REGIER, PETER, farmer and Mennonite bishop; b. 14 Jan. 1851 in Kalteherberge Swierznica, Poland), son of Peter Regier and Maria Wiebe; m. first 16 Dec. 1873 Anna Enss (d. 1914), and they had seven daughters and five sons; m. secondly 3 Feb. 1916 in Tiefengrund, Sask., Katharina Wiens, widow of Heinrich Bahnmann and Abraham Dyck; they had no children; d. there 11 April 1925.
The Regiers were an old Mennonite family in West Prussia. Born and raised on the delta of the Vistula (Wisla) River near Danzig (Gdansk, Poland), Peter Regier became knowledgeable about dyking and raising crops in productive soil that had once been swampland. He began attending school at Altebabke in 1857; in 1863 he transferred to the Rector School at Tiegenhof, east of Danzig. He left two years later since his help was sorely needed on the family farm. In June 1867 his Anabaptist heritage guided him into joining the Fürstenwerder Mennonite Church, where his father was the elder (bishop).
Despite the promises of the Prussian government that Mennonites would be exempt from military service, Regier was drafted in 1872, during the Franco-German War. After two years of service he returned home, bought land at Rückenau in the Elbing (Elblag) area near Danzig, and began to farm on his own. On 7 Sept. 1879 he was elected as teacher-deacon in the church of the Rosenort group of Mennonites at Rückenau. Ordained teacher-pastor on 18 July 1880, he was elected elder of the Rosenort Church, Elbing District, on 30 Jan. 1887. By 1893 his workload had become oppressive, the economic future of his children lay in doubt, and friends in North America beckoned him to emigrate.
Confident that “God would show the way,” the Regiers departed from their home in West Prussia on 8 June 1893 and arrived in the Canadian west, at Gretna, Man., on 1 July. Leaving his family with new friends, who were Bergthaler Mennonites, Peter toured the country as far as Calgary and Edmonton. In exchange for information on the suitability of land for agriculture and settlement, he had free use of the facilities of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He himself purchased S½-18-44-4-W3, in the Saskatchewan River valley southwest of Prince Albert (Sask.), and established a home and farming operation, which became the focal point of a settlement he called Tiefengrund (deep ground). Comprised of relatives and others who joined him in the ensuing years, it developed into a thriving colony of predominantly Mennonite immigrants. In 1896 Regier, always a firm believer in the education of children by competent teachers, initiated the formation of the Tiefengrund Public School District, No.471, and he would serve as its chairman (1896-98) and secretary-treasurer (1899-1900). His log residence was the schoolhouse for several years.
The deeply ingrained spiritual convictions of the settlers dictated as well that an organized congregation be formed. Being an elder, Regier created the Rosenort Church in 1894, and within that body he fostered the formation of several local congregations in the area around Tiefengrund. The first church-house was built in 1896 at Eigenheim, west of Rosthern, where some Mennonite families had settled in 1891. The church at Tiefengrund was erected in 1910. Regier worked unceasingly, travelling by horse and buggy in the summer and by sleigh in the winter, to visit, instruct, and unify widely separated families. The isolation of the Mennonites, on the land and within the mélange of settlers who poured into the west, posed the threat of assimilation and the loss of Anabaptist principles, fates that Regier steadfastly tried to prevent.
Because of the influx of immigrants from all backgrounds into Saskatchewan at the turn of the century, there was also a strong interest in integrating the Rosenort fellowship with other Mennonite congregations, especially those of Manitoba Bergthaler affiliation [see Johann Funk*; Gerhard Wiebe*]. To achieve unity Regier, the progressive visionary but “a weak servant of God,” as he regarded himself, organized the historic “Garden Assembly” of Rosenort and Bergthaler delegates in his garden at Tiefengrund on 18 July 1902. The meeting initiated an integration of the articles of faith, principles, and purposes of both religious groups. This collaboration was ratified through the formation of the Konferenz der Mennoniten in Mittlern Kanada (Conference of Mennonites in Middle Canada) on 20-21 July 1903 at the Bergthaler Brethren Church in Hochstadt, Man.
At his request Regier was replaced as elder in 1913 by David Toews. He worked with Toews for some time, and preached his last sermon on 29 Oct. 1922. (In his 43 years of service he had delivered 1,472 sermons.) He remained a steady churchgoer until his sudden death from a heart attack on 1 April 1925. Peter Regier’s exemplary life of faith, hard work, and respect for the tiefen Grund of his new homeland were rewarded by his becoming a prosperous farmer, a revered churchman, and a good neighbour.
Mennonite Heritage Centre (Winnipeg), Peter Regier, Tagebüch [Diary], 1851–93. ...Gerhard Ens and Lawrence Klippenstein, “Die Vorgeschichte der Konferenz der Mennoniten in Kanada,” Bote (Saskatoon), no.25 (21 June 1978): 1–2. ...F. H. Epp, Mennonites in Canada, 1786–1920: the history of a separate people (Toronto, 1974). ...Lawrence Klippenstein, “Peter Regier, churchman-farmer (1851–1925),” Mennonite Historian ([Winnipeg]), 2 (1976), no.2/3: 1–2. ...Peter Paetkau and Lawrence Klippenstein, “The Conference of Mennonites in Canada: background and origin,” Mennonite Life (North Newton, Kans.), 34 (1979), no.4: 4–10. ...P. W. Riegert, Deep earth (Regina, 1996), 1, 9–18; 2005 memories: a history of the Hamburg School District No.2005, Laird, Saskatchewan (Regina, 1979), 13. ...Three score years and ten with God in Tiefengrund Rosenort Mennonite Church, 1910–1980; reaching to its roots, 1893, ed. Sylvia Regier (Altona, Man., [1980?]). ...“Through the years with the C. W. Regiers” (n.p., 1982), 9–10.
Cite This Article
Paul W. Riegert, “REGIER, PETER,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 18, 2013, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/regier_peter_15E.html.
|Author of Article:||Paul W. Riegert|
|Title of Article:||REGIER, PETER|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||2005|
|Year of revision:||2005|
|Access Date:||December 18, 2013|