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History, stories and reports about visits
The Dirks' trek, 1550-1983
The Dirks' first family reunion of the descendants of Benjamin H. Dirks and Helena Dirks (nee Unruh) was held in Waldheim, Sask., July 2 and 3, 1983.
Robert G. Dirks, Aldergroove, B.C., gave the Saturday evening talk on the forefathers, who left Friesland, and the province of Groniegen, Holland, during the mass- persecutions known as the "Middle Dark", and the "Spanish Inquisition", or the "Reformation Period".
The ancestors following the beliefs and teachings of Menno Simon, became known as the Anabaptists and started the long trek from Holland over the Vistula River region and settled in the region known as ,,Schwetz".
In this region they enjoyed 210 years of relatively free religions practices, languages and school teachings. In the late 1700's once again conditions became untolerable for the ancestors to remain in the Prussian homeland. With great restrictions once again placed on the ancestors, the call went out to seek a new homeland. Upon hearing of their plight, Catherine The Great of Russia, welcomed them into her domain
Once again the Lord had summoned and provided them with a new homeland, and again the ancestors were on the move.
To the province of Wohlynien, in South Western Russia, they did go, and the village of Karolswalde, a few miles south of the City of Ostrog, was where they settled. This is where the grandfather, Benjamin Heinrich Dirks, and his wife, Helena Unruh, were born
They spent only a short time in Russia from 1802 to 1874, until the new ,,Czar" regime came to power and again pressured them into seeking out a new homeland. The Russian government insisted that Mennonites become citizens and join the military or leave the country.
For some years the U.S. and Canadian governments had been seeking homesteaders to settle the vast areas of prairies In the Dakotas, Kansas, Minnesota, and Manitoba, Canada.
A delegation of 12 men, representing the Mennonites and other religious sects, was sent out, by these Mennonite people to this unknown land, to investigate and look over the lands.
Bishop Tobias Unruh, from the village of Karolswalde, went forth representing the Dirks ancestors in the eight neighbouring villages, to the U.S. and Canada, and returned in 1874 with a favourable report.
Again the forefathers began to move to a new land of freedom. They travelled by foot, and wagon, and train across Russia to Hamburg, Germany, and set sail from Liverpoo1, England, On the ,,S.S. City of London", to New York harbour, where they docked on Nov. 18, 1874.
After a few years stay in Bellville, Penn., they moved on and settled in Marion Junction, South Dakota, where in the spring of 1881 Benjamin married Helena Unruh. To this Union three boys were born at Marion: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and three daughters Nettie, Lydia and Lena, in the settlement of Loretta in the Bon Homme County.
Upon the opening up of the Northwest Territories Benjamin again took his family to a new land. In April 1899 they boarded the special immigrant train from Marion Junction, South Dakota, and headed north and settled west of Rosthern, Sask., an area which was later to be known as the town of Waldheim, Sask.
This is the final move great grandfather made, and this is where his last child Henry was born.
However Benjamin's descendants also continued to move and explore new lands, and today his descendants can be found in B.C., Alberta Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana and Nebraska.
120 Dirks descendants attended the reunion with many other guests also in attendance.
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