The Autobiography of William Lyon Mackenzie Loeppky - Part 1
Because the forward of this book is written by my cousin, Glen Krock, I cannot attest to its' veracity. Although I have no reason what-ever to doubt what Glen, has to say about the family, I can vouch for the fact that he is a student of genealogy, and has, as far as I can determine, no reason to tell stories which are not factual.
In this forward, as any student of genealogy will attest, there will be vignettes which may be described as apocryphal. We do not condemn Glen for putting such tales into the text, for they add to the flavour, like paprika in the Hungarian Goulash.
Prior to his retirement, Glen Krock was a banker. That is all we will say about him and will leave the reader to take than information and draw personal conclusions.
by E. Glen Krock
Perhaps as many as 300 years ago in Europe, likely in Poland, a man was being pursued by persons intent on doing him harm. The man swam a river to elude his pursuers. A Mennonite woman found him, naked and unconscious. After being nursed back to health, the man found to be suffering from amnesia. Since he had no idea who he was, the woman named him Loeppky (perhaps Ljub, believed by some to be the root of the family name). All Loeppkys are supposed to have descended from him. (A family legend) WmLML Note: Ljub is a Slavic word for 'love'. That poor Mennonite lady who found the naked, unconscious man could have had more than acts of charity on her mind.
There is another legend, that of the naming of a rather notorious gangster of the rip-roaring thirties in New York City and Chicago. The Gangster - Louis Lekpe Buchalter of 'Murder Incorporated'. The gangsters mother is said to have bestowed the name 'Lekpe' on the young Louis - apparently a sweet child, the pet-name 'Lepke' was a Yiddish diminutive or name of endearment given to little boys named Louis. This story is apocryphal. Although at one time our family name was spelled 'Lepke', and as mention by Glen Krock in the opening paragraph the root of the name may have been 'Ljub', a Slavic word for love - could there possibly be a Yiddish-Slavic connection with a Lekpe-Ljub sub-connection?
In the area of Laird, Saskatchewan, where our Grandparents home-steaded, lived a Ukrainian man. His name too was Loeppky. A few years later in Lethbridge, Alberta, I met a person named Leoppky, spelled with the o and e reversed. I was told the family name was originally Lupichuk, that their immigrant grandparents had worked on the railroad in Saskatchewan. This man felt his nationality was the cause of discrimination against him. Since he lived in a predominantly German district, he decided that he should adopt a German name. For some reason or other he chose Loeppky. This man's generation would have fitted in with my Mother's. It's possible he was the person she spoke of.
That Ukrainian family originally spelled the name Loeppky, as does our family. Our family had previously spelled it Lepke, and various other ways before that. Some years later, a branch of that family decided to spell the name Leoppky, with the o and e reversed. Obviously, they didn't know why the name should be spelled oe and not eo. The name in German was spelled Löppky, with the diaeresis above the umlaut o. Since there is no umlaut in English, the vowel is followed by the letter e, - hence Loeppky in English.
The name has been found spelled both ways in various city phone books throughout North America.
The book Deutsche Namenkunde, by Max Gottschald, which purports to give the origins of German surnames, says the Loeppky name comes from the Slavic root word ljub (pronounced l-you-b), which means love. Another source. Mennonitische Namen by Victor Peters and Jack Thiessen, maintains that the Loeppky name is derived from the German name Löpp (diaeresis above o), (pronounced Lepp). That does seem to be a possibility, because from the way the name Loeppky is pronounced in the Low German dialect, which our forbears spoke, it could be construed that Loeppky means little Loepp.
Spelling in Germany wasn't standardized until 1902. Until that time names were spelled in a variety of ways; the common name Meyer, for example, can be spelled in about a dozen different ways. A government official, a priest or minister, would customarily not ask a person how to spell his name (if, indeed the person could even read or write!) and would spell it as it sounded to him. There are very many different German dialects, some of which are mutually unintelligible. A name in another dialect would therefore sound quite differently, so it's easy to see how a name could be spelled several different ways.
The Loeppky name is variously spelled as Lepke, Lepky, Löpcke, Löpke, and sometimes in each case with a double p. My Mother said that our Grandfather Jacob J. Loeppky's cousins in the United States spell their name Lepke. As a matter of fact, so did our Grandfather's Father.
A gangster in the real-life Untouchables, in either Chicago or New York in the 1920s and '30s, was named Louis Lepke . (note by Wm.LML.....Glen here refers to Louis Lekpe Buchalter of Al Capone's Murder Incorporated. We assume that Louis Lepke Buchalter's mother's name was Lepke, hence his middle name). But, we went into that side bar earlier in this piece.)
Grandmother, Maria (Giesbrecht) Loeppky's background;
Her mother (our Great-Grandmother) was Maria, nee Braun (pronounced Brown, basically meaning the same in English). When her husband, Jacob Giesbrecht, our Great-Grandfather died, she married a Jacob Lemke. Family legend explains the name was originally von Braun and had descended from one of Charlemagne's daughters.
As you may recall, Charlemagne was King of the Franks, a federation of German tribes who had conquered what today is France, in the fifth and sixth centuries, after the fall of the Roman Empire. The Pope crowned him the first Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day in the year 800.
It is alleged that one of our Grandmother Loeppky's Grandmothers was Katarina Giesbrecht (nee Bergen), and that her family name had originally been von Bergen. There is conjecture that Katarina Bergen's father was Joop van Bergen.
Most of the Prussian Mennonite families in Russia had originated in theNetherlands, mostly Flemish from Flanders, or Frisians from Friesland. Some of the families, prior to that, had come to the Netherlands from Switzerland and the Rhineland areas. Because of the severe persecution in the Netherlands, which was ruled by Spain at the time, many Mennonites in the mid to late 1500s had moved to the Danzig area and the Vistula River delta, (the Weichsel River, in German) in what later became the West Prussian province of Germany.
This area was basically swampland.The Mennonites were exellent farmers who had experience in building dykes and draining marshes in the Netherlands. They set to work and transformed the country into productive farms. They became quite prosperous after a few generations, which made the non-Mennonites somewhat envious. This, plus the fact that the Mennonites were strict pacifists who didn't believe in bearing arms, again caused some persecution and resulted in them being heavily taxed by the authorities.
Meanwhile, the armies of Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia (a German princess who had usurped the throne after disposing of her mentally incompetent husband, the rightful heir), had driven the Turks out of the Ukraine, which was then known as South Russia. The Ukrainian natives were living in primitive conditions in earthern dugouts, and several nomadic Mongolian tribes were herding their livestock on the, a vast fertile plain. Otherwise, the country was apparently almost depopulated as the result of the war. It must have been a rather desolate place.
In about 1763 Catherine the Great issued an invitation to the peasants in Germany, to encourage them to settle in South Russia (the Ukraine), because she knew they were good farmers. By this time, many of the Mennonites in Prussia had become landless because the authorities were reluctant to allow them to aquire more land. In addition, Prussia was quite militant and was insisting that the Mennonites should bear arms. Catherine the Great, however, promised them exemption in perpetuity from military service and freedom from taxation for an extended period. This prompted about 400 Mennonite families, including our forbears, to move to South Russia. A large number of these settlers were in the landless class and had little in the way of assets.
The first group arrived in 1789, settling on the left bank of the Dnieper River, in what was then called South Russia, (today,the Ukraine) on a tract of land initially containing some 24,000 acres, soon increased to 89,100 acres. Some 400 families formed the basis of this settlement which was called Chortitza, popularly known as the Old Colony. About forty years later, because of population growth, a large proportion of the colonists had again become landless. They therefore arranged with the Russian crown to aquire another grant of land.
This new daughter colony, which was named Bergthal, (meaning mountain valley) was established in 1836 on a 30,000-acre parcel of land located about a hundred miles or so east of Chortitza, and a bit north-west of the Sea of Azov on the Black Sea. Much of the land was of poor quality and not suitable for farming. Some 145 landless Chortitza families settled here, establishing five villages; Bergthal, Schönfeld, Schönthal, Heuboden, and Friedrichsthal. The Mennonnites customarily lived together in villages scattered throughout their colonies, rather than on their individual parcels of land.
Our Loeppky and Giesbrecht forbears (i.e. our Grandfather's and Grandmother's parents) were among the new settlers from the Old Colony. Both of our Grandparents were born in the Bergthal Colony; Grandfather inthe village of Schönfeld in 1860, and Grandmother in the village of Heuboden in 1862. By 1867 the population had grown to 370 families, of whom nearly 100 were again landless, or day labourers.
The Bergthalers, because of their isolation from other Mennonites, became extremely conservative in their outlook. Remember, a trip of 100miles by horse and buggy over poor dirt roads was not something to be lightly undertaken. They were also among the poorest of the colonists, and were considered to be rather ignorant and backward by the others.
In 1870, the Russian Czar, Alexander II, decreed that henceforth his German subjects would have the same responsibilities as any other Russian citizen, including military service. The Mennonites, who had increased to some 100,000 by this time, were most upset over this turn of events. Their Elders (that is, their church leaders) then planned to have the Mennonites leave the country en mass. The Russian government became alarmed over this development because they didn't want to lose such a large number of some of their best farmers. They therefore made a proposal to the Mennonites which, instead of requiring them to bear arms in time of war, would have them serve in the army in the medical corps or as stretcher bearers. In peace time they would be obliged to serve in the forestry service for a three year period, instead of being conscripted into the army.
The conservative Bergthalers would have none of this, and made plans to emigrate as a group, either to South America, Canada, the United States or the German colony of German East Africa (which became a British Protectorate after the end of the First World War). They were joined in these plans by a considerable number of people from among the other Mennonite colonies in South Russia which had been established by this time.
Both the American and Canadian governments sent representatives to the Mennonites colonies to entice them to immigrate to their respective countries. Only the Canadian government, however, promised them freedom from military service. Incidentally, this promise was only very grudgingly kept by the government during the First and Second World Wars.
The Canadian government set aside eight townships south-east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, for the Mennonites, known as the East Reserve, containing 185,000 acres, or 290 square miles. Each male over the age of 21 was allowed a quarter-section of land (160 acres).
About 8,000 Mennonites came to Canada beginning in 1874, including nearly all of the 3,000 Bergthalers. Another 10,000 or so settled in the United States, including a few Bergthaler families.
The Bergthalers came in three stages in the years 1874 to 1876, all of whom settled in the East Reserve. In 1875, our Grandmother Maria Giesbrecht, aged 13, arrived in Emerson, Manitoba with her parents and family. In 1876, our Grandfather Jacob Loeppky, aged 16, arrived in Niverville, Manitoba, with his parents and family.
In about 1876 the government set aside another tract of land for the Mennonites, known as the West Reserve,containing seventeen townships of 291,000 acres, or 612 square miles.
After their marriage, our Grandparents lived in Plum Coulee, Manitoba, a village in the Municipality of Reinland in the West Reserve, where Grandfather was employed as a grain buyer. I believe that he may have farmed for a time before that.
All but the youngest of their children were born in Manitoba. Peter James, father of the subject of this book, and the youngest was born in Saskatchewan, then part of the NWT. The family descendants chart records a family tragedy; on May 18, 1887, our Grandparent's eldest child, Maria, died aged 4 years, four months. Four days later on May 22, 1887, their third child, Jacob, died just seven days short of his second birthday. Three days after that, on May 25, 1887, their second child, Katharina died, aged three years, one month. Our Grandmother, who was barely 25 years old at the time, had seen her three oldest children die within the space of seven days, leaving a six-month old baby (our Uncle Abe) as their only surviving child. I remember our Grandma as being a loving sort of person. This tragedy must have been almost more than she could bear, because she still spoke of it in her old age. My Mother told me that the children had died of diphtheria.
In 1900 our Grandparents moved to a homestead bordering the present townsite of Laird, Saskatchewan. The province at that time was still part of the North West Territories. As a matter of interest, the present-day Laird Village School still sits on a parcel of land which our Grandfather donated for this purpose early in this century. In 1918 Grandfather sold the farm and moved to Rosthern, Saskatchewan, about 13 miles east and south of Laird. He was employed for a time after that as a weed inspector for the municipality.
Our forbears adopted the Low German language during their more than two hundred-year stay in the West and East Prussian provinces. It is still quite extensively spoken in the Mennonite towns and villages in what used to be the East and West Reserves in Manitoba, as well as in certain areas of Saskatchewan and British Columbia where there are large concentrations of Mennonites.
This language is called Platt (flat, or low) Deutsch in High German and Plaut (meaning the same) Dietsch in Low German. In etymological dictionaries, etc., it's usually referred to as Nieder Deutsch (nether German); nether meaning lower. Various dialects of the Low German language were spoken until recently throughout the coastal regions of the North Sea and Baltic Sea, fromBelgium through Holland, Germany, Denmark (where it borders Germany), and the West and East Prussian provinces to the borders of Lithuania. The dialects are still being used, but to a much lesser extent. These areas are the lower, coastal parts of those countries, as distinguished from the higher, inland regions of Germany. Hence the language is called Low, and not because the speakers were a lower class of people as one might incorrectly infer from the name.
Our Grandfather always used the middle initial "J.", i.e. Jacob J. Loeppky. His father's name had been Jacob, as well. Each of his sons also used the middle initial "J.", i.e. Peter J. Loeppky. This was taken to mean that he was Jacob Loeppky's son, Peter.
(note by Wm.LML.......my father, Peter J. was the exception to this rule. The J. in my father's name was for James).
I am indebted to my cousin, E.Glen Krock, a serious student of genealogy and authority on the Loeppky background for this forward. Glen is the son of Gertrude, sister of my Father, Peter James.
William Lyon Mackenzie Loeppky
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