Barkfield School Restoration Project Donors and MHV Staff:(Left to Right) Murray Doerksen, Douglas Doerksen, Barry Dyck, Peter Doerksen, Wilma Kroeker, Art Kroeker, Kelvin Goertzen, and Roland Sawatzky.

Barkfield School

The Barkfield School was built in 1919 about 10 miles southwest of Steinbach. The structure is typical of one-roomed country schools of that era. The school served the community for approximately 50 years. After being retired from its formal educational role, it was donated to Mennonite Heritage Village and today rests among the trees just west of the Windmill. Here it represents the shift from the private school system, which was predominant among Mennonites at the turn of the century, to the public school system which still largely exists today, albeit in a different structure.

This shift from private education to the public school system had a considerable impact on Mennonite life and culture. The public schools followed a provincially prescribed curriculum, flew the Union Jack flag, and had pictures of the King or Queen at the front of the classroom. The private schools had none of these. In fact, many Mennonites found this change unacceptable and moved to Mexico and Paraguay to seek a life unaffected by governments.

The Barkfield School building was recently showing signs of needing a number of repairs, including a new coat of paint on the outside. In an effort to fund this needed refurbishment, we filed a Community Places grant application. The application included the Barkfield School project, similar repairs to the Steamer Shelter, and the replacement of the roof on the Peters Barn.

Taxpayers will be happy to know that Community Places grants require a substantial investment of seed money or in-kind contributions by the community. So with some deferred capital funds donated in 2012 and in-kind donations from Peters family members, the grant application was filed.

Sadly the amount awarded was $4,000 short of the total project cost specified in our application. This precipitated a search for individuals who personally have roots in the Barkfield area and who value the preservation of the stories attached to the school building.

Five individuals stepped into the gap with the needed funds, and today the building has re-caulked windows, sound siding and a beautiful fresh coat of paint. We are grateful to Kelvin Goertzen, Wilma Kroeker, Peter Doerksen, Doug Doerksen and Murray Doerksen for making it possible to complete this restoration project. All five came to inspect the work last week and expressed happiness that this building and its memories are being preserved.

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About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.

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