Welcome to the Johann G. Barkman Heritage Walkway in downtown Steinbach!
Andrew pointed out that I have never posted a full tour of this heritage walkway, complete with plaques… so IT’S TIME.
This walkway follows what was once the Steinbach creek (aka: the alleged “stony brook”… but more about that later) and runs the length of the very odd Elmdale Street. I say that it’s odd because at one time clearly this street ran along both sides of the creek. At some point somehow it was made clear that one side was for driving as a street, the other now just being a weird driveway for several residences and also the arena and movie theatre.
Anyway, my point is that this heritage walkway runs the length of Elmdale Street.
So, first we needed to actually walk the walkway and take pictures of each plaque. We began on Kroeker Avenue, near the K.R. Barkman Park (also casually known as “gazebo park”) and the firehall. This is one end of Elmdale Street.
This cairn and its flanking benches were once located at Main & Kroeker but were moved one block over to their present site at Elmdale & Kroeker a few years ago.
Yep, Kroekers used to live here… where Kroeker Street is today.
Next, the actual plaque talking about the original Kroekers on this site:
As you can see, the OG Kroekers were Franz & Margaretha, and they had a double lot. They were wealthy for Steinbach Mennonite settlers in the 1870s. The write-up points out that the Kleine Gemiende church met in their (probably roomy, for the time) home in the pioneer years. Incidentally, I believe this is also where the Holdeman split occurred. Also, Andrew is descended from these particular Kroekers. AND you can sometimes see Franz Kroeker’s well-worn pioneer Bible on display at the MHV. Kinda neat to see that artefact, particularly if you’re a descendent.
Also, I love that spelling of Scharlote. I wonder which site those Fasts moved to. “NW 26-6-6E.” Is that Gruenfeld/Kleefeld?
Now we’re at the corner of Elmdale and Barkman (named for the Barkmans listed on these plaques, I’m assuming). In the background you can see Anna Barkman’s apple tree. It is the last of her grand orchard. It has a heritage tree marker at its base. I wrote about it here.
Hopefully you can read the plaque here.
I’m descended from Peter K. Barkman and Anna Toews. He built windmills! (And his daughter planted apple trees.)
Next, we stop in front of Keystone Cinema to take in this plaque:
I’m descended from Jacob T. Barkman and Aganetha Giesbrecht. I think it’s fun to first figure out who I’m descended from, and then find their names along this walkway.
And then as you stand in front of the arena taking in the view of the Steinbach Credit Union, you will see this plaque:
Can you read that? Gerhard Giesbrecht was village mayor, and Klass Reimer started a store. The Reimers also had a double lot here.
Here I am appreciating the plaque. Andrew made me pose.
Then we cross Reimer Avenue (yep named for these Reimers)and find this plaque. It’s next to a Sobering pocket park with a cairn, with some benches under trees. It’s a nice place to stop and rest for a bit, out of the sun, if that’s your thing.
Now we’re back to Andrew’s ancestors again. He’s descended from Johann R. Reimer and Anna Warkentin. With all these ancestors of ours living next to each other in this little village, it’s little wonder that it turns out we’re 5th cousins. (It’s kind impressive we’re that distant, actually.)
And THEN you approach the Jake Epp Library. Near the Helena Loewen Garden, you’ll see this important plaque, which is very cool because it had a history of Steinbach and a map!
This is what the plaque says:
In September 1874, eighteen Mennonite families founded the village of Steinbach. Most of the families came from a South Russian (Ukraine) village called Steinbach, meaning Stony Brook. In Manitoba the families ignored the Canadian custom of living on individual quarter sections. All farmers lived in the village and they divided the lands around the village into narrow strips, guaranteeing that all farmers received ownership to equal portions of good and inferior lands. The village main street was laid out parallel to Stony Brook, running from the northwest corner of Section 35-6-6E to the southeast corner. This unique main street configuration allowed each farm equal access to the creek water and ensured well drained farmsteads. The Johann G. Barkman Heritage Walkway takes the pedestrian through what was once the back part of each of the original eighteen farmsteads. Each farmstead faced Main Street and was about 65 meters in width. The names of the original farm families can be located on the signposts along the walkway. Enjoy your encounter with the pioneer past.
Steinbach Heritage Committee July 2003
In front of the library, pretty close to Friesen Avenue, you’ll see this plaque:
Suddenly there are a lot of Defehrs… but they bailed and moved to yantzied pretty quick.
Also of note, the Friesens. I’m very sure Friesen Street is named for this family of Friesens.
Then you’ll walk past the splash park and get to the corner of Elm Avenue and Elmdale Street. (Yes, there are some elms here. They are pretty and I am worried about their continued good health.)
Here you’ll see what is maybe the best pocket park in Steinbach, dedicated to this former mayor:
He had been a Holdeman, which is kind of remarkable because I can’t think of any Holdeman mayors or politicians around here in my lifetime. Johann G. Barkman had been a very good mayor, he was Steinbach’s first mayor when it became a town, I think. That’s why this small park and this walkway are named for him. Just a few houses down from here, is the house he had lived in! I’m pretty sure it’s on the Steinbach Walking Tour that Andrew had done.
Here you’ll find a plaque with more Barkmans on it. I’m not directly related to these Barkmans… but Andrew is. He’s descended from Rev. Jacob Barkman (who had been Johann G. Barkman’s father).
Read the description… Jacob drowned in the Red River in 1875. The settlers hadn’t even been here for a year yet when their spiritual leader tragically died.
Another picture from this spot… you can kinda see Elmdale running along both sides of the creek again:
Then we walk along the sidewalk to the chain link fence that lines the Elmdale School yard, and we come to this plaque:
I think it’s fair to say that Katharina and Gerhard were probably siblings but that’s honestly just a guess. Family did like to settle next to each other.
Then we come to this plaque, the very last one, where Elmdale Street terminates at Highway 12/Brandt Street.
This is where Steinbach’s last housebarn had stood. Marlene Reimer writes about it being torn down in her children’s book Goodbye, Old Housebarn which I posted about here.
This plaque is difficult to read, probably because of the salt from the highway in winter. I always like to pause here and think about that last housebarn and the protest when it was torn down… which led to the desire to maintain what little was left of the village’s history… and the beginning of the Mennonite Heritage Village.
But that’s another post for another day!