Today’s blog is about a beautiful fieldstone church in southern Saskatchewan and an immigrant farmer named Kasper Molder, one the church’s first members. He was born into the quintessential life of a disadvantaged European peasant; poor, hungry and hopeless, and then things went downhill when first his father and then his mother died. When Kasper Molder became an adult he persevered until he accomplished all that he could want to achieve. His story is perhaps the finest depiction of a pioneer that I’ve ever read.
Before we look at the photos of Zion Wheatwyn Lutheran Church or look at Kasper Molder’s achievements there is, of course, some necessary background history. This history begins in the 18th and early 19th centuries with two migrations of people across Europe. By historical European standards these migrations were not monumental events (perhaps not even well known) but they will have huge future consequences on the ethnicity of the Canadian prairies.
There were other earlier migrations of German people including those who accepted the invitation from Ivan the Terrible (1547-1584) who sought skilled workers for Russia. Another later invitation came from Peter the Great (1682-1725) who wanted to westernize the Russian lands. However, this blog will focus on the two best known migrations; those who answered the invitation of Tsarina Catherine the Great and Austrian Kaiser Josef II.
If you don’t want to read the whole blog at this time you can skip down to the heading “Kasper Molder”. Kasper had a fascinating life so I highly recommend you read what his grandson has to say about him. For those who read the entire blog post we will start with the sign on the outside of this old church building just to set the stage for the greater story. We’ll then travel back in time to the reigns of Tsars, Chancellors, and Kaisers and read how they impacted the lives of a number of Germans who are not really Germans at all.
Ukraine and war.
Ukraine has been fought over for as long as people have walked the steppes of eastern Europe. Despite all of these battles and invasions – or maybe because of them – there emerged a distinct people who we now know as Ukrainians. They are a mix of people from all over central and eastern Europe as well as parts of Asia.
Ukrainian lands have been fertilized with the blood spilled during countless battles. In 2022, much to the angst of the modern world, Russia invaded Ukraine in yet another challenge that these resilient people must endure. We can only hope that Russia’s war will end before Ukraine is left in ruins unlike anything we’ve seen in Europe since WWII.
Here is a quote by renowned author William Faulkner. It wasn’t originally spoken in regard to Ukraine but it certainly seems to describe Ukraine’s situation.
A little stone church on the prairie (1907 to 1961).
Today’s blog post is not about wars. It’s about a group of farmers who left Ukraine for Canada and built a small church that stands in Saskatchewan to this day. The ancestors of the Wheatwyn area farmers left Germany as early as the mid 1700s for the promise of free pristine land in Ukraine. In the early 20th century many descendants of those farmers, as well as the local Slavic people, made an even bigger move to a new and much more exotic place that would later be called Saskatchewan. The German speaking people from Ukraine built Zion Wheatwyn Lutheran Church.
This old stone church’s simple appearance and serene setting belies the complex history that brought these people to Canada. Even the information plaque outside the church implies that they were Germans from Germany who immigrated to this area north of Regina. Few, if any, of the congregation had German passports. Their history wasn’t that simple.
The plaque on the side of the building says:
"Zion - Wheatwyn Lutheran Church. Around 1900, a small group of German Lutheran immigrants settled in this district. They established Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1906 and constructed this stone church the following year."
"The Church eventually added the surrounding Wheatwyn School District's name to its own. Regular services were held here until 1961, when the congregation amalgamated with St Mark's Lutheran Church in Markinch."
"Two former pastors, Rev. T. Hartig (1917 - 25) and Rev. G Luetkehelter (1955 - 57), subsequently became presidents (Bishops) of the Evangelical (Central Canada) Synod. Hartig also served as Missionary Superintendent of the German Home Mission Board. Designated as Municipal Heritage Property on January 11, 1982."
The settlers in this area were not Germans from Germany; they came primarily from Galicia, Volhynia and Bukovyna. Each of these places were, at various times, parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and parts of Russia in what is now southwestern Ukraine and northern Romania. Their ancestors left Germany in the 18th century to escape troubles in Germany and seek out a peaceful place to farm. These settlers spoke German and practiced the German Lutheran faith (as distinguished from the many Scandinavian Lutherans on the prairies). They would form a German/Ukrainian diaspora in Canada.
Who were the Ruthenians?
There are many people from Europe and Asia that now consider Ukraine their home. Whole books are written on the history of this part of Europe. I found a paragraph in the history of a family who settled in Saskatchewan that does a fine job of describing Ukrainians from a non-Ukrainian and non-Russian point of view. This is not from the family history of Kasper Molder, but rather another of the many German speaking families that came from the same general area of Ukraine. The quote is old; it was published when Ukraine was part of the USSR and much has changed since then. I should point out here that the quote below describes Ukrainians as “little Russians” which has always been offensive to the Ukrainian people. I will also point out that Peter the Great tried to get Russians to drop Tartar customs and he would do so most often when meeting with other Russians simply because there were more of them in the St Petersburg area than there were Ukrainians (the quote implies that only Ukrainians held fast to the old customs).
The original inhabitants of Bukovina are the Ruthenians. These are really Ukrainians or little Russians. We simply called them Russinnk which is the same thing as little Russians. They resented the name Russia(n) and always spoke of themselves as Ukrainians. The name Ruthenian was given to them by the Romans at the time they occupied Rumania (Romania) in the remote past when Rome suffered from the empire building craze. The Ruthenians then or the Ukrainians were the people of the Kieve empire in Russia who were conquered by the Tartars who overran Russia early in the 13th century. Traces of the Tartar conquest can still be seen in the Ruthenians today. There are still some who wear the long kaftan or cloak of the Tartar. Large numbers still grow beards and wear their hair long. Peter the Great of Russia tried hard to get these people to discontinue these Tartar customs. It is said that when they appeared at his court their cloaks which reached to the ground had to be shortened to the knee and barbers who were always kept in readiness relieved them of their beards and long tresses. However, in spite of these measures, the Tartar cloak, beard and long hair is still the fashion among the poorer or peasant class of today.The Lindenbach Lineage –1980 (full citation below)
Why leave Germany?
Germany was a collection of principalities that were frequently at war with each other as well as other countries. The wars were financed by high taxes levied on the poor peasant farmer class which they could not afford to pay. It was also crowded so a farmer’s sons could not find farmland for themselves.
One very significant war was the Franco-Prussian War. The southern German states supported Prussia in successfully defeating France. Shortly after that war in 1871, Otto von Bismarck of Prussia organized the various German principalities into one German country as we now recognize it.
Tsarina Catherine The Great
This new German nation was crowded and land was expensive. These times were very difficult for the German farmers. Many German farmers heeded the open invitations of various foreign leaders who wanted to populate their own newly conquered lands. The most well known of these foreign leaders was the Tsarina of Russia, Catherine the Great, who ruled Russia for 34 years (1762-1796). Here is a quote that I’ve found in an excellent book on the subject
Catherine II’s empire underwent considerable expansion during her reign. A series of wars with the Ottoman Empire led to the eventual consolidation of Russian control over the north coast of the Black Sea and the Crimean Peninsula. The partitions of Poland resulted in the addition of large areas that are now parts of western Ukraine, Belarus and Latvia. These areas too, Catherine and her successors wished to populate with industrious German farmers. Napoleonic rampages across continental Europe made German peasants again receptive to the idea of moving eastward.Ukrainian people places: the Ukrainians, Germans, Mennonites, Hutterites and Doukhobors and the names they brought to Saskatchewan – Page 50.
Catherine the Great, herself of German/Austrian ancestry, made generous offers to the downtrodden farmers in Germany to entice them to leave Germany for Russian controlled lands. She issued a manifesto in 1763 that promised German farmers freedom of religion (Catholic, Lutheran, Mennonite, Judaism, and others), freedom to keep their German language rather than speak the local dialects and were granted exemption from military service for themselves and their descendants in perpetuity. These were attractive terms indeed, especially considering that she was offering the German farmers some of the most fertile farmland in Europe.
Of course subsequent Tzars would not honour such generous promises, especially toward the end of the 19th century but the German farmers had no reason to look that far ahead. This was a good offer so many farmers moved, and most never set foot in Germany again. The Tsarina Catherine’s offers to the German farmers helped to populate the lands near the Black Sea. It’s very curious why such good land needed to be populated. There are a number of possible explanations for the sparce population including deaths from plagues and wars. The author of Ukrainian people places suggests that the area was previously populated by nomadic herders. Whatever the reason, the area was sparsely populated and the Tsarina sought German farmers to change that situation.
About sixty years after the arrival of the first Germans in the Odesa area, things began to change. The tsars who succeeded Catharine II were less open to the idea of insular and comparatively isolationist settlements in their empire. The promises that had been made in Catherine’s manifesto of 1763 included the freedom to establish closed colonies (in which their customs, culture and language could be preserved), freedom of religion, self-government in all local matters, and exemption from military service for themselves and their descendants in perpetuity. All these freedoms were intruded upon during the 1860s and 1870s, culminating in the Russification of the German schools in the following decade.Ukrainian people places – Page 59
By the 1860s, when the organized migration of Germans to the lands of the tsars ended, they had established hundreds of villages across what is now southern Ukraine, and numbered about a quarter of a million people.
Kaiser Josef II of Austria
Catherine the Great wasn’t the only monarch seeking these German farmers. In 1782 Kaiser Josef II of Austria sought German farmers to settle in his newly expanded empire. This was after the demise of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. What happened to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth? Here’s what Wikipedia has to say.
The country was partitioned in three stages by the Russian Empire, the German Kingdom of Prussia, and the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy. By 1795, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had been completely erased from the map of Europe. Poland and Lithuania were not re-established as independent countries until 1918.Wikipedia
The Kaiser Josef II of Austria made offers to German farmers that were more sustainable than the offers from Tsarina Catherine II but still generous enough to entice many farmers to accept. Kaiser Jusef II proclaimed that the Germans would receive freedom of religion, military exemption (but only for the oldest son of the family), free transportation from Vienna to the place of settlement and a ten-year exemption from taxes of any kind. This helped to develop Galicia’s agricultural sector. Unlike the Black Sea Germans who were under Tzarist controlled lands, those who settled in the Polish and Lithuanian regions suffered no erosion of privileges during the pre-World War I era, sharing as they did the culture and language of Austria. Galicia became the largest and most populous province of the Austrian Empire, where it remained until the dissolution of Austria-Hungary at the end of World War I in 1918. Galicia is now part of Ukraine after previously being part of the USSR.
The above map and the grave marker below show that if a person was born to the left of the bold line on the map and they emigrated prior to WWI, they would have an Austrian passport with Galicia shown as the birthplace. After WWI the area to the left of the line was Poland.
This grave marker is not from Zion Wheatwyn Lutheran Church. It is at another Lutheran Church only 42km from Zion. Notice the 1837 birthplace is Heinrichsdorf, Galicia, Austria. A very tangible connection to Galicia, rather than Germany, Russia or even Ukraine. The only connection to Zion Wheatwyn Lutheran Church is the similar history. Many thousands of Germans from Galicia came to the Canadian prairies.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries many of these Germans who farmed in the lands we now know as Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and Romania found the loss of their privileges too much to accept. They were being forced to convert to the Russian Orthodox faith and send their children to Russian schools. Also, for large families there was a general lack of land for their children to farm. They wanted out of the Russian territories but few options were available. Some tried to go to the Germany of their ancestors. The reception in Germany was not what they anticipated.
They discovered that they were no longer welcomed in their ancestral homeland of Germany. Many generations had passed since their ancestors left Germany and now they spoke with dialects that marked them as foreigners. They were considered to be Russians by the Germans in Germany. The quote below is from a book that describes what one family experienced when they tried to return to Germany after WWII (it would have been the same for those who tried to return to Germany between the two world wars and even earlier than that). Although this particular quote has no direct connection to Zion Lutheran Church, it is poignant description of why these German people from Russia could not return to Germany.
We tried hard to fit in with the German people. We wanted to belong.
We made every effort to accept everything that came our way. We knew we were Germans, but we were looked upon as Black Sea Germans, born in Ukraine. Germany was a strange country to us. Germany was our ancestral birthplace, the origin of our forefathers several hundred years ago.
The Germany born Germans made us feel unwanted and unwelcome. We were looked upon as Russians and not Germans. We were not able to return to our home country.Cry Out of Russia – Page 118
The German speaking people who lived in Ukraine, Poland and Romania now found that they belonged nowhere. At least until many of them came to Canada. They were not true Germans in the eyes of others. That worked in their favour during the first half of the 20th century when it was not a good time to be associated with Germany (during WWI and WWII). The one small consolation for losing their ancestral homeland was the possession of non-German passports when Germans were not very popular in Canada.
Connecting this history to the church in Saskatchewan
Bill Barry, the author of Ukrainian people places, identifies several regions in Saskatchewan that derived their names from the German diaspora that immigrated to Canada. This includes Markinch (the Wheatwyn district). They were Lutherans from Galicia and Bukovyna but their passports would read Polish, Ruthenian (Ukrainian) Romanian and Russian. In his book, Ukrainian people places, Bill Barry specifically mentions this stone church in Saskatchewan when he says, “Zion Lutheran church still stands southeast of Southey.” His well researched book even has an older image of Zion Wheatwyn Lutheran Church but the image quality was poor so I didn’t put it in this blog post. Note that German people from Ukraine settled in many parts of the Canadian prairies, not just Wheatwyn, Saskatchewan. It’s quite possible that most Canadians in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba with German last names can trace their ancestry to Ukraine and Poland rather than Germany.
It is because of Bill Barry’s direct reference to this church in Saskatchewan and because of the life experience of Kasper Molder, below, that I concluded that the history that I’ve described in this blog is directly related to the people who lived near Zion Wheatwyn Lutheran Church.
The best way to understand what life was like for the people who lived near Zion Wheatwyn Lutheran Church is to read about an actual family that was there in its early days. I discovered an excellent history of Kasper Molder, written by his grandson Boyd Molder. Kasper Molder was a founding member of this little stone church. His ancestors first settled in Galicia and later moved to Volhynia. Their lives were never easy, not even by the standards of the day. Let’s go back to the old country and learn about Kasper Molder.
Summary of key events in Kasper Molder’s life.
- 1875-12-13: Kasper Molder is born in Galicia.
- 1881-12-31: Kasper’s father, Michael died when Kasper was six years old.
- 1886: Kasper’s mother died. Kasper and his brothers and sisters go to an aunt for care.
- 1893-12-12: The marine vessel, Mongolian, takes Kaspar to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
- Circa 1897: Kasper is employed by William R. Motherwell to work on his farm.
- 1898: Kasper helps his sister Katharine, and brother Henry, move to Canada.
- 1900: Kasper helps his half brother Mathias Orb and his family move to Canada.
- 1903-04-26: Kasper marries Amalia Hubick.
- 1904: Kasper gains legal title to his Saskatchewan homestead.
- 1906: Kasper’s oldest brother Jacob and his family move to Canada.
- 1906: Kasper is a founding member of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church.
- 1907: Amalia’s third child is stillborn. The baby will be buried with their two daughters once the ground thaws.
- 1907: Kasper and Amalia’s two daughters die of diphtheria only a day or two apart; Katharina age four and Magdalena age two.
- 1907-11-03: The stone church building is completed and dedicated.
- 1912 & 1917: Kasper and Amalia’s stone barn and house respectively are completed.
- 1944: Kasper and Amalia retire to Regina.
- 1961: Regular services end at Zion Wheatwyn Lutheran Church.
Kasper Molder’s story
Kasper Molder was born on December 13, 1875. When Kasper was six years old his father, Michael Molder, died. Kasper was only twelve when his mother died leaving him and four siblings in the care of an aunt. Times were difficult and food was scarce but with hard work and help from others in their community all of the Molder children survived. There was a baker, Mr. Volpel, who would drop off broken loaves of bread. Imagine having to wonder if the baker would bring bread at the end of each day. Kasper Molder later returned the kindness by helping Mr. Volpel (and his family if any) come to Canada by paying his way.
If their father, Michael Molder had not died, Kasper and his brothers might have learned the trade of a shoemaker from him. With both parents dead the Molder children had no land, no skill and little hope for a better future.
Kasper was only 18 years old when he made the difficult decision to leave his brothers and sisters as well as his community behind and accept the offer of a neighbour, the Mohr family, to emigrate to Canada. Mr. Mohr was in his late 50s when he moved to Canada on December 12, 1893 so he needed a young man to accompany his family and do the hard work that he was no longer able to do. In return for his passage Kasper would give the Mohr family three years of unpaid farm labour (except of course room and board) to help them prove up their homestead. There was nothing nefarious about Mr. Mohr’s offer to Kasper Molder. Kasper had nothing but good health and a reputation as a hard worker. Mr. Mohr was not rich but he did need a good worker to help with his homestead so this was a perfect match. It meant that there was hope for Kasper’s future. Was three years too much to ask? I don’t know.
After Kasper completed working off his debt to the Mohr family, he left in search of work at English farms so he could learn the language and improve his job prospects. There are a lot of similarities between English and German so Kasper would have found both written and spoken English a fairly easy language to learn. The Slavic people from Ukraine on the other hand had a much more difficult time communicating in their new country. They not only had to learn a new language that was not at all similar to their native Ukrainian, but they would have to learn a whole new alphabet because they used the Cyrillic alphabet.
Kasper eventually found work on the farm of William R. Motherwell; the same farm that many people now know as the Motherwell Homestead. Working on the William Motherwell Homestead gave Kasper the funds he needed to seek out his own homestead and, more importantly, the many skills that would later make his farm a success. His time on the W.R. Motherwell farm inspired Kasper Molder to have his future house built out of stone rather than wood like most of the other settlers in the area.
William R. Motherwell (1860-1943) — Ontario schoolboy, prairie homesteader, Saskatchewan dry farmer, provincial and federal Minister of Agriculture, and eminent Canadian — was most aptly described as “first, last and always a farmer.”Friends of The Motherwell Homestead Inc. (full citation at end of blog)
Boyd Molder comments below on the similarities of the Motherwell house and his grandfather Kasper’s house.
The construction and style of the houses show an even more striking similarity. Gramp’s was smaller in size and simpler in design but used almost the identical materials. Both were built with courses of cut field stone and decorated with a pattern of white lines between the stones. Both had metal roofs with a distinctive “widows walk” at the top.Boyd Molder – Page 17 (full citation below)
The above two images were provided to me by Kasper Molder’s great granddaughter, Anita Molder. They show the house and barn that Kasper Molder had built on his farm. The images were captured in 1998, the last year that a Molder owned the homestead. Imagine how Kasper must have felt when the house was completed. A penniless labourer and orphan who only recently learned how to speak English and yet here he owns a house that anyone would be proud of. After Kasper Molder retired to Regina, his son Siegfried (father of Boyd Molder) farmed the land and lived in the stone house.
Kasper Molder had accomplished a great deal since his arrival in Canada. He worked hard to improve his lot in life and by any measure he was successful. Kasper learned how farm in Saskatchewan using methods that were much different than those in the old country. Motherwell was known for his enthusiasm for experimenting new farming methods for these dry lands and was often sought out for his advice. Kasper Molder also learned to read and write in English. He was eventually even able to help his brothers and sister come to Canada to secure their own homesteads.
The year 1904 was a water shed in the life of Kasper Molder. It was the year that he gained legal title to his first piece of land. That achievement would have been impossible for him in the land of his birth. He came to Canada as a penniless foreigner. Eleven years later he was a land holding Canadian Citizen.Boyd Molder – Page 30
Hard times were a constant companion to every homesteader and that included Kasper and Amalia Molder. In 1907 they would be the first to make use of the new cemetery on the land where Zion Lutheran Church would eventually be built.
Just when the greatest hardship seemed to be over, tragedy struck. Amalia was pregnant with their third child that winter of 1906-07 when a diphtheria epidemic broke out in January of the new year. The weather was bitterly cold and medical help almost nonexistent. Whole families were taken ill with this dread disease. A tombstone in the Zion Lutheran cemetery tells part of the story.
All three of the Molder children died that winter. The church records reveal more of the tragedy. February 1, 1907 was the first funeral to be held in the newly dedicated church building. It was Amalia’s stillborn child. Under the strain of the disease she had lost her third child. Then within five days Katharina (age 4) and Magdalena (age 2) also died. Because of the epidemic, bitter cold and deep snow the children could not be buried right away. The dead children lay side by side in a cool room until the hired man made two coffins for them and they were buried in shallow graves at the back of the cemetery.Boyd Molder – Page 30 and 31
Kasper and Amalia lost all three of their children in the winter of 1907 (there’s no online record for the baby because the baby didn’t have a name and without a name the online system won’t accept new records). Who could recover from such a hardship? Boyd Molder stated that it was their Christian faith that got Kasper and Amalia through this difficult time. Most people, including me, couldn’t imagine losing one child let alone three in a period of days. The three children were buried in two coffins side by side (the baby shared one coffin).
Kasper and Amalia did recover and 2.5 years later their daughter, Elizabeth was born. Elizabeth was followed by Siegfried (Boyd Molder’s father) in 1910, Alma in 1913, Eva in 1916, and Alvina in 1918. All five children grew to become adults and start their own families.
The author of the book, Pioneers in perspective: an account of Kasper and Amalia Molder’s pioneer experience at Wheatwyn, Saskatchewan, was written by Kasper and Amalia’s grandson, Boyd Molder. On April 20th, 2022, I spoke with Boyd Molder. He said there are actually two versions of his book. The one I used is the original version with a 1985 date. He obtained more information about the old country and living conditions and that information warranted a second version.
Kasper Molder’s stone house and farm are no longer in the Molder family. The property was part of a provincial government native land settlement. However the house is still be standing. I believe that the house and land are rented out by the native owners.
In 2022 I returned to Saskatchewan and photographed the actual house that Kasper Molder had built. I also had the honour of meeting Boyd Molder in Regina. It was as interesting and enjoyable to meet Boyd Molder as it was to research his grandfather’s life. Here are my 2022 images of the house and barn that Kasper Molder had built on the original homestead land.
The Kasper and Amalia Molder house and barn in 2022. Click to enlarge.
The Stone Church
I think that one more quote from Boyd Molder’s book would be the best introduction here. Kasper Molder was the church’s first secretary and he served as a delegate for at least one synod convention. He was very involved with the church until his retirement in Regina.
Kasper served as the first secretary of the congregation and recorded the earliest beginnings of the struggling group. First they met in peoples’ homes and then during the year that work progressed on the church building, services were held in the newly completed Wheatwyn School. The stone church that still stands today was completed and dedicated Nov. 3, 1907. In February of that same winter Amalia and Kasper gathered with their neighbors in the new church for the funeral of their three children. In later years Zion Church would be the setting for many more happy occasions.Boyd Molder – Page 40
This is a list of the founding members of Zion Lutheran Church:
I confirmed with the author, Boyd Molder, that the church was completed in November 1907. The children died in February of 1907 so their funeral was in the same year as the church was completed – 1907 – but not the same winter (winter of 1907-1908) that the church was completed. The children were buried in 1907 as soon as the ground thawed out enough to dig a grave. The funeral was in the new church but before the official completion in November 1907. Regardless of the small confusion over the dates of the funeral, it’s a poignant reminder of the constant difficulties and trials of pioneering life.
That’s a lot of history. Now let’s look at some photos of Zion Wheatwyn Lutheran Church.
Photographs of Zion Wheatwyn Lutheran Church
Above and below are images of the approach to Zion Wheatwyn Lutheran Church. The treed area encloses the cemetery where the first three Molder children are buried.
The dark spot on the back is from repairs. There was a massive increase in the the number of snakes in the cemetery and they got into some holes in the church wall so Boyd Molder closed them up.
Amalia and Kasper Molder were likely siting in one of these pews every Sunday. I wonder if they sat in the same place every week?
I am endlessly fascinated by the connections that can be made to a pleasant and peaceful place such as this little old stone church. Sometimes it is the incredible life of Kasper Molder who started with just about every disadvantage a society could give him and yet he experienced relative prosperity. At other times it’s how a place can be seen as a conduit from the present to the past. This little stone church is here because of troubles in Ukraine and now, as I write this, there is a war in the sovereign nation of Ukraine. I’ll end this post with a quote from Otto Von Bismarck, the Prussian Chancellor who unified the Germanic principalities that formed Germany. Bismarck had many such words of wisdom and they generally referred to those in positions of power or influence. I don’t believe the quote below was meant to include the common Russian citizen.
- Pioneers in perspective: an account of Kasper and Amalia Molder’s pioneer experience at Wheatwyn, Saskatchewan – 1985 – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan : B. Molder. Digital version at the University of Calgary digital collections.
- Pioneers in perspective: An Account of Kasper and Amalia Molder’s Pioneer Experience at Wheatwyn, Saskatchewan – Second Edition – 2012 – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan : B. Molder. Printed version.
- Ukrainian people places : the Ukrainians, Germans, Mennonites, Hutterites and Doukhobors and the names they brought to Saskatchewan, Barry, Bill. 2001 – Regina, Saskatchewan : People Places with the assistance of the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko
- Cry Out of Russia, Fischer, Anna. 2009 – Trafford Publishing, Victoria. BC
- The Lindenbach Lineage, Hotson, Larrilee Lindenbach. 1980 – Thunder Bay, Ontario LL Hotson.
- Friends of the Motherwell Homestead Inc. https://friendsofmotherwell.ca/about/motherwell-homestead-history/
- Canada’s Historic Places: HistoricPlaces.ca – HistoricPlaces.ca
If you visit the structures shown in this blog, or any other old and potentially abandoned structure, please respect the landowners” rights and obtain their permission to access and photograph their structures. Always exercise caution when visiting abandoned buildings as there are potential dangers such as crumbling structures, deep wells hidden by grass, and even spores of mould in the air.
24 thoughts on “An Old Stone Church”
You are right Glen. This does explain a lot. My wife’s forbears were from Galicia and now we can know why they said they were Russian German. That littler stone church is beautiful and a testament to the life of Kasper Molder. Thanks for all your work on this piece. Allan
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It was labour of pleasure because I too share a similar ancestry. Thanks for commenting Allan.
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Good morning Glenn this is Boyd Molder. I am the author of that book about Kasper Molder. I have just a couple of comments about things that you said in your blog. First of all Kasper was not a stonemason he did not build his own house and barn nor did he build the church that you see in the picture. He was a hard worker and accomplished many things but he didn’t have many skills in terms of either working with wood or working with stone. The story of his involvement with the Motherwell family is a key part of his growth in terms of a homesteader because unlike the Germans that he worked for in the Neudorf area he had taken on an entirely new perception of how farming should be done in Saskatchewan and he picked that up from Motherwell. There was another German settler who worked for Motherwell at the same time as he did and that person Paul Blaser built a large Stonehouse that was almost identical to the Motherwell house. I very much appreciated your article and the connections you made between Germans out of the Russian area and our situation in Canada. I look forward to having more conversation with you. Boyd Molder
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Thank you for the corrections. You’ve described the stone house as being similar to the Motherwell house. Did Paul Blaser build it for Kasper Molder?
Hi Glen. I very much appreciate your post. I’m very aware of Wheatwyn Church as I grew up in the area. My grandparents and parents are buried there. I remember hearing something about being related to the Molders but I didn’t know how. Your post has Kasper helping his half brother Mattias Orb come to Canada. Mattias is my great grandfather. Very informative post!
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That’s pretty interesting Judy. Mattias was Kasper Molder’s half brother. I’m amazed at how many people have told me about some connections to that part of Saskatchewan and Ukraine.
Glen, this is a superbly done post. So informative about the history and how it impacted citizens and how that impacted the landscape of Saskatchewan. I have lived in Saskatchewan for almost 55 years and had never heard of Markinch. I see via the map that it is a ghost town so perhaps I can cut myself some slack. Interesting with the connection to Motherwell. I see some of your readers above have direct family connections — in Saskatchewan the degree of separation is only ever 2 degrees! Bernie
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Thanks Bernie. I’ve had relatives of blog post subjects comment before but probably not to the same extent as for this post. I’ve even had a woman in Sweden comment about her search for family and how I was the first person to identify where they are. That’s quite satisfying.
You obviously are the family historian and the keeper of details! I also have a few families details that I know but I’ve never sat down and done the kind of research you do. Bernie
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I also meant to mention that the inside design of the church is slightly unusual with the balcony along the side rather than at the back. Also wondered if Boyd knew if the stone house of his grandparents is still standing? Oh and Markinch has 58 people so heck no that’s not a ghost town! Bernie
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Technically it’s not but for a photographer it really depends on how many abandoned buildings there are. Zion is unusual for the balcony and how one side of the main floor is different from the other.
yes that inside design is quite unique for a prairie church. You must know the right people to get access. Bernie
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Sometimes it’s just good timing.
Or as my son says “I know a guy” and that guy knows a guy. It’s become a family joke.
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That is how I find most of my best sites to photograph. People who I’ve corresponded with who know other people, etc. It’s a small group of trusted photographers who only give out locations to people who they know are responsible.
It’s not always easy to find the right contact if you don’t have a local connection. Although you could always try coffee row. Bernie
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Is coffee row a real place in Regina? 🤔
LOL…. maybe even ROFLOL! Coffee row is a real thing in every small town Saskatchewan Cafe in the am. They congregate, talk about who died, calving, rain, elections, roads what have you. Then they all get back to work after an hour or so. Every small town…. the regulars and not so regulars. My mom never liked to go every day. Wished the ladies had gone in the afternoon as she had work to do in the am. My brother, for years, did coffee row at the back of the vet clinic like about a dozen other regulars. Some do it at the rink in the winter. Regina is bigger but if you knew where to look I bet you could find farmer’s coffee row!
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I have heard that farmer’s like to have coffee and discuss things but I hadn’t heard this described as coffee row before. I’m getting better at speaking Saskatchewan but clearly I’m not proficient yet. 🤔
My name is Anita, Kasper Molder’s oldest great granddaughter. I Loved your blog. Thank you for writing this! My sister was actually married in the Zion Wheatwyn Lutheran church last year. I could share some photos of the stone house and barn that Kasper built if your interested.
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Anita I would love to add some images of the stone house and barn. Boyd Molder said that Kasper didn’t build them but either way it would be great to have the images. Are they in digital format? If so you can send them directly to my email address shown at the bottom of the blog at email@example.com. There is a possibility that I will be in the area this summer but I don’t know yet and it is a long drive from Edmonton.
Boyd is absolutely correct he didn’t build them himself, as he was not a stone mason, but he commissioned them to be built.
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Sorry I’m tardy in leaving a comment Glen, but I saw that this was a longer post and I knew I needed the time to devote to reading it thoroughly. I was well rewarded for waiting! As always, you have done an astounding amount of research and have told the story so well. So interesting to read the history of not only the church itself, but also the family. How sad it must have been to lose three children so close together but obviously they went on to overcome that loss. Thank you for these posts!
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Thank you for your generous comments Mary Anne. That particular post has received 5 times the average number of views that my posts normally receive. I’ll have to try to make them shorter but I keep coming across new and amazing stories. However my next post (which is done except for my wife’s proof reading) will be much more focused.