It’s funny, the things you think you’ll come back later to take photos of… and then just don’t. As I’m going through the pictures that Andrew and I took when we visited Sommerfeld, I’m astounded to realize we never took a normal photo of the front of the church. I think that’s because that’s where we had parked and we didn’t want the car in the pic… and we figured we’d just take one later.
When will I learn that often, there is no “later”? It’s just a matter of “now”, and what you do with it.
This time when Andrew and I visited the West Reserve, our very first stop was Sommerfeld. It was incredibly timely, seeing as the Sommerfeld Church has just celebrated its 125th anniversary!
And THIS is where the Sommerfeld Church has its roots. Right here, in Sommerfeld! That’s because they chose the name of their church based on where their Bishop lived. (The Chortitzer Church and the Reinlander Church also followed this practice.)
Sommerfeld Village existed for a few years before the Sommerfeld Church church did. According to the Harms-Rempel Atlas, and the Sommerfeld book, the village was for sure established by the time the year 1880 rolled around… maybe even a year or two earlier. And then Sommerfeld Church was established in 1893. If you’re really into math, you’ll have caught that actually 126 years have gone by. Well. I just figure it might’ve taken some time to plan the celebration event. So. Totally understandable. But still worth noting that they’re well on their way to planning to celebrate 150… a mere 24 years from now! (This must be why it says “and counting” on the cover of the booklet.)
I had mentioned in a previous post about Sommerfeld that I had learned from this Sommerfeld book that there’s no public access to the cemetery, and was unsure how to reach it. That’s when C contacted me. C and J know the village well, and were willing to meet Andrew and I there. This was incredibly helpful!
We parked at the church, and C went to the current next-door neighbour who was outside, and obtained permission for us to walk through his yard to reach the cemetery. This is the kind of behaviour that make me feel especially grateful.
And so the four of us lingered in the cemetery and discussed all things Sommerfeld — both village and church.
The most obvious weird thing that stands out about this village is the way its street juts from the 421 at an odd angle. I’d mentioned this in my previous Sommerfeld post, but it was a mystery to me. J shared the reason for this unusual angle: Sommerfeld Village’s street rests along the top of a ridge. The ridges would’ve been obvious in the spring melt, standing above the water. Trails formed along these ridges because well, this part wasn’t under water. So, the road follows the natural rise of the land. It’s easy to compare Sommerfeld to its neighbour Neubergthal, whose street happens to align perfectly with the road grid that was surveyed and put in place. Turns out it’s just a coincidence. It’s how the chips fell. And when the surveyors set out the road grid, Sommerfeld’s diagonal street caused a problem in that some lots ended up smaller than others. An attempt was made to then tack on extra land for the shorter lots. Seems like it was probably complicated. (I find it really interesting!)
Back to the church aspect. Opening the booklet, the above pages caught my eye — these churches are six years OLDER than the Sommerfeld Church. But they ARE Sommerfeld churches.
Well, as the booklet says, these were both built in 1887. The Rudenerweide Sommerfeld Mennonite Church was originally a Reinlander church when built. And, the Reinland Sommerfeld Mennonite Church was originally a Bergthaler church. These buildings have history!
As we were standing in the midst of Sommerfeld, Andrew told us that he had been invited to attend a wedding in a Sommerfeld Church back in 2001, and the genders had been separated at the time. He mentioned this now, and was surprised when J told him that the church no longer separates genders in its pews.
You’d think the Sommerfeld Church would’ve celebrated its 125th anniversary in Sommerfeld. But one glance at the celebration booklet which is chock-full of pictures of all the many Sommerfeld churches that exist today, and you can understand why they held the event at the Morris Stampede Grounds instead. Apparently there were upwards of 3000 people there… and they were ALL fed within one hour. I’d call that a Mennonite triumph!
We also learned something new about Sommerfeld Village — it is located at the Principle Meridian. Hence the name “Meredian Road” between Sommerfeld and Neubergthal… and then the next roads are named “1”, and so on. This impressed me, because out here in the East Reserve, all our north-south roads are numbered in the 20s and 30s.
And now, here’s a gallery of photos from our time in the picturesque Sommerfeld Cemetery.
The above stone is small and old and its inscription is worn off. It is at the back of the cemetery and it captured me. I wanted to see it in black and white.
Later we meandered across the street to the old schoolhouse, which closed in the 1960s.
There was a major storm several years back, and these villages lost many of their tall beautiful cottonwood trees.
Thank-you J and C for taking some time with us in Sommerfeld. We had a lovely time!