The story of our Thiessen (and Claassen) ancestors begins in Prussia. Our heritage is tied deeply to the Mennonite faith.
There are many resources on the internet to research the history of the Mennonites. Briefly, for our story, they came out
of Prussia and into South Russia. The Molotschna Colony was in the Berdyansk District (Berdyansky Uyezdof) of the Taurida
Govenorate (Taurida Guberniya) of the Russian Empire. This area is now Berdyansky Raion, Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine. The
Kuban Colony was in the Kuban Province (Kuban Oblast) of the Russian Empire. It is now the Krasnodar Krai of the Southern
Federal District of the Russian Federation.
Peter Thiessen was born in the village of Sparrau, Molotschna Colony in 1854. We can verify this from his passport application,the
1861-1862 Molotschna School registers, and his death certificate. From the school registers and his death certificate,
we know that his father was a Johann Thiessen and that his mother was an Esau. The CMHS GRANDMA project traces his roots
a little further, but, I think more research is needed. The biggest problem I have is that there were several Thiessen's
in Sparrau, yet, GRANDMA doesn't show any linkage. Sparrau wasn't a very large village, so, I have always thought that
these families must be related.
We know that Johann Thiessen was intent on settling in the Kuban with the other Mennonite Brethren. I cannot find data that
firmly sets when they arrived in the Kuban. We do know that when the Mennonite Brethren leader, Johann Claassen died, his
widow, Katharina Schmidt married Peter Thiessen in Wohldemfürst, Kuban Colony, in 1878. She had 4 children from her
marriage to Johann Claassen.
Here and here are maps of Konteniusfeld and Sparrau, Molotschna Colony (now Dovhe, Zaporiz'ka oblast,Ukraine). The nearby town
of Bohdanivka, Zaporiz'ka oblast, Ukraine was Gnadenfeld, Molotscha Colony.
Here and here are maps of the Wohldemfuerst, Kuban Colony village near modern Kochubeyevskoye, Stavropol Krai, Russia. I believe Wohldemfuerst is now Velikoknyazheskoye, Stavropol Krai, Russia.
Peter Thiessen and family came to the USA via Hamburg on the SS Lessing, arriving at Castle Garden, New York, New York, 5
The family consisted of Peter 29, Katharina (nee Schmidt) Claassen Thiessen 31, Katharina (Tina) Claassen 8, Anna Claassen
7, Johann W. Claassen 6, Dietrich J. Claassen 5, Peter F. Thiessen 2, and Heinrich Thiessen 6 months.
The family likely immediately set out for Kansas. They purchased land in Durham Township, Marion County, Kansas in December
1883 for $1440. I have an 1885 map of Marion County that shows Peter holding a half section of land (320 acres).
While in Kansas, Abraham, Sarah, and George Thiessen were born in 1885, 1887, and 1889. George died in infancy, likely in
The family then headed for Oklahoma Territory in 1893.
I am attempting to trace all the descendants of this family that set out from South Russia.
I must thank my brother Troy C. Thiessen for getting me started on this journey. Also, a special thanks to Douglas A. Schlumbohm
for information for much of the Henry Thiessen descendants and Muriel Turner for the information about Peter F. Thiessen's
Briefly, here is what I have found:
Peter purchased land in Kansas in December 1883.
Peter becomes a naturalized citizen in March, 1892.
The family came to Oklahoma Territory in 1893.
For unknown reasons, Peter and Katharine split up in 1901. Daughter Sarah Thiessen Nikkel's diary says that her mother "left her father", Peter. I would like to find out what led to this break up.
In October 1901, Peter applies for and is granted a passport for a return trip to Russia. He leaves the USA at the end of October 1901, and returns in April 1902. The passenger manifest for this return trip is interesting in that it seems to show his older sister, Sarah, her husband, Johann Janssen, and a young Heinrich Janssen, are with him. Heinrich Janssen seems to be too young to be Johann and Sarah's son - he is age 7 and they are in their late 50s. Also, it appears there is a young child, a Franz Claassen, age 4¾. This is a mystery I would like to one day look more into, but, there is too much to do with what I do have, right now. As an aside, I have an interesting photo of Peter Thiessen. De-cyphering the back of the photo, it appears it was taken in February, 1902. It looks like it may have been in Margenau, Molotschna Colony, Taurida Guberniya. More assistance with translation might be needed to firm up what I have.
Peter again goes back to Russia. He must have literally turned right around to go back to Russia! He returns to the USA in February 1903. He is accompanied by his step-niece, the widow Anna Goertz (nee Fast) and her six children. Peter ends up marrying Anna Goertz(en) in 1905 and they had twin daughters from that marriage, Margareta and Maria Thiessen. The family moved to California in 1909.
Katharina Claassen Thiessen (nee Schmidt) remained in Oklahoma. She passed away in 1915. I am trying to find out about her life once her and Peter divorced.
Catharina 'Tina' Claassen married Isaac U. Neufeld and their descendent's remained near Fairview, Oklahoma for the most part. You can go here for the descendants of Isaac U. and Tina Neufeld.
Anna Claassen married John Flaming. When she died in 1906, John and the children moved off to British Columbia, Canada. Descendants are now spread in Washington, Oregon, and California. You can go here for the descendants of John and Anna Flaming.
John W. Classen married Maria Hiebert and they moved to Beaver County, Oklahoma, in or around the little town of Balko. While in Caddo Co., Oklahoma, according to Sarah Nikkel's autobiography, he and Isaac U. Neufeld owned a store together. Late generations have spread out more, notably to Tennessee. You can go here for the descendants of John and Maria Classen.
Dietrich J. Classen married Lena Duerkson and the family moved to California around 1909. All descendants that I ave traced so far seem to have remained in California. You can go here for the descendants of D.J. and Lena Classen.
Peter F. Thiessen married Agnes Keck and the family settled in California. All descendants I have found have remained in California. You can go here for the descendants of Peter F. and Agnes Thiessen.
Henry Thiessen and Peter Thiessen married the sisters Lulu and Laura Miller. The descendants have pretty much remained in Oklahoma. You can go here for the descendants of Henry and Lulu Thiessen and here for the descendants of Abe and Laura Thiessen.
Sarah Thiessen married Frank Nikkel. They had a few children before moving to Texas for a couple of years. They then moved to California where their descendants have pretty much remained from what I have found. You can go here for the descendants of Frank and Sarah Nikkel.
Marie Thiessen married Raymond B. Tucker and they seem to have settled in southern California. You can go here for the descendants of Margaret Thiessen.
Margaret Thiessen married John J. Peters and they seem to have settled in southern California. You can go here for the descendants of Marie Thiessen.You will find many Thiessen, Claassen (note, I have kept the original spelling, even though most descendants changed to Classen), Neufeld, Flaming, Nikkel, and Goertz descendants.