Peter A. Riediger
(17 May 1872 Rosenort, S Russia - 12 Dec 1969, Coaldale, Alberta)
The following journey diary entries (from Russia to Canada July
7- August 14, 1926) were handwritten by Peter A. Riediger and recently
transcribed/translated by his daughter, Margaret Riediger. The typescript,
some photographs and other related materials can be viewed by researchers
who visit the MHSA Archives..Margaret has written her
own account of the journey and it is also available in this collection
(and in the Archives).
Our Trip to America
July 7. Wednesday
Early morning we drove out of Klinock. At 3:45 our train came to Sorotschinsck
but the train car was damaged.
July 8, Thursday
At 3:45 we boarded.
July 9, Friday
At 4:00 we entered Moscow and took lodging at the Charkowskyi Nomero.
July 10, Sunday
Had a quiet day.
July 11, Monday
We went to the Russian-Canadian Passenger Office where our passports
were taken and changed to go through Sebesh, which cost us another 11
Rubel and 25 Kopeken per passport and about three days delay. We were
also checked by a doctor and all were declared healthy (our whole family,
18 members). A few received medication; every day we went to the office.
On the 11th the leader of each family was asked where they were going.
We were told that we were going to Sunnyslope to our friend, O Funk.
July 17, Saturday
Finally, about half of our group got into the train car and we went
to Sebesh. Early morning on the 18th, we drove through "The Gate"
over the border. Right away we noticed the different clothing, different
people, and were addressed as "Sir".
In Sebesh our baggage was checked, but not thoroughly. If the inspector
at Heaven's Portal were not more thorough, then many big sinners would
get through. Enough. Our whole group came through. Here I exchanged
my last money, 150 Rubel - received $77.00 and a few cents. At the first
Latvian station we had to change trains. From there the trains went
faster and the stops were shorter.
Late morning we got to Riga. Here we were taken by car and our baggage
by transport, to the city's quarantine, which was taken care of by an
agent. In the quarantine we had to wash, and our things were disinfected.
Breakfast, dinner and supper in the quarantine lodging were good. We
were also examined by a Feldscheritza (a high-ranking nurse).
Were examined by another doctor, had to wash thoroughly, and the men
had to get their hair cut. In the evening we were taken to a different
quarantine. The lodging and beds were good.
July 21, Wednesday
Our hair came under unmerciful scrutiny; many, even the womenfolk had
to get their hair cut. Here we came before a consul. Food was always
good. In the evening about 9:00 we came to the ship Kolpino. At 11:00
we were given supper. At the same time our ship left with app. 120 Mennonites.
We each received a bed - the men were separated from the women wherever
possible. The beds were good.
July 22, Thursday
In the morning we were far away from Riga. Soon we ran into a light
storm, most of the people got seasick. Very few, myself included, stayed
well. At noon only about 20 people were at the table, though the food
was very good.
July 23, Friday
Yesterday we passed Sweden and Norway and this morning we passed Germany
- very close. Strong wind. The waves carry a lot of foam. The ship is
rocking badly. Many are sick, also Dave's wife, Neta. I am feeling well;
I am satisfied with everything. Many ships are going in different directions.
July 24, Saturday. At night we entered the Williams Canal - met many
ships. We got a German pilot. Early morning we passed under several
bridges; above us the trains passed over. There was also a bridge that
separated. Many airplanes. Here they loaded coal. We marvel at God's
greatness and the accomplishments of man. At 2:00 we left Williams Canal
after the gates were pushed aside.
July 25, Sunday
Yesterday till evening the sailing was good. In the evening we played
and sang several songs in the dining room. Sister P. Dick was taken
to the sick room, and Sister Stobbe had a baby. Early morning the storm
was bad. The ship rises and drops more than one Faden (Fathom - 6 ft.).
Many are seasick again. Sister Stobbe had a son. Sister Dick is very
July 26, Monday
In the morning (3:00) we were called to go to the doctor. We walked
all around the ship, but didn't see a doctor. In the evening we entered
the Thames River. Now our ship has stopped, and we are waiting for the
It looks marvelous here - ships on both sides and various buildings.
The passengers are cheerful again. Sis. Dick is still very sick. Sis.
Stobbe and her little son doing well. Because of the tide, many ships
are grounded. At 7:00 we continue. A bridge was lifted up in front of
us. We passed through and came to a draw bridge that goes very deep
into the water. Soon the bridge is pushed to the sides and we pass through.
Very soon we come to the dock; our baggage was loaded on to freight
cars, and we (130) people stepped into (auto) busses and were taken
to the train station. Here we boarded the train and soon we were rushing
through the city and country side to the other station (Southampton)
app. 80 Werst in 2 hours (1 Werst=1 Km.). From here we were taken by
autobus to the quarantine building and right away we received supper.
Each one had two eggs, bread and butter and tea. Soon we went to bed.
July 27, Tuesday
Praise God, all are cheerful in spite of the hard pillows and cold rooms.
Here we met several Mennonites from different areas of Russia, who for
various medical reasons had to remain behind. After breakfast we had
to bathe and go to the doctor, naked. We, our whole family, all well.
Afternoon the women had to get their hair checked again; that was a
strict censorship. In the evening another 300 immigrants came, also
our Samaritans (from Samara), almost all of them. This last group had
a more difficult voyage.
July 28, Wednesday
Again all are happy and cheerful. The Lord's grace is with us. We went
into the city and bought a few clothes and footwear. After supper we
had a meeting where Br. P. Reimer and K. Klassen served us with the
July 29, Thursday
Thank God all are cheerful. In the evening about 10:00 we were given
supper, then we Mennonites, about 200 of us, went into another room,
sang a few songs and Br. K. Klassen led us in prayer. Then we bearded
5 autobuses and drove to the station. About 12:00 we left on the train
for Liverpool; the train fled away at high speed ("rasend floh
der Zug davon").
Here a few of our people went on airplane rides, $1.00 per person.
About 4:00 we were served bread and ham and cocoa. After sunrise, app.
7:00, we had bread and butter and milk.
July 30, Friday
At 3:00 in the morning we came to Liverpool; some were again examined
by a doctor, then we all received a cabin number. About 1:00 we boarded
a small ship. This took us a few Faden further towards our big ocean
liner, the Metagama. Here again a doctor examined our mouth and hair.
Then we were each given our cabin, at 1:45 at noon. At 5:45 a small
steamer took our big ship, which is app. 16,000 tons, in tow and pulled
us from the shore into the deep. At 6:00 our ship began to move.
July 31, Saturday
Thanks be to God, we slept very well. We sailed past Scotland and Denmark
and are now lying at anchor in a bay at Ireland. Why, we don't know.
At 1:00 we started again after several passengers came on board.
Aug. 1, Sunday morning
Thanks to God, all are well; slept well, a few are sea-sick. The storm
is getting stronger. From 3:00 to 4:00 we had a meeting, but very few
attended. The storm is getting worse; for supper only a few. I can't
walk any more either.
Aug. 2, Monday
The storm is still severe, most are sea-sick. At noon it got even worse.
Sometimes the water sprays onto the deck.
There is no lack of music on our ship. The bag-pipe music is "wiederlich"
(terribly distasteful). There is a lot of dancing with it. The Salvation
Army is here as well. One man is playing a small accordion; some sing
and preach, but in the English language.
Aug. 3, Tuesday
The storm has increased but is more from behind us. The ship is rocking
badly. Each day the clock is pushed back 40 minutes. Our ship, Metagama,
is 650 ft. long. 52 ft. wide, two stories where the machines stand and
the freight is loaded, underwater level, and 3 stories third class above
water level. Then on the deck, in the middle, 3 stories first class.
It has a loading capacity of 12,650 tons, water displacement 16,000
tons, 8,500 horse power, speed 16 miles per hour. Passengers: 893 third
class, 250 first class, 280 ship's personnel. The service is very good
and the food too, but very strange for us. I ton equals 50 Pud (1 Pud
is app. 40 lbs.)
Aug. 4, Wednesday
The wind is from the front again, very strong. The air very cold, near
freezing. At breakfast our translator, a friendly Danish man told me
that Mrs. G. Dick has had a baby and this baby would be recorded as
English and will receive its education up to University. (This is the
7th child born on this ship and on this trip within 5 days.)
We all had to go to the doctor, he had to check whether we had all
been vaccinated; some still had to be vaccinated. In the evening we
went into the dining room with our violins and about 12 young people
sang and played. A few English people sang along with the familiar songs.
After we prayed we went to bed. Our music and singing was strange to
Aug. 5, Thursday
The storm is furious; the ship is rocking badly. Many are not well,
and I too feel ill. It is quite cold. We can see floating icebergs.
Afternoon is Sunday School; app. 30 boys and girls are attending. David
Goerzen and I are leading it. In the evening a service is held for Q.
Dick's little son. This causes great excitement.
Aug. 6, Friday
Slept badly as it was very cold. On both sides we see wilderness land
- on the left side a large, shallow beach, in the background high hills.
On the right side, steep, high mountains. On the ocean many icebergs.
This is the first American coast - Newfoundland.
The passengers are a little more cheerful, for our house is not rocking
as much anymore. Many are back on deck. The young guys are trying out
At suppertime the friendly translator asked me to give him the number
of Mennonites on board the ship and a written statement that we are
satisfied with the food and services. Later there was food and dancing
in the dining room.
Aug. 7, Saturday
We are now sailing past the Island of Anticosti. The ship is going smoothly.
Afternoon, at 3:00 G. Dick's newborn was baptized by a bishop of the
King of England. The Godparents were a high ranking general and a Minister's
wife (a companion of the Queen), dignitaries who also happened to be
travelling on the ship.
The weather is getting milder. At 4:00 there is a big storm and rain.
Land and mountains on the left side nearby.
Aug. 8, Sunday
5:45. Our ship has stopped; the luggage is carried on deck. Land and
hills are visible in spite of a dense fog. Soon the ship moves again
but in a different direction; then it stops again. The fog is too thick.
At 10:00 we move again. Soon we can see the wonderful creation for the
fog is lifting. Grand rocks are towering on both sides. Here and there
on a number of them are splendid lighthouses. On some there are forests;
some are bald. A little farther on we see the splendid cultivated fields
and buildings on the shores of Canada. Everywhere one can see the magnificent
culture that is far, far ahead of Russia. Also one can see a lot of
forest and beautiful grain fields surrounded by various hedges. The
buildings all very attractive and lovely, even the poorest worker is
not only well clothed but has neat homes. Splendid!
The shores are getting closer now. One can see a waterfall app. 3 houses
high and at least 6 ft. wide. The scenery is getting more beautiful
all the time.
At 4:00 we left the ship. We are in Quebec now. We went through a long
winding hallway high above the ground; below us people were walking.
And there were autos. In a large room where we, over 1300 passengers,
sat down on benches with backs on them. Soon we had to go to the doctor.
A. Warkentin, Podolsk, and G. Dicks had to stay behind. At 10:00 in
the evening we are on board a train. The train car is long and narrow,
in the middle a narrow aisle, on each side seats for two, padded and
covered with fine leather. Above us along the slanted roof, are trapdoors
that can be pulled down to hold baggage or to lie down on them. Soon
we are driving through the beautifully constructed and brightly lit
Aug. 9, Monday
This day again shows us God's marvelous creation - hills and valleys,
pastures, grain fields and a lot of forests. And the splendid farms
with the fat, healthy horses. Black and red spotted cattle, pigs and
fowl, and the farmers themselves occupied with haying and cutting the
winter crops, and the oats is being harvested. The farm machinery is
mostly on the fields. Also the attitude towards religion is different
here. In London we received the Gospel booklets, here in Quebec again
that was almost the first thing we received.
From time to time here on the train, bread, sausage and other things
are offered for sale.
Other than Dav. Goerzen's family, all of the Mennonites are going to
Winnipeg - in four cars. Goerzens have to board a different train.
It is awe-inspiring, long stretches are very mountainous. Here we are
suspended high above deep gullies; then again we are down in the depths,
and all rock, but the rock is full of crevices (cracked) and growing
forth out of these cracks are the most beautiful trees: birch, evergreens,
pine trees, aspen, vetch and many beautiful big trees that I don't know
yet. Marvelous is God's creation and the "Kunst" (ability?)
Aug 10, Tuesday
Again we are amazed at God's greatness in nature. What is man? Soon
we are driving along side great rock walls, on one side 30 Faden deep
ravines and more, and on the other side even higher, steep rock cliffs
and through long rock tunnels. This is not land for us grain farmers.
At 2:00 two men from the Board of Colonization enter and organize the
rest of the trip - a Wiebe and a Zacharias.
Aug. 11, Wednesday
Yesterday morning we were greeted by a heavy rain. Today we have bright
sunshine. We can see a lot of flat, well-cultivated land between the
large forests. The best grain fields are all fenced in.
At 7:00 in the morning we are in Winnipeg. We were taken down a stairway,
far below the city, into a very brightly lit room. Here we see a small
city beneath the big city. At the train car we were greeted by J. Riediger
and G. Peters. This last one entertained us for about two hours, also
we were visited by Dr. Klassen. Abr. Kroeker, H. Reimer, Heinr. Hiebert
and others who are strangers to me. J. Dellesky was picked up by his
cousin unexpected. There are many surprises and partings, 17 families
have already been separated. Our board members are organizing the rest
of the trip. Two young men have been hired by A. Kroeker to help with
fieldwork - $3.50, free meals and lodging. Is. Peters lives near the
city, app. 8 miles away. At 9:30 in the evening, Mr. Wiebe comes and
takes us to the train car. There are only a few left now. So far the
Lord has helped us. Also Warkentin's daughters visited us this evening.
J. Dellesky has already bought a farm. Winnipeg has over 300,000 inhabitants
and was started only about 50 years ago.
Aug. 12, Thursday
Praise God. Again we are privileged to greet a bright new day with good
health. Yesterday we left the mountainous country behind us and more
and more large, flat, well-cultivated fields lie before us. Everywhere
the crops are being harvested. In Herbert and surrounding area the crops
look poor, some fields very poor as a result of not enough rain. Today
there was a good rainfall.
In the cities we meet many Mennonites who give us different advice.
Everyone has left us. We are alone with our family.
Aug. 13, Friday
At 4:15 at night we stepped out of the train in Calgary. Mr. Klassen
from the Board at Acme came to meet us several hours ago, so now we
can be calm again. We are astonished and it humbles us to see how concerned
these good people are for our welfare. Now we are waiting at the station
for our train. This city, too, is grand and modern.
Soon a Mr. Wiebe arrived who accompanied us and Klassen remained behind.
At 1:30 we arrived in Acme. Here a number of Mennonites with cars were
waiting for us. Soon all of us were separated. This old Mr. Wiebe took
me, my wife, Suse, and Greta to their place. Here we were warmly welcomed
and fed. This family and most others in the area are Mennonites of the
Holdeman Church. They receive only truly born-again believers in to
their church. Smoking and drinking alcohol, cutting their beard is sin
to them. They are recognized as honest, but in some ways rather strict.
They practice baptism by sprinkling. This church is the biggest here.
Aug. 14. Saturday
Praise God, slept well. In 37 days the first night in a home and a German
bed. Breakfast was more the old time style. The day is raw, dreary and
wet. Yesterday they had a heavy rain.
Last Updated 25 Mar 2005