Mennonite Heritage Village

Steinbach’s First Families – Johann & Maria (Neufeld) Wiebe

June 20, 2024

By Nathan Dyck

Johann and Maria Wiebe moved on to Wirtschaft 7 after their arrival in Québec aboard the Austrian atthe end of August. Johann had owned a horse-powered mill in Russia, but in Canada was known for his efficient boot-making skills and his forceful and rough demeanor in the Schulzenbot (village meetings). Maria was a well-known midwife and was respected for her aid in bringing many children into the community. Johann’s attitudes set him at odds with the Kleine Gemeinde leadership in Steinbach and he removed his farm from the village plan over these disagreements.

In 1906, after 32 years in the Steinbach area, the Wiebe family sold Wirtschaft 7 to Abram A. Reimer and moved to the Humbolt/Lanigan area of Saskatchewan. In 1909, Johann passed away and the family moved on to Oregon where they settled permanently. Of their children, two followed them to the USA at some point in their lives. Eldest Johann married Anna Harder, and they moved to Portland, Oregon where they settled with their 9 children. Daughter Anna married Isaac B. Loewen, brother to Cornelius B. Loewen, and they lived in the Steinbach area working in the lumber industry until moving to Alberta in 1901. They returned to Manitoba in 1938, and Isaac died that same year. Anna remarried Peter R. Penner, owner of the general store in Blumenort.

Maria (Wiebe) and Abraham I. Friesen, courtesy of Preservings No. 14 (June 1999), p. 83.

Daughter Maria married Abraham I. Friesen of Blumenort, brother of miller Johann I. Friesen. The ‘Wiebe Friesens’ sold machinery for the Peterson Machinery Company from Wirtschaft 7. Maria and Abraham moved several times, first to Rush Lake, Sask., then Dallas, Oregon, and finally settled in Saskatchewan in 1932. They often returned to Steinbach between their moves. One of Maria’s sons, Peter, served in World War I and was killed in action on Nov. 11, 1917, one year before the armistice, and is buried in Flanders. Their eldest son Abram walked 12 miles each way to work as a store clerk every day. He supported his wife Helena through a mysterious illness, now believed to be multiple sclerosis, and struggled to make ends meet in the great depression. He was known for his love of flying, and owned a Luscombe airplane that he flew in his retirement. Maria’s son John worked for the CPR railway, and due to a work mishap was banned from the railway. He changed his last name to Reson so that he could be rehired by a manager that supported him. He was tragically killed when he was hit by a car as a pedestrian. Maria and Abraham’s other children spent little time in Steinbach, living out their lives either in Saskatchewan or the USA.

Peter W. Friesen, Steinbach war hero, courtesy of Preservings No. 14 (June 1999), p. 84.

For more information on Maria and Abraham Friesen and their children, see: Lydia Schroeder, “Abraham I. and Maria Wiebe Friesen Family,” Preservings No. 14, June 1999, p. 83.

For details on Johann and Maria (Neufeld) Wiebe, see: Ralph Friesen, Between Earth and Sky, pp. 87-89.

Upcoming Events: 

What Happened at Fort Dufferin? Free webinar hosted by the Center for Transnational Mennonite Studies and MHV. Enjoy this lecture by Eleanore Chornoboy on the experience of the Mennonites first arrival at the immigration station on the Red River. For more information and to register, visit

Canada Day at MHV, July 1st. FREE ADMISSION sponsored by RocketRez. Enjoy interpretation, tours, children’s activities, barrel-train and wagon rides, candy booth, live entertainment and so much more, all before heading to the fireworks hosted by the City of Steinbach.

Heritage Classic Car Show, July 20th. Join us at the MHV for a day of classic cars on our village street. Regular admission rates apply. Join us for a pre-show breakfast at the Livery Barn Restaurant at 8:30am. For more details or to register a vehicle, visit:

Mennonite Village Photography Exhibit, open now till summer 2024. See a beautiful collection of never-before-seen photographs left behind by four Manitoba Mennonite photographers who lived and worked in the early twentieth century. The images are from glass and film negatives from 1890 to 1940. After being scanned and given a new life in print, the photos provide a clear view into Mennonite life and early settlement in Manitoba.