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Introduction

Whether you are a visitor to our community, are researching your family roots, need background on an historic building or are just interested in local history, this website is your one-stop source of information on our heritage. 

The site offers you a glimpse of the history of Dufferin Municipality from the pre-settlement era to the post–1870 influx of homesteading families, and from the arrival of the railways to the rise and decline of the small towns and communities along its path.

You will also discover the wealth of historic buildings, cairns, plaques and other heritage resources that our communities have to offer.

Let us know of any omissions or errors. If you have information or photos you’d like to share, please contact us. Check out this site each month for our Special Features, including vintage photos from the area.

Please visit our Acknowledgements page, which recognizes the many people who contributed towards making the website possible, including the backbone of any endeavour—the volunteers who contributed material, researched, edited or proofread content, and gave in so many ways of their time and talents.

News and Events April 2020

The world changed over the past month as the COVID-19 outbreak has grown to pandemic proportions.

C/D MHAC Activities Postponed. We cancelled our scheduled March 16 meeting and have postponed all planned events and ongoing heritage projects until further notice. Unveiling the Missouri Trail sign has been tentatively rescheduled from May 12, the day the Manitoba Act received royal assent, to July 15, the day the Act was proclaimed and came into effect. The July date may well be optimistic but we have to hope that with careful attention travel restrictions, closures and thoughtful social distancing, this too shall pass.

Meanwhile, our committee members report that they are staying home, working or keeping in touch with family and friends by phone or other media and catching up with long-overdue chores. A lot of spring cleaning is getting done early this year.

Life Stories. Our first session on writing life stories was held before the onset of COVID-19. The intent with this group was to explore some of the ways in which we can help folks record their memories and life experiences. For most, the hardest part is getting started. For some with added home duties, it’s a question of finding the time. For others, it’s not being comfortable hand-writing, not being speedy enough on a computer, not knowing where to start or what to include. Our life story sessions are being led by a newly retired member of the community who has been working with small writing groups for the past several years. Everyone went home from the first meeting with suggestions for making a start. We’ll see if we can continue working with individuals through phone and internet contact. This could be a fun activity for group members and their families to pursue while we’re all in social isolation. If you can’t be in contact in the present, why not get in touch with your past?

You might even try turning those worries about the present into memories of the past. Does anyone recall the days when families were quarantined for communicable diseases like measles? Homes had quarantine notices posted on the door and families relied on neighbours to drop off supplies. No school, internet, TV or cellphones for the youngsters— just books and board games and more ‘quality’ time than you ever wanted with your siblings. And parents with their patience and nursing skills stretched to the limit. Maybe you’re concerned about how folks today are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by hoarding supplies such as toilet tissue? Ask what would have happened back in earlier days when you couldn’t hoard Eaton’s catalogues. You just never know where these memories might take you.

Pickings from the Past. Another fascinating way to spend your social isolation time is by immersing in old newspapers such as the early Dufferin Leader and Carman Standard which you can find online at pembinamanitouarchive.ca. You are sure to discover some real gems of information. For example, if Carman’s recent boil-water advisory piqued your interest in the quality of local water supplies, you might be interested in newspapers between 1906–1909 when the installation of water and sewer lines in the Town of Carman dominated local news.

First, we’ll make a short stop at the Dufferin Historical Museum to help you visualize what the early water pipes were like. Among the many interesting artifacts in the Museum is this piece of the old Carman water main. Notice that it’s made of wood bound together by heavy wire. With this image in mind, we’ll look at some of the trials and tribulations of installing the first water and sewer system in Carman.

 

 

 


Old Carman water line from DHM

The sewer and water system in the Town of Carman was initially scheduled for completion in 1906. Things didn’t quite work out that way. The Dufferin Leader (1907-02-07, p.5) reported:

At the present time there is a hold-up in the completion of the sewers and waterworks. Nearly all the work is done but the short link on Fournier avenue between E. L. B. McLeod’s corner and the river at the Victoria hotel. It is difficult to find fall enough to run the sewage north to connect with the outlet into the river at the flour mill. The contractors were proceeding to give this piece of sewer an outlet into the river at the foot of Fournier avenue, but objection was at once taken to this by Mayor Kernighan who stopped the work until the matter is satisfactorily adjusted. It will be decided on at the council meeting on Friday night how the difficulty may be got over. The material for the water tower and tank has not yet arrived from Chicago by the rail ways.

Concern over location of the outlet into the river seems to have been over its proximity to certain properties along the Boyne. Council deliberated and instructed the Board of Works

to have the sewer completed on Fournier avenue from South Railway street to the river. Dufferin Leader (1907-02-14).

Two months later there was a further hitch in plans.

It is currently reported that it will require about $16,000 more to complete the waterworks system and provide an efficient fire protection service. The engineer gave us to understand that $34,000 would complete the work in a thorough manner, and now to be faced with this proposition leads one to ask is the engineer competent? An anxious public would like him to ex-plain such a wide discrepancy be-tween his original estimate and the actual cost of the work. Dufferin Leader (1907-04-04).

The increase in cost led to a heated and somewhat acrimonious debate in the community. But by June 1907 the newspaper noted that:

The by-law to raise $16,000 dollars for the completion of the water and sewerage system was read a third time and passed. The Council after a discussion came to the conclusion that the mains should be completed at once, and the Secretary was instructed to notify both the engineer and the contractor that the work must be finished with-out further delay. Dufferin Leader, (1907-06-20)

The project apparently was back on track but it wasn’t moving ahead as quickly as people expected:

The work of completing the water and sewage systems has begun, and several openings have been made in the streets, but there is very little activity being displayed. It is time that the engineer and contractor were compelled to put some energy into the work. This manner of taking a year to do three month’s work calls for an intimation to them that the convenience of the town is of primary importance and not as they seem to imagine, the convenience of two men who have so far shown no reason why their convenience should be considered. Dufferin Leader (1907-07-04).

The project dragged on and remained a controversial topic in the local papers. In June 1909, the Dufferin Leader reported that:

Work on the waterworks will begin just as soon as preliminaries are settled. The council are now in correspondence with the Canada Pipe Co. with reference to getting a skilled man to superintend the laying of the water pipes. Engineer Ross recommends employing one hundred men on the work, as it will be all the same cost for foreman or foremen whether few or many men are employed. By the employment of the larger number the work will be completed in shorter time and the cost reduced that would have to be paid out for superintendence. Local men will be given a preference on the work, but so far only a few have applied, in fact, less than twenty.
Dufferin Leader (1909-06-03).

Workers from outside the community were hired but labour issues soon arose.

The town should furnish easy chairs for some of the workmen on the water works trenches so that they may rest comfortably between their strenuous efforts to lift a shovelful of dirt now and then throughout the day. The matter has got to be past the joking stage and the work or walk rule needs to be more strictly enforced. The ratepayers want some return for their money. Dufferin Leader (1909-07-08).

Human nature then was not unlike today and the issue soon took on a xenophobic tone. In a letter titled “Others Think So Too” a reader joined the commentary:

Dear Sir—I noticed in your last issue that you touched a responsive note when you referred to the dilatory manner in which many of the employees on the waterworks are putting in their time and from my observation I would think it applied particularly to the foreign element. No doubt many of these fellows have worked on such jobs before and are expert “ killers of time.” If $2.00 per day is a fair wage many of them are not earning S1.25 per day. If we as ratepayers do not insist that some of them “get a move on ” we will certainly be called upon to “ vote again ” to wind up the job. [Signed] Interested Ratepayer. Dufferin Leader (1909-07-15).

As often happens, there was another side to the story:

There was an incipient strike of the workmen on the waterworks, on Monday, for more pay. The ringleaders were a few Englishmen on the job who did more kicking and less work than any of the others employed. They got the Galicians to go on strike but were promptly paid off and told that their services were not required any longer. Forty of the Galicians returned to work on Tuesday morning, at the pay they were receiving. Twenty-five left for Winnipeg.” Dufferin Leader (1909-08-05).

With that issue sorted, new workers were hired:

Another gang of Galicians came in on Monday evening’s train to work on the waterworks. There are now 110 men on the work and it has been going with a rush during the past week. The end of next week will see them pretty well through on the south side of the river. Dufferin Leader (1909-08-12).

No sooner was one problem solved when another reared its ugly head.

Those who have the work of filling the waterworks trenches with a road scraper are leaving it in a slovenly state. On Villard avenue the surplus earth is left in ridges across the roadway which when driven on will make the road almost impassible and will cost three times as much to level as if it was done now. Dufferin Leader (1909-08-12).

One local resident noticed the town constable illegally riding his bicycle on the sidewalk to avoid the rough roadway and questioned whether he was above the law.

Finally the reports took a positive turn when tests indicated that the water tower pressure was adequate:

A trial test was made Friday evening last on the water pipes between the power house, the Presbyterian church, Browning avenue and McKee’s store, Villard avenue. 50 lbs. pump pressure was put on and only three joints in that distance showed any weakness. Two of them {were new pipes and closed up after they had swelled. Tank pressure of 65 lbs. was left on all night and the gauge had shown no diminution in the morning. That is quite a different result to the test made before [when the earlier contractors] tried to shove the work on the town as completed, when the water in the tank leaked 50,000 gallons in seven hours through the joints in the pipes.
Dufferin Leader (1909-07-15).

A month later, the Dufferin Leader (1909-08-26) reported that work on the waterworks on the south side was practically completed and a move to the north side of the river was being made.

Meanwhile another issue surfaced. When work resumed, inspectors found that:

The little that has been done reveals some scandalous work in connection with the former work. Just one manhole has been opened up and it is found that there is no concrete in the bottom of it. There is not a single atom of cement in the joints of the sewer pipe so far uncovered. Dufferin Leader (1909-06-24).

This didn’t quite address the full extent of the problem. The following item appeared in the paper (1909-09-02):

The opening of the old waterworks trench on Fournier avenue, between McLeod’s corner and the river, revealed some scandalous and even criminal work. The water pipes were placed below the sewer mains but that is not the worst feature of it, there was not a speck of cement on any joint of the sewer pipes and some of the joints were not even connected so that all sewerage had free course to percolate the defective joints of the watermains. Had the system been all right otherwise and the water system ever used for domestic purposes, think of the result.

We’d rather not ‘think of the result’ or of the fact that the sewers emptied directly into the river but it certainly makes the recent boil water advisory sound like small potatoes.

Understanding Events of 1870. Looks like this month’s overview of the impact of the fur trade on local 1870 history also is postponed for the moment. Writing time got lost in recalling local stories and old family memories. Old timers related stories about running a trapline through the local valley when they were kids—how they detoured through the bush to check their traps and snares on the way to school and again on the way home. The few dollars they earned over the winter were an important part of the family income in those days. As late as 1950, school children still trapped for rabbits, ermine (white winter weasels) and the occasional prize of a mink pelt. They became skilled in skinning and stretching pelts on hand-shaped wooden stretchers and felt like millionaires when their small fur cheques arrived in the mail. These days, the fur era has passed and at the moment, COVID-19 - isolated residents of the valley spend their days watching or photographing the abundant wildlife—animals that now are more curious than afraid of their human neighbours.


Thanks for leaving the fallen apples for us

Cross our heart and promise that we’ll soon be back from the past with more on the early fur trade in Manitoba.

Finally, a sincere ‘Thank You’ to all who are out there on the front line carrying out essential services and to those of you who are helping them by staying at home.


News and Events, March 2020

Historical Re-Runs. With all the current news of travel bans and quarantines on cruise ships due to COVID-19, it’s of interest to note how travel and infection have long been companions. The May 25, 1911 Carman Dufferin Leader reported that “A large number of immigrants have been quarantined at Grosse île, Quebec, because cases of smallpox were discovered on board the steamers on which they were.” Imagine the dangers faced by early immigrants, many of whom arrived in the packed holds of ships, the victims of famine, without the benefit of present-day medical and hospital care—and with no option for being evacuated ‘home’ to the country they had left to seek a new life in Canada. For general information on the quarantine station at Grosse Île, Quebec see Wikipedia. To appreciate the scope of activity at the station during more than a century of operation, or to locate individual records, check out Library and Archives Canada.

Early Council Chambers. Our recent search for information on Christian Hansen, Carman town constable from 1908–11, left us with a couple of unrelated questions about our early history, notably: where were the Town Council Chambers, Clerk’s Office, and jail located before the Memorial Hall was built in 1919? In another search of early newspapers, we found an answer. The Dufferin Leader 1907-01-17 reported that “A plan was submitted by the engineer for fitting up a council chamber and clerk’s office in the powerhouse.” The plan was adopted and returned to the engineer for specifications on the understanding that, “if it didn’t cost too much, it would be proceeded with.”

It seems that the jail was at or near the powerhouse. The Dufferin Leader (1911-12-07) noted that the town constable had arrested a local man “for being drunk and disorderly, and conveyed him to the coop, where he left him apparently sleeping at 2 a.m. Shortly afterwards the night engineer at the power house, who went over to make up the fire in the lockup, phoned him that the prisoner had escaped. The bar from the door had apparently been used to wrench the iron bars from the windows, and there had been no help from outside.

Conditions at the early jails may have left something to be desired. The Dufferin Leader (1907-07-04) urged that “Every citizen should pay a visit to the town jail (in an unofficial capacity of course) and see the improvement in the interior of the premises as regards cleanliness. For all that, the place is vile, and totally unfit for the incarceration of a fellow-human being, no matter how vile. If we are to raise those who have sunk in the slough of depravity, we had best begin by teaching them that there is the ineffable spirit of immortality within them, and this cannot be done by putting them in a place unfit even for the lowest beasts that perish. Let our philanthropic citizens look into this. We cannot believe that if they knew of the reality of the conditions they could rest with contentment. To raise money for foreign missions and keep a place for the incarceration of human beings like ourselves who, although they may infringe the laws of the country may in some one respect be even better than sinners who are more careful, seems a waste of money and a misplaced sympathy. Let charity begin at home.”

In 1919, the early jail was replaced by a cell in the boiler room and maintenance area in the basement of the new Memorial Hall. We haven’t located any photos of the early powerhouse facilities. A snapshot taken of the interior of the long-abandoned Memorial Hall jail cell in 2014 suggests that, even in the later post-WWI facility, amenities were fairly basic.

     
Memorial Hall jail cell 2014                                View of the area adjoining cell 2014

 

Background to Events of 1870. Our January, 2020 News & Events posed a number of questions basic to understanding the impact of 1870 on local heritage. This month we’ll look briefly at the first area of interest: In what way did relationships between Britain, France, and their colonies in North America serve as a broad foundation for the events of 1870?

Between the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Britain and France were almost continuously involved in a series of some 23 battles, including the lengthy 100 Years’  War (1337–1453). Issues of religion, culture, language, imperial expansion and trade were closely intertwined in the conflicts. Each of these factors played a role in shaping events in what was to become the Province of Manitoba.

During much of this time, the empire-building aspirations of both countries, and of their Dutch and Spanish rivals, were playing out in a race to locate a western route to the riches of the Far East. Columbus’ discovery of what he thought was India sparked interest in North America. This in turn led to formation of the British colonies in New England and the French colony of New France along the St. Lawrence River.

Two of the many French/English wars directly involved their North American colonies— the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), also known as the French and Indian War, and the Anglo-French war of 1778–1783, which was part of the American Revolutionary War.

Between 1608, when Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec and 1760, when English General Wolfe defeated Marquis de Montcalm at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, the colony of New France developed an agricultural base along the St. Lawrence River. They also extended exploration into the interior of the continent, claiming jurisdiction over vast lands of the Mississippi basin. Instead of discovering a passage to the Pacific or the richness of Inca gold, they returned with canoes laden with furs. They also returned with heightened interest in the West as a target for expanding trade and for spreading the Catholic faith. Fur traders from New France were soon making the annual voyage westward through the Great Lakes and into northwest in canoes laden with supplies and trade goods.

Meanwhile, Henry Hudson’s explorations for an ice-free north-west passage to the Far East led to discovery of Hudson’s Bay and James Bay. Although the northern passage never materialized, Hudson’s discoveries unintentionally opened up a shorter route to the rich fur-bearing lands of the north-west. Indigenous trappers and middlemen brought furs down the rivers to the forts and fur-trading posts built on the coastline, and opened up competition with traders using the longer canoe route from the East.

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris not only stripped France of most of her North American holdings, it also changed the dynamics that had developed in the competition over the fur trade. Meanwhile, to the south, the American Revolution created a new nation. Westward expansion of the former colonies under the banner of ‘Manifest Destiny’ brought a new competitor onto the scene. In our next News and Events update, we’ll look at development of the fur trade as a key factor in background to events in 1870 Manitoba.


Recent History

Earlier news items are stored on a separate "Recent History" page.