Last summer we embarked upon a frenzied and sort of random expedition in and around the Winkler, Gretna, and Altona area. Our objective? To visit as many villages as we could. Within a fairly tight space of time. And so we rolled into Schoenwiese taking photos out of the windshield like this…
Doesn’t look like much, I know. We were staring and staring (or at least, I was) and did see some housebarns! Or at least one. I’m not sure anymore. I remain impressed by villages that have retained their village-y shape and at least one housebarn of sorts. But I was feeling tired and sweaty and also like a real creeper by this point. Thankfully we found a spot with some information for the public!
I won’t re-type all of that for you… but here are a few snippets:
“The census of 1880 indicates there were 31 households with a total of 171 people”
“Berg, Bueckert, Enns, Friesen, Froese, Giesbrecht, Guenther, Harder, Heinrichs, Kroeker, Reimer, Thiessen, Zacharias, and others”
It says here that there is actually a housebarn in the village which the sign seems to expect folks to observe. So perhaps it’s okay that we were looking at the housebarn from our car as we drove slowly and weirdly by?
This probably will sound ridiculous, but to be honest, I’m actually reading the words on the sign for the first time right now. This is because at the time we were overwhelmed and tired and ready to make the long drive home so I just quickly snapped a picture to read later… like almost a year later. Wow.
So, suddenly I see here that it mentions Jacob Kroeker who was an early pioneer in the village. Apparently he went back to Chortitza in South Russia for a short visit before returning to Canada and then moving to Lost River, Saskatchewan. At this point my ears prick up because of the name “Kroeker” and “Lost River”. My maternal grandfather was from Lost River, and his paternal grandmother had been a Kroeker. So, I quickly searched Grandma Online and sure enough, this Jacob Kroeker fellow had been a brother to my great-great-grandmother. I see here it mentions he had a travel diary. Time for me to see if the Mennonite Heritage Archives have the diary… and a translation.
Now there’s actually another reason I hoped to visit Schoenwiese — I’d seen the village mentioned in a family history book. Here’s where it gets confusing: my grandfather’s maternal grandparents apparently lived in Scheonwiese before moving to Lost River in 1911, and his name had been Jacob Ens. Okay so these two Jacobs… their stories kind of line up and meet in Schoenwiese and then to Lost River. I guess it’s a coincidence and not a confusion..?
I wish I’d looked more carefully at the sign when we’d been there. I now see that apparently this was the village’s second cemetery. The original is in a field… and now my curiosity is piqued. I’m grateful to the MMHS for putting up these informative Post Road signs. We shall return!