Mysterious Tales from Osterwick, West Reserve

When Andrew and I were hanging out in the West Reserve this past August, I really didn’t have a lot of info about villages or history… other than a Manitoba Back Roads map, and my Brauns of Osterwick book which I’ve borrowed from my mom.

The nifty thing about the villages in the West Reserve is that most of them did not disintegrate the way the East Reserve ones did. So, while it takes either a local historian or a very excellent and specific atlas to locate ER villages, really all I needed for the WR was my backroads map. (Though I would LOVE it if the Harms-Rempel Atlas would be updated to a format similar to the Braun-Klassen ER Atlas!)

So, since I possessed that book that suggested my great-great-great-grandparents had been Osterwick folk, I figured that was as good a place as any to start.

Well, I have to say… while I was thrilled to finally reach the fabled village of Osterwick, I was consumed by shy and awkward feelings. But also a lot of enthusiasm. Osterwick is a thriving community, and the very evening that we were driving through, everyone was out and about, and they were having a barbecue and outdoor movie night at the local community centre! This enraptured me, and I very nearly convinced Andrew that we should join in. We could’ve met the locals and showed them the Brauns of Osterwick book that led me there… and then doubtless they would’ve told me something disappointing such as “there are no Brauns here” or something like that. (P.S. I gather that the community centre is located on what was previously Osterwick School lands, right?)

So, there was likely a missed opportunity on this evening… though we did wave to people as we drove along. (So many people were out for walks! It looked so pleasant!) They were likely waving because they assumed we were neighbours. When they saw our faces more clearly through the windshield, and realized they didn’t know us, I thought maybe they looked a little startled. Or maybe I’m just projecting, because if I were them, I’d have been startled!

Anyway, this wouldn’t be a Mennotoba post without… a visit to a cemetery:

But, that cemetery is pretty recent. Disappointingly so.

Okay. So, I refer once more to the Brauns of Osterwick. And cross-reference it with the Harms-Rempel West Reserve Atlas. And thus I learn that my great-great-great-grandfather, Jacob Braun (b.1834) had indeed owned property in Osterwick upon settlement. He and my great-great-great-grandmother Maria Fast (b.1834) had been part of the Old Colony church… except he decided strip-farming was NOT the way to go and withdrew from the village plan and was promptly banned from the church in about 1890. Jacob died in 1903, and was not allowed to be buried in the village cemetery. Instead, he was buried in the garden on his own property.¬†Only thing was, their property was kinda still actually there within the village.

And then, according to the Braun book, THIS happened:

“…eyebrows were arched; questions were asked. After all the Braun farmstead was directly across the road allowance from the village cemetery. One of the village matrons disturbed in her sleep sought the outdoors. Looking eastward toward the village burial ground she saw shadows; moving shadows supposedly on the graveyard. There was that outcast Braun in travail, restless and disturbed. Gossips had him out of his grave, walking among the graves and along the village street. Why was he buried so close to the village. It should not have been allowed. There were wild rumours. Dire consequences would befall man and beast in the village if he remained nearby.

“It was likely four years after grandpa’s death, that is in 1907, during the fall pig-killing time, that his grave was reopened for the removal of his remains to the Peter Hoeppner farm.

“The yellow clay and sand mixture was easily dug up. The men were careful not to damage the coffin boards. They removed the soil all around the casket and enough underneath it so that the ropes were easily placed beneath the box.

“The physical features of the remains, the broad shoulders, the full face, the sallow hair and the general outline of the body were those of grandpa. A slight breeze across the open casket blew it all away and exposed the brownish yellow skeletal bones to view.

“It was late in the afternoon. Twilight falls early in the short November days in Manitoba. The four young men had worked fast to open grandpa’s grave. It was a six-mile drive from Grandfather’s homestead at Osterwick to the farm of Katharina and Peter Hoeppner in Waldheim. Here the coffin was at once lowered into the previously opened grave. By the time the ground was filled back into this pit, it was quite dusk and the young men returned to their respective homes.”

WHOA.

What a fantastic, fascinating tale!

Looking north along the village street. According to a map of Osterwick’s original village layout, the cemetery in question would’ve been at the end of this dead-end. If any readers are from the Osterwick area and know of a very old cemetery beyond the dead-end here… could you please contact me?