Village News

Looking Ahead in 2018

   The new year is underway, and we are developing plans for new things as well as usual things here at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). We will be working especially hard at increasing our level of relevance in our community.

   With 17 heritage buildings to maintain, over 16,000 artifacts to preserve and keep track of, and new exhibits to design and install, our Curatorial Department will have no shortage of work. MHV’s theme for 2018 will be centered around clocks, so the exhibit being developed for our Gerhard Ens Gallery will explore this subject matter. A refurbishing of this gallery is being planned prior to installing the new exhibit.

   Our curators will also be establishing priorities with respect to refurbishment of heritage structures. The deck of the windmill needs to be replaced; the Livery Barn Restaurant, the Printery, and the Reimer Store all need fresh coats of paint; and the barn in our barnyard needs both paint and new shingles. We have a volunteer in place to do some of the painting and would welcome more volunteers so that a paint crew can be created. From time to time, we also think and talk about a major renovation of our Main Gallery, but that matter is unlikely to get much attention this year.

   MHV’s programs will be experiencing change in 2018, due to the recent retirement of Anne Toews, our Program Director for the past 11 seasons. Our new Program Manager, to be introduced shortly, will bring new perspectives for our volunteer program, education program and festivals. Our programing priorities for 2018 will include the exploration of new opportunities for involvement with our community. We already have plans in place for a Guys and Dolls Gala for high school students on February 16 and a Winter Carnival for families on February 17. But along with the “new,” you may rest assured that we will continue to plan MHV’s traditional celebrations - Canada Day, Pioneer Days, and Fall on the Farm - as well.

   Our Fundraising and Public-Relations Department has been developing a number of events and initiatives for 2018. MHV will again work with Eden Foundation to host the annual Tractor Trek. We will also hold our annual Heritage Classic Golf Tournament in August. Our Sponsorship Program has been tweaked to provide interesting options for all sizes of businesses. A new fundraising initiative has recently been launched. Choose Your Own Adventure Raffle offers the winner one of five different international trips. Raffle tickets are currently on sale at MHV and will continue to be available through the summer.

   Of course the big news for our Facility Rentals department is that we now have a new venue available. Our Summer Pavilion has already garnered considerable attention and promises to be popular for company picnics, family gatherings, class reunions, wedding receptions and other activities. Meeting rooms in the Village Centre, as well as some of our heritage buildings, will continue to be available as in previous years.

   Museums are sometimes assumed to be places where nothing new ever happens. At MHV, we will do our best to dispel that perception and keep our community engaged here season to season and year after year.

Calendar of Events

February 4, 7:00 PM - Vespers Service

February 16, 8:00 PM - Guys & Dolls Gala

February 17, 10:00 AM - Winter Carnival

February 22, 7:00 PM - An Evening With the Authors

Village News

MHV Membership
What is the membership value proposition at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV)? This is one of the questions the Membership Committee of MHV’s Board of Directors asked itself last year. In other words, why would anyone want to be a formal member of MHV?
Is it because they value the preservation of Mennonite artifacts and history? Is it because they like to visit the museum frequently and therefore value the free admission that members receive? Is it because they see MHV as a significant social gathering place that enhances the quality of life in our community? Or is it because they value the opportunity to participate in decision-making at MHV’s Annual General Meeting (AGM)? The committee’s conclusion was that none of these factors alone would attract a large group of members.
For years, our members have had free access to events at MHV; received our newsletter, Village Voice, free of charge; enjoyed the right to vote at our AGM; received a 10% discount on merchandise purchased in Village Books and Gifts; and qualified for free or discounted admission at most of Manitoba’s other Signature Museums. But the committee felt that additional membership benefits should be offered.
At the November meeting of our Board of Directors it was decided that the following new membership benefits will be added to the existing benefits: a 10% discount on program fees, facility rentals, and restaurant purchases; a 50% discount on admission fees for members’ guests; and eligibility for free guided tours which will be offered from time to time. These additions will substantially enhance MHV’s membership value proposition.
Membership options at MHV include Life Memberships and Annual Memberships. Our Life Membership was originally designed for couples only. When couples with young children inquired about a Life Membership, we had to inform them that this type of membership was not suited to a family. However, we are now able to offer a reconfigured Life Membership which accommodates all situations. Beginning January 1, 2018, all Life Memberships purchased will be individual memberships which include the member’s dependent children under the age of 18. This means that everyone is treated equally: singles, young families, retired couples and everyone in between. All existing Life Memberships will remain unchanged.
But perhaps the most exciting news is that the MHV Board of Directors has also decided to reduce the cost of Annual Memberships. Whereas an Annual Membership for a couple or a family was previously priced at $80, the 2018 price will be $50. The cost of an Annual Membership for a single person has been reduced from $40 to $30. This brings MHV’s Annual Membership fees more in line with those of other similar organizations.
MHV is here to serve its constituency by preserving and interpreting artifacts and stories, by creating community festivals and hosting community events, and by attracting tourism with economic benefits for the community at large. This is most likely to happen if we are able to engage our constituency and, at the same time, make ends meet financially.
Calendar of Events
December 23 – January 7, closed for Christmas
February 4, 7:00 PM - Vespers Service
February 16, Guys & Dolls Gala
February 17, Winter Carnival

Village News

Looking Back at 2017
To be an historian, one must enjoy looking back in time. While this column often refers to things from the distant past, on this occasion it is appropriate to reflect on the recent past and share some of the significant happenings at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) in 2017.
The year began with two major capital projects underway. The Summer Pavilion was under construction, and the Waldheim house was in the middle of a major restoration. Both projects were successfully completed later in the year. Several other projects were also completed: The windmill received a comprehensive maintenance checkup by a Dutch millwright; the makeup-air unit on the roof of the Village Centre was replaced; and many of our indoor and outdoor lights were upgraded to LED bulbs and fixtures.
Curatorial staff designed and installed a new exhibit addressing our 2017 theme, Storied Places. Whereas students from the Steinbach Regional Secondary School have been developing exhibits for us for several years already, two classes from Landmark schools also contributed to our theme this year. Visitors to our gallery were invited to create a storied map of Steinbach. In spring we also hosted the Manitoba Museum’s exhibit Nice Women Don’t Want the Vote in our Gerhard Ens Gallery. Our Main Gallery saw the addition of an electronic world map showing the locations of Mennonite populations around the world.
In addition to making waffles and catering for a variety of events, the MHV Auxiliary presented the film The Last Objectors at the annual spring Film Night, collaborated with a local community quilting guild to present the Threads of Time Quilt Show, and staged a wonderful evening of multi-ethnic story telling around the theme Celebrating 150 Years of Immigration.
Our Annual General Meeting in March saw two new board members elected to our Board of Directors. Jeremy Peters and Matt Wieler, two local businessmen, began their first terms of service on the board and have already begun to contribute. They provided significant input toward some changes to our membership offering and policy, which will be announced in next week’s column.
The Steinbach and Area Garden Club not only continued to volunteer many hours to maintain both flower and vegetable gardens at MHV, they also re-landscaped the west side of the Auditorium with fresh topsoil and a variety of new plantings.
Our Fundraising Department again managed several successful events and a strong sponsorship program. The two new events initiated in 2017 were the Heritage Classic Car Show and the Trip Raffle, the latter ongoing till November 2018.
This past year saw a number of staff transitions at MHV. Dora Penner decided to retire after several years as our Food Services Manager, and Yuliya Asraf stepped in to take her place. Alexandra Kroeger, our Assistant Curator, moved on, and Jenna Klassen has taken on her role. Anne Toews also chose retirement after numerous years as our Program Director. A new manager for that department will be introduced in the new year.
On July 1, approximately 5,000 guests joined us to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. The City of Steinbach graciously loaned us their Canada 150 mural to be part of this celebration and to enhance our summer education program. Our Pioneer Days weekend took on a new glow with Friday-night fireworks, sponsored by Richardson Pioneer.
On the second weekend in June, we focused attention on collectors and lovers of vintage tractors. The annual Tractor Trek fundraiser, done in collaboration with the Eden Foundation, took place on Saturday, and the Southeast Implement Collectors staged their Tractor Show on Sunday.
In spring we partnered with the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society as we hosted a second annual lecture evening. This year’s topic was Food, Family and Spirituality. Plans are currently underway for the 2018 edition of this event.
Many Protestant denominations celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. At MHV, we were delighted that St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church chose us as their venue for a reformation celebration. Our Auditorium was full that evening.
We are grateful for the wonderful community initiatives we were able to be a part of, for all the blessings our guests and our constituency brought us, and for the things we were able to contribute to our community. We anticipate that 2018 will bring different but equally rich experiences and offerings.
Calendar of Events
December 23 – January 7, closed for Christmas
February 4, 7:00 PM - Vespers Service
February 16, Guys & Dolls Gala
February 17, Winter Carnival

Village News

Why Celebrate Christmas?

   Before anyone jumps to conclusions, let me assure all readers that this article will not question the value of celebrating Christmas. It may challenge some of the ways in which we celebrate, but its purpose is to invite attention to how we can best observe this holiday.

   In North America, Christmas is likely the festival that precipitates more gift exchanges, social gatherings, programs, travel and days off than any other. Each of these elements have value in and of themselves. It’s when they are done to excess and create distress in our families and personal lives that their value should be questioned and their structure re-examined.

   On the evening of Christmas Day or maybe on Boxing Day, after all the busy stuff is over, I have often found myself peacefully listening to Christmas carols or a Christmas concert. There are no more gifts to buy, programs to attend, or gatherings to participate in – as meaningful as those things have been. At that point, however, I am finally relaxing and enjoying what this great festival means to me. In a sense, Christmas is officially over and I’m just beginning to enjoy its real significance.

   To me, Christmas is a time to celebrate God’s love for all people and the focused and special ways in which that love was (and is) expressed. This love is entirely beyond my ability to understand. It brought God, a deity, from the perfection of heaven to live as a person among a frail and flawed human race. The life Jesus lived during his brief stay on earth was in no way cushy or comfortable.

   Jesus was born to an unwed mother. While that fact didn’t likely cause him much discomfort at that time, the stigma associated with such parentage may well have been present and active as he grew up. His father was a carpenter, neither highly educated nor wealthy. A person of humble means.

   His birthing suite was a stable. I grew up on a farm and spent many hours in our barns. To this day, I am quite comfortable with the sights and smells of barns. I’ve also witnessed the births of our two children in a sterile hospital suite. It’s not hard to understand that the human birth experience does not belong in a cold, drafty, noisy, smelly barn. But that’s the place where God chose to enter our human world.

   Shepherds were the first people to hear of the birth of Jesus. They were some of the lowliest people of that day. Not highly educated, not wealthy, not popular in social circles. But they paid attention to the unfolding events and went to worship this Christ child. He was only a few days old when he was put on King Herod’s “Most Wanted” list and spent the next two years being hidden by his parents in order to save his life.

   During Jesus’ public ministry, the religious leaders of the day challenged him, opposed him and tried to have him arrested and killed. And eventually they succeeded. Sort of.

   God’s arrival on this earth, in the person of Jesus, was lowly and without great public fanfare. He showed himself first to common people. And maybe this is a clue as to how we can best celebrate this great historic event. Maybe it’s in the simple, quiet experiences that we will best be able to absorb and be influenced by God’s love.

Calendar of Events

December 23 – January 7, closed for Christmas

February 4, 7:00 PM - Vespers Service

February 16, Guys & Dolls Gala

February 17, Winter Carnival


Village News

Campaign Update
Our Foundations for a Strong Future initiative has been underway for just over two years now. In September of 2015 we rolled out this capital campaign with a view to accomplishing a number of things. Our goal has been to raise $3,000,000 for the sustainability and development of Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). As of December 1, 2017, we have received cash and commitments of just over $2,200,000, for which we are very grateful. We only need to find the remaining $800,000 to achieve our goal.
The largest single project in the campaign was the construction of our new events centre, the Summer Pavilion. Of the $1,300,000 required to build this facility, we have so far received $714,762 in gifts and pledges designated to this project. As we were using our new facility this past summer, we learned that we would do well to address the very lively acoustics in the building. An improvement plan is now in place, and we have applied for several grants to assist us in the resolution of this issue.
The restoration of the Waldheim House has also been a significant component of our campaign. This project seems to have been a favourite for donors, as it has already been completely funded and completed. We are delighted with the result.
We have completed about 70% of the three-phase replacement of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems in our main building, the Village Centre. The first priority was to ensure that our systems in the areas where we store, work with, and exhibit our artifacts are functioning well. A climate-controlled environment is essential for maintaining our artifacts in optimum condition. These systems maintain steady temperature and relative-humidity levels throughout the year. Not many museums are as well-equipped as we are to preserve their collections of artifacts. However, very few of the dollars donated to our campaign have been designated to this project so far.
A number of our heritage structures, in addition to the Waldheim House, have already benefited from our Foundations initiative. The Old Colony Worship House has received some siding and window repairs, as well as a fresh coat of paint. Our windmill has gotten some major attention from a Dutch millwright and had its sails partially rebuilt. Arrangements are currently being made to replace the deck and its supporting timbers this coming spring. We are pleased that various donors have already provided most of the money needed for these important windmill upgrades.
It is also beneficial that a significant portion of funds donated to our Foundations campaign has not been designated to any specific project. These funds can therefore be allocated to any of our capital projects where shortfalls exist.
Apart from these more-attractive capital projects, we do still need to operate our museum on a daily basis. Those costs are also increasingly significant. Before year-end, we still need about $150,000 to cover our 2017 operating expenses.
So as our donors consider how they would like to help MHV at this time of the year, they can choose where to allocate their support: to our 2017 operating fund, or to our Foundations for a Strong Future campaign (or to both). If a donation comes in designated “where needed most,” we will be happy to make that decision. Either way, we will be thankful for the support of our constituency.
Calendar of Events
December 23 – January 7, closed for Christmas
February 4, 7:00 PM - Vespers Service
February 16, Guys & Dolls Gala
February 17, Winter Carnival

Village News

Stony Brook?

   Steinbach grew up along a brook, but was it stony?
   Answer: The streams that drain the RM of Hanover into the Manning Canal and then into the Red River are cut into a thick layer of Lake Agassiz clay, so these could hardly be considered “stony.” The closest watercourse that actually has enough stones to form rapids is the Roseau River near the US border.
   Why then did the settlers arriving here call it Stein (stone) Bach (brook)?
   Answer: Because the name was imported from Ukraine. About half of the first settlers in Steinbach, Manitoba, came from Steinbach, Ukraine (then Imperial Russia). This was a farming village along the northwest bank of the Bazavluk River, about 60 km northwest of Nikopol. That river has stony banks; ergo, Steinbach. That community was populated by the Kleine Gemeinde sect of Mennonites. All of them packed up in 1874-1875 and went to North America, leaving their homes and farms to other Mennonite farmers. Those unfortunate people were later massacred in 1919 by roving bandits during the chaos of revolutionary Russia. That village site is now deserted, marked only by a long hedge-row of trees that used to line the main street of Steinbach and a few prehistoric burial mounds (kurgans). But there is now a Ukrainian town across the river called Myronivka, if you want to look it up on Google Earth. It's at latitude 47.79299 and longitude 34.05931.
   Of course the name “Steinbach” popped up in many other places as well. There were at least five other Steinbachs in Russia, and there is a fairly large city in Germany by that name. According to Bill Schroeder's atlas, there are also Steinbach villages in Argentina (Remeco Colony), Mexico (Riva Palacios and Manitoba Colonies), and Paraguay (Sommerfeld Colony). All of these hark back to places in Russia where there actually were Steine and Baeche.

   Our Steinbach area here is well watered. Besides the creeks and sub-creeks (is that a word?) that interlace the city, there is abundant water in a pressure system of limestone 100 feet down. In addition, there are numerous freshwater springs north of the city. The one I know best is right on the southern edge of the Steinbach lagoon, just steps from where we lived when I was a kid.

   All of the creeks around Steinbach feed into the Manning Canal about three miles north of Randolph, and from there the water flows into the Seine River Diversion at Île-des-Chȇnes and thus to the Red River. Steinbach has always been well drained, except for that flash flood in 2014. And now, thanks to the canal, our excess water does not flood our friends living in the former wetlands around New Bothwell and Landmark.

   Steinbach actually has at least three creeks running through it. Two of them are relatively unchanged: the Giesbrecht drain on the west, and the creek running through the museum grounds and the golf course to the northeast. But the central one, which runs along Elmdale, has been greatly remodeled. It is now channeled past the T. G. Smith Arena between pretend rocks that are actually quite attractive and functional. So now it's finally a “stony creek!”

Calendar of Events

December 11, 7:00 PM – A Gardener’s Christmas (meeting of the Steinbach and Area Garden Club)

December 23 – January 7, closed for Christmas

February 4, 7:00 PM - Vespers Service

February 16, Guys & Dolls Gala

February 17, Winter Carnival

Village News

VN 2017 11 30 Cleaning

   Although the outdoor village has closed for the season and activity at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) has quieted down, the winter season signals a busy time for our curatorial department.

   From early in the new year to late winter we will be giving our Gerhard Ens Gallery a much-needed facelift, repairing and repainting walls, fixing and updating our exhibit cases, and adding electrical capacity to the gallery. We are very grateful for the funding we have received for this project from the Heritage Grants Program of the Province of Manitoba and also from the MHV Auxiliary, without which a project like this would be impossible. After these renovations, we will also be developing and installing our 2018 exhibit, featuring Mennonite clocks, in the Gerhard Ens Gallery.

   Aside from these big projects, our focus during the winter is on maintaining our artefacts. This includes cataloguing donations received throughout the year, improving the way we store artefacts, and — perhaps our favourite part — cleaning!

   Cleaning artefacts and the spaces where they are stored or exhibited is a crucial part of preventative conservation, or in other words, ensuring our artefacts remain in great condition. Other aspects of preventative conservation are maintaining specific temperatures and humidity levels where we keep artefacts, checking bug traps to make sure artefacts are not exposed to dangerous pests, and storing artefacts properly in our storage room (e.g., storing paper documents in non-acidic folders to prevent deterioration).

   While it can be difficult to be enthusiastic about cleaning, one of the first things you’ll find out about any curators you know is that we are inordinately excited about organizing things. So, while cleaning might seem like just a dull task that needs to be done to properly maintain a museum collection, we have been looking forward to this project for months! Dusting artefacts with microfiber cloths is one common way of cleaning; however, at MHV we recently upped the ante in the way we clean! Thanks to funding we received from the Heritage Grants Program in 2017, the curatorial department was able to purchase its very own HEPA vacuum cleaner to be used specifically for cleaning our artefacts and exhibits. The vacuum uses special filters that prevent dust from leaving the canister, and it fits onto a person like a backpack for easier maneuvering and cleaning.

   Vacuuming is particularly useful in cleaning textile artefacts. Although brushing the dust off an item like a coat is an option, the vacuum is a more efficient and effective method. Despite these benefits, vacuuming items like blankets, dresses, and fur coats is a delicate process. To prevent the material from being directly sucked into the vacuum, or to keep embellishments from being pulled off the material, a small screen is put over the end of the hose so only dust and dirt particles are removed.

   To maintain and preserve artefacts, it is important to clean them when they go on exhibit or back into storage, and to regularly clean items that stay on exhibit for longer periods of time, like those displayed in our Permanent Gallery. We plan to do a thorough cleaning of our exhibits in the gallery this winter.

   Those of you who have come “behind the scenes” at the museum to see our curatorial lab and design spaces will know there is a lot going on in these two large rooms. This is where we accept and catalogue new artefacts and develop and create our exhibits.  Keeping this area clean and organized is also an important task, which unfortunately is difficult to make a priority within our usual work schedule. To ensure we stay on top of it, however, we have scheduled two separate weeks over the winter where our curatorial department will be closed to the public. We’ll be washing floors, dusting, and re-organizing to ensure we are making the best use of our behind-the-scenes spaces.

   This week is the first of these cleaning weeks! To allow us to focus exclusively on this work, our curatorial department will address any enquiries received this week from the public during the first week of December, when the department has re-opened to the public. So, while it may take us a bit of time to get back to your email or phone call, we thank you for your patience as we put our new artefact vacuum through its paces and get our curatorial spaces cleaned and organized.

Calendar of Events

December 3, 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

December 11, 7:00 PM – A Gardener’s Christmas (meeting of the Steinbach and Area Garden Club)

Image caption: Who you gonna call?  Dust-busters!  Curator Andrea Dyck tries out our new vacuum on an exhibit case.

Village News

This and That

   As we near the close of another year, some things at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) are in a process of change, while other aspects continue as usual.     

Staff Transition

   MHV’s Program Director, Anne Toews, recently served her last day in that role. She had decided it was time to retire from this career and spend more time with her family. Many members of the community became acquainted with Anne through her management of our volunteer program and festival events. We wish her well as she begins a well-deserved rest.

   As a result of this, we needed to review the role of Program Manager to be sure that it was aligned with MHV’s current needs before hiring a new person. The position was then posted, and the competition closed this week. Interviews will get underway shortly. The new person in this role will be responsible for our volunteer program, education program, and festival events.

New Events Venue

   In September we cut a ribbon to open MHV’s new Summer Pavilion, a building designed and built to accommodate a variety of museum and community activities. It was already put to good use this year by our summer education program, festival entertainment, weddings, staff picnics and other community events.

   Now at this time of year, many people are looking for wedding venues. Couples who have been inquiring about MHV’s facilities this year are frequently choosing our new Pavilion. We are delighted to now be able to offer this building as well as our Auditorium for these events.

Sponsorship Program

   We are grateful that our business community regularly steps up to the plate with financial support for MHV through our sponsorship program. This program offers a variety of opportunities for sponsorship, including our festivals, Tractor Trek, golf tournament, classic car show, and barrel train.

   Sponsorship opportunities for 2018 will be presented to businesses by way of a booklet that lists and describes all sponsorship options. This will allow each business proprietor to view the entire offering and then choose the options which suit their purposes best.

Village Books & Gifts

   As usual, our gift shop stocks an interesting selection of Christmas gift ideas, such as cookbooks, genealogies, novels, toys, puzzles, games, and even wooden clothes-dryers. It’s just the place to shop, especially if one has run out of ideas for gift giving. To make things convenient, our online gift store at is open for browsing and purchasing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Check it out.

Christmas Break

   In keeping with the pattern of the past few years, our museum will again be closed for a two-week holiday the weeks of December 25 and January 1, opening for business again on January 8.

   We are currently developing plans for new activities and initiatives throughout 2018, so stay tuned and we’ll try to keep everyone informed.

Calendar of Events

December 3, 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

December 11, 7:00 PM – A Gardener’s Christmas (meeting of the Steinbach and Area Garden Club)

Village News

Balancing the Budget

   Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is not the only organization trying to close the year with black ink on the bottom line. Many organizations end their fiscal year on December 31. This is also the time of year when individuals and businesses are assessing their profits for the almost-completed year and making decisions about sharing some of those profits with charities. We are again inviting our constituency to keep MHV in mind when making those year-end giving decisions.

   MHV has had a challenging year as we have faced ongoing cost increases. Labour rates continue to increase as the minimum-wage rate goes up. Insurance premiums and property taxes are on the rise. Costs for food in the Livery Barn Restaurant, office supplies, and fuel for our lawn mowers are also not static. We have had little or no control over most of these increases.

   However, we are always on the lookout for ways to cut costs. This year, for example, we initiated a project to replace a large number of incandescent lights with new and more energy-efficient LED lights. The Manitoba Government’s Community Places Program, Manitoba Hydro’s Power Smart Program, and a number of supporting individuals and businesses came together to provide the funding for this initiative. We fully expect this to reduce our energy and maintenance costs going forward, as the bulbs will last longer and we will not need to spend time and money replacing them.

   At this point, however, we still need over $200,000 of revenue before the end of this year to hit our 2017 income target. While our gift shop and our facility rental business will continue to generate income these remaining months, much of the needed revenue must still come through personal and corporate donations. These donations will support the work that we do in preserving and interpreting important and interesting artifacts and stories; building community with our festivals, education programs, and meeting facilities; and generating tourism which feeds the local economy of the Southeast.

   There are multiple ways to make a financial donation to MHV. Our office in the Village Centre is open from 9:00 to 5:00 Monday through Friday, and we are always happy to receive cash or cheques. Donations can also be made with a credit card, either in our office or on our website at There is a “Donate” button on every page of our website for ready access. For those who have investment shares that they would like to donate, it is significant to note that there are tax advantages to converting shares into charitable donations. This can readily be accomplished through an organization like Abundance Canada who can provide advice on tax benefits of various giving plans and also process donations.

   Regular monthly giving is also an option through the “Donate” button on our website. A regular pre-authorized debit (PAD) from a donor’s bank account to ours can be arranged. This provides MHV with regular and reliable income and offers the donor a hassle-free method of providing support.

   Our constituency has supported our Foundations for a Strong Future campaign in a big way, for which we are very grateful. This campaign is providing significant support to the longer-term capital initiatives which are essential for MHV to thrive in the coming years. We are just $850,000 short of our $3 million goal and hope to reach that by the end of 2018.

  So as 2017 is soon coming to a close, we are inviting our constituency to once again consider how best to support MHV. We need regular annual operating funds to pay the bills and keep our doors open. But we also need capital-project funds to ensure future organizational health. We appreciate every donation that comes our way, regardless of its size.

Calendar of Events

November 17th 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM, 18th 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM – Christmas in the Village

December 3, 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

Village News

The Woolwich School

   The Barkfield School here at the Mennonite Heritage Village museum is a sample of the kind of one-room school that dotted the Rural Municipality (RM) of Hanover in the first half of the twentieth century. One teacher (often young, female, and single), eight grades, a huge blackboard around two walls, a picture of the King and Queen up front, and oiled plank floors.

   What were children learning in their one-room schools in the 1930s? If you are tempted to think that what the teacher and pupils covered was a primitive curriculum, think again. Ernie Braun from Tourond, has found detailed notes of courses taught at the Woolwich School by thirty-something Agnes Willms in 1929-34. Woolwich (pronounced “Wool-wich” by the Mennonites) was located at the extreme western edge of the RM of Hanover. It was during the Great Depression, and she was paid all of $450 for the year. She stayed at Woolwich for five years, which was unusual for a single woman. Often the lady teacher was whisked off to the altar by the most eligible young man of the district, not to return to the classroom.

   Agnes kept careful notes of her teaching topics in a spreadsheet, likely because she was required to show it to the school inspector at his next visit. That inspector was probably Archibald Adam Herriot. In his book, Schools, Our Heritage, John K. Schellenberg says that “the pupils were scared of him suddenly coming unannounced; the teachers loved him, especially the ladies!”

   The topics of instructions were math, language, grammar, reading, literature, spelling, geography, history, music, drawing, nature study, agriculture, physiology, and science. Whew. Agnes never recorded anything for agriculture, probably because the pupils had already had enough of that. But everything else was fair game and got some of her attention.

   To get a feeling for the curriculum, let’s look at the Grade VII literature and reading material. In November these 13-year olds were expected to read Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, and A Winter’s Tale. In December it was As You Like It. The next year it was 12th Night, Timon of Athens, Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello! Seriously.

   Miss Willms seems to have been especially fond of choral music. For this, all the pupils participated together as a wonderful little choir, singing everything from simple children’s songs to Christmas carols, folk songs, and oratorio selections. They even sang the difficult old carol Past Three O’Clock (lyrics at There was also a lot of music theory, including opera. One wonders what that meant for kids in the backwoods during the Depression.

   Perhaps an example of the impact this teacher had on her students was revealed in 1981 when a group of alumni hosted a reunion of all former Woolwich students at the Grunthal park. With Agnes in the audience, a 63-year-old former Grade VII student sang several stanzas of a song that Miss Willms had taught the class in 1932.

   In those days the teacher offered a glimpse of what was called “culture.” Miss Willms was an immigrant to Canada, having been born in Russia. She was apparently comfortable with European culture and had absorbed that of British Canada. There is no hint of German or French language instruction in her notes. I’m sure Inspector Harriot was very pleased with Miss Willms’ work, and the children will have had their minds and spirits enlarged.

Calendar of Events

November 9, 7:00 PM – Celebrating 150 Years of Immigration

November 17 & 18, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM – Christmas in the Village

December 3, 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

The views expressed in Community Blogs are those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by is Steinbach's only source for community news and information such as weather and classifieds.

About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.