I’ve been wanting to visit the Rosengard Village Cemetery for a long time. Ever since I first read about it in the Historical Atlas of the East Reserve.
To be sure, the Atlas makes no promises about what you’ll find there. That is to say, there are asterisks stating the exact locations of these graves are not known.
The Atlas states its reference is Jake Harms. He’s the one who told Glen Klassen and Ernie Braun about it.
This land is entirely private. It was once the Harms farm, but it was sold to another family about ten years ago.
My mother-in-law is a curious farm girl like myself, and makes a pretty good adventuring partner, so she met me at the farm site. We arrived not knowing what would happen. We parked right in the middle of the yard. In the distance, a man was mowing the lawn. We waved, and he drove over to us. We explained why we were there. I showed him the Atlas and Jake Harms’ name.
And then something amazing happened. He told us that Jake Harms was coming to the farm. “He should be here in about 15 minutes!”
This blew me away. You see, I’d tried phoning Jake many times, but only ever reached his answering machine which barked out a stern, “JAKE HARMS.” Upon hearing this, I’d quickly hang up without leaving a message, every time. But now, on the day we decided to see if the property owners would let us see the cemetery site, Jake Harms himself was paying a visit to the farm at the same exact time!
While we waited for Jake to show up, someone else arrived, Lilli. We had a lovely chat with her until she remembered she had to put her groceries away.
And then Jake arrived!
I showed him his name in the Atlas and told him about Glen and Ernie and Harry told us yes, their son had shown the gentlemen the areas of the graves, but was guessing.
Now we had Jake himself to show us around!
Jake told us that his father had purchased this farm in 1949. Over the years, every once in a while, someone would come up the long angled driveway (which by the way is the original ridge road, the gravel ridge trail that probably existed well before Mennonites arrived) and tell them about graves.
One fellow had arrived, he was very old, very bent over, telling Jake that he had wanted to visit his brother’s graves.
Jake had not known of any graves on the property.
So the gentleman showed him, under trees at the back of the former garden, near the creek, two little boys had been buried. Any marker had long since disintegrated.
And then I said, okay what about the Rosengard Village Cemetery?
That was another gentleman, Jake said, who arrived on the farm wanting to visit his grandparents’ graves.
We wandered along a path to the back of the property, to a hill overlooking the creek, where a few oaks stood.
There were once many many oaks here, Jake told us. But most have died now.
Jake said he had asked the old man how many graves were here. The old man told him at least 200.
200 graves! Right here!
You could tell, Jake said, after that he noticed, there were all these depressions in the ground… you just knew.
But not a single marker, because they had probably been wooden, and disintegrated.
I sat on a rock and considered.
I was grateful to be welcomed onto this property to walk the site of the village cemetery, with someone who had in his youth spoken with old-timers who remembered. This experience was a tremendous gift.