Growing up on a dairy farm here in Hanover (aka: East Reserve), I found the landscape to be stunningly beautiful. I still do. Particularly at sunset, when the tops of the trees would turn golden. This would cause me to stare for long periods of time at the trees… and imagine there had once been villages in there. Villages, and trails, too. But I figured this had no basis in reality.
When I ask my mom questions about local history, she replies, “I’m not from here, but your dad is… he was interested in history. He might well have known.”
So, I wonder… what did my dad all know?
When I was maybe eight years old, he’d somehow gotten a bunch of large black & white aerial photos of our area… they looked kind of like a map. He seemed excited about it, and spread the giant photos out on the kitchen table, looking very closely at them. This might’ve been the 1946 aerial photos you see in the Historical Atlas of the East Reserve. This makes me think that he might’ve been looking for something. Or was just curious about the history of our area, anyway.
Our Holstein cows were adventurous, and several times each summer, they would get out. It was in searching for the cows, that we would really explore our surrounding area.
One time, my dad took me to a neighbours’ place, to explore the woods behind their house. I was pretty young, so I don’t remember with a great deal of clarity, but I do know precisely the place we went — it was pretty near to our farm, and I asked him, “Are we looking for our cows again?” Not this time. We were just exploring! I remember dad was looking at the ground, at the bases of trees, and one tree he pushed over (it must have been rotten or dead or something), then knelt down and studied its roots. Almost as if he was looking for something… but didn’t know quite what it was. Ever since that time, I’d see that particular area of bush, and remember that my dad took me to explore there… even though I didn’t really know why. (Since all our cows had been accounted for on that particular day. I was quite concerned for our cows’ well-being and whereabouts.)
Then, many decades later, I obtained the Historical Atlas of the East Reserve... and realized something about that precise area of bush that my dad had wanted to explore: it had been the location of a small village! Steinreich.
Steinreich means “rich in stones”. I must say, aptly named, because even in our nearby fields, my dad often remarked wryly that it was almost as if he was farming rocks, or that the barley crop wasn’t that great but crop of rocks was wildly successful. That kind of thing. Also, we spent time as a family picking rocks in the fields. So yes. “Rich in stones”, indeed.
Steinreich was among the first Mennonite villages established in the East Reserve, as it was already up and running when James Hamilton explored the area in 1875 (Atlas) but it was not very well established, as it disbanded by 1877. Henry Fast notes in his Gruenfeld book, “Obviously this was not a very productive piece of land.” So… it only really had about four homesteads, and only lasted three years. Yet it was named, and homes were insured there. People had lived in a village setting there for three years.
But this makes me wonder… had my dad been looking for Steinreich?
(Feature photo: one that my dad took in the 1980s’ from the top of our silo, looking east… toward Steinreich.)