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Isaak, Peter P. (1897–1961)

Proper Title

Peter P. Isaak fonds

Dates of Creation


Physical Description

20 cm of textual material

Biographical Sketch

Peter P. Isaak was born on December 5th, 1897, in Petrovka, No. 2, Orenburg, in the Ural region of Russia. His parents were Peter P. Isaak and Helena (nee. Harms) Isaak. Peter was one of 12 children (Jacob, Liese, Marie, Lena, Johann, Anna, etc.).

Peter’s mother instilled a love of poetry, and from an early age Peter decided to become a poet and preacher. Peter eagerly anticipated school. He was a great reader and was writing short stories and plays by the time he was 12. In 1914, during the First World War, Peter served in a city hospital in Moscow. He returned home in 1918 but by Christmas time Peter was called into military service. He began the year 1919 in a camp beside the Emiel River, twenty miles from Chuguchak, followed by a time of exile. In 1922 Lennon awarded amnesty to all soldiers and Peter finally began the long journey home late in the summer of 1923. Throughout his military career Peter continued to write poetry.

During Christmas of 1923 Peter met and married Tina Martens of Dolinovka, No. 9, Orenburg. Two years later their first boy, Eric was born. In 1926 Peter and his young family emigrated to Herbert, Saskatchewan and soon after Peter’s first poem was published in the Mennonitische Rundschau. Later, in the spring of 1927, Peter bought his first piece of land in Lucky Lake, SK 160 acres near the South Saskatchewan River. By this time he was known as the Poet Isaak and their second son, Pete, was born. From 1928-1929 Peter farmed and attended the Herbert Bible School, eventually receiving his diploma. He also began publishing articles in other newspapers.

In the early 1930’s Peter and Tina joined the Mennonite Brethren Church in Beechy and both were rebaptised. It was shortly thereafter that their daughter Frieda was born. They left Herbert and made their way to Waldheim, Saskatchewan. In Waldheim Peter continued to farm, established a Bible School and was invited to give many sermons. Eventually they bought a farm near the North Saskatchewan River, in the Bruderfeld area. They leased the adjoining pastureland and had four hundred and forty acres to raise cattle. After a few years Peter and Tina had a fifth child, Nettie.

Peter’s first book, Dem Leben Abgelauscht, was published before the winter of 1946. He sold 300 copies. In 1947 they moved too Matsqui, B.C. and eventually acquired 35 acres of farmland. In 1949 Peter published his second book Aus Sündenelend und Erdennot. The market for German literature was low, but eventually all the copies were sold. By 1958 all their children had left home and Peter and Tina decided to sell the land and retire in Clearbrook B.C. At first they attended McCallum Road M.B. Church and then Clearbrook M.B. Church. Demand for his service was minimal and he eventually wrote his last poem Herzkrank on June 18, 1961. Shortly thereafter on July 15, 1961 he died of a heart attack.

Custodial History

The Peter P. Isaak fonds were originally donated by Frieda Rogers, daughter of Peter P. Isaak, to the Mennonite Heritage Centre, Winnipeg, MB in March, 2005. It was agreed that the collection was better suited to the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies and was transferred over. The material had been saved by Peter’s wife Tina Isaak (nee Harms) after his death.

Scope and Content

The material in this collection consists of a memoir by Peter P. Isaak, both in the original German and an English translation. Seven files contain original poetry, articles and sermon notes that Peter wrote during his time in Saskatchewan and B.C., from 1926-1961. Peter’s daughter Frieda speculates that some of the notebooks are filled with Peter’s attempt to write a third book before he died. Three more files contain clippings of his writings which were published in both Mennonite and non-Mennonite newspapers, including the Mennonitische RundschauWegweiser and Zionsbote, mostly during the 1940s. Other materials include 2 published books and correspondence with various publishers.


  • Title based on contents of fonds.
  • Description by Tamara Dyck October 11, 2007.
  • Accession number: 2005-003.
  • No restrictions on access.
  • Language: German and some English.
  • Location: Volume 977.
  • Finding aid consists of a description and a file list.

File List

Volume 977

1.Photocopy of original memoirs by Peter P. Isaak, in German. – April 1961.
2.Bound memoirs by Peter P. Isaak , in English / translated by Frieda Rogers. – 1996.
3.Two Published volumes of poetry and other writings by Peter P. Isaak. Dem Leben abgelauscht. – 1946. Aus Sündenelend und Erdennot. – 1949.
4. Articles by Peter P. Isaak published in Mennonite newspapers. – [194-].
5. Poetry by Peter P. Isaak published in Mennonite newspapers. – [194-].
6. Articles and poetry by Peter P. Isaak published in non-Mennonite newspapers. – [194-].
7. Correspondence between Peter P. Isaak and publishers. – 1943-1956.
8. Loose poetry by Peter P. Isaak. – [194-] - 1961.
9. 7 notebooks of poetry and other writings by Peter P. Isaak. – 1926-1958.
10. 11 notebooks of poetry and other writings by Peter P. Isaak numbered 2-12. – 1926-1940. [possibly the start of a new book?]
11. 5 miscellaneous notebooks of poetry and other writings by Peter P. Isaak. – [19--].
12.Loose articles by Peter P. Isaak. – 1940-1960.
13.Loose sermon notes by Peter P. Isaak. – [1941-].
14.Two notebooks of sermon notes by Peter P. Isaak. [193-?].

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