Mystery at Chortitz

I’m starting to name these posts as if they’re Danny Orlis capers. But no wonder! Look at THIS.

When Andrew and I visited Chortitz/Randolph the other day, we encountered an older gentleman caretaker of the cemetery and had a great, if somewhat strange and amazing, conversation with him. After he’d left, we looked at each other and Andrew remarked, “hey, remember there were those graves that were accidentally dug up somewhere on the East Reserve? Weren’t they reburied here?”

Yes! I couldn’t believe we’d never thought to find that site just yet. We set about searching for it. I had the trusty Historical Atlas of the East Reserve in my hands, found the page with the picture of the reburial ceremony, and used that picture to locate the spot.

Dr. Glen Klassen had written a fascinating article for the Plett Foundation about his adventures in finding lost cemeteries. In that article, he tells the tale of how these bodies were accidentally discovered in what was once the village of Schoenfeld, and reflects on the reburial ceremony that occurred here on this spot for these unknown people. Below is the accompanying write-up you will read if you visit the site yourself. It doesn’t mention this, but Glen does — this was one adult and two children. His article includes a touching photograph of the re-interment service, picturing one larger adult coffin next to two smaller child-size coffins.

Can you read it? It says: “Reburial of the Schoenfeld Mennonite remains of three people on October 8, 2010. Their burial location was accidentally disturbed by gravel digging in 1995. Like many Mennonite villages in Manitoba, Schoenfeld was settled through family connections. Originally established in 1874 by the Johann Groening and Heinrich Dyck families, already related by marriage in Russia, the village had 11 households and 60 residents by 1881. The villagers belonged to the Chortitzer Mennonite church, and may well have worshipped at the Chortitz Church here in Randolph. The burials were found south of the East half of NW 14-6-5E and their remains came into the care of the Historic Resources Branch and the University of Winnipeg Anthropology Department. Out of respect for their memory we bring this chapter to a close by bringing their remains back to the earth. In memory of their faith, a faith in God and Jesus, that their remains may continue their rest here until the resurrection day.”
Chortitz church building in the distance. (In Randolph, Manitoba.)