STE. AGATHE, MAN. –
A Manitoba historian is reflecting on the Queen’s visit to a Hutterite colony during a Royal Tour in the province more than 50 years ago.
Milltown Hutterite Colony west of Winnipeg played host to Queen Elizabeth II in July 1970.
It’s a visit teacher Ian Kleinsasser, who studies Hutterite history, has been researching.
“The older I got and the more I learned about the Queen and her role in Canada, the more I was puzzled by why would she, of all the cultural groups and places she could’ve stopped, why did she choose to stop at a colony?” Kleinsasser recalled thinking.
He recently put out a call for information in a Hutterite history group in the wake of her death.
He said one of the stories that emerged was about a Hutterite woman from Rainbow Hutterite Colony who knitted two pairs of red mittens for the Queen one year before the visit, sent them to Buckingham Palace and got a letter in return which stated the Queen wanted to visit a Hutterite colony when she visited Manitoba.
“I can’t know for certain if it was the red mittens that brought her there, but what we do know is that she came,” Kleinsasser said. “The Queen came to a Hutterite colony and I think that by itself was an incredible gesture and I think it speaks to her humility.”
While the visit happened in Milltown, one of the people pictured with the Queen was Kleinsasser’s late uncle, long-time Hutterite leader Jacob Kleinsasser.
Jacob was born in Milltown but lived in Crystal Spring Colony near Ste. Agathe. Kleinsasser said his uncle was working with the Manitoba government on several key issues at the time and that’s likely why he was pictured with the Queen.
He thinks Milltown may have been chosen because of its proximity to Winnipeg and because it was near a train station.
A government news release issued at the time described it as “the province’s oldest Hutterite colony.”
Girls from the nearby James Valley Hutterite community reportedly sang for the Queen while Prince Philip joined two men singing a song in German.
“I think many Hutterites will remember her from that visit,” Kleinsasser said. “I think that’s a beautiful memory that we will cherish and carry forward.”
Kleinsasser said the whole visit was supposed to take about 20 minutes but instead lasted closer to 45 minutes. He sees that as a sign the Queen enjoyed herself.
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