Once again, I wasn’t supposed to be here. Especially not now, when hunting season has just begun.
But I had received a mysterious tip, that a cemetery I’d long been wondering about, had been located in these woods.
A map unlike any other I’d seen before, had been sent to me.
Next thing I knew, I was tromping through the bush, trusting that my beaming fluorescent-yellow toque would be enough to prevent me from getting my head shot clean off by an over-eager hunter’s high-powered rifle. In search of Blumstein.
The bravado of my friend S was enough to spur me onward. It is good to have an arsenal of friends who enjoy risk-taking more than I do.
I don’t really see this as risky behaviour, because I just sort of overlook the risk in certain situations. Like it’s a joke. But others might see risk in this and decline such an adventure in the first place. But S was game, so into the woods we plunged.
“Fingers crossed!” I laughed, slapping that bold choice of toque onto my head. As we headed down the undeveloped road allowance toward the area local historians have said that Blumstein once lay, I joyfully recounted tales on the Kleefeld schoolyard in the 80s that would generally feature stories of older kids accidentally shooting their friends during hunting season. “Probably in these very woods!” I exclaimed, launching my body eagerly down the vague road allowance, dodging random branches as snow coated my glasses.
I didn’t think things through at all. The Tourond Creek flows through this land, and obviously there is no bridge here. So, we had to hunt down a way to cross. Finding a spot with very little water and some stepping stones, we climbed down into the creek bed and back up the other side, then into the woods.
As far as I could figure, there was a clearing in the woods which I assumed would be the cemetery. We found the clearing, but once there, we just weren’t sure it was right.
I circled the edge of the clearing and… is this stone something?
Probably not. Hmmm.
We ventured a little further in an effort to find something that seemed like a remnant of Blumstein.
Was this path a remainder of the old trails?
Or was it just a path because paths through the woods are awesome? We did see two hunting blinds here… void of hunters at the moment so we encountered no other humans nor did we get shot. Which was a relief.
But we didn’t find Blumstein… yet.
I feel like large older trees were important in these communities, and trails along creeks were common too, so I feel like we were indeed walking where Blumsteiners had once walked. But that was about it.
Once home, I tried to find out a bit more about Blumstein. What kind of village was it, how long was it around for, and when did it fade away?
Not much is known about this village, which has only added to its mystery for me. I think it may have something to do with the fact that it was a Bergthal village… wedged in tight between the Kleine Gemeinde villages of Hochstadt and Gruenfeld (later to become Kleefeld). So perhaps those who lived in Blumstein didn’t feel a ton of attachment to their little region?
It was only after our adventure that I thought to sit down and consult East Reserve Reflections, which was published in 2000. Compiled by Karen Peters, this is an important collection of various locals telling what they know about each village site in the East Reserve. Dietrich Blatz wrote two short paragraphs about Blumstein, stating that 10 families originally settled here in 1874. This village had its own school, with 18 students registered in 1878. However by 1882 there were only six students, and apparently just six households as well. The village population was waning.
Now jumping over to the Working Papers of the East Reserve Village Histories 1874-1910, to read Chapter Four by Dick Blatz (probably the same Dietrich who wrote the above-mentioned article in East Reserve Reflections). He says the Blatz families continued to stay in the area even after all the others moved away from Blumstein.
Families who settled this village included:
Johann Reimer (b. October 2,1846) and Margaretha Funk (b. July 15, 1850) — he died in 1894 and was buried in Grunthal. She remarried and moved to the West Reserve.
Jacob Stoesz (b. 1834) and Anna Wiebe (d.1922) — he died in 1892 in Blumstein — does this mean he’s buried there? Sounds like the family remained here as best they could.
Cornelius Stoesz (b.1836) and Aganetha ___ (b.1841) — when Cornelius died in 1890 he was buried in Grunthal. (He was a minister in the Chortitzer Church.) She died in 1914 and was buried in Reinland where she was living at the time. I think it’s the abandoned Reinland of Tache (just north of the East Reserve) that the book is talking about, because it mentions graves being unearthed during the widening of Highway 59 and being reinterred in Niverville, which makes me think of the Striech monument which is in the same region as the Reinland cemetery. I notice Aganetha Stoesz is not on the list of people buried in Reinland (Tache), so it’s possible she’s buried in a country garden somewhere around there. (?) Point being, she is not in the Blumstein cemetery.
Daniel Blatz (b. 1817) and Helena Rempel Giesbrecht — apparently Daniel died in Wiedenfeld in 1891.
The chapter concludes with a picture of a home in Blumstein! Proof there were houses here.
So, from all the reading I can find on Blumstein, I haven’t learned much, but I will say the attachment to Grunthal rather than Kleefeld was evident just from where people chose to be buried. Grunthal was a Bergthal village, like Blumstein, so even though Kleefeld was closer, Blumsteiners were buried in Grunthal instead (an extra two miles away… likely by horse, not car).
So… was anyone actually buried in Blumstein? Am I just imagining things?
I think at the very least there will be a garden cemetery where children were buried. I’ll have to do some more thinking on this.