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clear. The Brandschulze inspected the yards once a month and if things were found out of order, warnings and then fines were handed out.
When a fire occurred the three adjusters along with the village Brandschulze inspected and reported to the Brandaeltester, who de cided the amount of the payment. 20 The system was simple, efficient, inexpensive and a great aid to settlers at a time when house fires were common.
The Waisenamt, another church institution, served to protect the interests of orphans and the general management of estates. The regula tions for this institution are over 20 pages long and date back to Prussia. They begin by delineating the method of caring for orphan children and end by dealing with the disposal of property. 21
The Mennonite system of property transfer from one generation to another was characterized by the principle of equal right of husband and wife in the village farm and equal inheritance among all children. In addition the family homestead was taken over by the surviving parent or by one of the grown up sons. This system of transfer was effective in preventing the disintegration of standard holdings and keeping land in the family.
The transfer of property from generation to generation, far from being a private affair, was a public concern and crucial to the survival of the village. The settlement of an estate involved all heirs, the Waisen vorsteher and village Schulze, and no settlement was valid until the church elder had signed it. 22
The Waisenamt also served as a savings bank and finance institu tion acting to stabilize Mennonite economic life by taking care of many financial problems.
The First Schools
Another church based institution was the village school, with the Reinlaender and later the Bergthaler and Sommerfelder Churches erect ing a system of private schools. Even though settlers were fighting for survival during the early years of settlement, the education of children was a high priority.
In the fall of 1876 Obervorsteher Mueller sent a directive to all villages to begin school instruction." These first private schools were often held in homes, though a school site was included in the plan of each village. By 1879 the leaders of the colony were instructing all villages to have school houses built. 24
The schools were operated by the village council along guidelines laid out by the church. Each village collected the school tax, which was