From the 1835 Molotschna census, I learned that my 3-greats-grandfather, Gerhard Abraham Fast (b. ABT 1787), lived at Ohrloff #25 in the Molotschna Colony in South Russia from 1817 to 1819 before he got a farm in Lichtfelde. There was a whole list of men who lived at that farm for a few years, so I didn't pay much attention to it. I didn't even bother looking at the previous page in the census to see how long the list of temporary residents was.
Here is the snippet of the census for Gerhard Abraham Fast:
|Charcoal drawing of Cornies by Tobias Voth.|
Ohrloff #25. That seemed like a familiar number, so I looked through my database and quickly realized that my 3-greats-grandfather had lived there. When I looked at the 1835 census records again, I saw that Johann Cornies had owned the farm.
Here is a snippet from the census showing that Johann Johann Cornies was the owner of #25:
In fact, there were nine families or single men listed who had lived at #25 from 1816, when the last census had been taken, until 1835, and then moved on. Presumably these nine were young men who worked for Cornies in his many enterprises and then moved on. Cornies was concerned that young men should get a farm or learn a trade so that they could support themselves. My 3-greats-grandfather was about 30 years old in 1817 when he had just arrived in Molotschna with his wife and two small children. And Cornies organized the village of Lichtfelde, to which Gerhard Abraham Fast moved in 1819, as one of the original settlers, and picked the name for it. So he must have been influential his Gerhard's life.
But I have many questions about this -
How did Cornies and my ancestor get connected? Did they know each other from Prussia? Or did they have common friends or relatives? They did not attend the same church back in Prussia - Cornies went to Bärwalde while Gerhard when to Tiegenhagen. I haven't been able to find a connection, but that doesn't mean that there wasn't one.
How did it affect my 3-greats-grandfather to work closely with Cornies? Cornies was the type of person you either loved or hated - there was no middle ground. Did the two years on the Cornies farm turn Gerhard into an entrepreneur? Or was two years all he could take and moved away? Did Cornies' interest in German Pietism influence Gerhard's family and have something to do with several of them joining the Alexanderwohl church later? Did my 3-greats-grandfather tell stories about Cornies the rest of his life? Again, I have no answers, except that relations between the two men must have been sufficiently good that Gerhard took a farm in the new Lichtfelde village that Cornies was organizing.
There are lots of questions and not many answers. But there is a picture of the Ohrloff #25 farm (many years later of course) where my 3-greats-grandparents lived for a couple of years when they first arrived in Russia:
|Formerly Johann Cornies' farm in Ohrloff, Molotschna colony. Originally from P. M. Friesen's history of Mennonites in Russia.|