Tobacco Box

This tobacco box belonged to Jan Ellert, a Mennonite man working in a copper mine in Yugoslavia who, ill and without children, gave his young Russian co-worker, Leonard Afanasiev, his family heirloom – a tobacco box made of cow horn and nickel. The wife of this Russian man would later donate the piece to the Mennonite Heritage Village.


The donor's father had this hood (Bashlyk) made by a tailor in Russia in 1912.
A Bashlyk is a protective cone-shaped hood with lappets for wrapping around the neck, used especially by Turkish and Cossack peoples.
It could be worn over a hat such as a Papakha (traditional wool hat worn by Cossack cavalry).
Donated by Anna Janzen

Ein Punktierbuch (Geomancy Notebook)

Peter Doerksen

The Book of Geomancy

This odd little booklet was hand-written by a Peter Doerksen of the village of Rosengard in 1882. It is essentially a handbook of divination (fortune-telling) using the geomantic method. Geomancy (Punktierkunst in German) is the practice of understanding future events by interpreting a series of dots poked in the earth or simply by using a pen and paper. Dots are rapidly set down and then counted: an odd number results in a “1” and an even number results in a “2”. Then, through repetition and addition a final tally is made, also known as a “house”, and this is used to interpret future events.

Geomancy has its origins in the Middle East, or perhaps West Africa, but the exact date is unknown. The practice was eventually copied by scribes in Medieval Europe and disseminated during the Renaissance. It then lost favour, but was rediscovered in the 19th Century by Europeans interested in spiritualism and the occult. They simplified and reduced the “skill” of geomancy into handy little books that could be read (and purchased) by anyone. Peter Doersken was probably making a careful copy of a portion of one of these popularized manuals, although I have not yet been able to find an original edition.

What is most mysterious about the booklet is that it exists at all. Peter was living in a Mennonite village, in a Mennonite settlement, surrounded by people that knew him well and undoubtedly attended church with him. Part of the ethic of the Mennonite village at that time was the guidance of behaviour by observance and community ethics. Dabbling in the occult would probably have been frowned upon (to say the least) in such a tight-knit Christian settlement. In addition, the fact that he was probably copying another book meant that there might have been two geomancers. If there were two, were there more?

That mystery probably won’t ever be solved, but we do know that spirituality among Mennonites in the 19th century wasn’t necessarily limited to Christian expression.

Violin and Bow

While secular music and dancing were once officially frowned upon by Mennonite church authorities, young people often danced and played music in secret. Instruments such as accordions, guitars, and violins could be hidden, and then played when elders were away. Other more “liberal” Mennonite communities are known to have had somewhat boisterous dances, particularly during engagement or wedding parties.
This violin was owned by Jacob W. Wiebe of the West Reserve.
On Loan from: Terry C. Wiebe


This cradle was collected by the donor’s father, Bernhardt (Ben) Heinrich Wiebe Reimer (1904 - 1986).

"In 1964, the H.W. Reimer store, which had done business on Main Street since the 1880s was sold. Bernhardt, the youngest of the four siblings was somewhat at a loss as to how to spend his days. He loved to buy and sell so for a time he scoured the Southeast of Manitoba in search of Mennonite antiques. This cradle was one of his findings."

"My father loved his Mennonite heritage and always spoke of his ancestry in terms of “we”. In his retirement years he was an enthusiastic guide at the Mennonite Heritage Village until the Spring of 1986. In deciding what to do with this cradle I felt that it would honour my father most to donate it to this museum. After all, a big part of his heart was here."
Donated by Iris Reimer Nowakowski, daughter of Bernhardt Heinrich Wiebe Reimer

Toy Bear

Belonged to Justina Hildebrand, daughter of Jacob and Katarina Hildebrand. Her family lived in Omsk, Russia where they operated a lumber yard. They did well here until Stalin's rise to power in the 1920s, after which they immigrated to Manitoba.
Donated by Helga Bergen, second cousin of Justina.

Heart-Shaped Waffle Iron

The Heart-Shaped Waffle Iron was patented in America by at least 1922 but has been around since before 1900. It was a common feature of the Russian Mennonite hearth both in Russia and in Manitoba. This type of iron was used to make waffles on a wood burning stove.

It was common to have the recipe on the iron itself:
Kartoffel Waffeln (potato waffles)
½ tt gekochte, (cooked) Geriebene Kartoffeln (grated potatoes)
¼ tt Mehl (flour)
¼ Lt. warme Milch. (warm milk)
3 Eier (Eggs)
50 Grm Butter
200 Grm Hefe (yeast)

This waffle iron belonged to the donor's great-grandfather, c. 1900.
Donated by Mary Wolfe

Head Covering (Haube)

The word ‘haube’ is a German word, which literally means ‘cap’. From the time of Mennonite origins, around 1525 AD, until 1866, Mennonite women wore head coverings when they left the house, simply because that was what the people of Europe did at the time. When some Protestant women stopped wearing head coverings to church, the Mennonites were confused. They turned to scripture for guidance. The Mennonites found what they were looking for in the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 11: 1-16, which states, among other things, that “…every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonoreth her head”. The caps also symbolized a woman’s submission to her husband, as head of the household. A woman was expected to cover her head, and a man was considered to be ‘dishonoring’ his own head if he did cover it.

Because a woman could only wear a cap when she was married, the German Mennonites developed a saying for the time when a girl was to be wed. When a girl would get married, the community would say that the girl was “unter die haube kommen”, which means ‘to come under the cap’ (Gingerich, 126).
Donated by Hildegard Adrian