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The Winkler Heritage Society continues in their mission to recognize the city's pioneers and preserve the historical artifacts of our community's past.

This year the society highlighted the history of Winkler's protective services at their annual banquet.

Police Chief Rick Hiebert spoke on the early days of Winkler, noting especially the infamous bank heist of $19,000.

October 13, 1920, five Americans travelled to Winkler in the dead of night to rob the village's Union Bank of Canada, shooting one-bystander in the leg when the civilian attempted to raise the alarm.

history portraitsSome of Winkler's former police chiefs

In perhaps a low moment for Winkler's protective services, the town's constable remained in his house, hiding during the incident. The thieves would later get away with the money.

However, in talking about Winkler's police history, Hiebert says one can't help but mention Jack Felde.

Felde served nearly 40 years as Police Chief, many of those years as the community's only officer.

He held many titles during his tenure, and was known to interview criminals and witnesses at his kitchen table.

Hiebert asked the crowd if any in attendance had known Felde; a multitude of hands went up.

"I envy you," Hiebert says. "I would have loved to meet him"

The society board also took time to share on their on-going project.

The society was founded in 1999 and opened the Winkler Heritage Museum in 2011 in the Southland Mall. Since then it has upgraded to space with double the size, 1500 sq ft to accommodate the growing collection.

However, Curator Dora Hildebrand says they could easily double in size once more.

Some of the many stories that are told through artifacts and submissions include the life of Dr. C.W Wiebe. She explains many pieces are donated by family members who desire to see a piece of Winkler's history shared and preserved for the community.

Winkler's rich history of music and choral directors are also on display at the museum, including prominent 1940's era composer and conductor Dr. K.H. Neufeld. His instruments and compositions have been donated to the Heritage Society and are on display to the public.

Trinkets and artifacts from the past are saved and on display, some dating back over a century ago, including items dating back to descendants' roots in Russia.

history bookThe original hand-written minutes of Winkler's town council

Each year, thousands of visitors have come from across the world including Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island as well as many from across the U.S. from North Dakota, Texas, Idaho, California, and Tennessee.

Many elementary school classes have also made a field trip to the museum to see the over 4,000 items recorded and tagged.

The society also operates the Heritage Society Archives in the Winkler Library. The archives attract many researching their genealogy.

Containing over 1800 items, the archives carefully store and preserve thousands of newspaper clippings, paper documents and photographs.

The room also holds more than a few forgotten treasures from Winkler's past already, brimming with images and writings from authors and prominent Winkler residents dating back to the 1800's.

Another major undertaking is the Stones and Stories project, began in 2010. Project leads continue to document the many gravestones at the Winkler cemetery, and matching each with a picture and a short story of the life the stone represents. So far the project contains 600 completed stories available for viewing at the museum and Heritage Society Archives.

The project is a constant race against time as information on the many gravestones is constantly in danger of being lost as parents and grandparents pass away and their stories are left untold.

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