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Reinlaender church unity. The M.E.I., however, had disastrous effects on Bergthaler church unity.
Originally the impetus for educational reform had come from the ministers within the Bergthaler Church, but Bergthaler leaders could not agree on the establishment of a teacher training school. This dis agreement along with the lack of support from the general membership of the Church necessitated the formation of a separate school society. This society, based in Gretna and supported by many of Gretna's Mennonite merchants, was vigorously supported by Bishop Johann Funk of the Bergthaler Church, but opposed by most of the other ministers and the majority of the general membership of the Bergthaler Church.
Opposition intensifed when H. H. Ewert was chosen to head the school in 1891. Ewert was not only considered too advanced in matters of education, but was distrusted because he was also in the employ of the Department of Education as Inspector of Mennonite Schools. This was considered too much of a compromise of the Mennonite principle of church control over education. 69 Bishop Funk was asked to sever his ties with the new school in 1892 and when he refused a serious rift de veloped within the Church.
The final cleavage came after a series of brotherhood meetings failed to solve the dispute and five ministers and most of the con gregation left the church. Eventually, 415 families out of a total of 476 families that belonged to the Bergthaler Church left to form the Som merfelder Church. 70 In fact, no name change occurred immediately as both groups still considered themselves Bergthaler. The break away group was served by Bishop David Stoesz of the East Reserve until Abraham Doerksen was elected Bishop of the new church. Because Doerksen resided in the village of Sommerfeld, this group eventually became known as the Sommerfelder Church.
Emigration to the Northwest
Church and school problems were not the only crises of the period.
The very prosperity and agricultural expansion of the 1880's and 1890's had by the tum of the century, created a social and economic problem. By 1900 not only was the R.M. of Rhineland the most populous rural municipality in the province, but most of the arable land had been taker. up. Sons and daughters of poorer farmers no longer had the opportunity to acquire land and start farming in the area and thus began to move out of the municipality and district. Families that did not want to separate, decided instead to migrate to the Northwest and homestead there. This