Just the other day, I mentioned that I’ve learned that Steinbach’s Kroeker Avenue is named for Andrew’s great-great-great-grandparents. But they’re not his only ancestors of note.
We were visiting the Mennonite Heritage Village just the other day, and the names from Andrew’s genealogy were fresh in my mind as we went through all the exhibits and buildings. Our last stop was the semlin, which you can see through the chain-link fence as you drive by on Highway 12. Also known as the “sod hut”, it’s half-buried in the ground, and is extremely tiny. The MHV’s semlin has just two rooms. In the back room of the semlin, there’s an interpretive sign (feature photo) which tells the story of Jacob and Katharina Barkman.
Wait. Jacob and Katharina Barkman? This name was familiar to me because they settled Lot 16 in Steinbach. I actually have a nerdy little print-out entitled “Steinbach’s First Settlers”, which I’m sure I found as a pdf on the City of Steinbach website about 10 years ago… and have carefully saved ever since. But I cannot find this on Steinbach.ca right now. Anyway, this handy pdf reveals the names and dates and lots of each of the original settlers. So, I cross-referenced this with Andrew’s genealogy and that’s how I knew that Jacob and Katharina are Andrew’s great-great-great-grandparents as well (in addition to the Kroekers, and many others, obviously).
So, this little pamphlet (compiled by Doris Penner for the Steinbach Heritage Committee) reveals a very sad story.
Apparently Jacob Barkman was the leader of the 18 families who immigrated to Manitoba in 1874. He was a Kleine Gemeinde minister, and also looked after financial and land-related matters for the homesteading group. The write-up here mentions that just a month after their arrival here, their small daughter died. And then, the following year, Jacob drowned in the Red River.
The interpretive sign within the MHV’s semlin expands on this story. According to this, two of the Barkman’s daughters died that first winter: four-year-old Margaretha, and nine-year-old Anna.
There is a cradle inside the semlin… and apparently a blizzard buried the Barkman family inside after Margaretha passed away and they could not bury her at that time… they placed Margaretha in the cradle and hung it from the rafters of the sod structure for three days until they were able to emerge from their snowy crypt.
After the trauma and heartbreak of that first winter, spring 1875 arrived. Jacob ventured to Winnipeg for supplies via the Red River… but the ferry he was on capsized, and he drowned.
And that is the story of Andrew’s great-great-great-grandparents, the Barkmans.