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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 January 2021

Ring in the New Year. The world has been impatiently waiting for 2020 to end. The rapid development of vaccines gives promise of a safer year ahead—after most of us get vaccinated. It’s likely to be a few months yet before we can resume some of our heritage projects that depend on face-to-face contact. Or we can change our strategies.

Our small group life-story sessions are on hold right now, but what about all those long conversations most of us are having these days with isolated family members and friends. You’ve probably talked about some of the Christmas traditions they’ve had to forego or modify this year.

Did you ask how long has this been part of their family traditions? Do any of them date back to the ‘old country’ before the family came to Canada? What was their childhood Christmas like? These memories no doubt helped fill a lot of lonely hours. Be sure to keep notes and share their stories with other family members. If your family is like ours, you’ll likely get the family network sharing stories, checking family trees and digging out old photos.

Christmas village 2020 – restaurant (no lights) in lockdown;
carollers ignoring distance protocols?

“The Past” is relative. Sharing stories across generations also helps put your own life in perspective. A colleague shared the following story: “In a clinical teaching group, we were talking about our outside interests. The students asked me what I liked to do to relax. I told them I like to watch old movies. Their response was that ‘they sure made some good movies in the 70s.’  (Actually I was thinking of the 40s).”

Now and Then. Nothing brings the past to life like a good photograph. One of the most exciting projects we had planned for 2020 was a series of photographs showing local scenes from the early days alongside the same location today. The project is the work of our website manager. It involves taking a current photo from exactly the same location and angle as the original picture. If the match is perfect and the technology is in place, a simple scroll across the photo instantly transforms it to the corresponding view. Prepare to say “Wow!”

Recognize this location?

Click on the image or go to our new "Now and Then" page of our Vintage Photos collection and see what was once there.

We planned on adding these bits of magic to our Vintage Photo collection as well as using them as highlights in the several displays planned for the 2020 celebration of MB150. The pandemic put an end to those displays and to completion of the project. We hope to present one in each of our next few monthly updates. They will be added to our Vintage Photos collection, along with a brief background on any changes over the years.

Natural History revisited. In the meantime, the pandemic has given us more time to focus on other aspects of local heritage such as our natural history. Over the past couple of months, we’ve been looking at our historic relationship with local animals as one of either food or sport. We know that our early settlers relied on hunting as an important part of the family food supply (Recent History, October, 2017). Another local account gives some insight into the importance of wildlife as food during another global crisis, the 1930’s Depression.

This life story describes how, as the depressions settled in, a lot of local families were hard pressed to survive. In those days, families were often large, with maybe ten or more children. There was little outside work to be found other than municipal projects like cutting brush along road-ways. Men who were lucky enough to get these jobs were paid about 50 cents a day.

The storyteller notes that, as newlyweds, she and her husband were just starting their family and they also had a large garden. So she always made sure she had a big pot of thick soup on the back of the cook stove each afternoon. She said “The men, when they were walking home from brush-cutting, always made a point of stopping in ‘just to see how our family was doing.’ And we always said ‘We’re just sitting down for some soup. Will you join us?’ So it was never taken as charity, just being neighbourly. But that was maybe the only hot meal some of them got for the day. Anything local families could trap or snare went into providing a bit of protein for the family. By the end of the Depression years, there wasn’t wildlife of any sort—including birds, rabbits, even squirrels—to be found in this area. It took years for wildlife to recover."

Seasonal change. Besides providing food or sport, wildlife and nature in general have always served as indicators of the changing seasons. The Dufferin Leader (1907-10-10) alerted its readers to the onset of winter:

It does not take the shortening of the days nor the lowering of the thermometer to warn us that winter is near; all nature, birds, animals, trees and flowers alike tell us the season is changing; and bid us, with them, make preparations for the reign of the Frost King.

These changes are so much a part of our lives that we pretty much take them for granted. It’s over a month since most of our plants vanished under the first snowfall and our migratory birds headed south. Hummingbirds were amongst the first to go, finishing their final frenzied feed before vanishing overnight for warmer climates. Robins were close behind, their cheery chirp replaced by the harsh voice of blue-jays and other winter residents.

By now, all have left except that other sad group of annual migrants, our ‘Snowbird’ retirees, whose migration to escape northern winters has been halted at the border this year by COVID-19 restrictions. This year they’re an extra grumpy lot, given the well-publicized holiday travel of several politicians.

Meanwhile, most of our animal population stick around for the winter, hibernating or adapting to the change in environment. Among the most noticeable seasonal changes we’ve been observing over the past couple of months are the highly visible changes in the coat of white-tail deer. Note the sleek, reddish-brown summer coat of the deer in the first photo. The fawn in front still has its camouflaging spots that help it blend in with foliage.

White-tailed deer in summer coat with spotted fawn

The young buck in the second photo is losing his winter coat and growing new antlers. The ‘velvet’ covering on the antlers nourishes growth of underyling bone, supplying blood, oxygen and nutrients for rapid growth. As autumn approaches, the velvet dies and sloughs off. The buck helps this process by rubbing against trees and other surfaces. The bone then hardens and it also dies. The antlers drop off during the winter months, ready for regrowth the following year.

Young buck in velvet, losing winter coat    Warm winter coats that blend in with barren trees

Some local animals such as squirrels and groundhogs, hibernate for the winter. Others, notably rabbits and weasels trade in their dull brown coats for white winter camouflage. These are just a few of the fascinating signs of changing seasons that are all around us, adding another rich dimension to the study of our natural history.

News and Events December 2020

Good-bye to 2020. Most folks seem glad to be seeing the last of 2020. It’s been a tough year, especially for businesses and their employees and for everyone who’s been socially deprived for fear of COVID-19. The pandemic messed up much of our lengthy planning for MB150 and what was intended as a banner year for celebrating local heritage. Fortunately, the coming year brings hope in the form of vaccines that should be available to us common folks later in the year.

HRMP 2021. It was an interesting task this year to prepare our annual Heritage Resource Management Plan (HRMP)—our report on our 2020 activities along with plans and budget for the coming year. Given the continued uncertainty, we are being quite conservative in our plans for 2021, especially projects involving face-to-face contact. That includes our community inventories, homestead interviews, and life story workshops as well as the usual community displays. Fortunately, we have piles of research and other non-contact projects to keep our members happily occupied. That includes a couple of website initiatives. At the moment, we are still immersed in early newspapers, with an eye for clues to our natural history. So keep checking out this space each month—we’ll be here. And we’ll soon be seeing you back out in the community.

COVID-19 humour. With the pandemic turning the world upside-down, there hasn’t been much humour in our lives. When our area went to Code Red,  we sent a family member an upbeat, ‘this-too-shall-pass’ message, ending with a hearty “Stay positive!” His response was: “Shouldn’t that be “Stay Negative”? Still chuckling – so at least one of us benefited from the exchange.

Natural History. In November, we looked at a few newspaper items that spoke to the interaction between the early settlers and local wildlife. As in later years, sports were then a major feature of the weekly news. In the days before more organized team sports such as hockey or curling dominated the press, emphasis was on hunting as an outlet for the competitive side of mankind. This even applied to holidays.
   Local hunters early 1900s   (Coleman Collection)

Wild Birds. Arbor Day was a day not only to plant trees, it also featured a ‘crow shoot’.  “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 5,650 points for DeMill and 3,630 for Dr. Brown, giving the former a winning margin of 2,020 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 storerooms, 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).

(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.)
And on Thanksgiving Day, why not give thanks for a fine harvest by holding a turkey shoot?  “A shooting match for turkeys was held in the fields south of town on Thanksgiving Day. Quite a number of the sports were present, and some very good shooting was done. The weather, however, was a little too chilly to be enjoyable.” (Dufferin Leader  1910-11-03).

In the west end of Dufferin, a local lodge made a full day of it. The Dufferin Leader  (1910-10-27) announced that:  “Loyal Orange Lodge No. 2137 Roseisle, will give a Grand Ball on the evening of Friday, Nov. 4. On the afternoon of the same day a Turkey Shoot will be held. Admission to ball, $1. Come and bring your girl.” 

Picture young ladies adorned in their finery, while the young men had a quick wash up and change of clothing before hitching up the horse and buggy to head for the dance. What do you think the main topic of conversation was at the Grand Ball?

Wild turkeys are a native North American bird. Although sources seem to differ on whether the range of certain subspecies included Southern Manitoba, these tales of early turkey shoots seem to confirm their presence in the area. Hunting took its toll, and it was as recent as 1958 that wild turkeys were reintroduced  to the area near Miami, Manitoba. They have since proliferated and are now both highly visible locally and a prime target during the autumn hunting season. The photos below are of recent vintage – taken of turkeys released in the wild over the past several years.

Wild tom turkey struts his stuff

Wild turkeys  - A tom turkey herds his flock of females across  a local roadway.

In early years, the all-out assault on game birds soon included many outside hunters and brought a reaction from the press and local public. The Carman Standard (1890-09-18) reported that “Over 600 chickens have been slaughtered in this neighborhood by Winnipeg and Yankee hunters, and, as a consequence, the hunting for this season and next has been entirely ruined.”  At a “mass meeting” held at Dufferin Hall, a resolution passed calling on the Provincial government to regulate hunting in the municipality. The resolution stated that “Whereas the game birds of this municipality are now wantonly and wastefully being destroyed, mainly by persons who are non-residents of this district, many of whom are aliens to our country”, these persons should be asked to “desist from further destruction of game” in the present season. Farmers should consider prosecuting trespassers and livery stables and others cease hiring out horses, carriages or other vehicles to transport hunters to hunting areas. This backlash against indiscriminate hunting led to appointment of ‘game guardians’ and introduction of hunting licences.

The arrival of settlers affected wildlife in ways other than hunting. An item in an early Dufferin Leader (1903-04-13) noted the effect on the flight patterns of birds: “Wild geese are almost a thing of the past in this locality. Since the drainage of the Boyne Marsh they have changed their course of flight.”  A century later, most of the small sloughs that dotted local farmlands also have vanished. Dufferin waterfowl now congregate on the man-made lake at Stephenfield Provincial Park where large flocks have recently been scouring nearby harvested fields for the last pickings of grain before heading south for the winter.

Canada Geese – time to head south

Animal Wildlife. It wasn’t just wildfowl that were threatened by overhunting. We have already seen how, in the earlier pre-1870 era, demand for pemmican as food the western fur traders led to disappearance of buffalo in this part of Manitoba.

Other animal species besides buffalo were soon in decline. Pre-1900 newspapers and life stories from that era speak of elk in this area of Manitoba. We noted in the November update that a Dufferin resident had shot two elk near his home. Ethel Chisholm’s parents homesteaded two miles west of the present-day hamlet of Roseisle. She recalled that “There were numerous bears and elk in the hills at Roseisle….Elk could be seen on the top of Mt. Ararat from the doorway of Smith’s home” (The Rural Municipality of Dufferin 1880-1980, p. 70). ‘Mt. Ararat’ as it was then called was part of what was later known as ‘Snow Valley’ ski resort.

And then there were Tom Ticknor’s tame elk. In earlier days when Dufferin extended as far south as the Nelsonville, Ticknor was one of the colourful characters in the district - an early settler who wore a buckskin jacket and wolf tail cap, and drove a harnessed team of elk. He tamed elk calves and built up a herd in the area west of Miami. When he died in 1889, his wife feared that hunters would destroy the herd and they were shipped west to a new home at Banff (Pembina Country – Land of Promise 1974, pp. 58-60).

White-tailed Deer. Everyone is familiar with the herds of deer that visit local fields and bound unseen out of the ditches along roadways. Oddly, white-tail deer are not a native species in Manitoba. In the late 1800s, the arrival of settlers and introduction of agriculture provided a favourable habitat in southern Manitoba; deer migrated northward from their original home range south of the international border. The earliest account of white-tailed deer in Manitoba was in 1881 along the Red River near the border. 

The presence of this species—now one our most common forms of wildlife—is another reminder that arrival post-1870 of waves of settlers permanently altered not only the socio-cultural and economic profile of the Province—it also had a profound impact on the natural history of our area. In the case of the white-tailed deer, this even applied to members of their extended family. 

For more information and insight into this species go to the Manitoba Fish and Wildlife fact sheet.

 A quick look at their genealogy confirms that deer, moose and elk are all hoofed ruminant mammals belonging to the Cervidae family. Unfortunately, white-tail deer are asymptomatic carriers of a parasite that causes brain-worm.  While it has no impact on the deer, brain-worm is deadly in moose.  After their arrival in this region, white-tail deer soon began to displace their local cousins. For more information, go to a fact sheet on moose.
Aptly named white-tailed deer

Moose. There is evidence that at least some moose were present in the area during the early years of settlement. The Dufferin Leader (1901-06-06) reported that “Two moose were found in Alex McCullough’s pasture a mile west of town. They were lying resting in the shade of some trees and apparently had been grazing in the field until satisfied. After being startled by the approach of visitors they started off in an easy trot in the direction of town.”

 It seems that both the moose and the newly-arrived white-tail deer population appreciated the new cultivated crops. We can’t be sure from local histories just how rapidly the deer population spread however there are references to hunting ‘jumping deer’ in the district. Early 1900’s photos from the Garwood Collection show a Mr. Croome, a cook for the C.N.R. train gangs, with his pet moose and with both his moose and a tame deer.

David Croome with pet moose and deer  (Garwood collection)
By the early 1900’s both elk and moose were disappearing. The Carman Standard (1908-11-26) reported that “Those monarchs of the forest, the elk and moose are not nearly as numerous as in the early years. They used to be fairly plentiful in the Pembina Mountains west of Carman, but incoming settlers have decimated them and driven them further away”.

Thanks to the parasite they carried, newly arrived white-tail deer population may have posed an even greater health hazard for their four-legged cousins.

There is no record of what became of the Croome animals. However, in recent years the return of moose to the area has again been short-lived as they succumbed to brain-worm. The only moose we’ve spotted this year is this bright and cheery Christmas decoration. It’s not the dainty reindeer ornament we usually see on lawns, but what could be more appropriate in this pandemic-ridden year than the image of this huge mammal that succumbed to a tiny parasite that it unknowingly picked up from asymptomatic carriers? Could there be a more apt reminder of why we are in lockdown this holiday season in an attempt to combat the COVID-19 virus?

And our wish for you this holiday season - “Stay Negative!”

Recent History

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