Elma Esau Papers, 1893-2000
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Brief Description: Elma E. Esau was born September 14, 1917, to Edward and Clara (Claassen) Esau near Whitewater, Kansas.  She graduated from Whitewater High School in 1935 and attended Bethel College for two years.  She returned to Bethel and completed her BA degree in 1969.  From 1943 to 1981 she volunteered and then worked for MCC and its subsidiary, MTS (Menno Travel Service). Elma Esau began her MCC service at the Ypisilanti, Michigan, relief training unit in 1943.  She then worked to set up and manage relief clothing centers in Ephrata, Pennsylvania; Kitchener, Ontario; and Newton, Kansas.  In April, 1945, she went to the MCC Center in London, England, and from there on to serve in Amsterdam and Copenhagen.  In the summer of 1947 she traveled around the US speaking to women’s groups at Mennonite churches about MCC’s relief work in Europe, and then she remained at Akron until April, 1949, when she went to Gronau, Germany, for additional relief service.  In 1951 she escorted Mennonite refugees to Brazil and Uruguay.  After two years in the MCC Personnel Office in Akron, she began her work for MTS in Newton in 1953 and continued there until 1958.  In 1959 she ran the MTS office in Amsterdam.  From 1962 through 1965 she directed the MTS office in Beirut, returning from mid-1966 to 1967, when the office was evacuated during the 6 Day War.  She worked in numerous other locations for brief terms before returning to the MTS Akron office from 1969 to 1980, where she directed the tour department and lead many tours.  She retired to her family farm near Whitewater in 1981 and moved to Kidron-Bethel in 1991.  She was a lifelong member of the Emmaus Mennonite Church.  She passed away on November 16, 2009. The collection provides unique and extensive documentation, including original correspondence and photographs, of the MCC work with refugees during and after World War II.  In her MTS career she kept diaries and photographs from the numerous tours she directed.  She also collected tourist literature from the dozens of countries she visited, and during the steamship area, kept items like menus and tickets. This collection also contains the papers (1 cubic foot) of Edward Esau (Elma’s father), who was born in Hohendorf, Am Trakt, Russia, on November 27, 1887.  He immigrated to the United States in 1908 to avoid the Russian Forestry Service.  He lived for a year with family in Bessie/Cordell, Oklahoma, and then moved to the Whitewater/Potwin area of Kansas.  From 1908 through 1936 (except 1918-1920) he received frequent letters from his family and friends in Russia, primarily from his brother, Gerhard, and sister, Renate. The letters he received constitute almost the entirety of his papers and are all in German, but many have been translated and published by Elma in Russia Letters, 1995.
Held at:
Bethel College Mennonite Library and Archives
Bethel College-Mennonite Library and Archives
300 East 27th St
North Newton, KS 67117 531
Phone: 316-284-5304
Fax: 316-284-5843
Email: mla [at] bethelks.edu
Record Series Number: 00/MS.308
Created by: Esau, Elma (1917-), Esau, Edward (1887-1966)
Volume: 2.15 Cubic Feet
Acquired: 05/30/1991.
Arrangement: The materials are divided into six categories: 1) Esau’s correspondence and documents, primarily related to her service and work for MCC and MTS; 2) files for the dozen’s of tours Esau lead and some for personal travel, often including the itinerary, participants, a short diary, and travel documents; 3) photos, including Esau’s work with refugees in the 1940s and 1950s and of other MCC staff and also snapshots and commercial travel photos; 4) the correspondence of Esau’s father, Edward from 1908 to 1936; 5 and 6) largely unsorted subject files in folders labeled by Esau related to the Middle East and a wide variety of other topics, including many tourist brochures from Lancaster County and Kansas.
Biographical Note for Esau, Elma (1917-) :

Born 14 September 1917, Butler County, Kansas. Parents Eduard Esau and Clara Claassen.

Attended Bethel College 1935-1940, but did not graduate until 1969.

Long-time MCC worker in Europe after World War 2, also in Lebanon. Also worked for Menno Travel Service.

Access Restrictions: open for research use
Subject Index
Central Asia Trek (Claas Epp)
Mennonite Central Committee - Europe
Mennonites - Europe
Mennonites - Kansas
Mennonites - Russia
Genres/Forms of Material
Slides (photographs)
Languages of Materials
English [eng]
German [ger]
Russian [rus]
Acquisition Notes: Elma Esau  

Box 1 donated by her 30 May 1991

Boxes 3-5 brought in by her brother Elbert Esau, 26 January 2007

Boxes 6-17 donated by Agnes Harder, executor, 10 June 2010

Box 18 donated by Nathan Esau (nephew), 8 Nov 2013