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Village news – Steinbach’s first families – Heinrich and Charlotte (Maria) Fast – The carillon

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As we continue our look back to the first families of Steinbach 150 years ago, MHV cordially invites you to join us tomorrow, May 24, in reminiscing about our own 60-year heritage. Our Spring Gala begins at 5:45 p.m. with cocktails and dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at www.mhv.ca.

On August 31, 1867, Heinrich Fast and his wife Charlotte (called Maria) arrived in Quebec aboard the Austrian and prepared to depart for their new home in Manitoba. Originally from Fischau, Molotschna, Heinrich Fast married Charlotte Loepp, a Lutheran whose family had emigrated to Russia in 1839, in 1850. They moved through the Mennonite colonies for several years before settling in Nikolaithal, Kherson, where they joined the Kleine Gemeinde. This new religious community required greater outward humility, and Charlotte changed her name to Maria at this time to reflect these traditions. When they left for Canada, two of their daughters, Maria and Elisabeth, had already married and emigrated to Kansas, but their three younger children, Cornelius, Sarah, and Heinrich, accompanied them on the voyage.

After arriving in Manitoba, they first spent some time in Gruenfeld (Kleefeld), where Heinrich made a scythe from a blade he had brought from Russia, which he used to mow a large patch of grass on September 25 when they arrived at Farm 3 in Steinbach. When they awoke the next morning, their blankets, which they had slept on in the clearing, were covered in hoarfrost! Arriving late in the season, the Fasts shared a semlin with their Kroeker neighbors, which they had built on the other side of the property line. Joining them in the semlin was a pair of oxen, which did not survive the harsh winter, as they lacked the supply of hay which their Kroeker neighbors were able to obtain from the Clearspring settlers.

The children of Heinrich and Charlotte (Maria) Fast.
The children of Heinrich and Charlotte (Maria) Fast.

By 1880 the Fasts had built a house, but in 1882 they decided to leave Steinbach and purchase a quarter of land they bought from the Hudson's Bay Company south of town. In honor of his birthplace, Heinrich named his new home Fischau, where they were joined by Cornelius P. and Anna Toews. Cornelius farmed the area for years before joining the Holdeman community in Greenland in the late 1890s. Their neighbors, the Kroekers, purchased Farm 3 from the Fasts and their daughter Margaretha and her husband took over the property. Heinrich and Charlotte lived in Fischau until their deaths, first Charlotte in 1887 and Heinrich in 1890.

The Fasts' children led very different lives. The eldest, Maria, emigrated to Kansas with her husband in 1873, but her husband died in 1877. She came to Manitoba and married Isaac Harms, who was 41 years older than her and died two years later. Her third marriage was to the Chortitz widower Dietrich Klassen from Bergthal, with whom she was together for 28 years. She married one last time to the widower Jacob T. Barkman, the son of the original Steinbach residents Peter K. and Anna Barkman. Elisabeth married Jacob Friesen, a cousin of the Steinbach pioneer of the same name, and stayed in Kansas and Oklahoma.

Cornelius was 17 when the family emigrated to Canada and initially made his living selling firewood to families in the West Reserve. After marrying Margaretha Giesbrecht he hauled freight for KW Reimer's store before eventually settling in the Morden area. Daughter Sarah married Johann F. Toews and they lived with her parents in Fischau for two decades. Johann was a miller and tanner and in 1901 they moved to Stuartburn where he continued his practice and Sarah was known for her massage and ability to heal broken bones. They were members of the Holdeman Church but Johann came into conflict with the leadership, was excommunicated and was unsuccessful in taking legal action against the church. The youngest, Heinrich, married Maria Dueck of Grünfeld where they settled and he was a blacksmith, farmer and postmaster for more than 50 years. After Maria's death in 1900, he married Elisabeth Schellenberg from Rosenfeld, and they were married for over 50 years.

For further information, see: Ralph Friesen, Between Earth and Sky, 67-71.

Upcoming Events

It takes a village… 2024 Spring Gala, May 24. Celebrate MHV's 60th anniversary and Manitoba Mennonite 150th anniversary by contributing to this ongoing legacy. Tickets are on sale now at www.mhv.ca.

Historic buildings and the Livery Barn Restaurant are now open!

“Tractor ride” fundraiser, June 8th. Join us at MHV for the 15th Annual Tractor Drive fundraiser, support the work of MHV and all proceeds will go to the Eden Foundation. If you have access to an antique tractor, register in advance with MHV or join us on the day for a breakfast buffet or traditional Mennonite dinner buffet. Come along and cheer on the drivers!

Maawanji'iding Ziigwan – Spring Meeting, May 30, 6 to 9 p.m. Join the Hanover Teacher's Association and MHV in celebrating our partnerships with the Indigenous community. During this evening of cultural education and storytelling, Cory Campbell, Ojibway Songkeeper and Storyteller, and Elder James Nelson will set up a tepee. The tepee set up will begin around 4 p.m.