Village News

History of a Werder Clock

   “I have good news and bad news,” was what the late Arthur Kroeger said to me on the phone in June of 2013. The good news was that he had managed to repair my clock, but the bad news was that it was not a Kroeger clock.

   The clock is a round-face Werder design which, according to Mr. Kroeger, was no longer made after 1840. Moreover, the primitive face painting, unusual one-hand mechanism, and two-piece face design are indications that the clock was manufactured in Prussia by a non-Mennonite tradesman and then brought to Russia (Ukraine), most likely by a Mennonite family.

   Which family that was is a matter of speculation. What is certain is that the clock arrived in Manitoba aboard S. S. Peruvian in July 1875 in the possession of the Wall family, either the son Johann (1848) as family legend suggests, or the widow of Johann Wall Sr. (1818), Susanna Krahn (1824), who had in the meantime married Johann Mueller. Both son and mother ended up in Rosengart, West Reserve, where the clock kept time for over thirty years.

   There are some unknowns: was the clock purchased new or second hand? Was the clock brought into the family from a wife’s family at some point along the way? How did the clock get into the possession of the Johann Wall family? If in fact the clock was purchased new by an ancestor of Johann Wall (1848) who brought it to Manitoba, then a most likely scenario is that his great grandfather Johann Wall (1768) of Danzig acquired the clock there prior to emigration in 1795, and it was passed on to the succeeding generations of sons until it ended up on the ship with his great grandson. If the clock was bought second hand, then its provenance is impossible to guess. If the clock came via a wife’s family, then again the trail leads to Prussia and an early acquisition date by either the unknown wife of Johann Wall (1768) or perhaps via Helena Redekopp (1798) the wife of his son Johann Wall (1793).

   The clock can be placed with certainty in the hands of the Johann Wall family of Neuendorf, Chortitza, prior to emigration. From Russia the clock has again followed the migrations of Mennonites, coming to Manitoba to arrive in Rosengart, West Reserve. According to Susan Wall Funk (1927), the clock was inherited by her father, Isaak Wall (born in 1886 in Rosengart, WR), one of the younger sons of Johann Wall (1848). GRANDMA data base indicates that before 1909 the family moved to Saskatchewan where several children were born. In 1922 or so, Isaak Wall took the clock to Mexico with him and it kept time for them in Blumenhof, Swift Colony. In 1936 they returned to Manitoba, living in the Morris area, and later in the Plum Coulee district. Upon the death of Isaak Wall in 1946, the clock ended up with daughter Mary Wall, who eventually gave it to her sister Justina (Wall) Doerksen, the youngest. Somehow, during that time, maybe during a move, the pendulum was lost. Susan Wall Funk commented that it had been fairly worn already at that time, but still serviceable. The last direct descendant to own the clock was Susan Wall Funk, who lived near Grunthal with her husband Jacob. During the years in Grunthal, a new pendulum was constructed by John Broesky. In the 1990’s, the Funks sold their place and moved to Kleefeld, having an auction at which the clock was sold to Orlando Hiebert, a relative of both Susan Wall Funk and her husband Jacob Funk. Ernest Braun, Tourond, bought the clock from Orlando in fall of 2012 and took it to Arthur Kroeger to be repaired.

   Today it is part of The Art of Mennonite Clocks, the new exhibit in the Gerhard Ens Gallery at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), jointly sponsored by the Kroeger Clocks Heritage Foundation and MHV.

Calendar of Events

June 9 – MHV/Eden Tractor Trek (departing at 10:00AM)

June 15-17 – Waffle Booth at Summer in the City

June 17, 11:30AM-2:30PM - Father’s Day Lunch Buffet

July 1, 9:00AM-6:00PM – Steinbach’s Canada Day Celebration (with fireworks at the Soccer Park at 10:45PM)

Village News

The Magic of Clocks

   The Art of Mennonite Clocks, our new exhibit in the Gerhard Ens Gallery, was formally opened to the public with a ceremony on Manitoba Day, May 12. A crowd of enthusiastic guests heard introductory comments by Andrea Dyck, Curator at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) and manager of this exhibit, and Liza Kroeger, Director of the Kroeger Clocks Heritage Foundation, a partner in this exhibit. These were followed by stories about how some of the clocks in this exhibit happen to be in Canada today. Guests then spent time exploring the exhibit, which consists of more than 30 clocks and interpretive panels that tell the stories about them.

   The Kroeger Clock Heritage Foundation has been established by the family of the late Arthur Kroeger, a descendent of the Kroeger clock-making family. Mr. Kroeger was a friend of MHV and the author of Kroeger Clocks, published by MHV and currently sold at Village Books and Gifts in the Village Centre. We are grateful for the resources this foundation has brought to the new exhibit. We also appreciate the support of the MHV Auxiliary and Manitoba Heritage Grants, which also helped make it happen.

   Some of the clocks in this exhibit have come from our MHV collection, some from the collection of the Manitoba Museum, and some from individuals who have graciously loaned them to us. We are thankful for all of these contributions, which together have resulted in an outstanding exhibit.

   One of the things I find intriguing when I consider these clocks is the fact that so many were brought to this country by people immigrating, often under very adverse and stressful circumstances. It’s hard to imagine a more challenging possession to pack and transport for weeks, or sometimes months, of travel.

   Some of the stories we heard on Saturday provided details of the arduous journey the clocks (and their owners) had to endure. One of our storytellers, as a young boy, had his family’s clock stored under his seat on the horse-drawn wagon traveling for months from Russia to Germany. Another said that when their clock was hung on the wall, their new house felt like a home.

   These clocks had such high value to the families who owned them that they went to unusual lengths to keep them in their possession. I wonder what made the clocks so important. Was it their economic value? Were they heirlooms handed down from previous generations, carrying more sentimental value than economic value? And how does my own value system today align with the value systems of my forebears who brought such clocks with them? Thanks to Andrea Dyck and her team of talented people, I and many others will now have a year to reflect on these questions and talk about them with our families, friends and acquaintances.

   The Art of Mennonite Clocks will be on display in the Gerhard Ens Gallery until about this same time next year. This stunning exhibit is well worth the trip (or several trips) to MHV to explore it.

Calendar of Events

June 9 – MHV/Eden Tractor Trek (departing at 10:00AM)

June 15-17 – Waffle Booth at Summer in the City

June 17, 11:30AM-2:30PM - Father’s Day Lunch Buffet

July 1, 9:00AM-6:00PM – Steinbach’s Canada Day Celebration (with fireworks at the Soccer Park at 10:45PM)

Village News

Partnerships Wanted

   What would all of us do without partnerships? While our culture pushes us toward independence in many aspects of life, we really are quite dependent on others for many things that make life both livable and enjoyable.

   We partner with medical practitioners in our efforts to maintain good health. We collaborate with educators to develop knowledge and skills. Farmers, food processors and grocery stores become our partners in maintaining our food supply. In many cases we partner with a spouse in raising a healthy, productive and community-minded family.

   Healthy museums will typically have a variety of productive partnerships as well. Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is fortunate to have many friends who support us in a variety of ways. We have previously highlighted the relationships we have with a number of organizations. For example, our MHV Auxiliary fundraises on our behalf. The Steinbach and Area Garden Club plants and maintains our gardens through the summer in exchange for meeting room space. The Southeast Implement Collectors support our Tractor Trek and stage an annual Vintage Tractor Show in support of MHV. The Southeast Draft Horse Association faithfully uses their teams of horses to do heritage demonstrations and give wagon rides on festival days. And Steam Club ’71 members own a steam engine located on the museum grounds, which they operate on our festival days.

   There are many local businesses and individuals who provide us with goods and services that enable us to run this operation. Others provide sponsorship and donations to enable us to purchase these goods and services. Federal, provincial and municipal governments provide support for museums through various legislations and grant programs.

   I was also reminded of another level of partnership recently when I encountered three people cleaning all the items behind the display glass in the Reimer Store on MHV’s Main Street. The volunteers doing this cleaning are actually descendants of the late John C. Reimer, the man who donated that building and many of the artifacts in it to MHV. In fact, one of the three is a daughter of Mr. Reimer, and the other two are his granddaughters. So the baton is being passed on to the next generation. These three women attend to this cleaning task regularly and do so without MHV’s prompting.

   We have a similar partnership in the Reimer Tinsmith and Harness Shop, which is located behind the Blacksmith Shop. Two generations of Reimer descendents annually spend a half-day thoroughly cleaning this shop.

   There is certainly no glamour in doing this work. The only compensation they receive is a warm word of thanks and a half-priced meal ticket at our Livery Barn Restaurant. Perhaps their reward comes from the realization that generations of people will be enjoying and learning from these buildings and their artifacts. Or maybe it’s the service to our community that motivates these generous people. Providing this kind of support to MHV serves to enhance this community meeting place and world-class tourist destination.

   Would you be interested in serving MHV and our community in a similar way? We would be happy to engage more individuals, families, social/church groups, and businesses in “adopting” a building, or even an old tractor, truck or car, with a commitment to restore and maintain it. There are many such opportunities here, and we’ll gladly help you find one that is a good match for you. Call us at 204-326-9661 or send an email to [email protected].

Calendar of Events

May 12, 9:00AM–5:00PM - Manitoba Day (FREE Admission)

May 12, 10:00AM - Gardening Workshops

May 12, 11:00AM - Manitoba Day Ceremony

May 12, 1:00PM - Exhibit Opening: The Art of Mennonite Clocks

May 13, – 11:30AM–2:30PM - Mother’s Day Lunch Buffet

June 9 – MHV/Eden Tractor Trek (departing at 10:00AM)

June 15-17 – Waffle Booth at Summer in the City

June 17, 11:30AM-2:30PM - Father’s Day Lunch Buffet

Village News

MB Day

Manitoba Day at the Museum

   On Saturday, May 12, our province is celebrating its 148th birthday. Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is joining in with planned festivities.

   How would you celebrate a milestone? With a cake? With singing? With family activities? Or with story-sharing among friends and relatives? At MHV, you can experience all these things on Manitoba Day.

   Manitoba is rich in its diversity. At Mennonite Heritage Village, we tell the story of the Russian Mennonites who travelled across the Atlantic Ocean and halfway across the North American continent, beginning in the 1870’s. They came here to maintain their religious freedoms and to pursue economic opportunities.

   We recognize that the story we tell at our museum is part of a larger Manitoba story that includes the Metis communities, the Indigenous communities and the many other European settlers who decided to make Manitoba their home. Manitoba continues to welcome newcomers to our province every year, from all parts of the world. Although our museum does not have the resources to tell everyone’s story, we value every person and their history. So we invite the whole community to come join us in celebrating our home, Manitoba.

Manitoba Day Activities – May 12

9:00 AM to 5:00 PM – Museum Grounds and Village Centre have FREE admission all day.

10:00 AM - Plant Pansies for Mom: A Manitoba Day Celebration

   Children will experience the joys of gardening as they learn to plant pansies. Experienced gardeners from the Steinbach and Area Garden Club will show children how to plant pansies in a pot, complete with a Manitoba flag, that they can take home for Mother's Day.

10:00 AM - Yoga For Gardeners: A Steinbach and Area Garden Club Workshop

   Led by a certified Yoga Instructor, you will learn some gentle exercises to help prevent sore muscles as you begin gardening this spring. You will come away from this 1/2-hour workshop refreshed and ready to begin your gardening journey. Everyone is welcome to attend. No experience is necessary.

11:00 AM – Flag-Raising Ceremony and Short Program

   We will highlight the significance of Manitoba Day with speeches by dignitaries and local government officials and with music by the choral ensemble ACCENT. The flag-raising ceremony will be followed by food and conversations as birthday cake and coffee/beverages are served.

1:00 PM - Official Exhibit Opening: The Art of Mennonite Clocks

   This new exhibition showcases 33 Mennonite wall clocks and their stories, spanning more than two centuries. It is a joint exhibition created by Mennonite Heritage Village and the Kroeger Clocks Heritage Foundation.

All Day - Our Outdoor Village will be open to everyone, the Livery Barn Restaurant will be serving its menu of traditional Russian Mennonite food, Village Books & Gifts will feature an assortment of handmade toys, clothing and household goods, as well as new and used books, and Horse-Drawn Wagon Rides will be available all day.

MHV Calendar of Events

Tuesday, May 1 - Outdoor Village and Livery Barn Restaurant now open for the season

Sunday, May 6, 2:30 PM - MHV Auxiliary Faspa (Mennonite Floor Patterns - Margruite Krahn)

Saturday, May 12 - Manitoba Day (ceremony, workshops, wagon rides, etc.)

Saturday, May 12, 1:00 PM - New Exhibit Opening: The Art of Mennonite Clocks

Sunday, May 13, 11:30 AM - Mother’s Day Lunch Buffet: Take mom out for a Mennonite feast at the Livery Barn Restaurant

Saturday, June 9 - 9th Annual MHV/Eden Foundation Tractor Trek

For more information, call 1-204-326-9661, email us at [email protected], or visit our website at www.mhv.ca .

Village News

Endowment Funds

   The prospect of having someone else match or stretch one’s own donation to a worthy cause is attractive to many people. In 2014 a friend of Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) offered to match all new donations earmarked for a specific project, up to a maximum of $100,000. By the end of that year, funds had been raised to that amount, so our friend issued a matching cheque, and MHV was doubly blessed.

   We have a similar yet very different opportunity available to us now. On April 1, 2018, the Manitoba Government initiated the Manitoba Heritage Trust Program where new private donations to the endowment fund of a museum or an archives will be matched at a rate of 50 cents per dollar. The Province has made $5,000,000 available for this for a three-year period beginning April 1.

   An endowment fund is a pool of money invested for the specific purpose of generating ongoing revenue for an organization. In other words, the fund itself is not available for use, but the investment earnings from it are usable and will continue to be in perpetuity. For example, twenty years ago, friends of former federal cabinet minister Izzy Asper rallied to establish such an endowment fund. They collected $265,000 to be invested. In the succeeding 20 years, the earnings from this fund have provided gifts to its beneficiaries of $270,000, and the fund has a current value of $315,000. In addition to contributing more than its original value, the fund itself has grown.

   For the Manitoba Heritage Trust Program, the Winnipeg Foundation will be managing all dollars raised during these next three years. After that, the funds for each participating organization will be transferred to local community foundations, in our case the Steinbach Community Foundation Inc.

   MHV currently owns a small endowment fund, managed by Abundance Canada, which is worth just under $100,000. The income it generates is used to assist with the operation of our museum. Many universities have substantial endowment funds, some of which are clearly earmarked for scholarships or bursaries.

   This Manitoba Government initiative is a new opportunity for MHV and for our constituency. Between now and March 31, 2021, every dollar donated to our MHV Endowment Fund, to an accumulated maximum of $50,000, will be stretched by an additional 50 cents by the Manitoba Heritage Trust Program. The limit of $50,000 has the potential to expand at the end of the three-year period, depending on how successful the other museums and archives have been in their fundraising.

   We are delighted about this opportunity and hope that many of our constituents will find it compelling as well. At the same time, we hope that donations made to the MHV Endowment Fund will not “cannibalize” donations that would otherwise be going into our annual operating fund. It is essential that we maintain a sufficient revenue stream to fund the daily operations of MHV.

   Donations to the MHV Endowment Fund can be made in person, by mail, or through the Canada Helps facility on our website at www.mhv.ca. Securities donations are also welcome and would be processed by the Winnipeg Foundation.

   While the static nature and the relatively conservative investment strategy of an endowment fund may seem less than appealing to some donors, we need to remember that this fund will continue serving our organization for the future life of MHV.

Calendar of Events

April 26 – 7:00PM, Volunteer Orientation

May 1 - Opening day for the Livery Barn Restaurant and the Outdoor Village

May 6 – 2:30PM, MHV Auxiliary Faspa (Mennonite Floor Patterns - Margruite Krahn)

May 12 – 9:00AM–5:00PM, Manitoba Day

May 13 – 11:30AM–2:30PM, Mother’s Day Lunch Buffet

Village News

Volunteers Matter

   Today Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) hosted a class of Grade 11 students from one of our local high schools. A question posed to us during a conversation with the group was, “What are the most significant challenges of operating the museum?” The answer to this common question is “money and volunteers.” We need money to operate the museum, and in order to be frugal with the limited dollars available to us, we try to get as much work as possible done by volunteers. Volunteers have only so much time and energy to give and are in high demand by other organizations as well. So MHV’s invitation to potential volunteers needs to add attractive value to their lives.

   People living in this part of Manitoba are regularly made aware of numerous opportunities to volunteer their time and talents to worthy causes. Many organizations including schools, churches, sports teams, and various other charities are dependent on volunteer labour. Most of these organizations would not be able to pay for the skilled labour they need and still make ends meet. Our community has a wealth of individuals who know the value of volunteering and who willingly participate in one or more causes.

   MHV offers many varied options to anyone who wants to volunteer. Some people make themselves available for a three-hour shift during one of our major festival days (Canada Day, Pioneer Days, or Fall on the Farm) to help cook in the Short-Order Booth, supervise parking, sell tickets, provide demonstrations of heritage skills, or other similar tasks. Some volunteers come once a week to work on a task like mowing lawns or maintaining gardens. Others enjoy coming almost daily in May and June to support our Education Program, as up to 200 school children per day visit us on their field trips. These Education Program volunteers function as historical interpreters in various of our heritage buildings, drive the team for our horse-drawn wagon rides, or teach the children how to bake Schnetje.

   There are some significant benefits to volunteering at MHV. These include an opportunity to meet new people, a warm satisfaction that comes with serving one’s community, a free Season Pass to our museum, and a 50% discount on a meal in our Livery Barn Restaurant on the day that one is volunteering. That’s a pretty good value proposition.

   Our current list of volunteers includes over 300 names. These people range in age from 14 to 84, and perhaps even a little older. There are tasks suitable for this entire age range. We are thankful for each one who willingly helps with any of these tasks. Because no one can volunteer forever, we are particularly thankful when new volunteers join us to step in for those who are no longer able to participate.

   We will be hosting a Volunteer Orientation event on Thursday, April 26, at 7:00 PM in the MHV Auditorium. This will be a time for existing volunteers to be briefed on regulations and procedures for our upcoming season. It will also be a time for new and potential volunteers to learn more about the many various opportunities that exist here and to connect with our staff members.

   Please consider checking out what we have to offer at MHV. If you are unable to attend and would like to know more about volunteering at MHV please check out our website at www.mhv.ca or call 204-326-9661 and ask to talk with Robert Goertzen. A community with many volunteers is a healthier community.

Calendar of Events

April 19 – 7:00PM, Auxiliary Film Night: Seven Points on Earth

April 26 – 7:00PM, Volunteer Orientation

May 1 - Opening day for the Livery Barn Restaurant and the Outdoor Village

May 12 – 9:00AM–5:00PM, Manitoba Day

May 13 – 11:30AM–2:30PM, Mother’s Day Lunch Buffet

Village News

Is One Museum Like Another?

   Six staff members from Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) traveled to Morden, Manitoba, this week to visit the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (CFDC). It is one of Manitoba’s seven Signature Museums and one of over 200 museums spread across our province. This museum focuses on the discovery, preservation and interpretation of marine reptile fossils found in the Morden/Miami area and throughout the province. They are not a dinosaur museum, although they do have dinosaur fossils. Dinosaurs lived on land, whereas the mosasaurs in this collection inhabited the sea which at one time covered much of central and eastern Manitoba from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. There is much more information about the interesting work of the CFDC on their website at www.discoverfossils.com.

   These fossils, the artifacts which the CFDC preserves and works with, were first discovered in the twentieth century and continue to be excavated to this day. The geological structure in that area consists of layers of bentonite interspersed with layers of shale. Bentonite is a clay that has been mined there for decades. As layers of bentonite were mined and cleared out, layers of shale were broken up to access the next strata of bentonite. In breaking up the shale, fossils were discovered but initially viewed only as a curiosity. In about 1970 it was realized that these might be rather significant geological artifacts, so at that point serious collection and study were initiated.

   The artifacts at Mennonite Heritage Village are largely everyday domestic items which go back 100 years and more. So by comparison, they are very “new” artifacts but they have been collected and preserved for a long time. And none would likely be classified as a “significant” discovery in the broader world.

   The artifacts (fossils) at the CFDC have stories within them, as do the artifacts at MHV. And it’s those stories that make collecting and exhibiting them so interesting. Being so old, the fossils don’t yield their stories easily. Much study and research needs to happen in order to understand what life may have been like in this great prehistoric sea millions of years ago. In contrast, at MHV we find it relatively easy to collect the stories about our artifacts. In many cases, the donors who bring them to us can sit down and tell us where they come from, why they are here, and what their significance was to our forebears 100 or more years ago.

   While there are pronounced differences in the way CFDC and MHV operate their respective museums, there are also significant similarities. Both museums run a variety of robust programs, and our education programs appear to be quite similar. Staff and volunteers in both locations create curriculum geared to provide education about their artifacts to people of all ages. Most notably, we both focus on school children. Museums are popular places for teachers to take their students on field trips and for parents and grandparents to take their children and grandchildren for a family outing. Both museums also offer guided programs, day camps, and general availability to the public.

   Both CFDC and MHV are significantly dependent on volunteers. Very few, if any, museums in Manitoba are able to operate without the support of volunteers. These generous people assist with delivering the education programs, preparing artifacts, maintaining facilities, and much more.

   Museums such as ours also depend on their communities to support them financially, through cash or in-kind donations or through sponsorships. Governments, businesses, and individuals regularly step up to the plate with support for these entities that do so much to improve the quality of life in their communities.

   As unique as each of Manitoba’s 200 museums is, all work hard to preserve valuable historical artifacts and records, and all are eager to host guests from across the province and beyond. This summer, when so many museums will be open, why not consider a day trip, or several, to visit some of these treasures in our province.

Calendar of Events                                           

April 19 – 7:00 PM, Auxiliary Film Night: Seven Points on Earth

April 26 – 7:00 PM, Volunteer Orientation

May 1 - Opening day for the Livery Barn Restaurant and the Outdoor Village

Village News

VN Photo 2018 04 05

Mennonites and Beer Steins

   According to the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO), the saying “Anyone who is a genuine Mennonite must be able to hold his drinks” is attributed to Dutch Mennonites of Northeast Germany. It may surprise some to know that the supposed connection between Mennonite culture and sobriety is a relatively recent one. Even Steinbach, which had a reputation for being a “dry” town until just a few years ago, was not always as “dry” as many have assumed.

   Recently, Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) accepted a donation of two glass beer steins discussed recently by Erin Unger in a blog entitled “Interesting Items I’ve Found at the Steinbach MCC” (Mennotoba.com). By all appearances, these steins may be souvenir items produced by MHV in 1974 to celebrate the centenary of the first Mennonite migration from Russia to Manitoba (or alternately might just be samples left by a souvenir sales representative). The two steins feature two different designs, each featuring different images of the museum’s auditorium (which in 1974 was referred to as the Artefact Building) and its windmill. We know little as to why MHV would have chosen to distribute beer steins for this celebration, or whether in fact they did, but this certainly does add an intriguing take on the assumed “dry” history of Mennonites. Inspired by the beer steins, I decided to see what information I could find on the relationship between Mennonites and alcohol to determine if Mennonites truly do have a “dry” history.

   Historically, Mennonites are not a “sober” people. In fact, the consumption and creation of alcoholic beverages by Mennonites stretches far back to their time in the Vistula Delta (or Northeast Germany) in the eighteenth century, particularly in and around the city of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland). One of the earliest known Mennonite distilleries in Danzig was Ambrosius Vermeulen’s Zum Lachs, which produced “Goldwasser” liqueur, a brandy with floating flecks of gold. The brandy became famous, and the business was run by Mennonites for two centuries.

   However, Mennonites did not distill and sell liquor because of a particular interest in the business. Rather, it was one of the few vocations available to Mennonite trades and craftsmen due to the increasingly rigid rules of trade guilds in Danzig. Nevertheless, the responsible consumption of liquor was accepted by the Mennonite community and the church — alcohol and tobacco were available at the West Prussian and Danzig church board meetings, and ministers and elders of Mennonite congregations even participated in family distillery businesses.

   The liquor business among Mennonites migrated with them to Russia in the nineteenth century. By 1819 there were several Mennonite brewers in the Chortitza Colony, and many Mennonite villages had “drinking houses.” Brandy was passed around at funerals, and schnapps was served at Faspa. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Kleine Gemeinde congregation took a firm stand against tobacco and drinks with high alcohol content but didn’t outright forbid wine and beer. Upon settling in North America, many members of the Kleine Gemeinde were influenced by the temperance movement and formed even stricter attitudes against alcohol.

   How strict these attitudes were is up for debate. Some historical sources say no alcohol was to be found in entire villages, others say wine was served at particular occasions. One such occasion was the annual hog-butchering bee, a community event enjoyed by Mennonites in Russia and later in North America. During the butchering process, the host brought out a bottle of wine (or, on occasion, liquor), and passed it around. Every man took a swig, the size of which depended on the thickness of the pig’s bacon. According to Norma Jean Vost in Mennonite Foods & Folkways from South Russia, Volume 2, this was called “Spakj mӓte,” or “measuring the bacon.” Arnold Dyck, in Lost in the Steppe, suggests “this…went on all day, not very frequently, but frequently enough to keep everybody strong and in [a] good mood.”

   In Steinbach, another example of a Mennonite community, this “good mood” is not a new sensation. The city’s first public ”men’s only” beer parlor opened in the early 1930s in the Tourist Hotel on Main Street, in the very center of town. Abe Warkentin’s book Reflections on Our Heritage: A History of Steinbach and the R.M. of Hanover from 1874 informs the reader that despite a petition to have it closed down in 1950 to “take away the temptation from the younger generation,” the parlour remained open. Today, a liquor vendor can be found next to the Superstore, and many of the city’s restaurants openly serve a variety of alcoholic beverages.

   We might not know for sure whether MHV commissioned a variety of beer steins for their 1974 celebration of Mennonites arriving in Canada, but it is clear that alcohol has been enjoyed by Mennonites in celebrations for centuries. If we’ve tended to forget about this long history, or maybe swept it under the rug, perhaps we should rather raise an MHV beer stein to celebrate our long and fascinating shared history.

Calendar of Events

April 19 – 7:00 PM, Auxiliary Film Night: Seven Points on Earth

April 26 – 7:00 PM, Volunteer Orientation

May 1 - Opening day for the Livery Barn Restaurant and the Outdoor Village

Photo Caption: Hog butchering in Chortitza Colony. Note the man in the upper right corner posing for the photo while pouring a fortifying beverage. (Photo courtesy of Vost, Mennonite Foods & Folkways from South Russia, p.224)

Village News

What is a Mennonite?

   As a child, I asked my mother what a Mennonite was. She told me it was anyone who was a member of a Mennonite church. In 2008, when the MHV Board of Directors was interviewing me for my current role, I was asked about my view of what a Mennonite is. As I recall, I quoted my mother. They hired me anyway. In fact, I don’t think anyone challenged my response.

   Every now and then I try to engage people in a conversation about what a Mennonite is. Predictably I get various answers. Some people identify themselves as cultural Mennonites. In southern Manitoba, that would likely mean that they grew up in a home where Low-German was spoken and that they enjoyed Faspa as their Sunday afternoon meal and frequently ate foods like Vereniki with Schmauntfatt, Rhubarb Plautz or Plueme Moos. Chances are they also attended a Mennonite Church at some point, and may or may not do so any more.

   These people are identifying with a culture that evolved when a group of Mennonites left Europe in the mid-sixteenth century and fled to Prussia, which today is Poland. After about 200 years in Prussia, this group of Mennonites migrated to Ukraine, an area which then was part of Russia. Then in the nineteenth century, they started migrating to North America, arriving in Canada first in 1874.

   Marty, my wife of 43 years, is also a Mennonite. She grew up in a “Mennonite” home in Bluffton, Ohio, (a “Mennonite” community) and was baptized in a Mennonite church. However, she does not speak Low-German and had rarely heard it until I met her. She grew up eating popcorn for Sunday supper and had never eaten Vereniki with Schmauntfatt, Rhubarb Plautz or Plueme Moos. Marty’s ancestors are from the Swiss Mennonite group. Her people came to North America from Alsace Lorraine, a part of France which was at times German territory. This group has its own cultural uniqueness.

   Some of the European Mennonites who came to North America in the nineteenth century have retained some very conservative lifestyle practices, such as using horses and mules rather than tractors to work their fields, living without the benefit of electricity, or traveling by horse and buggy rather that by a motorized vehicle. We respectfully refer to these as Old Order Mennonites. Their culture is certainly unique in our present times.

   There are currently more Mennonites in Africa and India than there are in Canada. Many of these people have begun to identify as Mennonites more recently and have not developed a unique culture. I’m pretty sure very few of them speak Low-German - or Pennsylvania Dutch, for that matter. And I doubt that many of them ever eat the ethnic foods that we enjoy and serve in our Livery Barn Restaurant.

   When I attend meetings of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada, which includes Mennonites from B.C. to Quebec, we don’t talk about the cultural things we have in common. Because when we consider Mennonites from around the world, we realize we don’t have a common culture. Various Mennonite groups have developed unique cultural elements, but these are not all the same.

   What we as Mennonites do have in common is a faith system. A faith system that espouses a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s son, and encourages individuals to make personal choices to model their lives on Jesus’s example, affirmed through baptism. A faith system that practices a community hermeneutic where communities of faith together seek to interpret and understand scripture. A faith system that values peace, sometimes leading to active participation in peacemaking and to conscientious objection to participation in war. A faith system that encourages its proponents to support and care for the unfortunate and the downtrodden. To be sure, Mennonites are not the only people who value and do these things. But these are the things that all Mennonites have in common.

   My intent is certainly not to belittle what we call “Mennonite Culture.” After all, the purpose of our museum is largely to preserve the Russian Mennonite culture. It’s interesting, it’s fun, and there’s no question that it’s important to preserve it. But let’s also remember that we Russian Mennonites are only a relatively small group of Mennonites globally and that the faith aspects all Mennonites have in common are also part of our story and worth preserving.

Calendar of Events

March 30 - Closed for Good Friday

April 19 – 7:00 PM, Auxiliary Film Night: Seven Points on Earth

April 26 – 7:00 PM, Volunteer Orientation

May 1 - Opening day for the Livery Barn Restaurant and the Outdoor Village

Village News

Hours, Minutes, Seconds

   This year Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is celebrating clocks, devices for measuring time.
   Whereas nature measures time in years (equinox to equinox) and in days (midday to midday), people are on their own when dividing up each day. There is nothing in nature that sets the length of hours, minutes or seconds.
   So who decided on 24 hours per day, 60 minutes per hour and 60 seconds per minute?
   The honour for the hours seems to belong to Egyptian astrologers living more than 4,000 years ago. Using complex star gazing, they decided that daylight should have 12 divisions and that the night should be divided into 3 or 4 "watches," corresponding to actual time periods when night sentinels stood guard. Maybe that's where we got the word "watch."
   To tell the time, Egyptians used sundials during daylight and water clocks day or night. A water clock was simply a container filled with water which was allowed to drip at a constant rate. Dropping water levels corresponded to elapsed hours. This primitive clock was very inaccurate but close enough for their purposes.

   The 60 minutes and seconds come from the Mesopotamians, also about 4,000 years ago. Whereas we count by 10s, doubtless because we have 10 fingers, they decided to count by 60s. This was nice for them because 60 is divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, and 30! For people who did not have decimals, this system yielded lots of neat fraction possibilities: 1/30, 1/20, 1/15, 1/12, 1/10, 1/6, 1/4, 1/3, and 1/2. These fractions were very useful in dividing farmland and sacks of barley.

   As astronomy became more sophisticated, a precise system was invented, based on 12 constellations seen along the orbits of the planets, each one rising and setting at more or less equal intervals. This was the first 24-hour system, with 2 hours allotted to each constellation. It gave rise to the zodiac and all that astrological nonsense which is still very much alive today.
   The 24-hour system spread to the Mideast, to India, to Greece and Rome, and from there to us. Curiously, it was also developed in China about 500 BC. Before that, the Chinese had a kind of decimal system but then changed to the 12-hour daylight clock, perhaps due to contacts with the Mideast. Whereas the Middle Eastern love of the number 12 was probably related to the number of "moons" per year, in China it was supposed to have come from the observed 12-year orbit of Jupiter.

   Ancient Hebrews were not fond of astrology for theological reasons, but even they liked the number 12, noting that Jacob had 12 sons, giving rise to the twelve tribes, which probably was echoed in Jesus' 12 disciples.

   Nowadays, the “second” is still the ultimate standard for time measurement. According to Google, it is now defined as "9,192,631,770 cycles of the radiation that gets an atom of cesium-133 to vibrate between two energy states." Thus an ancient time measurement is enshrined in modern language.

   In more recent eras, the many ordinary and ornate clocks now residing at MHV have faithfully roused Mennonite farmers to get ready to do their milking and schoolchildren to find their boots for the morning walk to school. Now they are resting and waiting for your visit.

Calendar of Events

March 30 - Closed for Good Friday

April 19 – 7:00 PM, Auxiliary Film Night: Seven Points on Earth

April 26 – 7:00 PM, Volunteer Orientation

May 1 - Opening day for the Livery Barn Restaurant and the Outdoor Village

About the Author

Gary is responsible for the overall management of MHV. Guiding the staff, informing the board, and networking with officials, volunteers, corporate sponsors, individual donors and other guests. He has a business diploma and a MA in Global Studies from Providence Theological Seminary. With his family he did humanitarian work for 18 years in Asia, including being a CEO of a Compost Enterprise in China. He loves to discuss the Mennonite story and how it is relevant in our world. Learn more about the MHV.

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