Clockmakers

A Note About Clockmakers  Mennonites living and working in Prussia in the 1700s were not allowed to join guilds and were, therefore, not allowed to put their makers marks on the goods they manufactured. After they moved to Russia, many Mennonite clockmakers continued this practice, so often the only evidence we have of their work is a single clock bearing a unique makers mark, a certain style of gear arrangement, or a passing mention in an official record. Consequently, the list of Mennonite clockmakers, below, is not complete; the names featured are those about whom the most in known. Recent scholarship has identified additional clockmakers with such surnames as Friesen, Koop, Regier, and Janzen, but, so far, little else is known about them.

A Note About Names  The spelling of last names has not always been standardised. As such, even descendants of the same Kroeger clockmakers spell their last name Kroeger, Kröger, Krueger, Kruger, and Krüger. For ease of understanding, we have chosen the most common spelling and used it throughout.


Cornelius Ens
(1884–1960)

Merchant, entrepreneur, farmer, and clockmaker. Born in Michaelsburg, Fuerstenland Colony, Russian Empire (now Ukraine). Moved to Canada with his family in 1899 and settled in Edenburg, Saskatchewan. Married Anna Unrau (1885–1913) in 1904 and had four surviving children, two sons and two daughters; married Helena Fehr (1890–1966) in 1915 and had five surviving children, one daughter and four sons. Learned to make clocks from his father, Abraham E. Ens (1855–1900). In his later years, Cornelius meant to make one clock for each of his children, but passed away before he could complete the project.


Gerhard Hamm
(probably ca. 1818–1866)

Clockmaker; little is known about him, except that he worked with or under clockmaker Peter Lepp (1817–1871) in Chortitza and marked his clocks with his initials and the date. Probably he is the Gerhard Hamm who married Agatha Braun (1823–?) in 1844 and had ten children together, six sons and four daughters.


Kornelius Hildebrand
(1833–1920)

Great-grandson of Deputy Jakob Hoeppner (1748–1826), one of two delegates selected by the Mennonite community in Prussia to evaluate possible settlement in Russia, and grandson of Peter Hildebrand (1754–1849), who wrote the history of the first Mennonite migration to Russia. Clockmaker and machinist Kornelius began his apprenticeship with Peter Lepp and Gerhard Hamm in 1848. He started his own shop in 1854, the same year he married Anna Epp (1833–1919). They had seven surviving children, three sons and four daughters. In 1878, with his son-in-law, Kornelius established the farm machinery manufacturer K. Hildebrand and Priess, eventually building factories both in Chortitza and Schönwiese. Even after retiring from clockmaking, he made clocks for each of his children as wedding gifts.


Kroeger
Clockmakers

Refers to any clock identifiably made by a member of the Kroeger family without certainty which member.


Peter Kroeger
(ca. 1730–ca. 1770)

Clockmaker who lived in Reimerswalde, Prussia (now Poland). Peter and his wife (name unknown) had one daughter and six sons.


Peter Kroeger
(1749–1805)

Son of Peter Kroeger (ca. 1730–ca. 1770) who lived in Stobbendorf, Prussia (now Poland); occupation unknown, possibly trained as a clockmaker. He and his first wife, Noelcke Quapp (dates unknown), married around 1773 and had three sons and a daughter. Peter and his second wife, Sara Leitz (1759–1814), were married around 1791 and had one son and two daughters.


Abraham Kroeger
(1751–1837)

Son of Peter Kroeger (ca. 1730–ca. 1770); ferrier and water miller, possibly trained as a clockmaker. He and his first wife, Catharina Friesen (1751–ca. 1792) married around 1775 and had a son and a daughter. Abraham and his second wife, Anna Peters (ca. 1762–ca. 1808), married around 1792 and had four surviving sons and one daughter. Emigrated from Krebsfelde, Prussia (now Poland), to Petershagen, Molotschna Colony, Russian Empire (now Ukraine) ca. 1800.


Johann Kroeger
(1754–1823)

Son of Peter Kroeger (ca. 1730–ca. 1770); clockmaker. Married Aganetha ‘Anna’ Dyck (1747–1821) in 1778 and had three sons and three daughters. The family emigrated from Reimerswalde, Prussia, to Rosenthal, Chortitza Colony, Russian Empire in 1803. Johann established the first Kroeger clock workshop in the family cottage, built in 1804.


Peter Kroeger
(ca. 1781–?)

Son of Johann Kroeger (1754–1823); clockmaker. Probably stayed in Hegewald, Prussia (now Poland).


Abraham Kroeger
(1791–1872)

Son of Johann Kroeger (1754–1823); clockmaker. Moved with his parents and brothers from Prussia to Russia in 1803 and settled in Rosenthal, Chortitza Colony. Married Margareta Bartsch (1794–1852), daughter of Deputy Johann Bartsch (1757–1821), the second of two delegates selected by the Mennonite community in Prussia to evaluate possible settlement in Russia, in 1815. They had ten surviving children, four daughters and six sons. Married Anna ‘Annljz’ Loewen (1802–1889) in 1853. It was Abraham and Margareta’s descendants who continued the clockmaking tradition.


Jacob Kroeger
(1823–1903)

Son of Abraham Kroeger (1791–1872); worked as a clockmaker until his marriage, and then likely became a farmer. Married Gertruda Neufeld (1833–1863) in 1850; had four surviving children, two sons and two daughters. Married Maria Siemens (1841–1920) in 1868; had four surviving children, three daughters and one son.


David Kroeger
(1829–1909)


Son of Abraham Kroeger (1791–1872); clockmaker. Married Aganetha Sawatzky (1842–1929) in 1859. Together they had six children, three sons and three daughters. David presided over the Kroeger clockmakers around 1890–1900, some of the most prolific years for clockmaking. He marked some of his clocks by etching his initials into the lead on the back of the pendulum.


Peter Kroeger
(1832–1908)

Son of Abraham Kroeger (1791–1872); worked as a clockmaker until his marriage, and then likely became a farmer. Married Katharina Rempel (1835–?) in 1854 and had eight surviving children, six sons and two daughters. Marked his initials on the hour wheel of many of his clocks.


Heinrich Kroeger
(1836–1870)

Son of Abraham Kroeger (1791–1872); worked as a clockmaker until his marriage, and then likely became a farmer. Married Elisabeth Teichroew (ca. 1835–1857) in 1850, and Susanna Lepp (1836–1874) in 1857. Heinrich and Susanna had four surviving children, three sons and a daughter.


David Kroeger
(1860–1920)

Son of David Kroeger (1829–1909); clockmaker and machinist. Married Margaretha Krahn (1858–1920) in 1882 and had seven surviving children, five sons and two daughters. Founded D. Kroeger Clock and Motor Works ca. 1900. Around 1912, he and his brother Johann (1863–194?) split the business into two; David and his sons continued manufacturing motors, and Johann took over the clockmaking business.


Peter Kroeger
(1890–1942?)

Son of David Kroeger (1860–1920); clockmaker and machinist. Married Helena Koop (1895–1920) in 1917 and had one son. After her untimely death in 1920 of typhus he married Anna Schulz (1895–1974) in 1921, with whom he had two sons. Peter was the works manager for D. Kroeger Clock and Motor Works. He was forcibly taken by Soviet authorities in 1937.


Johann Kroeger
(1863–194?)

Son of David Kroeger (1829–1909); the last Kroeger clockmaker. Married Katharina Goertz (1874–1934) ca. 1895; together they had five surviving children, four sons and a daughter. Johann moved the clockmaking business out of D. Kroeger Clock and Motor Works to a new shop on Dnieper Strasse in Rosenthal in 1913. Soviet economic policy after the Russian Civil War forbade private enterprises from hiring employees, so Johann sold his shop and moved his business back into his home. He made the last Kroeger clocks in 1929.


Arthur Kroeger
(1922–2015)

Son of Peter Kroeger (1890–1942); draftsman and Mennonite clock expert. Married Elfriede Hiersack (1924–2012) in 1949 and had four daughters together. He witnessed the last Kroeger clocks being made when he was a child in Rosenthal. Arthur left the USSR during the tumult of the Second World War and became a teacher in West Germany for a time. He came to Canada in the late 1940s and pursued a career as a draftsman. He began teaching himself to repair and restore Mennonite clocks starting in the 1960s. Kroeger clocks were his passion and he continued researching, repairing, and repainting them until he passed away.


Peter Lepp
(1817–1871)

Clockmaker and machinist. He did not want to be a farmer, so he was sent to Prussia at the age of fifteen (ca. 1832) to learn clockmaking from his Janzen relatives. He returned to Chortitza in 1836 and set up his clockmaking business. Married Margaretha Klassen (1814–1863) in 1836 and had seven surviving children, two sons and five daughters. Married Elisabeth Perk (1830–1904) in 1866 and had one daughter. Worked with journeyman Gerhard Hamm and apprentice Kornelius Hildebrand. Retired from clockmaking around the 1850s, apparently due to bad eyesight, and dedicated himself to manufacturing farm machinery. His firm, Lepp and Wallman, was very successful and eventually grew to at least three factories.


Mandtler Clockmakers  Refers to any clock identifiably made by a member of the Mandtler family without certainty which member. Information on Mandtler clockmakers below owes a debt to James O. Harms’s work on Mandtler genealogy.


Unknown Mandtler clockmaker
(ca. 1685–?)

Possibly Jacob Mandtler’s (ca. 1735–ca. 1790) grandfather. Lived in Prussia.


Jacob Mandtler
(ca. 1735–ca. 1790)

Possibly grandson of the unknown Mandtler clockmaker above; clockmaker in Prussia. Married Katharina Epp (ca. 1735–?) ca. 1758, and had two sons and three daughters.


Jacob Mandtler
(1760–1842)

Son of Jacob Mandtler (ca. 1735–ca. 1790); clockmaker in Prussia. Married Barbara Mandtler (1755–1794) in 1782 and had one surviving son. Married Maria Wiens (1767–1824) ca. 1795 and had four surviving children, three sons and two daughters.


Jacob Mandtler
(1790–after 1840)

Son of Jacob Mandtler (1758–1832) and his first wife, Barbara Mandtler; clockmaker in Prussia. Married Magdalena Entz (1796–after 1830) and, of ten children, had at least two surviving sons. Moved to Lindenau, Molotschna Colony, in 1839, with his family.


Jacob Mandtler
(1816–?)


Son of Jacob Mandtler (1790–after 1840); clockmaker. Moved to Lindenau with his family in 1839.


Gerhard Mandtler
(1821–1904)

Son of Jacob Mandtler (1790–after 1840); clockmaker. Moved with his family from Prussia to Russia in 1839. Married Helena Penner (dates unknown) ca. 1850 and had two surviving children, a son and a daughter. Made clocks in Lindenau, Molotschna Colony, but did not decorate the dials; these were apparently painted in nearby Lichtenau. Marked his clocks with his initials and the year they were made.


Gerhard Mandtler
(1855–1930)

Son of Gerhard Mandtler (1821–1904); last Mandtler clockmaker. Like the Kroegers, Mandtler benefitted from the economic boom and subsequent increase in demand for clocks in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century and founded a clock factory in Lichtenau, Molotschna Colony. Marked clocks with his initials and date, and often a serial number. Ceased producing Mandtler clocks around the Russian Civil War (1917–1922).