About Us

The Winkler Heritage Society was established in 1999.

Among its first projects were:

  • The preparation and production of historical placemats depicting various scenes and characters from Winkler’s past.
  • The creation of a heritage piece in the Prairie Green Park on Prairieview Drive. This heritage piece includes a cairn on which are inscribed the names of the earliest Mennonite pioneers who came to the area in 1876 and settled in the now-extinct village of Hoffnungsfeld. Very many of these families eventually moved to the village of Winkler and were among its earliest residents. The trees in the park have been planted in memory of these pioneers. As an additional note, this cairn was re-located to the new Bethel Heritage Park in 2010. It now resides in the new park with other cairns that honor the German and Jewish settlers, in addition to the war veterans and conscientious objectors.

Since its inception in 1999 the Winkler Heritage Society has been involved in the following projects and activities:

  • Annual fundraising banquets every fall.
  • Historic walking tours of the downtown area on Canada Day.
  • Development of a Winkler Centennial book (The society continues to have these books available for sale).
  • Historic displays in the foyer of City Hall.
  • 2006 – The society set up a mini-museum for one week in the ALG Professional Centre in honor of Winkler’s centennial.
  • 2007 – Operating an archive of Winkler artifacts in the Winkler Centennial Library.
  • 2011 – Stones and Stories project initiated.
  • Most recently the Heritage Society provided information for the storyboards for the Bethel Heritage Park, scheduled to open in June, 2011.
  • The society continues to publish the newsletter “Heritage Happenings” four times a year which is distributed to members and various libraries and archives.
  • August 3, 2011 – The Society opened the Winkler Heritage Museum in the Southland Mall.
  • 2019 – Winkler Times now features Heritage Highlights.
  • August 2019 – WHS joins the parade and Harvest Festival.

Goals and Objectives

  • Nurture recognition and awareness of early pioneers and of the history of Winkler.
  • Establish an historical archive in the new library. (Completed with the opening of the new library)
  • Identification of heritage sites and memorials.
  • Establishing a bursary fund.

Organization and Structure:

The current Executive elected by the Members are:

  • Chair – Randy Rietze
  • Secretary/Treasurer – Tonille Peters
  • Past Chair – Grace Schellenberg

The Board of Directors consists of the Executive and the WHS Member Chairpersons of active, appointed sub-committees in the Society.

Scholarships

The Winkler Heritage Society (WHS) is offering two scholarships of $100-$200 annually to high school students for an original essay of research on an aspect of the history of Winkler and/or surrounding communities. The project could also be in the form of a video.

The work will be judged by a panel chosen by the WHS and the amount of the scholarship will depend on the quality of the work.

The work will become the property of the WHS with a view to publishing it.

Further information regarding this project may be obtained from Archivist Ed Falk at 204-325-8929.

Society Committees

  • Archives
    • Archivist – Ed Falk
    • Grace (204-325-7401)
  • Bursaries
  • Heritage Happenings
  • Museum
    • Curator – Dora Hildebrand
  • Stones & Stories
    • Chair – Randy Rietze
    • Joanne

History

Winkler Heritage Society Celebrates 20 Years

Then …..

      It was in 1999 that Margaret Penner paid a visit to Grace Schellenberg to discuss the need to preserve the unique history of Winkler. It was met with great approval and interest and the two ladies extended invitations to the first meeting of what was to be “The Winkler Heritage Society” (WHS). Attending the first meeting on April 20, 1999 in Julianna’s Restaurant in the Kroeker Farm building in Winkler were: Margaret Penner, Grace Schellenberg, John J. Elias, Ben Rempel, Naomi Bergen, Ellie Reimer, David Wall, Gloria Dyck, Peter & Margret Krahn.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

     At their second meeting on May 11, 1999, new comers were Ed Falk, Bruce Wiebe, Erna Elias, and Marie Doell, The committee was then formed with Grace Schellenberg as chair and Gloria Dyck as secretary. In the meetings following the initial ones, John Zacharias agreed to be their treasurer and Bev Suderman the vice chair. Ann Klassen also joined the active membership. They were now ready to move ahead.

     The Goals and Objectives at the first meeting were: 

1. To collect, preserve and display materials relating to the history of our community. 

2. To encourage public interest in history and the preservation of records and artifacts. 

3. Work towards establishing a Museum and or Heritage House in the Town of Winkler. 

4. Identifying existing Heritage sites. Possible sites are the Senior Citizens Friendship Centre and the former Anne Redekop House at Hoffnungsfeld. 

5. To commemorate historic events and mark historic sites. 

6. Establish a Heritage Fund. 

7. Development of a Historic Town Tour – walking or driving. 

8. Run a historical news column “Did you know?” in the local paper with ongoing information about the heritage committee work as well as other historical features. 

9. Millennium project ideas: “Road of Remembrances”. Acquire a site from the town for planting trees in memory of past citizens. The cemetery was suggested as a possible location. Allow family members to donate a tree that would be specified for this purpose, and attach a small named marker by each tree. 10. Establish a genealogy archival research center – one idea was to do this in conjunction with the proposed new library expansion.

     Also projects for the Winkler Centennial year, 2006 were a Centennial quilt, a pictorial calendar and a pictorial history book. The new Winkler Heritage Society met in the new boardroom at the Civic Centre.

     During the early years the Society was busy with erecting cairns to honour the past people groups of Winkler with the first one being the 1876 settlers of Hoffnungsfeld in the year 2000, followed by the Jewish settlers’ cairn in 2002 and the German settlers’ in 2006. The cost of the cairns was usually paid for by the descendants of the names on the cairn. At the suggestion of Irvin Kroeker that the Society have a newspaper, the Legacy Links was born in January of 2002 with Sally Harms as the first editor. Erna Elias made the Centennial quilt and Ken Loewen made the Centennial book, Living Between Worlds by Hans Werner, happen. Other projects were printing a number of series of place mats with pictures of Winkler and its people, and benches were added to the parks. 

     Slowly some of the goals and objectives of the first Society meeting were realized. In January of 2007 the Winkler Heritage Archives (WHA) were formed and made their home in the new Winkler Centennial Library in a room of about 800 square feet. The first archivist was Ed Falk working along with committee members, Grace Schellenberg and Marjorie Hildebrand. “The Role and Mission of the Archives was to serve the entire population & district by protecting information and archival media of fundamental significance in establishing, maintaining and developing community identities”.

     The Stones & Stories project was initiated in 2010 with Arnie Neufeld at the helm. They were a collection of pictures of headstones, with pictures of the corresponding deceased and the obituaries and then assembled in alphabetical order into binders. They would include people of Winkler and the surrounding area who are buried in the two Winkler cemeteries – Winkler Cemetery and West Ridge Cemetery.

     It was at the November, 2010 meeting that the Winkler Heritage Society “voted unanimously for the committee of Arnie Neufeld, Bill Siemens and Deb Penner to proceed to establish a museum within the city of Winkler.” The committee met many times to discuss the future location and at the March meeting of the Society the group voted unanimously to rent space in the Southland Mall to finally bring a museum to Winkler! A space of 752 square feet was rented for $800 a month. Abe Suderman, Shirley Banman and Dora Hildebrand were added to the committee in May of 2011. A small “Museum Artifacts Display Committee” of Hilda Fehr, Alyce Klassen and Dora Hildebrand as co-ordinator were also appointed and they set up the displays in the museum and also catalogued them. In 2012 the catalogued items were given numbers for easy identification. The Winkler Heritage Museum (WHM) opened in August of 2011 with the Mission Statement as “The Winkler Heritage Museum exists for the purpose of preserving and presenting the cultural heritage of Winkler and region”. They were open 10 hours a week working only with volunteers.

     The Society was asked to fill 6 display cases at the Civic Centre in preparation of the city’s centennial in 2006. This was the responsibility of Marjorie Hildebrand and Dora Hildebrand. They continued to do this changing the displays at suitable intervals.

….. and now

     Today we see the Winkler Heritage Society as strong as ever meeting in the boardroom of the Winkler Centennial Library with Randy Rietze as chair, Tonille Peters as secretary and now also taking over the work of the treasurer from Ed Zacharias who filled the job faithfully for many years. Members meeting in the boardroom on regular monthly bases are Randy Rietze, Ed Zacharias, Ed Falk, Tonille Peters, Marjorie Hildebrand, Dora Hildebrand, Marie Doell, Helen Falk, Grace Schellenberg, Alyce Klassen and Jean-Paul Dorst. 

     The Society’s paper now has a new name and editor. Marjorie Hildebrand has been the editor of Heritage Happenings for a number of years and Helen Falk heads the committee who look after mailing or delivering the paper four times a year. Albums viewing the life of the Society are still kept up to date by Dora Hildebrand and the displays at the Civic Centre are now cut down to two besides the window displays at the Museum. The shop keeper at the Museum, Joanne Bergen, looks after the Facebook. The website is presently being revamped and Gerry Caines, the ‘new kid on the block’ who hails from Peterborough, Ontario, is working on keeping it interesting so look for it in the coming weeks.

     The Winkler Heritage Society has a budget of about $30,000 annually and they rely on donations from private people and business corporations. Grants are also very profitable and the chair, Randy Rietze (and before him Ed Zacharias) has been doing the time consuming job of filling out the applications.

     The Archives have seen very little change as they still meet and work in their comfortable space in the Centennial Library with Ed Falk as the archivist and committee members Grace Schellenberg and Marjorie Hildebrand. They now have a volunteer, Esther Penner coming in to assist with the computer work. The Archives have: 1003 photos or groups of photos on file, (This does not include the George Sawatzky collection!) 2026 files of historic material, (many of which contain dozens of individual items such as newspaper clippings) 135 maps and charts, copies of the Winkler/Pembina Triangle from 1950 to 1999 (52 weeks per year), and file boxes of family or business records. They are open to the public on Wednesdays from 3 to 5 pm or by appointment by calling Ed Falk.

     Randy Rietze heads the work of Stones & Stories, but the museum’s shopkeeper, Joanne Bergen does all the computer work. She has spent hours during her time in the museum collecting, sorting and retyping the hundreds of obituaries and setting up the pages for the binders. These completed files can be seen at the Archives or Museum. Obituaries and information from cemeteries in the surrounding villages and school districts are being collected, but work on them will not start until the Winkler cemeteries are caught up.

     The Museum has seen the most change through the years. They moved to a much bigger space in the Southland Mall, but are again crowded with their well over 4,000 cataloged artifacts. They have over 2,000 visitors each year. Part-time shop keeper, Joanne Bergen was hired in June of 2012 and is still much at home in the Museum where she works 20 hours a week.

     The latest Museum committee consisted of Ed Zacharias as chair, Helen Reimer as secretary, Abe Suderman as treasurer and Dora Hildebrand as curator. Other members were Jerry (who had been chair and secretary in the past) & Marjorie Hildebrand and Merv Reimer. Due to death, illness and other complications, the committee dwindled and now the shopkeeper and curator mostly manage the affairs of the Museum, but planning and concerns are discussed at the regular Society meetings. 

     Recent volunteers hosting the Museum on Thursday nights are Irina Braun, Karen Krueger, Sharon Krueger, Connie Caines, and Hank & Dora Hildebrand; on Friday nights are Henry & Carol Thiessen, Abe & Tina Friesen, Irvin & Evelyn Enns and Merv & Helen Reimer; and on Saturday afternoon are Ed Zacharias, Marie Doell and Alyce Klassen.

     The Museum is open Tuesday to Friday, 12 to 4 pm, Saturdays 10 am – 4 pm and 7 to 9 pm on Thursday evenings. Work is being done to revive the Fridays open evening from 7-9 pm. 

     You are invited to come and tour the Archives or Museum at any of the given times. They love visitors! Look for future stories of the past and present in this newspaper

Dora Hildebrand (Winkler Heritage Museum Curator)

IT HAPPENED HERE

—– 1882 —–
CPR builds Railroad through the West Reserve

—– 1892 —–

May 5 – Railway builds siding constructed north of Hoffnungsfeld
May 19 – New town-site called “Winklerville”
May 19 – “Winklerfeld” is suggested as name
Sept. 8 – Townsite is called “Winkler”
Sept. 22 – Flour Mill construction is complete
Oct. 6 – Valentine Winkler opens lumber business
Dec. 22 – New Loewen well produces good water

—– 1893 —–


Jan.19 – Harms chopping mill is running
Feb. 1 – Post office moves from Schanzenfeld to Winkler
Feb. 9 – New Bank opens on Railway Street
Mar. 2 – Union School District is proposed
Apr. 6 – Warkens’ mammoth warehouse opens
May 18 – Mr. B. Loewen planted 62 trees on Arbour Day
Nov. 19 – Population of Winkler is 116
There are 64 students attending school

—– 1894 —–

Mar. 1 – W.H. Taylor’s hardware store will be the finest
building in town
Mar. 8 – Schultz and Hanson will move their store from
Plum coulee to Winkler
Apr. 12 – Nathan Taylor is rigging up a peanut stand
He is planning to build a boarding house
May 10 – Valentine Winkler now practices law in Winkler
Messers Fraser and Wells are setting up a Lacrosse
Club
Aug. 16 – There are now 6 general stores in Winkler
Sept. 13 – A bank has been started by Mr. Russel
Sept. 26 – A fourth grain elevator is to be built
Oct. 17 – H.D. Doell has been appointed Game Guardian
Dec. 19 – Mr. E. Rietze advertises a Grand Carnival to be
held at the Ice Rink

The above are extracted from Morden Newspapers