The Story of Peter B. Koop (born 1870) Is Just Really Sad

I wondered what would happen if I searched out Koops in GAMEO. Well here’s what happened: I discovered a story that made me cry.

The name Peter B. Koop caught my eye because that’s my grandfather’s name…but he was born in 1920. This Peter B. Koop I was reading about on GAMEO was born in 1870. (This is why it’s so important to provide birth years when talking about or researching an individual!)

So who was this other Peter B. Koop?

He was the younger brother of my great-great-grandfather Johann B. Koop b.1863. So, I guess he’d be my great-great-great-uncle.

I wonder if the Peter B. Koops had known each other. The elder was my grandpa’s great-uncle, and they both lived around the Steinbach area, before the elder Peter B. moved to Saskatchewan.

There’s just something about this photo that makes my heart do that painful twisty thing it sometimes does. A pang of something familiar. A hopeful sadness, maybe? He looks a little like my grandfather. Handsome and kind, with thick hair and even thicker eyebrows.

The GAMEO entry let me know there was a longer article about Peter B. Koop to be found in Preservings issue No.11, December 1997. I scoured the stack of Preservings back issues I’d obtained from the Steinbach MCC, and sure enough, I have that issue. I found the story on page 47: Peter B. Koop (1870-1956): From fortune to misfortune; as told by great-nephew, Peter S. Koop.

So here’s the story. It goes back to Neuanlage, the short-lived and evaporated village of Koops in the late 1800’s.

Peter was the little brother of the Koop clan, but did pretty well in Neuanlage, with a lovely farm and two other businesses besides: firewood sawing, and steam-engine threshing. He and his wife, Margaretha Schellenberg, had five children together before she passed away in 1900 (I’m not sure from what…influenza epidemic?). After five years of being a widower, Peter married the maid, Auguste…who actually already had a boyfriend, whose last name was Heier. As I read this, I inwardly yelled, “Nooooooo…!”

Auguste somehow convinced Peter to let her boyfriend manage his firewood sawing business. Heier kept all the cash, then sold the business and kept those proceeds too.

Next, Auguste proceeded to effectively convince Peter to let Heier run the steam-engine threshing business. Heier then spoke with Peter, getting him to agree to bring the business to Saskatchewan. Heier kept the income from that venture, and sold the equipment in Saskatchewan and also kept the money from the sale.

Then, Auguste persuaded Peter to sell his Neuanlage farm and move to Lanigan. The story concludes thusly: “By the time the Koop family was settled in Saskatchewan, he was bankrupt. His wife left him and ran off with Mr, Heier. Koop himself fell victim to cancer.”

To me, this story feels so personal…and so devastatingly hopeful.

You can see the photographer’s shadow in this photo. I like that.