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William Hespeler - Born in 1830 in Gernsbach, Baden West Germany, and educated in Baden-Baden, Hespeler came to Canada in 1850. From 1850 to 1872 he lived in Ontario, when he was employed by the Canadian government to travel to Russia and convince the Russian Mennonites to come to Canada. From 1873 to 1882 he served as the Commis­ sionerof Immigration in Winnipeg. In 1899 he ran as a Conservative candidate in the Provincial riding of Rosenfeldt defeating longtime MLA Enoch Winkler. He held this seat until 1903 when the ridings of Rosen­ feldt and Rhineland merged. In 1903 he became the German Consul for Man­ itoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, resign­ ing from the post in 1908.

Credit: PAM

settlement in Manitoba and proceeded to Ottawa to obtain written assurances of the privileges they had been promised. 18

These privileges were similar to those granted to the Mennonites by Catherine II and included: exemption from military service, freedom of religion and education, the right to affirm rather than swear oaths, and the grant of eight townships of land for their exclusive settlement. Provisions were also included to grant more land should it be needed. Each male 21 years of age or older was given an outright grant of a quarter section with the option of purchasing the other three quarter sections at the rate of one dollar per acre. 19

Of the approximately 7,000 Mennonites that came to Manitoba in the 1870's most were of the more conservative Mennonites from the Chortitza Colony and its daughter colonies, Bergthal and Fuerstenland, and the splinter group the Kleine Gemeinde. They were particularly impressed with Canada because here they had been offered complete military exemption and block settlement, neither of which were guaran­ teed by the United States. In addition more than half of these settlers were landless and thus the prospect of a free homestead was particularly appealing."

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