families, Cornelius Epp and Peter Epp, coming directly from Prussia purchased the Hutterian Bruderhof Kovalicha. The Hutterites then migrated to America. This total settlement became known as Schönfeld.

In 1885 a number of settlers purchased an estate consisting of 1,458 acres from the owner Samoylenko. The settlement became known as Schönbrunn. As a result of further purchases the Rosenhof settlement consisting of the estates Rosenhof, Tiegenhof, Blumental, Solenaya, Hochfeld, Schönberg, Bergtal, Oleyev, and Krukov, originated between 1855 and 1875. This settlement consisted of representatives from both the Molotschna and Chortitza settlements. Between the years 1875 and 1879 the villages Blumenheim and Kronberg and the estate Eichental were established by settlers coming from the Molotschna. A village, Silberfeld, near the station Pologi, had been previously established.

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South Russia Mennonites

Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk since 1917), was a province (oblast in Russian) of the Ukraine, Russia, crossed by the Dnieper River, and was founded in 1786, and named after Catherine [The Great] II. Ekaterinoslav is bordered on the north by Poltava, on the east by Kharkov, on the south by Taurida, and on the west by Kherson.

In the year 1789 and then started again after 1803, the second large emigration of Mennonites from Danzig [present-day Gdańsk, Poland]-West Prussia began. It led through Riga into the Black Sea area to Chortitza (founded 1789) and Molotschna (founded 1804). The Schönfeld Colony was founded in 1868.

Schönfeld Settlement

The Schönfeld Settlement (District Schönfeld) existed in what is now Zaporizhia Oblast (province) in the Ukraine and was located north of the Molotschna settlement and east of the Chortitza settlement. It differed from most of the other Mennonite settlements of Russia because it was primarily purchased by individuals and scattered over a large area interspersed by numerous other German settlements and Russians. Only a few of the villages resembled the traditional pattern.

Other relevant settlements: Schönbrunn, District  Schönfeld, was founded in 1885.

Mennonite Villages in Bergthal, Ukraine, South Russia (began 1836)

Mennonite Villages in Brazol (Schönfeld [Schoenfeld] Colony), Ukraine, South Russia  (began 1836)
[Note: D. N. Brazol was the name of the owner of a large estate that had been purchased]

1917 - 1922

The prosperity of Schönfeld was its undoing when revolution and civil war engulfed Russia in 1917. Schönfeld suffered particularly because of its proximity to Gulyaipole, the home and first base of operations of the anarchist (or bandit, depending on one’s ideological inclinations) Nestor Makhno. Property and chattels were expropriated by Bolshevik authorities while random acts of robbery, torture, rape and murder by anarchists became commonplace. The area of Schönfeld fell variously into the hands of Bolsheviks, anarchists and the troops of the White armies as the battlefronts of the civil war moved north and south. Even the brief occupation of the area by Austro-Hungarian troops in 1918 offered little respite, as they were unable to control Makhno. Some Schönfeld residents formed Selbstschutz militias to protect their homes and enjoyed some brief military successes, especially during the occupations of the area by the White armies. The last meeting of the Schönfeld council was held in August, 1919. The last church service was held Sept. 14, 1919. By 1920 almost all the surviving Mennonite residents of Schönfeld had fled south to the Molotschna colony. The area came under the control of the White army under General Wrangell, briefly, in 1920, but Wrangell had to retreat south that same year. The Schönfeld Selbstschutz militia which, by that time, had been incorporated into the White army, retreated with him and was evacuated from the Crimea to Turkey. Some Schönfeld landowner/refugees returned long enough to plant and harvest crops as late as 1922, but for all practical purposes, the Mennonite community of Schönfeld ceased to exist. [ ]


Notes taken from the "SCHONFELD" book written by Gerhard Toews in 1938 after a gathering of Schonfelder in Manitoba.

Schonbrun was a village in the Schonfeld settlement of villages. The people originated from Friesland and Holland having left there for religious reasons. They were followers of Menno Simons during the 1500's when the various churches were established after the break away from the catholic church. They had emigrated to Prussia and in the 1600's the part of Prussia they were in belonged to Poland. But when Poland was divided up they fell under Prussian rule and because they would not carry arms they were not allowed full rights as the others were. It was during the times of Frederick the Great. In 1787 they were being frowned upMfor not carrying arms and they decided to move on. The trek to Russia began.

The first settlements were called the Old Colony. It was located where the Konskaja and the Dnjepr meet and consisted of 18 villages.

In 1803 another trek settled in the Molotschnaer which was also called the New Colony. By 1863 there were 4230 families in 56 villages and 4 Vorwerken? which I think must be what we now call township or county.

The new villages were often named after the village they had come from so you would know who they were talking about. As villages grew more land was purchased.

Then the Crimean war started with Turkey, England and France against Russia. During this time a Lieutentant Brasol and a Mr. Fast discussed each others property and the Lieutentant offered Mr. Fast to come and see his property in the Steppes which he was very proud of. After the Crimean war when more land was needed and being sought the Lieutentants land was remembered and after checking they found out he indeed was interested in selling some land. 5,324 Desjatinen was purchased by 6 buyers in the Steppes of Alexandrowsker Circle that belonged to the Government of Jekaterinoslaw and it was called Schonfeld. The year was 1868.

The purchasers were:

  • Abram Abram Driedger
  • Peter Johann Dick Munsterberg
  • Kornelius Korn. Friesen
  • Johan Joh. Klassen
  • Johann Bernhard Fast
  • Jakob Peter Heidebrecht
  • Abraham Dietrich Warkentin
  • Class Jakob Thiessen,Ruckenau
  • Jakob Dietrich Warkentin, Alexanderkrone
  • David Abram Mathies, Ohrloff
  • Heinrich Peter Enns
  • Peter Peter Cornies
  • Johann Peter Enns
  • Jakob Claas Thiessen, Rosenort
  • Peter Gerhard Neufeld, Altonau

David Mathies and Peter Neufeld built a brickyard. The community established their own schools and churches.

In 1885 Jakob Warkentin, Jakob Enns, Johann Mathies, Kornelius, Enns, Johann Dyck and Johann Berg purchsed more land from the Russian Samojlenko. 540 Desjatinen Land was purchased for 84 Rubels per Desjatine. This village was called Schonbrun. In 1891 they built a school.

More villages were established and eventually Schonfeld became the Schonfelder Wolost. All the villages were under the self government of Schonfeld. Church books were kept and it decided where someone was baptised at.

The first "Oberschulze" which I believe would be the reive or mayor of the Schonfelder Wolost (area) was Abraham Driediger. Then Joh. Cornies, Joh. P. Dick , and Heinrich Wiens. Mr. Cornies and Mr. Dick both served 12 years in this position.

During the revolution many books were destroyed and few records are available.

Because they had so much land they raised an easy crop which was sheep for wool. As more settled the price of the land went up and crops were grown as they brought in more money than wool. They grew wheat, flax and oats and corn. The land was worked with a wooden one row plow and 3 to 4 paid of oxen. Eventually machinery became available.

Russia lost the war with Japan and there was unrest in Russia. The police and the workers were fighting and anarchy was rampant. Bands of murderers and robbers started forming of which one was Nestor Machno who was to later bring the Schonfelder lots of grief. Money and horses were stolen at first. Then people were murdered. In 1914 the First World War started.

The book notes May 29 Johann Dick and Maria Wiens; Abram Matthies and Margareta Dick were married. 1. Sam. 20, 42 was the verse read.

In 1900 They celebrated the golden wedding of David Matthies' Text: Lukas 24, 29.

Russia was fighting Germany and germans in Russia were not allowed to speak german. Uncle Hans Berg was sent to Siberia. The Mennonite men were Red Cross workers during the war. It was suggested all german held land be liquidated. The rubel lost its value. Land and crops were being controlled as well as prices and sales. The Czar was no more. The Bolsheviks wanted to divide up all the land. The soldiers were returning from the front with guns and ammunition. More plundering took place. The germans were invading Russia. David Mathies, brother of Abram J. Mathies (Marg Dick) was shot but lived. His wife and mother-in-law and father-in-law however did not survive. People started moving away from Schonfeld. Many soldiers and others died of typhoid fever. It was impossible to carry on with farming and so much had happened it was necessary for the survivors to leave the area. Although it was hard to leave the home and farm there was no other way. The last families to leave Schonbrun were Johann Dicks, Kornelius Enns, Widow Johann Mathies, Aron Janzen, Jakob Warkentin and Jakob Koop. These had sown their Winterwheat in the fall of 1919 and had planted their spring vegetables but by the end of April they left. This was the end of Schonfeld and Schonbrun.

The End.