Discover Kleefeld, Manitoba: A Rich Blend of History and Culture

Kleefeld, Manitoba, a local urban district nestled in the Rural Municipality of Hanover, Canada, is a treasure trove of history and culture. Settled in 1874, it was the first Mennonite settlement in Western Canada, originally known as Gruenfeld, which translates to 'green field' in German.

The Historical Journey of Kleefeld, Manitoba

The land that is now Kleefeld was originally inhabited by the nomadic Ojibway-speaking Anishinabe people. In 1871, they signed Treaty 1 and moved onto reserves such as the Brokenhead Indian Reserve and Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation Reserve.

The East Reserve was established in 1873, following the persuasion of delegates from Imperial Russia by William Hespeler to immigrate to Canada. The delegates signed the Privilegium with the Canadian government, guaranteeing religious freedom, military exemption, private schools, and land. A year later, Mennonite settlers began to arrive, and Gruenfeld, now Kleefeld, became the first Mennonite settlement in Western Canada.

The original settlers of Gruenfeld, along with neighbouring Steinbach and Blumenort, were Mennonites of the Kleine Gemeinde denomination, fleeing religious persecution in Imperial Russia. The community's name was changed to Kleefeld in 1896 to avoid confusion with another community in western Canada named Grenfell.

The Evolution of Kleefeld, Manitoba

The original village of Gruenfeld existed one mile north of Kleefeld’s present location. However, the village failed to grow, and by 1896 only three original settlers remained. The village concept did not appeal to the children of the original settlers who preferred more isolated farms.

In 1903, the village council decided to disband the village, and within the next five years, the few remaining homes were moved to nearby farm properties. However, several businesses remained near the Gruenfeld School at the south end of the settlement.

The present location of the community was largely influenced by J. R. Schellenberg, who purchased the Wiebe general store in 1924 and moved it one mile south to its current location in Kleefeld. As time passed and houses were built, moved or abandoned, residents who did not farm chose to live near their places of work or at least near to services, so the community moved.

Present-Day Kleefeld, Manitoba

Today, Kleefeld is home to a mainly Mennonite population, although recent population growth has brought in many families of other ethnic or religious backgrounds. Due to its proximity to Winnipeg and Steinbach, most of the population commutes to work.

The community boasts a grocery store, a hardware-convenience store, and an ice cream store that opens during summer, called "Happy Earl's Dawg House". Some main industries are woodworking, cabinetry, farming, sauna sales, and large diesel repair. The community has a central park, which includes tennis courts, playground, baseball and soccer fields, a hockey rink and large skating oval in the winter.

Kleefeld also holds its annual Honey Festival on the second weekend of August, a testament to the community's vibrant culture and tradition.

Kleefeld, Manitoba in Literature

Kleefeld's rich history and culture have been captured in several literary works, including "Gruenfeld: First Mennonite Village in Western Canada" by Henry Fast, "Gruenfeld Chronicles" by Ronald Friesen, and "John R. and Maria Friesen: Kleefeld Pilgrims of a Mennonite Tradition" also by Ronald Friesen. These works provide a deeper insight into the community's journey and evolution over the years.

Discover the charm and history of Kleefeld, Manitoba, a community that continues to thrive while preserving its rich cultural heritage.