© Mennonite Heritage Centre, Winnipeg Manitoba (Last updated March 25, 2008)
Esau, Jacob, 1860-1912
Retrieval numbers: Volume 1015b, 2322
Title: Jacob Esau fonds
Dates: 1888, 1906-1909
Extent: 2 cm of textual records
Extent: one artifact
Repository: Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives
Jacob Esau (1860-1912) was born in the village of Friedensruh, Molotschna colony, southern Russia to Mennonite parents Klaas Esau and Anna Poetker. His first marriage in 1884 was to Anna Wiebe (1864-1888) while he was the teacher in the village of Lichtfelde. Together they had four children Helena (1884-1966), Anna (1885-1941), Jacob (1886-1889), and Tina (1888-1888). His second wife was Katharina Isaac (1857-), widow of Johann Reimer (1841-1887). Jacob and Katharina had two children Katharina (1893-1972) and Margaretha.
Jacob was elected as minister in the Mennonite church in Lichtfelde and traveled widely including the United States in the 1890s. In the first years of the 20th century he was the first person to own a car in his village. When his wife Anna and child Tina died in child birth in 1888 he was distraught. As a way of commemorating his loved ones he commissioned a hair wreath to be made from the family's hair. Included also is hair from Anna's sister Helena Matthies (1859-1884) who also died in child birth. The hair wreath consists of hair from the sisters Anna and Helena (darker hair), the lighter hair from the 3 surviving children. A poem is on the back written by Jacob. Hair wreaths were common in the mid 1800s to the early 1900s and considered a Victorian art form. Hair was woven around thin wire in the shape of flowers and vines. Beads were added in more elaborate versions.
In 1905 a meeting was held in the church in Alexanderkrone, Molotschna colony, south Russia. Discussion revolved around the need for an intermediary educational institution which would provide instruction beyond what was taught in the village schools. This became a reality in 1906 with the founding of the Alexanderkrone Zentralschule. Jacob Esau was a founding member and secretary (1906) and chairman (1907-1908). He was known as an organizer, invigorating speaker, energetic, and at times abrasive. David Dick and Jacob Sudermann, wealthy estate owners, provided substantial funds for the school.
The materials in this fonds were created by Jacob Esau and include a diary detailing the formation and challenges of the Alexanderkrone Zentralschule, and a hair wreath made to commemorate Esau's deceased family members. This fonds is central to the understanding of the early history of the Zentralschule. Portions of the diary were transcribed by Katharina Janzen and published in the newspaper Der Bote in October and November 1971. This together with the reports written by Esau in the periodical Friedensstimme were central to Ted Regehr's book For Everything a Season: A history of the Alexanderkrone Zentralschule. The hair wreath is a unique item that must be rare in Mennonite circles.
Esau, Jacob, 1860-1912
File list available
The material in this fonds was created by Jacob Esau. After his death the diary and hair wreath were in the possession of his daughter Helena Wall. When she came to Canada with her husband Cornelius Wall in 1930 the hair wreath and diary were brought with them to Coaldale, Alberta where they settled. Their daughter Katharina Janzen of Niagra-on-the-Lake, Ontario was last in possession of these items. Her son Henry Janzen of Heidelberg, Ontario donated these items to the archives.
German, English and Russian
Described by Conrad Stoesz August 6, 2004, updated March 17+25, 2008.
No restrictions to access.
Accession no. 2004-052