Excerpts: Heinrichs of Halbstadt #
While the past needs to be re-examined and revisionist historians often shed new perspectives on events, we need to inform our assumptions on reliable sources and the stature of authority, remaining wary of motive, agenda and insidious intent. Events should be discussed, debated, re-evaluated and re-assessed, but established facts should never be denied. Respectable and responsible institutions base their conclusions on grounded evidence, do not “guess the facts” rather forensically investigate all contested claims and assertions by testing conflicting claims to validate their findings.
Every one owns the facts of their own life. Our extended family has a copyright on the facts to our narrative, in this book which became the main exhibit in the court case, yet was totally ignored.
Since the 1960’s ordinary people have begun to document their family origins. Our family historians have documented a number of invaluable primary and secondary documents of material evidence that refute the assumptions, claims and conclusions posited by the Courts. It is my contention that this document is the most reliable source of material evidence to gain a grounded and realistic backdrop to understanding our family narrative because it has no other motive than to chronicle of family narrative – except of course to help us understand who we are. It gains its credibility because though collegial, the writers wrote independently in isolation. It is the intersection of individual reminisces that reinforces reality.
A harmonious collective and collaborative effort by all Heinrichs’ families, Lorraine Plett (Publisher), Myrtle Butts, Tina Braun, Viola Siemens, Irwin Hoffman and Katherine Martens came up with a widely representative and well-presented book called Heinrichs of Halbstadt (1993) only after countless interviews and many years of exhaustive and rigorous research.
In order to gain some perspective and gather primary material, a distinguished researcher and writer, Kathy Martens painstakingly conducted interviews with the older members of the Heinrichs family to glean valuable information in danger of being lost. It is noteworthy that she had no intention of interviewing Uncle Jake since he was more contemporary. He requested to be interviewed. Just as well.
It is surprising how forthright, candid and upfront he was. It contains many revealing admissions that refute the court’s conclusions, especially the “close bond” fanciful assumption. . As well, private letters and other material substantive sources form an archival mother lode of primary, secondary and tertiary, documentary hard evidence, unmotivated by ulterior agendas, except to crystallise our experiences by recording and chronicling our family heritage.
By the narrow framing of evidence, the court appears to be oblivious of this context or perspective and have little sense of her real audience; people who grew up with Aunt Ann and Uncle Jake and have a more grounded perspective of all persons, events and situations.
This unwarranted presumption of piercing insights and solipsistic perception beyond the powers of active participants, into family dynamics illustrates how inappropriate it is for people in ivory towers to make judgements on us mere mortals unless they are willing to avail themselves of all the facts.
(Our) mother, Susan Heinrichs, was at first reluctant to cooperate with the recording of the family narrative because it might reveal aspects of the family better not disclosed – “why should be air our dirty linen in public”.
Eventually she was persuaded to participate. Others too warned against telling all and attempted to have the book redacted, censured or sanitised.
One reviewer described the exercise as a “warts and all” candid exposure of a family’s history.
Some general impressions from the book: The book provides a stark contrast on how children were raised then and now. Grandfather Wilhelm Heinrichs was a larger than life figure in the community, extremely progressive (one of the first to own a car by 1908, a phonograph and radio), a bit worldly (played the stock market), openly brewed and drank beer, lived on the edge of the church but also acutely and protectively conscious of what people thought about his family. He was an extremely generous host; there are many pictures that illustrate his devotion to a large extended family. He seems to be all inclusive; enjoying having them all around him. “Alla tope” is a low German expression familiar to all of us - - it translates into “all together” – an inclusiveness that permeates most of our family relationships. A common thread through the book is how generous, supportive and dutiful most family members are. Unfortunately, there are more complicated influences. On the positive side, Mrs Bennet of Jane Austen fame was no match for Maria Heinrichs when it came to dressing her three eldest daughters to attract men. Curling their hair was considered worldliness. A seamstress came in twice a year to make sure they were elegantly dressed – a taboo in conservative Mennonite circles. By the time the youngest, Aunt Anne, needed fashionable clothes, Eaton’s Mail-order catalogue had to do.
However, other recurring references indicate a hard-nosed uncompromising and mean-spirited disposition, when it attracted the wrong sort of man. Fiercely protective of and selective for all her children, they considered it their right to reject unwanted suitors. When one daughter, began a relationship with one of the hired men, Grandmother and Grandfather ensured that he was sent away to B.C. When Helen married a Lutheran in 1928, Grandma and Grandpa demonstrated their displeasure by not attending the wedding in Emerson and shunning any social contact with the young couple.
Our Grandmother made no secret of her reluctance to have children blaming the lack of contraception. She deplored large families. (Katherine Martens Pg. 22.)
Our mother sensed some of her siblings grew up feeling unwanted and so when she produced 15 children, she made sure each of us felt loved and valued.
Their third son David, born in 1900, with 11 children. His son, Walter Heinrichs, recounts some ugly disputes between his father and Grandmother, where she “started to give him a tongue lashing like you wouldn’t believe…. all my father could say was uh huh. She told him to stay out of her yard and to keep his damn kids out also. Needless to say, I was devastated and never again set foot in her house. Pg. 102.
We should not judge as this was in the context of the times.
My mother, Susan commented on an indirect negativity and her strict expectations: “if your Dad sends you to that field you obey, that is all there is to it”.
Obviously, Bob Dylan’s Your children are beyond your command, did not come into effect until our parents introduced it in the 1920’s. We must be careful not to judge our ancestors by our standards.
Aunt Anne Ogilvie features in many of the family contributions. The picture depicted by Irene (Siemens) Stobbe on Aunt Anne is especially revealing:
She was an extremely generous person. If you admired her teapot, she would want to give it to you, so I had to be careful what I said. I found her to be very fond of children and took a great interest in all her nieces and nephews. When we moved to Calgary, Anne and Fred and I took the chairlift to the top of Mount Norquay. She enjoyed our three toddlers very much. Page 182. (Top right column)
Our grandfather’s sons, especially Uncle Ben and Uncle Jake were anti-establishment iconoclasts - sceptics; given to cynicism and a healthy disrespect for vaunted authority. As such they had a profound contrary influence on all of us.
Relevant observations about our ancestors: #
Uncle Ben Heinrichs (page 28) (My father) …had taught me how to drive the car. He boxed my ears if I didn’t know how to drive it when I was seven or nine years old, I forget, that was nothing to him.
Submitted by Kathy (Klassen) Martens At fifteen (1917) our mother was out ploughing the field when her father came to see her and boxed her ears without explanation. Several months later her mother told (our) mother why she had been punished. A group of Summerfelder men, including the elder, had visited Mother’s school. When Mother passed them, she had smiled at them in a friendly fashion. They interpreted the smile of a young girl as a sign of disrespect, for young girls were expected to be modest and demure. (Page 24) “I asked my mother to explain” (her father’s strict manner): Her answer was simply, “if your Dad sends you to that field you obey, that is all there is to it”.
MEMORIES IN ADOLDHOOD (Page 36) #
Submitted by William Klassen
In retrospect, who can say what we owe to whom? What indeed is our heritage? Mother’s care for her brothers and sisters was always very deep. She welcomed them as visitors and always spoke highly of them.
I especially remember Uncle Fred Ogilvie and how much Mother and Father spoke in appreciation of him even though we all knew he was not a Mennonite. I recall his visit to the University of Manitoba when I was teaching there and his encouragement he gave me then of the work I was doing. He appreciated the value of teaching religion outside of a church setting. I would like to ask Aunt Anna many questions. She carries many secrets.
We all live with a heritage far richer and perhaps far more ambiguous than we realize….
MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD (Page 37) #
Submitted by Elsa (Klassen) Neufeld
Soon after my sixth birthday our family moved from Halbstadt, where we were surrounded by relatives, to Homewood where during my school years I keenly felt the lack of cousins….
In August of that summer my parents drove to Halbstadt for a visit. I was to stay over for a two week holiday…
I spent most of the day with Aunt Anne, a beautiful brown-eyed young woman. As we shelled peas or cleaned fruit she grew weary of my incessant chatter. She invented various schemes to achieve quietness. She said, “Let’s see if we can be quiet for a few minutes” or “Let’s see who can be quiet the longest.” I know I tried but I never succeeded.
As I began writing down these memories I was able to place the events of 1938 in perspective. We moved to Homewood in early spring. Within months Grandfather Heinrichs had died accidentally. July 23 my sister Edith was born and in mid August I was left at Grandmother’s house. Was my visit to be a distraction for Grandmother, Uncle Jake and Aunt Anne in their sorrow?
In 1979, Elsa writes to Aunt Anne’s Psychiatrist and receives a comprehensive diagnosis and pessimistic prognosis. This is strong evidence of enduring, affectionate involvement. CHAPTER EIGHT (Page 181 – 184)
Family of Fred and (Heinrichs) Ogilves #
Anna Heinrichs married July 1945 to: Fred F. Ogilvie 28 May 1919 to 16 Dec 1978
ANNA (HEINRICHS) OGILVIE
Submitted by Irene (Siemens) Stobbe #
Anna was born 06 February 1919 at home in Halbstadt, Manitoba. She was born a twin to Jacob. She grew up on the Heinrichs family farm and attended the Halbstadt grade school; then attended the Mennonite Collegiate Institute (MCI) from approximately 1935-1938. She was living with her parents and was on a car trip destined for Ontario when the car accident killed her father. She went to work in the city of Winnipeg as a nurse’s aide. There she met Fred Ogilvie in Winnipeg and was married to him in July 1945. Anne and Fred bought a little house in East Kildonan where they lived until Fred’s death in December 1978. Anne developed a mental illness diagnosed as schizo phrenia, “a psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with environment and by disintegration of personality,” in the early 50’s for which she was periodically hospitalized. When her husband died she spent a very short time with her twin brother’s family and since then has been in various institutions.
Anne had an interest in film and theatre, especially musical theatre. In the late 40’s when I was at the university she would frequently invite me to see a movie or go to an operetta with her. She would also invite me for Sunday dinner and she cooked a lovely meal. She was an extremely generous person. If you admired her teapot she would want to give it to you, so I had to be careful what I said. I found her to be very fond of children and took a great interest in all her nieces and nephews. When we moved to Calgary, Anne and Fred and I took the chairlift to the top of Mount Norquay. She enjoyed our three toddlers very much.
Of her earlier life I remember her visits to our farm on a Sunday afternoon. She would be dressed very smartly, dark suit, white blouse, dress shoes and well-cut, simple hair style. She was always very quiet and did not enter conversations easily. In recent years I have visited Anne in the Altona Personal Care Home. She always has a smile, but conversation is limited.
Letters Anne (Heinrichs) Ogilvie wrote between 1935 and 1951. #
Dear Ben, Please will you look in my clothes closet on the top board for my sewing note books. There are quite a few. Send me the one with the white cover and with samples in it. And there are a few more books one is the first year book arid second. They are all notes in there and also patches show. I think I put it all in one pile. Send me everything that you find there about sewing. Yours affectionately, Annie
There is other solid evidence that her closest male sibling bond was with Ben, six years older. She asks him to farm her 80 acres of land for her which he does until he moves away in 1951. He eventually moves to Winnipeg and is on hand to take her in and support her when her husband has a heart attack. The reason she returns to Southern Manitoba is because Uncle Ben and Aunt Tien plan to retire there.
Hello Viola, It seems a long time ago when we got your letter. We have been very busy so I didn’t get around to answering your letter. But now it seems to (be) slacking down and I am really glad. Maybe I will get time to do some sewing and finish some things up I started. Well your folks were in last week. I didn’t see them. Bill Heinrichs was here, so was Jake, Mr. and Mrs. David Heinrichs and Mrs. Hoffman. Mrs. Hoffman is going to have an operation next month. So, you are very busy studying. I certainly wish you all the luck. I was going to go and listen to Dyson Carter today but it took so long until I got everything done. I didn’t get away. Fred is on nites so [ to catch up to a lot of work when he isn’t around. When he is around it is impossible but I don’t have to complain. I really like married life a lot better than I expected. Fred’s sister Mary is through with her course, she has been home for two weeks and was supposed to be in for her exam. She sure is a funny kid. I got a new coat a few weeks ago. It looks alright; I hope it will wear alright. Do you expect to come back next spring or do you intend to stay until you are through? Well be sure it (to) absurd (absorb) all you can. I certainly am sorry I haven’t good (got) my full Grade XII. You wanted to know Mary and Bill’s address. Well they both will be home for Christmas so it will be Box 25, RR1, Portage La Prairie Hoping to hearing from you sometime. So long, Anne Ogilvie 183 (a) November 04, 1951
How are you Viola. It seems a long time since we saw you last. You were not able to farm very long when you got sent back to school. How do you find school out there? Did Paul get top marks at school? Don’t see Irene or Edith very often. They are very busy at school. I was expecting Irene to call today. Have some snaps we took of the house that turned out fairly well. I was suggesting that we have some made and send you some.
Hear you are kept very busy out there. I could never think of any other way than busy. I keep busy most of the time. Nobody to chase me around so I do housework and have some knitting or hand work around the place. Did very little this year or summer. The days and weeks slip by and I didn’t get some of my handwork out of the road. Have some remodelling to do before Christmas. Hope I’ll get it out of the road long before Christmas.
I read part of your letter the last time I was up at your mother and dad’s place. It certainly is a very nice place that (you) got out there. Very neat, and cosy and lots of room.
How long are you staying out there? Will Paul be able to complete his course out there?
Do you intend to come back to Canada or should I say Manitoba? 183
That is were (where) we spend most of our time. During the week at work and on Sundays we spent a lot of time at his dad’s at Oakland or we got out home to Jake and Mary’s and Hoffman’s. Mrs. Hoffman and family had a lot of crab apples in the garden. I have never seen anything like it. They have about two dozen trees and they are loaded. Mrs. Hoffman gave us some crabs and I made apple sauce. It turned out very good.
How do you like it out there, are the people very sociable or don’t they bother much with one another. That’s the case around here. I am kind of glad because we just got together as a family at home occasionally and didn’t get a training in being sociable to strangers. Running out of paper.. .Stop.
So long, Anne
There is further evidence that Aunt Anne had a close relationship with her sister Helen, 14 years older. When Uncle Ben can no longer rent her land, she asks Aunt Helen’s Hoffman family to do so. They do so for nine years until they too move away and it is finally left to her twin brother to take it over.
A TRIBUTE TO AUNT ANNE (HEINRICHS) OGILVIE #
Submitted by Susanna Klassen The 1992 Heinrichs family gathering prompted many reminiscences about the car accident that caused my grandfather, William Heinrichs’ death. The version of the story I have heard the most often is that Aunt Anne had tried to turn the steering wheel to prevent the car from veering off the bridge.
This summer my daughter Pamela and I had an opportunity to visit Aunt Anne at the Salem Home in Winkler. My interest in how Aunt Anne has experienced her life has increased as I grow older and have more time and interest to reflect on my heritage. Aunt Anne told me she didn’t want to tell her life story. She said, “I remember it and I don’t want to talk about it.”
My childhood memory of Aunt Anne is that she was one of the many aunts that I admired and looked up to as a role model. I wanted to dress nicely as she did and have a house in the city. I remember a china cabinet in her home that had beautiful dishes in it. I have often wondered what caused her to retreat from life and live in institutions. After my visit with Aunt Anne my sister Kathy and I had an impromptu visit with Sara Heinrichs, mother’s cousin. She told us that she had been a good friend of Aunt Anne and described her as a lively, vivacious, intelligent young woman with a strong trust in God. She said she would never forget how Aunt Anne had told her the story about the car accident. This is her story, written in my words. When the car that Grandpa was driving had a tire blowout it veered onto the edge of the bridge and perched precipitously at the edge. Anne, who was the only person able to respond, climbed over her brother Jake to get out of the car. She remembered that there was a rope in the car trunk and took it out. She then tied it to the car and began to pull it across the road away from the edge of the bridge. This also stopped the traffic and a passerby called for the ambulance. Had Anne not had her wits about her at that time every one in the car could have died.
After hearing this story, I felt inspired by the courage and quick thinking that Aunt Anne showed on that day. I wished that I could hear the story from Aunt Anne and I realized that she is indeed an unsung hero in the Heinrichs family.
Aunt Anne, I would still like to hear about your life from your lips and your voice. I am sure you have much to tell us, the next generation.
Edith Siemen’s recollections: #
Katherine Martens record gleaned from Edith Siemens in a telephone call. Ann married Fred in 1945. Shortly after Anne and Fred Ogilvie were married Anne’s oldest sister Marie, (Siemens) sensed that things were not going well there and she decided To have her daughter Edith spend a week or so with Ann and Fred. Edith was charged specifically with telling her mother what was going on.
At the Ogilvie house. Edith was about 11 or 12 so this was in 1946 - 47 or thereabouts.
Edith described the week she spent there as very scary. Anne had decided that all the doors should be taken off their hinges, and asked Fred to do so. Apparently, he had done so as doors were leaning against the wall and during the day Anne busied herself with trying to remove all the doors off kitchen cabinets.
Fred worked shifts sometimes day, sometimes nights, and Edith remembers being awakened by their loud voices when he came off the night shift. She says she was afraid of both of them, and often thought of ways she could return to Altona and home, but as she did not know her way around Winnipeg the possibility of getting on a bus back to Altona was not an option.
When her parents finally came for her about a week later she was exhausted and slept all the way home in the car.
Later her mother, Marie, was often heard to say, “I’d go crazy too if I had to live with Fred!”
Anne’s Siblings: #
Wilhelm 1898 21 years older Died: 1973 David 1900 19 years older 1996 Maria 1901 18 years older 1969 Susanna 1902 17 years older 1989 Helena 1905 14 years older 1990 Ben 1913 6 years older 2004 Jake 1919 Twin 1993 Fred Ogilvie Husband 1978 16.12 Anne 1919 2009
When the Will was signed in October 1980, Aunt Anne had five surviving siblings and 56 nieces and nephews. There is overwhelming evidence that Aunt Marie Siemens moved to Winnipeg and was on call for her throughout the fifties and the sixties.
Susan Klassen attended her needs throughout the seventies and early eighties.
A letter to Kathy Martens on sabbatical in Germany, written on 11 December 1974 corroborates this fact. she writes:
“I feel we will have a bar (maybe meaning “bare”) Christmas. It feels empty to go to Winnipeg.. Bill is very busy. My sister Anne has been sick so we went them sever(al) times.” (Or seven?)
When Fred died, Aunt Anne was taken care of by her brother Ben living in Winnipeg, and after the funeral she stayed with her sister Susan in Carman and then her brother Ben in Winnipeg for two weeks then her brother Jake in Halbstadt before admission to Eden Mental Health and entering a nursing home. This counters the claim that Uncle Jake was the sole or even principal care giver before the mid eighties. Yet he fails to consult or even inform them of the Will until years later.
Here is a letter sent by our Mother, Susan Heinrichs Klassen to Viola Siemens Andreas on December 22. 1978 (shortly after Fred Ogilvie’s funeral.
Thank you for your letters of July 5. I had a rauf (rough) summer. I did not have any interest in going anywhere. And Ana, my sister, problems got worse, maybe it depressed me tow (too).
I thought I let you know that Anna’s husband passed on the 16 Dec. at half past 3 in the afternoon. He had a severe heart attack he was in the hospital for about 10 days. His funeral was on the 19th. It was very snows, the storm wasn’t so bad. But you never know how it will turn out.
Anna didn’t make a big fuss, she just said its too bad he died when Fred’s brother Bill told her she left the house and said she didn’t want to come back there. Fred’s brother he should sell the house with everything in it. She is staying with Ben and Tina until after Christmas.
We are having our Christmas gathering on Sunday.
So with best wishes and I hope you can read this letter.
Mr. and Mrs David Klassen
Peer Nephews and Nieces: #
Uncle Jake and Aunt Anne - Born 1919 Feb. Died: 1992, 2009 Arnold Heinrichs 1920 May 1990 Tina Heinrichs 1920 Nov. Otto Heinrichs 1921 June 1988 Anna (Klassen) Hiebert 1921 August 2003 Viola Siemens 1923 May 2003 Henrietta (Klassen) Driedger 1923 January 2011 Irene Siemens 1930, February
The fact that Aunt Anne evidently maintained close relationships with both her siblings and her peer Nieces, makes Warren Heinrichs claim as sole beneficiary rather weak or non-existent. The court does not even attempt to justify his prior claim over his more deserving cousins. He was born in 1957, the same year she was first admitted to a mental institution.
Court Testimony (Excerpts) #
Warren Heinrichs’ Testimony: born the year Aunt Ann was first admitted to Selkirk. Vol 3 Pg. 7 Trial transcripts: Q: ….how would you describe her condition? A: “ Pretty straight faced, but other than that. I didn’t know any, anything other than normal.” Q: Did you know she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia at some point? A: “I believe I was told that in my late teens and I was actually surprised”.
This too is disingenuous; The court has heard that Aunt Ann has displayed symptoms of Schizophrenia since the early 1950’s, before he was born, was committed to Selkirk Mental Institution in 1957, the year he was born, been an outpatient of the Health Services continuously, cared for at least twice in Eden Mental Health Clinic, exhibits severe bizarre behaviour – yet Warren is “surprised”. Where has he been? Has he ever actually met her?  The Court’s take: “ He (Warren) did not know that Ann had schizophrenia until he was in his teens” - is also an extraordinary interpretation of the above. His present position appears to consider her as perfectly normal at all times.
The portrayal of Aunt Anne as a warm, generous and inclusive family member is a strong indication the Will is out of character.
William Klassen’s contribution ( ll. 80 – 90) indicates what we all suspected, she had been incapable of coherent cogent discussion from about the late sixties. When I saw her in 1962, Aunt Anne took a great interest in my pending career in teaching, but appeared rambling and confused; she kept insisting she “had no money”. At that time my mother claimed they were well off, but Aunt Anne would will all her money to her cats.
When I next saw her after the death of our Aunt Marie in 1969, you could tell Aunt Ann was retreating into her shell as she took little interest in us.
In 1979 Ernst Klassen was working up in Telegraph Creek and came home for Christmas at Carman. He writes: Shortly after Christmas I accompanied mom and dad to Halbstadt for a family gathering at Uncle Jake’s house. Aunt Ann was there. During the three to four hours we were there she said not a word other than a yes or no. She acknowledged none of her siblings except she had this empty smile on her face. (not the “Mona Lisa Smile”) Ten months later a window of clarity opened and she went to Winnipeg to write her will without any assistance from her brother, he was not even in the room. What an amazing event!
When I, Charles Klassen, visited her with my family, in January 1981, four months after putatively making her Will, she appeared to be totally out of it, withdrawn, utterly disconnected from reality – virtually comatose. There was not even a flicker of interest in me, my wife or my three children. She mutely acknowledged my mother’s presence, - that is all. It stretches my imagination beyond its breaking point to accept that she could walk into an office without alarm bells going off – paramedics and ambulances called. Yet the court assumes “testamentary capacity”.
Charles Klassen, Sydney, Australia, April 30th 2013.
Erdman Klassen: Whether or not Aunt Anne was considered capable of making decisions is based on the fact that she was “talkative” and “smiling”. These behaviors are not considered definitive evidence of capacity. Yes, she made her own decisions but they were generally not made in her own best interest. To refuse to look after her teeth, to refuse to buy clothes for herself and to refuse to talk about her own life experience were not decisions that were in her own best interest. (Susanna)
The fact that both Ann and Jake had unresolved issues about this event raises all kinds of possible influences that will always be a mystery.
Marie Dyck: Also we had a guest book in aunt Anne’s room put there by Kathy I think and our names were in there quite regularly. This book has very conveniently disappeared.
Of the 56 nephews and nieces. At least 6 have passed away since the action was launched, many of the rest of us are in the mid eighties and do not have the energy or resources to pursue this matter any further.