IN 1870 the Mennonite colonists  in SouthRussia were faced with he alternative of giving up certain special privilegeswhich they had enjoyed for nearly a century or founding new homes in other lands.These privileges, promised by Catherine the Great in a manifest issued July 22,1763, included the right of freedom of worship, settlement in closed communities,establishment of schools in the German language, almost complete local autonomyin political and economic affairs,  and exemption from military service. Theseguarantees had been respected by each succeeding emperor until 1870 when CzarAlexander II decided to abolish them. The terms of his decision gave theMennonites ten years in which to emigrate or to conform as bona fide Russiancitizens.
Despite their long years in Russia theMennonites were a separate and distinct group, a virtual state within a state.Held together in their compact villages by ties of race, religion and language,there had not been any need or inclination for contact with their Russianneighbors. Because of this voluntary isolation and lack of interest in affairs ofthe world few of the Mennonites had kept pace with changing conditions in Europe.They did not realize that the growing nationalism and democracy of the ageprecluded further favoring of minorities. Consequently the revoking of theprivileges came as a complete surprise and many felt that it was a breach offaith on the part of the Russian government. A compulsory military law passedearly in 1871 caused even greater concern because it threatened one of thefundamentals of their belief.
Almost immediately steps were taken to protecttheir established rights. Leading men were chosen by the various colonies to goto St. Petersburg for an audience with the Czar. Several delegations were sentduring the next two years but none was successful. Interviews with certain highofficials gave them no promise of a repeal of the hated decree, only theintimation that some sort of noncombatant service might be substituted for actualmilitary duty. As time went on hopes faded, and determined against compromisewith the government, a few of the Mennonites began active plans foremigration.
One of these men was Cornelius Jansen,  amerchant of Berdiansk  and formerly Prussian consul at that place. He wroteJohn F. Funk,  editor of the Mennonite newspaper, Herald der Wahrheit,at Elkhart, Ind., asking for information about conditions for settlement in theMiddle West of the United States. He also made inquiries of the British consul atBerdiansk concerning the availability of land in Canada. These later inquiriesled to an exchange of communications between British and Canadian officials withthe result that Canada soon began an active campaign to secure the Mennonites assettlers. The government promised the prospective colonists practically all theprivileges they had had in Russia including exemption from military service. Large tracts of land in Manitoba were offered for settlement. In the UnitedStates little official recognition was given to the Russian Mennonitemigration.
Several independent parties of Mennonites"scouted" this country in 1872. The next year congregations in South Russia andPrussia where conditions were very similar sent twelve representatives whoarrived in May and spent much of the summer visiting the Middle West of theUnited States and Canada.  Some of them immediately decided on recommendingsettlement in Canada. Others were im-
pressed with tracts of cheap government land in the Dakotas. Two of thedelegation, William Ewert and Jacob Buller, accompanied by Christian Krehbiel of Summerfield, Ill., inspected land in Kansas. They were especially pleased withthe Arkansas river valley between Newton and Hutchinson.
Most of the delegates did not seem concernedwith the question of special rights in the United States. But two, a bit morecautious than the others, addressed a petition to President Grant. They asked forexemption from military service for a period of fifty years, excuse from juryduty, judgeship and voting, the right of establishing schools in the Germanlanguage and the privilege of settling in closed communities.  The Presidentreplied, through the Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish, that certain of theprivileges asked for were matters for the individual states to decide. He gavethem no encouragement in regard to military duty, although it was very certain,he said, that the United States would not be engaged in a major foreign warduring the next fifty years. President Grant, in his annual address to congresson December 1, 1873, spoke highly of the Russian Mennonites as prospectivesettlers and suggested favorable action in their behalf.
During the following months several bills wereintroduced into each house of congress and lengthy debates ensued. There was noobjection to the Mennonites as a people but there was much opposition to the ideaof passing special legislation in favor of any one group. Said Sen. PowellClayton of Arkansas,
It seems to me that under our system of Government we ought not to depart fromthe general rule which we make applicable to all people. We have certainadvantages here of our own. We are not selfish in those advantages. We arewilling that persons from abroad may come here, and by becoming citizens of thiscountry share with us in those advantages. That applies to Germans and to men ofall other nationalities. 
No action was taken at any time by the federalgovernment.
but three of the states, Kansas, Minnesota and Nebraska, passed laws exemptingthe Mennonites from serving in the state militias.  In contrast to theirresolute policy of the government toward the Mennonites were the determinedefforts of the prominent Mennonites already living in this country, the agents inthe state land offices and the land departments of the various railroads toinduce them to come here to settle. To encourage railroad building during the1850's and 1860's the federal government had made liberal grants of land to thetranscontinental lines and other strategic roads west of the Mississippi river.Cheap lands and scarcity of cash characterized the West at this period and it wasdifficult for the railroads to turn their land into money badly needed in theconstruction of new lines.
An act of congress in 1863 gave the Atchison,Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company 6,400 acres of land for each mile of roadsatisfactorily constructed.  This amounted to some 3,000,000 acres inthe state of Kansas. The land was in alternate sections only and extendedapproximately ten miles on either side of the tracks. A Santa Fe land andimmigration department was established. The land was surveyed and local salesagents were appointed in all the larger towns along the line west of Florence. Fortunately for the.Mennonites, the foreign immigration department was underthe management of C. B. Schmidt.  A German himself, he was able to dealdirectly and successfully with the Russian Mennonites.
In July, 1873, the delegation of twelve returnedto Europe favorably impressed with the United States. Already several Mennonitefamilies from the Crimea had left for America.  Soon a number of colonistshad decided upon emigration. One of the first groups to begin active preparationswas the entire congregation of the Krimmer
Mennonite Brethren at Annefeld, near Simferopol, under the leadership of theirfounder and elder, Jacob A. Wiebe. 
As with other Mennonites bent on emigration, theKrimmer Brethren encountered many difficulties. Land and other property had to bedisposed of in a short time and the market was flooded. Buyers were wary and manyfine farms sold for much less than their actual value.
The Russian government, by this time alarmedover the prospective loss of thousands of its ablest farmers, made a strongeffort to induce them to stay. General von Todtleben was sent as a specialemissary of the Czar to meet with the various congregations. He now promised theMennonites noncombatant duties in lieu of military service  and spoke atlength of the difficulties they would encounter in establishing new homes inAmerica. Through his efforts many of the more liberal Mennonites were persuadedto stay in Russia.  The Krimmer Mennonite Brethren, having disposed of theirland and being convinced that they were right in their determination to emigrate,went ahead with their plans. Elder Wiebe addressed a petition to the general inwhich he thanked His Majesty for favors that had been granted to his people inthe past and asked for permission to leave the empire. This request was readilygranted by General von Todtleben.
Passports were applied for, as Elder Wiebe latersaid, "because we wanted to emigrate from Russia as honest people."  Recordsdo not show that this particular group had any difficulty in obtaining themalthough some of the Mennonites had to wait many tedious months and pay heavilyin fees and gratuities to unscrupulous government officials.
The Inman Steamship Line on which the Annefeldcongregation had chosen to travel allowed only twenty cubic feet of baggage freefor each adult ticket from Hamburg to New York.  Some families
could afford to pay excess baggage, but many could not; in fact some had toborrow passage money. In addition to personal effects it was thought necessary tobring furniture, tools, agricultural implements and grains and seeds forplanting. Since space was so limited careful selection and packing was necessary.Nearly every family planned to bring several varieties of fruit, sunflower seeds,watermelon seeds and a peck or two of wheat, oats or other grain. Thus they wouldbe able to grow some of the crops in America to which they were accustomed inRussia.
Elder Wiebe and his congregation left Annefeldon May 30, 1874. They traveled the usual emigrant route by way of Odessa, Lembergand Breslau to Hamburg. Here they embarked for America on the Inman linesteamship City of Brooklyn. They stopped en route at Liverpool and sailed fromthere on July 2. After a stormy crossing they reached New York on July 15. Herethey were met by Bernard Warkentin, representative of the newly organizedMennonite Board of Guardians.  He directed them to Elkhart, Ind., where JohnF. Funk gave them further assistance. Arriving in Elkhart on Saturday afternoon,part of the group were quartered in an empty building which Elder Funk hadprovided and the rest were allowed to stay in the Mennonite church.
On Sunday afternoon Elder Wiebe preached, byinvitation, to a large audience. Members of the Elkhart church generously donatedfood and other necessities for the poorer families among the Krimmer MennoniteBrethren and work was found for some of the men. As soon as his people weresettled, Elder Wiebe, accompanied by Franz Janzen, started west to look for aplace of settlement. They traveled over much of Nebraska and then came down intoKansas. Here C. B. Schmidt showed them all the available land the Santa Fe had tooffer as far west as Great Bend. Much of the land they looked at in both Nebraskaand Kansas was satisfactory and a decision was difficult to make. According toElder Wiebe, "In Nebraska we were afraid of the deep wells which had to bedrilled and cost much money, our people did not have much money
The well was located southeast of Gnadenau schoolhouse, District 11. Note the style of dress of the early settlers. (This and succeeding cuts courtesy of The Mennonite Brothers Publishing House of Hillsboro.)
and were used to dug wells, so we decided for Kansas where we found the wellsshallow." 
One hot day in August the three men were eatingtheir dinner on the banks of the south branch of the Cottonwood river in Risleytownship, Marion county. After they had eaten Schmidt said that while he hopedthey would decide to settle on Santa Fe land in Kansas he had no more land toshow them. He believed he had done his part. Because the land suited them as wellas any other or perhaps because they were influenced by the presence of otherMennonite settlers in Marion county,  a decision was soon reached by ElderWiebe and Mr. Janzen. They contracted for twelve sections in the northeast cornerof Risley township. The land, of course, lay in alternate sections and was not inone large tract.
The site chosen was eight miles west of MarionCentre  and about fourteen miles northwest of Peabody, the nearest point onthe main line of the Santa Fe. The population of Marion county at that time wasbetween four and five thousand people with the greater part living in the easternhalf. The three towns, Peabody, Florence and Marion Centre, had a combinedpopulation of eleven hundred. The western half was very sparsely settled, theonly settlement of any size being centered around Durham Park, the shorthornranch of Albert Crane. 
Mr. Schmidt offered to go to Elkhart to arrangefor the transportation of the colony to Kansas while the two Krimmer Brethrenstayed in Peabody to prepare for their arrival. Elder Wiebe rented an empty storebuilding to house the party when they came. For himself he bought a stove, atable, two horses and a wagon. During the long days of waiting he began to feelthe weight of his responsibility. His people were poor and it would be a yearbefore they could expect any return from the soil, provisions would have to bebought and houses built before winter, which would soon be upon them. The summerof 1874 had been dry and hot. On August 6 the grasshoppers had swept throughMarion county destroying crops
and stripping trees and shrubs of their leaves.  It was not strange thatthe elder doubted whether they would be able to make a living in such a place.The colony arrived in Peabody late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, August16. Jacob G. Barkman.  then a lad of five, writes that "Everybody sleptbecause of the long and tiresome journey, . . . except my mother, who wastroubled with her little boy, that called for an early breakfast." She saw thedoor of the car open and Elder Wiebe came in. His call "all asleep" aroused everyone.
As nearly as can be determined the colonistsleft Peabody on the day of their arrival.  John Fast, Jr., who had come tothe county the year before, sent a team and wagon, and William Ewert, Mrs. PeterFunk, John Ratzloff and possibly others sent teams. Elder Wiebe loaded somelumber and household goods into his own wagon, and with his family, on top of theload, led the way to the site he had chosen for the settlement.
The country northwest of Peabody is a rollingprairie. At that time it was covered with grass three feet high. There were noroads, no trees except a fringe along the creek banks, and no sign of habitationexcept an occasional settler's shanty. Many of these were deserted because of thedrought and grasshopper invasion of the preceding weeks. The hot, dry windssweeping over the prairies and the parched grass made the countryside seem evenmore desolate and uninviting than it would have been in a normal season. Mrs.Wiebe burst into tears when she saw where they were to live. Probably herdiscouragement was shared by many other mothers in the colony that first day.
Elder Wiebe and his family lived for a few daysat the home of John Risley,  who had settled in the township in 1870. Mrs.Funk cleared her large barn and fourteen families found shelter there. On
Sunday night a long table the length of the barn was laid and the entirecongregation sat down to their first love-feast in America. Some of the menturned their wagon boxes upside down and slept under them until they could gettheir houses built. They built lightboard shanties at first and dug wells. Before they were settled oneof their number, Mrs. Abraham Cornelson, died. This was the first death in thecolony in Kansas.
Accustomed to village communities in Russia, theKrimmer Mennonite Brethren planned the same type of settlement in America. Thevillage was named Gnadenau meaning Meadow of Grace.  It was destinedto become the most perfect of the few communal villages organized by theMennonites in Kansas. Even here the system lasted only two or three years.Conditions in America differed very greatly from conditions in Russia and manyfactors entered into the breakdown of the closed community. 
The village proper of Gnadenau occupied section11. A street was cut through the center of the section from east to west. To-daythis street is a public thoroughfare, one of the few roads in Marion countylocated midway between section lines. Each half of the section was divided intotwenty strips of equal width and a littleless than half of a mile in length. The dwellings were to be built on either sideof the street, although in reality very few buildings wereever erected on the south side. Noble L. Prentis in describing a trip to Gnadenauin August, 1875, remarked that, "The houses of Gnadenau present every variety ofarchitecture, but each house is determined on one thing, to keep on the northside of the one street of the town and face to the south."  E. W. Hoch,proprietor of the Marion County Record, visited the village a year laterand made this observation: "It is all or most all of it on one side of thestreet." 
At first it was planned that the villagers wouldfarm only five sections, section 11 and the sections adjoining it at the fourcorners, namely: sections 1, 3, 13 and 15. Land lying at a greater distance
from the townsite was to be used for grazing atfirst and later for farming. The strips in the village proper were numbered fromone to ten thus making four sets of numbering in the square mile. The four stripsin the center of the mile were to be reserved for community buildings, church,school, etc. The four outlying sections were divided into twenty strips of equalwidth and one mile in length and numbered in the same way that the strips in thevillage were numbered. The residents of each quarter of the townsite farmed inthe section nearest their homes, each being responsible for the farming of theland in the strips bearing the same number as that on which he lived. In this waythe distance traveled by each farmer in reaching his land was equalized. Thefarming of these narrow strips became a nuisance after the use of American farmmachinery was adopted. In Russia it was customary for those in charge of thevillage to designate the crops to be sown in each field and to plan a systematicrotation of crops. Probably this plan would also have been followed in Gnadenauhad the village system continued for a longer period of time.
Following the Russian custom the village was tobe governed by a committee of three men. They served without pay, meeting oncea week to transact the business of the village. They settled disputes betweenmembers, although in the case of an actual crime the laws of the state governed.The committee designated work to be done and planned public improvements. Anotherof its tasks was the appointing of the village herdsmen.
The Santa Fe, in advertising grant land, offeredseveral plans for payment. The most liberal terms allowed eleven years' time withspecified dates for payment on the principal and interest at seven percent.Generous discounts were given in shorter term offers and for cash purchases. Assoon as the payments were completed a warranty deed was given to the purchaser.
Elder Wiebe, in discussing the purchase of theland at Gnadenau, says:
We originally bought 12 sections of land of therailroad company in Risley township, later Liberty township, on ten years'credit; we had to pay down some, and the dear friend and general agent C. B.Schmidt, and Case and Billings,  have treated us nicely and faithfully. Wewere all poor people,
many families owed their traveling expenses. They had to go in debt for land,oxen, plow, farmer's wagon and even their sod house; they had to have provisionsfor a year; there was no chance of earning something, so they had to go in debtfor that too, so there was na other way than to borrow money, but where? We werestrangers, had no friends here, only Bernard Warkentin of Halstead knew us fromRussia, and he helped us through Elder Christian Krehbiel with a loan of athousand dollars, when those were distributed, it was said, "Brother Wiebe, wealso need oxen and a plow to break prairie." Then Cornelius Jansen, of Nebraska,the well-known Consul Jansen, loaned us one thousand dollars; when these weredistributed, it was said, "Brother Wiebe, we have to buy provisions for a year,and some lumber to build little houses," then the Elder Wilhelm Ewart loaned usone thousand dollars. Then the time of payment for the land came, so Jacob Funkloaned us one thousand dollars. 
Notwithstanding the scarcity of money during thefirst few years, the people of Gnadenau prospered. A survey of the records in theoffice of the register of deeds at Marion shows that practically all the land inthe original five sections comprising the original colony was paid for andwarranty deeds issued to the owners by 1879, only five years after settlement
Soon after their arrival the villagers beganbreaking sod in preparation for the planting of crops the next year. In the fallof 1874 they were able to rent some plowed ground from English neighbors insections 12 and 14. Farmers in the vicinity were discouraged because of thedrought and grasshopper plague of the preceding summer and a few had desertedtheir land. Not a very encouraging prospect for the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren,but they planted a little wheat and were rewarded with a good harvest in thesummer of 1875. According to some former members of the village they had broughtsome seed wheat with them.  This was apparently augmented by American grownwheat because Elder Wiebe speaks of having paid 70 cents a bushel for it.
Two crops grown in abundance by the farmers ofGnadenau were not common on the American farm. They were Russian sunflowers, theseeds of which were used for food, and watermelons, another favorite item intheir diet. Noble L. Prentis wrote, after a visit to Gnadenau in 1875: "Of coursewe visited the watermelon fields,
which, in the aggregate, seemed about a quarter section. Mr. Wiebe insisted ondonating a hundred pounds or so of the fruit, fearing we might get hungry on theroad."  Other visitors have commented on the immensity of the watermelonpatches and the remarkable success of the Mennonites in raising melons.
Early Gnadenau presented an unusual appearanceto the non-Mennonite residents of the county. W. J. Groat visited the village onJanuary 7, 1875, just five months after its settlement. From him we get our firstdescription of the place:
Approaching it from the east you ascend a gentle raise of table-land of one-halfmile, and at the summit of this gentle slope is where this peculiar people havebuilt their strange village. At a distance, to a casual observer, it has theappearance of a group of hay-ricks, but on drawing nearer you will perceive humanbeings passing in and out. Driving past the school house-which is the firstbuilding in town, and is a snug frame house, neatly painted; and we understandboth the English and German dialects are taught within its walls-we pulled up atwhat we would call an adobe hut, or wigwam; being constructed of prairie sod, cutin brick form and dried in the sun. The majority of these "fix-ups" have no sidewalls whatsoever, the roof starting from the ground, and only the gables are laidup with these brick. The roof is simply composed of poles thatched, or shingled,with prairie grass; with an adobe chimney, projecting twelve or sixteen inchesonly above this dry hay. We were not in the fire insurance business or we wouldnot have halted. We were met at the door and invited in, and following, we werein the rear, and closing the door behind us, which darkened the room, we startedin their wake; but what was our astonishment to find ourself plank upon the heelsof a horse, but we were soon relieved by our hostess throwing open another dooron the opposite side of the stable (for such it proved to be) revealing a smallpassage between a horse and a cow leading into the presence of the family; eachone coming forward and saying "welcome," at the same time giving us a heartyshake of the hand. From the appearance of these buildings on the exterior, and insome instances having to pass through a stable to get in, we were not a littlesurprised at the neat appearance of the interior. Instead of a stove they have alarge brick furnace, which will, they assured us, keep the room comfortable for awhole day with only one heating. The furniture consists principally of bedding,of which they seem to have an abundant supply, and of the warmest material.Nearly every family has an old fashioned German time-piece, reaching from theceiling to the floor, the weights and pendulum of polished brass, and apparentlyheavy enough to run a small engine; but we noticed they all kept the same time.They have as yet but little use for the improved chair system, as they use theirtrunks and chests for that purpose. Still it will be remembered that these peoplehave all moved in in the last six months, and a few have neat frame houses. . .
from Russia. During the first few years it was supplemented by other piecesmade by the villagers themselves and still later by furniture purchased in thestores. The beds they brought with them are of special interest. They weredivided lengthwise, and during the daytime could be pushed together somewhat likea modern-day studio couch. This not only conserved space but with the coverspiled on top made a very good seat. Several pieces of the furniture brought toAmerica by members of the Gnadenau community are on display in the Tabor CollegeMuseum at Hillsboro. Many of the tools and some of the house furnishings in themuseum were made by Jacob Friesen, Sr., who must have been a very fine carpenterand machinist.
The ovens or stoves mentioned by Mr. Groatcreated considerable interest among the Americans living nearby. Within a fewyears one of their neighbors had installed one in his home and others planned todo so.  An early visitor to Gnadenau aptly describes the stoves.
The perhaps greatest curiosity about theirhouses, is their oven fire-places, and with one of which the whole house is wellheated and the cooking done for twenty-four hours, the coldest seasons of theyear, and all from the burning of four good-sized arm-fulls of straw. The oven(will call it such) is built of the brick of their own make, and is generally 7feet high, 7 feet long, and about two feet wide, and situated about equally ineach of the three lower rooms. The door of the oven is in the kitchen, as is alsoa door through which to allow the smoke to escape in the chimney, both of whichare opened and closed at will; otherwise the oven is perfectly air tight. Theblaze from the straw passes from the front to the rear and then back again to thefront of the oven, the smoke passing out through another smaller door near thetop of the oven and into the chimney. In its circuit through the oven the blazepasses around a couple of smaller ones conveniently opened into from the sittingrooms, constructed of iron, inside of the large oven. They also have doors tothem, and in these each family can do nearly all their cooking, as they are eachlarge enough to hold half a dozen good-sized vessels. Their bread is generallybaked in large bread pans placed upon iron stools in the front of the large ovenafter the fire has gone out, something after the manner of our bakers. Thechimney is good-sized and located just in front of the large oven, and goesstraight through the top of the house. In some of the chimneys places are fixedto hang meat upon to be smoked. Besides the ovens there are small fire-placesbuilt on each side of a passageway which leads to the door of the oven, and areprovided with places for cooking and are intended to be used only in warmweather, or when the rooms are too warm to admit of the oven being reheated. Thesmoke from these passes up the same chimney. The large oven is heated up twice aday during cold weather, with about two arm-fulls of straw each time, or aproportional amount of dry manure, or such other fuel as they may choose to use,excepting coal, which cannot be used in them. In a country like
this, where fuel is so scarce and expensive, and straw and its likes soplenty, we can but look upon these ovens as among the grandest things in use forthis country, and might with a sense of economy, neatness and practicability beadapted into every house where it is possible to do so. By so doing, it wouldsave the expense of stoves and of fuel, . . . and at the same time put to gooduse all the straw and other refuse about the premises. 
One of the first frame houses in Gnadenau wasthe residence of Elder Jacob A. Wiebe. This house at the east end of the villagestreet was painted red with board window shutters painted green. A contemporaryaccount says: "Mr. Wiebe has built a house more nearly on the Russian model. Hetook us over the structure, a maze of small rooms and passages, the stable beingunder the same roof with the people, and the granaries over all, the great wheatstacks being located at the back door." 
The houses were set back from the street toallow for the planting of trees and flower beds. E. W. Hoch, during his visit toGnadenau in 1876, was particularly impressed with the beauty of the yards. Hewrote: "Their yards are immense bouquets. Every other town in the county mightwell imitate Gnadenau in this matter." 
Rows of fruit trees were planted near the housesand shade trees lined the village street. Noble L. Prentis, when he visited theMennonite settlements a second time in 1882, was amazed at the number of trees hesaw. In describing the three villages of New Alexanderwohl, Hoffnungsthal andGnadenau, he wrote:
The most surprising thing about these places is the growth of the trees. I leftbare prairie; I returned to find a score of miniature forests in sight from anypoint of view. The wheat and corn fields were unfenced, of course, but severalacres around every house were set in hedges, orchards, lanes, and alleys oftrees; trees in lines, trees in groups, and trees all alone. In many cases thehouses were hardly visible from the road, and in a few years will be entirelyhidden in the cool shade. Where the houses were only a few hundred yards apart,as was frequently the case, a path ran from one to the other between two lines ofpoplars or cottonwoods. . . 
before the arrival of the Mennonites. He ran this advertisement in theMarion County Record dated August 15, 1874, though the paper probably wasactually published two or three days later:
About thirty families of Russians have justarrived in Marion County and are settling six miles west of Marion Centre. Theywant to buy thirty or forty span of work horses, milch cows, poultry, andeverything necessary for the opening up of their farms and to live on, for whichthey will pay cash.
A month later the Record reported that, "One ofthe liveliest business men in town is our German friend, Mr. J. C. Mehl. He isdoing a good work for Marion Centre, as well as himself, by attracting andretaining, by fair and honorable dealing, the trade of our newly acquired Russiancitizens."  Sometimes the Mennonites were not dealt with "fair and honorably"during the first months before they had some knowledge of English and the valueof American money.
As in the case of the other inland towns of thecounty, a store was soon opened at Gnadenau. The first store building stood onthe south side of the street and later was moved to the north side. Thestorekeeper was forbidden, by the rules of the village, to sell eitherintoxicating drinks or tobacco. The first storekeeper was a Russian named EdwardDolgorouki.  Little is known of him except that after a short time, possiblyonly a few months, he was arrested for larceny and taken to the county seat fortrial. There is no record of another storekeeper for several years.
On August 10, 1877, the Risley reporter for theMarion County Record wrote: "Our Gnadenau friends want some one to open ageneral grocery store there." It was not until March of the following year thatthey were successful. The building was not in the village but was located about aquarter of a mile south of the east end of the village street in section 12. Theowner was Thomas Holcomb. In less than a month he had taken a partner, ayoung
man from Illinois whose name is unknown. On March 22, several weeks after theopening of the store, Mr. Holcomb reported a brisk business and said that he wasreceiving from one to two hundred eggs a week. Evidently Mr. Holcomb sold quite avariety of merchandise because the Risley correspondent for the PeabodyGazette sent in this news item in August: "T. J. Holcomb has an agency forsomebody's wheat drills, at Gnadenau. Tom's store seems to be a success."
In spite of his apparent success Mr. Holcomb didnot stay in business in Gnadenau very long. In June, 1879, a heavy wind blew thebuilding down and damaged about $200 worth of merchandise.  During August hemoved his family and what was left of his stock of goods to the new town ofHillsboro. 
There was some talk in March, 1875, of buildinga water grist mill on the south branch of the Cottonwood in section 13 but theplan did not materialize.  During the latter part of 1876, however, a gristmilloperated by a large Dutch windmill was erected just west of the village. InMarch, 1877, we find that: "The grist mill at Gnadenau is running night and daywhen there is wind. They grind corn, rye, barley and wheat, but do not bolt any." We have no record of the length of time this mill was in operationbut the building itself stood until about twenty-five years ago. In the lateryears it was used as a granary. The mill was built and operated by Jacob Friesen,Sr., and his son, Jacob J. Friesen. Later Jacob J. Friesen moved to Hillsboro andbecame a grain and coal dealer. He died there April 13, 1940, at the age ofeighty-seven.
Several sorghum mills were located nearGnadenau. As early as September 20, 1878, one was operated by C. A. Flippin and aMr. Hine of Gnadenau. Sorghum mills did a good business among Mennonites becausesorghum molasses was one of the staple articles of their diet. A former residentof the village states that some of the families used as much as a hundred gallonsa year.  Considering the fact that there were ten and twelve and even morechildren to feed in many families this does not seem exaggerated.
There were two blacksmith shops in Gnadenauduring the early years. One was located at the west end of the street and theother at the east near the Holcomb store. Two of the blacksmiths were FranzJanzen and Gerhard Cornelson. The Cornelson shop was moved to Hillsboro in1881.
In addition to these established businesses ator near Gnadenau, many services were performed by various individuals in thevillage. J. J. Friesen is listed in the 1875 census as a machinist. In the samecensus we find: John Keck, carpenter; Aaron Shellenberg, shoemaker; Jacob Harms,painter. Evidently Jacob Harms was somewhat more than an ordinary painter becausein June, 1877, he did some fancy counter-painting in the Wand Drug Store atMarion Centre. The editor of the Marion County Record speaks of him asbeing "a truly artistic painter" and says, "We have seen floral paintings by him,which looked so natural that we could scarcely refrain from attempting to pluckthe flowery beauties."  The names of Jacob Harms and John Keck appear in abusiness directory for 1878 as well as the following: Buller, Rev. Jacob(Mennonite) ; Bushman, G., tailor; Bushman, Henry, carpenter; Fast, John,grocery; Flaming, A., schoolteacher; Harder, Rev. John (Baptist) ; Schenkofsky,C., blacksmith; Wedel, Rev. C. (Mennonite) ; Wiebe, Rev. Jacob (Baptist).
Gnadenau never had a post office but there wasone in nearby Risley and John Fast, of the village, was the postmaster at leasttwo different periods of time. After the founding of Gnadenau, Risley lost itsidentity as a town, if indeed it was ever more than a postal station. The twonames were used interchangeably while Gnadenau was still in Risley township.After the township was divided the original settlement of Risley was in Libertytownship  and the whole community became known as Gnadenau.
The Marion & McPherson branch of the Santa Ferailroad was built along the north edge of the settlement in 1879 and Hillsboro was established two miles west of Gnadenau. Gradually the need for businesshouses and tradesmen diminished and Hillsboro became their trading center. Thecoming of the railroad was received with no little opposition in Gnadenau. Thechief factor in this opposition was the anticipated rise in taxes but there wasalso a strong feeling
that the new railroad would bring new non-German settlers whose presence wouldendanger the entity of the Mennonite community. At an election in Risley townshipon December 16, 1878, the. railroad bonds carried by a vote of 77 to 43. It wascharged that the Marion Centre political ring had invaded the township onelection day, and by fair means and foul had exerted pressure to influence thevote. There was a feeling in Peabody that the "poor foreigners" in. Risleytownship had been tricked. On the other hand the people in Marion believed orpretended to believe that the Peabody politicians had worked against the bondsbecause they feared loss of trade to the towns located along the route of theproposed railroad. For several weeks the controversy occupied considerable spacein the columns of the local newspapers. Just how large a part the Mennonites atGnadenau took in the election is not known. Probably little, since it was stillvery much against their belief to take part in elections although they must havebeen vitally interested in the outcome. 
Because of their unusual habits of living anddress, the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren were a source of curiosity to the Americansettlers of the county. This was true throughout the state wherever there wereMennonite settlements, but probably to a greater extent in Gnadenau because ofthe reluctance of the people there to adopt American institutions. The men andboys dressed much alike and the little girls, in their long full skirts and whiteaprons, looked like miniatures of their mothers. Clothing could be, and usuallywas, made of the finest materials but no lace or other ornamentation was allowed.Mr. Hoch, in his visit to Gnadenau in 1876, observed that the favorite color wasblue. "Probably," he said, "because the color yields less readily than any otherto the bleaching rays of the sun. We noticed several strangely constructed dyehouses, made from bottom to top of adobe, at which operatives were engagedcoloringgarments."  Another author has suggested that they chose blue because thatseemed a more modest color than any other. For many years the women were notallowed to wear hats to church but tied a kerchief or shawl over their heads or,perhaps, wore a bonnet. The women inevitably wore white aprons to church. New andshiny vehicles were looked upon as a vanity and there were cases in which68. Very few of these people had declared their intention of becoming citizensand so could not have voted at this time. A survey of the naturalization recordsin the office of clerk of the court at Marion shows that less than a dozen menfrom the Gnadenau community had begun naturalization proceedings before thisdate. Strangely enough the papers of four more are dated December 10, 1878, thedate of the railroad bond election. Older people among the Mennonites were loathto become citizens because they felt that they would then be obligated to theduties of voting, serving on juries, etc., against the belief of the church.
the owner of a new buggy or carriage daubed cheap paint over its bright,glossy surface to show his humility. While the village system functioned it wascomparatively easy to safeguard the old established habits and customs. After ithad failed, the church for many years sought to prevent the adoption ofinnovations in dress and manners. At one time or another the church fathersbanned the wearing of ties, detachable collars, hats with trimming on them andother "Americanisms." Gradually the church became more liberal in its attitudeand since 1900 the people of Gnadenau have dressed much like the other residentsof the county.
Only necessary work was done on Sunday. In factreligious services left no time for labor. Church began at ten o'clock in themorning and lasted several hours. A second church service was held in theevening. Sunday school, to keep the young people occupied and out of temptation'sway, took up most of Sunday afternoon. Carefully chaperoned hymn practices wereheld in the evenings during the week and revivals were frequent. These usuallybegan as a series of Bible meetings where different phases of religious life werediscussed. Even when these meetings assumedthe proportions of a revival there was little preaching. Singing and praying andthe giving of testimonials usually resulted in the conversion of a number of young people. After the revival these converts werebaptised in the south branch of the Cottonwood, conveniently located a shortdistance south of the village. The Krimmer Mennonite Brethren differed from otherbranches of the Mennonite church who practiced immersion in their form ofbaptism. Instead of laying the person back into the water the Krimmer Brethrenhad the applicant kneel and he was dipped into the water face forward. Insistenceupon this procedure was one of the factors which kept other Mennonites fromuniting with the Gnadenau church. 
The first church building was erected in thefall of 1874 on the south side of the street near the center of the village. Itwas made of adobe with thatched roof similar to the first houses. The cemeterywas in the rear of the church. The walls of this first church soon crumbled and aframe building was constructed across the street. This is probably the buildingreferred to in an item in the Marion County Record for March 2, 1877,"Quite a large though plain church house has been erected in Gnadenau." Recordsshow
that a certificate of incorporation of the Gnadenau Mennonite church ofGnadenau, Marion county, was filed with the secretary of state February 5, 1877.The trustees named in this certificate were: Jacob Wiebe, Johann Harder, JohnGoossen, Peter Barkman, Aaron Shellenberg, Franz Groening and Gerhard Buschman. On March 30, 1899, some of the provisions of the charter were altered andthe name of the church was changed to The Gnadenau Crimean Mennonite BrethrenChurch. This document was signed by: Heinrich Wiebe, John Berg, John A. Flaming,Peter M. Barkman, Deitrich Wiebe, Abram Groening, John Peters and John J.Friesen.  There is no record that the name was ever changed from Crimean toKrimmer but it is doubtful whether Crimean was ever used very much. KrimmerMennonite Brethren is the name most commonly used and the one preferred by themembers of the church at Gnadenau.
By 1895 many of the members of the church hadsettled on farms west and south of the village and the church was no longerconveniently located. The old building was torn down and a new one erected twoand one-half miles south of Hillsboro on highway 15. This is the location of thepresent church. Many members of the original colony are buried in the cemeteryadjacent to the church. In a plot on the side nearest the church are the gravesof Elder Jacob A. Wiebe  and his wife, Elizabeth Friesen Wiebe.
For many years the ministers of the Gnadenauchurch served without pay, but I believe this is no longer true. Jacob A. Wiebewas pastor of the church from 1869 to 1900. He was succeeded by his brother,Henry Wiebe, who served from 1900 to 1910, and by John J. Friesen, 1910 to 1937.In 1937 the present pastor, the Reverend Frank V. Wiebe, assumed the charge.There have been periods when the Gnadenau church has lost heavily in membership.One of these periods followed the resignation of Jacob A. Wiebe in 1900. Some ofthe members married outside the church, and for that reason or for other reasonsjoined Mennonite or Mennonite Brethren churches nearby. Some members moved awayfrom the neighborhood, and of necessity joined other congregations. At times theyounger people in particular have felt that the Gnadenau church
was too conservative and have rebelled at the restrictions put upon the churchmembers.
Always deeply religious in nature and strict inchurch and personal conduct, the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren have accepted changesless rapidly, and on the whole have been less liberal than the other branches ofthe Mennonite church  in America. For many years the church officials atGnadenau sought to maintain the beliefs and practices of the congregation as itwas organized in 1869. They sought, also, to regulate the daily conduct of themembers. Sermons had to be delivered in German, although today some are inEnglish. As one of the members expresses it, "For many years our people had theidea, if we should lose our language we would lose our religion. But this haschanged in the last 20 years. If the language must go, then the religion can beswitched over into English. . . . Now, a minister that cannot preach in Englishis out of date." Until a comparatively recent date musical instruments were forbidden in thechurch. The hymns used in the service were very simple and part singing was notapproved. There were many special religious gatherings, but except for thesesocial life was practically non-existent. Various taboos in dress have alreadybeen mentioned. In addition many other things, including bicycle riding,purchasing of life and property insurance, excessive buying of land, voting atelections other than school elections, serving on juries, having photographstaken, have at some time fallen under the ban of the church. In the early days anoccasional member was excommunicated if he persisted in ignoring the regulationsbut he usually repented and came back in a short time.
A charter was filed with the secretary of stateJuly 12, 1917, incorporating the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren Church of NorthAmerica at Hillsboro. The certificate of incorporation was signed by John Esauand Cornelius Thiessen of Inman, Peter A. Wiebe of Lehigh, and John J. Friesenand David E. Harder of Hillsboro.  The last named men were at one timemembersof the congregation at Gnadenau. The church is one of the smaller branches ofthe
Mennonite church, numbering about sixteen hundred members in the UnitedStates. At present there are only three congregations in Kansas. They are theGnadenau church at Hillsboro, the Springfield church at Lehigh and the Zoarchurch at Inman. Churches have been started in Butler county and at Lyons in Ricecounty but they did not exist very long 
Evangelistic work has been stressed by thechurch and missions have been established by the Krimmer Mennonite Brethrenconference. Since 1898 they have supported a mission among the colored people atElk Park, N. C.
On September 15, 1890, the Krimmer Brethren weregranted a charter for The Industrial School and Hygienic Home for FriendlessPersons. Its purpose was "to maintain and educate friendless persons, to provideand maintain a home for such persons, and to provide homes in Christian familiesfor homeless and friendless children."  This home, organized largely throughthe efforts of the congregation at Gnadenau, was to be located just north of thesite of the old village. The first officers were: Elder Jacob A. Wiebe,president; the Reverend Abraham Harms, vice-president; the Reverend J. A.Flaming, secretary, and John Regehr, treasurer. Mrs. Amanda Dohner was chosenmatron. The building committee, consisting of Frank Groening, Peter Barkman, JohnGoossen, John J. Friesen, Jacob Prieb and Tobias Martin, was appointed at aconference at Inman on October 23, 1893. Its members supervised the building of afour-story stone structure, erected cornerwise with the world so that sunshinewould reach all the rooms at least part of the day.
The orphanage operated, not too successfully,for about twenty years. It was then converted into the Salem Home for the Agedand Helpless. The third floor was equipped as a hospital. In a short time thehospital space proved inadequate, and in 1918 the Krimmer Mennonite Brethrenunited with the Mennonite Brethren to establish the Salem Hospital in Hillsboro.The Salem home has been very successful in its operation. The building wasdestroyed by lightning April 29, 1944, but plans are under way for the erectionof a new one.
School District No. 11 in which Gnadenau waslocated was a very large district organized in 1871. It was referred to at thattime as the Risley school. The village children did not attend the public school,however, for at least two years. Having been accustomed
to their own church schools in Russia, they built a schoolhouse in the villagein the fall of 1874. After about 1876 the pupils attended the public school whenit was in session and attended thechurch school a different period of time. At first the usual division was fourmonths in the public school and three months at Gnadenau. As time went on theterm in the public school tended to become longer.
The first German schoolhouse in Gnadenau wasmade of sod and a few boards and thatched with long grass. It was located nearthe center of the village on the south side of the street. This building servedas a meetinghouse as well as a schoolhouse. After a short time the walls crumbledand school was moved to the home of the teacher, the Reverend Johann Harder. One or two rooms in his house were used exclusively by the family and at nightthe Harder children slept in the schoolroom. The desks were pushed aside and thebenches pushed together to serve as beds.
According to Mr. Harder, the Mennonites wishedto establish their own schools "for the purpose of teaching the children the mostessential things in life."  Very essential things at that time, according totheir belief, were a thorough acquaintance with the Bible and a knowledge of theGerman language.
There were no graded classes, but a division ofthe pupils was made into the A. B. C. or chart class and advanced students. Thechart class was "heard" by some of the older pupils. There were few books exceptthe Bible, which was used as a textbook in reading and in Bible history.
H. P. Peters, in his book, History andDevelopment of Education Among the Mennonites in Kansas, gives the followingcurriculum as observed by Mr. Harder:
The first hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday,Bible history. Second hour: Reading, two classes, one in the Old Testament andone in the New Testament. One "Buchstabier" or A. B. C. class. Third hour:Penmanship, advanced classes. The A. B. C. class was heard by one of the advancedpupils during this hour.
The first hour in the afternoon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays he hadarithmetic, both mental (Kopfrechnen) and written (Tafelrechnen). Afterarithmetic there was another hour in reading. The third hour there were singingexercises or geography.
During the first year or two Mr. Harder receivedno salary but made an agreement with each family having children in school tobring a load of building material, either rocks or lumber, to be used in theconstruction of a house. After he began teaching in his own home he was paid acertain amount for each pupil. The last year he taught the school was held in themeeting house and he received asalary of $30 a month. Public funds could not be used in the maintenance ofchurch schools. One writer says, however, that a Marion county superintendent ofschools once visited the German school at Gnadenau and was so impressed with Mr.Harder's conduct of the classes that she allotted him a portion of the schoolfund. Because of a complaint by other residents of the county the money was laterreturned to the county treasury. 
The second German teacher was Andreas Flaming,a resident of the community but not a member of the original colony. There was aneffort, at one time, to engage two teachers, one German and oneEnglish, for the regular district school. Mr. Flaming took the teacher'sexamination in order to qualify for the position as German teacher. As far as canbe ascertained the plan did not materialize because of the opposition of thenon-German residents of the district.
Concerning the public school which the childrenof Gnadenau began attending about 1876, David Harrison, the countysuperintendent, reported: "District No. 11 includes Gnadenau, and in number ofpupils, stands fourth in the county. Miss Thompson is teaching the school, andappears to be doing well. The school is furnished with books, and the house isneat enough, but too small for solarge a number of pupils."  This was in June of 1877. At the end
of the next winter term of school on February 15, 1878, Miss Thompson arrangedan entertainment in the form of a school exhibition. Part of the music on theprogram was furnished by a choir of German boys who sang, with fluteaccompaniment, in their native tongue. One of the audience wrote, "As a whole,the exhibition was very good, especially as some of the Germans who took part hadbeen studying our language but a short time. Despite the diabolical state of theroads, the audience, from whatever distance they came, felt well repaid for beingpresent." 
On April 1, 1878, Willie Groat commenced a termof school at Gnadenau. In August of that year he was employed to teach theGnadenau school for another term of six months and possibly three months longer.At various intervals during the winter there were "spelling matches," presumablyattended by the people of Gnadenau since the greater part of the students camefrom the village.
The first public schoolhouse in District No. 11was located in section 12 east of the village. Since the district was so large asecond schoolhouse was built, a few years later, west of town on land donated byJohn J. Friesen. For about ten years the community maintained two schoolhouses,paying the expenses out of a common treasury. Finally the two schools wereincorporated into one and a large brick schoolhouse was erected on almost thesame location as the first German school built in 1874. This is the location ofthe present Gnadenau schoolhouse.The early years at Gnadenau were filled with hardships and dangers. Prairie fireswere common. In the first fall a fire, which was reported to have swept down fromfifty miles north, threatened the village itself. Unused to such a spectacle theMennonites did not know what to do. Mr. Risley, their neighbor to the east,brought his plow and helped plow protective furrows around the entire section.Prairie fires at or near Gnadenau were frequently reported in the localnewspapers. In the Marion County Record for April 13, 1877, we find, "It[Gnadenau] comes very near being the banner town for prairie fires. One sees themday and night. One ran against John G. Hill's farm last week, destroying hishedge which was six years old, besides killing between five and six thousand finepeach trees and some shrubbery. . . ."
Grasshoppers destroyed some of the crops inJuly, 1876, and again in September, 1877, when they were so bad that the peoplewere reminded of the dreadful plague of 1874. Some years the crops suf-
fered from lack of rain. Horse thieves were frequently reported at Gnadenau aslate as 1879. The reluctance of the Mennonites to prosecute or take any part incourt proceedings may have been the reason why so many horses were stolen fromthem.
E. W. Hoch remarked once that the people ofGnadenau looked healthy and surmised that doctors dispensed few pills and powdersthere but childhood diseases struck hard in the village. One winter twenty-fourchildren died of diphtheria in Liberty township and most of them were from thefamilies of Mennonites at Gnadenau. 
Gnadenau, in its early years, was enough of anovelty on the Kansas prairies to attract a great many visitors. W. J. Groat, afrequent visitor at the village, Once wrote that the person living within thelimits of Marion county who had never visited one of the Russian towns was to becompared with people who, living in the vicinity of Niagara Falls or Kentucky'sgreat cave, would not visit them.  Several visits have already beendescribed.Another seems worthy of mention. This was the visit of a group of noted foreigncorrespondents and artists in September, 1876.  This group of men had come toAmerica to visit the Centennial exposition in Philadelphia. Desirous of seeingthe country they were taken on a tour of the Middle West as guests of the SantaFe railroad. They were in Topeka for the week-end and on Sunday, September 3,went to Florence, where they were to spend the night. On Monday the party droveout to the Russian settlement, visited Gnadenau, called on the bishop and broughtback a large number of prairie chickens. The correspondents were delighted withthe country and sent reports to their papers at regular intervals.
In 1875 C. B. Schmidt made a trip to Russia inthe interests of Kansas and the Santa Fe railroad. He carried with him hundredsof letters of introduction, many of which were written by the people of Gnadenau.Perhaps for this reason a great number of immigrants came directly to the villageand stayed until they could select permanent homes. One wonders that they couldaccommodate so many visitors. The Marion County Record reported on August4, 1876, "About three hundred persons are expected in Gnadenau this week";November 3, 1876, "One hundred and fifty or two hundred more German-Russians areexpected in Gnadenau soon"; June 22, 1877,
"Several families arrived in Gnadenau last week from Russia. More are expectedevery day." This continued until about 1880 when the Mennonite immigrationdeclined sharply.
Today Gnadenau lives only in the memory of thefew remaining members of the original settlement in 1874. The name itself hasbeen perpetuated in the Gnadenau school. There is little else to remind thecasual visitor that the public road through the center of section 11, Libertytownship, was once a village street.
1. The Mennonite population of South Russia in 1870 was approximately forty-fivethousand. Some were Germanic, Swiss or Polish in origin but many were Dutch.Driven from Holland by religious intolerance they had settled in Danish Prussiaand along the Delta of the Vistula as early as the middle of the sixteenthcentury. Here they had adopted the use of the German language and acquired aGerman culture, both of which remained virtually intact during their residence inRussia. They also prospered materially and this prosperity fostered intoleranceand jealousy among the non-Mennonite inhabitants. By the latter part of theeighteenth century the situation had become critical, and when Catherine issued ageneral invitation to the Mennonites to settle in South Russia in 1786, manyfamilies migrated. The two principal colonies were Chortitz with eighteenvillages and Molotschna with forty-six. Several independent colonies wereestablished. As the original settlements outgrew their land allotments, daughtercolonies were founded. The Crimean colony at Karassan with which this paper isconcerned was founded in 1862 by settlers from the Molotschna colony.-Smith, C.Henry, The Story of the Mennonites (Berne, Ind., Mennonite Book Concern,1941), pp. 883-403.