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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 & Events, December 2022

Farewell to 2022. Another year is drawing to a close. At our final meeting for 2022, Carman businessman Robert Bryson joined the C/D MHAC team as our new voice for heritage on Town Council. Rob’s family roots in Carman/Dufferin go back to the early homestead days and the family residence near Carman is recognized as one of our heritage certificate sites.

The main business of the meeting was approval of our year-end report to Councils, along with our plans and budget for the coming year. Given continuing economic constraints and uncertainty over the end of the pandemic, we’ll be continuing to focus on ongoing projects such as community inventories, life stories and signage.

We’re also looking forward to continued collaboration with other community organizations such as the Dufferin Historical Museum, Boyne River Keepers and CIB. Speaking of which, our heritage partners at the Museum were delighted to get back closer to ‘normal’ by resuming their annual Christmas at the Museum evening with dog sled rides, refreshments and entertainment. The highlight of their AGM was a talk by the ever-popular Gordon Goldsborough on his heritage-related outings during COVID.

Meanwhile, the Boyne River Keepers annual meeting featured a creative slideshow presentation by our Chair, Nikki Falk, and artist Chris Larsen on the history of the Boyne River. In keeping with our frequent reminder that histories reflect the perspective of the teller, Nikki and Chris told the story in the voice of the river.

CIBC Building.  There is other good news on the heritage scene. The former CIBC building, recently approved for demolition, has been revived and given new life as the Hamilton Court apartment block.

The Carman branch of the Canadian Bank of Commerce (CBC) opened its doors in 1902 in the Fisher Block on Fournier St. (1st Street SW), now the site of the Boyne Regional Library. They operated at that location until 1907 when they moved two doors north on Fournier to their handsome new Classical Revival-style building.
 The building featured a standardized design used for some 70 CBC buildings across the Prairies. The buildings were prefabricated in B.C. and shipped to the site where they were then assembled.

Bank of Commerce with Fisher Block
two doors south

The interior of the building was as impressive as the façade. The Dufferin Leader (1907-11-14) described it as follows:

The interior is finished in luxurious style which displays great taste in selection of furnishings. Entering a roomy lobby, the visitor gets a glimpse of the office through a large plate-glass door. The office fittings are all in mahogany shades finely polished and a handsome glass screen is erected in front of the teller’s cage. The walls are tinted a pleasing shade of green forming a fine harmony with the fittings.  To the left of the lobby is the manager’s office and this is furnished in B.C. gum wood, as is all the other parts of the building, the office excepted.  The bank has made every provision for its employees, even to luxuriousness. Upstairs are the bedrooms and a large living room, all furnished in mission oak. Handsome and costly rugs adorn the floors of these rooms as well as the manager’s office. The latter and the upstairs parlour are furnished with open fireplaces that add largely to the cosiness of the place. Upstairs also is a very handsome bathroom having fittings for hot and cold water. The building is heated by a water system and electric lighted.  Last but not least the bank has laid granulithic sidewalk along the whole frontage of the property which is most creditable to the enterprise. Mr. McLennan, the manager, feels a just pride in the new quarters and will be pleased to welcome all visitors and show them over the new premises.

Ad in local newspaper
(Dufferin Leader, 1907-11-14)

In 1924, the Bank of Hamilton amalgamated with the CBC. The Dufferin Leader (1924-01-19) reported that, on New Year Day, BH staff moved to their new quarters and that henceforth, “…all business will be entirely transacted at the Canadian Bank of Commerce building.” In 1961, the CBC joined with the Imperial Bank to become the CIBC.

Local residents recall working as tellers in the CIBC. Shirley Snider worked there in the early 1960s. Among her memories, she recalled:

I worked there from March 1961 to October 1962. Dick Sanderson was manager. He and his family lived in the upstairs suite. Marjorie Stevenson did the secretarial work. I did the posting of accounts (there were no computers in those days).

April 30 and Oct 31 were the dates that interest was added to savings accounts and we sometimes had to work in the evening to do that. The teller spots had an alarm button that could be pushed with your knee in case of a robbery. It was linked directly to the RCMP office. Well, one evening it was accidently pushed and the next thing we knew a police officer was ringing the doorbell at the main door. One of the male employees went to the door and when he looked out there were police surrounding the bank. The officer asked if everything was okay, came in and looked around. We were unaware that it had been set off because it did not ring in the bank.

Another experience was the time that a customer had ordered a $1000.00 bill. After closing we all had a look and got to hold it because we never thought we would every see another one. I don’t know if they even print them now.

After sixty years of service, the building closed and in 1967 it was moved by Harms Movers to its present location at 48-4th Avenue SW. In an interview with C/D MHAC’s Shirley Snider, Harold Harms recalled details of the move. The building was very heavy, which Harms attributed to a cement floor between the upstairs residence and the bank below. They had previously used bars of Sunlight soap to aid traction. When they ran out and couldn’t get more Sunlight, they tried a liquid soap. It worked even better and became the lubricant of choice for future moves. The bridge over the Boyne River south of the bank was too narrow, so they had to move it down present-day Main Street to reach the new location.

Several rural schools had closed around this time and students were transferred to Carman. The former CIBC building soon took on new life as overflow classroom space for elementary school students.  It later became home to the Masonic Lodge and to a local day-care.  In recent years it served as an apartment block.

The historic significance of the building was recognized in 2018 when the Historic Resources Branch short-listed the building as one of our Carman/Dufferin Heritage Certificate Sites.

Our committee’s distress over news that the building had been allowed to deteriorate and had been approved for demolition did a 180-degree turn when we learned that K Block Developments, Inc. from Winkler had purchased the property with plans to renovate the building and retain as much as possible of the original character of the structure.  The company completely renovated the interior while retaining the main features of the exterior. High ceilings on the main floor, original placement of windows and unique wall angles reflect the character of the original interior.

So it happened that, more than  a century after CBC Manager McLennan proudly invited visitors to the newly-opened CBC,  K Block CEO, John Bergen, with equal pride, recently gave C/D MHAC members a tour of the ‘new’ Hamilton Court apartments.

Presentation of heritage plaque and certificate. 
L-R: Nikki Falk, Ina Bramadat, John Bergen
[Photos: Edwin Pritchard]

In the picture left, C/D MHAC Chair, Nikki Falk and Deputy Chair Ina Bramadat present a heritage plaque and copy of the heritage certificate to the CEO and site manager, John Bergen. Unseen behind the camera is C/D MHAC stalwart, Edwin Pritchard.

We know that there are many more stories out there among former CIBC employees and customers. We’d be delighted to hear from anyone who has further information or memories to share.

Meanwhile, you may be interested in exploring more of the extensive background information on these handsome CBC buildings that once were the pride of towns across the West:

A seasonal tribute to our Natural History

Onward to 2023.  While we’ve been focussing on the past, the holiday season has been fast approaching. We hope to see you back here in January. In the meantime, everyone at C/D MHAC sends Season’s Greetings and wishes for a peaceful, stress-free year to come.


News & Events, November 2022

Notable People. Last month we commemorated the loss and remembered local connections of Naval Nursing Sister Agnes Wightman Wilkie. It also served as a reminder of the many other notable people who are part of our local heritage. Among them is S.J. Staples, an early businessman, Councillor, Town Mayor, and active community volunteer.

Samuel James Staples was one of the early builders of the Town of Carman. He was in his third term as mayor of Carman when he died of cancer on August 21, 1930.

Samuel J. Staples

S.J. Staples was born in Manvers, ON in 1863. He came to Carman in 1899, accompanied by his wife Elizabeth (née Ecclestone) and their children, Ernest and Ellen. Until 1902, S.J. Staples worked in his brother Richard’s dry goods store, located at what is now the northwest corner of Hwy #13 and PR 245. He then opened his own store in partnership with E. Abercrombie, the North End Grocery and Clothing Store, next to the C.N.R. Station (now GPAC). His brother Richard moved to Elm Creek where he also operated a store. In 1904, Abercrombie left the partnership and son Ernest joined the store.

In 1907, S.J. Staples took out a five-year lease on commercial space in what was then the Sons of England building on Fournier St. (1st Street SW), the current location of Home Hardware. The store was then renamed S.J. Staples and Son, General Merchants.

Sons of England Block

S.J. Staples & Son Store. Ernest on left;
S.J. Stapes on right

When the lease ended in October, 1912, the store was moved from S.O.E. Block further south to what is now 34-1st St. SW, the present location of Carman Pharmacy.

On March 5, 1918 Ernest joined the 43rd Battalion of the Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment). Sadly, he did not come back from the war. Ernest lost his life on Sept 28, 1918; he is buried in Crest Cemetery, near Cambrai, France.

Ernest Staples, before the war

Ernest Staples

His father continued in business under the name of S.J. Staples until November 1918 when he sold to Mr. J.G. McGowan of Treherne, Manitoba.

S.J. Staples was known for his active interest in the affairs of Carman and district. He served as a town councillor before becoming mayor of Carman. His obituary (Dufferin Leader, 1930-08-28) attests to his “unremitting attention to matters…and constant effort to keep the municipal machinery working smoothly. He was one of the chief workers in the movement for town beautification.” This included offering prizes for the best gardens and home surroundings.

S.J. Staples' grave

He also was active in the community as an elder in the Wesley Church and as a member of the Independent Order of Oddfellows (I.O.O.F.). His duties with the I.O.O.F. included serving as provincial Grand Patriarch. The order was prominently represented at his funeral service. S.J. Staples is buried in Carman’s Greenwood Cemetery.

S.J. Stapes has six surviving great-grandchildren, one of whom, Edwin Pritchard, currently is living in the Carman area and following his great-grandfather’s tradition of community service.

P.S. We should point out that this profile is a good example of the teamwork behind most C/D MHAC projects. The Staples name first came to our attention through the research of member Shirley Snider, who, for the past decade, has been tracing the location and ownership of various Carman businesses. The S.J. Staples’ obituary was located on the front page of a 1930 Dufferin Leader, thanks to our research in early local newspapers. But the jackpot turned out to be the family archive compiled by Staples’ descendants, including Edwin Pritchard and his cousins. This impressive collection recently came to C/D MHAC attention through discussions of the growing need for safe storage of family histories and documents. And thereby hangs yet another tale.

I.O.O.F. Among his many achievements, S.J. Staples rose to prominence in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The I.O.O.F. was formed in 18th Century England as a mutual self-help society with the motto “Friendship, Love and Truth”. The origin of the unusual name “Odd fellows” is uncertain but is believed to come from the fact that members devoted their time to helping others. This was unusual for fraternities of the time so they were known as “those odd fellows."

The I.O.O.F. also differed from many other societies of the day in being “non-partisan, non-sectarian, and welcoming of all people without regard to religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin”, based on their belief in the “universal brotherhood of Man and the fatherhood of God”. As evidence that they didn’t just pay lip-service to these principles, the I.O.O.F. were the first fraternal order to admit women to their companion order, the Rebekahs, who also were active in the local community.

November at C/DMAC. November is the month when we prepare our year-end report to the Town and R.M. Councils. It’s a time when we take a critical look at our activities for the year, evaluate how well we met our objectives, and lay out our plans, goals and projected budget for the following year.

Usually this is a pretty rewarding task. We’ll admit, though, that this year we’re feeling a bit of frustration over the ongoing impact of the pandemic. COVID didn’t become history in 2022, the way everyone hoped. As a result, we still have a few projects that had to remain on the back burner until we feel more secure about in-person, indoor contacts. Among these were the St. Daniel community inventory of heritage resources and our life story workshops. It’s been frustrating in a way, but it puts us in sync with most committees and organizations who have been feeling the impact of restricted contact and economic constraints.

On the positive side, 2022 became a year in which we could catch up on research, planning and other non-contact activities.

In one of our major accomplishments, C/D MHAC funded and assisted with the next phase of digitalization of local newspapers. Copies from the 1890s to 2018 are now available online through the Pembina Manitou Archive.

We also had time to work with our trusty web manager on a complete review and update of the website content and layout, all while adding eleven new monthly ‘News and Event’ updates. Another highlight involved working with a talented local artist and Indigenous advocate who will be helping local residents explore their experience of growing up Métis in the Carman/Dufferin area. And we located other valuable background on other projects that had to be put temporarily on hold. Seems there’s always a positive side to events, if you can look past the doom and gloom.

As soon as our year-year report for 2022—or as it’s referred to by MHACs, our Heritage Resource Management Plan (HRMP)—receives final approval by our members, it will be available on the website under ‘Heritage Management’.

Natural History. The general response to all this white stuff that continues falling rather steadily has been “Already? We hardly got summer!” You must admit, that first fresh snow is a beautiful sight.

With arrival of snow, birdbaths
are closed for the winter

The local ski crowd are rejoicing. Others are making last minute arrangements for snow clearing, sucking up the fact that, thanks to the high cost of fuel snow removal, like everything else, is going to cost more this year.

Locally, the BRK just pulled their dock from the river for the winter and are now awaiting the arrival of skating season. If we look back to earlier years, it seems that skating was well under way by Remembrance Day. The Dufferin Leader (November 10, 1910) reported that:

The Boyne has been frozen over for some time and the ice is now about three inches thick. Some of the younger generation have already enjoyed the pleasures of skating. Except a slight flurry about three weeks ago, there has been no snow.

And the Dufferin Leader, November 11, 1926 under the heading “Skaters Busy On River”, recorded the following:

The freezing temperatures of the nights of the past week have resulted in a good sheet of ice forming on the surface of the waters of the Boyne and this, with the absence of snow, makes things very nice for those who like to skate. A party of boys went up the river yesterday to a point about six miles west of town and found the going fine.

Two winter freeze-ups don’t make the argument for climate change but it will likely send some of you off in search of data on a few more annual freeze-up dates. Let us know what you find.

Recent History

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