Neuanlage: The Koop Village?

Every once in a while, Andrew asks me why I haven’t posted about our visit to Neuanlage yet.

I think I’ve been saving it.

Also, I’m shy about it because I was maybe way too thrilled to visit Neuanlage, thinking that my ancestors had lived there. What if I was wrong? What if this place actually has nothing to do with my family? I’d be so embarrassed. I mean, Mennonites used the same names over and over and what if I haven’t done my research carefully enough?

But… it seemed to me this was right.

I’ve learned to pay attention every time I come across the name “Johann Koop”. As soon as I printed off the Grandma Online ancestry, I noticed that my grandpa Koop’s father’s name was John Koop… and before John Koop, there were FIVE Johann Koops, one right after another, going all the way back to Prussia. (I’ve mentioned this before…) There were two Johann Koops on the S.S. Austrian, arriving here in the East Reserve in 1874: my great-great-great-grandfather (b.1831), and my great-great-grandfather (b.1863). There’s a note in Grandma Online that states Johann Koop Jr. and my great-great-grandmother Sarah Baerg were married in Nueanlage in 1883. And the very sad story of Peter B. Koop (my great-great-great-uncle) is rooted in Neuanlage… where he lost his first wife, and found his second… who went on to betray him.

Here’s what I’ve learned about Neuanlage from the Historical Atlas, and also Royden Loewen’s book Blumenort: A Mennonite Community in Transition. First, its meaning: “new settlement”. Johann Senior (or Johann M. — the “M” stands for Martens, which was his mother’s maiden name) left the village of Blumenort to establish Neuanlage in 1879. When the village was dissolved in 1890, Johann and Sarah received this site, where the public Koop cemetery is today. This is where they established their farmstead. Loewen’s book relates this interesting tidbit about the dissolution of Neuanlage: “One of the Koops was quite unhappy with the settlement, and it was not until his neighbour gave him some additional land and Peter Klassen gave him a cow that he was satisfied.” (I wonder which Koop that was.) Apparently Johann & Sarah were given the farmstead on section 17, where they had “the most beautiful garden in the district”. And there was a large windmill somewhere on their yard! But they sold their farm in 1918 and went to pioneer the Prairie Rose area.

Aside from the Koop cemetery with public access, there are five other Neuanlage cemeteries in the area, all of which are private, associated with these last names: Friesen, Klassen, Loewen, Klassen, and Koop.

And so, Neuanlage was on my mind. And, thanks to the Historical Atlas of the East Reserve, I actually knew how to find the one public site for Neuanlage.

I thought about it for many months… then finally forced myself to just get in the car and GO. It’s only about 2 or 3 miles outside of Steinbach!

By this time, I’d been to a fair number of local abandoned-village cemeteries, and based on my past experiences, I wasn’t expecting much. In fact, I didn’t really think I’d even be able to find it… since that also happens when Andrew and I go looking for things.

But not this time.

I could imagine the village street above. But, when I compare it to the map in the Historical Atlas, I can see that I’m wrong about that. I mean, this was Neuanlage, sure, yes… but it appears that the village itself was situated at a diagonal, on the other side of the road… crossing over to this side just a bit (aligning itself with the creek).

Andrew and I immediately went to check out the cairn. The cemetery is nearly all gone, but is respectfully chained off.

The above cairn says:
Neuanlage Cemetery
Homestead of Johann & Sarah (Baerg) Koop
Susana Koop, October 18, 1886-March 2, 1894
Anna Koop, November 14, 1890-June 17, 1894
Abram Koop, December 23, 1896-October 1, 1900
Gertrude Koop, July 30, 1901-November 1901
Grandfather Peter B. Baerg, November 17, 1817-July 31, 1901
Abram Koop, August 15, 1902-December 15, 1902
Isaak Koop, March 22, 1905-June 11, 1905
Frank Koop, June 24, 1907-August 15, 1907
Elisabeth Barkman, daughter of Peter G. & Katharina Barkman, May 31, 1917-April 6, 1918
Sara Koop, daughter of Peter B. & Katharina Koop, October 28, 1918-September 3, 1919

These are mostly children.

And, the first seven, were the children of Johann & Sarah. Those are my great-great-great aunts and uncles. Seven of their children died… and they buried them in their garden cemetery, which was what homesteaders did back then.

Eight of their children survived… and my great-grandpa John was one of them.

I cannot imagine the relentless sadness of losing that many children and babies.

At the base of the cairn, it says “Robert Koop 1941-2014”. I do not know who Robert is.

The above stone leans agains the cairn. I can’t quite make out what it says. Peter. Margaretha. Katharina. Unsure…

Here is the cemetery plot:

I had expected to see Johann and Sarah’s graves here… but no. I think they must have left Neuanlage… I think I read somewhere that they moved to Prairie Rose… I have yet to explore that area. But Sarah’s father Peter seems to have retired from his lifelong career of KG minister, left Gruenfeld, and moved here to Neuanlage… and he is the only one buried in this little garden cemetery who had lived to see his senior years.

I had not expected to find my great-great-great-grandfather Peter Baerg’s grave in Neuanlage… but I am glad that I did. (More about Peter Baerg later… there is lots to learn, and then to tell… but suffice it to say for now that he came all the way from a new little KG village in Crimea, and concluded his life here. I really wish I could learn more about the women.)

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but my father passed away in 2006, so that might explain why I’m a little uneducated on these things, and am pretty curious. Unfortunately I had not been interested in our local family history yet, when he was still around. So, these days, I spend time with my mom, and one day she told me, “I remember the day they were unveiling that cairn. Your dad really wanted to go. We drove around and around, but we could not find it.” My dad had been undergoing cancer treatment at that time. I had no idea about any of this — that this place existed, or that they had been invited to the “opening ceremony” (or whatever you call such an occasion) and simply could not find it. I imagine that was because, well, their minds were quite occupied. My mom says that my Grandpa Koop had really wanted to go too, she says he had been very excited. But… it hadn’t worked out. I wish I could’ve known and gone with them all, and possibly helped navigate. If only, if only, if only.

Well. Now I’m 40 and am paying attention.

Andrew and I brought my mom and brothers and their wives and kids to this location one day this past summer. It was really something to see, the kids went a little… wild. I don’t know if they sensed their foremother and forefather’s pioneer spirit or what. Seven little Koops, some of the older ones perhaps recognizing their last name on the cairn.

There is lots to explore at Neuanlage. Foundations of former homes…

And intriguing paths…

I wonder when these homes had been built. Unfortunately, I don’t think they are settler homes. (I think I spied some pipes sticking out of the ground nearby…) But if anyone knows anything about this site, I would really like to learn more.

Andrew and I then returned a third time to Neuanlage, this time in autumn. Gorgeous.

You can still see asparagus growing… wild now, I suppose…

Shards of broken dinnerware…

Chokecherries… ah, we had so many of these growing on our farm, and my mom made the best chokecherry syrup from them.

Patterned glass…

And wild plums. Or are those apples?

Oh, and there’s me. Andrew thought I should sit here for a photo, and so I did.

I don’t know who maintains Neuanlage today. But whomever it is… I am grateful and thrilled and I thank you very much.