Written by Jacob & Anne Neufeldt and presented by Anne Neufeldt to the MHSA-sponsored “Celebration of the 80th Anniversary of Russian Mennonites coming to Coaldale, Alberta (1926-2006)”
My dad, John J. Neufeldt, was born on May 29, 1889 in Hierschau, Russia. At an early age he left home to learn the blacksmith trade for about 2 years. Then he opened his own shop in his hometown.
He married Cornelia Born on May 17, 1917 in Kubanka, Orenburg. In the spring of 1926, together with their four children, John, Jacob, Isaak and Anna, they left their homeland and moved to Canada.
Coaldale was their first destination, working on a farm and working on the railroad at Chin. This was not the ideal work which father thought for his sons. Hearing about a homestead in the Barkfield, Manitoba area, they decided to move there. They spent four years farming grain as well as looking after cattle, sheep and hogs. Nellie and Abe joined the family there. There was not enough cultivated land to make a living for the growing family. The land was so rocky that one day as dad was plowing, the plow hooked a rock that didn’t move but the horses did and dad landed in front of the horses. This made dad decide that he wanted to take the first train back to Coaldale.
Dad and the oldest son, John, loaded a Model T car and headed back to Coaldale. Mother and the rest of the family went by train.
Dad realized that his first love was blacksmithing so in the spring of 1931 he set up his first blacksmith shop in a 12’ x 16’ cow shed. He moved two granaries together for the next shop. This was quite an improvement. Many plow shears and cultivator shovels were sharpened. At one time there were five blacksmith shops in Coaldale.
In 1941 Dad bought the shop on main street in Coaldale from the Jacob Schmidts, which formerly was owned by P.G. Unger. In the early years they made ditchers from old implements and tractors. Many hours were spent taking out rivets and bolts. They went to making land floats, truck boxes, car and truck chassis into what they call Bennett buggies for people and hauling farm commodities.
They also repaired wheels for 4 wagons which added up to 16 wheels for which they received $16.00.
Dad was a very hard working man, getting up early in the morning and spending two hours hoeing the garden; he then ate breakfast, and went to the blacksmith shop. At breakfast dad would read a devotional from the Abreis calendar and a Bible reading and a prayer. Mary and Peter were born in Coaldale. Two sisters died in infancy and one sister died at the age of five.
In the early years Dad took time to drive to the Brooks Horticultural Centre to purchase some fruit trees. In the years to come these trees produced much fruit and pleasure for the parents.
Dad enjoyed attending weddings, and his favorite gift to the couple was a steel tooth rake. Some of you here today may have been a recipient of such a gift.
Birthdays were very special for dad. For his birthday he would pick up his guests, as he was one of the few that had a car.
For many years Dad was on the Altenfest committee helping to set up the programs for the seniors. This celebration of the seniors of both churches is still being held today.
In 1955 there was a tragic fire at the shop, and not wanting to rebuild, Dad retired at age 65. Pension cheques didn’t come until the age of 70 in those days.
In his retirement years Dad spent many hours gardening, and raising melons and strawberries. He raised pumpkins and enjoyed giving them away, especially to children. He enjoyed having the family over for visits and meals. Dad passed away at the age of 81 years. He will always be remembered as “Schmett Niefeldt.”
Dad also spent many hours playing checkers and chess with his friends.
© 2007 Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta
Last Updated 19 May 2007
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