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Village breakup, however, had also preceded migration and had other causes. Mennonite involvement in commercial grain farming was a strong lure for many farmers to farm their own quarter sections and the existence of trade centers in the municipality made it feasible to leave the line villages. In fact, the open field system had been vulnerable from the beginning of settlement due to the fact that land was not owned by any corporate body but by individual farmers. The open field system was only feasible as long as all villagers agreed to abide by it.

Some villages broke up as soon as they were started, either because they had not been soundly established, or did not have enough farmers to establish a sound foundation. In addition, many farmers felt the quarter section was much better suited to commercial grain farming than the open field system. The nuisance of having fields scattered in various different areas along with the problem associated with the Raine or ridges which developed between the individual strips on the various fields, convinced many that the family homestead was a more viable form of grain farming. The ridges which developed between the indi­ vidual strips sometimes grew up to twenty feet in width and were overgrown with weeds. The eradication of these weeds through sum­ merfallowing was impossible unless all farmers co-ordinated their efforts.

Open strife, in fact, developed over conflicting farming methods and over which crops should be grown. In this environment the quarter section farm seemed a peaceful respite." By 1885 the Rundschau was reporting that the villages of Blumstein, Burwalde, Schoendorf, Wald­ heim, and Schanzenfeld were breaking up, and that many more villages would soon be going through this process. 83

The move to commercial farming in the 1880's also created a number of other circumstances which contributed to village breakup. The large capital outlay for new machinery such as self binders, drill seeders and especially threshing machines caused many mortgages to be taken out on farm properties. Though few lost land through forfei­ ture, the very existence of a mortgage on village land produced a collective insecurity. Farmers seeing that their homes and cultivated land were on the mortgaged land of others, preferred to place other improvements on their own land. 84 Thus, when the time came to replace their rough first homes with more substantial frame houses, many farmers chose to do so on their own quarter section. 85

Village Life in 1900

By 1900 only eighteen complete villages and four partially dis­ solved villages still existed in what had been the West Reserve. 86

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