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Johann Cornies

by on May 25, 2013

Johann Cornies – 1789-1848

Johann Cornies was a very prominent Mennonite during the Dutch Mennonite time in the Ukraine area of Russia. He moved from Danzig to Chortiza, Russia when he was only 15 years old. He moved from Chortiza to Molotshna two years later. In 1881 he married Agnes Klassen.


Cornies was an enterprising young man. He saw an opportunity to develop intense farming in the region where they settled. He became a skilled and prosperous farmer.

By 1817, at 28 years of age, the Russian government made him a life-member of

the “society for effective promotion of forestation horticulture and silk industry and vine culture”. He was the authorized agent over all the Mennonites in Russia.


In 1818 he founded the Society of Christian Education for Mennonite Schools in cooperation with Church leaders. He was a diligent administrator. He dismissed incompetent school teachers and insisted on regular attendance by students. He wrote several major writings on rules for instruction and treatment of children.


In1830 he leased 9000 acres from the Russian Government. Czar Nicholas gave him 1350 acres as a reward for his improvement of Russian agriculture. He began a nursery to raise seedlings for the colonies. He was involved in horse and cattle breeding to enhance bloodlines of the animals. He gave many offspring to the needy settlers in the Mennonite colonies.


Later he purchased 9450 more acres and was farming a total of about 25,000 acres –all with horses, of course.


He began a brick yard to manufacture brick and tile for new buildings.

Developed the silk industry – built a school for girls to learn silk working.

Built dams to keep water for irrigation during long dry spells. Early rains would dry up and later rains did not always arrive in time for the crops. The dams provided for irrigation in dry years. This greatly improved agricultural production.


He developed a 4 crop rotation to increase yields.

He reforested large acreage and by 1845 had planted a half million fruit and forest trees in Mololtschna.  He added 300,000 mulberry trees and hedges for making villages beautiful.

He taught colonies how to raise vegetables.


The Russian government sent some of their young men to be taught by Cornies.

His wife, Agnes also taught the Russian girls in domestic skills.

Mennonites introduced potatoes into South Russian culture to add to the diet.

He placed Mennonite farmers into Jewish settlements to show them how to farm.

He also brought Hutterite families to settle in Russia.


Cornies died when he was only 59 years old. Agnes, his wife had passed away 1 year earlier. He had received many honors from many sources during his life –

He refused most of them.


He would not tolerate opposition of religious leaders.

He would not tolerate ignorant farmers.

He required cooperation and diligence.

He was very powerful but,

He was also self-sacrificing and upright in all his dealings.

He remained a plain, warm, friendly, calm farmer.

He was a man of great wealth.

His wealth could not be measured in money.

His wealth was what he gave, not what he got.

He used the talents God gave him to bless his people

So his people could bless the world.


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