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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 August 2020

War Memorial Shelter. The Roseisle War Memorial now has a canopy in place to shelter it from the elements. The structure is a heritage certificate site and one of two war memorials in Carman/Dufferin municipalities. It’s also a fine example of what a small community can do when everyone pitches in to help.

Last summer, a local committee under the leadership of Frank Peters and Cheryl Smith-Tranq obtained grants to carry out major repairs to the mortar and brickwork of the cenotaph. Lettering also was restored on three plaques that list the names of 136 local soldiers who served in WWI, WWII, and the Korean War. The central WWI plaque is over 100 years old.

The committee decided to build a shelter to protect the structure from further damage from sun, rain and snow so future generations remember the sacrifices made by these soldiers and their families and the role they played in securing our own way of life.



Newly restored Roseisle war memorial and shelter

Last October, committee members knocked on local doors, made phone calls, sent emails to the families of soldiers whose names appear on the plaques and sold progressive 50/50 tickets. Six weeks later, the estimated $12,000 cost of the project was in place. Actual construction was placed on hold until 2020 and, like most projects, has been scheduled around the reality of the pandemic.

 

News and Events, July 2020

Summer Vacation. Most of our heritage projects are on hold this summer as concern about the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Manitobans have generally been cautious and our province has seen less infections than many parts of Canada. MB 150 celebrations are officially on hold until next year. If we all keep to the safety protocols, we may be able to enjoy a really big celebration in 2021.

Local Ceremonies. It was 150 years ago, July 15, 1870, the Manitoba Act, that came into effect, making Manitoba the fifth province of Canada. C/D MHAC planned on holding two events to mark the occasion – unveiling the Missouri or Hunters’ Trail sign and installing ‘historic site’ highway signs to direct visitors to the Îlets-de-Bois cemetery and cairn. We selected these projects because we see the signs as symbols of our local heritage both before and after 1870.

      

The unveiling was to have been a well-publicized event, originally scheduled for May12—until the pandemic arrived. With all the signs in place, the committee decided to go ahead on this alternate date with an unpublicized, scaled-down, social-distanced ceremony. For those of you would otherwise have attended, the best we can do is provide you with photographs and a full account of the event. Thanks to Bev MacLean who did a great job of preserving the event with these photos.

The Ceremony. The ceremony opened with a treaty acknowledgement delivered by Elaine Owen. This was followed by recognition of “the most important part of any project, the people who make it possible.”*


All set up and waiting for the people to arrive

Mr. Blaine Pedersen, our hard-working and conscientious MLA for Midland, and Reeve George Gray, RM of Dufferin, a staunch supporter of local heritage, brought greetings respectively from the Province and the Councils of the RM of Dufferin and Town of Carman.

   
Reeve George Gray                                                      MLA Blaine Pedersen

C/D MHAC Chair Ina Bramadat outlined why our committee chose the signs as our symbols of 1870. Each month in 2020, News & Events has featured one part of the background to the events of 1870. At the risk of giving away the plot of the story, here’s the full summary:

“It’s interesting when we’ve asked people, even some on our committee, why they think the Trail is important to our history, they invariably look at us as if it’s a trick question and reply “Because it’s how the first settlers arrived.” We’re fortunate in Carman/Dufferin to have a rich body of local history. However, most of it has been written since 1870 by our early settlers and their descendants and, like most histories, it reflects the experiences and viewpoint of those who lived it. But why was there a trail here for the settlers to use? Who made it and where did it go? Answer those questions and you get a sense of the depth of our local heritage and just how significant 1870 really was to this area. And you realize that in effect 1870 ushered in what was likely the most rapid and significant socio-economic and cultural change in local history.

If the Trail were to tell its own story, it would begin hundreds of years ago when large herds of bison, or buffalo as they were then known, carved a pathway as they came to feed on the hay of the Great Marsh that lay east of this area. The Plains people who lived here at that time lived by gathering and hunting. They depended on the buffalo for food, shelter, clothing, tools and for the dried meat or pemmican that meant their survival during the long winter months.

Indigenous bands also travelled southward along the trail, to visit the sacred mound at Calf Mountain and still further south to the headwaters of Missouri River, where they traded for corn and other agricultural products with the Mandan tribe and took part in the large ceremonial gatherings that were part of indigenous lifestyle.

By the time explorers from New France arrived here in the early 1600s the pathway would already have become a well-used trail. The explorers came searching for a western passage to the orient; they soon discovered that the real wealth of the land lay in northern furs. Over the next two centuries the fur trade became a dominant presence in the north-west. During this era, European goods such as metal utensils and cloth replaced earlier indigenous trade goods; but it didn’t really change the basic lifestyle of the people. However, the fur trade did bring other changes.

One of these was a change in the population. Many of the traders intermarried with the Indigenous people of the area. By the time of the 1870 census, their mixed-ancestry descendants accounted for almost 10,000 of the 11,405 residents of the new province. This group, in particular the Métis of French/Indigenous parentage, saw themselves as a New Nation and carved out an important niche in the fur trade as middlemen, interpreters, guides, and expert buffalo hunters. At the height of the fur trade, this became a thriving occupation.

The population around the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers also had changed in the early 1800s when Lord Selkirk brought in crofters from the highlands of Scotland to farm and provide local agricultural products. The Red River Settlement by this time became the main transfer point where furs from the north-west were exchanged for food and other supplies. But the main food supply the traders sought was pemmican. The same portable and highly nutritious food that had sustained Indigenous hunters also fueled the canoe brigades. The Red River settlement became known as the ‘larder of the fur trade’.

The buffalo range was south of the lakes and west of the Red River— which includes this part of the country—Métis buffalo hunters became the main suppliers. By then, introduction of the horse and rifle had made the hunt more lethal than early bow and arrow days. To give an idea of volume of the trade, in 1852 the yield of buffalo products was tallied at well over one million pounds. During the semi-annual spring and fall hunts, this Trail must have turned from a back road into a busy highway.

By then, the Métis had at least a seasonal presence in this area. As early as 1837, the first local baptism was recorded. And in 1867, one of the most colourful local characters, John Francis Grant, came up the Trail from Montana with his herd of cattle and prize horses. Grant was the son of a western HBC agent and Métis mother. He built up a thriving ranching operation in Montana—until with the western flow of American settlers, the area got too crowded—and he headed up the Trail to what was soon to become the province of Manitoba. He started a ranch, build a mill and a large house, planted the first grain in the area— just east of here.

Historians still debate the extent of other Métis settlements in our area but histories of what is now the St. Daniel District record that, in 1866, a school was built northwest of the present town of Carman and that, about 1869–1870, a chapel was established at what was then known as Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois. This was the first permanent settlement in the area. Which is why it is the other important historic site that we are recognizing this year by installing signs to mark the site.

By 1870, the fur trade era was passing—European demand for furs began to dwindle. With growing competition from American fur-trading posts and free traders, the HBC couldn’t maintain its trade monopoly. In 1867, the four eastern provinces entered into Confederation. A priority with John A. Macdonald’s government was to bring the western territory into the fold. They feared Americans settlers who were flooding westward would outflank the sparse Canadian settlements, lay claim to the Western Prairies, and cut Canada off from the Western ocean. Also Ontario was beginning to run out of arable land. Macdonald moved quickly to negotiate with Britain and, essentially, to buy out the HBC trade monopoly. By 1870, the government was ready to send surveyors to map out the new province for settlement.

At the heart of our 1870 Manitoba history, of course, is the story of how Louis Riel set up a Provisional Government and stopped the survey party. He did so in an attempt to get a say in the transfer process for the several thousand people already living in the area. He wanted in particular to ensure protection for land claims and for denominational schools, religious and language rights of what had become the largest local group, the French/Catholic residents of the area. This is a chapter of our history that has been revisited and rewritten, certainly since our early school day histories. One we should maybe all plan on revisiting in 2020.

Meanwhile, back here on the Trail, the local scene already was changing. In April, 1871, Samuel Kennedy, a volunteer with the Red River Expedition, arrived just here where the trail crosses the river, to claim the first homestead in the area as a bounty for his military service. If we had been here then, we would have heard the sound of axes and the crash of falling trees as he began to clear the land and build a log cabin. And we might have heard harsh exchanges with local Métis who accepted the Indigenous view that land didn’t belong to anyone, it and its resources were placed here for everyone to use. We might also have heard Samuel Kennedy proclaim that the Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois was now to be known as the Boyne River, in tribute to his Irish Protestant roots.

Land claims became central to politics of the time – and, as you know, they are still with us today. The Manitoba Land Act allocated 1.4 million acres of land to children of mixed ancestry. The Métis leaders laid out claims to blocks of land, hoping to consolidate the population. One of several claims was to a broad swath of land two miles on each side of the river from the escarpment to the Great Marsh.

However, as land claims discussions dragged on, the land was rapidly being staked out for settlement. Eventually, Métis claims to this local block of land and others were abandoned. Much of the Métis scrip—individual certificates of land entitlement—was sold on to land speculators or other settlers. John Francis Grant was awarded a 240 acre homestead. He found that his open ranch land was now being fenced off by homesteaders. Some of his family settled at Îlets-de-Bois. Grant, along with many other disgruntled claimants, left for the still open lands to the West.

So, yes, the first homesteaders did come down the Missouri Trail. But, as we’ve seen, the Trail already had a long history. If you’ve read A.P. Stevenson’s account of the trail, you know it wasn’t any easy way for settlers to bring in their worldly goods from the East:

“ .. In the spring of 1874, in company with five others with ox and cart to carry provisions, I started to Pembina Mountain to look for land. The old Missouri trail was followed between Headingly and La Salle River near Starbuck. Nearly two-thirds of the way was through swamps, with water two or three feet deep. The ox and carts were mired three or four times, and what a delightful time we greenhorns had, up to the waist in water, with millions of mosquitoes adding their notes to the proceedings. It was a hungry, tired crowd that camped that night on the dry banks of the high-smelling La Salle, trying to dry socks, etc. Our clothing had early in the day been made up into bundles and tied high and dry on our backs during passage of the swamps. The following morning we found our ox had broken loose and taken the road to the Boyne River, so we started on foot for the same place. The distance was 30 miles, a dead level plain, without a tree, shrub or twig, no house of any description, not a drop of water to drink.” (Farmer’s Advocate, Jan. 4, 1911).


Within a decade, a rail line was built to End-of-Line (Barnsley), which became the new entry point for homesteaders. By 1901, the noisy creak of the Red River carts had given way to the mournful wail of the steam locomotive chugging its way through Homewood and Carman and westward through the escarpment, paving the way for small settlements at Graysville, Stephenfield, Roseisle and points west. Historian Alan B. McCullough who grew up on a farm where the Îlets-de-Bois cemetery and cairn are located points out that “by 1881 the settlement was an overwhelmingly Protestant, English speaking, agricultural community”(Manitoba History Number 67, Winter 2012: The Confrontations at Rivière aux Ilets-de-Bois).

By then, the local fur trade had collapsed, remaining buffalo herds and Indigenous hunters driven far to the south and west, and the early trade-based economy of the area was giving way to a market-driven agricultural economy. 1870 in effect marked the beginning of the end for the Trail. The land allocated to the Trail was eventually returned to landholders, is now cultivated to the point that even aerial infra-red photos shown no trace of what was once the lifeline the area in the pre-1870 era.

Long after it passes, history lives on in our symbols. Over the past couple of months, we’ve been become increasingly aware of how complex and potent these symbols—such as monuments or signs—can be can be in remembering our past. We have chosen to commemorate 1870 by unveiling this plaque and installing ‘historic site’ signs for the Îlets-de-Bois cairn as a reminder to our generation and those to come of both the richness and the depth of our local heritage.” *


Unveiling. Reeve George Gray and committee member Nikki Falk unveiled the Missouri Trail sign.


Nikki Falk, Reeve George Gray, Ina Bramadat, MLA Blaine Pedersen

Their introductions explain why they were chosen for the honour:

George Gray. In many ways, George Gray is a living symbol of our pre- and post-1870 heritage. Through his great-grandmother, George has proud roots among our early Indigenous people; he also had ancestors with the HBC at the height of the fur trade, a teacher at the Red River settlement, and clerk to the Council of Assiniboia. In 1874, his great-grandmother Ann Smith laid homestead claim to the SE ¼ of 25-6-6w with her grant of metis scrip. Great-grandfather George Gray Sr. (also known as “Boss”) brought his family down the Trail from Headingley to the homestead where George still resides and where the local community of Graysville carries the family name. More than a decade ago, George along with Nedra Burnett, helped revive our then-dormant advisory committee. He served as RM Council representative on our committee until he became Reeve and he was one of our most diligent activists towards getting the Missouri Trail sign restored.

Nikki Falk represents our post-1870 heritage. Her great-great-grandmother, Margaret McCullough, was a sister-in-law of Samuel Kennedy and a relative of many of the early families still living in the area. In 1874, Margaret and her children travelled from Ontario to join her husband on their new homestead just west of here. Unfortunately, she contracted typhoid fever. In the midst of this current pandemic, we can only imagine the fear caused by this disease, at a time before health care facilities were available. A doctor was brought out from Winnipeg but Margaret and her 11-year-old daughter Martha died. They were buried just west of where the Trail crossed the river, in the now-abandoned Kennedy burial site (see Carman/Dufferin Cemeteries - A Guide To The Location, History, Art & Craft Of Local Cemeteries, p. 111).

The program closed with singing of ‘O Canada’, led by Shirley Snider and Elaine Owen.



On the left: Shirley Snider Nikki Falk Debbie Nicolajsen George Gray Judie Duthie Vince
On the right: Vince Sotheran Blaine Pedersen Ina Bramadat Elaine Owen




After the ceremony

*Acknowledgements. This is one instance where it has taken a community to raise a sign. Among the many people and organizations that made the event possible were:

Dufferin Historical Society - now the Dufferin Historical Museum Committee - put up the first impressive wooden sign on the site in 1961;

Judie Duthie and Vince Sotherand, landowners, enthusiastically supported the project and worked with us to preserve this important part of our local heritage for future generations;

Debbie Nicolajsen worked diligently during the past couple of years to bring together all the final pieces of this project. She also has compiled a file of articles and other research on the Missouri trail;

Lee & Lee Law Firm donated their legal services and expertise to ensure that this time the sign remains in place and is accessible to the public;

Sperling Industries generously donated the metal framing;

Sean Billing from Carman Granite crafted the sign;

Doyle’s Funeral Home supplied the sound system so we could be heard above the wind and traffic;

The flags were loaned from Carman Legion #18 and the Museum; Elaine Owen kindly provided the Métis flag;

Bev MacLean took great photos of the ceremony; and

The project was jointly funded by the Councils of the Town of Carman and the RM of Dufferin—represented on C/D MHAC by Councillors Bernie Townsend and Barrie Fraser.

Post-script. It was a bit of a ‘goose-bump’ moment when we realized how closely some of our own life stories had intersected on the Missouri Trail. In 1874, George Gray’s great-grandmother, Ann Smith, laid claim to her homestead in the Graysville area. It was the same year, 1874, that Nikki’s Falk’s great-great grandmother, Margaret McCullough, brought her family west to their new homestead. She would have stopped to visit her sister at the Samuel Kennedy home, where the Trail crosses the river. It also was in the summer of 1874 that my grandfather, George Leary, walked down the Trail on his way to homestead at Nelsonville. All of them would have laid foot on this same part of the Trail where we were meeting for our unveiling ceremony.

In recent years, our lives have intersected through a mutual interest in local heritage. Now, almost 150 years after our ancestors passed here on their journeys, we were meeting to preserve a significant part of local heritage—and of our own life stories—for generations to come. We felt sure, if those ancestors were looking down and watching as we unveiled the Missouri Trail sign, they were smiling and giving us a ‘thumbs-up’.


Recent History

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