Windmill Fire

Last week one of the two men accused of setting fire to the windmill at Mennonite Heritage Village eleven years ago was given a two-year sentence to be served in the community and a year of probation on completion of that two-year term. The judge, as well as both counselors, emphasized the gravity of this crime. They also acknowledged the role of the accused in bringing closure to this old case through his voluntary confession and also noted his attitude of remorse.

We are thankful for the degree of closure that MHV, the accused and his family will experience through this sentence. It is also encouraging to hear that the accused has experienced a significant realignment of his moral compass in recent years.

Pioneer Days

Mr. Ken is popular with the kids.

Problem solving under a shade tree. It doesn't get any better.

John, Thelma and Louise plowing.

It looks interesting but very dusty.

Pioneer Days, our signature festival, has come and gone for another year. Quickly we direct our attentions toward assessing the things that went well and the things that need some change. This analysis is done by staff who have a considerable amount of pride in what they do at Mennonite Heritage Village. Needless to say our assessments may not be entirely free of bias. It would be great to hear how our visitors experienced this event and any suggestions they have to improve it. We welcome your calls at 326-9661 and your emails at [email protected].

One of the highlights of this year’s festival was seeing the support and involvement or our community. MHV is a not-for-profit organization with some internal income but with a heavy dependence on grants and donations to provide funding for its operations and development. A supportive community is essential to our success.

While the lions share of Pioneer Days activities take place at MHV, the community comes on board with a variety of supporting events. The Steinbach Chamber of Commerce plans and delivers a Pioneer Days parade on our opening day. This creates significant publicity and momentum for our festival. There is always a surge of visitors entering the gates immediately on completion of the parade.

Some local businesses take advantage of the fact that there is a festival in the city and build promotions around it. A number of grocery stores ran Pioneer Days promotions this year. Clearspring Centre ran significant publicity around their own Pioneer Days activities and promotions. The more the community rallies around such an event, the more benefit the community will experience.

Volunteers are another significant contribution from the community. Approximately 500 people, some from as far away as Winnipeg, spent some time volunteering at our festival. They cooked, drove horses, collected tickets, helped people find parking places, told stories, guided tours, tended our flower beds and the list goes on. If we had to hire 500 people to work a 3 hour shift and if we paid them $10 per hour for their work we would have to spend $15,000 on labour.

Every year we give local businesses the opportunity to sponsor our summer festivals. In exchange for sponsorship we publicly recognize their contributions to these events. Sponsorship is another way in which our community gets behind us and helps us tell the stories we are here to tell.

Menno Apparel

There are aspects of the story of the Mennonites, going back to the sixteenth century, that are profoundly moving and inspirational. The determination and loyalty of the martyrs, and the vision and persistence of those who left their homeland to migrate to a new land, should be respected and celebrated.

That being said, there are times were we as individuals, and maybe we as a people-group, need to look in the mirror and collectively laugh at ourselves. Jonathan Korneslsen, the designer and producer of Menno Apparel, is trying to help us do just that. He has created slogans, together with some graphics, which both entertain us and reflect an element of our culture. These slogans are then screened on to tee-shirts and aprons.

For example one tee-shirt says, “Mennonites put the Oba in Manitoba.” “Oba” is a frequently used term in Low German, the language that has served the Mennonites for centuries. One of his aprons designed for men reports, “Sure Mennonite girls can cook, but Mennonite boys can eat.” Mennonite Girls Can Cook is a very successful series of cookbooks.

Village Books and Gifts, the gift shop at MHV is the exclusive seller of Menno Apparel in the Steinbach area. Here is another great Christmas gift idea for the person who already has everything. The gift shop is open 9:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday and will be open on Saturdays from November 15 till Christmas.

A New Book

A new Mennonite history book is being produced at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). A Collected History: Mennonite Heritage Village will go to press early in November and will be available to the public in early December.

The vision for the book began several years ago as part of our dreaming and planning for our 50th anniversary celebrations. We felt that a book published in commemoration of this milestone anniversary would be both a marvelous teaching tool and a popular souvenir.

A Collected History is exactly that – a collection of artifacts, events and buildings that together, tell the “Mennonite story.” It is not a story about MHV but rather uses the artifacts and programs of MHV to tell a much bigger story. But at the same time, it acquaints the reader with our museum.

A book about MHV and its 50 years of growth, or even about its 50th anniversary, could be an interesting work. However, a book that tells the story of Mennonites, going back to the Reformation and the Anabaptist Movement of the sixteenth century will be a timeless instrument articulating a very old and very important narrative.

This will be a good Christmas gift. The photographs are all professionally done. The writing, design, editing and production are all done to a very high professional standard. We will take pride in offering this book to the public.

225 Years

It was in 1788 when Mennonites first migrated from Prussia to what was then known as New Russia and is today part of Ukraine. Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) board member, Dr. Lawrence Klippenstein has given leadership to the planning of a weekend event to celebrate this significant 225th anniversary.

The celebrations on Saturday, November 15 will take place at the Mennonite Heritage Centre on the campus of Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Presenters will include Dr. John J. Friesen, Dr. Harvey G. Plett, Dr. Mark Jantzen and Dr. Peter Letkemann, Dr. Lawrence Klippenstein and Edwin Hoeppner. Admission for the day will be $20.

Celebrations will continue in the Mennonite Heritage Village Auditorium in Steinbach on Sunday night from 7:00 to 9:30 PM. The evening will include music by The Carillons, a presentation by Len Loeppky on his May, 2014 tour of Poland and Ukraine, an update on the work of MHV by Executive Director, Barry Dyck, and refreshments. Admission for the evening is $15.

Volunteer Appreciation Evening

Written by Anne Toews, Program DirectorAt the end of every summer season we have an appreciation evening for our volunteers. This year the appreciation evening will be on Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 7:00 PM in the Village Centre Auditorium. The theme chosen for this years’ event, “A Year to Celebrate,” is to coincide with our 50th anniversary celebrations. While it is important to show our appreciation and gratitude to our current roster of volunteers, it is also good to reflect on past volunteers who donated their time and talents in the last fifty years. It is our honour and privilege to highlight some of these volunteers which now include third and fourth generations of their families in a special segment of the program. If you have volunteered at Mennonite Heritage Village this season, please come join us for an evening of reflection and refreshments. Cheers, Anne

Village Books & Gifts

Written by: Nita Wiebe, Gift Shop Assistant My favourite time of year is autumn. Heat waves are over and the road trips are done. The back-to-school shopping has been accomplished and classes are in session. Crimson trees and golden shrubs have replaced the greens of spring and summer. The night air is crisper, making a delicious contrast with the warm burrow of bed. In my home, books that have been piling up, waiting to be read, put a tickle of excitement in my tummy. I anticipate the stories that will unfold and the knowledge that will be gained. The joy of new ideas and better understanding of the past are just around the corner! I can’t wait! Now I understand not all people will ‘get’ what I’m saying, but many of you will, or you love people who do appreciate a well-turned phrase, a perfectly placed word, or the feel and smell of new paper…(I’m getting funny looks again!)…so let me tell you about what happens next. Village Books & Gifts at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) happens next. I imagine the scenario going something like this in someone’s home: Ruth: Don’t forget we’re taking Dad out to celebrate his birthday next week. Liam: Ooo, thanks for the reminder! What’s the family gift for this year? Ruth: I think he had his eye on the ‘Mennonite Low-German Dictionary’ at MHV or that new book from Royden Loewen. I forget what the title is but you can always ask at the gift shop. Nita will know or at the very least, find out. (Nita: Why yes Liam, I do have Roy’s last book and it’s called ‘Village Among Nations’. Shall I set one aside for you to come and pick up? I know how you hate wrapping gifts so let me do that for you too…) Liam: Ruth, you have good ideas! Or the scenario in the car on the way to Winnipeg: Bill: So I imagine that the family gathering is coming up at Russ & Donna’s again? The guys were talking about bringing some new games this time. Any ideas? Carrie: I saw a Crokinole board last week. I haven’t played since I was a kid! It’s an old game waiting for a whole new generation of players! Bill: Great idea! I can see a Kjnipsbraat tournament happening already! Where do I pick it up? (Nita: Bill, Nita here from Village Books & Gifts at MHV. I have a board boxed up, including instructions and the klatz for the game. Just swing by on your day off tomorrow and then you have a few days to practice before you and the boys start playing…) Carrie: Let’s go together. I need to pick up a Mennonite Treasury for Gabby in her new apartment. And some stocking-stuffers for the hard-to-buy-for aunties on your side of the family. I saw the cutest jam scrapers in the gift shop…Ooo don’t forget to remind me to pick up a pair of those oven mitts with the removable liners. I nearly dropped a casserole last week while using those cheap thin ones I have! Bill: Great! I love the one-stop-shop. Village Books & Gifts, here we come… I hope to see you all this Fall. Cheers, Nita

New Donation – Child’s Bed Frame from Russia

Food, blankets, tools and clothing; whatever one could carry. In the confusion and danger of the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the civil war that followed, many Mennonite families were forced to leave everything behind so that they might escape and immigrate to Canada. Astonishingly, some family treasures made it too – porcelain and Kroeger clocks, for example, and, in the case of one of the most recent artifacts to join the Museum’s collection, a child’s bed frame, donated by Hugo Unruh. Two meters long and made of metal, it was no small thing for refugees to bring with them. This bed frame belonged to the donor’s grandmother, Helena Unruh, born in 1900, in Russia. She grew up in Barwenkowa, a town of about 30,000 with a railroad station, six steam-powered grist mills, and a Kommerzschule (business school), which she and two of her brothers attended. Helena’s father, David Heinrich Unruh, was a successful businessman and her family lived in a brick house on a large property near the train station. Following the start of the Second World War in 1914, things changed drastically for Helena and her family. In the midst of the violence and chaos of the Revolution, the police in Barwenkowa lost all authority and groups of bandits, led by Nestor Makhno, swept through the countryside. It was too risky to stay. In 1918 they left everything behind and moved to Muntau, near Neu Halbstadt in the Molotschna Colony. Violence was commonplace and conditions were desperate. The family moved several times and was divided when the sons ‘disappeared’ to escape conscription. The situation worsened when a severe famine overtook Ukraine and Helena’s parents traded their gold wedding rings, the only items of value they had left by that time, for food. The family was reunited in Neu Halbstadt after the war and by this time Helena had married Nicolai Unruh. In the 1920s, as part of an effort to alleviate the suffering among Mennonites in the Soviet Union, North American Mennonites made arrangements for Russian Mennonites to immigrate to Canada. This included an arrangement with the Canadian Pacific Railway that would grant Mennonite refugees loans to cover the costs of the trip to Canada. In 1922, Helena, Nicolai, and their six-month old child, Elfriede, immigrated to Canada under this arrangement. Throughout the years of the Unruh family’s flight, this little metal bed, along with another like it that belonged to Helena’s brother, travelled with them, wrapped in its felt mattress for protection. Helena’s childhood bed became a family heirloom, passed down and used by children through the generations. The bed, and specifically the unique hand-painted scenes on the head- and foot-boards, is in excellent condition. Considering the miles it has travelled, the conditions under which these journeys were made, and the generations of children who have rested in it, this is a remarkable artifact indeed and we are privileged to care for it as part of the collection at the Mennonite Heritage Village. The bed-frame was factory made in Russia and the hand painting would have been done in this setting as well. Pastoral scenes, flowers, etc. were decorative, and reflected a common motif in the late nineteenth century – romanticisation of rural life. The donor would not find deeper meaning in the paintings, rather sentimental attachment to the object and perhaps what it represented; a happy childhood and life that was lost in the revolution.

Lichtenauer Mennonite Church

Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) preserves and tells the stories of Mennonites who came to Canada from Russia. Approximately 7,000 immigrants left Russia and settled in Canada in the 1870’s. The first migration took place in 1874, and these people settled here in what was then known as the East Reserve, establishing the village of Steinbach. While MHV’s village is not located where the original village of Steinbach was, nor is its Main Street intended to be an exact replica of the Main Street of the original village, it is intended to illustrate what that first village street was like. The 1920’s saw another 20,000 Mennonites migrate from Russia to Canada, escaping horrific experiences in the post-war era. Village life was no longer the norm in Canada, as farms were now spread out through the country. Rural community life often revolved around the church and the public school. MHV’s village includes both a school and a church from the post-WWI era. The Barkfield School was built south of Steinbach in 1919 at the beginning of the shift from private schools to public schools. The Lichtenauer Church, built in 1929-1930, is representative of many Mennonite churches built in rural communities across southern Manitoba following the mass migration from Russia to Canada in the 1920s. The Lichtenauer Mennonite Church was originally located in Ste. Elizabeth, just a few miles east of Morris. It was the first church built by the Mennonites who migrated in the 1920s. This congregation had its beginnings in 1926 when recent immigrants to the area began meeting for worship in homes. The church grew rapidly in the early years, recording 378 members and adherents in 1931. Two additional Mennonite churches were established in Arnaud in the decades following. Rural populations shifted over the years, impacting Ste. Elizabeth and other Manitoba communities, and in 1989 the Lichtenauer Church closed its doors. In 1994 the building was moved to MHV, where it stands today as a reminder of congregational life in Southern Manitoba communities in the post-war years. From time to time this church is still used for a wedding ceremony. This summer, through the generous donations of local supporters and a Community Places grant, it received a new coat of paint. Before this season is over, it will also be equipped with a new set of eaves troughs. The ongoing maintenance of this church building, as well as all the other heritage buildings at MHV, is important to the preservation and the telling of the stories of why we are privileged to live here and how we got here.

Facility Improvements

Our Village is populated with many wood structures, some of them very old. As a result, we must attend to the maintenance and care of these buildings on a yearly basis. With the financial support of generous local donors and grants from the Province of Manitoba’s Community Places Program, we are usually able to undertake several projects each year. This year we finished painting the Steamer Shelter, installed electric door openers in the Village Centre for improved handicapped access, and painted the Lichtenau Church. Four buildings will soon be equipped with new eaves troughs. At this time of year we also begin lining up projects for the 2015 season. One of the most urgent items on our list is the replacement of shingles on the roof of the Livery Barn Restaurant. This roof has been challenged by a number of vigorous rainfalls this summer and is now beyond repair. Replacing the shingles could cost up to $20,000. The Community Places Program requires that other partners contribute more than 50% of the value of a project of this magnitude. So we need to find donors who are willing to collectively contribute in the neighbourhood of $12,000-$15,000 toward this project, in addition to their normal annual donation towards our general operating fund. Contributions to this project can be forwarded to Mennonite Heritage Village, 231 PTH 12 North, Steinbach, MB R5G 1T8 and should be tagged for LBR Roof. Anyone wishing to discuss other projects, such as a new dough-mixer for the Livery Barn Restaurant, should feel free to call Tashia or Barry at 204-326-9661.

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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.

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