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This type of government was basically democratic in structure, with both the Schulze and Obervorsteher being elected by the villagers. The Schulzen were in fact ordered to read an account of the village's business to the villagers at the end of the year. 13 But while democratic in structure the actual governing of the colony had its autocratic elements. The first Obervorsteher of the West Reserve, Issak Mueller, nicknamed Kaiser Mueller, was not averse to sending imperious directives to the various villages.

The use of the term Obervorsteher provides a valuable insight into the early dynamics of West Reserve government. In Russia the same office had been called Oberschulze, head mayor, but when the Men­ nonite immigrants of 1875 held their first meeting at Dufferin this title was changed to Obervorsteher.

One of the themes of this early meeting, called and led by Elder Wiebe of the Fuerstenland group, was that the use of physical force and­ worldly authority to punish crimes and acts of sin, as had been the practise in Russia, should be abolished. In Elder Wiebe's opinion the Russian practise had worked to the detriment of the authority of church and scripture. The term Oberschulze was seen as an identification with this aspect of the Russian experience, and thus ran counter to the reform movement in America as envisioned by Elder Wiebe. 14

This avoidance of physical and worldly authority led to an in­ creased use of ecclesiastical authority, reflecting the position of the church as the controlling social entity in Old Colony Mennonite society. The Reinlaender Church ministry, led by Elder Johann Wiebe, was more closely involved in colony administration than had been the case in Russia:

Since the ministry saw the migration in terms of halting the drift towards the exercise of worldly authority, it was concerned that the gains of the migration would not be lost. 15

The Reinlaender Church

Church organization among the West Reserve Mennonites took place as early as 1875 at Fort Dufferin and reaffirmed the church leaders that had come from Russia. Johann Wiebe, already an elder in the Fuerstenland Colony in Russia, assumed leadership of the new Rein­ laender Mennonite Church of Manitoba in 1875.

The direction of this new church, however, was not a continuation of, but a reaction against developments in Russia. Johann Wiebe, along with other church leaders, tried to foster a restoration of the New Testament Church: complete separation of church and state, abolition of