Jacob Gerhard Epp, minister/farmer was born on 8 May 1882 in Rosenbach, Fürstenland, Russia, the second child of Gerhard Gerhard and Katharina (Dyck) Epp. Jacob G. Epp served his alternative service at the forestry camp in Neu Berdjansk where he gave his life to the Lord in 1905. On 29 November 1907, Jacob married Elizabeth Paetkau, daughter of Isaak and Susanna (von Niessen) Paetkau, born 6 December 1887 in Rosenbach, Furstenland. In 1909, Jacob Epp was baptized, joining the Fürstenland Mennonite Brethren Church. He soon became known for his zeal in preaching and Bible study. He was ordained as a Mennonite Brethren minister in 1913 by Gerhard Regehr. In spite of official restrictions, Jacob witnessed to his Russian neighbors, for which he imprisoned in 1920. Undaunted, he conducted Bible studies with the guards. Jacob was released after one week; his influence on the guards was a threat to prison officials.
Owing to the severe famine in 1921, the Epp family decided to leave Russia for Canada. When their passports finally arrived in September 1926, they left the next day for Moscow. On 20 October 1926 the Epps landed in London, England. Soon after they boarded the ship SS Melita, arriving in Quebec City, Quebec on 29 October 1926. The family briefly settled in Langham, Saskatchewan and then moved to Waldheim. They were in the process of buying 320 acres near Glenbush, Saskatchewan when Jacob Epp read an advertisement for good farmland at $135 per acre in Yarrow, British Columbia. The Epp family soon left for their new homeland with nine children, the eldest being 19, and the youngest under 2.
The Jacob Epps together with eight other families arrived in Yarrow on 21 February 1928. As an ordained leader, Jacob Epp was among the handful of people who helped set the course for the community. He was also elected to the "Schultebot", the community disciplinary committee, because he carried out his duties in a fair and loving way. The Epp home became a place where young people met on Sunday afternoons for Bible study and singing.
Jacob G. Epp was the first preacher to serve the young Yarrow Mennonite Church which initially was made up of both Mennonite Brethren and United Mennonite members. Jacob brought with him the fervor for Bible Study and preaching he had practiced in Russia. Initially he invited neighbors to Sunday worship at his home. On Good Friday, April 1928, Jacob Epp led the congregation in the first official worship service in Yarrow. He was diligent in the preparation of his sermons, concerned to nurture his listeners. Among the sources he used in preparation were the writings of Josephus, Charles Spurgeon and Johann Heinrich Jung (Jung Stilling), authors he had brought with him to Canada. He was appreciated for his warmth and caring expression by all the early settlers in Yarrow.
Jacob and Elizabeth Epp became charter members of Yarrow Mennonite Brethren Church in 1929. As a minister, he also became a member of the Church Council (Vorberat). Jacob Epp continued a long a fruitful preaching ministry, taught a men's Sunday school class, officiated at weddings and funerals, baptized new Church members and visited the sick and shut-ins, a practice he continued until the week before he died. He was a man of prayer, regularly attending and often leading the Saturday evening prayer meetings in the church. The Epps often hosted other local ministers and their wives or out-of-town guests in their home for a time of fellowship and encouragement on Sunday afternoons. Their guest room was seldom vacant.
Jacob Gerhard Epp passed away on 1 March 1949. Elizabeth (Paetkau) Epp passed away on 2 May 1949, just two months after her husband's passing. Both are buried in the Yarrow cemetery.
Harder, Esther Epp. "Epp, Jacob Gerhard (1882-1949)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 2003. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 December 2008
Obituary of Rev. Jacob G. Epp May 8, 1882 - March 1, 1949
Our dear husband and father, Jacob Epp was born on May 8, 1882 at Rosenbach, Fuerstenland, South Russia. He spent his childhood and youth there with his parents, 1 brother and 2 sisters. On November 29th, 1907 he was married to me, Elizabeth Paetkau. the Lord blessed our marriage with 10 children, the eldest child died in infancy.
The funeral service took place on March 7th with many people coming to pay their last respects. I was too weak to attend the services at the M.B. Church. For this reason, Brother Peter Martens came to our home and spoke words of comfort to our family.
Jacob served in the Military Service at Neu-Berdjan, and it was there in 1905 that he gave his life to the Lord, and was baptized upon confession of faith and accepted into the M.B. Church. He spent a lot of time serving the Lord, especially witnessing among the Russian people, where he was well known and loved. In 1913 he was ordained as a Minister by Aelt. Gerhard Regehr.
In the year 1926 we immigrated to Canada. We spent the first three months at Langham, Saskatchewan. In 1927 we moved to Waldheim near Brotherfield, where we lived for 1 year. Then in 1928 we moved to Yarrow, B.C. where my beloved husband suffered through the first hard pioneer years. At that time he served as the only minister in Yarrow.
Approximately 1 year ago, father visited the Doctor who gave him the diagnosis of hardening of the arteries leading to the heart. The doctor told him it was a serious illness and that he could die at any time. He was glad to know this, and his prayer and wish was that he would be tired and would lay down in the evening and would fall asleep here and would awaken with the Lord. The Lord answered his prayer.
Saturday, the 27th of February 1949, he came to visit me in the hospital in Vancouver. On the afternoon of March 1st, he worked outside in his garden. Around 4 o'clock he had come into the house to rest a bit. Around 6 o'clock he had come into the kitchen and told our daughter that he had chest pain. The doctor and the children were called. The doctor came too late, his spirit had escaped.
I was in the Vancouver General Hospital at this time recovering from a difficult surgery when I
received the news that my dear husband had gone home to be with the Lord. On March 2nd, I
came home by ambulance.
The services at the Church were conducted by Br. Abram Nachtigal and Aelt Gerhard Regehr from
Seattle, U.S.A. who gave comforting messages. The choir and the Senior Brothers from father's
Sunday School class served with fitting songs. Also Br. Fred Werk sang a solo. Rev. H. Bartsch
served at the cemetery.
He reached the age of 66 years, 9 months and 23 days. He leaves me, his deeply sorrowing wife,
4 sons, 5 daughters, 2 sons-in-law, 19 grandchildren 2 sisters, and 1 brother in Russia. All the
children, grandchildren and his sister Tina (Mrs. David Loewen) were able to sit beside his casket.
Sister Helena (Mrs. Peter Neudorf) from Winkler, Man. was not able to come.
He is now seeing that which he believed.
We are very grateful for all the love and sympathy shown to us.
His sorrowing wife, Elizabeth Epp and children.
Jacob G. Epp Obituary - Mennonitische Rundschau 13 April 1949 Number 15 page 1.
Translated by Esther Epp Harder, grand-daughter, who was at the funeral.
Der Bote: 23 March 1949
Br. J.G. Epp was born on 8 may 1882 and passed away 1 Mar 1949. His birthplace was Rosenbach, Fuerstenland, [South Russia] where he lived until he emigrated. During the time of his service in the Forestry, at Neu-Berdjansk, he accepted Jesus as his personal saviour. He received baptism upon his confession of faith in May 1909 and became a member of the M.B. Church. After a few years as a zealous follower of his Saviour, he was ordained as a Minister of the Gospel [1911 Fuerstenland M.B. Church by Rev. Gerhard Regehr].
In the year 1907, on November 29th, he was married to Miss Elizabeth Petkau. Of the ten children, which the Lord gave to them, the eldest child passed away at the age of 8 days.
Since 1926, through God's grace, Canada has been the homeland of the Epp family. After a short stay in Laird Saskatchewan, later in Brotherfield, they decided that they and their family would move to British Columbia arriving in Yarrow BC on February 21, 1928. With working diligently, frugal living and trusting God, the family came to prosperity. In the pioneering years, it was obvious that the Brother had perseverance, but also showed that he cared for everyone. Because of the shortage of available housing and the great poverty [of many people], the brother had many opportunities to practice his hospitality and accommodation, many new settlers and visitors were thankful for this. Through letters and personal visits, he as a practical farmer, he shared good advice and with that, he served willingly as the first minister for the new settlers. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with heart problems. His Master gave him further lessons through his illness. Surrendering to his condition, he withdrew a little from his physical work.
His wish was, that one evening he would be allowed to lay down to rest here and to awake in Heaven, and that he would precede his wife. It is wonderful how the Lord fulfills the wishes of His children. His wife, who was in the Vancouver hospital for three weeks following a very difficult surgery, had been prepared for his death at his last visit to her, as well as previous to that.
With great joy and pleasure, Brother Epp made home visitations with another Brother during the last weeks of his life. He also found it worthwhile to attend a Minister's course in January. Upon the questions, from Brother Petrus Martens, who was present at the death of Brother Epp: "Do you have pain?" He shook his head. "Is the way up open?" He nodded his head and folded his hands. "Shall we pray?" He nodded again. After the prayer, he said a hearty "Amen" and in a few minutes, he was Home.
Even though the tears flow, the widow, her six married children, her three single daughters and her 19 grandchildren, want to be still and surrender to the will of God.
A neighbour of the deceased. [? Brother Petrus Martens]
The Rundschau is asked to copy.