Piecing Together the Story of Schoensee

Very excited! Andrew and I have moved! We’re still in Steinbach — we’re just in a little less time-consuming home. (We are saying good-bye to yard work.) We tend to be a little more indoorsy than outdoorsy… but of course there’s a massive exception to this rule: our love of exploring cemeteries!

We’d actually rather be exploring the actual villages… but these have long since passed from existence.

Today I’m going to revisit Schoensee in my mind and memory. This was one of my very most favourite sites to have visited, because the street and foundations of the this village have actually been preserved all this time! It’s not a museum or a preserved heritage site. It simply IS. It still is. And this is remarkable for an abandoned village in the East Reserve.

I won’t show pictures of the foundations again — I’ll just post the link below. Instead, I’ll take you on a little tour through Schoensee’s cemetery, and dip into a bit of the village’s history as recorded in the Grunthal History book.

Andrew and Ernie approaching the cemetery gate.
What does the F.H. stand for?

Okay, here’s where the Grunthal History book (published 1974) comes in. LOOK at the pic below!

Yes — that’s the very same headstone. Now, back in the day, all the Mennonite men were called by their first two initials. (And their wives had that very same name, just with “Mrs.” in front.) So, I wonder if maybe everyone who read this at the time nodded their head and thought, “Ah yes, A.D. Friesen. I know him well.” But I do not know who this was. There’s a clue below…

“This was the birthplace of Mr. A.D. Friesen, Altona. The house was in Schoensee. In 1893 it was purchased by Jacob K. Klassen standing in the picture.”

So. A Friesen from Altona. I wonder… did the Friesen printing empire have its roots in Schoensee?

One of the East Reserve’s first cemeteries, at the edge of the bush.

We see this in many cemeteries… rows of tiny graves. Likely from the sweeping epidemics of the early 1900’s.
“Baby Susie”
Matriarch and Patriarch of Schoensee: Susanna K. and Abraham K. Wiebe
If we combine the info from the headstone with the info from the Grunthal History book, we can figure out that her name was Susanna Toews.

Now, from here, we can piece together a bit of the break-up story of Schoensee.

“Most of these descendants immigrated to Paraguay, S.A. in 1926. A lot of them lived in the village of Schoensee so that the village broke up. Only one or two families stayed here when this first movement to Paraguay occurred.”
“The Klassens also sold out and moved to Paraguay in 1927.”

Read more:

Uncovering Remnants of Schönsee: Mennonite Village est. 1875