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The only choice left for Mennonites was acceptance of the new school laws, or to carry through their threat to emigrate.

The possibility of emigration over the issue of schools had been discussed as early as 1910, but it was only in 1919 that the Reinlaender groups in Saskatchewan and Manitoba made their decision to emigrate. The prospect of losing control over their schools and way of life was enough to convince them to risk the perils of emigration. A number of Sommerfe1der people from the R.M. of Rhineland also decided to leave, but the Bergthaler decided to accept government controlled public schools. The Bergthaler in Rhineland were the most open to change, and had by 1916 largely accommodated to Canadian society. The loss of their school privileges was a blow, but was no longer considered crucial to their way of life.

Emigration and its Impact on Rhineland

By the summer of 1919 the Reinlaender Church had dispatched six delegates to South America to look for suitable land and negotiate their rights to entry. Receiving few concessions in South America, however, they began to look in the southern United States. Receiving assurances of religious freedom and exemption from military service in a comba­ tant capacity, the Reinlaender Church formally decided to emigrate to the Mississippi. Mysterious difficulties in gaining admission to the United States to close the deal, however, convinced them that it was the will of God not to go to the States. 23

Locations in Quebec and Northern Manitoba were also consid­ ered, but were eventually abandoned in favour of Mexico. A scouting

Mennonite Emigrants leaving Altona for Mexico in the 1920's.

Credit: W. J. Kehler

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