The Mysterious Village of Alt-Bergfeld

This is a private site. Very private. Not public at all. So how did we get here? Ernie Braun led us here, that’s how. He went to the effort of contacting the owner of this property and obtaining permission to visit the cemetery… which is all that remains today of what was once the village of Alt-Bergfeld.

This village is mentioned a lot in the Historical Atlas of the East Reserve. I think that’s because it’s of particular significance to Ernie — this is where his family was from. (I’m pretty sure he said that he’d spent a portion of his boyhood here.)

Because of how much it was mentioned in the Atlas, I’d somehow assumed there would be more left of the village than there actually is.

We followed a trail used frequently by tractors, and I think Ernie said that had been the village street… I found looking at it quite depressing. I didn’t take a photo because I wanted to respect the property owner.

At this location, I found it difficult to imagine the bustling village that had existed right here.

As me, Andrew, and Ernie stood reflecting upon what was once Alt-Bergfeld, Ernie took a few steps back, and suddenly declared with surprise, “WOW! Look at that tree! ” He said that he had not noticed it to be so large the last time he had been at the site. Just the way that oak amazed him, I had to take a photo. That was fantastic, I think we should all react similarly to trees.

On the marble cairn, it’s called Old Barkfield. But you know, from the beginning to the end of the village’s life, it’s inhabitants spoke German. None of them would’ve called it “Old Barkfield”. The translation seems unnecessary. I mean, we don’t call Kleefeld “Clover Field”, do we? (Pretty sure that’s what it translates to…)

In spite of the anglicized name, the memorial stone has a lot of German on it — even weirdly making “Falk” into “Falken” and “Toews” into “Toewsen”. I am not sure why the “en” has been added to some names in this way.

Do you see where it says “3 kleine kinder” below? Three small children. We paused, contemplating the sadness of this statement in a cemetery.

On the back of the Historical Atlas of the East Reserve, is the Alt-Bergfeld village plan. The details, complete with trails and bridges, bushes and pasture… Gnadenfeld Lands, Joubert Creek, and a trail to Neu-Bergfeld. All of this makes me want to explore the land, the way it had been… back in the days of the villages. (Or, better yet… to see it the way it had been, pre-settlement.) But, I think this is largely impossible at this point, as all lands are extremely private.

However, there are those creeks… right?

Looking inside at the Atlas’ table of contents, you can see that Alt-Bergfeld (1876-1924) receives it’s own four-page chapter. Stunningly, you can see a 1946 photo from the National Air Photo Library, next to the map of Bergfeld from 1912. The comparison ignites the imagination!

The Historical Atlas of the East Reserve also contains this poem, attributed to G.G. Kornelson, published in the Steinbach Post on October 20th, 1926. Translated by Ernie Braun:

Bergfeld, what happened to you!
How things look in your yards now!
How you stand there completely forsaken!
Yet once careful diligence
And simple uprightness
Were stamped on your village plan
Now weeds grow mightily there,
Fence and gate are fallen into ruin.
What once stood in such fine order
Cultivated, looked after for at least 50 years,
All that now lies ruined–
Because of the siren songs of speculators!
Bergfeld, how you are undone!