Village News

Steinbach’s First Families – Peter K. and Anna (Toews) Barkman, Elizabeth (Warkentin)

  • Nathan Dyck, Blog Coordinator
  • Development Coordinator, MHV

Peter K. Barkman and Anna Toews travelled to Canada aboard the Austrian alongside several family members and relatives. They were accompanied by their daughter and son-in-law, Johann S. Friesen and Anna Barkman of Wirtschaft 4. Peter had already developed his skills as a miller while in Russia, and built two windmills while living in Rosenfeld, Borosenko. Both of those mills burnt down, in 1870 and 1872 respectively. Being in their late forties at the time of immigration, Peter and Anna were some of the oldest residents in the newly formed Steinbach settlement, where they settled on Wirtschaft 5.

On arriving in Canada, they first travelled to Gruenfeld (Kleefeld) with Peter’s father, 80 year old Jacob Barkman, who supposedly had disagreements with the oxen pulling them as they didn’t understand his Russian commands! Peter and Anna moved on to Steinbach shortly after, while many of their relatives ended up settling in Blumenort. Their eldest son Jacob also decided to abandon his homestead in Gruenfeld, and so Peter and Anna ended up nestled between the Wirtschaft of their two children. In the first years they built a large 48-foot long dwelling to house these three families, along with oxen and a milk cow. By 1876, Peter and Anna had a new house built and Peter began taking on mill building projects. He oversaw the moving of two windmills from the Red River to villages in the East Reserve. In May of 1877, Abraham S. Friesen hired Peter to build a windmill for Steinbach, and it was operational by August. It was soon sold to Rosenort, and Peter was in charge of dismantling and moving the mill to the West Reserve. He built several other mills for villages in the West Reserve, and was known to swim across the Red River in his ‘commute’ to work.

As Steinbach was now without a mill, residents were eager to have a new one built. Windmills did not work well in the East Reserve due to the heavy bush-cover, and so Peter and merchant Klaas R. Reimer collected pledges for the building of a steam-powered mill. The two men gained considerable assets through owning the mill, but Peter sold the majority of his holdings after the Anna passed away from a short illness in 1881. Within a month he remarried Elisabeth Warkentin, and continued focusing on his farm.

In 1885, Peter retired from farming and moved residences, taking up gardening and raising chickens. He was the first resident in Steinbach to install a telephone line shortly after they became available in 1900. Peter passed away in 1917 at the age of 91, six years after Elizabeth. Peter and Anna’s four children were all successful and stayed within the East Reserve. Jacob was a farmer, who eventually settled near Kleefeld. Anna remained in Steinbach on Wirtschaft 4. Aganetha married the eldest son of merchant Klaas R. Reimer, and they became successful as lumber and retail merchants. Youngest son Peter married a daughter of Klaas R. Reimer and worked in his father’s flour mill before going into farm implement sales. In 1918, he purchased the flour mill to go into business with his sons. In their sixties, Peter and his wife Katharina adopted two siblings from a Lutheran family, Julianna and Edmund Schmidtke. They lived on Mill street, which would eventually become 1st street.