Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) preserves and tells the stories of Mennonites who came to Canada from Russia. Approximately 7,000 immigrants left Russia and settled in Canada in the 1870’s. The first migration took place in 1874, and these people settled here in what was then known as the East Reserve, establishing the village of Steinbach.
While MHV’s village is not located where the original village of Steinbach was, nor is its Main Street intended to be an exact replica of the Main Street of the original village, it is intended to illustrate what that first village street was like.
The 1920’s saw another 20,000 Mennonites migrate from Russia to Canada, escaping horrific experiences in the post-war era. Village life was no longer the norm in Canada, as farms were now spread out through the country. Rural community life often revolved around the church and the public school.
MHV’s village includes both a school and a church from the post-WWI era. The Barkfield School was built south of Steinbach in 1919 at the beginning of the shift from private schools to public schools. The Lichtenauer Church, built in 1929-1930, is representative of many Mennonite churches built in rural communities across southern Manitoba following the mass migration from Russia to Canada in the 1920s.
The Lichtenauer Mennonite Church was originally located in Ste. Elizabeth, just a few miles east of Morris. It was the first church built by the Mennonites who migrated in the 1920s. This congregation had its beginnings in 1926 when recent immigrants to the area began meeting for worship in homes. The church grew rapidly in the early years, recording 378 members and adherents in 1931. Two additional Mennonite churches were established in Arnaud in the decades following.
Rural populations shifted over the years, impacting Ste. Elizabeth and other Manitoba communities, and in 1989 the Lichtenauer Church closed its doors. In 1994 the building was moved to MHV, where it stands today as a reminder of congregational life in Southern Manitoba communities in the post-war years.
From time to time this church is still used for a wedding ceremony. This summer, through the generous donations of local supporters and a Community Places grant, it received a new coat of paint. Before this season is over, it will also be equipped with a new set of eaves troughs.
The ongoing maintenance of this church building, as well as all the other heritage buildings at MHV, is important to the preservation and the telling of the stories of why we are privileged to live here and how we got here.
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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.