Historic Sites of Manitoba: Bethel Heritage Park (Main Street, Winkler)

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Photos & Coordinates | Sources

Beginning in 1876, Mennonite families homesteaded in the area along the border known as the “West Reserve”. Villages and farms struggled until the 1882 arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which brought hope of trade and commerce. The proximity of Mennonite farmers prompted Valentine Winkler, a Morden lumber merchant, to purchase Isaac Wiens’ adjacent quarter section of land and to negotiate with the CPR for a new railway siding. In 1892, the community of Winkler was born.

Since business was not the choice of most pioneering Mennonites, people of many cultures responded to the trade and commerce opportunities in the fledgling town. Traveling Jewish peddlers soon established general stores on Main Street. German Lutherans tended to be grain buyers and implement dealers. Anglo-Canadians were Winkler’s early bankers. As many as seven grain elevators stood like monuments along the tracks.

The community of Winkler has been defined through the years by a deliberate and delicate balance of personal faith, lifestyle and social responsibility, generating an effective work ethic and sense of purpose. School and church were important community institutions. In the early 1890s, Presbyterians held the first church services in the train station. The Winkler Union School District was formed in 1893 and, in 1895, the Bergthaler Mennonite Church was the first western Canadian Mennonite Church to be built in a town. A year later the Burwalde Mennonite Brethren Church was moved to the edge of town. In 1917, the Lutheran Church was built and by the 1920s the Jewish population was large enough to support a synagogue on 6th Street. By the 1930s, more of the conservative Mennonite congregations lost their aversion to town life and relocated into Winkler. By the 1990s, new congregation of Baptist, contemporary worshippers and house churches became popular.

Gradual assimilation, new immigration and the awareness of a global community has greatly altered and enhanced the culture, faith, work and creation of a rapidly expanding city. This park gate is a symbol of the strength of Winkler’s citizens and of the many gates they have travelled through to settle here.

A monument in the park commemorate the Mennonite pioneers of Hoffnungsfeld. Another monument lists the names of early Winkler pioneers compiled from the 1901 federal census and membership records of the Trinity Lutheran Church.

Photos & Coordinates

Bethel Heritage Park

Bethel Heritage Park (October 2010)
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

Mennonite pioneer commemorative monument in the Bethel Heritage Park

Mennonite pioneer commemorative monument in the Bethel Heritage Park (May 2023)
Source: George Penner

Winkler pioneer commemorative monument in the Bethel Heritage Park

Winkler pioneer commemorative monument in the Bethel Heritage Park (May 2023)
Source: George Penner

Site Coordinates (lat/long): N49.17888, W97.93946
denoted by symbol on the map above


This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough and George Penner.

Page revised: 21 May 2023

Historic Sites of Manitoba

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