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   This summer we were pleased to accept into our collection three models built by Harold Fast. About thirty years ago, he made models of the houses his maternal grandparents and his wife's paternal grandparents built around Gruenfeld, Manitoba (now Kleefeld), as well as a model of an ice slide built on the Gruenfeld school yard for several winters.

   Gruenfeld was the first Mennonite village established after the 1874 migration from Russia to Canada. It was settled by families from the Kleine Gemeinde (now Evangelical Mennonite Conference), the same group that founded Steinbach. Both Harold's family and his wife Nettie's family were among the original settlers of the town.

   Harold's great-grandparents, Jacob L. (1839-1893) and Maria (Rempel) Dueck (1840-1917) came to Canada in 1875 with one of the first waves of Mennonite emigrants from Russia. They settled in Gruenfeld, where Jacob’s father, sister, and brothers were already living. Jacob and Maria built the Schein, or barn annex used as storage (not pictured), on their lot in the village in 1886 and built the barn in 1898. When the Duecks' son Heinrich (1873-1944) and his wife Katharina (Reimer) Dueck (1878-1921) purchased their own rural property in 1907, they left his parents' house in the village but moved the Schein and the barn onto their new property. They built a new house and attached it by way of a summer kitchen to the relocated outbuildings to make a housebarn - a traditional Mennonite dwelling, two examples of which can be found at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV).

   One thing that intrigued us about the model of the Fast homestead was its mixture of traditional Mennonite architecture and more modern architecture. Judging by the model, the new house had a traditional layout at first, but over the years Heinrich and Katharina built two additional stories and a porch on the front, eventually making it a far more "modern" design.

   Heinrich and Katharina’s daughter Elisabeth (1904-1976) and her husband George Fast (1901-1993) bought the housebarn after Heinrich's death in 1944. They moved in there with their six children, Harold included. Harold didn't live there for long, as he got married four or five years after moving there, but he still remembers the house well. By the time the Fasts moved in, there was modern plumbing and mostly-modern heating; Harold still remembers shoveling wood into the furnace.

   This was the last housebarn built in the Gruenfeld area. George and Elisabeth lived there until Elisabeth's death in 1976. George remarried a year or two later and moved out in 1978. The house is still standing and is still owned by this family. 

Calendar of Events

- September 5: Fall on the Farm - 9:00 – 5:00

- September 18: Supper From the Field

- September 22: Volunteer Appreciation Event

- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner

Steinbachonline.com is Steinbach's only source for community news and information such as weather and classifieds.

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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