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 (April 6, 1897, Schönbrunn [Schönfeld], South Russia - May 10, 1986, Leamington, Ontario, Canada)


#  5 Margaretha Dueck

Margaretha had a reputation of being very 'high spirited' and was what we today call a 'tom-boy'. My Mother told me how Margaret would try to get out of housework by offering to take food to the men in the far fields and while the men were eating she would unhitch her horse from the cart and ride it for all it was worth. Her mother couldn't see her. She would not have approved. Nice girls did not do such things. It was a well kept secret from her mother. Her father did not mind, in fact he probably delighted in her high spirits.

After finishing the village school she begged her parents to send her to high school, and although Schoenfeld had a Zentral School, only boys were enrolled. She wanted to be sent to Halbstadt, Molotschna, where they had a girls high school, which her Friesen cousins were attending. She convinced her father, but her mother was against it, saying: - "Margaretha is too wild, who knows what kind of 'dummheiten' [pranks] she will commit. She will be better off to stay at home and learn some housework." Her Mother won that argument.

Margaret's father died when she was 17 years old and again according to Mother: "We all were sad, but Margaret was heartbroken, because, as she put it; 'Mother always expects me to be a proper girl, but Father understood how I felt and encouraged me to be myself." She and her Mother always seemed to clash and her Father would comfort her. After her Father's death, her Mother was busy running the farm and the responsibility of running the household fell on Margaret's shoulders. Anna her older sister was married and Justina soon left to take care of Anna when she became ill. Even when Justina returned home she left a few months later to get married. A year later Margaret married Abram Mathies from their village Schoenfeld. They were married on the same day as her brother Johann, in a double wedding ceremony on May 16,1919. [ 50 years later they celebrated their Golden Wedding together in Leamington, Ont. with about 40 of the original guests present.]

My Mother often described that first wedding and recently she described it again, but she is now 92 years old and I am not certain her stories are always accurate. She said:--"It was a nice wedding. Brother Abram's wedding was so elaborate with hundreds of guests, but that was in the good days before the war. Also his wedding was not in our village. At Justina's wedding we were still in mourning for our sister Anna. Now times were bad and the Makhnovites were robbing and killing people. The last few weeks the bandits had left us alone and we were ready for some fun. It was spring and we decorated the shed with flowers and ferns. I can't remember if Margaret had a new dress, but we all dressed as nice as we could. Much of our clothing had been stolen. Some relatives came from faraway, but not all could come because it was too dangerous. All our neighbours from nearby villages came. Must have been about 200 guests. We did not have as much food as usual, but everybody in the village brought what they could. The evening before quite a few young people came for a 'Polterabend', the gifts were not elaborate but we sang songs and played 'Schluesselbund' [a singing circle-dance]. We tried to forget our problems. We were so merry, it was almost as if we were stealing pleasure [Gestohlene Freude] in the midst of tragedy. The week-end passed without any bandit raids, but in the next few months we often had to hide from bandits. We were robbed many times. In one raid, brother Johann was beaten up and almost killed. In another raid they even attacked Mother, pushed her violently against a wall and shot into the wall all around her. It was awful! we had to flee from our home that year before Christmas [1919]."--

The wedding I described above was in May. In July Margaret's mother died. Her husband was conscripted into service by the White Army. In December all the families fled to the Molotschna. Margaret found refuge with a family in Alexanderkron. The book --" Diary of Anna Berg" -- deals with the years 1920-1924 in Alexanderkron. I read it carefully, knowing that my Mother and other family members had spent those years in that village. Anna Berg does not mention them in the book, but to my surprise I found a copy of her original scribblers and scraps of papers in the Archives at the Mennonite Heritage Centre in Winnipeg. I read them and found two references to Margaret.

Here is my translation of one excerpt that is not in the book, but found in her actual diary: -- 'May 29,1920:- today I attended a meeting of our Ladies Sewing Circle. What is there to sew? Mostly patching, patching and more patching--how I hate it! Mrs. Margaret Matthies and her sister Sarah Dueck, who live on Kornelson's yard, had brought some pails of gooseberries they had picked that morning. They were cleaning the stems off them. Some of the others were helping them, but I had to finish my bending. Sarah plans to leave next week. She has been promised work; she won't get much pay, but will get her room and board and that is worth a lot these days. Her former teacher from Schoenbrunn, Jakob Koop is the Administrator of the Taubstumme Schule [School for the Deaf and Mute] in Tiege, and has sent her a letter saying he needs helpers. Yesterday we had to stay off the streets, because all day military carriages coming from the south passed through our village. They were loaded with all kinds of cannons. We dread what is going to happen, but today all is quiet!'-- This entry illustrates that daily living has to continue, while war is a threat.

In another entry, almost four years later, Anna Berg writes: ----'March 14,1924: - 'I visited Mrs. Abr. Matthies yesterday. She has two lovely little girls [Margaret and Annie], she would have three, but their first one died. Her sister Sarah has recovered completely from typhoid. Sarah lives in Petershagen where her husband is a teacher. She also had some more news to tell about her brother Peter. He has become engaged to a Paula Wiebe, a former army nurses aide. She is a lovely, lively girl, but a Lutheran! I will make no comment. Mrs. Matthies said Peter always said he could not understand why people get excited when a Mennonite marries a person of a different race or church. She also said our Minister had said only last Sunday all people are equal in God's eyes. But I don't know, I think we lose our identity when we mix up beliefs. Will she go to the wedding? She wants to, but does not know when it will take place, or if they will be able to get the horse. It might be needed for work. Rumors are that most of her family want to immigrate. They too want to go.'--

Margaret and her family did leave for Canada in 1924. In Canada they worked a year for their sponsors in the Kitchener area. Then they lived and worked in various places in Ontario until they were able to buy their own farm near Olinda in Essex County. They retired to a house in Leamington in the 1960's. In 1956 their 25 year old son, Harry, a cross country truck driver, accidently died. He was found dead in his truck at a truck stop in Minnesota, USA. It is believed he left the truck running, intending to take a rest during a snowstorm and was overcome by carbon monoxide when snow plugged up the exhaust. Another son, Bill died of cancer in 1972. Her husband died in 1974. Margaret sold their house and spent a few years in an apartment, but her last years were spent in the Leamington Mennonite Personal Care Home. In her later years Margaret was confined to a wheel chair and she was often confused, but always happy. Her impish humor often delighted her care givers in the Nursing Home. Margaret died on May 10,1986.

Family Tree of Margaret [Dueck] Mathies

Margaret Dueck          b. Apr. 6, 1897       d. May 10, 1986     m. May 16, 1919
Abram Matthies           b. Feb. 14, 1893      d. Jun. 21, 1974

Children: 1. Helena      b. Mar. 27, 1920     d. Apr. 9, 1920       [6]
                 2. Margaret b. May 1, 1921                                       [6]
                 3. Annie        b. Feb. 25, 1923                                     [6]
                 4. William     b. Jan. 25,1 925      d. Feb. 14, 1972     [6]
                 5. Harry        b. Nov. 21, 1931     d. Jan. 20, 1956     [6]
                 6. Louise       b. Mar. 20, 1936                                   [6]
                 7. Arthur       b. May 20, 1940                                   [6]

[Helen Koop Johnson, Tapestry of Ancestral Footprints (1995), pp. 133-135]