The Desolate Cemetery of Hochfeld, East Reserve

There are two Hochfelds in southern Manitoba… and they could not be more different. The Hochfeld in the West Reserve (near Winkler) is a vibrant village to this day. The Hochfeld in the East Reserve, however… is entirely abandoned.

I’d wanted to visit this site for a long while, enticed by the photo in the Historical Atlas of the East Reserve. There’s just something about those wrought-iron cemetery signs. Seriously.

The Atlas was only published four years ago, but in that time, I can see things have already changed at the Hochfeld cemetery. For one thing, we never saw its “Epidemic Stone”. (For another thing, it’s now missing its “F”.)

The Epidemic Stone had read “In memory of the epidemic in the year 1918-20 lay 20 children.” And we could not see this stone anywhere. But, it’s entirely possible it had fallen over and been overgrown, like nearly all of the gravestones here…

This is the only stone I dusted off, entirely randomly. All the stones were in a similar situation; knocked over, overgrown.

I wonder why this village is the one with an Epidemic Stone. (Assuming it’s still there somewhere.) Perhaps because Spanish Flu and Diphtheria had wiped out more children here than other villages? Twenty is a high number. I can’t imagine the devastation. And… is that what precipitated the abandonment of this village? Further reading tells me that¬†epidemics hit this community twice; not just in 1918 — the first time was in the 1890’s.

The Atlas contains a map drawn by Peter Peters, depicting the layout of Hochfeld. Family names associated with this village included: Schulz, Kehler, Gerbrand, Wiebe, Hiebert, Doerksen, Friesen, Ginter, Unger, Falk. There had been a school here, a herdsman’s hut, and a cheese factory. A Reverend lived here… but I see no mention of a church.¬†The village was just behind the cemetery, at an angle. I imagine the trees would have been at the back.

This village was established in 1874, and was officially disbanded in 1911. However village life seemed to continue up until 1927, when a large contingent left for Paraguay. According to the write-up in the Atlas, the village also contained a store, and it was quite the service centre, being located in the midst of other Bergthal villages, and near to Winnipeg Road.

I wonder how the coming years will treat this desolate cemetery.

Other posts that are somewhat related:

One Minute in Hochfeld, WR

Remembering Ed Bickert, Jazz Legend from Hochfeld, Manitoba

Nerding it Up with the ‘Historical Atlas of the East Reserve’