Silberfeld: a Word-of-Mouth Situation


Sometime a few summers ago, we were heading west along highway 311, when it occurred to me that this would be a lovely time to stop and see what we could of Silberfeld.

What we saw, was this charming sign.

(It’s not there anymore… or at least, I haven’t seen it since.)

This was irresistible.

We stopped and walked the cemetery, without knowing much about it.

About 20 years ago, I first learned there was a church out here. I was mystified. How did it come to be located here, in the midst of fields and not much else?

Of course, 20 years ago I was unaware of the fact that in the 1870s there had been scads of villages scattered throughout Hanover, the majority of which faded into oblivion within a handful of decades (sometimes just years).

But, each village has its own story. What’s the story of Silberfeld?

I first turn to East Reserve Reflections (a slim volume which deserves its own post!) and find that Jacob Doerksen has shared what he knew, in being connected to the area of Silberfeld.

He wrote: “Not much is known about this village.”

Oh, great.

He goes on: “No records seemed to have been left as to where it may have been located or how many families may have lived in it.”

However, he does explain about the other Silberfeld on the East Reserve: the Krause one. I wrote about it here.

Next, I consult my favourite book, the Historical Atlas of the East Reserve, which says: “This place-name appears on various early village lists, but location varies.”

Goodness. Silberfeld, you wily little village, you.

Don’t worry, I have more tricks up my sleeve!

Time to haul out the very thick book entitled Historical Sketches of the East Reserve 1874-1910.

Jacob Doerksen kindly makes a reappearance in writing the historical sketch about Silberfeld in greater detail. He opens the chapter by saying, “The story of Silberfeld is a two-part story. The first part, 1874-1879, deals with the Mennonite settlement in Manitoba which ends partially in despair.”

Oh dear.

Well, I’m not surprised. We all know East Reserve land was quite difficult to eek a living from for the Mennonites in the 1870s.

Later he writes, “In 1879 it appeared Silberfeld was to remain wasted marsh land.”

He adds that “all evidence of the village disappeared” and “the hardships of early pioneer life did not lend itself to good record keeping.”

Even just the fact that this spot is called Silberfeld is a word-of-mouth situation, passed along since the 1870s. Fascinating how that happens.

In my reading I have come across a new name: Puchtin. Apparently the folks who settled here were from Puchtin in South Russia. Puchtin is referenced alongside colony names such as Bergthal, Chortitza, and Molotschna. How have I never heard of Puchtin before?

These families from Puchtin had names such as Stobbe, Schellenberg, Abrams, Hamm, and Kaetler. A second group from Heinrichsfeld in Puchtin arrived with names such as Spenst and Loewen. Many did not stay here long, rather leaving for the fertile land on the West Reserve.

I hadn’t known any of this when we visited the cemetery, but honestly I don’t think this cemetery has anything to do with the original East Reserve site of Silberfeld. None of the stones caught our eye as having been quite this old. Also, stones were mostly not used in the 1870s, rather wooden markers which disintegrated.

I don’t know the history of this church, either, even though I know several people who grew up attending it. I think it is a Sommerfeld church (but I could be remember this wrongly). It went by the name of Silberfeld, I think, but a few years ago the congregation joined the one in New Bothwell and the building at Silberfeld was sold to a different church group.

And that is what little I know of Silberfeld, East Reserve!

Related posts: 

The East Reserve Atlas Inspires Local Exploration!

The Krause Family of Old Silberfeld