It’s been said that the ruined foundations of the abandoned village of Hochfeld remain there still, somewhere in the woods behind the cemetery…
This was what had compelled me to approach Jackie in the first place: the possibility of exploring what remained of Hochfeld.
Hochfeld Village was established in 1874 when the first Manitoba Mennonites arrived from South Russia (Ukraine) fresh off the boat.
The settlers of this community of Mennonites were from the Bergthal Colony. The Historical Atlas of the East Reserve says that by 1876 there were 25 families living here. However, by 1883 that number dropped to 18 as many moved to the more fertile West Reserve.
The village had been one of the largest in the East Mennonite Reserve, and lasted the longest, too. It was officially disbanded in 1911, though the community itself continued to exist, just in a different capacity. By 1927, there was a massive exodus to Paraguay, due to the Manitoba government establishing public schools and closing Mennonite private schools. This pretty much ended the village for sure, as those remaining were on their own land now, having left the village system, and their children attended the Moray public school.
As the world around them changed, so too did the people of Hochfeld.
Names associated with Hochfeld included: Kehler, Goertzen, Enns, Unrau, Friesen, Wiebe, Harder, Falk, Gerbrandt. (Credit to Irene Kroeker, Historical Sketches of the East Reserve 1874-1910.)
After Jackie showed me the site of her grandparent’s housebarn at the edge of the woods of Hochfeld, I told her what I’d heard about the foundations just over the fence line. Had she heard about this too?
She shared my curiosity. “Let’s go have a look!” she declared, lifting the fence wire for me.
We stepped into the trees and she immediately said, “Well, there’s something.”
A depression in the ground, filled with stones all about the same size!
My next step was met with a metal clang. “I think I just stepped on an artifact!”
What is this thing?
There was another one just like it, in the midst of the rubble.
And then also there was this. It’s metal too.
Also at the site, a concrete block that seems like a portion of a foundation. But the original settlers wouldn’t have had concrete? Or did they?
I only have one frame of reference for this possible foundation: from the time that Andrew and I visited the site of Schonsee with Ernie Braun. It seemed to me this stone-filled depression was about the same size as the Schonsee foundations. So… maybe this was a genuine Hochfeld Village ruin dating to the 1880s! Maybe, right?
Fuelled by the possibility of success, Jackie and I proceeded to comb through the woods in search of similar sites. However, with the lush vegetation it was difficult to see or know anything more. There were definitely some other major depressions in the ground, but honestly how could we know?
I shall have to return.
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