My grandparents, Jacob & Lena (Zimmerman) Willems, were step-brother and step-sister in a marriage my family says was arranged by the Mennonite Brethren Church. Grandma's father, Heinrich H. Zimmermann (1866-1934), was a widower with 5 children, whose wife, Maria Dyck Zimmermann (1861-1905), died soon after the family arrived in Canada (1903) from a Mennonite colony in what is now Ukraine. Grandpa's mother, Elisabeth Bolt Willems (1858-1943), was a widow with 9 children whose husband, Cornelius Willems (1885-1902), died two years after the family arrived in Saskatchewan in 1900 from Mountain Lake, Minnesota, the place where the family settled after emigrating from a Mennonite settlement in Crimea in 1875. Jacob & Lena were married in 1909. They moved to Reedley, California in 1919.

There is an even earlier couple important to this history, Gerhard Willems (1820-1900) and Katharina Rempel Willems (1823-1875), Cornelius' parents. Their story reaches back to the early years of Mennonite sesttlement in the land they knew as South Russia, a story of migration from the North Sea to the Black Sea, from Eastern Europe to North America.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Early Zimmermann Photos

Below are photos found in my father's files.  The first is of Maria Dyck Zimmermann, my great-grandmother.  The second is a school photo taken in Manitoba, Canada,  in 1904 that includes my grandmother, Helena (Lena) Zimmermann Willems.

Maria Dyck Zimmermann 1861-1905

Written on the back in my grandmother's handwriting:
     "Frank J. Berg, teacher in Windom S.D. 615 in the year 1904."
My grandmother, Lena Zimmermann, is the tall girl on the far left.