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Table 2 Selected Population Statistics For The West Reserve 1875·1881
Year 1875 1876 1877 1878 1879 1881
25 25 38 53
Families 300 446 476
2567 2845 3544 3692
Source: Annual Reports. Dept. of Agriculture and Immigration 1875-1882 and the West Reserve Settlement Register. PAM.
These settlers were joined after 1877 by settlers from the East Reserve. By 1877 the East Reserve had more settlers than the land could support and a number of bad crop years convinced many Mennonites there to migrate to the West Reserve. Grasshoppers in 1875 and wet years from 1877 to 1880 initiated a full scale migration west.
Wagon load after wagon load of people and every kind of household and farm supply set out westward. . . sometimes even buildings were dismantled and lumber was taken on the trek to be reassembled at the new site .'
By 1880,350 families had relocated on the West Reserve from the East Reserve." The majority of the Bergthal Mennonites set up villages in the east half of the West Reserve establishing the villages of Alt bergthal, Edenburg, Halbstadt, Silberfeld, Weidenfeld, Altona, Schoenau, Blumenthal, Neuhoffnung , Lichtfeld, Rudernerweide, Bergfeld, Hochstadt, Edenthal, Strassberg, and Schoenhorst.
Mennonite immigration to Manitoba fell off sharply after 1876 as most of the Mennonites who intended to migrate had already done so. By 1880 migration in large numbers had stopped, as this was the deadline fixed by the Russian Government for unrestricted emigration from Russia, including the transfer of money and all possessions.
Mennonites, however, were not the only settlers on the West Reserve. On both east and west fringes of the reserve there existed earlier homestead entries. Those on the west end of the Reserve would later cause some controversy because of the competition with the Mennonites for scarce timber.
In the eastern fringes of the West Reserve, settlers such as I. F.
Houston and W. R. Houston, H. Tennant and A. Dillabough home steaded land in township 1 range 1 east two years before the Mennonites