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Mennonites, Part Two

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After the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in 1885, German-speaking Mennonites, who had earlier fled to Ontario during the American Revolution, began to move west.

According to historian David Leonard, their settlement in Alberta began at High River.

The first actual colony of these people was established by Eliases Brichker, in High River in 1889, and, with the arrival of other Mennonites, they were able to establish the first actual Mennonite congregation, in what is now Alberta, in 1902. It was called the Mount View Mennonite Congregation.

These people were part of what is called the Old Mennonite Settlers, which were very traditional and very rigid in the enforcement of their standards throughout their communities.

In 1894, another wave of Old Mennonites settled in the Carstairs-area by Andrew Weber. They were known as the West Zion Mennonite Congregation, and they proved to be more attractive to other people in the community, so that by the early part of the 20th century, one-half of the West Zion Mennonite settlement was, in fact, of British stock, their success being very great in their ability to convert English and other settlers there.

Subsequent waves of Mennonite settlers distinguished themselves as being even more liberal-minded than the previous.

But another, more liberal denomination, known as the Mennonite Brethren of Christ, who came primarily from Ontario, began to settle in Alberta in the early 20th century, around Olds, Cremona, Acadia Valley, and Didsbury. And with their numbers, there were enough Mennonites so that an Alberta-Saskatchewan Mennonite conference was able to be formed by E. S. Halum, who was given the title as Overseer for the area of Alberta-Saskatchewan, which had just become two separate provinces.

When yet another, even more liberal-minded, group of Mennonites established themselves in Edmonton and Calgary in the early1920s, the inevitable happened - a backlash. Rosedale, Alberta, gave rise to a movement to return to the more fundamental roots of the Mennonite faith.

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            For more on the history of settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.