One Minute in Hochfeld, WR

I know I know I know. One minute is a pathetic amount of time to spend in Hochfeld. What can I say? We were just in the area for a day and wanted to make the most of it. (Last summer, as you can see by the photos.)

“HOCHFELD — This monument is erected in honor of the founders and later inhabitants who by the grace of God and through much toil, built this village of Hochfeld — a place where families could be raised in peace since 1878. To God We Give Thanks.”

It’s too bad that when we visited, we didn’t know about the jazz musician Ed Bickert, who had been born here.

But I did take photos of the helpful signs!

The above sign is beginning to get a little weathered. It was erected by the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society. So, apparently Hochfeld is stop #9 on a tour of historic villages in the West Reserve. This is the first I’ve heard of this. I must investigate and learn more and return to embark upon this tour properly. For now, here is what the MMHS has written on this sign:

9. Hochfeld

Hochfeld (“high field”) was one of the eighteen villages began by Mennonite immigrants in the summer of 1875. It was allotted six sections of land in a block two miles by three miles. Each family was eligible for a quarter section of free land, allowing for a village of twenty-four homesteads. 

The name may have been arbitrarily assigned, since there were several villages called “Hochfeld” in Russia. It may also be that the first settlers recognized the site to be higher ground, in contrast to the original village site of Blumenfeld to the south, which flooded during the first spring and had to be relocated. The good drainage and sandy soil have helped make Hochfeld a prime agricultural settlement, frequently boasting the earliest field to be seeded in spring. 

How did the first settlers form village groupings? In the case of Hochfeld, kinship played a major role. Three Wiebe siblings (Jacob, David, and Anna), three of their married children, and five families related to their children’s spouses founded the village in 1875, taking lots at the north end. Ten of these families also crossed the ocean together on the S.S. Canadian. A second factor was place of origin in Russia. At least six of the families joining the village in 1876 came from the colony of Fuerstenland, three of them also in-laws of 1875 arrivals. 

Among the 1876 arrivals was minister Abram Wiebe, brother of Bishop Johann Wiebe of the Reinlander Mennonite Church. He and the successive administrators of the Waisenamt (Orphans Bureau) had important leadership roles in the larger West Reserve settlement beyond the village bounds. 

Beginning with David Wiebe, the Waisenvorsteher, and usually also his assistant, lived in Hochfeld until the emigration to Mexico. The Waisenamt played an important role in the community beyond ensuring that orphans received their fair share of the family inheritance. Some of the funds it held in trust served as loan capital for other needy community members. A less formal role in the larger Mennonite community was played by blacksmith Peter Elias, resident in Hochfeld since 1891. Elias wrote voluminously, both in his own journal and to newspapers of the day. His published contributions show keen insight into the issues of the day, even though their critical edge will not always have been comfortable to the formal leadership. (ERIN’S NOTE: oh my goodness, I want to read his writings! Where can I find this????)

The school crisis during and after World War I led many of the villagers to emigrate to Mexico beginning in 1922. Their place was taken by refugees from the Soviet Union who began to arrive in 1923. Three years later Hochfeld had twenty-eight of these new immigrant families, many coming from the Gruenfeld, Shlakhtin (?-sorry, the sign is very smudged here) Colony, including 90-year-old Jacob Letkemann. This group soon organized a choir, Jugenverein (young people’s group), and an intstrumental group: Mennonite Brethren and Conference people worshipped together. The Blumenorter Church continued to hold services here until 1944. 

In Hochfeld, visit the cemetery lightly off the main village street. You may also want to visit Neuenburg, just east of the highway. It was home to Bishop Johann Friesen, a number of ministers, and a deacon of the Reinlander Church.

Text by Adolf Ens

After the above write-up, there is a map with the Post Road:

And then there is another note from the MMHS:

The Mennonite Village Tour along the Post Road Memorial Trail was a 125th West Reserve anniversary project of the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society. If you have any questions, suggestions, or would like to support projects such as this, you can become a member of the society or make a donation. Write to MMHS, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, R3P 0M4 (1-204-888-6781), or 1310 Taylor Ave., Winnipeg, MB R3M 3Z6 (1-204-669-6575) Visit us at our website at Check with the society for possible tour options. 

We want to thank the Municipalities of Rhineland and Stanley, the various communities along the Post Road for supporting this project, and Dave Harms for the map. 

I cannot read the text under the photos.

But I for sure want to embark upon this Mennonite Village Tour!