Friday, November 27, 2015

Ghost Community



          Over there on the horizon a small building sits below the rise.  Looks like any other building on the vast expanses of the prairie.   The little building is a Mennonite Church.  The only reminder, that Mennonite’s settled the area at the turn of the 19th century. 



            The Mennonites had emigrated to the Volga region of Russia from Germany at the invitation of Katherine, the ruler of Russia at the time.  They along with numerous German moved to the Volga and settled in as farmers, merchants etc.  Later in the 19th century Katherine was overthrown by the Tsars.  This brought about violent turmoil in Russia.  The Bolshevik’s were at odds with the Tsars, the beginning of the Russian revolution.  The Tsars needing more soldiers began to conscript the Germans.  There had been an agreement with Katherine that there would be no military conscription of the German immigrants into the Russian Army.  The Tsars scoffed at that and began drafting the Germans.  Soon the Germans were fleeing Russia.  Many of them heading to the homeland and many more going on to the New World.

            Crossing the pond and into the New World, a small group of Mennonite’s journeyed to the prairie of eastern Colorado to a place called Pleasant Valley to settle.  Here they began their American dream, homes were built, schools and their church.  The church is all that remains. 


            There are a few descendents in the area that take care of the grounds and the building.  Some of the graves are fairly recent and the grounds mown. 

            Over that away was the Post Office, called Bakerville.  Not sure if one of the Mennonites operated it.  Like so many country Pot Offices, it appears to of been operated out of a farm house.  To the north is the fading village of Vona, which many consider as their hometown. 



            At a local library I was going through some local history books and found a story in one of the older books about the settlement.  I had a map from a history group of the county that showed the cemetery location and the area as being Pleasant Valley.  It wasn’t in any of the more modern books or on digital maps or old trail maps.  Just one of those things found by accident.  It took two trips, for the first time I was in the little van.  The church and cemetery are down a two lane path and the van does not have much clearance, so I got the pickup with more clearance and bounced down the pasture path to the dead end.




            There were a few bovines along the way and the buffalo lounged about.



            It is one of those fascinating little chapters on the prairie that is fading.  Pleasant Valley is pretty empty, there are some scattered abandoned homesteads.  Mostly it is livestock to converse with. 





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