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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 November 2020

Remembrance Day 2020.   Local Remembrance Day services were another casualty of the pandemic. Carman Legion #18 aptly met the challenge through a virtual service which you can access at  https://youtu.be/hN_HJazEjHg

The usually well-attended public service at Roseisle was cancelled this year. The organizing committee instead honoured local soldiers through exhibits in the community display case and by laying wreaths at the War Memorial.  We’d also remind you that profiles of the young men from this community who gave their lives in WWI can be found on our website.


Roseisle War Memorial November 11, 2020                                        


One of the rewards of mounting the displays was the opportunity it provided for trolling once more through old photos.  And for turning up treasures like this image of a young child in a replica WWI uniform. 

Makes you wonder what children understood about fathers being absent for up to five years – or forever?  What were their memories on Remembrance Day?

Perhaps we should add a section of military images to our Vintage Photos? If you have any photos you'd like to share, please let us know.

 

 


Guarding the home front   


C/D MHAC. The committee met October 19th to plan for the coming year. Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, this was our just our second meeting since February. Other contacts have been by email or telephone. It was a mite disappointing since we have been planning towards MB 150 celebrations for the past couple of years. Official provincial celebrations have been postponed to 2021 but with the future still uncertain, it looks like we were wise to carry through this year with unveiling the Missouri Trail sign and installing the Îlets-de-Bois signs.

Our three other projects—homestead profiles, community inventories and life story workshops— will be pretty much on hold in the foreseeable future. The health of our present population is more important at the moment than collecting past history—which will still be around when the pandemic subsides.

Fortunately, the website fits into the new virtual contact model and should be able to continue as one bright spot of normalcy. For the next while, you can expect to see about less current events and more content we’ve gleaned from our visits to early newspapers and other low-contact research.

Museum Update.  The Dufferin Historical Museum has likewise had to cancel regular programs like the annual Christmas Tea. It’s become a local tradition and will be sadly missed this year.

Traditions with a twist. With Halloween still officially going ahead this year with caution, some folks got really creative. Here’s how our tricky website manager handed out treats – they were ‘barfed’ out through a monster head attached to the end of a long pipe.  We hear on good authority that kids had to say “Barf!” to get a treat.  This is one twist that may become a tradition.

Natural History.  One helpful response to our new series on Heritage Plants is the suggestion that we expand it to look more generally at the natural history of the area. And that we draw upon the good folks in the community to share some of their favorite nature photos on the website. What a great idea, especially since the pandemic has us all outdoors more these days and everyone is getting top-quality photos with their phones or digital cameras.

We’ll also be trying to track the natural history of this area across past generations. In our review this year of our pre-1870 heritage, we looked very briefly at the lifestyle of Indigenous hunter/gatherers as they followed seasonal plants and animals. Buffalo herds served as a mainstay in the diet of both the Indigenous population and the canoe brigades of the north-western fur trade.  By the time homesteaders arrived post-1870, the vast herds that roamed the area south of the lakes and west of the Red River had been decimated or migrated further to the southwest.
 
As with other parts of our history, most written records are from the post-1870 era. The early settlers continued to rely on hunting as a mainstay of their diet. (News & Events, October 2017).

By 1900, the local population was largely of European origin and knowledge of the pre-settlement era was fast fading. In 1900, the Dufferin Leader (1900-01-25) noted that:

A buffalo skull with the horns attached was picked up on the banks of the Boyne on Christmas day by one of our townsmen. This raises the query of how long has it been since buffalo made the prairie in this part of the province their feeding ground. It would be interesting to hear from some of our readers on this question.

Newspaper accounts from around this time also suggest a gradual change in focus towards hunting for ‘sport’ as well as survival. Reminder: if you haven’t already checked out this website, copies of both the early Dufferin Leaders and the Carman Standard can be found online through the Pembina Manitou Archive.

I.B. Werseen, of Roseisle, shot two elk near his home on Monday last. They were fine animals. Mr. Werseen says that as he has killed his allowance of deer, he will now turn his attention to bear. Last season he was lucky in securing the pelt of one weighing near 500 lbs. (Dufferin Leader 1899-12-07).

M.E. DeMill and M.J. Hemenway went out for a goose hunt on Monday and returned yesterday with a bag of 47 geese, two ducks and a sand hill crane. (Dufferin Leader 1900-04-26).  

Prairie chickens’ were identified in the early newspapers as a prime source of food and sport, drawing hunters into the area from far afield. It’s difficult from available photos to confirm the identity of these birds, whether they were actually prairie chickens or the ruffed grouse that still frequent the area today.

   
Hunting prairie chicken (grouse?) ca. 1900       A present-day ruffed grouse

Whatever the species, they were the reason behind another ‘sporting’ venture:

This is the season when the prairie chickens are hatching and at present large numbers of them have congregated in the “Poplars " northwest of here for breeding but the nests are being robbed of the eggs by crows almost as quickly as the chickens lay them. Crows are said to be there in thousands and a crow hunt was organized yesterday to make a raid on these pernicious thieves and exterminate as many of them as possible. Between forty and fifty of our local sportsmen agreed to join in the hunt.  Mr. M.E. DeMill, who was one of the captains, being away from home, the hunt was called off until Arbor Day, when many others will be able to join in the sport. It is said the crows are doing more toward the extinction of these game birds than all sportsmen combined, and for this reason it is deemed advisable to wage a war against them. (Dufferin Leader 1900-04-26).

The crow shoot on Arbor Day resulted in a large bag of game, and the contest was won by M.E. DeMill’s party. The score stood 5,680 points for DeMill and 3,660 for Dr. Brown, giving the former a winning margin of 2,620 points. The scale of points were for crows 50, wolf 50, fox 50, hawk 20, owl 10, gopher 5, blackbird 1. There was no big game secured, but there was a large percentage of crows and gophers. The largest score was made by Mr. DeMill, who brought in 26 crows. The scores were counted in the Massey-Harris warerooms, and were viewed by very many on Saturday before they were carted away. The losing side put up the supper at the Starkey House. (Dufferin Leader 1900-05-10)

A few encounters were still being reported in which the animal population might have gained the upper hand:

The prairie wolves are becoming very wild with hunger, and last week a farmer north of Treherne had a little adventure with three of them. They jumped up repeatedly at his buggy and seemed very desirous of having a human supper. They are supposed to be a cross between the coyote and timber wolf, which accounts for their boldness.  (Dufferin Leader 1900-05-31 from .—Treherne Times ). 

In recent years, there have been reports of coyote/wolf crosses in the escarpment at the west end of Dufferin.

     
Coyotes - still part of our local natural history

Memories of Coyotes. Early newspaper accounts like those above give valuable insight into our past. One of their limitations is that, like other written histories, they tend to report events and dates but are less likely to enlighten us on the thoughts and feelings of the people involved. That is one reason we are so keen on organizing our life-story workshops.

What can life stories tell us about our natural history that isn’t covered better in newspapers, histories and other textbooks? Perhaps most important is the insight it gives us into the relationship between people and their environment. The best way to illustrate this is through the stories themselves. Here, by permission of our life-story workshop leader, retired veterinarian Lynette (Leary) Stow, are memories she wrote several years ago about growing up and later returning to the family home where she now lives and where coyotes are still an integral part of the natural environment.
 
A Light in the Darkness

When I awoke this morning, the entire sky was the deep purple-blue of a bruise. I was certain we were in for some weather, as Dad used to say. The southwest wind was stiff but still warm. I slipped my runners on over bare feet and went outside, still in my pyjamas and robe. The goldfinches and chickadees were crowding into the feeders, jostling each other and stuffing themselves with sunflower seeds while they had the chance. I wandered around the yard, sipping my hot coffee and enjoying the fresh crispness of the air. I was reluctant to leave the peace of it all, but eventually I was chilled enough to concede.

By the time I had finished my second cup of coffee, the sky had faded to a dull grey, but the temperature was dropping. The day grew steadily cooler and the wind stronger. By dusk the wind had turned cold and was howling like a wild thing around the windows. It reminded me of the coyotes. Last night they were singing to each other from all areas of the valley. They welcomed the darkness with their cries and called each other together before they trotted off to hunt. Faint, tinny yips from distant points were answered by powerful, quavering howls from just across the river. Standing in the dark yard tonight with no moon overhead and the wind howling through the trees, I felt the night like a living presence. The coyotes were part of the night, but I was weak and alien. I stood rooted to the ground, deafened and unnerved by the wind, the skin on my arms prickling. I was like a deer that could sense the predator but didn’t know which way to run. The dog felt it too, standing stiffly and staring out into the blackness.  I scooped him up in my arms and retreated to the light and warmth of the house.

Now, sitting comfortably in my rocking chair with the wind and night locked outside, I remember another night like this long ago. I was walking with Dad, getting some fresh air before bed. The wind hid all the usual night sounds and I felt exposed, vulnerable. I pulled in close beside Dad and when our feet were crunching the gravel in unison, and I could smell the cigarette he held cupped in his hand, I was immediately safe. It was as though he carried a light with him. To him the night was a friendly creature, as comfortable and familiar as the faded quilt on his bed. 

Dad has been gone five years now; that warm circle around him is gone too. The world seems less predictable, less kindly and safe. It would be easier to turn my back on this place than to discover the security and peace he had here. But I will not. His soul was complete when he was at home in his valley. He understood and trusted it. He celebrated his joys in it and buried his sorrows here. I will also. I will walk the hills and trails, explore the hidden places. 

I will celebrate and mourn here. Someday, I will stand in the dark, beyond the reach of the yard light and listen to the coyotes sing. I will wrap the comfort and familiarity of it around me like an old soft quilt. I will carry my own light — Lynette Stow

 

News and Events October 2020

Hopeland School History. The one-room rural school is an important part of local heritage. The Schools section of our website shows the location and provides a brief history of 29 schools that have served the educational needs of children in the Carman/Dufferin area. Local schools also served as the social hub of the district. In the year 2000, former students and teachers from Hopeland S.D. #2279 gathered for a school reunion. In honour of the event, organizer Bob Briggs compiled a history of the school.

The book includes school records, board minutes, photos and information on former teachers and students. It provides insight into life in the small rural school and surrounding community between the school’s opening in 1937 and its closure in 1966. The history is now online.

Caroll McGill. We were all saddened this past month by the loss of Caroll McGill, one of our most dedicated long-time supporters of local heritage.  
 

Caroll McGill at Wellness Fair 

Caroll served for many years on the board of the Dufferin Historical Museum and was one of the most active volunteers in every local heritage event. She recently contributed a history of the fifth-generation McGill family to the Homesteads and Family Farms section of our website.

Caroll also was active in the community with organizations such as the Garden Club. One of her special interests was in native plants which she cultivated and tended in the Museum grounds.
This is one aspect of our heritage that we haven’t yet examined. What plants are indigenous to this region of Manitoba and how have they been used? We had just contacted Caroll this spring for guidance on researching native plants when COVID-19 brought our activities to a halt.

Although most of us are aware that plants and herbs played an important role in Indigenous healing and as part of seasonal diet, we are sadly short on specifics. We have slightly more information about wild fruits that early settlers gathered and plants they used for medicinal purposes. Over the next few months, we’ll be exploring this topic in more depth. Where possible, we’ll draw upon local sources of knowledge and experience. We are hoping one of our local plant enthusiasts will agree to help us on this journey. Two of the local resources we’ll be consulting are Caroll McGill’s notes from the Museum and a small volume titled “Wild Plants of Central North America for Food and Medicine", written and illustrated by our late local Roseisle artist Stephen Jackson and Linda Prine, published in 1978 by Peguis Publishers. 

We are pleased to dedicate this native plant series to the memory of our heritage colleague, Caroll McGill.

Our 1870 Heritage - Native plants. A feature of heritage that often escapes our attention is the impact of the socio-economic and cultural changes on the local environment. The current pandemic has focused attention on the outdoors and on home gardening. This, along with a growing concern over climate change, is reflected in growing interest in native or heritage plants. These are plants that grow naturally in an areas opposed to "exotics" that have been imported from other countries. "Indigenous" plants are native to a particular region.
 
Organizations such as the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) and the Invasive Species Council of Manitoba (ISCM) are in the forefront of public education on the significance of native plants and on what not to plant. They point out that native plants are a product of the balance of nature that develops over time in a particular area or ecosystem. As such, they are part of our natural heritage. Heritage plants usually survive longer than non-native species and need less tending, because they are hardier and more disease resistant.

A concern with non-indigenous species is that they can become weeds in areas where they aren’t originally from, and can take over habitats. CWF notes that this in turn can “alter the whole ecosystem by not being the plant that species like birds or small mammals feed off, they can change ground water levels by taking up too much water, and they can cross pollinate with the indigenous species, creating hybrids.” For more information, visit the CWF site.

The ISCM provides a list of plants many of us have in our gardens that are not recommended for local planting. We are likely all familiar with invasive plant species such as leafy spurge that proliferate in our ditches and non-cultivated land.

Over the coming months we’ll be profiling some of our native plants that both Indigenous Peoples and early European settlers used for food and for healing. Our recent interest was sparked in part by stories of how early families used local plants in home remedies. We heard for example of a grandmother who healed a severe burn on her foot by using a salve of Balm of Gilead buds steeped in lard (News and Events, March 2018). Those buds, by the way, are the sticky black poplar buds that litter the ground and stick to your shoes each spring.

Please note that many plants may be harmful. Always seek advice from your health care provider before trying a plant for medicinal purposes.
 
It’s a bit late in the year to begin a series based on foraging for local plants. But there is one shrub that still stands out amongst the fast-disappearing fall foliage - the high bush cranberry. 

Native Plants - High Bush Cranberry

High bush cranberries (Viburnum trilobum) are one of the wild fruits found in this region as well as other parts of Canada. Indigenous peoples added cranberries to pemmican; they also used them as a dye. From the time of the early settlers to the present day, high bush cranberries have been a local favourite for making jams, jellies and juice. You are unlikely to forget the rather unpleasant smell of boiling cranberries or the mouth-puckering taste of the ripe fruit which sweetens slightly after first frost.

This is an attractive shrub with maple-leaf shaped leaves. In spring it sports striking clusters of white flowers. Autumn leaves range from bright red to purple. As seen in the photo, the brilliant red berries can often be seen well after first snowfall, until they are gladly harvested by birds and animals.

High bush cranberries are high in vitamin C. Among its medicinal properties, the bark and leaves can be brewed in a tea for relief of pain and as a sedative. And, though it doesn’t qualify yet a heritage-status beverage, on a hot, muggy, summer day there’s nothing more refreshing than a chilled glass of cranberry juice and fizzy soft drink.                     


Recent History

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