Sunday, July 1, 2012

New Bergthal Mennonite Street Village

I was over in Southern Manitoba (again) this past week, unsuccessfully 'chasing' Dickcissels - I was a few days behind the mowers; hay fields have been cut.  The few reported birds have gone, or at least were not visible or singing the days I was driving around.

But, as always, my little trips aren't just about birding.  I stopped into New Bergthal
Mennonite street village very early one morning.  Other than this marvelous house-barn and the big red barn next door - both of which are museum/interpretive centres - all the sites are private residences and working farms.  It is a very peaceful place.  It is also a National Historic Place.

Neubergthal is one of the best-preserved single street Mennonite villages in North America. The village layout and architecture was developed over centuries of Mennonite life in Europe and Russia. Some characteristic features are:

  • A single village street, lined by straight rows of cottonwood and maple trees, and well-maintained fences.
  • Long narrow lot farmsteads perpendicular to the street.
  • Homes that consist of house and barn connected together, set back from the street at a uniform distance, with main doors facing south, containing a central brick heater with four of five rooms around it. Barns had a predictable layout for stabling animals, and for storing feed fuel, harnesses, and tools.
  • Flower, vegetable, and tree gardens, and fruit orchards arranged in a distinct pattern.
  • Outbuildings arranged to the side and rear of the lot
  • A herdsman's house.
  • The village school, church, and store. 
Neubergthal Street Village National Historic Site of Canada was founded in 1876 by a group of related Mennonite families on the open plains of southern Manitoba. The village is now surrounded by flat farmland. The community occupies six sections of land where residences, farmyards, and communally owned arable fields and pasturelands are arranged in long narrow farmsteads. The farmsteads that form the village are positioned in traditional fashion behind fencing along a single tree-lined street, creating a distinct identity. Official recognition refers to the street village on the block of six sections of land.

Mennonites, descendants of the 'Anabaptist' wing of the 16th century Reformation, were persecuted for their beliefs while they lived in the Netherlands. They fled to the Vistula Delta (Poland) where they prospered as farmers and tradesmen for over 200 years. When their staunch opposition to bearing arms was being challenged and heavy taxes were being imposed, they responded to the invitation and promised privileges of Catherine the Great of Russia and emigrated again, this time to the steppes of southern Russia. During the 1870s, landlessness and the threat of military conscription triggered another migration.

From 1874 to 1876, the entire Bergthal Colony packed up their belongings and dreams and moved to North America, many settling in the newly created Province of Manitoba in Canada.

Neubergthal was a place of communal efforts. Working cooperatively demonstrated that permanent agricultural settlements could succeed on the open prairies. The families helped each other in building homes, threshing grain, butchering hogs, preparing manure bricks for fuel, maintaining roads, and organizing fire insurance and orphan funds. They also had a communal pasture and water reservoir.  


First settlers moved from villages east of the Red River to the west, looking for fertile farmland. The community of Neubergthal was based on family relations, which can be seen in the surnames of those first inhabitants:  Hamm, Klippenstein, Klassen, Dyck, Wall, Friesen, and Funk.

The photos are mine but all the Information is pretty much directly from:
Canada's Historic Places

New Bergthal Mennonite Street Village

No comments:

Post a Comment