So, a few weeks ago I posted about the church groups associated with Ste. Elizabeth and how the remaining church is now a museum, and ladies of Ste. Elizabeth contributed to the Mennonite Treasury Cookbook. Lovely stuff, right?
Now I’m gonna go the opposite way. In a rant. LET’S GO!
Somebody posted in a community group on Facebook, asking if there are any ghost towns nearby. I figured I’d pipe up about Ste. Elizabeth. I mean, I only discovered it last summer, so it’s possible there are others who aren’t aware.
I really shouldn’t have been surprised at what happened next.
Some guy posted a question: “What part is the ghost town?”
I replied, “Basically the whole thing? It’s not very big.”
Like, duh. The guy included a map, you’d think he could see that. Also, it’s fully abandoned. (Except for the residence on the edge of the cemetery that looks like a meth house… yep, that one seems occupied, which certainly ups the creepiness factor.)
Then others started replying to the post: “Ste Elizabeth, to funny!” and “ya, to funny!”
Yeah, I know.
But that’s kinda par for the course on that page, to be honest.
Then something weird happened. These people started posting other town names, saying, “If you want to visit a REAL ghost town, you should go here.”
Um, the town names they were sharing are definitely occupied. Like, the local newspaper has columnists living in these towns. I read their columns every week. These towns have actual communities that are active and present. They’re not abandoned. So what made these people so sure they’re ghost towns, and Ste. Elizabeth is somehow not?
That’s when I realized was these people think the definition of “ghost town” is, like, “town of ghosts”.
Okay wait, has the definition of “ghost town” changed? I googled it, and it’s still the same. It still means “abandoned town”, usually with some kind of infrastructure left behind after all the people have left.
Just funny, how many people were on about trying to find ghosts in Ste. Elizabeth… and how unsuccessful they’d been. Well, I guess that’s comforting.
In September, I returned to Ste. Elizabeth for a third time this year, not actually to explore, but rather because I wanted to hang out after work with E., a friend from Altona. Fun fact: Ste. Elizabeth is exactly halfway between Altona and Steinbach. We parked at the church and began to walk, talk, and explore.
I led E directly into the woods beyond the cemetery. The setting sun made the grove of trees pretty insta-worthy.
This was when we noticed through the trees that there were three vehicles parked at the church.
E drove one. I drove one. And… there was now a third party, somewhere.
We lingered in the woods probably longer than necessary, hoping to avoid whoever else was lurking around.
I led her into these woods (trusting friend that she is) because I wanted to show her these broken headstones, which I had previously discovered and posted about here.
This time, because E was with me, I had the confidence to lean in and take a closer look at the inscriptions.
Delphine and Jean B Rivard?
I wonder how the headstone came to be smashed into the woods.
In the cemetery nearby, there’s a stone with all the names of all the people buried here. Delphine and Jean B were not mentioned… or was I reading all the stones wrong? (I do tend to do that.)
To add to the mystery, was this unfinished Rivard stone. Clearly meant for a couple, Alida has been here alone since 1925. I’m sure there are more stones like this in cemeteries and I just have not been very observant.
Under a tree at the edge of the cemetery, three children were buried in 1919, likely victims of the Spanish Flu epidemic. Someone has been caring for the spot ever since, leaving a little light and a flower. (Edit: I was told later they perished in a house fire. There were five children and only two survived the fire.)
E really wanted to go into the church, but we had a feeling that whomever else was hanging around, was already in there. I reached for the door, slowly turned the know, and we quietly stepped in. I took one careful step. Two careful steps. E was right behind me, silent and careful as well. As I was taking my third careful step, approaching the doorway to the sanctuary, suddenly a young couple appeared from around the corner.
We all jumped, screamed, then laughed.
That feeling of joyful relief flooded my nervous system and I once again took in the work of the descendents of the community of Ste. Elizabeth, in maintaining and caring for this church and cemetery.
The folks in that post online might not know the definition of “ghost town”, but they’re right about one thing: there are no ghosts here.
What I’ve Learned About Ste. Elizabeth & Community