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Friesen, Abraham Johann (1859–1920) and Maria Martens Friesen (d. 1917)

Proper Title

Abraham Johann Friesen and Maria Martens Friesen fonds

Dates of Creation


Physical Description

3 cm of textual material and 15 photographs

Biographical Sketch

Abraham Johann Friesen was born in Einlage, South Russia. As a young man, he was employed as a business man in his father’s large factory. In his early twenties, he married Maria Martens. Soon the young couple felt a call to mission work.

In 1884 he entered the Baptist Theological Seminary in Hamburg to prepare himself for missionary work. During his four years there, he studied the various mission fields and became greatly interested in the Telegu Mission. From 1885–1889 Maria studied "women’s work" at Hamburg Baptist Seminary in Germany. Following a year of language training in Madras, they moved to Nalgonda, India in October of 1890.

Abraham and Maria Friesen were the first Mennonite Brethren foreign missionaries, serving for 19 years in India. Because Russian Mennonite Brethren were not allowed to organize a missionary society, the Friesens worked under the American Baptist Missionary Union, although they were financially supported by the Russian Mennonite Brethren Churches. In 1891 they baptized 178 converts and founded an indigenous congregation. At the time of their first furlough, 1897–1899, the Nalgonda Church numbered 700 baptised members. Abraham and Maria returned to India in 1899 with additional missionaries. Maria’s ill health forced them to return to Russia in 1908 by which time Indian churches numbered 3,000 baptized members. Both remained active in promoting mission work. Maria died in Spat, Russia on April 19, 1917 and Abraham died in November, 1920. They adopted two children.

Taken from the Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. II, p. 404.

Custodial History

The textual contents of this fonds were purchased from the American Baptist Historical Society in 1987. The photos were copied from photos owned Peter Duerksen, son of Peter and Mary Duerksen of Kitchener, ON. Mary is the adopted daughter of Abraham and Maria Friesen.

Scope and Content

The Abraham and Maria Friesen fonds consists of photocopies of correspondence by and to Abraham Friesen and photographs relating to his missionary work in India. Much of it is in regards to his financial support which was worked out in cooperation between the American Baptist Missionary Union and the Russian Mennonite Brethren. The letters are in the English language.


  •  Volume 949.
  • Title based on contents of fonds.
  • Description updated by Conrad Stoesz November 27, 2003.
  • The accession number is 1987-21, 1998-067.
  • No restrictions on access.
  • Location: Personal papers collection.

File List

Volume 949

  1. Correspondence. – 1889–1895.
  2. Correspondence. – 1896–1899.
  3. Correspondence. – 1900–1904.
  4. Correspondence. – 1905–1909.
  5. Correspondence. – 1911–1916. Also includes obituary of Abraham Johann Friesen taken from the Mennonitische Rundschau, 11 October 1922.
  6. “Ein Wort ueber Mission in Nalgonda, Indien,” a four-page pamphlet written by Abraham and Maria Friesen.
  7. Research regarding Abraham and Maria Friesen. -- [198-?].

Photograph collection

NP135-01: Abraham and Maria Friesen
NP135-01:1 The Missionary Friesen family in India with teacher. (19--. 10 x 15 cm.)This photo shows the Mennonite Brethren missionaries to India Abraham and Maria Friesen, with their children Aaron and Mary and a teacher.
NP135-01:2 Missionary Abraham Friesen of India. (19--. 10 x 15 cm.)This item is a portrait of Abraham Friesen standing at a table in a library holding a book in his right hand.
NP135-01:3 Abraham and Maria Friesen. (19--. 10 x 15 cm.)This item is a full length portrait of Abraham and Maria Friesen who became the first Russian Mennonite Brethren missionaries to India.
NP135-01:4 Missionary Abraham Friesens with adopted son Aaron. (19--. 10 x 15 cm.)This item is a studio portrait of Russian Mennonite Brethren missionaries Abraham and Maria Friesen with their adopted son Aaron (taken in Russia).
NP135-01:5 A group of orphan children in Nalonda (India). (19--. 10 x 15 cm.)This item shows six orphan girls standing outside a house in Nalonda, India.
NP135-01:6 Missionary conference(?). (19--. 15 x 10 cm.)This item shows a large group of men, women and a few children outside a building with one row of people on the outdoor balcony. Russian Mennonite Brethren missionaries Abraham and Maria Friesens and their two adopted children are seated in the front row.
NP135-01:7 Missionary Friesens in a horse-drawn carriage. (19--. 15 x 10 cm.)This item shows Russian Mennonite Brethren missionaries Abraham and Maria Friesen sitting in a two-wheel horse-drawn carriage with the chauffeur standing and holding the horse.
NP135-01:8 Missionary Maria Friesen with group of “followers”. (19--. 15 x 10 cm.)This item shows Missionary Maria Friesen sitting on a chair with a group of Indian men and women standing and seated around her.
NP135-01:9 Missionary Abraham Friesen with Indian believers. (19--. 15 x 10 cm.)This item shows group of approximately 40 Indian “converts” with Russian Mennonite Brethren missionary Abraham Friesen standing in the centre, posed in front of a meeting place with the sign “To the Rock of our Salvation”.
NP135-01:10 Boarding school for girls in Nalgonda. (19--. 15 x 10 cm.)This items shows an unknown missionary in India with a group of girls in front of the boarding school in Nalgonda.
NP135-01:11 Mission station in India. (1894. 15 x 10 cm.)This item shows a mission station in India with a hill in the background.
NP135-01:12 Missionary children Aaron and Mary Friesen. (19--. 15 x 10 cm.)This item shows Aaron and Mary Friesen with another boy and girl of India.
NP135-01:13 Mennonite Brethren Church building in India. (19--. 15 x 10 cm.)This item shows a Mennonite Brethren church in India.
NP135-01:14 The first missionary families from Russia in India. (1905. 15 x 10 cm.)This item shows: (standing) Aron Martens Friesen, Abraham Friesen, Abraham Huebert; (seated) Maria Friesen, Katharina Reimer, Katharina Huebert; (on the carpet) Abram Huebert, Jr., Mary Friesen and Katie Huebert.
NP135-01:15 A.J. Friesen’s Nalgonda mission station. (1901. 35 x 19 cm.)This item show the entire Nalgonda mission station in India.
NP135-01:16 Negatives for the Abraham Friesen photos from India. (1998. 35 negatives; 35 mm.)This file contains the negatives used to produce the photographs in collection NP135-01.
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