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First Settlement in Canada




The following quote from The German Canadians begins with a brief explanation and continues with a translated 1932 letter from Peter Kleckner that describes the immigration to Canada of the Bolen family and how this led to continued immigration from Zichydorf. After the letter are two quotes from the Notes section of the book referring to this letter and a note regarding copyright.


The German Canadians 1750-1937

Immigration, Settlement & Culture

by Hans Lehmann

translated, edited, and introduced by Gerhard Bassler

Jesperson Press

St John’s, Newfoundland



The Banat German who after thirty-seven years in Canada put down on paper the reasons that drove him and his friends from 1895 on from Zichydorf in Banat (today Mariolana, Yugoslavia) across the sea, therefore remembers only the economic attractions western Canada had to offer him. His account, nevertheless, provides a valuable insight into the causes and origins of that rather considerable emigration, as well as the material conditions of the emigrants from Banat.

The news about the death of Mr. Johann Bolen from Regina rekindles in me, as probably in all the old Zichydorf pioneers, the memory of old times which were so important for so many of our countrymen. With the passing of Johann Bolen the last survivor of the three families departs who, thirty-seven years ago, were the first ones from the community of Zichydorf and the surrounding area to go to Canada.

Among the various communities of farmers the urge to emigrate had always been strong in the 1880s and 1890s because there was not enough land for the growing population. Thus, in the winter months, in many communities associations were formed and delegations elected to approach the various governments in Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania with the request for land for new settlements of German farmers. But all those efforts to find a good area for settlement and hence the guarantee for a better and more secure existence for those wanting to emigrate from Banat and for their children remained unsuccessful.

In 1895, however, news came of a large area in Canada open for settlement. The Bolen brothers managed to contact by letter a Mr. Nickel who had settled in St. Joseph’s colony near Balgonie. Inspired by this correspondence, the brothers Johann and Peter Bolen with their families and their parents Johann and Katharina Bolen decided to sell their belongings and bid farewell forever to their beautiful homeland of Hungary. Indeed that was no easy parting for families in those days, to go into the wide world into an uncertain future, without much money, in response to a letter from an unknown man. But to the brave belongs the world, the would-be-emigrant brothers said. The very hope of obtaining a free homestead of 160 acres was the great attraction for them. On the day of their departure they were accompanied to the station by a large crowd of people from the village who wanted to bid the emigrants farewell, they supposed forever.

But the future turned out differently for many of those who saw them off. The families arrived happily and well in Canada and settled temporarily near Balgonie. They found that their trusted agent had written them nothing but the truth, and they were very satisfied with the conditions and the prospects for a better existence. Of course they reported all their impressions back home to their brother and sisters, to relatives, friends and acquaintances and it did not take very long before several families decided to follow these first emigrants. In the years from 1897 to 1914, an emigration movement led to the departure of almost half the original inhabitants of Zichydorf, resulting in their settlement in Canada, the United States and in a few instances, also in South America. The stream of emigration spread in wider and wider circles all over southern Hungary until it was stopped by the outbreak of the war in 1914.

The settlers who arrived during this period in Canada were mostly so-called Kleinhäusler [literally: small householders] from the farming villages. They raised the funds necessary to ship their families and their most essential possessions across, in most cases, by the sale of their belongings. But there was seldom enough money left for a new start. This did not appear to be a great obstacle at that time. Full of courage and the desire to work, well versed in every kind of farm duty and prepared for all sorts of privations, these settlers were adequately equipped for everything that awaited them in the New World. We can testify that these were true settlers, that they overcame all difficulties and obstacles; each in his own way managed to carve out his own existence, whether as a farmer on the Canadian prairies, or as a craftsman, professional, businessman or worker in town. Almost all the settlers improved their standard of living considerably in comparison to conditions back home. Many have even reached a level of prosperity – hopefully forever – which is in no way comparable to the fate that would have awaited them or their children and children’s children in the old homeland.

Yes, it is true, we are having bad times here too right now. But the old pioneers remember well the bad times over there, where for the poor man the best times were no good. Thus it happened that a great many from Zichydorf who bade farewell forever to the first emigrants upon their departure, could greet them again in the new homecountry after only a few years. Fellow countrymen from Banat, let’s remember therefore, on the occasion of the death of one of the first pioneers, the men and women who formed the vanguard that opened this new area of settlement in Canada for us. Here we can earn our daily bread in relative calm and peace, and under much more favorable conditions than in the old homeland.


Notes regarding the above passage:

47 Letter of Peter Kleckner from Vibank, Sask., to B. Bott, editor of Der Couurier in Regina. It was written in 1932. Bott kindly made it available to me. It was intended for publication in the newspaper’s section “Letters to the Editor.”

48 The statistics in Rudiger (No. 347), 128, show that in Zichydorf, the population with German as mother tongue grew from 2,337 in 1880 to 2,464 in 1910 and 2,900-which is 92.9 per cent of the total population of Zichydorf-in 1921. The emigrant’s statement must therefore be exaggerated. Yet it is understandable, in view of the fact that almost the entire surplus population appears to have emigrated.


Note regarding Copyright

ZVA attempted to obtain permission from the book publisher to republish these quotes. We did an Internet search and found some listings for the company, but no web site or email addresses. We mailed a letter to the street address, but it was returned as “Moved/Unknown.” A second search turned up another address and telephone number. We called this number and the number associated with the first address, but both were out of service. We have assumed that the company is no longer in business, but would gladly discuss the situation with anyone that has legal standing in its place.