In Search of Mennonite Stuff in New Bothwell

It all began with a map.

Waiting to pay at the gas station, my eyes wandered, searching out anything I might “need”. You know, like a GORP bar, some gum, or… wait, what’s this? Manitoba Back Roads. A map… detailing EVERY road in our province? I was smitten. THIS was my impulse buy.

Once home, I triumphantly displayed the map to Andrew. “LOOK AT THIS AMAZING THING! This is my most favourite purchase EVER!”

Our first destination? New Bothwell.

Okay okay it’s not that far from here… but that’s kind of the point. I’m 100% guilty of overlooking everything right in front of my nose… and it ended on this day, thanks to this awesome map.

From ages zero to 19, I traveled the provincial highway between Kleefeld and Steinbach on a weekly/daily basis… but never the back roads that run parallel to the north of the 52.

On this occasion, to be honest, we bolted directly to New Bothwell, straight down the 52. Our workday had just ended, we were hungry, and we’d seen a luscious photo on Facebook… a photo depicting the kind of pizza they make at New B’s Café… smothered with sumptuous, award-winning Bothwell Cheese. Two seconds after seeing that photo, we were in our car, racing toward New Bothwell, our sole objective: to obtain this pizza.

Pizza at New B’s Cafe in New Bothwell. A must!

I brought along my beloved map… and also the Historical Atlas of the East Reserve. I planned to devour these items alongside the anticipated pizza.

Me, my map, and the lovely decor at New B’s.

Andrew drove, and I read the Atlas out loud to him. Together we learned about Kronsthal Village, established by two Hildebrand families in 1874. In 1920, the government-mandated Bothwell School was built nearby. This is when the Mennonites were supposed to send their kids to public school to learn English, no more of that private school business. The village shifted nearer to the school, and in 1939 the New Bothwell post office was added. (Turns out a Bothwell already existed in Ontario, so the “new” was added to differentiate. I would’ve thought the different provinces would’ve been sufficient… guess not.)

The left side of the cairn reads: “1919-Bothwell School-1994 The Bothwell School District was formed in 1919. The first one-room school was built in 1920. In 1942, another classroom was added. This school was destroyed by fire during the 1944-45 school term. A two-room school was constructed on the same yard, and in 1953, another two classrooms were added. The districts were consolidated in 1968, and Bothwell was very fortunate to keep its school. A new six-room school was built in 1972 and the old school was sold. In 1983, the school was expanded to its present size to accommodate classes from kindergarten to grade nine.”

Upon arrival, we realized the Bothwell Cheese factory was still open! I will tell you about that in another post, because I have a lot to say about Bothwell Cheese.

After our visit to the cheese factory, we finally sat down inside New B’s Cafe. They have everything! That place is a gem! The décor is fantastic too — I especially appreciated the old-time photos on the walls. And the pizza was delicious. We ate all of it. AND a plate of kielke! I will say it — the schmauntfatt at New B’s is the best I’ve had. Well worth the drive.

You haven’t lived ’til you’ve had the schmauntfatt at New B’s.

Pizza and kielke consumed, it was now time to explore New Bothwell on foot. We especially wanted to see the archway and foot bridge over the canal.

“Wow, it looks old! When do you think it was built?”

“Probably in the 1800’s! Let’s check the Atlas.”

Silence. Paging through the book.

“Oh. Um. Hey. They put up this arch in 1994.”

But… it looks like it signifies something older. And it does: Lord Dufferin’s visit to the East Reserve on August 21, 1877. The Atlas tells us that there used to be “an arch of evergreen” here, announcing “Mennoniten Reserve“. (All these books assume everyone already knows about Lord and Lady Dufferin. But I don’t. This will be amended. More reading to come.)

Time to head home with a car full of cheese and bellies full of schmauntfatt. Via the back roads.