Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta
Vauxhall Mennonite Church
by Anne Harder
The formal organization and registration of the Vauxhall Mennonite Church took place in 1938, but the story begins earlier. The members of the congregation were made up of Mennonites who had fled the Ukraine in the 1920s, after losing their farms and properties during the civil war that followed the Russian Revolution of 1917. They arrived in Alberta and Saskatchewan with very meager material resources, and settled on rented dry-land farms. In a few short years, a serious drought and high winds turned the dry cultivated land into dust bowls. At this same time Canada was plunged into a major economic depression.
At the turn of the century (1900), the Canada Land and Irrigation Company introduced an irrigation system in the Vauxhall district. Many of these quarter- and half- section farms had been bought by returning veterans of the First World War. At the onset of the depression, the price of grain fell to very low levels, and profit margins plummeted. Irrigating land was very strenuous work, and so the result was that many farmers sold or simply abandoned their farms and their mortgages. The land reverted back to the Canada Land and Irrigation Company, which then offered it for sale or rent to whoever would take it. Much of the land became overgrown with weeds.
Isaak Zacharias facilitated the initial settlement of a number of families in the Vauxhall district. Isaak was an agent of the Canadian Mennonite Board of Colonization (CMBoC).
Compared to the desolate acreages these Mennonite families occupied on dry land in other parts of Alberta, the trees and grass on irrigated land appeared as an oasis, and gave hope that they could improve their lot.
The Henry P. Klassen family was the first household of General Conference (GC) Mennonites to move to Vauxhall and they arrived in October of 1933. They settled on the Vauxhall Stock Farm with its huge barn and several large houses. A month later, four Mennonite Brethren (MB) families arrived. Others of both Mennonite conferences soon followed. Henry and Katherine (Katie) Klassen hosted many of these families as they arrived to take up farms in the area.